Morning Digest: You’ve got to try hard to raise as little as this Republican

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

NY-03: Thanks to a series of signature challenges, Republicans now know that their hopes of avenging their loss in February's special election for New York's 3rd District will rest with former Assemblyman Mike LiPetri. But even though supporters of LiPetri were behind those challenges, there's good reason to wonder whether he can pose a serious threat to Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi.

LiPetri's campaign has denied involvement in the efforts to boot four other candidates, including Air Force veteran Greg Hach and businessman Jim Toes, from the June 25 primary ballot. But Hach and Toes were quick to accuse the Nassau County Republican Party, which has endorsed LiPetri and seldom brooks dissent in nominating contests, of trying to pre-ordain the outcome in comments to the Long Island Herald's Will Sheeline.

Hach and Toes also pointed out the disastrous fates of the Nassau GOP's last two hand-picked choices for this seat: George Santos, who was expelled from Congress last year, and Mazi Pilip, who got crushed by Suozzi in the special to replace Santos.

Republicans should be concerned about LiPetri, too: After announcing his campaign on March 11, he raised all of $52 for the rest of the month—a sum so small that you'd almost have to make an effort not to raise more. Suozzi, by contrast, still had $1.1 million banked at the end of March, despite his heavy spending on the special. (Hach at least had self-funded almost $700,000, and both he and Toes managed to bring in about $100,000 from donors.)

There's still time for LiPetri to turn things around, but since this Long Island-based district is contained entirely inside the ultra-expensive New York City media market, he'll need lots of dough to get his name out, especially given how well-known his Democratic rival is. And LiPetri can't count on outside GOP groups to make up the difference, as Pilip hoped they would, since third parties pay much higher advertising rates than candidates.

Senate

 AZ-Sen: A new report from Politico points out that national Republican groups have yet to make ad reservations for Arizona's Senate race despite the eight-figure sums Democrats have already booked, and it's almost certainly because of their likely nominee's never-ending record of self-sabotage.

Perhaps no incident better sums up the problem posed by Kari Lake, the far-right former TV anchor who narrowly lost her bid for governor in 2022, than her incoherent response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling upholding an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions.

Following that ruling, Lake reportedly urged state lawmakers to repeal the ban, according to multiple media reports. But just days later, on a trip to Idaho—Lake has a penchant for out-of-state travel—she reversed herself completely.

"The Arizona Supreme Court said this is the law of Arizona, but unfortunately, the people running our state have said we're not going to enforce it," she told a conservative outlet called the Idaho Dispatch. "So it's really political theater." (The state did ultimately undo the ban earlier this month.)

Episodes like this have made many Republicans wary of Lake, including Mitch McConnell. As Politico points out, the minority leader recently failed to mention Arizona when listing the GOP's top four targets this year, which he gave as Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Lake is also getting swamped by her likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has raised $21 million this cycle compared with just $5.5 million for the Republican. In addition, Gallego has been on TV continuously since March while Lake has barely advertised.

Lake may be getting some help soon, though: Politico reports that the NRSC "is preparing to launch a joint TV ad buy" with the candidate. However, any such coordinated expenditures would be limited to about $720,000 in total, since it's unlikely that hybrid ads would be effective in swingy Arizona.

 NV-Sen, OH-Sen, PA-Sen, WI-Sen: More big ad reservations from both sides are flooding into a quartet of top-tier Senate races.

AdImpact reports that Duty and Honor, a Democratic super PAC affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, has booked at least $7 million to start running ads in Ohio later this month. Meanwhile, the firm says that the GOP group One Nation has reserved $8.5 million in Pennsylvania, almost $4 million in Wisconsin, and $1.5 million in Nevada. These spots are set to begin sometime this summer.

Governors

 WV-Gov: With just days to go before West Virginia's primaries, the Club for Growth has started airing ads attacking Secretary of State Mac Warner, who has been mired in fourth place in the polls and had been ignored by outside groups until now.

The new spots, from the Club's affiliated Black Bear PAC, slam Warner for failing to endorse Donald Trump's third bid for president (and par for the course for this race, it also manages to throw in a transphobic jab). It's not clear how much the Club is putting into this latest offensive, but the GOP firm Medium Buying points out that Warner's campaign has spent a measly $17,000 on TV and radio so far.

Early on in the contest, the Club, which is hoping to see Attorney General Patrick Morrisey secure the Republican nod for the open governorship, focused its fire on businessman Chris Miller, apparently seeing him as the biggest threat. But several weeks ago, it began hammering former Del. Moore Capito, who recently earned the endorsement of term-limited Gov. Jim Justice.

According to 538's polling average, Morrisey remains the frontrunner with the support of 33% of primary voters with Capito not far behind at 26. Miller is further back at 20 while Warner brings up the year with just 12% of the vote.

House

 NJ-10: New Jersey Redevelopment Authority COO Darryl Godfrey and Shana Melius, who worked as a staffer for the late Democratic Rep. Don Payne, each joined the July 16 special Democratic primary election to succeed Payne before filing closed Friday

Godfrey is a top official at an independent state agency that describes its mission as "transform[ing] urban communities through direct investment and technical support." The New Jersey Globe says that Godfrey, who previously worked in banking, says he's willing to do some self-funding, though it remains to be seen to what extent.

Godfrey grew up in the 10th District in Newark, but he currently lives in Morristown in Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill's neighboring 11th District. The candidate, writes the Globe, intends to move back to this constituency. (Members of Congress do not need to live in the district they represent.) He does not appear to have sought office before. 

Melius, meanwhile, spent three years in Payne's office, and she also co-founded a group to improve "diversity and social equity within the cannabis industry." Melius is a first-time candidate.

Godfrey and Melius are two of the 11 Democrats competing in the special election for this safely blue Newark-area seat. The other main contenders are all current or former elected officials: Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver, who has the backing of several influential figures in populous Essex County; Linden Mayor Derek Armstead; Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker; and former East Orange City Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks, who worked as North Jersey political director for Rep. Andy Kim's Senate campaign.

Kim's Senate campaign was part of a successful lawsuit that barred Democrats from utilizing the county line system in this year's primaries, a ruling that applies to this contest. That's a big difference from the 2012 special election to Payne's father and namesake, where the younger Payne's favorable ballot position, as well as name identification, helped him easily beat several opponents.

Whoever secures a plurality in the July 16 primary should have no trouble beating Carmen Bucco, a perennial candidate who has the Republican side to himself, in the Sept. 18 general election.

Payne's name remains on the ballot for the regularly scheduled June 4 primary, where he's the only candidate listed. Local Democratic leaders will be tasked with selecting a new nominee sometime after results are certified on June 17. The New Jersey Globe previously reported that party officials "are not expected" to act until after the special Democratic primary.

 NY-16: Westchester County Executive George Latimer is airing what appears to be his first negative ad targeting Rep. Jamaal Bowman ahead of next month's Democratic primary, featuring several people who castigate Bowman's record and views.

"One of only six Democrats to oppose the historic infrastructure bill," says one woman. "Just to stick it to President Biden," adds another in disgust.

Bowman said in 2021 that he'd voted against the infrastructure bill because it had been severed from a climate change and healthcare reform measure known as Build Back Better, though many of those priorities became law thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed in 2022. (Bowman voted for the latter bill.)

The spot then shifts to address reports from earlier this year about the congressman's questionable beliefs.

"Bowman even promoted dangerous conspiracy theories about 9/11," says another woman. "That's a disgrace."

In January, the Daily Beast's Will Bredderman revealed that Bowman had written a "free verse" poem embracing conspiracies about the attacks in 2011, which Bowman sought to dismiss as an old attempt at intellectual exploration. Just days, ago, however, Bredderman also reported that Bowman had subscribed to all manner of fringe channels on his YouTube account, including some operated by flat earthers and UFO obsessives.

The ad concludes with various individuals praising Latimer for "modernizing our infrastructure" and "protecting our reproductive rights."

 OR-03: State Rep. Maxine Dexter reported raising more than $218,000 on a single day recently, a haul that OPB's Dirk VanderHart says "appears" to be linked to the prominent pro-Israel group AIPAC.

Federal candidates normally report fundraising data on a quarterly basis, but in the 20 days prior to an election, FEC rules give them just 48 hours to declare any new donations of $1,000 or more. With Oregon's primary looming on May 21, that accelerated reporting period began earlier this month, prompting Dexter's disclosure.

VanderHart says that the "vast majority" of donors who gave to Dexter on May 7 "have a history of giving to AIPAC," though AIPAC itself did not comment. Dexter's campaign also noted that the group has not issued an endorsement in the Democratic primary for Oregon's 3rd District, a safely blue open seat based in Portland.

Dexter faces two notable rivals in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Earl Blumenauer: former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who is the sister of Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales.

Jayapal had led the pack in fundraising through the end of March, but a different set of reports that were due at the FEC on Thursday showed Dexter surging during the month of April. (Twelve days before their primaries, candidates must also file a pre-election report that details all fundraising from the end of the previous quarter through the 20th day before the primary. After that point, the 48-hour reporting rule for large donations goes into effect.)

In her pre-primary filing, Dexter reported raising $575,000 while Jayapal took in $160,000 and Morales pulled down $112,000. Dexter also outspent her opponents in April and entered the stretch run with more cash on hand. That advantage has only grown since then, though: While both Jayapal and Morales had each filed one 48-hour report through Friday, their total hauls were a more modest $18,000 and $8,000 respectively.

 TX-13, TX-22, TX-38: It's Texas Week for the House Ethics Committee, which issued announcements concerning inquiries into three different Lone Star Republicans on Thursday and Friday.

The committee revealed in a press release that it's investigating Rep. Ronny Jackson, who two years ago was the subject of a report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics concerning alleged improper spending.

That earlier report, which the Ethics Committee did not reference in its release, concluded there was "substantial" evidence that Jackson had spent campaign money for membership at a private social club, which is prohibited by federal law.

At the time, an attorney for Jackson, who had refused to cooperate with the OCE's investigation, said the congressman had sought to use the membership for campaign events. In response to the latest developments, a spokesperson called the accusations "baseless," though she claimed that Jackson had "fully complied" with the committee.

Separately, the committee said it would extend a previously announced probe into Rep. Troy Nehls that began in March. It also released a report from the OCE saying there was "probable cause to believe" that Nehls had made personal use of campaign funds and had failed to provide required information on the annual financial disclosure forms that all members of Congress must file.

The OCE's report focuses on payments from Nehls' campaign to a company he owns called Liberty 1776, ostensibly to rent office space to run his campaign. However, Nehls listed a property run by an entity called Z-Bar as his headquarters on his FEC filings, though he never recorded paying any rent to Z-Bar and only made irregular payments to Liberty 1776.

An attorney for Nehls denied the OCE's allegations, and Nehls, like Jackson, has refused to cooperate with the office's investigation. He said, however, that he would cooperate with the Ethics Committee.

Finally, the committee acknowledged it's looking into Rep. Wesley Hunt, though there's been no reporting as to what this investigation might concern. A spokesperson for Hunt told the Dallas Morning News that the congressman was cooperating with the committee and was "extremely confident that the matter will be dismissed shortly."

All three Republicans secured renomination two months ago, and all of them are defending reliably red seats this fall.

 UT-03: Sen. Mitt Romney has endorsed attorney Stewart Peay in the race for Utah's open 3rd District, where he's one of five candidates hoping to succeed Rep. John Curtis, who himself is running to replace Romney. Peay's wife, Misha, is a niece of Romney's wife, Ann.

Ballot Measures

 FL Ballot, FL-Sen: A new survey of Florida from a Republican pollster finds an amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution passing despite strong numbers for Republican candidates at the top of the ticket.

The poll, conducted by Cherry Communications for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, shows Amendment 4 earning the support of 61% of voters while just 29% are opposed; to become law, it needs to win a 60% supermajority. A separate measure known as Amendment 3 that would legalize recreational marijuana is just short of the threshold at 58-37.

In the race for Senate, though, Republican incumbent Rick Scott holds a wide 54-39 lead over his likely Democratic opponent, former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, while Donald Trump is up 51-42 against Joe Biden.

 NV Ballot: The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld a February ruling by a lower court that blocked a pair of amendments that would establish a bipartisan redistricting commission from appearing on the ballot this fall. That earlier ruling disallowed the amendments because they would not raise the revenue needed to operate the commission they sought to create.

Obituaries

 Chris Cannon: Former Utah Rep. Chris Cannon, an ardent conservative who lost renomination to Jason Chaffetz in the 2008 Republican primary, died Wednesday at age 73.

Cannon served six terms in Congress and compiled a very conservative voting record, but he also supported a pathway to citizenship and government benefits for some undocumented immigrants. His decisive defeat foreshadowed the direction his party was heading in a full eight years before the ascendence of Donald Trump was complete.

Cannon first won his seat in 1996 by unseating Democratic Rep. Bill Orton 51-47 in the 3rd District, and he went on to serve as one of 13 House managers in the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. However, while Cannon never had trouble turning back Democrats, his views infuriated the GOP's nativist base.

"We love immigrants in Utah. We don’t make distinctions between legal and illegal," he said in 2002—comments that would be unthinkable for a Republican now.

Cannon passed his first major test in the 2004 primary when he held off former state Rep. Matt Throckmorton 58-42. Two years later, his 56-44 triumph over developer John Jacob in the primary was viewed by national observers as a major win for George W. Bush's immigration goals. (Jacob infamously told the Salt Lake Tribune ahead of that race, "There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C. It's the devil is what it is.")

However, Cannon's victories proved misleading. Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman, made a nativist pitch similar to that of Cannon's prior opponents while arguing that the party as a whole had "lost its way." Chaffetz won in a 60-40 landslide that presaged years of turbulence and waning influence for the old GOP establishment.

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Morning Digest: With big primary win, Colin Allred kicks off race to unseat Ted Cruz

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

TX-Sen: In one of Super Tuesday's biggest races, Rep. Colin Allred secured the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who holds one of just two Senate seats that Democrats have a realistic shot at flipping this cycle. The news is especially welcome for Democrats because it means Allred can start campaigning against Cruz immediately, since he avoided a May 28 runoff by easily securing a majority of the vote with his 59-17 victory over state Sen. Roland Gutierrez.

No Democrat has won statewide in Texas since 1994, but the congressman, who has already proven himself a formidable fundraiser, could finally achieve the breakthrough Lone Star State Democrats have long dreamed of. Allred, who first won office in 2018 by flipping a longtime GOP stronghold in the Dallas area, would also be the state's first Black senator.

Allred's win was far from the only notable result, though, on a Super Tuesday that more than lived up to its name—at least downballot. Below is a state-by-state summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in all of the major contests. You can also check out our cheat-sheet that summarizes the outcomes in every key race.

Election results

 Alabama: A runoff will be held on April 16 in contests where no candidate earned a majority of the vote.

 AL-01 (R): Rep. Barry Moore defeated colleague Jerry Carl 51-49, an outcome that makes Carl the first member of Congress to lose renomination in 2024. This race, which is likely to be the only incumbent vs. incumbent primary in the entire cycle, took place because Moore decided to run here after the state's new court-drawn map turned his 2nd District into a Democratic-leaning constituency. This revamped seat in southern Alabama would have favored Donald Trump 75-24 in 2020.

Moore's win was an upset, as Carl represented considerably more of this territory and enjoyed a large fundraising advantage throughout the race. Both incumbents are ardent conservatives who voted against recognizing Joe Biden's 2020 win, though they still represented different factions of the party: Moore is a member of the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, while Carl is closer to the party leadership.

 AL-02 (D & R): Former Justice Department official Shomari Figures and state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels will compete in the Democratic runoff for a redrawn seat that now takes in Mobile, Montgomery, and the eastern Black Belt. Figures, who benefited from heavy spending from a super PAC with ties to the cryptocurrency industry, took first with 43%, while Daniels outpaced ​​state Reps. Napoleon Bracy 22-16 for second.

Republicans also have a runoff between former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker, who took 40%, and attorney Caroleene Dobson, who beat out state Sen. Greg Albritton 26-25. The GOP nominee, though, will have a difficult time in the general election for what's now a plurality Black district that would have backed Joe Biden 56-43.

 Arkansas: A runoff will be held on April 2 in contests where no candidate earned a majority of the vote.

 AR-03 (R): Rep. Steve Womack held off a far-right challenge from state Sen. Clint Penzo 54-46 in this dark red northwest Arkansas seat. Penzo's ideological allies did little to help the underfunded legislator overcome his huge cash deficit against Womack, a decision they may not regret following the relatively weak victory for the self-described "institution guy."

 California: All candidates running for Congress and for state office compete on one ballot rather than in separate party primaries; the two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Candidates cannot win outright in the primary by taking a majority of the vote, except in some officially nonpartisan elections.

Note, though, that it will be a while before all votes are tabulated. Because the state permanently adopted universal mail voting in 2021, vote-counting takes some time thanks to the security measures needed to verify the large number of mail ballots officials receive. 

 CA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff got the general election opponent he wants in this dark blue state, as Republican Steve Garvey defeated Democratic Rep. Katie Porter for the crucial second spot in November. The Associated Press estimates that only 47% of the vote is tabulated, so the candidates' margins will likely shift even though the AP has called both slots: Schiff currently leads with 33% as Garvey, who is a former Major League Baseball player, is outpacing Porter 32-14. Another 7% goes to the third Democratic House member on the ballot, Rep. Barbara Lee.

The lineup will be the same in the November special election to fill the final two months of the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's term. Garvey this time leads with 35% as Schiff outpaces Porter 31-16 for second.

 CA-12: Only 23% of the estimated vote is in, but BART board member Lateefah Simon leads with 43% in the race to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Barbara Lee. Another Democrat will almost certainly be on the November ballot for this dark blue Easy Bay seat, though it's less clear which one: Cal State professor Jennifer Tran holds a 17-15 edge over Alameda Vice Mayor Tony Daysog.

 CA-16: Two Democrats will likely be competing in the general election to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo in Silicon Valley, though the AP has not called either spot yet with only 51% of the estimated vote in. Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo leads with 22%, while Eshoo's choice, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, holds an 18-16 edge over Assemblyman Evan Low. Republican Peter Ohtaki is just behind with 14%.

 CA-20: Two Republicans, Assemblyman Vince Fong and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, lead with 52% of the estimated vote in, but the AP has not called either general election spot. Fong, who has the support of Trump and former Rep. Kevin McCarthy, is far out ahead with 39%, while Boudreaux is outpacing Democrat Marisa Wood 24-22.

Note that the first round of the special election for the remaining months of McCarthy's term will take place March 19. Trump carried this Central Valley seat 61-36.

 CA-22: Democrats are hoping they've avoided being locked out of the general election in this competitive Central Valley seat, though the AP also hasn't called either spot with only 30% of the estimated vote in. GOP incumbent David Valadao is in first with 34%, while 2022 Democratic nominee Rudy Salas leads self-funding Republican Chris Mathys 28-22. The final candidate on the ballot, Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, is taking 15%.

 CA-25: Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz appears likely to face yet another little-known Republican rather than a local Democratic elected official in this 57-41 Biden seat, which is almost certainly an outcome he's happy with. 

Ian Weeks leads fellow Republican Ceci Truman 19-17 for second with 46% of the estimated vote in, but it likely doesn't matter which of them advances against Ruiz. Indio City Council member Oscar Ortiz, who launched an intra-party bid against Ruiz in December, is in a distant fourth place with 9%. The incumbent, for his part, is taking 49% in this constituency, which is based in eastern Riverside County and Imperial County.

 CA-26: Agoura Hills City Council member Chris Anstead's intra-party bid against Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley appears to be over, as he's taking a mere 4% of the vote with 52% of the estimated vote in. The incumbent leads with 51%, while Michael Koslow is leading fellow Republican Bruce Boyer 34-11. 

The AP has not yet called the second spot, though neither Republican has reported raising the type of money they'd need to put this Ventura County constituency into play.  Joe Biden carried this seat to the northwest of Los Angeles 59-39, while Brownley went on to win 55-45 during a tough 2022 cycle for California Democrats.

 CA-29: Assemblywoman Luz Rivas unsurprisingly looks well-situated to succeed her fellow Democrat and top ally, retiring Rep. Tony Cárdenas, though the AP hasn't called either general election spot with only 40% of the estimated vote in. Rivas leads with 48%, while Republican Benny Bernal is outpacing perennial Democratic candidate Angelica Duenas 31-21. This eastern San Fernando Valley seat is safely blue at 75-23 Biden.

 CA-30: The AP estimates that 60% of the vote is in, and Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman is in front with 27% as Republican Alex Balekian leads Democratic state Sen. Anthony Portantino 21-14 for second; neither spot has been called as of Wednesday morning. This Los Angeles-based seat, which Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff is leaving behind to run for the Senate, favored Biden 72-26.

 CA-31: With just half of the estimated vote in, former Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros is taking first place with 21%, while Daniel Martinez leads fellow Republican Pedro Casas 21-19 for second. A pair of Democratic state senators are further behind: Susan Rubio is taking 15%, while another 11% goes to Bob Archuleta, who has the endorsement of retiring Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano. Biden took this seat in the eastern San Gabriel Valley 64-33.

 CA-34: It looks like there could be a third all-Democratic general election between Rep. Jimmy Gomez and former prosecutor David Kim in this dark blue Los Angeles seat, though the AP hasn't called either spot with only 41% of the estimated vote in. Gomez leads with 51% as Kim is outpacing Republican Calvin Lee 24-18. 

 CA-40: Retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr appears poised to take on GOP Rep. Young Kim in this 50-48 Biden seat in eastern Orange County, though the AP has not made a call with 60% of the estimated vote in. Kerr leads his fellow Democrat, Tustin Unified School District Board of Education president Allyson Muñiz Damikolas, 26-16, while Kim is at 58%. 

 CA-45: There's a close contest to determine which Democrat will go up against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in a western Orange County constituency that Biden carried 52-46. Attorney Derek Tran is edging out Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Nguyen-Penaloza 16-14 with 47% of the estimated vote in, while Steel is in front with 57%.

 CA-47: Former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh and Democratic state Sen. Dave Min are the leaders in the top-two primary to replace Democratic Senate candidate Katie Porter, but the AP has not made any calls with 60% of the estimated vote in. Baugh is in front with 33%, while Min leads fellow Democrat Joanna Weiss 25-19. Biden took this seat based in coastal Orange County and Irvine 54-43, while Porter fended off Baugh 52-48 two years later.

 CA-49: Businessman Matt Gunderson holds a 26-11 lead over his fellow Republican self-funder, media executive Margarita Wilkinson, but we're still awaiting a call with 59% of the estimated vote in. The winner will be the underdog against Democratic incumbent Mike Levin, who is sitting at 51%, in a coastal San Diego County seat that Biden carried 55-43.

 North Carolina: A runoff will be held on May 14 in contests where no candidate earned at least 30% of the vote, though the second-place finisher must formally request a runoff for one to occur.

 NC-Gov (R & D): Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein will face off in a long-anticipated showdown to replace termed-out Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. 

The far-right Robinson won his primary 65-19 against state Treasurer Dale Folwell, with wealthy businessman Bill Graham securing the balance. Graham declared on election night, "Mark Robinson is an unelectable candidate in the general election in North Carolina, and he puts a conservative future at risk for everyone, from the courthouse to the White House." Stein, for his part, defeated former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan 70-14.

 NC-01 (R): National Republicans got the nominee they want against Democratic Rep. Don Davis, as Army veteran Laurie Buckhout beat scandal-ridden two-time nominee Sandy Smith 53-47. Republican mapmakers transformed this seat in the inland, northeastern corner of the state from a constituency Biden carried 53-46 into one he barely won 50-49.

 NC-06 (R): Lobbyist Addison McDowell will face former Rep. Mark Walker in the runoff to replace Rep. Kathy Manning, who is one of three Democratic House members who is not seeking reelection in a seat that Republicans made all but unwinnable for her party. The Trump-endorsed McDowell took 26%, while Walker beat out 2022 nominee Christian Castelli 24-21 for the second spot in this seat in the central Piedmont region.

 NC-08 (R): Pastor Mark Walker appears to have won the GOP nomination outright over half a decade after his campaign was responsible for one the most ignominious election-fraud scandals in recent memory, though the AP has not yet made a call with 97% of the estimated vote in. Walker is sitting at 30.4%, while former Union County Commissioner Allan Baucom is at 27%. The GOP nominee will be favored to replace attorney general nominee Dan Bishop in this 58-41 Trump seat based in the eastern Charlotte suburbs and rural areas further east.

 NC-10 (R): Firearms manufacturer Pat Harrigan has narrowly secured the nomination to replace his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Patrick McHenry, in this 57-41 Trump seat centered in Winston-Salem and the western Piedmont region. Harrigan, who was the 2022 nominee against Democrat Jeff Jackson in the old 14th District, beat out state Rep. Grey Mills 41-39 following an expensive contest

 NC-13 (R): Attorney Kelly Daughtry has taken one of the two runoff spots in the race to succeed Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel, who is leaving Congress because Republicans gerrymandered his Raleigh-area seat, but the AP hasn't called the other slot. Daughtry is at 27%, while former federal prosecutor Brad Knott leads businessman Fred Von Canon 19-17 with 85% of the estimated vote in.

 NC-AG (D): Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson beat Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry 55-33 despite an expensive attempt by the Republican Attorneys General Association to meddle in the primary. Jackson will go up against far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, an election denier who had no opposition in the GOP primary. 

Texas: A runoff will be held on May 28 in contests where no candidate earned a majority of the vote.

TX-02 (R): Rep. Dan Crenshaw outpaced underfunded primary foe Jameson Ellis only 59-41 just two years after beating him 74-17. Crenshaw has little to worry about in the general election for a suburban Houston seat that Trump took 61-38, but his diminished showing could inspire a stronger intra-party foe next cycle.

TX-07 (D): Rep. Lizzie Fletcher scored a 73-27 victory against Pervez Agwan, a renewable energy developer whose campaign was overshadowed by sexual misconduct allegations leveled by former staffers, in this safely blue Houston seat.

TX-12 (R): State Rep. Craig Goldman and businessman John O'Shea will compete in the runoff to replace their fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Kay Granger, in this conservative constituency in the Fort Worth area. Goldman, who has the backing of Gov. Greg Abbott, took 44%, while O'Shea led a little-known opponent 26-15. O'Shea has the support of Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom Goldman voted to impeach last year.

TX-18 (D): Longtime Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee turned back a well-funded challenge from former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards 60-37 in this reliably blue seat. Jackson Lee appeared vulnerable after badly losing December's runoff for mayor of Houston to fellow Democrat John Whitmire, but Edwards largely avoided attacking the incumbent.

TX-23 (R): Rep. Tony Gonzales has been forced into a runoff against a far-right opponent, gunmaker Brandon Herrera. Gonzales secured 45% of the vote a year after he was censured by the state party, while Herrera outpaced former Medina County GOP Chair Julie Clark 25-14. The winner will be favored in a sprawling West Texas seat that favored Trump 53-46.

TX-26 (R): Far-right media figure Brandon Gill secured the nomination to replace retiring GOP Rep. Michael Burgess in this conservative seat in the northern Fort Worth suburbs and exurbs. The Trump-backed Gill, who is the son-in-law of MAGA toady Dinesh D'Souza, took 58% despite an expensive campaign to stop him. The now-meaningless runner-up title goes to Scott Armey, a former Denton County judge who lost the 2002 runoff to Burgess and grabbed just 15% this time.

TX-32 (D): State Rep. Julie Johnson is currently sitting on 50.1% in the primary to replace Senate candidate Colin Allred, but the AP has not made a call with 98% of the estimated vote in. Trauma surgeon Brian Williams, who would be her runoff opponent should she fail to take a majority, is a distant second with 19%. 

TX-34 (R): Former Rep. Mayra Flores easily beat unheralded opponent Laura Cisneros 81-9 ahead of her long-anticipated rematch against Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez. Gonzalez appears to have meddled in the primary by sending out mailers boosting Greg Kunkle, but Kunkle clocked in at just 4%. Gonzalez beat Flores 53-44 in 2022 in a campaign that took place two years after Biden carried this seat in the eastern Rio Grande Valley 57-42. 

Senate

AZ-Sen: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema finally confirmed Tuesday that she will not seek reelection in Arizona this year. Sinema's departure almost certainly guarantees that the November general election will be a two-way race between each party's respective frontrunner, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and Republican conspiracy theorist Kari Lake. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had not taken sides while Sinema was still publicly deliberating, quickly endorsed Gallego, as did the DSCC.

Pollsters disagreed as to which major party Sinema—who during her career has been a member of the Green Party, a Democrat, and an independent—would have hurt more had she sought a second term. However, essentially every survey showed Sinema in a distant third place and with little hope of securing the plurality she would have needed to win.

P.S. Sinema is now the second straight occupant of this seat to quit after just one term, following Republican Jeff Flake's departure ahead of the 2018 elections.

FL-Sen: Former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell's allies at EMILYs List have released an internal poll from Public Policy Polling that shows her trailing Republican Sen. Rick Scott by a narrow 44-41 margin. This survey, which is the first we've seen here all year, did not include presidential numbers. The pollster's memo also did not mention self-funding businessman Stanley Campbell, who is taking on Mucarsel-Powell in the August primary.

OH-Sen: SurveyUSA's new poll of the March 19 GOP primary for the Center for Election Science finds wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno edging out state Sen. Matt Dolan 29-27, with Secretary of State Frank LaRose at 21% and another 23% undecided. The numbers are considerably different from a recent Moreno internal from Fabrizio Lee that showed him with a wide 31-21 advantage over LaRose, while Dolan was in third place with 19%.

The results are also a sharp contrast with data that CES, which promotes approval voting, previously released in December. That earlier poll (also conducted by SurveyUSA) found LaRose beating Dolan 33-18 as Moreno grabbed just 12%. However, Donald Trump endorsed Moreno almost immediately after that poll was publicized, which helps account for the dramatic shift in the race to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

It's not clear what interest CES has in this race, though, especially since SurveyUSA doesn't appear to have asked respondents about approval voting or any other alternative voting method.

WI-Sen: WinSenate, which is affiliated with the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC, has deployed at least $2 million for a March 5-25 ad buy targeting wealthy businessman Eric Hovde, who last month became the first notable Republican to enter the race against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

WinSenate's spot attacks Hovde over his weak ties to the state he's seeking to represent. The ad notes that he is the "CEO of a billion-dollar bank" and owns a $7 million hillside mansion overlooking Laguna Beach in Orange County, California, where a local outlet named him one of the county's "most influential" residents for three years running.

Hovde launched a $700,000 ad buy of his own the very same day that WinSenate's campaign began, and his new spot unsurprisingly tries to establish his Wisconsin bona fides. The minute-long commercial features his wife, Sharon Hovde, speaking to the camera as she notes that her husband grew up in Wisconsin and became a successful businessman.

Last year while he was still considering a campaign, Hovde wouldn't give a straight answer when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice asked him how much time he spends in the state. However, after joining the race last month, Hovde recently claimed to conservative radio host Jay Weber that he spends roughly nine months each year living in Wisconsin.

House

GA-13: Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Waites, who last year declined to rule out a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. David Scott, has instead announced that she's resigning her current post and will run for Fulton County Superior Court clerk. Scott currently faces one notable opponent, Army veteran Marcus Flowers, though anyone else interested in running this year only has until Friday's candidate filing deadline to decide.

LA-06: Republican Rep. Garret Graves says he'll seek reelection in his current district, explaining that he believes Louisiana's new congressional map will get struck down by the courts, according to WBRZ.

That map was enacted by the state after a federal court ordered the creation of a second district where Black voters could elect their preferred candidates. To comply, lawmakers redrew Graves' 6th District, transforming it from a 65% white seat that Donald Trump would have won by a 64-34 margin to one with a 54% Black majority that Joe Biden would have carried 59-39.

Under those new lines, Graves would have virtually no chance of winning another term, but a group of voters recently filed a separate lawsuit challenging the new map as an unlawful racial gerrymander. If they're successful, Louisiana could be sent back to the drawing board, which in turn could restore Graves to a district he'd be able to win.

MI-10: Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga has released a late January internal poll from Public Policy Polling showing him with a wide lead in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary to take on the Republican who beat him in 2022, first-term Rep. John James. The survey finds Marlinga taking 30% of the vote while none of his opponents break 4%, though 55% are still undecided. That's very similar to polling Marlinga shared last August, when PPP likewise had him up 31-5 on his nearest rival.

ND-AL: Wade Webb, a judge on the Cass County District Court, has opted against joining the June GOP primary for North Dakota's lone House seat. However, several other notable Republicans are running for this seat, which is open because GOP Rep. Kelly Armstrong is seeking the governorship, and more could get in. The state's filing deadline is April 8.

NJ-09: Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, who is reportedly planning to launch a challenge to Rep. Bill Pascrell in this year's Democratic primary this week, has confirmed to Politico's Daniel Han that he will run. However, said Han, Khairullah "declined to discuss it further, saying he was waiting until his official announcement."

PA-12: Facing challenges to her ballot petitions, nonprofit head Laurie McDonald abandoned her campaign against first-term Rep. Summer Lee in the April 23 Democratic primary on Monday and said she would instead seek the Republican nod as a write-in. That effort is likely just as doomed, though, since manufacturing executive James Hayes is already on the GOP primary ballot.

Lee, meanwhile, must still contend with a challenge from businesswoman Bhavini Patel for the Democratic nod. Joe Biden carried the Pittsburgh-based 12th District 59-40, so whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee should be favored in November.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon has publicized an internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang that gives her a small 40-37 advantage over incumbent Brandon Scott in the May 14 Democratic primary. This survey, which is the first we've seen here all year, also finds former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah and wealthy businessman Bob Wallace at 10% and 6%, respectively, with 8% undecided. It only takes a simple plurality to secure the Democratic nomination to lead this loyally blue city.

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Correction: The results for the Texas Senate Democratic primary inadvertently left out Colin Allred’s margin of victory; he won 59-17.

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Morning Digest: Alabama poised to have two Black Congress members for first time thanks to new map

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

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AL Redistricting: A federal court on Thursday chose a new congressional map to impose in Alabama for the 2024 elections, finally creating a second district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidate. You can see the new map here, and click here for an interactive version.

The court had previously found that the map Republicans enacted in 2021 violated the Voting Rights Act, though the map was still used in last year's elections while the GOP appealed. Consequently, a Black Democrat will likely replace a white Republican after 2024, which would give Alabama two Black House members (out of seven total) for the first time in its history, roughly matching the 27% of its population that is Black.

Compared with the previous map, the new map significantly reconfigures the 1st and 2nd districts in southern Alabama to turn the latter district from a majority-white, safely Republican constituency into one that is 49% Black and just 44% white. To do so, the new map gives the 2nd the rest of Montgomery and most of Mobile—two cities that both have large Black populations—while the 2nd sheds the heavily white rural areas along the Florida border and exurbs north of Montgomery. (Changes to the other five districts were relatively limited.)

Consequently, the redesigned 2nd District would have favored Joe Biden 56-43 in 2020, making it a likely Democratic flip in 2024. Current 2nd District Rep. Barry Moore, a Republican who is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, is now at significant risk of losing his seat, though Moore recently indicated he could bail on the 2nd District and instead run against fellow GOP Rep. Jerry Carl in the primary for the 1st. However, Moore would likely be starting at a disadvantage there since our calculations indicate Carl currently represents 59% of the new district compared to Moore's 41%.

The new map is the culmination of multiyear litigation that saw the lower court strike down the GOP's 2021 map last year because it packed Black voters into the heavily Democratic 7th District while dispersing them elsewhere to ensure that the other six districts would remain heavily white and safely Republican. The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold for the 2022 elections while Republicans appealed, but it subsequently upheld the lower court's ruling in a landmark decision this past June, preserving a key protection of the Voting Rights Act.

Following the Supreme Court's ruling, the lower court gave the Republican-controlled legislature a second chance to draw a compliant map, instructing them to draw two districts that were either majority-Black or "something quite close to it." But in July, Republicans brazenly defied the courts, enacting a new map with just one majority-Black district and another that was only 39.9% Black—well short of a majority and therefore safely Republican.

Last month, the lower court blocked this new Republican map, and the Supreme Court also rejected the GOP's last-ditch attempt to keep it in place. Republican Secretary of State Wes Allen subsequently dropped the state's appeal to the high court earlier this week. This ensures the new map adopted by the lower court will be used in 2024, though state Republicans could still sue to invalidate the court-imposed map later this decade.

election recaps

Memphis, TN Mayor: Downtown Memphis Commission CEO Paul Young defeated Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner 28-23 Thursday to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Mayor Jim Strickland, in a 17-way contest where it took only a simple plurality to win. Young, who outspent each of his opponents, was long involved in city government but had never before run for office, and he argued he'd be the most prepared mayor in history while also representing change.

The winning candidate, who is the son of two well-known pastors, also focused on turning out younger voters. Young, when questioned why he'd voted in two GOP primaries since 2016, argued this was "strategic crossover voting to ensure that we have good people on both sides of the ledger." "I'm a Democrat," he said at one debate, "but I'm gonna get the job done."

3Q Fundraising

  • AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): $3 million raised, $5 million cash on hand
  • NV-Sen: Jacky Rosen (D-inc): $2.7 million raised, $8.8 million cash on hand
  • PA-Sen: Bob Casey (D-inc): $3.2 million raised, $7.3 million cash on hand
  • WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): $3.1 million raised, $7 million cash on hand
  • CA-27: George Whitesides (D): $400,000 raised, additional $300,000 self-funded, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • CA-41: Will Rollins (D): $830,000 raised
  • CO-03: Adam Frisch (D): $3.4 million raised, $4.3 million cash on hand
  • NY-17: Mondaire Jones (D): $1.15 million raised, $840,000 cash on hand
  • WI-03: Rebecca Cooke (D): $400,000 raised

Senate

CA-Sen: Politico relays that Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff have all made it clear they'd continue to run for the Senate even if their fellow Democrat, appointed incumbent Laphonza Butler, sought a full term.

NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim's allies at End Citizens United are out with an internal from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows the congressman beating First Lady Tammy Murphy 42-19 in a hypothetical Democratic primary, with indicted Sen. Bob Menendez taking all of 5%. The firm also finds Kim, who remains the only major declared candidate, defeating the incumbent 63-10 in a one-on-one fight. This is the only primary poll we've seen other than a Data for Progress survey that showed Kim beating fellow Rep. Mikie Sherrill 27-20 in a crowded contest, but that survey was largely conducted after Sherrill said she wouldn't run.

Another Democratic House member, Rep. Frank Pallone, sounds unlikely to seek a promotion, though he didn't quite rule it out to Politico. Pallone, who has served in the lower chamber since 1988, instead says he wants to regain the top post on the Energy and Commerce panel under a new Democratic majority. He said of the Senate chatter, "I’m flattered by the suggestions."

The story also adds that Rep. Josh Gottheimer is continuing to prepare his likely 2025 gubernatorial bid and isn't "planning to change course and run for Senate," though he hasn't said this publicly. (See our NJ-11, NJ-Gov item below for more on both Gottheimer and Sherrill's 2025 deliberations.)

WV-Sen: The Tarrance Group's late-September poll for the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC tied to Mitch McConnell, shows GOP Gov. Jim Justice leading Sen. Joe Manchin 49-43 in a hypothetical general election scenario where the senator runs as an independent rather than as a Democrat. The memo did not mention Rep. Alex Mooney, who is waging an uphill primary battle against Justice.

Governors

MS-Gov: The conservative Magnolia Tribune has released a survey from Mason-Dixon that shows GOP Gov. Tate Reeves leading Democrat Brandon Presley 51-43, which is only a little smaller than the 52-41 advantage that Siena College found in late August. Mason-Dixon does not appear to have asked respondents about independent Gwendolyn Gray, whose presence on the ballot could conceivably prevent anyone from taking the majority needed to avert a Nov. 28 runoff; Siena, though, found just 1% opting for "someone else."

House

AZ-01: Former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods has publicized an endorsement from former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who served from 2003 to 2009, in the Democratic primary to face GOP incumbent David Schweikert.

MI-08: Saginaw police officer Martin Blank, who served as an Army trauma surgeon in Afghanistan, on Thursday became the first notable Republican to launch a bid against Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. Joe Biden would have carried this seat, which is based in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas, 50-48, but Kildee won an expensive race 53-43 two years later.

Blank has twice run for the state legislature, but he came nowhere close to securing the nomination either time. He lost his 2020 bid for the state House 50-31 against Timothy Beson, who went on to win the seat. Black campaigned for the upper chamber last year in a four-way primary, but he finished dead last with 18%. (Annette Glenn won that nomination contest with 41% only to lose to Democrat Kristen McDonald Rivet in the fall.)

MN-03: DNC member Ron Harris tells Punchbowl News he's considering running for the seat currently held by Rep. Dean Phillips, and he didn't rule out challenging the would-be Biden primary foe. Harris sounds more interested in running for an open seat, however, even though Minnesota's June filing deadline means that Phillips wouldn't need to choose between humoring his longshot presidential dreams and seeking reelection. "As Dean considers a run for President, I'm exploring a run for Congress to ensure this district stays in Democratic hands," Harris tweeted Thursday.

Harris, who is currently the DNC's Midwestern Caucus chair, previously served as Minneapolis' chief resilience officer from 2019 until last year. (Minnesota's largest city is located entirely in Rep. Ilhan Omar's 5th District.) Harris would be the first Black person to represent the 3rd, a seat in the western Minneapolis suburbs that favored Biden 60-39.

NJ-11, NJ-Gov: Politico relays chatter that New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill could retire this cycle to prepare for a potential 2025 bid to succeed her fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Phil Murphy, though there's no word from the congresswoman about her thinking. The current version of Sherrill's 11th District, which includes New York City's western suburbs and exurbs, would have backed Joe Biden 58-41, and Democrats would be favored to keep it no matter what.

The congresswoman would be free to seek a fourth term in the House in 2024 and even remain in Congress should she lose a bid for governor, but Sherrill could decide instead that she'd prefer to focus on a statewide campaign. Indeed, Politico previously reported in July that another Democrat who flipped a seat during the 2018 blue wave, Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, has decided against running for reelection so she can commit all of her time towards her own 2025 gubernatorial bid: Spanberger herself says she'll reveal her plans after the Nov. 7 legislative elections. (New Jersey also holds its state House and Senate contests that day.)

If Sherrill were to run for governor, she'd be in for an expensive primary battle. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop launched his campaign all the way back in April, and he announced Thursday that he'd raised enough money to receive all $7.3 million from the state's matching funds program, which provides $2 in state funds for every dollar raised. Anyone participating in the program can only spend $7.3 million during the primary, though super PACs like the pro-Fulop Coalition for Progress, which had $6.5 million available at the end of June, can deploy as much as they want.

Sherrill also isn't the only Democratic House member who might try to be the next inhabit of Drumthwacket, the governor's delightfully named official residence. An advisor for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a prominent centrist who represents a neighboring seat to the north, confirmed the congressman's interest back in July to the New Jersey Globe. However, Politico relays that unnamed "Democrats close to Gottheimer" anticipate he'll also seek reelection next year to the 5th District, which favored Biden 56-43.

Plenty of other Democrats have also been talked about as potential candidates to replace Murphy in this blue state, and we'll take a closer look at the many potential contenders after the Nov. 7 elections. On the GOP side, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli announced he was in days after he lost the 2021 general election to Murphy by a surprisingly narrow 51-48 spread.

VA-10: Axios' Hans Nichols reports that former National Security Council advisor Eugene Vindman, the whistleblower who attracted national attention in the leadup to Donald Trump's first impeachment, is considering running to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton. Vindman didn't deny anything to Nichols when asked at an event for the Democratic group VoteVets, saying instead, "I'm focused on Ukraine funding. I'm focused on war crimes now. That's all I'm focused on."

Nick Minock of the local ABC affiliate 7News, meanwhile, writes that Loudoun County Supervisor Juli Briskman discussed campaigning for the Democratic nod after Wexton announced that she wouldn't run following her diagnosis with Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy. Briskman, who was photographed flipping off Donald Trump's motorcade while biking in 2017, divulged last week that she was being treated for breast cancer, and she said doctors are optimistic about her prospects. The supervisor, who is up for reelection on Nov. 7, did not respond to 7News' inquiry about her 2024 plans.

Minock also mentions state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, and former Attorney General Mark Herring as possible Democratic candidates. Nichols additionally names Jessica Post, who announced last week that she would step down as president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee after this year's races; like the aforementioned trio, Post does not appear to have said anything publicly about participating in this contest. But Del. Danica Roem, who is seeking a promotion to the state Senate, told 7News she wouldn't run herself; Roem previously ruled out a bid for the neighboring 7th District.

On the GOP side, attorney Mike Clancy on Thursday became the first declared candidate for this 58-40 Biden seat. Clancy, whom Minock describes as a "business executive with a global technology company," ran here last year and self-funded the majority of his campaign's $400,000 budget, but he didn't come close to winning the party-run "firehouse primary."

Minock also supplies a few names of possible GOP contenders:

  • 2020 nominee Aliscia Andrews
  • Loudoun County Supervisor Caleb Kershner
  • 2022 candidate Caleb Max
  • state Sen. Jill Vogel

Kershner is up for reelection next month, while Vogel is retiring from the legislature.

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Biden is targeting Trump’s ‘extremist movement’ as he makes democracy a touchtone in reelection bid

President Joe Biden is ready to argue “there is something dangerous happening in America” during a speech in Arizona on Thursday as he revives his warnings that Donald Trump and his allies represent an existential threat to the country's democratic institutions.

“There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy. The MAGA movement,” Biden says in excerpts of the speech released in advance by the White House, referring Trump's Make America Great Again slogan.

Although voting in the 2024 Republican primary doesn't begin for months, Biden's focus reflects Trump's status as the undisputed frontrunner for his party's nomination despite facing four indictments, two of them related to his attempts to overturn Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Biden's speech is his fourth in a series of presidential addresses on the topic, a cause that is a touchstone for him as he tries to remain in office even in the face of low approval ratings and widespread concern from voters about his age, 80.

He's also facing fresh pressure on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans are holding the first hearing in their impeachment inquiry.

On the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, Biden visited the Capitol and accused Trump of continuing to hold a “dagger” at democracy’s throat. Biden closed out the summer that year in the shadow of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, decrying Trumpism as a menace to democratic institutions.

And in November, as voters were casting ballots in the midterm elections, Biden again sounded a clarion call to protect democratic institutions.

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The location for Thursday's speech, as was the case for the others, was chosen for effect. It will be near Arizona State University, which houses the McCain Institute, named after the late Arizona Sen. John McCain — a friend of Biden and the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who spent his public life denouncing autocrats around the globe.

“I have come to honor the McCain Institute and Library because they are home to a proud Republican who put country first," Biden says in the excerpts. “Our commitment should be no less because democracy should unite all Americans – regardless of political affiliation.”

As Biden has tried to do in the past, Thursday's speech is designed to avoid alienating moderate Republicans while confronting the spread of anti-democratic rhetoric.

“Not every Republican -– not even the majority of Republicans –- adhere to the extremist MAGA ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with Republicans my whole career," Biden says. “But there is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA extremists.”

Republicans competing with Trump for their party's 2024 presidential nomination have largely avoided challenging his election falsehoods. In addition, Trump's allies on Capitol Hill are only becoming more emboldened as he eggs them on, including toward a looming government shutdown that appears all but inevitable.

In closed-door fundraisers, Biden has spoken at length about reelection, imploring supporters to join his effort to “literally save American democracy,” as he described it to wealthy donors this month in New York.

“I’m running because we made progress — that’s good — but because our democracy, I think, is still at risk,” Biden said.

Advisers see Biden’s continued focus on democracy as both good policy and good politics. Campaign officials have pored over the election results from last November, when candidates who denied the 2020 election results did not fare well in competitive races, and point to polling that showed democracy was a highly motivating issue for voters in 2022.

Candidates who backed Trump’s election lies and were running for statewide offices with some influence over elections — governor, secretary of state, attorney general — lost their races in every presidential battleground state.

In few states does Biden’s message of democracy resonate more than in Arizona, which became politically competitive during Trump’s presidency after seven decades of Republican dominance. After Biden's victory, the state was a hotbed of efforts to overturn or cast doubt on the results.

Republican state lawmakers used their subpoena power to obtain all the 2020 ballots and vote-counting machines from Maricopa County, then hired Trump supporters to conduct an unprecedented partisan review of the election. The widely mocked spectacleconfirmed Biden’s victory but fueled unfounded conspiracy theories about the election and spurred an exodus of election workers.

In the 2022 midterms, voters up and down the ballot rejected Republican candidates who repeatedly denied the results of the 2020 election. But Kari Lake, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, has never conceded her loss to now-Gov. Katie Hobbs and is expected to soon launch her a bid for the U.S. Senate. Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters and Mark Finchem, who ran for secretary of state, also repeated fraudulent election claims in their respective campaigns.

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., who defeated Masters, said the importance of defending democracy resonates not only with members of his own party but independents and moderate GOP voters.

“I met so many Republicans that were sick and tired of the lies about an election that was two years old,” Kelly said.

Indeed, Republicans privately concede that the election denialism rhetoric that dominated their candidates’ message — as well as the looming specter of Trump — damaged their efforts to retain the governor’s mansion and flip a hotly contested Senate seat, according to three Republican officials who worked in statewide races last cycle.

Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next year’s Senate race, said a democracy-focused message is particularly important to two critical blocs of voters in the state: Latinos and veterans, both of whom Gallego said are uniquely affected by election denialism and the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

"You know, we come from countries and experiences where democracy is very corrupt, and many of us are only one generation removed from that, but we’re close enough to see how bad it can be," Gallego said. "And so Jan. 6 actually was particularly jarring, I think, to Latinos.”

As he pays tribute to McCain on Thursday, Biden will also announce new federal funds being directed to build the McCain Library, which the White House described as a “new multipurpose facility to provide education, work, and health monitoring programs to underserved communities in the state.”

The money comes from a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed in the early months of Biden’s presidency, and the project is in partnership with the with the McCain Institute and Arizona State University. The late senator’s wife, Cindy McCain, other members of their family, Gov. Hobbs, and the state’s representatives on Capitol Hill will be at the event commemorating McCain, “whose intolerance for the abuse of power and faith in America sets a powerful example to live by,” the White House said.

Morning Digest: Father of anti-trans ‘bathroom bill’ joins race for North Carolina attorney general

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

NC-AG, NC-08: Far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, an election denier who rose to prominence after spearheading North Carolina's transphobic "bathroom bill" in 2016 while in the state Senate, announced Thursday that he'd run for state attorney general next year. The congressman quickly earned an endorsement from the well-funded Club for Growth for his bid to become the first Republican to hold this office since 1975, though he currently faces former state Rep. Tom Murry in the primary.

Bishop, however, may not be the only sitting congressman who ends up running to succeed incumbent Josh Stein, the Democratic frontrunner in next year's race for governor. The very same day, Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson declined to rule out a bid of his own. Jackson told the News & Observer's Danielle Battaglia that he'd only start thinking about a campaign after the state's Republican-run legislature passes a new congressional map sometime this fall, which could leave the freshman without a seat he can win.

Jackson, however, was quick to make clear how he'd go after Bishop. "I did hear his announcement," he said, "and as a prosecutor, I don't think that anyone who supported overturning an election should be talking about law and order." The Democratic field currently consists of Marine veteran Tim Dunn and Navy Reserve veteran Charles Ingram, but both reported having minimal cash stockpiles at the end of June.

Bishop did indeed vote to overturn Joe Biden's win in the hours following the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, a move the congressman justified by echoing Donald Trump's lies about mail-in votes. "In the 2020 election, the national Democratic Party carried out a highly coordinated, massively financed, nationwide campaign to displace state regulation of absentee ballots by means of a flood of election-year litigation," Bishop wrote just before the riot, and he's continued to spread the Big Lie since then. The congressman fired off an evidence-free tweet last year claiming that Jack Dorsey "and Twitter put their thumb on the scale in the last election to help Biden." (Unsurprisingly, Bishop has a far more favorable view of that site's new owner.)

Before Bishop devoted himself to enabling conservative extremists in Washington, D.C., he was a state lawmaker who indirectly helped cost the GOP the governorship in 2016. That year, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Bishop-crafted House Bill 2, which required anyone using bathrooms at schools or public facilities to use the restroom associated with the sex on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity. That legislation sparked a national backlash that led several major corporations to cancel planned expansions in the state, and voters responded by narrowly booting McCrory in favor of then-Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Bishop's career, though, survived and thrived even after Cooper signed a law rolling back HB 2. The state senator unexpectedly got the chance to run for Congress in what was then numbered the 9th District in 2019 after the results of the previous year's election were voided because of election fraud carried out to assist Republican nominee Mark Harris. Bishop decisively won the primary and went on to narrowly defeat 2018 Democratic nominee Dan McCready 51-49 after an expensive campaign for a gerrymandered constituency that Trump had taken 54-43 in 2016.

But despite that underwhelming victory, as well as a new court-supervised map that made the 9th District a shade bluer, Bishop turned in an easy 2020 win in a contest that national Democrats didn't target. His constituency was soon renumbered the 8th District following the 2020 census and became safely red turf that Bishop had no trouble holding last year. The congressman then used the first days of the new Congress to cast 11 straight votes against making Kevin McCarthy speaker, but he eventually flipped; McCarthy rewarded Bishop afterward with a spot on the GOP's Orwellian-named "Weaponization of the Federal Government" subcommittee.

Republican legislators were recently given the green light to once again gerrymander to their hearts' content after the newly conservative state Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the court's previously Democratic majority that had banned the practice. They'll likely draw up another safe seat to replace the one Bishop currently represents, and there's already chatter about who could run to replace him.

An unnamed source tells the National Journal's James Downs that Harris and Dan Barry, who took a distant fifth in the 2012 primary for the 9th District several maps ago, are "names to watch." Harris chose not to run in the 2019 special election that Bishop ultimately won, but while the consultant responsible for the fraud that wrecked his campaign went to prison, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced the following year that she wouldn't charge the candidate as part of her probe.

P.S. While Bishop would be the first Republican to serve as attorney general in 50 years, the last member of his party to actually win this office was Zeb Walser all the way back in 1896. Republicans last held the attorney general's office in 1974 when GOP Gov. James Holshouser appointed James Carson to fill a vacancy, though Carson lost the ensuing special election a few months later to Democrat Rufus Edmisten.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Noble Predictive Insights, which until recently was known as OH Predictive Insights, has released a poll that finds Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego leading in six different general election scenarios:

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego (D): 33, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R): 25, Kyrsten Sinema (I-inc): 24
  • Gallego (D): 40, Lamb (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 32, Sinema (I-inc): 28, 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters (R): 24
  • Gallego (D): 44, Masters (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 34, Sinema (I-inc): 26, 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R): 25
  • Gallego (D): 45, Lake (R): 35

Gallego and Lamb are the only notable candidates who have announced they're running. NPI, which sometimes does work on behalf of GOP groups, is the very first poll we've seen from anyone since April.

ND-Sen: Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told KUMV this week that he hasn't decided whether he'll seek reelection, though the incumbent sounds like he's leaning strongly towards another campaign. "A second term for me would mean greater clout, probably a chairmanship as well," Cramer said. "Seniority matters in the Senate. That's where my thinking is today without telling you exactly what I intend to do. I guess I would be surprised if I decided not to run for reelection." The senator does not appear to have indicated what factors would push him toward retirement.

WV-Sen: The Washington Post reports that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to direct money towards positive ads "to help prop up his poll numbers before he decides whether he'll run," but Manchin won't use his own $10.8 million war chest for this purpose because he "doesn't want to spark speculation that he's running for reelection by making an ad buy to boost his image." The Democratic group Duty and Honor did run commercials in the spring to counter a GOP offensive to damage the incumbent, but the paper says that Schumer doesn't want to make a big investment here before he knows if Manchin will actually run again.

Governors

MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves seems to agree with Democrats that the state's $77 million welfare funds scandal could hurt him even in this red state because he's already up with a response spot two days after Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley launched his first commercial on the topic. The challenger may not mind too much, though, because Reeves' ad makers adopt the dubious strategy of repeating some of the very attacks Presley is leveling against him.

"Have you seen this ad attacking our governor, Tate Reeves?" asks the narrator as footage fills the screen of Presley's earlier piece, complete with on-screen text reading, "REEVES … PLAGUED BY WELFARE FRAUD SCANDAL." Reeves' narrator isn't happy, saying, "Tate Reeves had nothing to do with the scandal … it all happened before he was governor." It's rarely a good move to put your candidate's name in the same sentence as "scandal," but Presley's team is also disputing the idea that Reeves isn't to blame for something that occurred while he occupied the powerful lieutenant governor's office.

"[T]he reality is Tate Reeves used to brag about his watchdog responsibilities and overseeing the state budget," the campaign said in a statement, which included a quote from a 2019 ad where Reeves proclaimed he was "managing the government's money like it's your money―because it is."

WA-Gov: Richland School Board member Semi Bird on Thursday pledged to continue his campaign for governor two days after the Republican appears to have lost a recall election along with two colleagues. The trio voted in February of 2022 to defy the state's COVID protocols and make it optional to wear masks in local public schools; school was canceled for two days as a result, and the group ultimately backed down.

Bird hasn't gained much traction ahead of a top-two primary contest where former Rep. Dave Reichert appears to be the GOP frontrunner, but he's hoping his likely ouster will change that. (The state is still counting ballots, but the pro-recall "yes" side was ahead 56-44 in Bird's race as of Thursday; the results were similar in the other two contests.) "The teachers unions and leftest activists may have won the recall battle, pouring 10's of thousands of dollars into the effort," Bird wrote Thursday in a fundraising email, "but when the people of Washington send me to Olympia, we will win the war."

House

DE-AL: EMILY's List on Thursday endorsed state Sen. Sarah McBride in the Democratic primary for this statewide seat, declaring that it "was proud to support McBride when she made history in 2020 as the first openly transgender state senator in the country — and we are thrilled to once again help her make history and become the first openly transgender member of Congress."

NC-??: State House Speaker Tim Moore announced last month that he will not seek another term leading the chamber after the 2024 elections, and he and his team are continuing to evade questions about whether he'd run for the U.S. House after his party passes a new gerrymander. Political advisor Paul Shumaker told the News & Observer, "We don't know what the maps are going to look like. We have all this speculation." Shumaker added that his client could also go into the private sector.

PA-01: Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck announced Wednesday that he'd run to deny renomination to Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in this competitive suburban Philadelphia seat, a declaration that comes months after he was found not guilty of allegedly violating a federal law designed to protect abortion clinics. Houck became a conservative celebrity in the leadup to that January trial, where he was accused of intimidation by twice shoving a 72-year-old Planned Parenthood volunteer in 2021; Houck never denied he'd done this, though he successfully claimed that he'd only become violent after his son was insulted.

Houck launched his campaign by telling the far-right website The Church Militant, "We're running to protect the rights of families and defend traditional family values in our district. Unfortunately, Brian doesn't represent that." Fitzpatrick, who has made a name for himself as a pragmatist, has always run well ahead of the top of the ticket during his four campaigns, and Democrats would be delighted if Houck gave him a hard time in this 52-47 Biden seat. The well-funded congressman turned back a little-known primary foe 66-34 last cycle before pulling off a 55-45 victory against Ashley Ehasz, a Democrat who is running again.

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar on Thursday unveiled endorsements from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and the rest of the chamber's Democratic leadership, as well as Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, in what's likely a move to deter another primary challenge from the left. Cuellar narrowly fended off immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros in 2020 and 2022, and her former spokesperson told the Texas Tribune back in March that she hadn't ruled out a third try. The Lone Star State's downballot filing deadline is Dec. 11, which is one of the earliest in the nation.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Thursday finally brought some action concerning Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton's long-stalled trial for securities fraud, with a state judge agreeing to a request from both prosecutors and the defense to delay scheduling anything until Paxton's separate impeachment trial concludes sometime next month. Both sides agreed that Paxton would be more likely to try to reach a deal concerning the eight-year-old security fraud indictment if two-thirds of the state Senate votes to remove him from office, with one of his attorneys explaining that this outcome would be "a kill shot to his political career, so it opens the door to a resolution that’s not open right now."

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: A GOP consultant tells cleveland.com that groups looking to beat Issue 1, which would make it much harder to amend the state constitution, have added $2.5 million to their media buys for the final days of the Aug. 8 special election. The story says the conservative pro "yes" side enjoys a small $5.9 million to $5.3 million edge in ad spending for the last week of the race: The GOP firm Medium Buying also tweets that the "no" side has outspent its rivals $12.2 million to $9.7 million on TV and radio for the entire campaign.

Meanwhile, organizers seeking to place a statutory initiative on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana say they've submitted 6,500 additional signatures to the secretary of state, and they only need about 10% of them to be valid in order to qualify: The campaign fell just 679 petitions shy of the 124,000 minimum last month, but state law granted them 10 extra days to make up the shortfall.

Because this proposal would not amend the constitution, it would only need to win a majority no matter how the Issue 1 fight ends next week. Issue 1 would also not eliminate the 10-day grace period for statutory initiatives like this, though it would end this rule for future constitutional amendments. Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe "the use of cannabis should be legal."

Morning Digest: He ranted about ‘European cheese weenies.’ Now he’s running for Congress

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James announced Wednesday that he'd seek the Republican nomination to challenge freshman Rep. Yadira Caraveo in Colorado's 8th District, prompting Democrats to immediately blast him for an anti-abortion, Islamophobic rant he delivered as a talk radio host in 2007.

James, as Media Matters documented at the time, declared "the civilization that you know ... will be overtaken by those who would like you to practice Sharia law ... just by mass numbers" because "the European cheese weenies simply aren't breeding." James continued, "You can do the math and see the rapid decline of ... civilization," before saying of the United Kingdom, "Their birth rate declining, the abortion rate increasing. You do the math. You don't have the sanctity for the life like that, your society will simply extinguish."

Democrats also went after James, who remained on the radio after winning his seat on the county commission in 2018, for his vote the next year to designate Weld County as a "Second Amendment sanctuary." That action, which authorized the county sheriff to "exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law," came in response to a new red flag law that allows family and household members, as well as law enforcement officials, to petition a judge to confiscate firearms from an individual they fear is dangerous. "Taking constitutional rights away from citizens under the guise that it is for the 'greater good' is a very dangerous path to walk down," James said at the time, "and one we do not support."

James launched his campaign to unseat Caraveo hours after fellow Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, the GOP's nominee last year, announced that she would seek reelection to the state Senate rather than try to avenge her narrow 48.4-47.7 general election loss. The commissioner is the first notable Republican to join the contest for this constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, turf Joe Biden carried 51-46 in 2020, but he's not the only one who is thinking about running here.

State Rep. Gabe Evans reiterated his interest Tuesday to the Colorado Sun, while Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno and former state Rep. Dan Woog both said they were mulling over the idea last month. Multiple publications also reported in June that Joe O'Dea, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year, is considering as well, though he's shown no obvious sign that he's preparing for another run.

Redistricting

NY Redistricting: A divided state appeals court ordered New York's redistricting commission to draw a new congressional map ahead of the 2024 elections on Thursday, overturning a lower court that had previously ruled in favor of retaining the state's current court-drawn boundaries. Republicans opposing the Democratic-backed lawsuit, however, immediately vowed to appeal in an effort to prevent the adoption of districts that would be less favorable to them.

The dispute wound up in court after the evenly divided bipartisan commission failed to reach an agreement on a single set of redistricting plans for Congress and the state legislature last year.  Instead, it forwarded dueling proposals—one batch supported by Democrats, the other by Republicans—to lawmakers, who rejected them both. After that failure, the commission refused to try again, which led the Democratic-run legislature to pass its own maps.

However, the state's highest court struck down that attempt last year in a 4-3 decision, saying that because the commission had never sent a second set of maps to the legislature as contemplated by the state constitution, lawmakers could not act on their own. As a remedy, an upstate trial court instead imposed maps drawn by an outside expert that saw Republicans make considerable gains in the November midterms.

A group of voters, though, filed a suit demanding that the commission be ordered back to work. While a lower court initially rejected that argument, the Appellate Division agreed with the plaintiffs. The commission still "had an indisputable duty under the NY Constitution to submit a second set of maps upon the rejection of its first set," wrote the majority in a 3-2 opinion, concluding that the court-ordered maps used in 2022 were interim in nature.

If New York's highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, upholds this decision, then the commission will again have to try to compromise on a new congressional map. If it again fails to produce an acceptable map, though, Democrats in the legislature—who enjoy two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers—would, this time, very likely be entitled to create new maps of their own design. That possibility could spur Republican commissioners to accept lines that tilt somewhat more in Democrats' favor than the current districts rather than face the alternative of an unfettered partisan gerrymander.

2Q Fundraising

The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is July 15. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available soon afterwards.

  • AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): $3.1 million raised
  • CA-Sen: Katie Porter (D): $3.2 million raised, $10.4 million cash on hand
  • WV-Sen: Joe Manchin (D-inc): $1.3 million raised, $10.7 million cash on hand
  • LA-Gov: Jeff Landry (R): $4.5 million raised, $9 million cash on hand
  • NC-Gov: Mark Robinson (R): $2.2 million raised (in six months), $3.2 million cash on hand
  • AZ-06: Juan Ciscomani (R-inc): $815,000 raised, $1.6 million cash on hand
  • CA-45: Michelle Steel (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $690,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • IA-03: Zach Nunn (R-inc): $729,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D-inc): $515,000 raised, $770,000 cash on hand
  • MI-10: John James (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R-inc): $786,000 raised, $876,000 cash on hand
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson (D-inc): $507,000 raised, $663,000 cash on hand
  • NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $1.2 million raised, $15.1 million cash on hand
  • NJ-07: Tom Kean Jr. (R-inc): $860,000 raised, $1.47 million cash on hand
  • NY-02: Rob Lubin (D): $343,000 raised (in five weeks), additional $7,000 self-funded
  • NY-03: Anna Kaplan (D): $455,000 raised
  • OR-05: Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-inc): $717,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • TX-15: Monica De La Cruz (R-inc): $833,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • WA-03: Joe Kent (R): $245,000 raised, $392,000 cash on hand

Senate

FL-Sen: Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC are trying to recruit former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to take on GOP incumbent Rick Scott, but another Democrat appears ready to launch his campaign before she makes up her mind.

Navy veteran Phil Ehr, who raised $2 million for his 2020 bid against the nationally infamous Rep. Matt Gaetz in the safely red 1st District, confirms he's interested and will decide in the coming weeks. An unnamed source, though, says that Ehr, who lost to Gaetz 65-34 as Trump was taking the old 1st by a similar 66-32 margin, is planning to get in "soon."

MI-Sen: The Daily Beast's Ursula Perano reports that, while actor Hill Harper says he's lived in Michigan for the last seven years, the new Democratic candidate's residency "may be more complicated." Perano uncovered a 2020 Seattle Times article saying that Harper moved to that city during the first season of production for his show, The Good Doctor, so his son could attend school there. (That season aired in 2017 and 2018.) That same story said that "Harper commutes from Seattle to the show’s set in Vancouver, British Columbia."

Perano also found a pair of websites used to book the actor for speaking engagements, both of which appear to have been in use in recent years: One said that Harper would be traveling from California, where he also owns a condo, while the other said he'd be coming from Seattle. "Hill Harper began spending time in Michigan because of work, but quickly realized the greatest people in the world live in Michigan and decided to move there full time," his campaign told the Daily Beast for the story, "Ever since moving to Michigan in 2016, he’s voted as a Michigander, paid taxes to the state, and runs a small business in Detroit."

Governors

IN-Gov: Howey Politics relays that there are still "rumors" that state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers is considering seeking the GOP nod to succeed his boss, termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb and would likely self-fund. There is no other information about Chambers' interest.

MO-Gov: Businessman Mike Hamra, whose eponymous company operates almost 200 restaurants nationwide, tells the St. Louis Business Journal he's "seriously considering" seeking the Democratic nod and will "likely to have a final decision later in the fall." Hamra made his interest known days after state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade launched her own bid to lead what's become a tough state for Democrats.

MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves is airing a transphobic new TV ad where the governor, after praising his daughter for working to earn a soccer scholarship, declares, "Now, political radicals are trying to ruin women's sports, letting biological men get the opportunities meant for women." Reeves, as Mississippi Today notes, signed a 2021 law banning trans athletes from women's sports even though the bill's sponsor acknowledged she didn't know of this happening in the state.

House

AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich on Thursday became the first notable Republican to announce a campaign against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, who twice beat him last year for Alaska's only House seat. But Begich is unlikely to have the top-four primary to himself, especially since many Republicans made it clear last fall that they still harbor a grudge over how he acquitted himself during the final months of longtime Rep. Don Young's life.

Begich, who is the rare Republican member of Alaska's most prominent Democratic family (his grandfather and namesake was Young's immediate predecessor, while his uncle Mark Begich served one term in the U.S. Senate), was initially a Young supporter, and he even co-chaired the congressman's 2020 campaign. But, as the Anchorage Daily News' Iris Samuels reported in April of 2022, Begich spent about a month working in the congressman's office the next year—at Young's invitation—only to launch a bid against Young soon afterward. "It was just such an invasion of our goodwill and the Congressman's goodwill," one unnamed staffer later told Insider's Bryan Metzger, adding, "We were completely hoodwinked and betrayed."    

Young, who'd represented the state in the House since 1973, died before that faceoff could occur, and Begich was one of the 48 candidates who filed to run in a special election that featured America's first-ever top-four primary. But after Begich advanced to the general against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin and Peltola (a fourth finisher, independent Al Gross, dropped out), it looked likely that one of the two Republicans would prevail in a state Donald Trump took 53-43 in 2020.

Begich and Palin, though, instead went negative on one another while ignoring Peltola (that is, when they weren't smiling in selfies with her), which helped give the Democrat the opening she needed. Begich was only too happy to portray Palin as a disastrous governor who only cared about being a celebrity, while Palin hit back by castigating Begich for supporting his Democratic relatives.

An unscathed Peltola went into ranked-choice tabulations with 40% of first-choice votes, with Palin edging out Begich 31-28 for second. But following the fratricidal GOP campaign, Begich's backers only went for Palin by a 50-29 margin as a crucial 21% didn’t express a preference for either finalist. As a result, Peltola pulled off 51-49 upset.

All three candidates, plus Libertarian Chris Bye, competed again in November for a full two-year term, but things went even worse for the GOP this time. Begich and his allies pointed to data from the Alaska Division of Elections saying that he'd have defeated Peltola 52-48 had he come in second place in the special election to make his case that conservatives should choose him over Palin. But several of Young's former staffers not only endorsed Peltola, who had enjoyed a close relationship with the late congressman for decades, they also vocally aired their grievances against Begich for what they saw as his duplicity.

One particular incensed Young aide was a former communications director, Zack Brown, who posted a picture of Begich's congressional intern badge in a since-deleted tweet. "Begich was planning on primarying Young all along," he wrote. "He used DY & staff to secure inside info." Brown followed up, "According to FEC docs, he claimed campaign expenses BEFORE he came on as an INTERN in Don Young's office. He KNEW he was going to primary Young before he joined our office, but used the Congressman and staff for his own ends anyway. Disgraceful."

Peltola this time almost took a majority of first-choice ballots, scoring 49% of them as Palin once again staggered into second place, beating out Begich 26-23. Peltola then crushed Palin in a 55-45 drubbing after the instant-runoff process was finished. To add insult to injury for Begich, election data showed he would have lost by a slightly larger margin than Palin this time―just under 11 points―had he taken second.

Republicans are likely to make a priority of beating Peltola, who represents the reddest Democratic-held seat in the chamber, but it remains to be seen who else will join Begich in the top-four. The Anchorage Daily News writes that Palin, who rather prematurely named her congressional chief of staff the day after the November election [i]In anticipation of an announcement of victory," hasn't shown any sign she's thinking of trying a third time, though that hardly means she won't surprise everyone like she did when she decided to run last year.

MD-06: Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez on Wednesday joined the busy primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate David Trone, for a seat based in western Maryland and the northwestern D.C. exurbs. Martinez, who was elected to the city council in 2020, became this northwestern Maryland community's first Black mayor in February after her colleagues appointed her to fill the vacant post. She joins Dels. Lesley Lopez and Joe Vogel, as well as think tank founder Destiny Drake West, in seeking the Democratic nod for this 54-44 Biden constituency.

NJ-07: Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak tells the New Jersey Globe he's "still waiting until this November" before deciding whether to seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr.

NY-22: New York State United Teachers, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, has endorsed Democratic state Sen. John Mannion's bid to take on GOP Rep. Brandon Williams. Mannion is a former public school teacher, and City & State says the labor group has enthusiastically backed him in past races.

RI-01: Lincoln Town Councilor Pamela Azar at some point quietly ended her campaign for the Democratic nod and endorsed one of her many former rivals, state Sen. Ana Quezada.

TX-34: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has endorsed former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores in her rematch effort with Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez.

UT-02: State election officials confirmed this week that both former RNC member Bruce Hough and former state Rep. Becky Edwards have turned in enough valid signatures to make the Sept. 5 special Republican primary to succeed outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart. The pair will face Celeste Maloy, a former Stewart aide who qualified for the ballot by winning last month's party convention. The winner will be favored on Nov. 7 against Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe in this gerrymandered 57-40 Trump seat.

WI-03: Both state Rep. Katrina Shankland and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they're interested in joining the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden.

Mayors and County Leaders

Houston, TX Mayor: Former Republican City Councilmember Jack Christie tells the Houston Chronicle he's considering entering the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, though he said he was still "far from signing up." Attorney Tony Buzbee, an independent who lost the 2019 runoff to Turner 56-44 after spending $12 million, likewise says he hasn't ruled out another campaign even though he's representing Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Republican's upcoming impeachment trial. The filing deadline is Aug. 21, weeks before Paxton's Sept. 5 trial starts.

Indianapolis, IN Mayor: Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett has gone on TV well ahead of the Nov. 7 general with a spot hitting his wealthy foe, Republican Jefferson Shreve, that utilizes footage from the ads Shreve ran during his failed 2016 state Senate bid. "Jefferson Shreve will fight for the right to life," says Shreve's old narrator, "and our Second Amendment rights." Indianapolis backed Joe Biden 63-34, but Republicans are hoping Shreve's resources will help him argue that change is needed after Hogsett's two terms.

Nashville, TN Mayor: The Nashville Scene reports that a conservative group called Save Nashville PAC is spending $150,000 on TV ad campaign to help the one notable Republican in the race, party strategist Alice Rolli, advance past the Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary. The messaging, unsurprisingly, invokes the specter of crime in big cities … other big cities, that is. "How many once-great cities around the U.S. are now complete disasters?" asks the narrator, "Is Nashville next? Alice Rolli will protect Nashville and keep it a clean, safe city."

The offensive comes at a time when two wealthy Democrats, former AllianceBernstein executive Jim Gingrich and former economic development chief Matt Wiltshire, continue to dominate the airwaves in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Mayor John Cooper. AdImpact relays that Gingrich and his allies have outspent Wiltshire's side $1.6 million to $1.2 million in advertising, while Democratic Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell is far back with just $190,000.

A firm called Music City Research, though, has released a survey showing that, despite being heavily outspent, O'Connell leads with 22% as Wiltshire outpaces Rolli 17-13 for the second spot in the likely Sept. 14 runoff. The pollster is affiliated with Harpeth Strategies, which is run by one of O'Connell's supporters, fellow Metro Council member Dave Rosenberg. Rosenberg tells us this poll was conducted for a "private entity and not a mayoral campaign or an organization associated with a mayoral campaign." He added that, as far as he is aware, the sponsor is not backing or opposing anyone.

The last poll we saw was over a month ago, and it showed a far more unsettled race. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, working for real estate development group NAIOP Nashville, had O'Connell at 10% as two Democratic members of the state Senate, Jeff Yarbro and Heidi Campbell, respectively took 9% and 8%.

Morning Digest: Elections chief who advanced the Big Lie launches bid for West Virginia governor

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WV-Gov, WV-Sen: Secretary of State Mac Warner, who runs West Virginia's elections even as he's helped spread election conspiracy theories, announced Tuesday that he was joining the 2024 primary to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Jim Justice.

Warner kicked off his campaign with a speech emphasizing service in the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps and declaring, "It is time to call-out the radical, woke, dangerous and ridiculous policies of the 'progressive' Administration in Washington, D.C." West Virginia Metro News' Brad McElhinny notes that in that address, the secretary of state "did not mention issues specific to West Virginia."

Warner, who won his job in 2016 by narrowly unseating Democratic incumbent Natalie Tennant, was respected by fellow election officials heading into the 2020 contest for his efforts to combat misinformation, but that very much changed after Election Day. That's because Warner, who had just decisively defeated Tennant in their rematch, spent the next weeks backing up lies about Donald Trump's defeat.

Warner appeared at a December "March for Trump" rally in the state, where he appeared to be holding up a "Stop the Steal" sign. He later said he didn't actually think he'd hoisted that particular banner, but there's no question the secretary of state told Trump's fans at that gathering that it was "so important to keep him in office."

Warner also supported Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's failed lawsuit to invalidate Joe Biden's win in four swing states. While he insisted he was concerned whether changes states made in how late mail-in ballots could be received were constitutional, Warner also spread lies alleging, "When cardboard is put over windows, when two cases of ballots come out, when ballots are pre-marked or don't have folds on it—there's all those things. Those are red flags that need to be looked at and not just discounted, and that's what the mainstream media wants us to do."

Warner the following year was the one person at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting to vote against a bipartisan proposal by his colleagues to set a standard for election audits, and he soon withdrew from the group in protest. (Missouri's Jay Ashcroft, who is also likely to run in 2024 for governor of his own state, abstained.)

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Warner acknowledged Biden "was elected," but he still questioned if that contest was fairly run. He also argued that congressional Democrats' efforts to expand voting rights and the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear Paxton's suit are "what spurred on the Jan. 6 people."

Warner joins a GOP primary that includes Del. Moore Capito and auto dealer Chris Miller, both of who come from prominent Mountain State political families. Capito is the son of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito and grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore, while Miller's mother is Rep. Carol Miller. Warner also has some notable relatives: His wife, Debbie Warner, was recently elected to the state House, while his brother Monty Warner badly lost the 2004 gubernatorial race to Democrat Joe Manchin. Another brother currently leads the West Virginia Economic Development Authority.

The contest to replace Justice could expand further, as Auditor JB McCuskey has talked about getting in. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who lost the 2018 Senate race to Manchin, also put out a video Tuesday reiterating he was "still evaluating my options as to whether I'm going to run for U.S. Senate or for governor … We're coming soon." While Morrisey didn't indicate which office he was leaning towards, McElhinny noted that the attorney general's message urging voters not to "settle for second best" went up as Warner was still delivering his announcement speech.

The Downballot

 Hell yeah! Election season is already here, and it's off to an amazing start with Democrats' huge flip of a critical seat in the Virginia state Senate, which kicks off this week's episode of The Downballot. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dissect what Aaron Rouse's victory means for November (abortion is still issue #1!) when every seat in the legislature will be on the ballot. They also discuss big goings-on in two U.S. Senate races: California, where Rep. Katie Porter just became the first Democrat to kick off a bid despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein's lack of a decision about her own future, and Michigan, which just saw veteran Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announce her retirement.

The Davids also delve back into a topic that frequently came up last year: redistricting. Didn't every state just draw new maps? you might ask. Yes! But many have to do so again, thanks to court rulings. Unfortunately, this gives Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio the opportunity to gerrymander once more, though there's an outside chance some Southern states could be required to draw new congressional districts where Black voters can elect their candidates of choice.

New episodes of The Downballot come out every Thursday morning. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has released numbers showing conspiracy theorist Kari Lake, who was the 2022 Republican nominee for governor, leading Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego 36-32 as independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema grabs 14%. None of these people have said they'll be running for the Senate in 2024, though Gallego has been hiring staff for a likely campaign. The firm says this poll was done "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee, or interest group."

CA-Sen: Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that longtime Rep. Barbara Lee told the Congressional Black Caucus she planned to run for the Senate seat held by her fellow Democrat, incumbent Dianne Feinstein, but Lee herself did not commit to anything when reporters asked about her 2024 plans. "What I said was that I'm very sensitive and honoring Senator Feinstein," said Lee, who represents a heavily Democratic bastion that's home to Oakland and Berkeley. (Joe Biden performed better in Lee's new 12th District than he did in any of California's other 51 House seats.)

Lee, who has long been a national progressive favorite, told Politico in a separate interview she'd say what she's doing "when it's appropriate," adding, "I'm not really doing anything except letting colleagues know that there'll be a time to talk about the Senate race." The congresswoman also did not reveal if she was willing to challenge Feinstein if the 89-year-old incumbent surprised the political world and ran again. Rep. Katie Porter, a fellow Democrat who represents an Orange County seat, launched a bid on Tuesday and currently has the field to herself.

MD-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin tells Politico he'll decide "probably in February or March" if he'll seek a fourth term.

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson, a Republican who failed to make the Republican primary ballot for governor last year, confirms he's interested in running for this open seat but has no timeline for deciding. Johnson spent $7 million of his own money last cycle before election authorities disqualified him after he and several other GOP contenders fell victim to a fraudulent signature scandal, and he unsuccessfully sued to try to get his name included. The ever-modest Johnson then began talking about a 2024 run for president after he decided to pass on a write-in effort.

Former Rep. Fred Upton, who was not on the 2022 ballot for anything by choice, meanwhile didn't quite dismiss a Senate campaign but sounds unlikely to go for it. The Republican noted he was 69 in his interview with MSNBC's Andrew Mitchell (the relevant portion begins at the 4:45 point) and said he was "probably not a candidate." Mitchell responded by noting he hadn't ruled it out, to which Upton replied, "I'm glad to be out of the Congress this last week, haven't thought about my future quite yet ... I guess you could say I've not ruled it out, but I'm really probably most inclined not to do so."

For the Democrats, Rep. Elissa Slotkin on Tuesday publicly confirmed for the first time she was "seriously considering" running to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow, though she also didn't have a timeline to decide. Attorney General Dana Nessel, however, played down the possibility she'd run, declaring she believes she could "do the most good" in her current post. "That's where I intend to stay," said Nessel.

NE-Sen-B: Gov. Jim Pillen says he'll announce Thursday morning whom he'll appoint to succeed Ben Sasse, a fellow Republican who has resigned from the Senate to become president of the University of Florida.

Governors

KY-Gov: Former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, who currently has the airwaves to herself ahead of the May Republican primary, is running a new ad focused on combating fentanyl.

LA-Gov: East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, a Democrat who is considering entering this year's race for governor, tells LaPolitics' Jeremy Alford, "I expect to have a decision in the next few weeks or sooner." Alford also writes that state Democratic chair Katie Bernhardt "sounds as serious as serious can get and will have something to say in a week or so." Bernhardt last week did not rule out a bid last week after her name was included in an unreleased poll.

House

CA-47: Former Rep. Harley Rouda, a Democrat who represented about two-thirds of this constituency from 2019 to 2021, announced Wednesday that he would run for the seat that Democratic incumbent Katie Porter is giving up to campaign for the Senate.

The only other declared candidate so far is former Orange County Republican Party chair Scott Baugh, who narrowly lost to Porter last cycle. This constituency, which includes coastal Orange County and Irvine, supported Biden 54-43, but this historically red area contains plenty of voters who are open to backing Republicans who aren’t named Donald Trump.

Rouda and Baugh previously faced off in the 2018 top-two primary to take on longtime Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the old 48th District in what turned out to be an expensive and consequential contest. Rouda and another first-time Democratic candidate, Hans Keirstead, spent months competing against the Putin-loving congressman, and it looked likely that one of them would advance to the general election. But everything changed just before the filing deadline when Baugh, who had previously served in the state Assembly in the 1990s, unexpectedly jumped in and threatened to lock Democrats out of the general election.

Baugh, though, was hardly running as a favor to Rohrabacher. The two Republicans used to be friends, and when Baugh began raising money in 2016 for a campaign, Rohrabacher initially took it in stride and said he was "just laying the foundation for a race for Congress when I am no longer a member ... but I don't know when that's going to be." Their relationship publicly collapsed, however, after Baugh refused to actually say he wouldn’t use that cash against the congressman.

Baugh didn’t run for anything in 2016, but he used the money he’d amassed that year for his last-second bid against Rohrabacher two years later. Democratic outside groups scrambled to make sure this nasty intra-party fight didn’t end up hurting their own chances to flip the seat, and the DCCC and House Majority PAC spent about $1.8 million on an effort mostly aimed at attacking Baugh. The DCCC, which supported Rouda, also made an effort to promote a third Republican, little-known candidate John Gabbard, to further splinter the vote.

This expensive undertaking proved to be just enough to avoid a disaster for Democrats in a contest where Rohrabacher, who was in no danger of being eliminated, grabbed first with 30%. Rouda edged out Keirstead 17.3-17.2, while Baugh was right behind with 16%; Gabbard finished with 3%, which may have been enough to hold back Baugh. Rouda went on to score a 54-46 victory over Rohrabacher, who never seemed to take his general election seriously.

Baugh unexpectedly turned down a rematch with Rouda in 2020, and Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel instead stepped up to take on the new congressman. Steel proved to be a much tougher foe than Rohrabacher, and she managed to secure enough voters who’d turned against Trump but still favored Republicans down the ballot: Biden took the 48th 50-48, but Steel unseated Rouda 51-49.

Rouda quickly began running against Steel again, but that was before redistricting scrambled California’s map at the end of 2021. Rouda and Porter initially both planned to run for the new 47th District, and while Rouda had represented considerably more of the redrawn constituency than his former colleague, Porter went into 2022 with a massive financial edge and a national progressive base that allowed her to bring in far more. Rouda soon announced he wouldn’t run for anything that cycle, and Porter went on to beat Baugh 52-48 after a very expensive battle.

NY-03: Prominent Nassau County Republican officials held a press conference Wednesday calling for GOP Rep. George Santos to resign only for the scandal-drenched freshman to immediately say, "I will not." The state Conservative Party, which usually backs Republicans in general elections, also told Santos to get lost; Nick Langworthy, the 23rd District congressman who still leads the state GOP, later said he supported the Nassau County party's anti-Santos declaration.

Still, while there was no reason to think Santos would heed the calls for his departure, his former allies used their gathering to make it clear just what they thought of him. Nassau County GOP chair Joseph Cairo, whose community forms three quarters of the 3rd District (the balance is in Queens) even said that the freshman congressman had personally lied to him about being "a star on the" volleyball team at Baruch College, an institution Santos never attended.

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, who was elected to the neighboring 4th District last year on the same night as Santos, said he "will not associate with him in Congress and I will encourage other representatives in the House of Representatives to join me in rejecting him." The county GOP even added that it would direct any constituent calls from Santos' district to D'Esposito, while county Executive Bruce Blakeman called the 3rd District congressman "a stain on the House of Representatives."

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though, showed no interest in pressuring Santos to resign or trying to organize two-thirds of the House to expel him. (The last time this happened was 2002, when Democratic Rep. James Traficant of Ohio was ejected by his colleagues three months after he was found guilty on corruption charges.) McCarthy instead said, "The voters elected him to serve," adding, "Is there a charge against him? In America today, you're innocent until proven guilty."

While McCarthy did declare that Santos, who backed him last week in each of the 15 speakership votes, would not be assigned to any of the top House committees, he made it clear that he'd get to sit on some panels. The speaker, when reminded how Santos had lied about his biography, responded, "Yeah, so did a lot of people here, in the Senate and others, but the one thing I think, it's the voters who made that decision. He has to answer to the voters and the voters can make another decision in two years."

Legislatures

MI State House: Democrats last November flipped the state House to win a 56-54 edge, but Gorchow News Service notes the chamber would become tied for a few months should two members from the Detroit suburbs win their respective mayoral elections this November. State Rep. Kevin Coleman said last month that he would run to lead Westland, while colleague Lori Stone recently filed paperwork for a potential bid for mayor of Warren.  

Democrats would be favored to keep both of their constituencies should any special elections take place. According to data from Dave's Redistricting App, President Joe Biden carried Coleman's 25th House District 59-40, while he racked up an even larger 64-35 margin in Stone's HD-13.

Mayors and County Leaders

Jacksonville, FL Mayor: The two leading Republicans are continuing to attack one another ahead of the March nonpartisan primary, with City Councilwoman LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber's PAC airing a commercial declaring that Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis was "ready to sell out" the city by supporting the privatization of the municipal utility JEA.

"As CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, Davis took over $300,000 from JEA to promote privatization," declares the narrator, who argues this would have raised energy bills. The ad then plays audio of Davis saying, "I think more privatization should take place in the city of Jacksonville." Davis' own PAC recently went up with a commercial labeling Cumber a "fake conservative."

Montgomery County, PA Board of Commissioners: Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday that he was nominating Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chair Valerie Arkoosh, a fellow Democrat who succeeded him in 2016 as head of the state's third-largest county, to become the new state human services secretary. Should Arkoosh, who ran an aborted 2022 campaign for the U.S. Senate, be confirmed by two-thirds of the state Senate, it would be up to the County Court judges to pick her replacement on the three-member body.

Arkoosh's planned departure comes ahead of this year's local elections in this suburban Philadelphia county. All three Commission seats are elected countywide, and voters in November can select up to two candidates. However, each party can only nominate two candidates this May, so the body will wind up with a 2-1 split no matter what.

Republicans spent generations as the dominant party in Montgomery County, and they continued to control the Commission into the 21st century even as local voters began favoring Democratic presidential candidates. In 2011, though, Shapiro led his party to its first-ever majority, and there's no reason to think they're in danger of losing it this fall in what's become a heavily blue area.  

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: The Republican-led state Senate voted Wednesday to indefinitely postpone its impeachment trial against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a decision that came weeks after the state's Commonwealth Court ruled that state House Republicans failed to demonstrate any of the legally required standards for "misbehavior in office" in their articles of impeachment. That ruling did not order the upper chamber to halt the planned Jan. 18 trial, and the House GOP has not yet said if it will appeal the decision.

Morning Digest: Democrats and Republicans unite to elect an independent as speaker … in Pennsylvania

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

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Leading Off

PA State House: In a pair of true surprises, moderate Democrat Mark Rozzi was elected speaker of the Pennsylvania state House Tuesday just before he announced that he’d lead the chamber as an independent.

Rozzi, who will be the first non-aligned speaker in the history of the body, defeated Republican state Rep. Carl Metzgar 115-85 after Democratic leader Joanna McClinton threw her support behind him rather than submit her own name. Following that endorsement, the entire Democratic caucus supported Rozzi, while 16 Republicans crossed over to back him. Rozzi’s win comes after two months of uncertainty about which party would lead the chamber, though few observers guessed that the answer would be neither.

Democrats, including Rozzi, won 102 of the 203 seats in the House on Nov. 8, which appeared to set them up for their first majority since the 2010 GOP wave. However, Democrats could only claim 99 members because state Rep. Tony DeLuca was re-elected a month after he died, while fellow Pittsburgh-area Democrats Summer Lee and Austin Davis resigned weeks later to prepare to assume their new roles as congresswoman and lieutenant governor, respectively. Republicans therefore began Tuesday with a 101 to 99 advantage, but no one knew if that would be enough for the party to elect a speaker.

Indeed, a deadlock appeared certain after one Republican joined the Democratic caucus in voting to adjourn during the middle of the day―a tied vote that failed because the remaining 100 Republicans were opposed. Unexpectedly, though, multiple Republicans and Democrats soon nominated Rozzi, whose name hadn’t previously been seriously mentioned. Rozzi prevailed with the support of all of the Democrats and a minority of Republicans, including Bryan Cutler, who had been speaker going into November’s elections.

So, what happens next? First, there will almost certainly be a vacant GOP-held seat before long, as state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver is the favorite to win the Jan. 31 special election for a dark red state Senate district. Culver’s 108th House District supported Donald Trump 65-33 in 2020, but her absence could deny her party a crucial vote in the closely divided lower chamber until a special election could take place. PennLive.com says such a race likely wouldn’t take place before May 16, which is the same date as Pennsylvania's regular statewide primary.

As for the three vacant Democratic constituencies, both parties agree that a Feb. 7 special will go forward in DeLuca’s HD-32, which went for Joe Biden 62-36. In Pennsylvania special elections, the parties, rather than voters, choose nominees: Democrats have selected local party official Joe McAndrew, while Republicans are fielding pastor Clay Walker.

There’s no agreement, however, about when the contests for Lee’s and Davis’ constituencies will take place. That’s because legislative special elections are scheduled by the leader of the chamber with the vacant seat, but there was no speaker between late November, when the last session ended, and Tuesday. That duty, as a result, fell to the majority leader, and both McClinton and Cutler claimed that title in December, issuing dueling writs of election: McClinton set these two specials to also take place on Feb. 7, while Cutler picked May 16.

Cutler filed a lawsuit to block McClinton’s schedule, but the Pennsylvania Department of State is going forward with February specials right now. There’s no question that Democrats will hold Lee’s HD-34, which Biden took 80-19, but the president pulled off a smaller 58-41 win in Davis’ HD-35.

Democrats in the former district have picked Swissvale Borough Council President Abigail Salisbury, who will go up against kickboxing instructor Robert Pagane. The Democratic nominee to succeed Davis is Matt Gergely, who serves as finance director for the community of McKeesport. Local Republicans are running Don Nevills, who lost to Davis 66-34 in November; Nevills himself has said in his social media posts that the special will be Feb. 7.

P.S. Rozzi’s win makes this the second time in the 21st century that Pennsylvania Democrats successfully maneuvered to stop Republicans from taking the speakership. In 2006, Democrats likewise won a 102-101 majority, but one of their members, Thomas Caltagirone, soon announced he’d cross party lines to keep Republican John Perzel on as speaker instead of electing Democrat Bill DeWeese. DeWeese, who was speaker in 1994 when Democrats last controlled the chamber, ended up nominating Republican Dennis O'Brien rather than put his name forward; O’Brien ultimately won 105-97.

Democrats secured a workable majority the following year, and Keith McCall became the party’s first, and to date only, speaker since DeWeese. In a strange twist, DeWeese and Perzel went on to become cellmates after being convicted in separate corruption cases. Incidentally, one House Democrat heavily involved in the plan to make O'Brien speaker was Josh Shapiro, now the governor-elect of Pennsylvania.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Doug Ducey, whose tenure as governor ended on Monday, said before Christmas he was "not running for the United States Senate" and that "it's not something I'm considering." And just like two years ago, Ducey's fellow Republicans are not taking this seemingly unequivocal statement as final: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who is another Republican on Donald Trump's shit list, instead told The Hill, "I hope that he'll get in."

Former state Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who narrowly lost last year's primary to succeed Ducey, may be more interested in campaigning for the Senate seat held by Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema. Vox's Christian Paz writes that Taylor Robson "told me she is not ruling out running for statewide office again," though it's not clear if the former regent said anything about the Senate in particular.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Ruben Gallego released late-December numbers from Public Policy Polling showing a tight race whether or not Sinema runs. The survey found Republican Kari Lake, who continues to deny her loss to now-Gov. Katie Hobbs, edging out Gallego 41-40, with Sinema grabbing 13%. When the incumbent is left out, however, it's Gallego who leads Lake 48-47. The congressman has made it clear he's likely to run, while NBC reported last month that Lake is trying to recruit Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb rather than campaign herself.

The poll was conducted days before The Daily Beast's Sam Brodey reported that Sinema's office had a 37-page guide for staffers that includes tasks that "appear to go right up to the line of what Senate ethics rules allow, if not over." Among other things, Brodey writes that Sinema requires her subordinates perform personal tasks for her, including arranging massages and buying groceries on their own dime, which she later reimburses them for.

The Senate's ethics handbook, though, specifies that "staff are compensated for the purpose of assisting Senators in their official legislative and representational duties, and not for the purpose of performing personal or other non-official activities for themselves or on behalf of others." Sinema's spokesperson told Brodey that "the alleged information—sourced from anonymous quotes and a purported document I can't verify—is not in line with official guidance from Sen. Sinema's office and does not represent official policies of Sen. Sinema's office."

IN-Sen, IN-Gov: Bellwether Research released mid-December numbers before Christmas for the 2024 GOP primaries for the Senate and governor: The firm previously worked for former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is a prospective Senate candidate, but a Daniels consultant tells Politico's Adam Wren that this survey was done without his knowledge.

The firm tested out hypothetical Senate scenarios with and without Daniels, who just completed his tenure as president of Purdue University. We'll start with the former matchup:

former Purdue University President Mitch Daniels: 32

Rep. Jim Banks: 10

former Rep. Trey Hollingsworth: 9

Rep. Victoria Spartz: 7

Attorney General Todd Rokita: 7

Someone Else: 6

In the Daniels-free scenario, Rokita leads Banks 16-14 as Spartz and Hollingsworth grab 12% and 11%, respectively.

Spartz herself quickly publicized her own numbers from Response:AI that put Daniels in front with 35% as she and Banks deadlocked 14-14 for second. That survey placed Hollingsworth at 6% while two people who were not tested by Bellwether, 2022 House nominee Jennifer-Ruth Green and disgraced former Attorney General Curtis Hill, took 4% and 2%. Wren recently named Hill, whom we hadn't heard mentioned for Senate, as a possible candidate, though there's been no sign yet that he's thinking about campaigning.

None of the other Republicans tested in either poll are currently running for the Senate either, and Daniels' ultimate decision may deter some of them from getting in. Indeed, an unnamed person close to Spartz told Politico that she may decide not to go up against the former governor: The congresswoman, writes Wren, "declined to comment on that question, but told POLITICO she is seeking a meeting with Daniels before making her decision."

A Banks ally, though, insists his man "won't make his decision based on what others do and I think the poll numbers released by Daniels and Spartz will only embolden him to run."

Bellwether also posted numbers for the GOP race to succeed termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb:

Sen. Mike Braun: 25

Attorney General Todd Rokita: 9

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch: 7

former Rep. Trey Hollingsworth: 6

Businessman Eric Doden: 3

Someone Else: 9

Braun, Crouch, and Doden are currently running.

Governors

KY-Gov: State Rep. Savannah Maddox announced days before Christmas that she was dropping out of the packed May Republican primary to face Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

An unnamed GOP source soon told the Lexington Herald Leader they believed Maddox's departure means that Papa John's founder John Schnatter "could get in the race, since he's got the resources and with Savannah not in the race it could open up a lane." Schnatter, who resigned as board chairman in 2018 after news broke that he'd used racist language, has not taken any obvious steps toward running ahead of Friday's filing deadline.

Self-funder Kelly Craft, meanwhile, is not waiting until the field fully takes shape to go up with the first TV campaign ad of the contest, which the paper says ran for $114,000 from Dec. 27 to Jan. 3. Craft uses the message to tout her roots growing up on a farm in Barren County in the south-central party of the state, and she goes on to tout how she went on to become ambassador to the United Nations. The ad shows photos of Craft with Donald Trump, who is supporting Attorney General Daniel Cameron for the GOP nod.  

MS-Gov: The Daily Journal reported before Christmas that Secretary of State Michael Watson is indeed considering taking on Gov. Tate Reeves in this August's Republican primary. Watson and other potential contenders have until the Feb. 1 filing deadline to make up their minds, but there's one name we can already cross off. While former state Rep. Robert Foster, who took third in 2019, reportedly was thinking about another campaign over the summer, he announced last week that he'd instead run for a seat on the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors.

NC-Gov, NC-??: The conservative Washington Examiner relayed in mid-December that former Rep. Mark Walker is considering seeking the Republican nomination for governor or to return to the House after his party crafts a new gerrymander. Walker last cycle campaigned for the Senate even though Donald Trump tried to persuade him to drop down and run for the lower chamber, but he earned just 9% of the primary vote for his stubbornness.

House

MD-05: Veteran Rep. Steny Hoyer told CNN Sunday that he hadn't ruled out seeking re-election in 2024 even though he's no longer part of the Democratic leadership. "I may. I may," the incumbent said about waging another run.

MD-08: Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said last week that he'd "been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, which is a serious but curable form of cancer." Raskin added that he was "about to embark on a course of chemo-immunotherapy on an outpatient basis," and that "[p]rognosis for most people in my situation is excellent after four months of treatment." The congressman also said he planned to keep working during this time, and he was present Tuesday for the opening of the 118th Congress.  

NY-03: At this point in the George Santos saga, his entirely fictional life story is almost beside the point: When he's called on any of his lies, he just lies some more—it's pathological. But that same reckless behavior is also why the new Republican congressman-to-be is in serious legal jeopardy, at the local, state, federal, and, amazingly, international levels. And because of that, he's exceedingly unlikely to serve out a full term. So what happens if he resigns?

In short, there would be a special election, but in a break with past practice, we'd immediately know when it would take place—and it would happen quickly. Governors in New York previously had wide latitude over when to call elections to fill vacant posts, both for Congress and state legislature, and disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo notoriously abused this power, frequently delaying specials when it suited him.

But in 2021, as state law expert Quinn Yeargain explains, lawmakers finally passed legislation to correct this problem, which Cuomo signed shortly before resigning. Now, Gov. Kathy Hochul would be required to call a special election within 10 days of Santos' seat becoming vacant, and that election would have to take place 70 to 80 days afterward. This law has already come into play multiple times, including for two congressional special elections that took place last year.

One thing hasn't changed, though: There still would be no primaries. Instead, as per usual, nominations for Democrats and Republicans alike would be decided by small groups of party insiders. The actual election would, however, be hotly contested. While Joe Biden would have carried New York's 3rd District, which is based on the North Shore of Long Island, by a 54-45 margin, according to our calculations, Republican Lee Zeldin almost certainly won it in last year's race for governor. Santos dispatched Democrat Robert Zimmerman 52-44 after Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi left the seat open to pursue his own unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.

NY-17: Former Rep. Mondaire Jones told NY1 before Christmas that he was not ruling out seeking the Democratic nomination to take on the new Republican incumbent, Mike Lawler. Jones unsuccessfully decided to run in New York City last year in order to avoid a primary against DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney, who himself went on to lose to Lawler, but he made it clear a future campaign would take place in the area he'd represented. "I've also learned my lesson, and that is home for me is in the Hudson Valley," Jones said.

VA-04: Jennifer McClellan beat her fellow state senator, conservative Joe Morrissey, in an 85-14 landslide to win the Democratic nomination in the Dec. 19 firehouse primary to succeed the late Rep. Donald McEachin. McClellan should have no trouble defeating Republican nominee Leon Benjamin, who badly lost to McEachin in 2020 and 2022, in the Feb. 21 special election for this 67-32 Biden seat; McClellan's win would make her the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress.

WA-03: Democrats will still have election conspiracy theorist Joe Kent to kick around this cycle, as the 2022 GOP nominee declared before Christmas, "I'm running again in 2024."

DCCC: House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries announced ahead of Christmas that the new DCCC chair would be Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents a Washington seat that Joe Biden carried 64-33. Jeffries' decision came weeks after House Democrats voted 166-38 to give the caucus' leader the opportunity to select the head of the DCCC rather than have the chair be elected by the full body. The new rule still requires members approve the choice, and they ratified DelBene two days after she was picked.

Attorneys General and Secretaries of State

AZ-AG: Democrat Kris Mayes' narrow win over election denier Abe Hamadeh was affirmed after a recount concluded last week, and Mayes was sworn in as attorney general on Monday. The Democrat's margin dropped from 511 to 280 votes; most of this difference came from dark red Pinal County, which said it had initially failed to count over 500 ballots because of "human error." Hamadeh characteristically refused to accept his defeat and announced Tuesday he was "filing a 'Motion for New Trial.'"

Judges

NY Court of Appeals: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul nominated Hector LaSalle, an appeals court judge, to fill the vacant post of chief judge on New York's highest court just before the holidays, but her decision was immediately met with fierce resistance by state senators in her own party, 14 of whom have already publicly come out against the choice.

LaSalle, who was named to the Appellate Division by disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014, has compiled what City & State described as one of the "most conservative" records of any appellate judge in the state. Progressives have raised serious alarms over his hostility toward criminal defendants, labor unions, and especially reproductive rights: A group of law professors have pointed to a 2017 decision LaSalle signed on to that helped shield a network of so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" (which try to dissuade women from getting abortions) from an investigation by the state attorney general.

At stake is more than LaSalle's promotion, though: The seven-member top court, known as the Court of Appeals, has for several years been in the grips of a reactionary four-judge majority that has ruled against victims of police misconduct, workers seeking compensation for injuries on the job, and tenants who'd been overcharged by their landlords. Most notoriously, this quartet—all appointed by Cuomo—struck down new congressional and legislative maps passed by Democratic lawmakers last year on extremely questionable grounds and ordered that a Republican judge in upstate New York redraw them.

Leading this coalition was Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who unexpectedly announced her resignation last year. That vacancy has given Hochul the chance to reshape the court, but instead she's tapped someone who appears poised to continue DiFiore's legacy. But while judicial confirmations in New York are normally sleepy affairs, a large number of senators—who'd be responsible for voting on LaSalle's nomination—immediately denounced the choice.

That chorus of opposition hit a crucial threshold shortly before the New Year when state Sen. Mike Gianaris, a member of leadership, became the 11th Democrat to say he would vote against LaSalle. With 42 Democrats in the 63-member upper chamber but only 28 still open to Hochul's pick, the governor would now have to rely on the support of Republicans to confirm LaSalle. None, however, have yet come out in favor.

There's no definite timeline for confirmation hearings or a vote on LaSalle's nomination, but if Hochul were to withdraw his name, she'd be able to choose from a list of six other candidates vetted by the state's Commission on Judicial Nomination. A coalition of progressive groups previously endorsed three individuals on that list while calling three others, including LaSalle, "unacceptable" (a seventh option was unrated). If instead LaSalle were voted down by the Senate, the entire process would start over again, with the commission once again reviewing potential candidates.

WI Supreme Court: Judge Everett Mitchell, a progressive candidate for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court this spring, was accused by his then-wife of sexual assault during their 2010 divorce proceeding, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice reported on Tuesday. Mitchell was never charged with any wrongdoing and has denied the allegations, while his ex-wife, Merrin Guice Gill said her former spouse "should be evaluated on the work he has done and the work he is doing as a judge" rather than on her past accusations.

However, Guice Gill "declined to say whether she stood by the abuse allegations," telling Bice, "I'm not going to respond to that." During her divorce, Bice writes that she told the court that Mitchell had "undressed her and had sex with her without consent shortly after she took a sleeping pill" in 2007 and also provided documents showing she had informed both her therapist and a police officer about the alleged incident shortly afterwards. The accusations came up when she contacted police about a possible custody dispute involving the couple's daughter, but she declined to press charges, saying that she "was only concerned with her daughter's whereabouts."

Mitchell is one of two liberals seeking a spot on the Supreme Court, along with Judge Janet Protasiewicz. Two conservatives are also running, former Justice Dan Kelly and Judge Jennifer Dorow. All candidates will appear together on an officially nonpartisan primary ballot on Feb. 21, with the top two vote-getters advancing to an April 4 general election. The seat in question is being vacated by conservative Justice Pat Roggensack; should progressives win, they'd take control of the court from the current 4-3 conservative majority.

Legislatures

AK State House: A judge ruled ahead of Christmas that far-right state Rep. David Eastman's membership in the Oath Keepers does not preclude him from serving in elected office even though the state constitution prevents anyone from holding office who "advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or association which advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the United States."

Goriune Dudukgian, the attorney representing an Eastman constituent who sued to block him from holding office, said Tuesday his camp would not appeal. No one has formed a majority coalition in the Alaska State House in the almost two months since the election.

NY State Senate: Democrats learned ahead of Christmas that they'd maintained a two-thirds supermajority in the upper chamber after a judge ruled that incumbent John Mannion had fended off Republican Rebecca Shiroff by 10 votes in his Syracuse-based seat. Shiroff conceded the contest, and Mannion's term began New Year's Day.

OH State House: While Democrats are deep in the minority in the Ohio state House, the caucus joined with enough GOP members on Tuesday to elect Republican Jason Stephens as speaker over Derek Merrin, who began the day as the heavy favorite to lead the chamber. Cleveland.com's Jeremy Pelzer writes, "Stephens, while conservative, is not considered to be as far to the right as Merrin."

The GOP enjoys a 67-32 majority, so a Merrin speakership appeared likely after he won November's caucus vote against Stephens. Pelzer writes that in the ensuing weeks there were "rumblings since then about some sort of challenge to Merrin," but that "the insurgency to lift him to the speaker's chair only picked up speed starting a few days ago."

Indeed, Minority Leader Allison Russo says Democrats decided just two hours before the vote to cast their lot in with Stephens. Another 22 Republicans joined them, however, which left Merrin with only 43 votes. Russo, whose caucus supplied most of the support for the new speaker, declared that there was "no grand deal," but "there were lots of discussions about things and areas of agreement on issues." She also relays that Merrin spoke to her about getting Democratic support, which very much did not end up happening.

This is the second time in the last few years that the Democratic minority has played a key role in helping a Republican win the gavel over the candidate favored by most of the GOP caucus, though Merrin himself was on the other side of that vote. In 2019, he was one of the 26 Republicans who joined that same number of Democrats in supporting Larry Householder over Speaker Ryan Smith. Unlike four years ago, though, Smith got the backing of 11 Democrats as well as 34 GOP members.

Stephens, for his part, was appointed to the chamber later that year to succeed none other than Smith, who resigned to become president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College. The victorious Householder, though, was removed as speaker in 2020 after being arrested on federal corruption charges; Householder's colleagues expelled him the following year, though Merrin voted to keep him in office.

WI State Senate: Former state Sen. Randy Hopper ended his brief comeback campaign days after Christmas and endorsed state Rep. Dan Knodl in the Feb. 21 Republican special election primary.

Mayors and County Leaders

Chicago, IL Mayor: The Chicago Electoral Board in late December removed two minor contenders, police officer Frederick Collins and freelance consultant Johnny Logalbo, from the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary ballot after determining that they didn't have enough valid signatures to advance. However, challenges were dropped against activist Ja'Mal Green, Alderman Roderick Sawyer, and wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson, so they will be competing in what is now a nine-person race.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court ruled Friday that state House Republicans failed to demonstrate any of the legally required standards for "misbehavior in office" when they voted to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in November. The order, though, did not say if Krasner's trial before the state Senate, which is scheduled for Jan. 18, must be called off.

Obituaries

Lincoln Almond: Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Almond, a Republican who served from 1995 to 2003, died Tuesday at the age of 86. Almond, who made his name as the state's U.S. attorney, badly lost the 1978 general election to Democratic incumbent Joseph Garrahy, but he prevailed 16 years later by defeating state Sen. Myrth York in a close contest. You can find much more at WPRI's obituary.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III was chosen before Christmas to serve as the State Department's special envoy for economic affairs for Northern Ireland. Kennedy, who is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, was elected to the House in 2012 and left to unsuccessfully challenge Sen. Ed Markey in the 2020 Democratic primary.