Morning Digest: Wisconsin court picks Democratic House map, but it still heavily favors Republicans

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

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Leading Off

WI Redistricting: In a surprising turn of events, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the adoption of congressional and legislative maps proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday after he and the Republican-run legislature deadlocked last year. The move was unexpected because, in a 4-3 ruling handed down in late November, the court's conservative majority decreed that it would adopt "least-change" maps that would, in effect, enshrine the GOP's existing gerrymanders.

However, one of those conservative justices, Brian Hagedorn, sided with the court's three liberals in Thursday's decision. The outcome doesn't favor Democrats, though, since the new congressional map looks very similar to the extremely tilted one it's replacing: The new lines would continue to feature six districts won by Donald Trump and just two carried by Joe Biden, despite the fact that Biden carried Wisconsin in 2020.

But in the future, one of those Trump districts could be winnable for Democrats. The 1st, in southeastern Wisconsin, was one of just two districts whose partisan makeup changed by more than a negligible amount: It would have gone for Trump by just a 50-48 margin, compared to Trump's 54-45 margin under the old map. (The neighboring 5th, a safely Republican seat, grew correspondingly redder).

This shift is the result of the district gaining a larger slice of the Milwaukee suburbs and shedding its portion of conservative Waukesha County. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, who succeeded former House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2018. Given the difficult midterm environment Democrats face, it's unlikely Steil will be seriously threatened this year, but he could be down the line.

It also bears noting that thanks to the constraints imposed by the court—constraints Republicans advocated for—the plan preferred by the GOP does not differ all that much from the Evers map. The Republican proposal, which was the same one passed by GOP lawmakers and vetoed by Evers, would also have featured a 6-2 split in Trump's favor. The 1st, however, would have remained unchanged on a partisan basis, while the 3rd, held by retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, would have gotten several points redder, shifting from a 51-47 win for Trump to a 53-45 Trump margin.

The court said it chose Evers' approach because his map moved the fewest number of people to new districts: 324,000, or 5.5% of the state's total population. The GOP's map would have moved 60,000 more people, or 6.5% in total.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court has approved the new legislative districts passed by lawmakers last month as part of a mandatory review under the state constitution. As the justices noted in their ruling, however, no party opposed the maps in this proceeding, and a traditional lawsuit challenging the lines could yet be forthcoming.

Senate

AR-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Arkansas' May 24 primary, and Arkansas Online has a list of contenders. A runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one earns a majority of the vote.

We'll start with the Senate race, where Republican incumbent John Boozman, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, faces three intra-party opponents. The only high-profile challenger is Army veteran Jake Bequette, a former football player who had a successful stint as a defensive end with the University of Arkansas in the 2011 season but didn't do nearly so well in a brief career with the New England Patriots. Boozman has enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage, but Arkansas Patriots Fund, a super PAC that received $1 million from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, has been running commercials promoting Bequette. The winner should have no trouble in the general election in this very red state.

NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján returned to the Senate on Thursday, one month after he suffered a stroke. In a statement, Lujan did not comment directly on his health but said, "I am back in the Senate and eager to get the job done for New Mexicans."

AZ-Sen: Gov. Doug Ducey once again said Thursday that he would not enter the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but this time, everyone seems to be accepting his latest "no" as final. The governor made his declaration in a letter to donors, which is about the last group any politician would want to play games with. Arizona's April 4 filing deadline is also rapidly approaching, so this declaration carries more weight than those in the past.

A crowded field took shape after Ducey first said no all the way back in January of last year, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and NRSC chair Rick Scott refused to give up trying to get him to change his mind because of what the Arizona Republic characterized as "the perceived weakness of the existing GOP field." They had some big-named backup, as the New York Times now reports that George W. Bush, among others, tried to appeal to the governor. An about-face would have put Ducey on the receiving end of more abuse from Donald Trump, who has never forgiven him for accepting Joe Biden's victory, but the paper writes that recruiters tried to woo him with polling that found Trump's "declining influence in primaries."

The story says that anti-Trump Republicans hoped that a Ducey nomination "would also send a message about what they believe is Mr. Trump's diminishing clout." McConnell, the Times said last month, wanted to land Ducey for non-electoral reasons as well in order to stop the GOP caucus from filling up with even more Trump minions. The minority leader had unsuccessfully tried to convince two other governors, Maryland's Larry Hogan and New Hampshire's Chris Sununu, to run for the Senate, but he still hoped to get his man in Arizona.

That didn't happen. Ducey, in his letter to his donors, wrote, "If you're going to run for public office, you have to really want the job," adding that "by nature and by training I'm an executive." South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who flirted with leaving the upper chamber earlier this year, responded to the governor's refusal to join him there by telling NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell, "That's a sad story." When she followed up by asking if Ducey's refusal was a sign that the GOP had had a tough time recruiting electable candidates, Thune responded, "That is the existential question." It's also a question that McConnell and his allies will have plenty of time to mull over as the August primary draws ever closer.

Governors

AR-Gov: While state politicos originally expected a very competitive Republican primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders essentially cleared the field last year and now faces just one unheralded opponent. Five Democrats are campaigning in this conservative state, including physicist Chris Jones, who generated national attention over the summer with an announcement video that went viral. A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research finds Sanders leading Jones 58-28 in a hypothetical general election.

CO-Gov: The Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group's newest general election numbers for ProgressNow Colorado show Democratic incumbent Jared Polis beating University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl 53-37, which is similar to his 52-35 advantage in October.

The firm also tested real estate broker Danielle Neuschwanger for the first time and found her trailing Polis 51-40, which, surprisingly, is better than Ganahl's performance. Neuschwanger, a far-right activist who has been running a longshot bid for the Republican nod, made news in December when, among many other things, she absurdly accused the governor of being "not gay" and being in "a sham" marriage after previously being "married to a woman, who he used to abuse the heck out of." As Advocate put it of these looney tunes claims, "There is absolutely no evidence that Polis was ever married to a woman or that he ever sexually assaulted anyone."

GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gov. Brian Kemp has booked $4.2 million in TV time from March 30 until the May 24 Republican primary. That reservation is more than four times the amount that his intra-party foe, former Sen. David Perdue, had on hand at the end of January.

IL-Gov: State Sen. Darren Bailey, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, earned an endorsement this week from former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a far-right politician who almost wrested the Republican nomination from then-Gov. Bruce Rauner four years ago. Politico says of this news, "Ives' support in the governor's race gives Bailey an edge that could only be upped if Donald Trump were to endorse."

NE-Gov: Tuesday was also the second and final filing deadline for Nebraska candidates looking to compete in the May 10 primary (any sitting office holders had to turn in their paperwork two weeks earlier on Feb. 15, regardless of whether they were seeking re-election or another office), and the state has a list of contenders here.

Nine Republicans are competing to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts, though only three of them appear to be running serious campaigns. Donald Trump is supporting agribusinessman Charles Herbster, a self-funder who attended the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, though the candidate claims he left before insurrectionists began their violent assault. Ricketts, however, has long had an ugly relationship with Herbster, and the outgoing governor is backing one of his rivals, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who has parted with conservative orthodoxy at times, has also brought in a credible amount of money, but he doesn't have much big-name support so far. The field also includes former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, who was briefly Herbster's candidate for lieutenant governor, but she hasn't raised much. The only notable candidate on the Democratic side is state Sen. Carol Blood, who is trying to win an office the GOP has held since the 1998 elections.

House

AR-01: Rep. Rick Crawford faces opposition in the Republican primary from state Rep. Brandt Smith and attorney Jody Shackelford, but neither of them look like they'll give him a tough time in this eastern Arkansas seat. Smith launched his campaign in August but ended the year with just over $7,000 on hand, while Shackelford didn't start fundraising until this year. The only Democrat is state Rep. Monte Hodges, who faces a very tough task in a district Trump would have carried 69-28.

AZ-02: Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer announced this week that he was joining the August Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who is defending a sprawling constituency in northeastern Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45. Lizer was elected to his current post as the running mate of Jonathan Nez, who identifies as a Democrat, but the VP was an ardent Trump supporter in 2020. Last week, he also defied the Navajo Nation's strict masking requirements when he appeared maskless to greet the so-called "People's Convoy" and told them, "The People are rising up. The People are dissatisfied."

CO-05: State Rep. Dave Williams, who is challenging Rep. Doug Lamborn in the June Republican primary for this safely red seat, has announced that he'll try to make the ballot by competing at the April 8 party convention. U.S. House candidates in Colorado can advance to the primary either by turning in 1,500 valid signatures or by winning at least 30% of the delegates' support at their party gatherings, which are also known locally as assemblies.

While Lamborn has struggled in the past to reach the primary, state officials say he's already turned in the requisite number of petitions. The incumbent, though, says he'll still take part in the convention. Candidates are allowed to try both routes, and while anyone who takes less than 10% of the vote at the assembly is automatically disqualified no matter how many signatures they've gathered, there's probably little chance Lamborn fails to clear this very low bar.

CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo has earned a Democratic primary endorsement from 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette in her bid for the all-new 8th District in the northern Denver suburbs. Caraveo faces Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco and former Commerce City Councilman Steve Douglas in the June nomination contest. All three say they'll both collect signatures and take part in their party conventions in order to make the ballot.

FL-10: Democrat Aramis Ayala, who is the former state's attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, announced Wednesday that she was ending her congressional campaign and would instead challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody.

FL-22: Two more local Democrats say they're considering running to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch: state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who served as mayor of Parkland when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre occurred in 2018, and attorney Chad Klitzman, who lost a tight 2020 primary for Broward County supervisor of elections. On the Republican side, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer has taken his name out of contention.

MS-04: Mississippi's filing deadline for its June 7 primary passed Tuesday, and the state has a list of candidates here. Candidates must win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a June 28 runoff.

The only major race this year is the Republican primary for the safely red 4th Congressional District along the Gulf Coast. The holder of that seat, Rep. Steven Palazzo, is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. The incumbent has six intra-party opponents, and no candidate has emerged as his chief challenger at this point. The only poll we've seen was a December Palazzo internal from Public Opinion Strategies that showed him in strong shape with 65% of the vote.

Four of the congressman's rivals, though, have the resources to make their case against him. The candidate who ended 2021 with the most money is self-funder Carl Boyanton, who had $525,000 to spend; Boyanton, however, ran in 2020 as well and took fourth with a mere 9%. Banker Clay Wagner, who has also poured his own money into his campaign, had $305,000 to spend while two elected officials, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell and state Sen. Brice Wiggins, had $155,000 and $123,000 on hand, respectively, while the remaining two had less than $5,000. Palazzo himself had $385,000 available to defend himself.

NC-04: Singer Clay Aiken has filed to seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat, which puts an end to what reporter Colin Campbell said was "speculation about whether he'd still run" after state courts ordered the adoption of a map that differed considerably from the one in place when Aiken first announced his campaign. North Carolina's filing deadline is Friday at noon local time, so we'll have a full candidate list soon.

NC-13: Law student Bo Hines and Army veteran Kent Keirsey have each announced that they'll seek the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. We hadn't previously mentioned Keirsey, who ended 2021 with $323,000 on hand thanks in part to self-funding.

NE-01: Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry seemed to be on track for another easy win until he was indicted in October. The congressman was charged with allegedly lying to federal investigators as part of a probe into a foreign billionaire who used straw donors to illegally funnel $180,000 to four different GOP candidates, including $30,000 to his own campaign, and his trial is currently set to start March 15. Four candidates are competing against him in the primary, but the only notable contender is state Sen. Mike Flood, a former speaker of the state's unicameral legislature who has endorsements from Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman.

Fortenberry began running commercials in late January attacking his rival on immigration, and he's arguing his efforts have worked. The congressman recently publicized a Moore Information internal, which is the only poll we've seen here so far, showing him leading Flood 36-25; 36% of the vote, however, is still a dangerous place for any incumbent to find themselves. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks faces only one little-known opponent in an eastern Nebraska seat that would have favored Trump 54-43.

NE-02: Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of nine House Republicans who won election in 2020 in a district Joe Biden carried, is defending a redrawn Omaha-area seat that, just like his existing constituency, would have favored Biden 52-46. (It's still very much a gerrymander, though, as the GOP mapmakers grafted on rural Saunders County, a piece of deep-red turf that has little in common with Omaha, to keep the seat from getting bluer.) His lone intra-party foe is roofer Steve Kuehl, who only jumped in on Friday.

It remains to be seen if Kuehl can run a serious campaign with just over two months to go before the primary, but one prominent Republican may end up rooting for him: Donald Trump responded to Bacon's vote last year for the Biden administration's infrastructure bill by not-tweeting, "Anyone want to run for Congress against Don Bacon in Nebraska?" Bacon concluded last year with $978,000 to spend to protect himself.

Two Democrats are also campaigning to take on the incumbent. State Sen. Tony Vargas ended 2021 with a $440,000 to $89,000 cash-on-hand lead over mental health counselor Alisha Shelton, who lost the 2020 Senate primary but now has EMILY's List in her corner. Vargas would be the state's first Latino member of Congress, while Shelton would be Nebraska's first Black representative.

NY-11, NY-12: The Working Families Party has endorsed Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros in the June Democratic primary for the Staten Island-based (but now much bluer) 11th District and nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid for Team Blue's nod in the safely blue 12th in Manhattan.

NY-16: Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi has confirmed to Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel that he'll challenge freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary for the safely blue 16th District, which includes part of Westchester County and the Bronx. Gashi took issue with Bowman for casting a vote on the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill, saying, "I've been frustrated that the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency, and we're not able to get as much done as we can because of two senators and a handful of congresspeople who are furthering a more extremist agenda."

Kassel also reports that pastor Michael Gerald, who is a deputy commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Correction, is gathering signatures to appear on the primary ballot.

NY-22: Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, whom The Ithaca Voice identifies as a "moderate Republican," announced last week that he would campaign for the open 22nd District, which Joe Biden would have won 58-40. Another new GOP candidate is Navy veteran Brandon Williams, who has the backing of several county-level Conservative Parties. Williams, unsurprisingly, is campaigning as anything but a moderate, baselessly claiming that Democrats used the pandemic to "drive through mandates that were meant to reinforce the fear."

NY-23: While Republican state Sen. George Borrello last month declined to rule out running for Congress based on an extremely slender hope that the GOP will successfully challenge the new map in court, he seems to have since committed to running for re-election. Earlier this week, the Chautauqua County Republican Committee endorsed Borrello's bid for another term in the legislature at the same time it was backing Rep. Claudia Tenney in the redrawn 23rd Congressional District.

TX-08: The Associated Press on Thursday called the March 1 Republican primary for Navy SEAL veteran Morgan Luttrell, who secured an outright win by taking 52% of the vote in an expensive 11-way contest. Political operative Christian Collins, who is a former campaign manager for retiring Rep. Kevin Brady, was a distant second with 22%. This seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, is safely red.

The frontrunners, who both stressed their conservative credentials and loyalty to Trump, disagreed on little, but they had the support of very different factions within the party. Luttrell had in his corner House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which aired ads for him, as well as former Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Collins, meanwhile, had the support of Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, while a Cruz buddy, banker Robert Marling, financed several super PACs that have spent heavily here. Luttrell far outspent Collins, and while Collins' outside allies deployed $1.4 million compared to $1 million for Luttrell's side, it wasn't enough to even force a second round of voting.

Mayors

San Jose, CA Mayor: City Councilmember Raul Peralez has dropped a Tulchin Research poll of the June nonpartisan primary for San Jose mayor that shows Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez leading with 28% while Peralez edges out fellow Councilmember Matt Mahan 13-7 for the second spot in a likely November general election; a third councilmember, Dev Davis, takes 6%. The poll was released one day before the influential South Bay Labor Council, which Chavez used to lead, backed the county supervisor. That was unwelcome news for Peralez, who was hoping the organization would issue a dual endorsement or an open endorsement that would have allowed individual unions to choose whom to support.

In San Jose, local elections for decades have been skirmishes between labor and business: Both Chavez and Peralez fall in the former camp, while termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, Mahan, and Davis are business allies. Liccardo's team has made it clear that they very much prefer Mahan over Davis, though the incumbent hasn't yet made an endorsement. Liccardo's official backing could mean quite a lot if it eventually materializes, though: He recently formed a super PAC that reportedly raised $400,000 in just a day.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Michael Madigan, a Democrat whose nearly four decades as the powerful speaker of the Illinois state House came to an involuntary end last year, was indicted Wednesday on 22 counts of racketeering and bribery. Federal prosecutors allege that Madigan, who also gave up his post as state party chair after he was ousted as speaker, illegally used his many influential positions "to preserve and to enhance [his] political power and financial well-being" and "reward [his] political allies." Madigan responded by proclaiming his innocence.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Tennessee, which once again was one of Donald Trump's strongest states. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Trump carried the Volunteer State last year 61-38, which wasn't much different from his 61-35 performance in 2016, and as before, he won seven of the state's nine congressional districts. Trump scored at least 64% of the vote in each of these seats, all of which have been in Republican hands since the 2010 GOP wave. Biden, meanwhile, won both Democratic-held districts, carrying Rep. Jim Cooper's Nashville-area 5th District 60-37 and Rep. Steve Cohen's Memphis-based 9th District 79-20.

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Scramble is on after unexpected retirement opens up Ohio Senate seat

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

Leading Off

 OH-Sen: In a big surprise, Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday that he would not seek a third term next year in Ohio. Portman, who is 65, had not shown any obvious interest in retirement, and he had a large $4.6 million war chest at the end of September of 2020. The senator, though, explained his decision by saying, "I don't think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision."

Portman's departure will likely give Democrats a better shot at his Senate seat, but Ohio's rightward drift over the last few years will still make it difficult for Team Blue to score a win in this traditional swing state. Joe Biden targeted the Buckeye State hard in 2020, but Donald Trump still defeated him 53-45. However, Ohio isn't a place that Republicans can take victory for granted: Portman's Democratic colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, earned re-election 53-47 in 2018, and last year, Democrats won an officially nonpartisan race for the state Supreme Court.

Republicans, though, have the far larger bench in this state, and a number of them have publicly or privately expressed interest already. The following politicians have confirmed that they're looking at running to succeed Portman:

The only one of these politicians who laid out a timeline for when he expected to decide was Obhof, who said that "one who is considering it ought to take a deep breath and consider it over the course of days or a week or two."

A few other Republicans are also reportedly thinking about getting in, though we haven't heard anything directly from them yet:

Several more Republicans declined to rule out a bid when asked:

Several media outlets have mentioned a few others as possibilities:

One person who quickly took his name out of contention, though, was former Gov. John Kasich.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan quickly said he was thinking about a Senate run. Ryan is infamous for flirting with campaigns for higher office in Ohio but always running for re-election, though his calculations could change if Republicans leave him with a hostile House seat in the upcoming round of redistricting.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley hadn't ruled out a Senate bid before Portman retired, and she reiterated Monday that she wasn't closing the door. Whaley, who also has been eyeing bids for governor or the U.S. House, said after Portman's announcement that she'd be keeping an open mind about her future plans and would be "making a decision in the coming weeks."

Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor, who lost two tight races in the conservative 12th Congressional District in 2018, also didn't reject the idea of a Senate campaign when asked.

Other Democrats mentioned include:

In the no column are former state Sen. Nina Turner, who is running in the anticipated special election for the 11th Congressional District, and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who is campaigning for mayor of Cincinnati.

Campaign Action

Portman's retirement also ends a long career in state and national politics. Portman got his start interning for his local GOP congressman, Cincinnati-area Rep. Bill Gradison, and working on George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign, and he went on to serve as a White House associate legal counsel in 1989 after Bush won on his second try. Portman, who became close to the president, quickly rose to become head of the Office of Legislative Affairs, and he returned home in 1991 a year ahead of Bush's defeat.

Portman soon got his own chance to run for office in 1993 when Gradison resigned to lead the Health Insurance Association of America and asked his former intern to run in the special election to succeed him. Portman also benefited from support from former First Lady Barbara Bush, who, as Politico would recount in 2012, "recorded a radio ad name-dropping Cincinnati's Skyline Chili and Portman in the same sentence." Portman won the primary by beating former Rep. Bob McEwen, who had lost re-election in 1992 largely due to redistricting, 36-30, and he had no trouble in the general election for the conservative 2nd District.

Portman quickly became entrenched in the House, but he resigned in 2005 to become United States Trade Representative under George W. Bush. (Portman's departure set off an unexpectedly competitive special election between Republican Jean Schmidt and Democrat Paul Hackett that Schmidt ended up winning just 52-48.) Portman later served as head of the White House's powerful Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2007, and he played Barack Obama in 2008 during John McCain's debate practice sessions.

Portman got another chance to run for office in early 2009 when Republican Sen. George Voinovich announced his retirement. Portman quickly launched his campaign and proved to be a very strong fundraiser from the jump, something that helped the political insider avoid any primary opposition even as the emerging tea party declared war on other party establishment figures.

Ohio had backed Obama 51-47 in 2008 and this looked like it would be a top tier Senate target for much of the cycle, but that's not how things turned out. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher won the Democratic nomination after a costly primary campaign, and he never was able to come close to matching Portman's financial resources. The Republican took a lead during the summer as the political climate got worse and worse nationally for Team Blue, and Democratic outside groups ended up concentrating on other races. Ultimately, Portman beat Fisher 57-39.

Portman's wide win in this battleground state made him an attractive vice presidential prospect in 2012, and Mitt Romney seriously considered him before opting instead for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan; while the senator wasn't on the ticket, he did reprise his role as Obama as Romney prepared to debate the real president. Portman later considered his own White House bid, but he announced in late 2014 that he'd instead seek re-election to the Senate.

National Democrats soon recruited former Gov. Ted Strickland, who had narrowly lost re-election during the 2010 wave, to take on Portman, and this again looked like it would be one of the most competitive races of the cycle. Unfortunately for Strickland, though, he suffered a similar fate in 2016 as Fisher had six years ago.

Portman and his allies spent heavily during the summer on ads blaming Strickland for job losses that took place during the Great Recession, when every state experienced painful job losses that had nothing to do with who was governor, and Strickland didn't have the resources to fight back in time. Portman once again built up a clear lead in the polls months before Election Day, and national Democrats pulled out of the state in mid-October. Portman ended up winning his final term 58-37 as Trump was carrying the state 51-43.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Term-limited Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who was NRSC chair Rick Scott's top choice to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year, unambiguously told the New York Times that he will not run. Ducey visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week and even tweeted a photo of their meeting, but over the weekend, the Arizona Republican Party censured him over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, vividly demonstrating the kind of primary he'd have been in for had he decided to make a bid for the Senate.

CO-Sen: Former state Rep. Joe Salazar says he's weighing a primary challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, complaining that Bennet is "so wishy-washy and so middle-of-the-road that we don't know which road he walks on." Salazar, a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate in Colorado, specifically criticized Bennet for what he views as insufficiently progressive stances on healthcare and the environment.

Salazar served three terms in the state House before running for attorney general in 2018, losing the primary 50.4 to 49.6 to Phil Weiser, who went on to win the general election. He does not appear to be related to former Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar, Bennet's immediate predecessor in the Senate.

GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that both former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Rep. Doug Collins could run against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year, though so far, the evidence for any sort of rematch is sketchy. The paper reports that backers of the two Republicans, who both ran in Georgia's recent special election, have "rumbled about a 2022 campaign," but mostly the rumbling seems confined to dueling statements issued by prominent supporters, each trying to blame the other side for the GOP's humiliating loss of a crucial Senate seat.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: The Philadelphia Inquirer says that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who'd previously been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, is also considering a bid for Senate, according to an unnamed source "with direct knowledge" of the mayor's thinking. A spokesman for Kenney wouldn't directly confirm the report but did acknowledge that a campaign for governor or the Senate "may be future considerations." One difficulty for Kenney, however, is that his city's charter would require him to give up his current post, to which he was just re-elected for another four years in 2019, if he were to seek another office.

The same article also reports that State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who'd also been mentioned before, is "said to be eyeing" the Senate race. Meanwhile, the paper suggests that former Republican Rep. Lou Barletta, who previously said he was considering a Senate bid, may instead be more interested in a bid for governor.

Governors

AR-Gov: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump's second press secretary and the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, kicked off a long-anticipated bid for governor on Monday. She joins a heavyweight Republican primary that, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson term-limited, has been underway for quite some time: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge entered the race in the middle of last year while Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin has been running since 2019.

Sanders' bid will be a test of just how Trump-loving the Arkansas GOP remains, though Griffin also suggested that his new opponent's time spent out of state might be an issue as well. In her announcement video, Sanders said she would "prohibit" so-called "sanctuary cities"—something state lawmakers already did two years ago. "Her pledge to ban sanctuary cities would have been a great line in a speech back in 2019, but not in 2021," snarked Griffin. "It sounds like she needs to catch up on what's been going on in Arkansas."

NJ-Gov: Ocean County Commissioner Joseph Vicari, who just last week announced a weird "favorite son" bid for governor, has already yanked the plug on his effort. It appeared that Vicari, who said he wouldn't campaign elsewhere in the state, was hoping to secure Ocean County's powerful "organization line" in the June GOP primary, then trade his endorsement (likely to Republican frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli) in exchange for some sort of promise to focus on Vicari's pet issues. Evidently, Vicari quickly thought better of trying to press forward with his old-school brand of transactional politics in 2021.

NY-Gov: The New York Times reports that former Rep. Pete King "floated the idea" of Rep. John Katko running for governor in a recent interview on the GOP infighting that's crescendoed after Katko and nine other House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump. There's no word, however, about Katko's interest. One Republican who is looking at a possible bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo is Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. If Molinaro, who passed on what turned out to be a potentially winnable House race last year, were to go for it, that could set up a rematch of New York's contest for governor three years ago, which Cuomo won 60-36.

SC-Gov: Wealthy businessman John Warren, who last year wouldn't rule out a second primary challenge to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, is once again saying the same thing. "I'm clearly not ruling it out," he said recently, though he declined to provide any sort of timetable except to note that he waited until just four months before the primary before launching his 2018 bid.

VA-Gov: A meeting of the Virginia GOP's governing body descended into acrimony for the second week in a row, with Republicans leaving in place a December decision to select nominees for statewide races through a party convention but failing to actually come up with a plan for conducting one during the pandemic.

Convention backers, per the Virginia Mercury, want to host "a remote event in which ballots would be collected at polling sites around the state" for the sake of safety, rather than the large, single convocation that a convention normally would involve. But such a move would require a 75% supermajority on the GOP's central committee, and it appears that supporters of a traditional state-run primary voted down the proposal for a distributed convention in the hopes of pushing party leaders toward their preferred option—to no avail.

Republicans have therefore put themselves in an impossible position: They're on track to hold a classic convention, but gatherings of such a size are forbidden by state rules aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. One option could be a drive-through convention, but when Republicans in the 5th Congressional District used exactly that method last year, vote-counting lasted deep into the night after an all-day convention, and the whole affair ended in bitter accusations that the vote had been rigged.

House

CO-03: State Rep. Donald Valdez is reportedly considering a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of several Democrats who've surfaced as possible challengers. Last year, Valdez briefly sought the 3rd Congressional District (at the time represented by Republican Scott Tipton, whom Boebert upset in the GOP primary), but he dropped out after raising little money.

GA-01: In a recent interview, former Chatham County Commissioner Al Scott hinted he might challenge Republican Rep. Buddy Carter, a possibility that would give Democrats their most prominent candidate in southeastern Georgia's 1st District in quite some time. Scott launched his political career in the 1970s, serving 16 years in the state legislature, but after a long layoff following a couple of unsuccessful bids for statewide office, he was elected to the commission in Chatham County in 2012 and became known as a "political giant" in Savannah.

Facing term limits last year, Scott ran for county tax commissioner but lost the Democratic primary in an upset. At 73, most observers concluded that the defeat signaled the end of Scott's time in office, but on a local podcast earlier this month, he said, "The only thing I haven't done in my political life that I used to daydream about is go to Congress."

It's a dream that would be difficult to realize, though. Though the blue outpost of Savannah is by far the largest population center in the 1st District, it's surrounded by a sea of red: According to Daily Kos Elections' new calculations, it went 56-43 for Donald Trump in November, not much different from Trump's 56-41 showing four years earlier. While redistricting will scramble Georgia's map, Republican mapmakers will likely ensure Carter remains in a friendly district.

Louisiana: Candidate filing closed Friday for the March 20 special elections for Louisiana's 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts, and the secretary of state has a list of contenders for each contest available here. Under state law, all the candidates will face off in the all-party primary. If no one wins a majority of the vote, an April 24 runoff would take place between the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party.

LA-02: A total of eight Democrats, four Republicans, and three others are competing to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat who resigned earlier this month to take a post as head of the Biden White House's Office of Public Engagement.

GOP legislators gerrymandered this seat, which stretches from the New Orleans area west to Baton Rouge, to be safely blue turf in order to protect Republicans elsewhere, and there's little question that Richmond's replacement will take his place as the state's only Democratic member of Congress. It's also almost a certainty that the district's new representative will be only the fourth African American to represent Louisiana in D.C. since the end of Reconstruction.

The two frontrunners appear to be a pair of Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter. Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent the state, served as state party chair from 2012 through 2020, and she has the support of EMILY's List. Carter, for his part, has Richmond's backing.

Another Democratic candidate worth watching is activist Gary Chambers, who said last week that he'd already raised $250,000. Chambers ran for the state Senate in 2019 in a Baton Rouge-area seat but lost 74-26 to Democratic incumbent Regina Ashford Barrow.

Chambers attracted national attention the following year, though, when he gave a speech at an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting where he advocated for a school named for the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to be renamed. (It was shortly afterwards.) Chambers then used his address to decry a school board member he said had been shopping online instead of listening to "Black folks speaking up passionately about what they feel."

However, as we've mentioned before, it will be difficult for a Baton Rouge-area candidate like Chambers to have an opening here. Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, makes up 40% of the district, while another 26% lives in neighboring Jefferson Parish. East Baton Rouge Parish, by contrast, makes up only 14% of the seat, with the balance coming from the seven smaller parishes, which are known collectively as the River Parishes.

P.S. This will be the second time that Peterson and Carter have run against each other for this post. Back in 2006 under the previous version of the map, both Crescent City politicos challenged Democratic incumbent Bill Jefferson, who was under federal investigation for corruption: Jefferson led Peterson 30-22, while Carter finished in fifth place with 12%. Peterson looked like the favorite for the runoff, but Jefferson prevailed 57-43 after he tapped into voter resentment with the federal government that had failed them during and after Hurricane Katrina struck the previous year.

Louisiana briefly switched to a partisan primary system for the 2008 and 2010 cycles, and Carter sought a rematch with Jefferson. Richmond also competed in the Democratic primary and took third place with 17%, while Carter took sixth with 8%. Jefferson would go on to lose the general election to Republican Joe Cao, whom Richmond defeated two years later.

LA-05: Nine Republicans, two Democrats, and two others are running to succeed Luke Letlow, a Republican who was elected in December but died weeks later from complications of COVID-19 before he could take office. This northeast Louisiana seat, which includes Monroe and Alexandria in the central part of the state, is heavily Republican turf, and it's likely to remain red without much trouble.

The clear frontrunner appears to be the congressman-elect's widow, University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow. Letlow has the backing of Rep. Steve Scalise, the no. 2 House Republican and one of the most powerful GOP officials in Louisiana, and a number of other Republicans decided to defer to her rather than run themselves. None of Letlow's intra-party foes appears to have the name recognition or connections needed to put up a strong fight, but it's always possible one of them will turn out to be a surprisingly strong contender.

The Democratic field consists of Candy Christophe, who took third in last year's contest with 17%, and Jessica Honsinger Hollister.

TX-15: Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, who held Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win last year, launched a rematch late last month just before Christmas, which might explain why her kickoff did not earn much in the way of local media attention at the time. Though Gonzales outspent his little-known opponent two-to-one, De La Cruz-Hernandez's strong performance came as a result of a dramatic Democratic collapse at the top of the ticket in southern Texas: According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, Joe Biden carried the heavily Latino 15th District just 50-49, a steep drop from Hillary Clinton's 57-40 win four years earlier.

The picture for 2022, however, is quite muddled. While Texas Republicans were ecstatic about their gains with Latino voters, they saw an even broader disintegration in their former suburban strongholds across the state that’s left many of their incumbents on the brink. While the GOP will have full control over redistricting for the coming decade once again, Republicans in the legislature will have to make many hard choices about which districts to prop up and which to cut loose. As a result, a Democrat like Gonzalez might find himself inheriting some favorable turf that a Republican colleague would rather not have to represent.

Alternately, however, Politico’s Ally Mutnick notes that GOP lawmakers could re-use a tactic they effectively deployed in the 23rd District a decade ago. There, Republicans maintained the district’s overall majority-Latino character to avoid running afoul of the Voting Rights Act but replaced higher-propensity Latino voters with those less likely (or even unable) to vote. Democrats sought to litigate this maneuver but met with no success, so if Republicans try it again, they could gerrymander another winnable South Texas district for themselves.

WA-03, WA-04: The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner mentions former state Rep. Liz Pike as a potential primary challenger to 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who made Republicans hopping mad as a result of her vote to impeach Donald Trump. He also caught up with Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, who lost in both 2014 and 2016 to another pro-impeachment Republican, 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse, and called his vote a "betrayal" while not saying anything that would rule out another bid.

Legislatures

Special Elections: We take a look at a special election happening Tuesday in Iowa, and recap a special election from Saturday in Texas:

IA-SD-41: Southeastern Iowa will be the site of one of the first big legislative special elections of the Biden era, where Democrat Mary Stewart will take on Republican Adrian Dickey. We had a preview of this race earlier this month, which you can find here.

TX-HD-68: The race to replace former Rep. Drew Springer is heading to a runoff after no candidate captured a majority of the vote. Republican David Spiller was far and away the leading vote-getter, taking 44%. Fellow Republican Craig Carter led a close race for second place, taking 18%, just ahead of John Berry and Jason Brinkley, who took 17% and 16%, respectively. Charles Gregory, the lone Democrat in the running, finished with 4%. Overall, Republican candidates outpaced Democrats 96-4, an astounding margin even for one of the reddest districts in Texas.

A date for the runoff between Spiller and Carter has not been selected yet, but Gov. Greg Abbott will make that decision in February. The all-GOP runoff assures that this chamber will return to 83-67 GOP control after the election.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: On Monday, Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore filed paperwork for a possible bid this November against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Moore did not comment on her plans, much less say why the incumbent should be fired. However, local political observer Maria Saporta wrote that Bottoms could be vulnerable because of the city's "recent uptick in crime."

It will be difficult for anyone to oust Bottoms, who is one of the more prominent Democrats in Georgia, in the November nonpartisan primary. An Atlanta mayor hasn't lost re-election since 1973, when Maynard Jackson's victory over Sam Massell made him the city's first Black leader.

Moore herself was first elected to the City Council in 1997, and she was elected citywide in 2017 by beating an establishment-backed candidate by a 55-45 margin. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Bill Torpy wrote early this month that, while five Council presidents have unsuccessfully run for mayor over the last 25 years, Moore herself is "liked on both sides of town." He also noted that Moore did considerably better at the ballot box that year than Bottoms, who won an open seat race by beating former City Councilwoman Mary Norwood 50.4-49.6.

The filing deadline for the Nov. 2 nonpartisan primary does not appear to have been set yet, and it's quite possible that other candidates will get in. A runoff would take place the following month if no one won a majority in the first round.

One of the prospective contenders may be Norwood herself, who told Torpy, "Stay tuned" when he asked about her plans a few weeks ago. Norwood, who identifies as an independent, would be the city's first white or non-Democratic mayor in decades; she previously ran for this office in 2009 only to lose to Democrat Kasim Reed by that same 50.4-49.6 margin.

Despite those two very close defeats, though, Torpy points out that Norwood may have utterly torpedoed her future prospects in this heavily Democratic city by signing an affidavit for the Trump campaign's attempt to overturn Joe Biden's win in Georgia. Norwood herself didn't allege that she'd seen any fraud last year, but instead insisted that her own supporters had found evidence of wrongdoing in her 2017 race. Norwood previously accused Reed and his allies of using fraud to beat her in 2009 without offering a shred of proof.