Morning Digest: Federal judges let Ohio GOP run out the clock and use illegal gerrymandered maps

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

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Leading Off

OH Redistricting: A three-judge federal court has hijacked Ohio's legislative redistricting process and rewarded Republican obstructionism by announcing on Wednesday that if the state's GOP-dominated redistricting commission fails to produce constitutional maps by May 28, it will implement maps that the state Supreme Court previously ruled were unconstitutional instead.

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected four different sets of maps in a row for the state House and state Senate drawn by the commission, all for the same reason: They violated a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution barring partisan gerrymandering. That same amendment, however, forbid state courts from ordering the adoption of judicially crafted maps, leaving the Supreme Court with the power merely to order the commission—which consists of five Republicans and just two Democrats—to keep trying again.

But now Republicans have no incentive to try a fifth time, as the Supreme Court recently ordered, because if they fail to do so, the federal court will simply impose their third set of maps. In a 2-1 decision, two judges appointed by Donald Trump said they'd adopt those maps—despite the fact the Supreme Court found they violated the state constitution "beyond a reasonable doubt"—simply because Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is one of the five Republicans on the commission, told local election officials to prepare to use them before the justices had a chance to rule on their validity.

Federal courts cannot be barred by the Ohio constitution from imposing their own maps to remedy violations of the U.S. Constitution, and in fact they must do so in the event of an impasse to ensure that elections can be held using legal maps. (The GOP-drawn maps the state used for the last decade are now badly malapportioned in addition to being gerrymandered.) But in a dissent, Judge Algenon Marbley, who was named to the bench by Bill Clinton, castigated the majority for failing to "respect[] state policies to the maximum extent" by settling on plans that are "irredeemably flawed."

Instead, said Marbley, the state should use a plan crafted by a pair of outside map-drawers hired by the commission, which expert witnesses who testified before the federal court said "satisfies all constitutional requirements" with minor changes. The commission claimed it abandoned that plan because it was incomplete—a reason the majority cited for spurning it—but Marbley noted that an expert for opponents of the GOP's maps completed the necessary adjustments in a matter of hours.

Yet with the majority's decision, "Republican Commissioners will benefit directly from a crisis they created," wrote Marbley, "and which the Ohio Supreme Court has attributed squarely to them." And because the GOP's maps would only take effect for 2022, the same situation could unfold in future years. As Marbley explained, "The 2024 Commission, faced with the options of ceding political power or simply waiting out adverse court decisions, likely will be tempted to take the same course."

Unmentioned by the dissent is that Republicans are trying to wait out the state Supreme Court in another way as well: Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who sided with the court's three Democrats over her three GOP colleagues to strike down the maps, cannot run again in November due to age limits. If Republicans who oppose the redistricting ruling win her open seat and hold onto the other two GOP-held seats up this year, they would gain a 4-3 majority willing to uphold future GOP gerrymanders.

Democrats and redistricting reformers are essentially out of options for 2022 at this point. While an appeal of the federal court's ruling is possible, any such appeal would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, where challengers would expect a very unfriendly reception. The Ohio Supreme Court, meanwhile, has contemplated holding commissioners in contempt. To date it's declined to do so, but even if it does, there's no reason to think Republicans would produce constitutional maps since they'll get exactly what they want as long as they hold out until May 28.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Florida's Republican-run state House approved Gov. Ron DeSantis' new congressional map in a party-line vote on Thursday, following a similar vote in the state Senate a day earlier. The map, which would establish 20 districts Donald Trump would have carried and just eight that would have gone for Joe Biden, now goes to DeSantis for his signature, though litigation challenging the plan is a certainty.

Senate

MO-Sen: Marine veteran Lucas Kunce has released a Public Policy Polling survey of the August Democratic primary that finds him leading philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine by 25-18 with a substantial 56% of voters undecided. This is the first publicly available poll we've seen from anyone so far.

NH-Sen, NH-Gov: The University of New Hampshire has tested some potential matchups between Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and a few of her Republican challengers, and their new poll finds Hassan in a very tight race this fall:

47-46 vs. 2020 candidate and retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc

44-46 vs. state Senate President Chuck Morse

45-44 vs. former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith

46-40 vs. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton

UNH also tested the Republican primary in September and found Bolduc with a large 33-4 lead over the nearest contender, but with 58% of voters undecided and Bolduc having significantly higher name recognition than his rivals thanks in part to his 2020 bid, that advantage could dwindle as his opponents become better known and more voters pick a candidate to support.

The GOP primary grew larger still on Thursday when author and investor Vikram Mansharamani kicked off his campaign. Vikram, who is also a lecturer at Harvard and the son of Indian immigrants, does not appear to have run for office before.

The UNH poll above also surveyed the election for governor, but the results are much less competitive than in the Senate contest. They have Republican Gov. Chris Sununu cruising to a 55-29 lead over state Sen. Tom Sherman, who is the only notable Democrat challenging the three-term incumbent so far.

OH-Sen: Protect Our Values PAC, which is supporting venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, has publicized a Fabrizio, Lee & Associates poll that finds Vance pulling into a 25-18 lead over former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, with investment banker Mike Gibbons taking 13%, former state party chair Jane Timken earning 11%, and state Sen. Matt Dolan winning 9%. Those numbers are an improvement for Vance since their March survey, which had Vance, Mandel, and Gibbons in a three-way tie with 18% each followed by Timken at 11% and Dolan at 9%.

This is Fabrizio, Lee & Associates' first poll since Donald Trump endorsed Vance on April 15, and it's undoubtedly intended to support the idea that Trump's support is helping put Vance ahead. However, it's worth noting that nearly every other poll here in recent months has found Vance stuck further back in third or fourth place, though no other pollster has released a survey yet since Trump made his endorsement.

Meanwhile, Buckeyes for a Strong Ohio PAC, which is supporting Gibbons, has released a new ad calling Mandel a career politician and a "total fraud." The spot disingenuously blasts Mandel for having supported Mitt Romney and former Gov. John Kasich without noting that Mandel did so when Romney at least was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, not more recently when both he and Kasich have been among the few Republican Trump critics. The ad finishes by praising Gibbons as a businessman.

OK-Sen-B: Friday was also the filing deadline for Oklahoma's June 28 primaries, and the state has its candidate list here. A runoff would take place Aug. 23 for any contest where no one earned a majority of the vote.

Longtime Sen. Jim Inhofe announced in late February that he would resign, effective ​​when the current Congress ends, and 13 fellow Republicans are competing for the final two years of his term in this dark-red state. Inhofe is pulling for his former chief of staff, Luke Holland, and a new super PAC called OkieWay has spent $475,000 on ads starring the outgoing senator praising his would-be successor. The GOP side, though, includes several contenders who start out with more name recognition than Holland, who is a first-time candidate.

One familiar name is Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who represents a seat in the eastern part of Oklahoma. There's also former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who ran in the 2014 special election for the Sooner State's other Senate seat but lost the primary to then-Rep. James Lankford by a surprisingly wide 57-34 margin: Both Mullin and Shannon would be the first Native Americans to serve in the upper chamber since Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell retired in 2005, while Shannon would also be Oklahoma's first Black senator. Another prominent contender is former state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who later served as Trump's first head of the EPA and resigned in the face of numerous scandals.

Also in the running is state Sen. Nathan Dahm, who took a close fourth in the 2018 primary for the Tulsa-based 1st Congressional District; Dahm, who was waging a longshot bid against Lankford before Inhofe announced his departure, has benefited from about $155,000 in TV ads so far from Protect Freedom PAC, which is allied with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Rounding out the field is former Trump White House staffer Alex Gray, while the other seven contenders don't appear to be serious.

Pruitt only entered the race just before filing closed last week so there are no fundraising reports available for him, but we have first quarter numbers from the rest of the GOP field:

  • Holland: $620,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $773,000 cash-on-hand
  • Mullin: $385,000 raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $1.96 million cash-on-hand
  • Shannon: $245,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-funded, $392,000 cash-on-hand
  • Dahm: $147,000 raised, $170,000 cash-on-hand
  • Gray: $132,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $299,000 cash-on-hand

The only Democrat in the race is former Rep. Kendra Horn, who raised $343,000 and had $369,000 available.

Governors

AZ-Gov: First quarter fundraising reports are available for candidates seeking to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, with the primaries for both parties taking place in August:

  • Former TV news anchor Kari Lake (R): $970,000 raised, $701,000 cash-on-hand
  • Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson (R): $718,000 raised, additional $2 million self-loaned, $357,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former Rep. Matt Salmon (R): $469,000 raised, $703,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Steve Gaynor (R): $35,000 raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand (thanks to prior self-funding)
  • Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D): $748,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • Former homeland security official Marco López (D): $305,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-loaned, $450,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman (D): $275,000 raised, $759,000 cash-on-hand

FL-Gov: Sachs Media has conducted a Democratic primary poll on behalf of Florida Politics that shows Rep. Charlie Crist holding a 35-20 lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, while state Sen. Annette Taddeo is far behind with 4%. This is Sachs' first publicly available poll; the few other pollsters who have released surveys here in recent months have also found Crist ahead but with a large share of voters still undecided with four months to go until the August primary.

GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue is running a new GOP primary ad, which is backed by a modest $320,000 buy that his campaign says will grow to $500,000, that embraces the Big Lie and various other far-right themes. Perdue hits Gov. Brian Kemp for letting radicals "steal the election," by which he really means Kemp not helping Trump to actually steal it, and because of this he blames Kemp for inflation and other problems under Biden. Perdue touts Trump's endorsement and vows to eliminate the state income tax.

IL-Gov: Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's latest GOP primary ad tries to portray state Rep. Darren Bailey as a phony conservative by highlighting how Bailey said last month that, "I might have voted for Biden," while the rest of the spot hits Bailey for having supported property tax increases while he was on a local school board.

However, the ad omits how Bailey was speaking about voting in the 2008 Democratic primary, which he claimed he had done as a way to stop Hillary Clinton, not the more recent 2020 general election. The Chicago Tribune noted that Irvin himself had refused to say whether he voted for Trump shortly after joining the race and that he had voted in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, which Irvin justified by saying he was voting for conservative Democrats in local races.

MD-Gov: The filing deadline for Maryland's July 19 primary passed Friday, and the state has a list of contenders available here. (Both dates were twice postponed because of legal challenges to congressional and legislative maps.) The congressional and state legislative lists aren't quite final, though, as the State Board of Elections says, "These candidates are listed in the district where they live now. After election officials make changes to County, State, and Congressional districts based on final redistricting plans, some candidates may be assigned to a different district." The BoE adds that this will be finished "in late May or early June."  

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is termed out, and 10 Democrats and four Republicans are competing to succeed him in a state that Joe Biden carried 65-32. The only sitting elected official on either side is state Comptroller Peter Franchot, a moderate Democrat who has enjoyed a good relationship with Hogan. Team Blue's field also includes two former members of the Obama cabinet: former Secretary of Education John King and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who later went on to head up the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic side also consists of two contenders who took second place in primaries for governor during the last decade: former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who lost in 2014, and former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who unsuccessfully campaigned four years later and is now the only candidate taking part in Maryland's public financing system. Also in the contest are former nonprofit leaders Jon Baron and Wes Moore as well as Ashwani Jain, a one-time Obama administration official who lost a 2018 primary for the Montgomery County Council; two little-known candidates round out the list.

The only recent poll we've seen was a March internal for Baker that showed him trailing Franchot 23-15, with Perez and Moore at 11% and 10%, respectively. New campaign finance reports aren't due until mid-June (the last available numbers are from mid-January), so it will be a while before we get a fresh look at everyone's financial strength.

On the GOP side, Hogan is backing Kelly Schulz, whom he previously appointed as state Commerce Secretary. Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, meanwhile, is Del. Dan Cox, who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it. Also in the race are wealthy perennial candidate Robin Ficker, who decided to continue his bid despite getting disbarred, and Some Dude Joe Werner.

NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom's newest ad ahead of the May 10 Republican primary shows the candidate talking up his record of cutting taxes, and he says he's "just getting started."

OK-Gov: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has three intra-party foes, with Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel looking like the most serious of the challengers. The Trump-endorsed incumbent's biggest threat, though, likely comes from a pair of dark money groups that together have spent at least $3.3 million on negative ads. Stitt has fired back with his own messaging arguing he's the victim of a smear campaign by "insiders and casino bosses," and he's also received $577,000 in help from the RGA. The Democratic side is a duel between Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who left the GOP last year, and former state Sen. Connie Johnson, who lost the 2018 primary for this office.

House

AZ-06: EMILY's List has endorsed state Sen. Kirsten Engel ahead of the August Democratic primary.

Engel raised $225,000 in the first quarter and finished March with $639,000 on hand compared to her other notable primary opponent, state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who raised $154,000 and had $447,000 in the bank. On the Republican side is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, who raised $443,000 and had $1.1 million in cash-on-hand.

FL-04, FL-05: Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean says he is "still exploring" a congressional run, which Florida Politics indicates would likely be in the new 4th District.

Republican legislators passed a new congressional map this week (see our FL Redistricting item above) that carves up Jacksonville to create two Republican-leaning districts by dismantling the existing 5th District, which is a predominantly Black and safely Democratic seat stretching to Tallahassee, but the redrawn 5th District corresponds more closely to GOP Rep. John Rutherford's existing 4th District and contains most of his current turf. Florida Politics treats it as a given that Rutherford would run there instead, meaning the new 4th is effectively the closest successor to the old 5th even though it's a very different constituency.

State Rep. Jason Fischer and Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond have both previously said they were also considering running, and Florida Politics says they would also run in the 4th if they join the August GOP primary. One Republican who won't be running for either seat, though, is term-limited Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who said he will finish out the rest of his term through 2023.

IL-01: SEIU Local 1, which says it represents 30,000 members across Illinois, has endorsed Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell ahead of the crowded Democratic primary in June.

Dowell led the pack in fundraising, raising $382,000 in the first three months of 2022, and he held $297,000 on hand at the start of April. Close behind was businessman Jonathan Swain, who reported $356,000 in donations, an additional $19,000 in self-funding, and $322,000 in cash-on-hand. Former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves raised $291,000 and had $237,000 leftover to spend, while construction company owner Jonathan Jackson raised $145,000 and had $130,000 in the bank.

Four other candidates reported raising less than $100,000: Real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff raised $85,000, self-funded an additional $3,000, and had $79,000 remaining; former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams took in $83,000 and had $44,000 left in the bank; state Sen. Jacqueline Collins raised $69,000, self-funded an additional $10,000, and had $62,000 left to spend; and Pastor Stephany Rose Spaulding, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised a mere $50,000, self-funded $23,000, and had $27,000 on hand.

IL-15: Rep. Mary Miller has launched an ad going after fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis for voting to create the Jan. 6 investigation committee. The spot calls Davis a "RINO" while noting that Miller has Trump's endorsement.

Davis held a sizable edge over Miller in first quarter fundraising, though, raising $923,000 and finishing March with $1.9 million in cash-on-hand. By contrast, Miller brought in just $335,000 and had $511,000 left over at the start of April.

IN-01: Air Force veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green has debuted a GOP primary ad that portrays former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo as a "Never Trump liberal" who refused to back Trump in 2016 and criticized his immigration policies. Green touts her own support from Indiana Right to Life and her top rating from the NRA.

Milo led Green $208,000 to $155,000 in first quarter fundraising, but she had just $111,000 on hand compared to Green's $151,000 at the end of the quarter. The primary is on May 3.

IN-09: American Dream Federal Action, a cryptocurrency-aligned PAC on the Republican side, has reported spending at least $387,000 on GOP primary ads for former state Sen. Erin Houchin.

Houchin raised the most money of any Republican candidate from donors in the first quarter, having brought in $377,000 and holding $250,000 on hand. Army veteran Stu Barnes-Israel raised $264,000, self-funded an additional $101,000, and had $232,000 left to spend. Former Rep. Mike Sodrel took in just $38,000 from donors but self-funded an additional $429,000, almost all of which he spent to end up with only $58,000 on hand. Lastly, businessman Jim Baker, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised $64,000 and had $40,000 remaining on hand.

MD-01: Rep. Andy Harris, who is one of the Republican party's ​​leading election deniers, is defending a seat along the Eastern Shore that would have backed Donald Trump 56-42, which is considerably more conservative than the seat Democrats drew up last year for a map that was ultimately struck down in state court.

Harris still faces a well-funded Democratic challenger in the form of former Del. Heather Mizeur, who took third place in the 2014 primary for governor and would be the first lesbian to represent the state in Congress. Harris outraised Mizeur $468,000 to $372,000 during the first quarter of 2022, and he finished March with a $1.88 million to $1.12 million cash-on-hand edge. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden is also competing in the Democratic primary, but he's raised little so far.

MD-04: Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown is leaving this safely blue seat, which is based around Prince George's County in the D.C. suburbs, to run for attorney general, and three notable candidates from the county are competing to succeed him.

One well-established contender is Brown's predecessor, former Rep. Donna Edwards, a progressive who left the House in 2016 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate; Edwards later waged a 2018 comeback campaign for county executive, but she lost that primary by a wide 62-24 margin to Angela Alsobrooks. Another familiar name is former county State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, whom Brown beat 42-34 in the 2016 primary to replace Edwards. Another person to watch is former Del. Angela Angel, who lost her 2018 primary for a state Senate seat 55-37.

Edwards, who entered the race this year and has EMILY's List's support, raised $612,000 during her opening quarter and self-funded another $13,000, and she finished March with $460,000 on hand. Ivey, meanwhile, took in $294,000 from donors and provided another $150,000, which left him with a larger $584,000 war chest. Angel, finally, raised $54,000, self-funded $45,000 more, and was left with $95,000 on hand.

MD-06: Democratic Rep. David Trone faces a potentially tough general election now that redistricting has cut Joe Biden's margin of victory from 61-38 to 54-44 (Hillary Clinton would have carried this version of the 6th just 47-46), though the extremely wealthy incumbent has proven in the past that he's more than willing to make generous use of his own wealth. Indeed, Trone self-funded $2 million during the first quarter, which was far more than the $41,000 he took in from donors, and ended March with just over $2 million on hand.

The most prominent Republican in the contest for this redrawn constituency, which includes western Maryland and the D.C. exurbs, is Del. Neil Parrott, whom Trone turned back 59-39 last cycle. Parrott raised just $25,000 during the first three months of 2022 and had $262,000 in the bank, though contributors may take more of an interest in this race now that the 6th has become more competitive. State House Minority Leader Jason Buckel briefly considered running here as well before filing closed, but he decided to seek re-election instead.

NC-01: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed state Sen. Don Davis in the May 17 Democratic primary for this open seat.

NC-04: Protect Our Future PAC, the group funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, is spending at least $771,000 to boost state Sen. Valerie Foushee in next month's Democratic primary for this safely blue seat.

NH-02: Brewery owner Jeff Cozzens announced Thursday that he was exiting the August Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster.  

OK-02: Republicans have a huge 14-person lineup to succeed Senate candidate Markwayne Mullin in an eastern Oklahoma seat that Trump would have carried 76-22, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. One contender, though, ended March with a big financial lead over their many foes:

  • Economy Pharmacy CEO Chris Schiller: $257,000 raised, additional $250,000 self-funded, $501,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Marty Quinn: $106,000 raised, additional $27,000 self-funded, $129,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Dustin Roberts: $83,000 raised, additional $25,000 self-funded, $105,000 cash-on-hand
  • Muskogee Chief of Police Johnny Teehee: $42,000 raised, additional $210,000 self-funded, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • State party chair John Bennett: $27,000 raised, $23,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Avery Frix: $15,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $215,000 cash-on-hand

The race includes several other politicians who joined the race after the new fundraising quarter began:

  • businessman Guy Barker
  • former state Sen. Josh Brecheen
  • former state Rep. David Derby
  • former defense contractor Pamela Gordon
  • Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire

The remaining three Republicans don't appear to be serious contenders, though it's always possible one of them could advance to a runoff in this outsized field.

OR-06: Protect Our Future PAC has dropped an additional $1.9 million to aid economic development adviser Carrick Flynn in the May 17 Democratic primary for this newly created seat, which brings its total investment here to a staggering $7 million.

PA-08: 2020 Republican nominee Jim Bognet has launched the first ad for his rematch against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, and he quickly makes it clear what kind of campaign he'll be running when he opens, "In 2020, President Trump endorsed me for Congress. But that election was stolen from us."

RI-02: Former state Rep. David Segal declared Wednesday that he was joining the September Democratic primary for this open seat, an announcement that came almost two months after he began raising money for a potential campaign to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Langevin.

Segal, as we've written before, was active in Providence progressive politics in 2002 when he was elected to the City Council as a member of the Green Party, and he briefly served as the chamber's minority leader. After joining the Democrats and winning a seat in the state House, Segal ran for the 1st District in 2010, which was the last time Rhode Island had an open-seat race for Congress. He campaigned to the left of his many primary foes and ended up in third place with 20%; the winner, with 37%, was Providence Mayor David Cicilline, who still holds the district today. Segal didn't seek elected office in the ensuing decade, though he did found the national liberal organization Demand Progress.

SC-01: Big Lie enthusiast Katie Arrington has earned an endorsement from 2nd District Rep. Joe Wilson, who infamously shouted, "You lie!" at Barack Obama during a 2009 presidential address to Congress, for her campaign to beat incumbent Nancy Mace in the June Republican primary.  

VA-02: Candidate filing closed on April 7 for Virginia's June 21 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the state of play in each competitive congressional race now that first quarter fundraising numbers are in; you can find a list of contenders here.

Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria is defending a Virginia Beach-based seat where, following redistricting, Joe Biden's margin of victory was halved from 51-47 to 50-48. National Republicans, including the deep-pocketed Congressional Leadership Fund, have consolidated behind state Sen. Jen Kiggans, who won her seat in a close 2019 general election campaign. Luria outraised Kiggans $1.2 million to $435,000 during the first three months of 2022 and ended March with a huge $3.16 million to $593,000 cash-on-hand.

Before she can go up against Luria, Kiggans needs to get past high school football coach Jarome Bell, a Big Lie fanatic who has the backing of 5th District Rep. Bob Good. Bell, who earned last place in the 2020 three-way primary with 23%, had a mere $9,000, though, so he may not be much of an obstacle for Kiggans, who has been happy to entertain election conspiracies herself.

VA-07: While some Northern Virginia Democrats initially expressed interest in waging a primary bid against Rep. ​​Abigail Spanberger after the new congressional map replaced much of her suburban Richmond base with turf in populous Prince William County, Spanberger will face no intra-party opposition. Those dramatic changes boosted Biden's margin from just 50-49 to 52-46, but six Republicans are hoping to take her on.

Both state Sen. Bryce Reeves and Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson were running against Spanberger before the remap, and they've continued their campaigns here: Reeves outraised Anderson $269,000 to $232,000 during the most recent fundraising quarter, and he finished March with a small $390,000 to $371,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, meanwhile, entered the race shortly after redistricting was completed, and she raised $357,000 in her first three months and had $294,000 to spend. Another new arrival, Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chair Crystal Vanuch, took in $82,000 but self-funded $402,000, which left her with $468,000 to spend. Spotsylvania County Supervisor David Ross, likewise, raised $42,000 and provided $101,000 more, which left him with a $121,000 war chest. The final Republican, 2021 state House nominee Gina Ciarcia, had less than $15,000 to spend. Spanberger herself raised $1.13 million to defend herself, and she finished March with $3.89 million in the bank.

ECU: The progressive group End Citizens United has endorsed six Democratic House contenders:

Attorneys General

ID-AG: While the Club for Growth doesn’t appear to have endorsed its old ally, former Rep. Raúl Labrador, in the May 17 Republican primary for attorney general, the group is spending nearly $300,000 to weaken five-term incumbent Lawrence Wasden. The commercial attacks Wasden for refusing to join 13 other GOP attorneys general in suing to overturn the Biden administration’s COVID relief bill, with the narrator arguing he “allowed Washington to shove their woke agenda down our throats.” The ad also goes after him for refusing to join the 2020 lawsuit aimed at overturning Biden’s win, saying he “looked the other way when election integrity hung in the balance.”

MD-AG: The Democratic primary to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Brian Frosh is a duel between two well-connected candidates: Rep. Anthony Brown, who was the party's 2014 nominee for governor, and former Baltimore Judge Katie Curran O'Malley, who is the wife of former Gov. Martin O'Malley. The winner will be the heavy favorite in November for an office that the GOP last won in 1918.

MI-AG, MI-SoS: Michigan Republicans will hold a convention Saturday to choose their candidates to take on Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, races that Donald Trump has intervened in as he seeks to install adherents of the Big Lie into key offices like these nationwide. However, the weekend's results may not bring about a definitive resolution because the party's endorsement can be overturned in August with an affirmative vote of three-fourths of delegates, and at least one candidate hasn't ruled out pursuing this option if he loses.

MLive.com explains this strange state of affairs came about because, as GOP consultant John Sellek puts it, these springtime gatherings are "completely made up by the parties." Indeed, state law requires that the parties, rather than primary voters, pick their nominees for these offices (as well as for lieutenant governor) at conventions that take place in the "fall" (which has been interpreted, for some reason, to include August).

Democrats, though, decided several years ago that they wanted to choose their candidates far earlier in order to give them a head start for the general election. That's why they came up with the idea of the April endorsement convention, with the later event serving only to make the results official. (Michigan voters will select nominees in all other races in the state's Aug. 2 primary.)

Republicans decided to try this approach out themselves for the first time this cycle, but Trump's interventions have, unsurprisingly, complicated things. While many GOP leaders want their nominee for attorney general to be former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost to Nessel by a close 49-46 margin in 2018, Trump has instead backed Matthew DePerno, an attorney who's made a name for himself advancing the conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections and recently called for the arrest of Nessel, Benson, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The GOP field also includes state Rep. Ryan Berman, who has tried to position himself as an alternative to Leonard and DePerno but has been willing to call out DePerno's lies. In the race for secretary of state, Trump is similarly pulling for Kristina Karamo, who has called the Jan. 6 insurrectionists "​​totally antifa posing as Trump supporters," to beat state Rep. Beau LaFave and Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry.

Sellek predicted that DePerno, who earlier this month called for his supporters to "storm" the county-level meetings where party activists pick delegates for the endorsement convention, would respond to a defeat on Saturday by trying to get the results overturned in August. Berman, though, was the only one who publicly addressed the idea, telling MLive, "It depends on what happens this weekend. We'll see how it plays out." Still, it would take quite a lot to convince 75% of the August delegates to adopt what Sellek called a "smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency" option.

And the glass may remain intact no matter what these insurgents might want. GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, who backs Trump's picks, predicted, "The party as a whole is going to coalesce around this team, starting Saturday afternoon," adding, "I will work my tail off for whatever candidates come out of this convention."

Former state party executive director Jason Roe, though, struck a very different tone when describing the stakes of the endorsement convention. "We're going to find out if we're going to be held hostage to second-tier candidates who can't win general elections in pursuit of genuflecting to the dear leader," he said, "or if we're going to focus on winning elections and making sure that conservatives control state government and make the policies that we all have to live under."

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redistricting

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

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

1Q Fundraising

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Longtime congressman will retire rather than face Trump-backed colleague in primary

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

MI-04: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year, announced Tuesday that he would not seek a 19th term this fall. In an email to supporters, Upton said he believed "it is time to pass the torch," though the person who will most likely be claiming that beacon in the new 4th Congressional District is his colleague and would-be primary foe, Trump-backed Rep. Bill Huizenga.

While it's possible that Upton's departure will entice someone else to run against Huizenga in the August GOP primary, they'd need to collect at least 1,000 valid signatures by the April 19 filing deadline. No notable Democrats have entered the race so far for the new version of the 4th, a southwestern Michigan seat Trump would have carried 51-47 in 2020.

Huizenga announced back in December, right after the state's new congressional maps were completed, that he'd be seeking re-election in the new 4th, and he earned an endorsement from Trump last month. Upton, by contrast, spent months keeping the political world guessing as to whether he'd go up against Huizenga in the primary or retire, though until Tuesday, it seemed that he had one more race in him: In February, Upton launched a $400,000 ad campaign in which he told viewers, "If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy. But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I'm asking for your support."

Upton, though, said at the time that he was still undecided about 2022, and his retirement announcement proves he wasn't just playing coy. On Tuesday, he insisted that redistricting mattered more to him than any backlash from his impeachment vote, saying, "My district was cut like Zorro—three different ways." However, it was Huizenga who, at least on paper, was more disadvantaged by the new map: While about two-thirds of the residents of the new 4th are currently Upton's constituents, Huizenga represents only about a quarter of the seat he's now the frontrunner to claim.

Upton's decision ends a long career in politics that began in the late 1970s when he started working for local Rep. David Stockman, and he remained on his staff when Stockman became Ronald Reagan's first director of the Office of Management and Budget. In 1986, Upton decided to seek elected office himself when he launched a primary challenge to Rep. Mark Siljander, who had succeeded Stockman in the House in 1981, in an earlier version of the 4th District.

Siljander was an ardent social conservative well to the right of even Reagan: Among other things, he'd unsuccessfully tried to torpedo Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1981 because he didn't feel she was sufficiently conservative, and he even threatened to vote against the White House's priorities in an attempt to thwart O'Connor. Siljander, though, had taken just 58% of the vote in his 1984 primary, which suggested that a significant number of primary voters were unhappy with him.

Upton argued that, while both he and Siljander were "conservative Republican[s]," the incumbent had ignored his constituents to focus on international issues. Upton, by contrast, insisted that he'd work better with the party's leadership and seek committee assignments that would allow him to direct his energies to domestic concerns. The race took a dark turn late in the campaign when audio leaked of Siljander telling local clergy members to aid him in order to "break the back of Satan," arguing that his loss "would send a shock wave across America that Christians can be defeated in Congress by impugning their integrity and smear tactics."

Upton ended up dispatching the congressman 55-45, a convincing thumping that both sides attributed to Siljander's comments. Upton's team, while denying that the outcome represented a loss for the religious right, predicted, "Fred's tactics will be much more moderate and more reasonable." Upton easily prevailed in the general election and had no trouble winning for decades; Siljander, for his part, was last in the news in late 2020 when Trump pardoned what an angry Upton described as "a series of federal crimes including obstruction of justice, money laundering and lobbying for an international terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban."

In 2002, Upton easily turned back a primary campaign from state Sen. Dale Shugars 66-32 in what was now numbered the 6th District, but when the burgeoning tea party turned its wrath on establishment figures in 2010, the longtime congressman had become much more vulnerable to intra-party challenges. His opponent that year was former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, who had badly failed in his quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Carl Levin two years earlier but argued that Upton was insufficiently conservative. The congressman outspent Hoogendyk by an 18-to-1 margin but prevailed only 57-43, which enticed Hoogendyk to try again in 2012.

However, while the anti-tax Club for Growth ran commercials this time against Upton, who by now was chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the incumbent worked hard to emphasize his opposition to the Obama administration and won by a larger 67-33 margin. That was the last time he faced a serious primary challenge at the ballot box, but in 2014 he went through his first expensive general election campaign when law professor Larry Lessig directed his Mayday PAC, which he called his "super PAC to end super PACs," to target Upton.

Mayday spent over $2 million to aid a previously unheralded Democrat named Paul Clements, and while Upton didn't come close to losing in that red wave year, Democrats hoped his 56-40 showing meant he could be beaten in a better political climate. Clements sought a rematch in 2016, but Upton won by a 59-36 spread.

In 2018, though, the congressman faced a considerably tougher battle against physician Matt Longjohn at a time when the GOP was on the defensive nationwide. Upton got some surprising help during that campaign when Joe Biden delivered a speech in his district that was paid in part by an Upton family foundation; Biden, who was apparently motivated to praise Upton because of the congressman's work on a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, declared the congressman was "one of the finest guys I've ever worked with" and "the reason we're going to beat cancer." Ultimately, the congressman prevailed 50-46 in what was by far the closest race of his career. Afterwards, Longjohn’s campaign manager said Biden’s involvement was "brutal at the time and stings even more today."

Democrats hoped they could finally take Upton down in 2020, but Upton returned to form and beat state Rep. Jon Hoadley 56-40 as Trump was carrying his district 51-47. Two months later, Upton responded to the Jan. 6 attack by voting for impeachment, a vote that arguably did more than anything else to close out his lengthy time in Congress.

1Q Fundraising

  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $3.1 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-Sen: Kevin Smith (R): $410,000 raised (in nine weeks)
  • FL-07: Rusty Roberts (R): $173,000 raised (in 10 days)
  • MI-12: Janice Winfrey (D): $200,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • OH-13: Emilia Sykes (D): $350,000 raised
  • RI-02: Joy Fox (D): $175,000 raised (in two months)
  • SC-01: Nancy Mace (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for Arizona's Aug. 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. We run down all the major contests in their respective sections of the Morning Digest, starting with the Senate race.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly won a tight 2020 election for the final two years of the late John McCain's term, and he'll be a top GOP target this fall as he seeks re-election. Five Republicans are running to take him on (though Gov. Doug Ducey, to the frustration of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is not one of them), and polls show that a large plurality of primary voters is undecided.

The most prominent contender may be state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, though he attracted heaps of abuse last year from Trump for not doing enough to advance the Big Lie. The only other current elected official is state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, but he's struggled to attract attention. The field also includes self-funding businessman Jim Lamon; former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, whose former boss is heavily financing a super PAC to boost him; and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel are each running commercials for the May 3 Republican primary espousing ultra-conservative ideas as they attack the very idea that their beliefs could be racist.

Vance is pushing that message in what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is his first-ever TV ad, though his allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have already spent over $6 million promoting him. "Are you a racist?" Vance begins as he points right at the camera, "Do you hate Mexicans? The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump's wall." The Hillbilly Elegy author continues by accusing the media of censorship before proclaiming, "Joe Biden's open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country." Mandel, meanwhile, exclaims, "There's nothing racist about stopping critical race theory and loving America."

On the Democratic side, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Morgan Harper has launched what her campaign says is a six-figure opening ad buy. Harper describes her local roots and service in the Obama administration before trying to contrast herself with Rep. Tim Ryan, the frontrunner for the nod, by declaring, "I'm the only Democrat for Senate who's always supported Medicare for All and a $15 living wage, who's always been pro-choice, and supports expanding the Supreme Court to protect women's rights."

PA-Sen: Allies of Rep. Conor Lamb at a super PAC called Penn Progress just dropped the first negative TV ad of Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, but there's a huge problem with the spot.

The narrator begins by asking, "Who can Democrats trust in the race for Senate?" and contrasts Lamb—"a former prosecutor and Marine"—with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, "a self-described democratic socialist." The ad cites an NPR segment from 2020 for that claim about Fetterman, but at the bottom of the piece are not one but two correction notices that both read, "This story wrongly states that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is a 'self-described democratic socialist.' He is not." Citing those corrections, attorneys for Fetterman's campaign sent a letter to TV stations demanding they take down the spot, calling it "false and defamatory."

Penn Progress responded by pointing to other news articles that have also called Fetterman a "self-described democratic socialist," but no one seems to have found a quote from Fetterman actually referring to himself this way. That's because, according to his campaign, no such quote exists. In their letter, Fetterman's lawyers say the candidate "has never described himself as a 'democratic socialist'" and link to a 2016 interview in which Fetterman says, "No, I don't label myself a democratic socialist."

Fetterman's team is seeking to have this advertisement bumped from the airwaves because TV and radio stations can be held liable for defamatory content in third-party ads. (Because they're obligated under federal law to run candidate ads so long as they're paid for, broadcasters aren't liable for the content of such spots.) On Tuesday evening, the Fetterman campaign said that one station, WPVI in Philadelphia, had complied with its request.

Aside from the factual blunder, Lamb's supporters may be making a political mistake as well: Attacking a rival as too liberal in a Democratic primary is rarely a winning move. If Penn Progress' ad gets bounced, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for the super PAC.

Separately, a new poll of the GOP primary from Public Opinion Strategies for Honor Pennsylvania finds hedge funder David McCormick (whom the group is backing) leading TV personality Mehmet Oz 22-16. In a previously unreleased POS poll from January, Oz enjoyed a 31-13 advantage, but both sides—and other candidates as well—have unleashed millions in attack ads since then.

SD-Sen: Candidate filing closed March 29 for South Dakota's June 7 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the fields for any notable 2022 contests now that the Secretary of State's office has had a week to receive "the official certification(s) from county central committees or state political parties"; you can find a list of contenders here. A runoff would be required on Aug. 16 in the races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and governor if no candidate wins at least 35% of the vote, but there aren't enough contenders in any of those races to make this a possibility. Note also that the parties hold nominating conventions (typically later in June) instead of primaries for several offices, including attorney general.

Donald Trump used the last days of his time on Twitter to rant in late 2020 that Republican Sen. John Thune "will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!" but the Senate minority whip's political career seems like it will continue just fine. Only two little-known Republicans, Oglala Sioux tribal administrator Bruce Whalen and rancher Mark Mowry, ended up filing to take him on, despite Thune's long dalliance with retirement, and there's no indication that either poses a threat. Attorney Brian Bengs has the Democratic primary to himself in this very red state.

Ad Reservations: Last week we got preliminary information about the first fall TV bookings from the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC, and AdImpact now has full details about how much money is going into each reservation:

  • Arizona: $22.4 million
  • Georgia: $24.6 million
  • Nevada: $14.1 million
  • Pennsylvania: $25.8 million
  • Wisconsin: $11.7 million

Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are Democratic-held, while SMP is going on the offensive in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These are the first general election reservations we've seen from any major outside groups on the Senate side.

Governors

AL-Gov: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard is running more ads ahead of the May 24 Republican primary arguing that Gov. Kay Ivey is insufficiently conservative. One spot focuses entirely on attacking the governor, including a clip of her saying last year, "It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks." The other commercial tries to use the Big Lie against Ivey, with the narrator proclaiming, "Lindy believes the election was stolen from Trump. Kay Ivey thinks Biden's victory was legitimate."

Ivey, meanwhile, is running her own ads playing up her own far-right credentials. "The fake news, big tech, and blue state liberals stole the election from President Trump," says the governor, "but here in Alabama, we are making sure that never happens. We have not, and will not, send absentee ballots to everyone and their brother."

AZ-Gov: Both sides have competitive primaries to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey in swingy Arizona. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has long looked like the frontrunner on the Democratic side, and she picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers. Her two intra-party foes are former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and former Homeland Security official Marco López, who is a one-time mayor of Nogales.

Republicans, meanwhile, have six contenders. Trump has thrown his endorsement behind Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist. The only current elected official, by contrast, is Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who is backed by former Govs. Jan Brewer and Fyfe Simington.

Another name to watch is former Rep. Matt Salmon, who narrowly lost the 2002 general election to Democrat Janet Napolitano; his second bid has the support of the Club for Growth as well as Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. There's also self-funding businessman Steve Gaynor, who narrowly lost the open-seat race for secretary of state to Hobbs in 2018. Businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen, who founded a biscotti company, also attracted attention earlier this year when politicos learned she'd self-funded $1.2 million, but she hasn't otherwise generated much press. Neither has the sixth GOP candidate, Scott Neely.

NM-Gov: Former Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block uses his first spot for the June Republican primary to proclaim that he was "a day-one supporter of President Donald J. Trump," who badly lost New Mexico twice. The ad goes on to tout Block's conservative ideas, including his desire to "finish the border wall" and "block the COVID mandates," though at times the narrator's message almost gets drowned out by the commercial's loud music.

SD-Gov: Gov. Kristi Noem faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Steve Haugaard, a former state House speaker who, believe it or not, is trying to run to the incumbent's right. Noem, though, has a massive financial edge over the challenger, as well as Trump's endorsement, and there's no indication yet that she's vulnerable. The winner will take on state House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, who faces no opposition in the Democratic primary.

TX-Gov: YouGov's new poll for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 50-42 among likely voters.

House

AK-AL: 314 Action Fund, a group that supported independent Al Gross in his 2020 Senate race, has released a survey from the Democratic pollster Change Research that finds him locked in a close special election against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin in the instant-runoff general election in August.

It's impossible to know which of the 48 candidates competing in the June top-four primary might advance to the general, but we know the final matchup will be different than the one Change polled because one of the candidates it included, Republican state Sen. Lora Reinbold, did not end up running; the survey was also conducted days before either Palin or the final Republican candidate tested, state Sen. Josh Revak, announced they were in.

The firm initially finds Gross leading Palin 33-30 in a hypothetical general election, with Revak and Reinbold at 9% and 8%, respectively. After the instant runoff process is simulated, not much changes, as Gross and Palin tie with 35% apiece, while 30% are undecided. In a separate question pitting the two head-to-head, however, Palin edges out Gross 42-40.

314 Action hasn't made an endorsement yet, but the organization made it clear it wanted Gross to win in its release, saying, "Dr. Al Gross has dedicated his life to improving health outcomes for Alaskans, and if elected to Congress he'll have a platform to craft policy that will do just that."

AZ-01: Republican Rep. David Schweikert is running for re-election in the revamped 1st District, a seat in eastern Phoenix and its eastern suburbs that's changed quite a bit from the 6th District he currently represents: While Trump would have carried his existing constituency 51-47, it’s Biden who would have taken the new 1st 50-49. (We explain the many changes to Arizona's congressional map here.)

Before he can focus on the general election, though, Schweikert needs to get past self-funder Elijah Norton in the primary. Norton has been attacking the ethics of the incumbent, who in 2020 agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, accept a formal reprimand, and admit to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude a two-year investigation. Schweikert, though, has made it clear he'll focus on Norton's turbulent departure from his insurance company. The field also includes Josh Barnett, who badly lost to Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego last cycle in the safely blue 7th District.

Three Democrats are also competing for this competitive seat. The field consists of Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf; and environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, who has the backing of southern Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45, which is a significant shift from Biden's 50-48 win in the 1st District that he currently holds.

Seven Republicans are competing to take him on, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. The two elected officials in the running are state Rep. Walt Blackman and John Moore, the mayor of the tiny community of Williams. Also in the running are Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane; Ron Watkins, the reputed founder of the QAnon conspiracy cult; and three others. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer had announced he was running last month, but his name was not on the state’s final list of candidates.

AZ-04: Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton is defending the 4th District in the southern Phoenix suburbs that, at 54-44 Biden, is considerably less safe than the 9th District it replaces. Six Republicans are competing to take him on, including Tanya Wheeless, who served as a staffer to then-Sen. Martha McSally, and Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez.

AZ-06: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her retirement last year before Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission drew up a new 6th District in the Tucson area that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.3-49.2 margin—a sizable drop from Biden’s 55-44 win in the old 2nd District.

The Democratic contest pits former state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who as an intern helped save then-Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was shot in 2011, against state Sen. Kirsten Engel; a third candidate, engineer Avery Anderson, hasn't earned much attention so far. The GOP frontrunner is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, though it remains to be seen if any of his four intra-party rivals can give him a serious fight.

FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who has Trump's endorsement, has released a Spry Strategies poll that shows her again winning the August Republican primary. The firm gives Luna the lead with 35%, while prosecutor Kevin Hayslett and 2020 candidate Amanda Makki are tied for second with 9% each.

GA-07: NBC reports that Rep. Lucy McBath is spending $74,000 on her first TV ad for the May 24 Democratic primary, which features her visiting the grave of her son, Jordan Davis, as she describes how he was murdered by a gunman. (The commercial features surveillance footage from the gas station where Davis was killed, with someone responding to the sounds of gunfire, "Oh my God. Somebody's shooting!") McBath tells the audience, "My tragedy turned to purpose. In Congress, I'm fighting to protect voting rights, to lower prescription drug costs, and to prevent gun violence."

McBath's longtime allies at Everytown for Gun Safety are also spending $1 million to help her, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says will come in the form of digital and radio ads and a mail campaign. McBath has already benefited from $1 million in advertising from another group, Protect Our Future PAC, while fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux has not yet received any major outside support.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur says she'll continue her campaign for the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Andy Harris even though Trump would have carried the newest version of this seat by a tough 56-42 margin. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden, who is the underdog in the July primary, also made it clear he'd remain in the race.

NH-01: The Associated Press reports that former Trump administration official Matt Mowers, one of the leading GOP candidates for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, voted twice in the 2016 primaries, which would be a violation of federal law.

According to the AP, Mowers cast a ballot in New Hampshire's primary in February, when he was working for Chris Christie's presidential campaign. (Christie finished sixth with just 7% of the vote and quit the race the next day.) Mowers then voted in the June primary in his home state of New Jersey, a month after Donald Trump became the GOP's de facto nominee, though there were other races on the ballot that day as well.

Any statute of limitations has long run out, so Mowers—who has a page devoted to "election integrity" on his campaign website—would be able to evade any legal ramifications. Politically, though, it's a different story, as his rivals for the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas immediately went on the attack. Mowers' campaign has so far declined to respond directly to the story.

SD-AL: Rep. Dusty Johnson faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Taffy Howard, a Big Lie supporter who launched her bid last year insisting, "I believe there was fraud in the last election that needs to be investigated. Our current congressman is not willing to admit that there was an issue." No Democrat ended up filing to run for the state's only House seat.

TX-15: EMILY's List has endorsed businesswoman Michelle Vallejo in the May 24 Democratic primary runoff for this open seat. Vallejo will face Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who led her 28-20 last month in the first round of the nomination contest.

TX-34 (special): Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled the special all-party primary to succeed former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela for June 14, with the filing deadline set for April 13. A runoff date would only be scheduled if no one earns a majority of the vote in the first round.

Attorneys General

AZ-AG: Republicans have a six-way primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking Team Red's nod for U.S. Senate, and this is another nominating contest without an obvious frontrunner. The only Democrat, by contrast, is former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes.

One familiar GOP contender is Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran. Another 2020 loser is Rodney Glassman, who narrowly failed to unseat the Maricopa County assessor in the primary; Glassman was the 2010 Democratic nominee against Sen. John McCain, but he now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar. The field also consists of two former prosecutors, Lacy Cooper and Abe Hamadeh; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove.

TX-AG: YouGov surveys the May 24 Republican primary runoff for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and shows incumbent Ken Paxton fending off Land Commissioner George P. Bush 65-23, which is even larger than the 59-30 lead that CWS Research found in its recent poll for a pro-Paxton group. YouGov also has former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza beating former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski 46-31 for the Democratic nod.

YouGov tests hypothetical general election scenarios as well and finds that, despite his myriad of scandals, Paxton outperforms Bush. The attorney general leads Garza and Jaworski 48-42 and 48-41, respectively, while Jaworski edges out Bush 39-38 and Garza ties him at 39-all.

Secretaries of State

AZ-SoS: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is running for governor, and four Republicans and two Democrats are running to replace her as this swing state's chief elections officer.

Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, has taken a strong interest in this contest and endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Team Red's field also includes state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, who championed a bill that would have allowed the state legislature to decertify the state's presidential results at any point before Inauguration Day, and state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has sponsored some of the most aggressive new voting restrictions in Arizona. The final Republican contender is advertising executive Beau Lane.

Democrats, meanwhile, have a duel between state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and Adrian Fontes, who narrowly lost re-election in 2020 as Maricopa County clerk, the post responsible for election administration in the county.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Prosecutor: Republican incumbent Alistair Adel resigned late last month as the top prosecutor of America's fourth-largest county over serious questions about her ability to manage her office, and one Democrat and three Republicans quickly collected the requisite signatures needed to compete in the special election to succeed her. The partisan primary and general elections will take place on the same days as the state's regularly scheduled statewide contests, and the winner will be up for a full term in 2024.

The only Democrat in the race is 2020 nominee Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel by a close 51-49. The GOP field consists of Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel; City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere; and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whom Senate Republicans hired in 2018 as a "female assistant" to question Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford. A fourth Republican, attorney James Austin Woods, does not appear to have filed.

Morning Digest: Trump backs far-right ex-cop who refuses to accept his own 2020 defeat

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

WA-04: Donald Trump took sides in the August top-two primary on Wednesday evening by backing 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp's bid against Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment last year. Culp, by contrast, is very much the type of candidate Trump likes, as the far-right ex-cop responded to his wide 57-43 defeat against Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee by saying he'd "never concede." While Trump's endorsement likely will give Culp a lift, the top-two primary system complicates the effort to defeat Newhouse in a vast constituency based in the eastern part of Washington.

It would take a lot of bad fortune for Newhouse to take third place or worse, a result that would keep the incumbent off the November general election ballot. If Newhouse did advance, he'd be the heavy favorite against a Democrat in a sprawling eastern Washington seat that, according to Dave's Redistricting App, would have backed Trump 57-40, which would have made it the reddest of the state's 10 congressional districts. The dynamics would be different if Culp or another Republican got to face Newhouse in round two, but the congressman would have a good chance to survive if he overwhelmingly carried Democrats while still holding on to enough fellow Republicans.

Campaign Action

Past elections in the old 4th, which is similarly red at 58-40 Trump, show that either a traditional Democrat vs. Republican general or an all-GOP general race are possible. Newhouse won his first two general elections in 2014 and 2016 against fellow Republican Clint Didier, but he had a Democratic foe in 2018 and 2020.

A few other Republicans are already running who could cost Culp some badly needed anti-Newhouse votes on the right, and one of them, businessman Jerrod Sessler, actually had far more money at the end of 2021 than Culp. Culp did narrowly outraise him $40,000 to $25,000 in the fourth quarter, but thanks to self-funding, Sessler finished December with a $200,000 to $30,000 cash-on-hand lead. Newhouse, meanwhile, took in $270,000 for the quarter and had $855,000 to defend himself. The only Democrat who appears to be in, businessman Doug White, raised $105,000 and had $85,000 on hand.

But while Culp's fundraising has been extremely weak, he already had a base even before Trump chose him this week. He made a name for himself as police chief of Republic, a small community that remains in the neighboring 5th District following redistricting (he has since registered to vote in Moses Lake, which is in the 4th), in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn't enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41. His stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden "Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors" message to his Facebook page.

Culp, who spent his final years in Republic as chief of a one-person police department, soon decided to challenge Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee's measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates. Unsurprisingly, though, it didn't help him avoid an almost 14-point defeat months later. Culp refused to accept that loss, and he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made baseless allegations of "intolerable voting anomalies" for a contest "that was at all times fraudulent."

But the state GOP did not enjoy seeing Culp, whose job in Republic disappeared shortly after the election because of budget cuts, refuse to leave the stage. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp's campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner described as "large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact." Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.

Culp's attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making "factually baseless" claims. The defeated candidate himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, "It doesn't mean that the war's over … It just means that we're not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts."

Culp, however, soon turned his attention towards challenging Newhouse, and Trump rewarded him Wednesday with an endorsement that promised he'd stand up for "Election Integrity." That same day, writes Brunner, Culp emailed supporters "suggest[ing] people follow his lead by paying a Florida telehealth clinic to mail treatments including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, drugs hyped by vaccine skeptics that have not been authorized for use in treating COVID-19."

Redistricting

CT Redistricting: The Connecticut Supreme Court formally adopted a new congressional map drawn by special master Nathan Persily on Thursday that makes only minimal changes to the current district lines in order to ensure population equality. As before, all five districts would have voted for Joe Biden. The court's intervention was necessary after the state's bipartisan redistricting commission failed to reach an agreement on a new map, just as it did a decade ago.

FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' request that it issue an advisory opinion as to whether lawmakers can legally dismantle the plurality-Black 5th District in a decision issued Thursday, saying the governor's question was overly broad and lacked a sufficient factual record for the justices to rely on.

In response, GOP leaders in the state House released a congressional map that keeps the 5th largely untouched (albeit renumbered to the 3rd), just as the Senate did when it passed its own plan last month. In other respects, however, the two maps differ: The House's approach would lead to 18 districts that would have gone for Donald Trump and just 10 that would have voted for Joe Biden, while the Senate plan has a closer 16-12 split in favor of Trump.

The two chambers may yet hammer out their differences, but the real dispute is between lawmakers and DeSantis, who has been pushing for a base-pleasing maximalist gerrymander that his fellow Republicans in the legislature have shown no interest in. DeSantis' unusual level of interference in the map-making process has raised the prospect of a veto, but the Senate map passed with a wide bipartisan majority. If the House can bring Democrats on board as well, then Republican leaders may just tell DeSantis to suck it.

Senate

AK-Sen: State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson on Wednesday became the first notable Democrat to enter the August top-four primary against the two main Republicans, incumbent Lisa Murkowski and former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Gray-Jackson was elected in 2018 in a blue state Senate seat in Anchorage, a win that made her the second Black woman to ever serve in the chamber, and the Anchorage Daily News says she's Alaska's first-ever Black U.S. Senate candidate.

Murkowski, for her part, has enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage over the Trump-endorsed Tshibaka for months, and that very much didn't change during the fourth quarter. The incumbent outraised Tshibaka $1.4 million to $600,000, and she ended December with a hefty $4.3 million to $635,000 cash-on-hand lead.

AZ-Sen: Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon's new spot for the August Republican primary, which NBC says is set to air during the Super Bowl, features him confronting "the D.C. gang" in an Old West-inspired setting. Lamon, dressed in a sheriff's costume, shoots the weapons out of the hands of his three masked enemies with Trump-sounding nicknames who are meant to resemble Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, President Joe Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Yes, Lamon is depicting firing a gun at Kelly, whose wife, then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, was gravely wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt that killed six members of the public.) The campaign says the commercial is one of the spots running in an "upper six-figure campaign."

Lamon, thanks to a generous amount of self-funding, ended the last quarter with a wide cash-on-hand lead over his many rivals, though judging by this spot, very little of his war chest went towards paying an acting coach—or an ethics adviser. The quarterly numbers are below:

  • Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters: $1.4 million raised, $1.8 million cash-on-hand
  • Attorney General Mark Brnovich: $805,000 raised, $770,000 cash-on-hand
  • retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire: $245,000 raised, additional $25,000 self-funded, $225,000 cash-on-hand
  • Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson: $225,000 raised, $190,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Jim Lamon: $200,000 raised, additional $3 million self-funded, $5.9 million cash-on-hand

Kelly, though, ended 2021 with more than twice as much money on hand as all his rivals combined: The senator took in $8.8 million for the quarter and had $18.6 million available to spend.

Governors

AL-Gov: Businessman Tim James' new commercial for the May Republican primary declares that Gov. Kay Ivey could have used an "executive order" to prevent school children from having to wear masks, but "she refused." The National Journal notes, though, that the state's mask mandate expired in April of last year, while similar municipal requirements in Birmingham and Montgomery ended the following month.

MI-Gov: Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon this week earned an endorsement from Rep. Lisa McClain, whose old 10th District was Donald Trump's best congressional district in the state. (The new 9th, where McClain is seeking re-election, would have also been Michigan's reddest under the redrawn congressional map.) Another congressman, Bill Huizenga, backed Dixon a few weeks ago even though she's struggled to raise a credible amount of money.

WI-Gov: Republican state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, who is one of the loudest spreaders of the Big Lie in Wisconsin, filed paperwork Thursday for a potential campaign for governor the day after he took down a campaign website that, for a few hours, said he was running. We'll presumably know for sure Saturday after Ramthun's "special announcement" at a high school auditorium in Kewaskum, a small community to the north of Milwaukee, though the local superintendent said Tuesday that the space had yet to be reserved. (Ramthun also is a member of that school board.)

House

CA-15: The first poll we've seen of the June top-two primary in this open seat comes from the Democratic firm Tulchin Research on behalf of San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, which gives him the lead with 19% of the vote. A second Democrat, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, holds a 17-13 edge over Republican businessman Gus Mattamal for the other general election spot, while Democratic Burlingame Councilwoman Emily Beach takes 7%. This constituency, which includes most of San Mateo County as well as a portion of San Francisco to the north, would have backed Joe Biden 78-20, so it's very possible two Democrats will face off in November.

All the Democrats entered the race after Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier announced her retirement in mid-November, and Canepa outraised his rivals during their first quarter. Canepa outpaced Beach $420,000 to $275,000, and he held a $365,000 to $270,000 cash-on-hand lead. Mullin, who has Speier's endorsement, raised $180,000, self-funded another $65,000, and ended December with $230,000 on-hand. Mattamal, meanwhile, had a mere $15,000 to spend.

MI-11: Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence, whose current 14th Congressional District makes up 30% of the new 11th, on Thursday backed Haley Stevens in her August incumbent vs. incumbent primary against Andy Levin. Lawrence, who is not seeking re-election, actually represents more people here than Levin, whose existing 9th District includes 25% of the seat he's campaigning to represent; a 45% plurality of residents live in Stevens' constituency, which is also numbered the 11th.

NE-01: Indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry's second TV ad for the May Republican primary once again portrays state Sen. Mike Flood as weak on immigration, and it makes use of the same "floods of illegal immigrants" pun from his opening spot. This time, though, the incumbent's commercial uses 2012 audio of then-Gov. Dave Heineman telling Flood, "I am extraordinarily disappointed with your support of taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens." Heineman last month endorsed Flood over Fortenberry, whom the former governor called "the only Nebraska congressman that has ever been indicted on felony criminal charges."

OR-04: EMILY's List has endorsed state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle in the May Democratic primary for this open seat.

PA-18: Last week, state Rep. Summer Lee earned an endorsement from the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, which is made up of three prominent labor groups, ahead of the May Democratic primary for this open seat. TribLIVE.com notes that two of the unions took opposite sides in last year's Democratic primary for mayor of Pittsburgh: SEIU Healthcare supported Ed Gainey's victorious campaign, while SEIU 32 BJ stuck with incumbent Bill Peduto. (SEIU Local 668, the third member of the State Council, doesn't appear to have gotten involved in that contest.)

Lee, who also has the backing of now-Mayor Gainey, did, however, get outraised during her first quarter in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Doyle. Attorney Steve Irwin, who is a former Pennsylvania Securities Commission head, outpaced Lee $340,000 to $270,000, and he ended December with a $295,000 to $200,000 cash-on-hand lead. Another candidate, law professor Jerry Dickinson, began running months before Doyle announced his departure in October, but he took in just $120,000 for the quarter and had $160,000 to spend. Nonprofit executive Stephanie Fox also kicked off her campaign in December, but she didn't report raising any money for the fourth quarter.

Redistricting is still in progress in Pennsylvania, but there's little question this will remain a safely blue Pittsburgh-based seat when all is said and done. What we know for sure, though, is that, because the state is dropping from 18 to 17 congressional districts, all of these candidates will be running for a constituency that has a different number than Doyle's existing one.

SC-01: Donald Trump on Wednesday night gave his "complete and total" endorsement to former state Rep. Katie Arrington's day-old campaign to deny freshman Rep. Nancy Mace renomination in the June Republican primary, and he characteristically used the occasion to spew bile at the incumbent. Trump not-tweeted, "Katie Arrington is running against an absolutely terrible candidate, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, whose remarks and attitude have been devastating for her community, and not at all representative of the Republican Party to which she has been very disloyal."

Trump previously backed Arrington's successful 2018 primary campaign against then-Rep. Mark Sanford about three hours before polls closed, and his statement continued by trying to justify her subsequent general election loss to Democrat Joe Cunningham. The GOP leader noted that Arrington had been injured in a car wreck 10 days after the primary, saying, "Her automobile accident a number of years ago was devastating, and made it very difficult for her to campaign after having won the primary against another terrible candidate, 'Mr. Argentina.'" It won't surprise you to learn, though, that a whole lot more went into why Cunningham, who suspended his campaign after his opponent was hospitalized, went on to defeat Arrington in one of the biggest upsets of the cycle.

Mace, as The State's Caitlin Byrd notes, spent most of the last several years as a Trump loyalist, and she even began working for his campaign in September of 2015 back when few gave him a chance. But that was before the new congresswoman, who won in 2020 by unseating Cunningham, was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack. "I can't condone the rhetoric from yesterday, where people died and all the violence," she said the next day, adding, "These were not protests. This was anarchy." She went even further in her very first floor speech days later, saying of Trump, "I hold him accountable for the events that transpired."

Still, Mace, unlike home-state colleague Tom Rice, refused to join the small group of Republicans that supported impeachment, and she stopped trying to pick fights with Trump afterwards. In a July profile in The Atlantic titled, "How a Rising Trump Critic Lost Her Nerve," the congresswoman said that intra-party attacks on him were an "enormous division" for the GOP. "I just want to be done with that," said Mace. "I want to move forward." Since then she has occasionally come into conflict with far-right party members like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but Mace has avoided messing with Trump directly.

Trump, though, very much isn't done with her, and Mace seems to have decided that the best way to fight back is to emphasize Arrington's loss. On Thursday, the incumbent posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, "If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that." The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump's 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that's not going to stop Mace from arguing that Arrington is electoral kryptonite.

While Trump, who The State says is planning to hold a rally in South Carolina as early as this month, has plenty of power to make the next several months miserable for Mace, the incumbent has the resources to defend herself: Mace raised $605,000 during the fourth quarter and ended December with $1.5 million on hand. The congressman also earned a high-profile endorsement of her own earlier this week from Nikki Haley, who resigned as governor in 2017 to become Trump's first ambassador to the United Nations.

TX-30: Protect our Future, a new super PAC co-funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, has announced that it will spend $1 million to boost state Rep. Jasmine Crockett in the March 1 Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. Web3 Forward, which the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek also says is "linked to the crypto industry," is reporting spending $235,000 on pro-Crockett media as well. Until now, there had been no serious outside spending in this safely blue Dallas seat.

Secretaries of State

GA-SoS: Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger's refusal to participate in the Big Lie earned him a Trump-backed May primary challenge from Rep. Jody Hice, and the congressman ended January with more money despite heavy early spending. Hice outraised Raffensperger $1 million to $320,000 from July 1 to Jan. 31, and he had a $650,000 to $515,000 cash-on-hand lead. Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost to Raffensperger in 2018, was far back with $210,000 raised, and he had $110,000 on hand.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Bee Nguyen took in $690,000 during this time and had $945,000 to spend. Her nearest intra-party foe, former Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin, was well back with only $65,000 raised and $20,000 on hand.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Los Angeles' city clerk says that billionaire developer Rick Caruso has scheduled a Friday appointment to file for this open seat race, a move that comes one day ahead of the Feb. 12 filing deadline.

Morning Digest: Surprising census data shows Sun Belt states gaining fewer House seats than expected

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

Reapportionment: On Monday, the Census Bureau released long-awaited data from the 2020 census showing which states will gain seats in the House for the coming decade and which will see their congressional delegations shrink. In all, 13 states will feel the impact of population changes over the past 10 years, with six adding seats and seven losing representatives. These shifts are all reflected in the map above (with a larger version available here), but they contain several surprises compared to projections based on recent growth trends.

In a continuation of long-standing patterns, most of the increases in representation will be concentrated in Sun Belt states, with Texas once again leading the way in gaining two seats. However, while Florida looked likely to grow by two seats, it will only add one, and Arizona, which forecasts showed tacking on another seat, won't pick up any.

Conversely, losses will largely show up in states in the Midwest and Northeast, though New York avoided shedding two seats and came just 89 people away from standing pat. California, meanwhile, will experience its first decline in seats in state history. Montana, which lost a seat after the 1990 census, will once more send two members to Washington, D.C., though Rhode Island, which appeared to be on track to end up with just a single at-large district, will hang on to both of its seats.

Campaign Action

These shifts also affect the number of votes each state gets in the Electoral College, though they would not have altered the outcome of last year's presidential election and instead would have narrowed Joe Biden's 306-232 win slightly to 303-235. But the biggest impacts of the census won't be known until congressional redistricting is complete, a process that, thanks to delays in the production of necessary data, won't begin until August at the earliest and will likely last through a good part of next year.

We do know, however, that Republicans will once again dominate the redistricting process, just as they did following the 2010 census: As shown on this map, GOP lawmakers in the states will be able to draw new maps for anywhere from 38% to 46% of all districts while Democrats will control the process for just 16% of seats (the remainder will likely be drawn by nonpartisan entities or through bipartisan compromise). To stay on top of the mapmaking process as it unfolds, subscribe to our free weekly newsletter, the Voting Rights Roundup.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters hasn't even publicly expressed interest in a Senate bid yet, but Politico reports that hasn't stopped his Republican mega donor boss, billionaire Peter Thiel, from dumping $10 million into a super PAC to support him. Thiel recently made a similar investment on behalf of venture capitalist J.D. Vance, a likely GOP Senate candidate in Ohio.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, has reportedly been attempting to convince Gov. Doug Ducey to change his mind and run against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly after all, but Donald Trump is certainly not making McConnell's job any easier. The Daily Beast writes that Trump, who remains furious with the governor for not going along with his attempt to steal Arizona's electoral votes, has "told associates he would gladly and personally spoil any of Ducey's future political plans."

Trump even reportedly ranted that he'd go and campaign for Kelly if Ducey won the GOP nomination, a threat that, while few believe Trump would actually follow through on, shows just how much he despises his one-time ally. We may never find out just how far Trump would go, though, as the conservative Washington Examiner said last week that Ducey "continues to wave off the encouragement from fellow Republicans" to run.

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: Former Republican Rep. Doug Collins said Monday that he wouldn't run for anything in 2022. Collins, who gave up his seat in the House last year to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, had previously talked about campaigning against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock or waging a primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp.

OH-Sen, OH-13: It's really happened: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has launched a campaign for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat. Ryan, who is close to labor and had $1 million in the bank at the end of March, is the first major candidate to announce a bid for Team Blue, and he'll likely be the frontrunner in a primary. He'd face a tough general election battle, though, in a former swing state that supported Donald Trump by a wide 53-45 margin last year.

Still, the congressman and his allies are hoping that Ryan, who has represented the Youngstown area in Congress since 2003, will be able to win back the type of working class voters who backed the Democratic ticket until the Trump era. He very much seemed to be aiming his opening message at this demographic, declaring, "Ohioans are working harder than ever, they're doing everything right, and they're still falling behind."

Ryan himself has also managed to decisively hold the 13th Congressional District, which backed Barack Obama 63-35 in 2012 but only supported Joe Biden 51-48, despite its ugly trend to the right. Still, his 52-45 showing last cycle was by far the narrowest victory in his 10 House campaigns.

Ryan has, until now, explored running for statewide office numerous times only to stay in the House, but his congressional district may not exist for much longer. Ryan made his announcement hours before the Census confirmed that Ohio would be losing a seat. Ohio Republicans also will more or less have free rein to draw the new congressional maps as they please despite the passage in 2018 of a supposedly reform-minded constitutional amendment, and they very well could leave Ryan's would-be Democratic successors without a friendly constituency to campaign for.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari relays that Republican Rep. Mike Kelly or his team have told at least two of his colleagues that he'll seek re-election rather than run for Senate or for governor.

Governors

FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist recently created a political committee that allows him to raise money for a potential bid for governor.

NV-Gov: North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee didn't rule out a run for governor earlier this month just before he left the Democratic Party to join the Republicans, and political columnist Jim Hartman writes that he's indeed considering taking on Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak. Hartman also adds that 2018 nominee Adam Laxalt has turned his attention to a possible campaign against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and doesn't appear interested in another campaign against Sisolak.

SC-Gov, SC-01: Former Rep. Joe Cunningham announced Monday that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Henry McMaster rather than try to regain his old House seat along the South Carolina coast, which Republicans are poised to redraw in redistricting and could make much redder.

Cunningham lost his bid for a second term by a narrow 51-49 to Republican Nancy Mace last year as Donald Trump was taking the 1st District 52-46, and he'll face a decidedly uphill climb in a state that Trump won by a much-larger 55-43 spread. Still, Democrats are hoping that two uninterrupted decades of GOP governors, as well as a potentially competitive Republican primary, could give them an opening to score their first statewide win since 2006.

Cunningham is McMaster's only notable opponent from either party so far, but a few Republicans have shown some interest in taking on the governor. The most vocal member of this group is businessman John Warren, who lost the 2018 runoff to McMaster 54-46 and didn't rule out a rematch back in January.

VA-Gov: The Virginia Republican Party will be choosing its statewide nominees at its May 8 convention, but the Washington Post's Laura Vozzella says it will likely take "several days" to learn the winners. The party's State Central Committee voted Sunday to begin a hand-count of the ballots starting the day after the gathering, a lengthy process that involves instant-runoff tabulations; Vozzella adds, "Votes will be weighted based on each locality's performance in past GOP contests."

House

LA-02: The all-Democratic special election runoff for Louisiana's vacant 2nd Congressional District saw state Sen. Troy Carter defeat fellow state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson 55-45 on Saturday. Carter will succeed Cedric Richmond, who resigned from this New Orleans-area district in January to take a post in the Biden White House.

Many national observers saw the contest between Carter and Peterson (who are not related) as a battle between moderates and progressives. Both New Orleans-based legislators campaigned as ardent Democrats, but Peterson, who would have been the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, argued she was the more liberal of the two. Notably, while Peterson emphatically backed the Green New Deal, Carter would only call it "a good blueprint" and said he didn't support the plan. Carter, in turn, insisted he'd have an easier time working with Republicans in Congress than Peterson.

Carter did in fact earn the support of some prominent Republicans, including Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, but he also had endorsements from Richmond himself and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member of the House. Peterson, for her part, enjoyed the backing of Gary Chambers, a vocal progressive who took a strong third place in the first round of voting in March, as well as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and she also benefited from $1.2 million in runoff spending from EMILY's List.

However, other factors at work complicate the narrative that Carter's victory was a win for the establishment over progressive outsiders. To begin with, both Carter and Peterson have served in elected office since the 1990s, and Peterson even chaired the state Democratic Party from 2012 until just last year.

In a marker of their political longevity, both candidates also competed against one another for a previous version of this seat 15 years ago. Carter took a distant fifth in the all-party primary, while Peterson went on to lose a runoff to then-Rep. Bill Jefferson; Carter would unsuccessfully run again two years later.

Stephanie Grace of the New Orleans Advocate also notes that Carter had the support of very influential liberal politicians in New Orleans, an area that made up just over half the vote in Saturday's election. Among those in Carter's corner were Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams, a progressive reformer who won his seat last year by beating a Peterson-backed opponent, as well as City Council President Helena Moreno. And while both candidates supported LGBTQ rights, Grace notes that Carter's "longtime advocacy made him the favorite for much of that community."

Local New Orleans political divides also likely played a big role in the end result. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power-player in the Crescent City that has often clashed with Richmond and his allies. Both sides ran up some major wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and if anything, Saturday's runoff was a continuation of that long-running battle—one in which the Richmond-Carter bloc came out decisively on top.

Peterson had needed a good showing in Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, to make up for her losses in the rest of the district, but Carter instead carried it 53-47.

NJ-11: The New Jersey Globe mentions former Monmouth County Commissioner Christine Myers as a possible Republican opponent for Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill, though there's no word on her interest. Myers' name came up here in 2018 and 2020, but she opted to remain at the Small Business Administration during both cycles. Myers, though, was one of the many Trump appointees who recently lost their post in the federal government.

NY-24: The Conservative Party in Onondaga County, which makes up most of New York's 24th Congressional District, says it won't endorse Republican Rep. John Katko next year, putting the congressman at risk of losing a ballot line that's played a key role in sustaining his political career. Katko had previously lost the support of Conservatives in the other three counties in the district—Oswego, Cayuga, and Wayne—though the ultimate decision will fall to state party chair Jerry Kassar, who previously said Katko is "in trouble" and reportedly plans to defer to local leaders.

Katko has received a great deal of attention—and, from Donald Trump loyalists, scorn—for his vote to impeach Trump in January, but that's not the only issue putting him at odds with the Conservative Party. Die-hards are also pissed that he backed the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ rights, and that he voted to boot Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments due to her violent rhetoric. However, Katko also voted for the Equality Act in 2019 and still retained the Conservative Party's support the next year, so there may be time to repair the relationship.

Katko will certainly hope so: In 2018, he defeated Democrat Dana Balter by 13,694 votes—fewer than the 16,972 he received on the Conservative line. While his victory wasn't dependent on that line in his 2020 rematch with Balter, Katko might not be so lucky next year, especially if Democrats target him in redistricting.

Onondaga Conservatives say they'll ask Kassar to either leave the party's line blank or endorse someone else in 2022. The latter option could prove particularly self-defeating, but it's a tack not unfamiliar to right-wing extremists in New York: Republicans lost a special election in 2009 in what was then the 23rd Congressional District after the GOP and the Conservative Party nominated different candidates, allowing Democrat Bill Owens to flip a seat that had been red since the 19th century.

OH-01: Franklin Mayor Brent Centers recently filed paperwork with the FEC, but the Republican isn't ready to launch a bid for Congress yet. Centers recently told the National Journal's Kirk Bado that he wasn't making any decisions until he sees Ohio's new congressional map, though he added that he wanted to run for the seat in the Cincinnati suburbs.

The mayor also said of Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who appears to be his most likely opponent, "After 25 years, we need new energy. I would hope he retires." Chabot, however, has insisted time after time that he's not going anywhere.

OH-15: Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday announced the dates of the special election to succeed Rep. Steve Stivers, a fellow Republican who will resign May 16 in order to lead the state Chamber of Commerce. The filing deadline will be the following day, May 17. The primary and general will be Aug. 3 and Nov. 2, respectively, the same as the dates for the special for the 11th District.

TX-06: Republican activist Susan Wright picked up an endorsement Monday from Donald Trump less than a week ahead of the May 1 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright.

Trump made his not-tweet days after his camp publicly called out former wrestler Dan Rodimer for claiming, "Our campaign is the only one that has ever been endorsed by President Trump in this race." Trump did indeed back Rodimer last year when he was the GOP nominee for Congress―in Nevada.

Legislative

Special Elections: There was a special election on Saturday in Louisiana and there is also one on tap for Tuesday in Connecticut. First up is our recap:

LA-HD-82: Republican Laurie Schlegel defeated fellow party member Eddie Connick 52-48 in a runoff election to win this suburban New Orleans district. Schlegel was able to reverse her fortunes from the first round of voting, which Connick led 40-36.

This chamber is now at full strength with Republicans in control 68-35 (there are two independent members).

CT-HD-145: This is a Democratic district in Stamford that became vacant when former Rep. Patricia Miller was elected to the state Senate in a special election in March. Democrat Corey Paris is taking on Republican J.D. Ospina, and both candidates have run for office before; Paris waged a bid for a state House seat in the Bridgeport area in 2018 but failed to make the ballot, while Ospina ran for this seat in 2020, losing to Miller 77-23.  

This is a strongly Democratic district that backed Hillary Clinton 80-17 in 2016. Democrats currently control this chamber 96-54, with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams unveiled an endorsement Monday from Ruben Diaz Jr., his counterpart in the Bronx, for the June instant-runoff Democratic primary. Diaz, who is one of the more prominent Latinos in city politics, surprised almost all political observers last year when he decided not to wage his own campaign for mayor.

Other Races

CA-AG: Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert on Monday announced a campaign against Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta, who was confirmed to this post just last week. Schubert, a former Republican who became an independent in 2018, attracted national attention for her role in apprehending the Golden State Killer in 2016, and she would be the first gay person elected to this post.

Schubert presented herself as a counter to two prominent California criminal justice reformers who recently won district attorney races, Los Angeles County's George Gascón and San Francisco's Chesa Boudin. She joins a top-two primary that includes Republican Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor who is running on similar themes.  

VA-LG: On Monday, Del. Hala Ayala picked up an endorsement from Gov. Ralph Northam ahead of the June 8 Democratic primary. Ayala, whose 2017 win made her one of the first Latinas to serve in the state House, would be the first woman of color elected statewide in Virginia. She faces five rivals for the nomination, including three with significantly more cash-on-hand than her.

Morning Digest: Ann Kirkpatrick, who served in the House three different times, announces retirement

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

Leading Off

AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced Friday that she would not seek re-election in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, a once swingy Tucson-area seat that has trended hard to the left over the last few years but could look quite different next year.

Kirkpatrick is the first House member from either party to announce her retirement this cycle; Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson said in 2019 that she was running for "one last term" in 2020 but hasn’t confirmed those plans since her most recent victory in November. For now, Kirkpatrick is the first name on the 2022 Daily Kos Elections open seat tracker, a bookmark-worthy resource that we'll be updating throughout the cycle as new seats open up.

Kirkpatrick's departure will set off an open-seat race for the new district that emerges from her southern Arizona district turf, which, in its current form, started the decade as competitive but is now decidedly blue.

Campaign Action

The 2nd District, which includes about 60% of Tucson's Pima County and all of conservative Cochise County to the east, backed Mitt Romney 50-48 in 2012 and hosted incredibly tight House races that year and in 2014. Things started to change in 2016, however, when Hillary Clinton carried the seat 50-44, but Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who had narrowly prevailed two years before, was nonetheless decisively re-elected that year. Kirkpatrick, though, convincingly flipped the 2nd in 2018 when McSally left to run for the Senate, and she had little trouble holding it in 2020 as Joe Biden was romping to a 55-44 victory here.

Redistricting is an especially unpredictable affair in Arizona, though, and no one knows what the map will look like next year, since the Grand Canyon State’s congressional and legislative maps are drawn by an independent commission. However, Republicans have done everything they can to sabotage the commission and have stacked the board that appoints its members with GOP partisans.

There’s even a danger the commission could vanish altogether: In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the body's constitutionality by just a 5-4 margin, and since then, the court has moved to the right. If the commission is struck down, Arizona’s Republican-controlled state government would control the mapmaking process, and they’d be inclined to try to make the 2nd District red again.

But while the district's future shape is unknown, it didn't take long for Politico's Ally Mutnick to put together a list of potential Kirkpatrick successors. On the Democratic side, an unnamed source says that state Rep. Randy Friese is "likely" to run. Friese was a trauma surgeon who operated on then-Rep. Gabby Giffords and others after a gunman sought to assassinate the congresswoman in 2011. Friese got into politics soon after and narrowly unseated a GOP incumbent to win a Tucson-area state House seat in 2014, convincingly winning re-election ever since. Mutnick also mentions Pima County Supervisor Matt Heinz, who has unsuccessfully run here in the past, and state Reps. Andrés Cano and Daniel Hernández as possibilities.

For the Republicans, Mutnick says that state Sen. T.J. Shope "has been in contact with House Republicans about a 2022 bid." Shope's 8th Legislative District, as she notes, doesn't overlap at all with the 2nd Congressional District, though that could change under the new map. Mutnick also name-drops Corporation Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson, who was the GOP’s 2018 nominee here and lost 55-45 to Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick's departure ends a long career that, in a rarity, included three non-consecutive stints in Congress, including in two different congressional districts under the current map. Kirkpatrick, who grew up on the White Mountain Apache Nation reservation, got an early start in politics, campaigning for her uncle's successful bids for the state legislature, and she later sought a state House seat herself in 2004. Though Kirkpatrick is white, she ran in a northern Arizona seat that had long been represented by Native Americans and prevailed despite initial skepticism about her prospects, bolstered in part by her ability to speak Apache.

She soon sought a promotion in 2007 when Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican who would be indicted for public corruption months later, announced that he would retire from the sprawling 1st Congressional District in the northern part of the state. The 1st had supported George W. Bush 54-46 in 2004, but Republicans struggled to recruit a strong candidate in what was rapidly turning into an ugly election for the party nationwide.

The eventual GOP nominee, Arizona Mining Association president Sydney Hay, had a hard-right record that made her unappealing to many swing voters. National Republicans abandoned Hayes to her fate in September and Kirkpatrick won 56-39 even as home state Sen. John McCain was carrying the 1st by a 54-44 margin.

The new congresswoman was in for a far more difficult campaign two years later, though, in the face of a political climate that was the reverse of the one she’d enjoyed two years earlier. Dentist Paul Gosar, a tea partier who had not yet become the nationally infamous figure he is now, thwarted a Hayes comeback in the 2010 primary and focused his general election campaign on healthcare and immigration. This time, outside groups on both sides spent heavily throughout the race, but Gosar unseated the incumbent 50-44.

Kirkpatrick's time away from Congress would be brief, though. Arizona’s redistricting commission drew up a new 1st District that, at 51-48 McCain, was considerably less conservative than the version Kirkpatrick had just lost. Gosar opted to run in the safely red 4th District while Kirkpatrick campaigned in the open 1st against former Republican state Sen. Jonathan Paton. The campaign proved to be very competitive, but Kirkpatrick, who again benefited from her long ties to American Indian communities in a seat that was more than 20% Native American, won 49-45 as Romney was taking the district 50-48.

Kirkpatrick would have to defend herself again in 2014 in the midst of what turned out to be another GOP wave year, but things worked out very differently for her than they had in 2010. National Republicans anticipated that state House Speaker Andy Tobin would be a formidable candidate, but it was Kirkpatrick who ran the stronger race. In part, she was once more buoyed by her ties to Native communities, enjoying a turnout boost thanks to a simultaneous race for president of the Navajo Nation (she even recorded radio ads in the Navajo language). Kirkpatrick ended up prevailing 53-47, making her one of just five Democrats left in a Romney seat after the dust settled.

Kirkpatrick's win under difficult conditions for her party made her a sought-out Senate candidate, and Democrats were delighted when she launched a campaign to unseat McCain in 2016. However, while Team Blue hoped that McCain could lose to a far-right primary foe, the race became less appealing after he won renomination against state Sen. Kelli Ward. Prominent outside organizations on both sides largely directed their resources towards other contests, and McCain beat Kirkpatrick 54-41 even though Donald Trumps’ 48-45 win was the weakest for a GOP presidential candidate in two decades.

At that point, Kirkpatrick's congressional career seemed to be over, especially since fellow Democrat Tom O'Halleran had held on to the 1st District, but she soon began talking about challenging Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the neighboring 2nd District. Kirkpatrick, who’d said in 2017 that she was moving to Tucson for family reasons, received public encouragement from former Rep. Ron Barber, who had lost to McSally in 2014, and launched a bid that July. She didn't get the chance to take on McSally, though, as the congresswoman decided to mount an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Senate the next year.

Heading into 2018, both parties initially saw the 2nd as a major battleground, though in a break from the past, Kirkpatrick had to first get through a crowded primary. Her main opponent was the party's 2016 nominee, former state Rep. Matt Heinz, who tried to portray Kirkpatrick as an outsider and drew unfavorable headlines when he compared her to a meth addict.

Kirkpatrick won that ugly race 42-30, but she had an easier time in the general election. National Republicans had touted their eventual nominee, Lea Márquez Peterson, but she ended up winning her own primary with an unimpressive 34% of the vote against weak opposition. GOP groups initially aired ads against Kirkpatrick but triaged the race in mid-October as the political climate worsened for them, and Kirkpatrick won her new seat 55-45.

In 2020, for once, Kirkpatrick did not face any serious opposition either from her own party or the GOP. The congresswoman spent six weeks on a leave of absence from Congress that winter as she underwent treatment for alcoholism, but she made it clear she would continue to run for re-election. Kirkpatrick won what would be her final term by the same 55-45 margin she’d earned two years earlier.

Senate

GA-Sen: While acknowledging skepticism among the political class that Donald Trump favorite Herschel Walker might actually run for Senate in Georgia, the Washington Examiner's David Drucker reports that the former NFL running back "appears interested" and has been "making calls into the state." That preposition is the key word there, though: While Walker was raised in the Peach State and was a star on the University of Georgia's football team, he's resided in Texas for many years.

Trump's fulsome support for Walker—he not-tweeted "Run Herschel, run!" in a Wednesday press release—is also causing another issue. One unnamed Republican operative says that other candidates are avoiding the race "because they heard about the Trump-Herschel combo," and Drucker even suggests that Trump's obsession with Walker played a role in former Sen. David Perdue's decision not to wage a comeback bid.

A Walker candidacy still remains highly speculative, however, particularly since the one thing no one has managed to acquire so far is any sort of statement about his interest directly from him.

Governors

NY-Gov: In a flurry of coordinated announcements, almost every Democrat in New York's congressional delegation called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign on Friday morning, with the state's two senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, joining in later that evening. Cuomo has steadfastly insisted he will not leave office, even though the Democratic-run Assembly has begun an impeachment investigation into allegations of misconduct.

With Cuomo's political future in grave peril, more of his fellow Democrats are hinting that they might run for governor themselves, though it's not clear whether anyone actually wants to challenge Cuomo in a primary—he has yet to abandon his re-election bid—or if folks are just hoping for an open-seat race. Either way, CNBC's Brian Schwartz reports that state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Rep. Tom Suozzi have both been discussing bids with supporters and, through spokespeople, have not denied doing so. DiNapoli has unambiguously said that Cuomo should step down, while Suozzi stopped just short, saying Cuomo should resign "[i]f he cannot effectively govern."

On the GOP side, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said in a new interview that he's thinking about a second bid for governor, though he added that it "likely would be several months" until he announces a decision. Astorino was the Republican nominee against Cuomo in 2014 and lost 54-40. He also tried to unseat Democratic state Sen. Pete Harckham last year but fell short by a 52-48 margin.

VA-Gov: The GOP nomination for Virginia's gubernatorial election this year will be decided by just a few thousand party delegates, but two wealthy businessmen are nonetheless taking the blunderbuss approach to winning support. According to the Republican media tracking firm Medium Buying, private equity mogul Glenn Youngkin has spent just shy of $1 million to air TV and radio ads while "angel investor" Pete Snyder has forked out over three quarters of a mil. And what kind of ads are they running? The usual racist and xenophobic crap.

House

OH-11: SEIU 1199, which represents 30,000 healthcare and public sector workers in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia, has endorsed former state Sen. Nina Turner in the Democratic primary for the special election in Ohio's 11th Congressional District.

SC-01, SC-07: Former Fox talking head Eric Bolling, a vocal Trump supporter who left the network in 2017 after his show was cancelled when sexual misconduct allegations were levied against him, is reportedly weighing a bid for Congress in South Carolina, though exactly where is unclear. Politico's Alex Isenstadt says that Bolling could run in the GOP primary in the 7th District against Rep. Tom Rice, who voted to impeach Trump in January, or in the 1st District against Rep. Nancy Mace, who opposed impeachment but offered a few remarks critical of Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Bolling himself wouldn't confirm or deny the report, saying only, "South Carolina is conservative, and South Carolinians deserve conservative representation in D.C." Bolling only moved to South Carolina in 2018 and lives in Charleston, which might put him in Mace's district, or it might not—and definitely not in Rice's. Angry MAGA primary voters, however, are liable to care far more about loyalty to Trump than geographic ties.

TX-06: Republican Brian Harrison, a former Trump HHS official, is the first candidate to go on the airwaves in the May special election for Texas' 6th Congressional District. The spot is devoted to scurrilous lies about Planned Parenthood. There's no word on the size of the buy.

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced Friday that he would not seek a fourth term this year, a decision that New York’s political world has been expecting for some time. Vance had raised very little money over the last year, and eight different Democrats have been running for months to succeed him in this extremely blue borough.

Vance’s replacement will take over as head of one of the most prominent prosecutor's offices in America—one that’s frequently made headlines, both positive and negative. One such occasion (on the plus side of the ledger) came last month, when, after a lengthy legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Vance finally received Donald Trump's tax returns as part of his long-running investigation into Trump's financial dealings.

Vance’s 12-year tenure, while relatively long by many standards, turned out to be quite short compared to his predecessors’. When Vance won the race to succeed Robert Morgenthau in 2009, he was replacing a venerated prosecutor who took over the office all the way back in 1975 after beating appointed Republican incumbent Richard Kuh. The last person elected before Morgenthau was fellow Democrat Frank Hogan, who served from 1942 until he resigned in 1973, just months before his death.

Hogan's predecessor was the last Republican to win this post, Tom Dewey, who was elected to a single term in 1937. Dewey went on to become governor of New York and serve as the GOP's presidential nominee in both 1944 and 1948 (you may recall a certain newspaper headline about that).

The Democratic primary for this office will be held June 22, and the winner should have little trouble in November. Note, though, that while New York City voters backed a 2019 referendum to institute instant-runoff voting in primaries for many local offices, the measure does not apply to state-level posts like this one. Instead, it will just take a simple plurality to win the nod.

The field currently consists of:

  • Civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi
  • Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg
  • Attorney and former prosecutor Liz Crotty
  • Former prosecutor Diana Florence
  • Former prosecutor Lucy Lang
  • Public defender Eliza Orlins
  • Assemblyman Dan Quart
  • Former prosecutor Tali Farhadian Weinstein

There is no clear frontrunner at this point. Most of the contenders have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much needed changes to the post. The exception is Crotty, who calls herself a centrist and is the one candidate who has not refused to take donations from police unions.

Grab Bag

Demographics: The Texas Democratic Party released an an in-house analysis at the end of February looking at why Democrats fell short in the state in 2020, inspiring Daily Kos Elections contributing editor David Beard to take a deep dive into the report’s findings and what its implications might be for Democrats going forward.

The first part includes a summary of the report, a look at why field work isn't necessarily the answer to every problem in politics, and why the task of persuading voters is so difficult to talk about and analyze. The second part looks specifically at the shifts in the Rio Grande Valley and examines three potential explanations: a focus on unpopular social issues, a lack of investment and voter contact, and the fact of Donald Trump’s status as an incumbent seeking re-election.

You can sign up for Beard’s free weekly newsletter, The Roaring 2020s, for more analysis on this and other topics.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

Morning Digest: The next stop on our tour of 2020’s presidential results by district: South Carolina

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

Leading Off

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide makes its second stop in South Carolina, where Team Red enjoyed a stronger-than-expected year. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available. You can also click here to learn more about why this data is so difficult to come by.

Campaign Action

While most Palmetto State polls showed Donald Trump running well behind his 55-41 2016 margin of victory, Trump ended up taking South Carolina by only a slightly smaller 55-43 last week. Trump once again carried six of the state's seven congressional districts, with Joe Biden winning House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's heavily Democratic 6th District.

The closest constituency, not surprisingly, was the 1st District along the coast, where Trump moved downward from 53-40 to only 52-46. This shift to the left, though, wasn't quite enough for freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, who lost re-election 51-49 against Republican Nancy Mace.

Trump carried his other five seats by double digits. The closest was the 2nd District in the Augusta and Columbia suburbs, which supported him 56-39 in 2016 but by a smaller 55-44 in 2020. Democrats hoped before Election Day that veteran Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican who infamously screamed "You lie!" at Barack Obama during a congressional address in 2009, could be vulnerable there against well-funded Democrat Adair Ford Boroughs, but Wilson won by a comparable 56-43. The 6th District, meanwhile, moved from 67-30 Clinton to 67-32 Biden.

Georgia Runoffs

GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: Though the Georgia runoffs are little more than a week old, Advertising Analytics reports that $45 million has already been spent on the airwaves in both races, with $31 million coming from the campaigns themselves.

Republicans so far make up most of that spending: David Perdue has shelled out $19 million and Kelly Loeffler $6 million, while Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have spent $4 million and $2 million, respectively. Meanwhile, two super PACs aligned with Mitch McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund and American Crossroads, are each reportedly putting in $4.5 million.

Loeffler, unsurprisingly, is using her airtime to launch attacks against Warnock, who largely avoided getting targeted with negative ads during the first round of voting since Loeffler was pre-occupied with staving off fellow Republican Doug Collins. Now she's amping the usual GOP playbook to 11.

The first of her two new spots starts with a shot of young school kids (all but one of whom are white) with hands on hearts, presumably reciting the pledge of allegiance. A scary-sounding narrator declares, "This is America—but will it still be if the radical left controls the Senate?"

It gets predictably worse from there. Among other things, the ad claims Warnock "hosted a rally for communist dictator Fidel Castro" while showing some grainy footage from 1995. Warnock doesn't appear in the clip, though: His campaign says he was only a junior member of the staff at the church where Castro spoke and wasn't involved in the decision to invite the late Cuban leader.

The second ad resurfaces Jeremiah Wright, the former Chicago pastor whose incendiary sermons attracted great scrutiny during Barack Obama's first presidential campaign in 2008. It features footage of Wright angrily orating from the pulpit, interspersed with clips of Warnock defending Wright. The spot concludes with the narrator spitting, "Raphael Warnock: a radical's radical."

Warnock was one of several Black clergyman who spoke out on Wright's behalf at the time, saying his most inflammatory remarks had been divorced from the full context of the sermons from which they were drawn. Earlier this year, he stood by his past statements, saying, "Any fair-thinking person would recognize that everything a government does, even the American government, is not consistent with God's dream for the world."

Uncalled Races

Quite a few contests remain uncalled, but we’re tracking all of them on our continually updated cheat-sheet, and of course we’ll cover each of them in the Digest once they’re resolved.

IA-02: Democrat Rita Hart announced Thursday that she'd seek a recount in this open seat contest; Hart trailed Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by 47 votes as of Thursday afternoon. Miller-Meeks, for her part, has declared victory while refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden's win.

NJ-07: While the Associated Press called this contest for freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski just after Election Day, the race has dramatically tightened over the following week and plenty more ballots remain to be counted.

Malinowski went from holding a 28,400 vote lead over Republican Tom Kean Jr. on Nov. 4 to an edge of 6,275 as of Thursday afternoon. The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein projects that there are close to 38,800 ballots left to count at the very minimum, and "that number could be as high as around 60,000." The AP, though, has not retracted its call.

Called Races

IL-14: On Thursday, the Associated Press called the race for this seat in Chicago's western exurbs for freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. The congresswoman's victory also means that Republican Jim Oberweis has yet another high-profile defeat in his ledger.  

NY-11: Republican Nicole Malliotakis reclaimed this Staten Island-based seat for her party, and freshman Democratic Rep. Max Rose conceded on Thursday.

CA Ballot: The Associated Press has called a victory for Proposition 19, known as the Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment. CBS San Francisco describes Prop. 19, which passed 51-49, as a measure that "gives exemptions to older homeowners, the disabled and wildfire victims and strips breaks from people who inherit homes but don't live in them."

Maricopa County, AZ Recorder: Republican Stephen Richer reclaimed this post for his party by unseating Democratic incumbent Adrian Fontes 50.1-49.9, and Fontes conceded on Thursday. The recorder is tasked with administering elections in Maricopa County, which is home to more than 60% of the state's population and whose 4.5 million residents make it the fourth-largest county nationally. However, Republican county Board of Supervisors members took control of key powers from Fontes' office following his 2016 victory.

NC Auditor: The AP has called this race for Democratic incumbent Beth Wood, who turned back Republican Anthony Street 51-49.

Gubernatorial

AR-Gov: Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is termed-out in 2022, and the GOP primary to succeed him has been underway for well over a year now. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who previously represented central Arkansas in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2015, announced that he was running all the way back in August of 2019. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose 2014 victory made her the first woman and the first Republican to ever hold this post, also entered the contest in July of this year.

There may also be more takers for Team Red before too long. The potential candidate who has generated the most chatter for years is former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee: When Sanders was asked about her interest in this post in a September appearance on "Good Morning America," she only replied, "We'll see."

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren was more direct this month, and he acknowledged he was considering a gubernatorial bid on election night. Political columnist Steve Brawner recently wrote that Hendren could be a hard sell for GOP primary voters, though, saying he "made the career-killing mistake of trying to craft workable bipartisan solutions to challenging problems."

AZ-Gov: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is ineligible to run for a third term in 2022, and this swing state is very likely to be a major battleground. One Democrat who has gotten plenty of attention as a possible candidate is Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and she expressed interest in running at the end of 2019. Hobbs also predicted at the time she'd decide "probably in early '21."

On the Republican side, the Arizona Republic's Laurie Roberts wrote last month that state Treasurer Kimberly Yee seemed to be positioning herself for a bid. Yee, Roberts noted, appeared in commercials this year opposing Proposition 208, a ballot measure to create a new tax on high earners to fund schools.

Prop. 208 ultimately passed 52-48, but Yee's campaign against it may have boosted her name recognition. Indeed, Roberts notes that then-state Treasurer Doug Ducey himself increased his profile in 2012 by chairing the successful campaign against a referendum to fund education, a campaign that took place two years before Ducey was elected governor. Republican politicos also speculated last month that Ducey was behind Yee's anti-Prop. 208 campaign, with one consultant saying, "It's Ducey's attempt to anoint somebody in the next cycle because we know he's not happy with other elected officials in this state."

Roberts added that the Republican that Ducey seems to want to block is state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whom she says is "expected to make a run" for governor in 2022. Brnovich, who will be termed-out of his current post that year, has repeatedly clashed with Ducey; in September, Brnovich notably challenged Ducey's order closing bars in order to stop the spread of the pandemic.  

MN-Gov: Republicans have struggled statewide in recent years in Minnesota, which Joe Biden took 52-45 last week, but they're hoping that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz will be vulnerable in two years. Retiring state Sen. Scott Jensen recently told the Star Tribune's Patrick Condon that he was thinking about running, and Condon adds that state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is "seen as a likely candidate."

A few other Republicans aren't closing the door. Rep. Pete Stauber responded to speculation by saying he was flattered but focused on his current job, which is not a no. State Sen. Carla Nelson, who lost the 2018 GOP primary for Congress to now-Rep. Jim Hagedorn, also said when asked if she was interested in running for a statewide post, "I never closed any doors." Last week, Minnesota Morning Take also relayed, "Other names from solid sources on the 2022 Republican short list for Governor" include state Rep. Barb Haley and NBC sportscaster Michele Tafoya as possibilities, though there's no word if either are actually thinking about it.

Finally, it seems we're in for another cycle of trying to decipher My Pillow founder Mike Lindell's political intentions. A reporter tweeted last month that Lindell had told the crowd at a Trump event that he'd run, but KTTC quoted him at the time as saying, "Absolutely, if the president wins I'm gonna run." (Emphasis ours.)

Later on Nov. 4, Lindell told the Minnesota Reformer he had planned to run if Trump carried Minnesota, something that the far-right pillow salesman acknowledged at the time didn't end up happening. Lindell added, "But now I've gotta debate and I've gotta pray about it and see what happens with the presidential election. (They) might need me now more than ever." Days later, Lindell baselessly accused Joe Biden of only winning Minnesota through fraud.

NE-Gov: There will be a wide-open race to succeed GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2022, and there are plenty of Republicans who could campaign in this very red state. The only one we've heard publicly express interest so far is state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who acknowledged he was considering in November of last year.

On the Democratic side, 2018 nominee Bob Krist announced in April of 2019 that he was running again, a move that came months after he lost to Ricketts 59-41. Krist went on to endorse Republican Rep. Don Bacon in his successful re-election campaign this year.

PA-Gov: While there are plenty of Democrats who could run to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey said this week that he'd stay out of the 2022 contest.

SC-Gov: Republican Gov. Henry McMaster's campaign chief said in May of 2019 that the incumbent would seek a second full term in 2022. McMaster was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in 2017 when Nikki Haley resigned to become Donald Trump's first ambassador to the United Nations, and he was elected in his own right the following year.

Morning Digest: Ever heard of a ‘top-four’ primary? It could be coming to a state near you soon

Leading Off

Election Reforms: This November, as many as five states will vote on ballot measures that could dramatically change how their elections are conducted.

In Florida, voters will decide whether to institute a top-two primary system, while Massachusetts could implement instant-runoff voting. Alaska, meanwhile, could become the first state in the nation to adopt a "top-four" voting system, which, as we'll explain, is something of a hybrid between top-two and instant-runoff.

Top-four ballot measures have also been certified for the ballot in Arkansas and North Dakota. However, there's still ongoing litigation in each state that could impact whether or not these referendums would take effect if they won.

Campaign Action

We'll start with a look at the Florida top-two ballot initiative, Amendment 3, which needs to win at least 60% of the vote in order to pass. If this measure takes effect, starting in January of 2024, all the candidates in races for governor; the other three state cabinet offices (attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture); and for the state legislature would each compete on one primary ballot rather than in separate party primaries.

The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, would then advance to the general election. Candidates would not be able to avert the general election by taking a majority of the vote in the primary. Amendment 3 would not apply to federal elections such as the presidential or congressional contests due to limitations on the scope of any single initiative.

California and Washington already use the top-two primary (Louisiana also uses a similar all-party primary system that does allow candidates to avoid a second round of voting if they win a majority), and as we've written before, it's notorious for producing outcomes that don't reflect the desires of the electorate. One chief reason why: A party can win a majority of votes cast in the primary, yet get shut out of the general election simply because it fields a large number of candidates while the minority party only puts forth a few, or even just two.

Furthermore, primary electorates often feature very different demographic compositions than higher-turnout general elections, producing greater partisan and racial dissonance between the two rounds. These distortions have seen one party or the other get shut out of general elections in recent years in California and Washington, including in contests they likely would have won if the parties had gotten to nominate candidates through traditional primaries.

Indeed, if the top-two had been in place in 2018 when both parties had competitive primaries for governor, Democrats would have been locked out of the general election. That year, Republican Ron DeSantis would have taken first place with 29%, while fellow Republican Adam Putnam would have beaten Democrat Andrew Gillum 19-17 for second, even though Republicans outvoted Democrats just 51-49.

The only poll we've seen all year of Amendment 3 was a late May survey from St. Pete Polls, which found the "no" side ahead 44-35. However, Amendment 3's backers have received at least $6.2 million from conservative billionaire Mike Fernandez, who has been leading the effort to get the top-two implemented, which gives the campaign the resources to put up a serious fight.

Over in Massachusetts, meanwhile, supporters of instant-runoff voting (also known as ranked-choice voting), are trying to pass Question 2 this November. If Question 2 receives a majority of the vote, then starting in 2022, instant-runoff would be used in both primaries and general elections for governor and other statewide offices; U.S. Senate and House seats; the state legislature; and countywide posts such as district attorney and sheriff. The measure would not impact presidential elections or races for city and town offices.

The only poll we've seen this year was an early August survey from MassINC that showed voters deadlocked 36-36 on whether to adopt Question 2. If the measure passes, then Massachusetts would become the second state after Maine to use this method to decide many of its elections.

Finally, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, and North Dakota each will have the opportunity to become the first states to adopt a top-four primary. This system would require all the candidates to face off on one primary ballot, and the top four vote-getters would advance. In the general election, voters would then be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting. Each of these referendums only needs to win a majority of the vote to pass, but there are some key differences between them.

While each would apply to all congressional, legislative, and statewide races, only Alaska's Measure 2 would also institute instant-runoff voting for the presidential contest. North Dakota's Measure 3, meanwhile, would additionally remove the legislature's unfettered control over legislative redistricting and put it in the hands of a bipartisan commission.

North Dakota's top-four law would also take effect 30 days after approval, Arkansas' would start Jan. 1, 2021, and Alaska's measure would begin in 2022. The only poll we've seen from any of these three states was a mid-July survey from the Arkansas League of Women Voters, which supports the top-four measure, from Mercury Analytics that showed respondents agreeing by a 60-28 margin that they support "[a]llow[ing] voters to rank their top four candidates when voting in the general election so voters can have more say in their second choice candidate."

Senate

MA-Sen: The Sept. 1 Democratic primary has become particularly heated on the airwaves in recent days.

Sen. Ed Markey is running a commercial accusing Rep. Joe Kennedy of running a desperate campaign, while a spot from Kennedy's allies at New Leadership PAC features audio from the congressman's recent speech declaring that Markey was questioning his family's integrity. The ads come at a time when Markey has been trying to use Kennedy's membership in what is arguably America's most prominent political family (the congressman is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy) against him.

In an Aug. 11 debate, Markey took aim at New Leadership PAC, which Kennedy's twin brother and other relatives have been raising money for. Markey also brought up speculation that the congressman's father and namesake, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, could fund the PAC with the $2.8 million in campaign funds he still has available almost 22 years since he left Congress. "Tell your father and tell your twin brother you don't want any money to be spent on negative ads," Markey said in a clip that generated plenty of attention and quickly made it into the senator's digital advertising.

Markey also generated headlines with an online commercial that didn't mention Kennedy or his family directly, but concluded with the senator putting his own spin on the famous 1961 inaugural address delivered by the congressman's great uncle. "With all due respect," Markey said, "it's time to start asking what your country can do for you."

On Monday, Kennedy responded with the speech that was used in New Leadership PAC's new commercial. Kennedy declares, "I'm here today to talk about my family, because Sen. Markey is questioning their integrity, weaponizing their history." The congressman goes on to talk about his grandfather's record as U.S. attorney general during the civil rights era before saying he understands that "a legacy is earned." Kennedy continues by describing his own work in Congress and declares, "We deserve a senator who will not stand by."

Kennedy's campaign is also running a commercial where the narrator says he "knows how a legacy is earned." The spot goes on to show footage of RFK and the congressman's two legendary great uncles, JFK and Ted Kennedy, and says that for the younger Kennedy, battles for racial justice and healthcare for all are "a fight in his blood."

Markey's campaign, meanwhile, is airing their own commercial that contrasts the senator with Kennedy. After decrying how Kennedy is attacking the incumbent, the narrator quotes from the Boston Globe's Markey endorsement. The narrator reads how the senator has "been ahead of the curve championing progressive causes," while Kennedy "lacks the chops and track record Markey brings."

Markey's allies at United for Massachusetts are also up with a spot that also quotes the Globe endorsement, though it doesn't mention Kennedy. The ad extols Markey as "a progressive champion with chops" who has been "achieving real results on healthcare and the environment." The commercial also features images of Markey with two of his most prominent supporters, fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This has been a very expensive contest. From July 1 to Aug. 12 (the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period), Markey outraised Kennedy $1.4 million to $930,000, while Kennedy outspent the incumbent $4.3 million to $2.8 million during this time. Markey had a $3.5 million to $1.4 million cash-on-hand edge for the homestretch.

NH-Sen: Saint Anselm College's new poll of the Sept. 8 GOP primary finds wealthy attorney Corky Messner, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, with a 31-29 edge over retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc. A late June Remington Research poll for Bolduc had Messner up 17-8, while a mid-July Tarrance Group internal for Messner had him ahead 39-27. The winner will be the underdog against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in covering June 15 to Aug. 15. Democrat Mike Cooney outraised Greg Gianforte $725,000 to $582,000, while the wealthy Republican threw down an additional $1 million of his own money. Gainforte outspent Cooney by a lopsided $1.7 million to $209,000 during this time, though it was Cooney who ended the period with $670,000 to $330,000 a cash-on-hand lead. However, Gianforte likely can afford to do much more self-funding over the next few months.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College has released the first poll we've seen of the Sept. 8 Democratic primary, and it gives state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes a narrow 22-19 lead over Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky; an additional 13% say they'd back "someone else," though there aren't any other candidates on the ballot.

Feltes, meanwhile is using his second TV spot to go right after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu over his handling of school reopenings. Feltes appears with his wife and young children and says, "As parents, we just want to know our kids will be safe. That's why it's so distressing that Chris Sununu refuses to even put forward a plan." Feltes continues, "He says nobody has to wear masks. There are no clear guidelines. Teachers are afraid. Why shouldn't they be?"

House

CA-08: The general election for this open 55-40 Trump seat hasn't generated much attention, but Democrat Chris Bubser has released a poll from Global Strategy Group to try to change that. The survey gives Republican Assemblyman Jay Obernolte a 48-38 lead, which Bubser, who is a first-time candidate, argues will dramatically narrow once she gets her name out. The sample also finds Donald Trump ahead only ahead 49-44 in this seat, which contains northern San Bernardino County and the geographically vast, but sparsely populated, High Desert to the north.

Bubser ended June with a small $325,000 to $300,000 cash-on-hand edge over Obernolte, but she'll need much more to effectively communicate her message: Almost all of this seat is located in the Los Angeles media market, where it costs quite a lot of money to air TV commercials.

FL-18: Immediately after Pam Keith decisively won the Democratic primary for Florida's 18th Congressional District, Republican Rep. Brian Mast launched a $150,000 TV buy against her. The commercial, like so many Republican ads we've seen this cycle, ties Keith to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The narrator alternates between praising Mast's record and portraying Keith as an extremist, declaring at one point that the Democrat "called all Republicans 'traitors,' 'racist,' 'stupid,' and 'white supremacists.'" Parts of Keith tweets going after Donald Trump and his allies fill the screen, including an October 2019 message written during the House's impeachment inquiry into Trump where she asked, "I wonder if the GOP realizes that an entire generation of Americans is growing up knowing no other version of Republicans than the racist, white supremacist, bigoted, woman-hating, anti-science, delusional, gun-worshiping, treasonous greed-mongers currently on display."

Mast held a huge $1.8 million to $100,000 cash-on-hand lead over Keith on July 29, and he's likely going negative now to weaken her before she can effectively respond. Still, it's a bit surprising that Mast feels he needs to do this, since he's looked safe for a long time.

This seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, moved from 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump, and it remained tough turf last cycle. Mast won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and according to analyst Matthew Isbell, both Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis carried it 52-47 as they were narrowly winning the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial contests statewide.

Still, this district could be worth watching this fall, especially if 2020 turns out to be a better year for Florida Democrats than 2018 did, which may be why Mast has decided he needs to take action now.

GA-07: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the far-right Club for Growth has booked $900,000 on TV to attack Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, though there's no copy of the spot yet. The Club is backing Republican Rich McCormick, who badly trailed Bourdeaux $760,000 to $106,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of June.

MA-01: Democratic Majority for Israel recently launched a $100,000 ad buy against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, and their newly released commercial attacks him over the condition of the local school system. American Working Families, a PAC supported by labor, also began airing commercials earlier this month going after Morse on this.

DMFI's new campaign is the latest in what has become a very expensive intra-party battle for this safely blue western Massachusetts seat. OpenSecrets reports that, as of Friday, outside groups supporting Rep. Richie Neal have spent a total of $1.3 million, while organizations like the Justice Democrats and Fight Corporate Monopolies have dropped $995,000 to oppose the incumbent.

Neal's campaign also maintains a huge financial edge over Morse, though the challenger has been bringing in a credible amount of money. Morse outraised Neal $470,000 to $360,000 during the pre-primary period, while the incumbent outspent him by a $1.8 million to $490,000 margin during this time. Neal held a $2.8 million to $295,000 cash-on-hand edge for the final weeks of the race.

MA-04: Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss uses his new commercial for the Sept. 1 Democratic primary to contrast his time in the Marines, where he says leadership was "on you," with Donald Trump's refusal to take responsibility for his many failures.

NY-01: In the previous Digest, we wrote that an internal poll for Democrat Nancy Goroff found Donald Trump leading Joe Biden 46-42 in New York's 1st Congressional District. However, those numbers were transposed by the outlet that originally reported the poll. Goroff's poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, in fact found Biden ahead 46-42.

Ads: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is spending $2.5 million on August advertising in seven Democratic-held seats that Donald Trump carried in 2016. Politico provides a breakdown:

  • ME-02 (Jared Golden): $200,000
  • NM-02 (Xochitl Torres Small): $500,000
  • NY-11 (Max Rose): $260,000
  • NY-22 (Anthony Brindisi): $650,000
  • OK-05 (Kendra Horn): $500,000
  • SC-01 (Joe Cunningham): $200,000
  • VA-07: (Abigail Spanberger): $200,000

It is not clear if these buys come from CLF's existing reservations in these seats, or if it's new money. The only spot that is available right now is the group's ad against Horn, which ties her to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Other Races

PA-AG: Josh Shapiro, a rising star in Pennsylvania Democratic politics, won his bid for attorney general 51-49 in 2016 as Donald Trump was carrying Pennsylvania 48-47, but Republicans are hoping to unseat him this fall and regain a seat they'd previously held for decades. Shapiro is only the second Democrat to win this post since it became an elected office in 1980: The first was Kathleen Kane, who decisively won in 2012 but resigned in disgrace in 2016.

Republican nominee Heather Heidelbaugh recently launched what her campaign says is a $200,000 opening ad campaign. Heidelbaugh doesn't mention Shapiro directly in her spot as she talks about her tough upbringing, but her pledge to "serve my full term" was very much a dig at the incumbent, whom politicos widely expect to run for governor in 2022. Indeed, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who will be termed-out, was asked last year about the contest to succeed him, he pointed at Shapiro and said, "That's my guy right there."

Shapiro held a massive $4.1 million to $210,000 cash-on-hand lead over Heidelbaugh on June 22, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a group called Commonwealth Leaders Fund has booked a total $435,000 to help the Republican. The PAC, which the paper says has already spent $144,000, has been running commercials that ditch Heidelbaugh's subtlety and tear into Shapiro as "a career politician already looking to run for governor."

Shapiro responded in mid-August with what the Inquirer writes is his first TV spot. The ad says Shapiro is being attacked by dishonest commercials "paid for by people backing the insurance companies' candidate, hack lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh." The narrator goes on to praise the incumbent's service as attorney general, including his high-profile role in "holding Catholic Church officials accountable for covering up sexual abuse."

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: How a brazen campaign finance scandal led to this Florida Republican’s downfall

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.

Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming held their primaries on Tuesday. You can find current results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.

Leading Off

FL-15: Republican primary voters in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Tuesday denied renomination to freshman Rep. Ross Spano, who has been under investigation by the Justice Department since last year due to a campaign finance scandal, and instead gave the GOP nod to Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin.

With all votes apparently counted, Franklin defeated Spano 51-49. Franklin’s next opponent will  be former local TV news anchor Alan Cohn, who beat state Rep. Adam Hattersley 41-33 for the Democratic nomination.

Campaign Action

This central Florida seat, which includes the mid-sized city of Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, moved from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, and Franklin is favored to keep it in Republican hands. Still, the general election could be worth watching: In 2018, before news of Spano’s campaign finance scandal broke, he won by a modest 53-47 margin.

Spano’s defeat ends a short, but unfortunately for him quite eventful, congressional career. Spano, who was elected to the state House in 2012, had been waging a campaign for state attorney general in 2018 until Republican Rep. Dennis Ross surprised everyone by announcing his retirement. Spano switched over to the contest to succeed Ross, which looked like an easier lift, but he nonetheless faced serious intra-party opposition from former state Rep. Neil Combee.

Spano beat Combee 44-34 and went on to prevail in the general election, but he found himself in trouble before he was even sworn into Congress. That December, Spano admitted he might have broken federal election law by accepting personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then turning around and loaning his own campaign $170,000. That's a serious problem, because anyone who loans money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign still has to adhere to the same laws that limit direct contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.

The House Ethics Committee initially took up the matter but announced in late 2019 that the Justice Department was investigating Spano. The congressman variously argued that he'd misunderstood the law governing campaign loans but also insisted his campaign had disclosed the loan "before it became public knowledge" in the financial disclosure forms all federal candidates are obligated to file.

That latter claim, however, was flat-out false: As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno explained, Spano had failed to file those disclosures by the July 2018 deadline, only submitting them just before Election Day—after the paper had asked about them. Only once those reports were public did the paper learn that the money for Spano's questionable loans came from his friends.

Despite his scandal, most of the party establishment, including Sen. Marco Rubio and most of the neighboring Republican congressmen, stood by Spano. However, he had trouble bringing in more money, and Franklin used his personal wealth to decisively outspend the incumbent. The anti-tax Club for Growth dumped $575,000 into advertising attacking Franklin, but it wasn’t enough to save Spano from defeat on Tuesday.

P.S. Spano is the fifth House Republican to lose renomination this cycle, compared to three Democrats. The good news for the rest of the GOP caucus, though, is that none of them can lose their primaries … because the remaining states don’t have any Republican members. (Louisiana does host its all-party primaries in November, but none of the state’s House members are in any danger.)

Senate

AL-Sen: In what appears to be the first major outside spending here on the Democratic side, Duty and Honor has deployed $500,000 on an ad buy praising Sen. Doug Jones. The commercial extols the incumbent for working across party lines to protect Alabamians during the pandemic and "fighting to expand Medicaid to cover Alabama families who need it." The conservative organization One Nation, meanwhile, is running a spot hitting Jones for supporting abortion rights.

GA-Sen-A: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is running an ad going after a Georgia Republican senator's stock transactions … just not the senator you might expect. The commercial begins, "Jan. 24, the U.S. Senate gets a private briefing on the coronavirus. Georgia Sen. David Perdue gets busy." The narrator continues, "That same day, he buys stock in a company that sells masks and gloves. Then sells casino stocks and winds up buying and dumping up to $14.1 million dollars in stock."

Perdue, like homestate colleague Kelly Loeffler, has argued that these trades were made by advisers who acted independently. Perdue has also said that he was not part of that Jan. 24 briefing.

Meanwhile, SMP's affiliated nonprofit, Duty and Honor, is airing a spot that uses Perdue's own words to attack his handling of the pandemic. "Very, very few people have been exposed to it," the audience hears Perdue say, "The risk of this virus still remains low." The narrator continues, "No wonder Perdue voted against funding for more masks, gloves, and ventilators. And voted to cut funding at the CDC to combat pandemics."

GA-Sen-B: Georgia United Victory, which supports Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is airing another commercial attacking Republican Rep. Doug Collins, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that its total buy now stands at $6 million.

As pigs fill the screen, a truly bored-sounding narrator begins, "Another talking pig commercial? Good grief. We all know pigs are wasteful." She goes on to ask, "Is that the best comparison to Doug Collins? Oh sure. Collins loves pork for things like wine tasting and the opera." She goes on to say the congressman is too close to lobbyists and concludes, "He's laid quite a few eggs. Ever seen a pig lay an egg? Didn't think so." We really don't understand why this spot decided to go into the details of pig reproduction for no apparent reason, but ok.

IA-Sen, NC-Sen: Politico reports that Everytown for Gun Safety is launching an ad campaign this week against two Republican senators: The group will spend $2.2 million against Iowa's Joni Ernst (here and here), and $3.2 million opposing North Carolina's Thom Tillis (here and here).

Both ads argue the incumbents are too close to special interests, including the "gun lobby" and the insurance industry. The Iowa commercials also reference Ernst's infamous 2014 "make 'em squeal" spot by arguing, "She said she'd go to Washington and make them squeal. Joni Ernst broke that promise to Iowa and made the special interests her top priority." The narrator concludes that Ernst has actually left Iowans to squeal.

MA-Sen: Priorities for Progress, a group that the Boston Globe says is affiliated with the pro-charter school and anti-teachers union organization Democrats for Education Reform, has released a SurveyUSA poll that shows Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey narrowly leading Rep. Joe Kennedy 44-42 in the Democratic primary. Neither group appears to have taken sides in the Sept. 1 contest.

This is the third poll we've seen in the last month, and the others have also shown Markey in the lead. However, while the Republican firm JMC Analytics gave the incumbent a similar 44-41 edge in an early August crowdfunded survey, a YouGov poll for UMass Amherst and WCVB had Markey ahead 51-36 last week.

MI-Sen: Republican John James has publicized a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Gary Peters "just" 49-44; the survey, like most Republican polls this cycle, did not include presidential numbers.

There isn't any ambiguity about why James' team is releasing this survey, though. The memo noted that, while the Democratic group Duty and Honor has been airing commercials for Peters, there has been "no corresponding conservative ally on the air against Gary Peters," and it goes on to claim the Republican can win "[w]ith the proper resources." Indeed, as Politico recently reported, major Republican outside groups have largely bypassed this contest, and neither the NRSC or Senate Leadership Fund currently has any money reserved for the final three months of the campaign.

James is getting some air support soon, though. Roll Call reports that One Nation, a nonprofit affiliated with SLF, will launch a $4.5 million TV and radio ad campaign against Peters on Wednesday.

NC-Sen: While most Republican downballot candidates have largely avoided tying their Democratic opponents to Joe Biden, Sen. Thom Tillis tries linking Democrat Cal Cunningham to Biden in a new spot.

Polls: The progressive group MoveOn has unveiled a trio of new Senate polls from Public Policy Polling:

  • GA-Sen-A: Jon Ossoff (D): 44, David Perdue (R-inc): 44 (June: 45-44 Ossoff)
  • IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): 48, Joni Ernst (R-inc): 45 (June: 45-43 Greenfield)
  • ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): 49, Susan Collins (R-inc): 44 (July: 47-42 Gideon)

The releases did not include presidential numbers.

House

OH-01: Democrat Kate Schroder is running a TV commercial about the truly strange scandal that engulfed Republican Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign last year. The narrator accuses the incumbent of lying about Schroder to draw attention away from his own problems, declaring, "Chabot is facing a grand jury investigation for $123,000 in missing campaign money."

The ad continues, "After getting caught, Chabot blamed others. And his campaign manager went missing." The narrator concludes, "We may never learn the truth about Shady Chabot's missing money, but we do know that 24 years is enough. (Chabot was elected to represent the Cincinnati area in Congress in 1994, lost a previous version of this seat in 2008, and won it back two years later.)

As we've written before, Chabot's campaign was thrown into turmoil last summer when the FEC sent a letter asking why the congressman's first-quarter fundraising report was belatedly amended to show $124,000 in receipts that hadn't previously been accounted for. From there, a bizarre series of events unfolded.

First, Chabot's longtime consultant, Jamie Schwartz, allegedly disappeared after he shuttered his firm, called the Fountain Square Group. Then Schwartz's father, Jim Schwartz, told reporters that despite appearing as Chabot's treasurer on his FEC filings for many years, he had in fact never served in that capacity. Chabot's team was certainly bewildered, because it issued a statement saying, "As far as the campaign was aware, James Schwartz, Sr. has been the treasurer since 2011." Evidently there's a whole lot the campaign wasn't aware of.

The elder Schwartz also claimed of his son, "I couldn't tell you where he's at" because "he's doing a lot of running around right now." Well, apparently, he'd run right into the arms of the feds. In December, local news station Fox19 reported that Jamie Schwartz had turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney's office, which, Fox19 said, has been investigating the matter "for a while."

Adding to the weirdness, it turned out that Chabot had paid Schwartz's now-defunct consultancy $57,000 in July and August of 2019 for "unknown" purposes. Yes, that's literally the word Chabot's third-quarter FEC report used to describe payments to the Fountain Square Group no fewer than five times. (Remember how we were saying the campaign seems to miss quite a bit?)

We still don't know what those payments were for, or what the deal was with the original $124,000 in mystery money that triggered this whole saga. Chabot himself has refused to offer any details, insisting only that he's been the victim of an unspecified "financial crime."

There haven't been any public developments since December, though. The Cincinnati Inquirer's Jason Williams contacted Schwartz's attorney last week to ask if Schwartz had been informed of any updates, and the reporter was only told, "No, not yet." Unless something big changes in the next few months, though, expect Democrats to keep pounding Chabot over this story.

OK-05: State Sen. Stephanie Bice is going up with a negative commercial against businesswoman Terry Neese just ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in what will be a competitive contest for this Oklahoma City seat.

Bice accuses Neese of running "the same fake news smears she always sinks to." Bice continues by alluding to Neese's unsuccessful 1990 and 1994 campaigns for lieutenant governor by declaring that in her 30 years of running for office Neese has been "mastering the art of dirty politics but never beating a single Democrat." (Neese badly lost the general election in 1990 but fell short in the primary runoff four years later, so she's only had one opportunity up until now to beat a Democrat.) Bice then sums up Neese by saying, "Appointed by Clinton. Terrible on gun rights. Neese won't take on the Squad, because she can't beat Kendra Horn."

Neese outpaced Bice 36-25 in the first round of voting back in late June, and Neese' allies have a big financial advantage going into the runoff. While Bice did outspend Neese $290,000 to $210,000 from July 1 to Aug. 5 (the time the FEC designates as the pre-runoff period), the Club for Growth has deployed $535,000 on anti-Bice ads this month. So far, no major outside groups have spent to aid Bice.

SC-01: The NRCC has started airing its first independent expenditure ad of the November general election, a spot that seeks to attack freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham on the issue that powered his upset victory in 2018: offshore drilling. The ad tries to question Cunningham's commitment to opposing such drilling in a move straight from Karl Rove’s dusty playbook, but given how closely his image is tied to the cause—he defeated his Republican opponent two years ago, Katie Arrington, in large part because of her support for offshore oil extraction—it's a tough sell.

And while Nancy Mace, his Republican challenger this year, might welcome the committee's involvement, the move doesn't come from a position of strength. In fact, the NRCC's own ad seems to acknowledge this at the outset, with a narrator saying, "Your TV is full of Joe Cunningham" as three images from prior Cunningham spots pop up on the screen. It's not wrong: The congressman has been advertising on television since the first week in July, and he recently released his fifth ad.

Cunningham's been able to blanket the airwaves because of the huge financial advantage he's locked in. Mace raised a prodigious $733,000 in the second quarter of the year, but Cunningham managed to beat even that take with an $845,000 haul of his own. It's the campaigns' respective bank accounts that differ dramatically, though: Cunningham had $3.1 million in cash-on-hand as of June 30 while Mace, after a costly primary, had just $743,000.

As a result, she hasn't gone on the air yet herself, which explains why the NRCC has moved in early to fill in the gap. Interestingly, the committee didn't bother to mention that this is its first independent expenditure foray of the 2020 elections in its own press release, whereas the DCCC loudly trumpeted the opening of its own independent expenditure campaign in New York's 24th Congressional District a month ago.

TX-21: Both Democrat Wendy Davis and the far-right Club for Growth are running their first commercials here.

Davis talks about her life story, telling the audience, "[M]y parents divorced when I was 13. I got a job at 14 to help mom. And at 19, I became a mom." Davis continues by describing her experience living in a trailer park and working two jobs before community college led her to Texas Christian University and Harvard Law. She then says, "As a state senator, I put Texas over party because everyone deserves a fair shot."

The Club, which backs Republican Rep. Chip Roy, meanwhile tells the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek that it is spending $482,000 on its first ad against Davis. The group has $2.5 million reserved here to aid Roy, who ended June badly trailing the Democrat in cash-on-hand, and it says it will throw down more.

The Club's spot declares that Davis is a career politician who got "busted for using campaign funds for personal expenses," including an apartment in Austin. However, while the narrator makes it sound like Davis was caught breaking the rules, Svitek writes, "Members are allowed to use donors' dollars to pay for such accommodations—and it is not uncommon."

This topic also came up during Davis' 2014 campaign for governor. The campaign said at the time that legislative staffers also stayed at the apartment, and that Davis followed all the state's disclosure laws.

Polls:

  • AZ-06: GQR (D) for Hiral Tipirneni: Hiral Tipirneni (D): 48, David Schweikert (R-inc): 45 (50-48 Biden)
  • MT-AL: WPA Intelligence (R) for Club for Growth (pro-Rosendale): Matt Rosendale (R): 51, Kathleen Williams (D): 45
  • NJ-02: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jeff Van Drew (R-inc): 42, Amy Kennedy (D): 39
  • NY-01: Global Strategy Group (D) for Nancy Goroff: Lee Zeldin (R-inc): 47, Nancy Goroff (D): 42 (46-42 Trump)
  • WA-03: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-inc): 44, Carolyn Long (D): 40

The only other numbers we've seen from Arizona's 6th District was an early August poll from the DCCC that had Republican Rep. David Schweikert up 46-44 but found Joe Biden ahead 48-44 in this Scottsdale and North Phoenix constituency; Donald Trump carried this seat 52-42 four years ago, but like many other well-educated suburban districts, it's been moving to the left in recent years.

The Club for Growth's new Montana survey comes a few weeks after two Democratic pollsters found a closer race: In mid-July, Public Policy Polling's survey for election enthusiasts on Twitter showed a 44-44 tie, while a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had Republican Matt Rosendale ahead 49-47 a few days later. PPP and Civiqs found Donald Trump ahead 51-42 and 49-45, respectively, while the Club once again did not include presidential numbers.

U.S. Term Limits has been releasing House polls at a rapid pace over the last few weeks, and once again, they argue that Democrats would easily win if they would just highlight the Republican incumbents' opposition to term limits; as far as we know, no Democratic candidates have tested this theory out yet. These surveys also did not include presidential numbers.

The only other poll we've seen out of New York's 1st District on eastern Long Island was a July PPP internal for Democrat Nancy Goroff's allies at 314 Action Fund. That survey gave Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin a 47-40 lead, which is slightly larger than what her poll finds now, though it showed the presidential race tied 47-47. This seat has long been swing territory, though it backed Trump by a 55-42 margin in 2016.

Mayoral

Honolulu, HI Mayor: Former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who finished a close third in the Aug. 8 nonpartisan primary, announced Monday that she was endorsing independent Rick Blangiardi over fellow Democrat Keith Amemiya. Blangiardi took 26% in the first round of voting, while Amemiya beat Hanabusa 20-18 for second.

ELECTION CHANGES

Minnesota: Republicans have dropped their challenge to an agreement between Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon and voting rights advocates under which Minnesota will waive its requirement that mail voters have their ballots witnessed and will also require that officials count any ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within a week.

In dismissing their own claims, Republicans said they would "waive the right to challenge [the agreement] in any other judicial forum." That likely moots a separate federal case in which Republicans were challenging a similar agreement that a judge had refused to sign off on.

North Dakota: An organization representing county election officials in North Dakota says that local administrators are moving forward with plans to conduct the November general election in-person, rather than once again moving to an all-mail format, as they did for the state's June primary.

South Carolina: Republican Harvey Peeler, the president of South Carolina's state Senate, has called his chamber in for a special session so that lawmakers can consider measures to expand mail voting. Legislators passed a bill waiving the state's excuse requirement to vote absentee ahead of South Carolina's June primary, and Peeler says, "I am hopeful we can do it again."

However, Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas is refusing to convene a special session for his members, who are not due to return to the capitol until Sept. 15. That would give the state significantly less time to prepare for a likely influx of absentee ballot requests should the legislature once again relax the excuse requirement.

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