Morning Digest: Ohio Republicans who collaborated with Democrats try to ward off primary challengers

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

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Leading Off

Our two big stories at Daily Kos Elections on this Monday morning:

Ohio Republicans have been feuding for more than a year now, but with primaries just weeks away, hostilities between the warring factions have crescendoed to explosive levels. The official campaign arm of the state House GOP is spending heavily to protect a group of lawmakers loyal to Speaker Jason Stephens—who won his post thanks to the votes of Democrats. As you can imagine, the rest of the GOP is still furious and aims to take revenge. Get all the gory details on this major meltdown and how it could impact the next race for speaker.

A party's official endorsement can be a valuable seal of approval, but sometimes it's better not to seek it at all rather than lose badly. That, at least, seems to be the thinking of Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, who is running for North Dakota's open governorship. She's decided to skip the GOP convention and head straight to the primary. Read more about Miller's conundrum—and some informative recent history that suggests she might be making the right choice.


CA-Sen: A group called Standing Strong PAC, which recently began running ads designed to help Republican Steve Garvey advance to the general election, has now spent at least $5.2 million, per analyst Rob Pyers. The super PAC, which is run by allies of Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, has followed the congressman's lead by ostensibly attacking Garvey as a Donald Trump backer who is "too conservative for California."

IN-Sen: Wealthy egg farmer John Rust's Senate campaign got some ominous news Thursday when the Indiana Supreme Court placed a stay on a December ruling by a lower court that gave him the chance to appear on the May 7 GOP primary ballot.

While the state's highest court hasn't issued an opinion on the merits of Rust's case, his attorney predicted that when it comes, it will be bad for the candidate. Rust's team, though, says it might appeal an unfavorable decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rust, who is waging a longshot primary challenge against Rep. Jim Banks, is in this situation because of a state law that only allows candidates to run with the party they belong to. Because there's no party registration in Indiana, the easiest way for Hoosiers to establish their affiliation is if by casting their last two voters in their party's primaries. But while Rust most recently participated in the 2016 GOP primary, his prior vote was in the 2012 Democratic race.

Rust sued to block this law, and a lower court judge sided with him in December. The state Supreme Court heard the state's appeal on Feb. 12, days after candidate filing closed. No other Republicans challenged Banks.

MI-Sen: Former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers on Friday publicized a list of 110 "financial supporters" that featured multiple members of the wealthy and influential DeVos family, including former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Also on the list is former Gov. John Engler, who served from 1991 to 2003 and later had a turbulent stint as interim president of Michigan State University that lasted just a year.

MT-Sen: In the first poll we've seen out of Montana this year, SurveyUSA finds Democratic Sen. Jon Tester with a 49-40 lead over his likely Republican foe, wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy. The survey, conducted for KULR-TV, was finished the day that Rep. Matt Rosendale abruptly ended his week-long Senate bid and shows the congressman losing by an identical 49-40 spread.

Nebraska: Thursday was the deadline for sitting elected officials in Nebraska to file for the May 14 primary, even if they're seeking a different post than the one they currently hold. The filing deadline for candidates not currently in office is March 1, though some non-incumbents have already submitted their names to election officials.

WI-Sen: Former GOP Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed wealthy businessman Eric Hovde ahead of his planned Senate launch this coming week.


NC-Gov: East Carolina University's newest general election poll shows a 41-41 deadlock between Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a small shift from Robinson's 44-40 advantage in December. The sample favors Donald Trump 47-44 over Joe Biden.

ECU also looks at both sides' March 5 primaries and finds Stein and Robinson far ahead of their respective intraparty rivals. The attorney general outpaces former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan 57-7, while Robinson beats wealthy businessman Bill Graham 53-13.

WA-Gov: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson leading former Republican Rep. Dave Reichert 46-42 in its new survey for the Northwest Progressive Institute. That's a turnaround from PPP's last poll, which put Reichert ahead 46-44 in November.

What hasn't changed, though, is that Ferguson and Reichert appear poised to easily advance out of the Aug. 6 top-two primary. PPP places Ferguson in first with 35% as Reichert leads his fellow Republican, former Richland school board member Semi Bird, 27-9 for the second general election spot. Another 4% opt for Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet, while the remaining 25% are undecided.


CA-20: Republican businessman David Giglio announced Friday that he was ending his campaign and endorsing Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux in the March 5 top-two primary, though Giglio's name will remain on the ballot. Giglio made national news in October when he launched an intraparty challenge to then-Rep. Kevin McCarthy, but he finished the year with just $3,000 in the bank. Giglio also did not file to compete in the March 19 special election for the remainder of McCarthy's term.

CA-47: Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel flags that AIPAC's United Democracy Project has spent an additional $700,000 in its bid to stop Democratic state Sen. Dave Min from advancing out of the March 5 top-two primary, which brings its total investment to $1.5 million.

NC-13: A woman named Angela McLeod Barbour has accused one of the Republicans competing in the busy March 5 primary for North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, businessman DeVan Barbour, of repeatedly propositioning her for sex through phone calls and text messages, according to a new report from journalist Bryan Anderson.

"He wanted me to drive to his house and have sex with him," she said of the married candidate, whom she also claims was "fully unclothed" and intoxicated in his communications with her on the night in question in 2021. (The two are not related.)

DeVan Barbour, who has promoted himself as a proud husband, told Anderson in response that "[t]hese accusations are 100% false." Last month, Anderson described Barbour as one of the four main Republicans running to succeed Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel, who did not seek reelection after the GOP legislature gerrymandered his seat. The other three are attorney Kelly Daughtry, former federal prosecutor Brad Knott, and businessman Fred Von Canon.

TN-07: Two Republicans tell the Tennessee Lookout's Sam Stockard that they're interested in running to succeed GOP Rep. Mark Green, who unexpectedly announced his retirement on Wednesday. One prospective candidate for the August primary is former state Rep. Brandon Ogles, whose cousin, Andy Ogles, represents the neighboring 5th District. The other is state Sen. Bill Powers, whom Stockard identifies as a car dealer.

Other GOP candidates Stockard mentions are physician Manny Sethi, who lost the 2020 Senate primary to eventual winner Bill Hagerty, and former Williamson County GOP chairman Omar Hamada. Political scientist Michael Bednarczuk separately name-drops state Sen. Kerry Roberts in a piece for The Tennessean.

Stockard also runs down a further list of Republicans he says were "mentioned on a conservative radio talk show," though some of these options seem completely unrealistic:

  • 2023 Franklin mayoral candidate Gabrielle Hanson
  • Former State Department official Morgan Ortagus
  • Conservative TV host Candace Owens
  • Singer John Rich
  • Singer Kid Rock
  • 2023 Nashville mayoral candidate Alice Rolli
  • Music video producer Robby Starbuck

Kid Rock (real name Robert James Ritchie) spent much of 2017 flirting with a Senate bid in Michigan against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, but he never went for it. He later told Howard Stern he wasn't ever serious about the idea either, recounting that he'd informed Eminem's manager, "I've got motherfuckers thinking I'm running for Senate.' People who are in on it are like, 'Are you really doing it?' I'm like: 'Dude, you're fucking in on the joke! Why you asking me if I'm doing it?'"

Meanwhile, both Ortagus and Starbuck tried to run against Andy Ogles in the 5th District last year, only to be denied a place on the ballot by party leaders for failing to meet the GOP's criteria for running in a primary. Starbuck unsuccessfully sued, which is a big problem for his future hopes for office: The state GOP last month passed new by-laws stating that any person who's sued the party cannot appear on a primary ballot for the ensuing decade.

At least one Republican is demurring, though: Stockard writes that state Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson has conveyed to sources that he's not at all interested.

On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry began running for this 56-41 Trump seat back in December. Stockard also writes that state Rep. Bo Mitchell is "rumored to be considering." The filing deadline is April 4.

VA-07: Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson publicized an endorsement on Friday from 2nd District Rep. Jen Kiggans ahead of the GOP nomination contest. Anderson already had the support of Speaker Mike Johnson in his quest to flip the competitive 7th, which Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is giving up to concentrate on her 2025 bid for governor.

WA-05: Former Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich tells The Inlander's Nate Sanford he'll decide over the next two weeks whether he'll compete in the August top-two primary to succeed retiring Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a fellow Republican. Sanford notes that Knezovich, who did not seek reelection in 2022, relocated to Wyoming after leaving office.

On the Democratic side, both state Rep. Marcus Riccelli and state Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig tell Sanford they won't run for this 54-44 Trump seat.

Ballot Measures

NV Ballot: A Nevada state court has ruled that two proposed constitutional amendments that would establish a bipartisan redistricting commission cannot appear on the ballot because they would fail to raise the needed revenue. One of the proposals would take effect in 2027 and replace Nevada's current Democratic-drawn maps ahead of the 2028 elections, while the other would not come into force until 2031, following the next census.

Supporters have not yet indicated whether they will appeal or revise their proposals. However, they would have only until June 26 to submit the 102,362 voter signatures needed to qualify for November's ballot. Initiated amendments in Nevada must be approved by voters in two consecutive elections to become law.

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Don’t let Mitch McConnell win. Don’t let him destroy democracy

It’s hard to argue that there’s just one person responsible for the Republican Party having gone entirely off the rails of democracy. It’s been in process for decades, after all, arguably predating Richard Nixon’s resignation but definitely fueled by that in the past half-century. But if you want to find the person most responsible for using and abusing the levers of the systems the founders put in place to undermine democratic rule, look no further than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

His handiwork has reduced the Senate to the massive roadblock to progress that it is today. He was the first lawmaker to decide that something as once unimaginable as threatening to breach the debt ceiling could be used as a bargaining chip. He has made the filibuster business as usual for the Senate, forcing every single piece of regular legislation—however uncontroversial—to go through the arduous process of multiple procedural votes just to be considered on the floor. He refused to do one of the most sacred duties of the Senate—seating a U.S. Supreme Court justice—because he could.

The outgrowth of his brazen dismantling of norms is seen in what’s been happening in Wisconsin for the last several years, where a number of appointees of the former Republican governor, Scott Walker, are simply refusing to recognize Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and are refusing to step down, months after their terms have expired.

Vote Forward has an ambitious goal of sending 10 million letters in October to Democratic-leaning voters in the swing states. You can write these on your own time, in the privacy of your home. Click here to sign up or log into your Vote Forward account.

Mary Williams’ term on the Technical College System Board expired in May 2021 and Evers named her replacement. But the former Republican state representative refuses to leave. So do two other members appointed by Walker: Kelly Tourdot and Becky Levzow. Asked about it, Williams said, “All you have to do is see what the Supreme Court did.” When asked why she is squatting in the job when others have left, she answered, “Because everyone’s an individual. Now I’m going to hang up, and I don’t want you to call me again.”

She, and a number of other Republican appointees on her board and others, are taking the route of Frederick Prehn, who has remained on the state’s Natural Resources Board—at the urging of Walker—despite the fact that his replacement was named months ago. He’s sticking because the state Supreme Court’s conservative majority said he could. Sound familiar?

The court ruled that sitting members can stay on these boards until their successors have been approved by the state Senate. Which is controlled by Republicans. There are 164 Evers nominees who have not received Senate votes. Republicans, who assume they will hold the Senate, have been holding off on these 164 nominees on the assumption that they will keep the Senate and that Republican candidate for Gov. Tim Michel will win in November. At which point all of those nominations would be withdrawn.

It sounds very familiar, doesn’t it.

“There’s two different things going on here,” Miriam Seifter, an associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-director of the State Democracy Research Initiative told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “One is the situation where individuals assert the power to stay in office after the term has expired. The other is the Senate refusing to confirm appointees. If either of those things happen in isolation or rarely, neither one is democracy-altering. If these happen systematically and across the board … you would start to see the constraints of gubernatorial power.”

And you see the erosion of democracy, where the will of the people, the voters, is ignored. “Gov. Evers appointed highly qualified, dedicated Wisconsinites for the (Technical College System) and DNR Boards, and Republicans’ continued efforts to prevent basic, fundamental functions of our democracy is radical partisanship at its most dangerous,” said Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback.

It’s the McConnell playbook in action, and a cautionary tale for 2022. There’s little reason to believe that Republicans in any state in which they gain majorities and take governors seats—and state supreme courts—won’t do the same. There’s little reason to believe they wouldn’t take the next step and do everything they could to make sure that Donald Trump was installed as president again in 2024.

For that matter, there’s little indication to believe McConnell would really fight that eventuality, for all the attacks he’s endured from Trump. When he had the chance to cut off Trump’s path back to the White House with an impeachment conviction, he voted no. He urged his conference to vote no. He would do it again.

This is it. This is the election to stop Wisconsin extremism from infecting more states; to stop McConnell from taking the nation to that level with a Senate majority; to stop the House from going to Republicans who would threaten everything.

That’s why Daily Kos has engaged both broadly and deeply this cycle, with candidate slates at every level. You can learn more about all those endorsements here, and determine if there’s a slate—or even an individual candidate—that speaks to you, your volunteer time, your dollars.

It doesn’t matter how much you give, it matters that you do, and that you engage and help us defeat the fascists.

If you’d like to donate to every single candidate and ballot measure organization Daily Kos has endorsed this year all at once, just click here.

On this week's episode of The Downballot we get medieval on the traditional media for its appalling display of ableism in the wake of John Fetterman's recent NBC interview; recap the absolutely wild goings-on in Los Angeles, where City Council President Nury Martinez just resigned after a racist tirade was caught on tape; dive into the unexpectedly close race for governor in Oklahoma; and highlight a brand-new database from Daily Kos Elections showing how media markets and congressional districts overlap.