Morning Digest: Senate GOP has a big ad spending edge, but Democrats get more ‘bang for their buck’

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

Senate: NBC reports that Republicans have outspent Democrats $106 million to $93 million over the last three weeks across the nine Senate battlegrounds, but, because so many GOP candidates are relying on super PACs to make up for their underwhelming fundraising, they aren't getting as much "bang for their buck" as their rivals. That's because, as we've written before, FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio.

Perhaps no race better demonstrates this in action than the Arizona Senate race. The GOP firm OH Predictive Insights relays that during the week of Sept. 19, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and his allies outspent Republican Blake Masters' side 52-48 in advertising. Anyone just looking at raw dollar amounts would conclude that the two parties aired about the same number of ads during this period, but that's not the case at all. In reality, Kelly's side had a 4-1 advantage in ​​gross ratings points, which measure how many times, on average, members of an ad's target audience have seen it.

Republicans can blame Masters, whom NBC says has spent all of $9,000 on ads during most of September, for much of the imbalance. The Senate Leadership Fund last week canceled all its planned ad time in Arizona while arguing that other super PACs would step in, and this data shows why Masters badly needs this prediction to finally come true.

Outside groups, though, can still air more ads than well-funded candidates if they're willing and able to spend massive amounts the way the GOP is in Ohio. Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias reports that Republicans are airing 20% more commercials than their Democratic foes in the Buckeye State after spending or reserving almost three times as much. Democrat Tim Ryan, writes Tobias, is responsible for 83% of the ads coming from his side compared to just 8% for Vance, but the Senate Leadership Fund has committed $28 million here to bail out its underwhelming nominee.

Senate

NC-Sen: Both Democrat Cheri Beasley and her allies at Senate Majority PAC are airing new commercials charging that when Republican Ted Budd's farm company, AgriBioTech, went bankrupt in 2000, it chose to repay itself rather than pay back the small farmers and creditors it owed millions to. "The Budds took $10 million and left over 1,000 farmers holding the bag," Beasley's narrator argues, while SMP declares, "One grower said, 'we were the little guy,' 'we got screwed.'"

The story was first reported last year by the Washington Post's Michael Kranish, who wrote that "a trustee for farmers and other creditors alleged that his [Budd's] father, Richard Budd, improperly transferred millions of dollars in assets to his family, including Ted Budd." The candidate was not an official at ABT, though the story identifies him as a "significant shareholder." The trustee, which named him as a defendant in their civil case, also accused Budd of having "acted in concert" with his father "in connection with the fraudulent transfers."

The matter was ultimately settled in 2005, with Kranish saying that the "Budd entities" agreed to pay "less than half of the amount initially earmarked for the farmers and other creditors" without admitting to any wrongdoing. The settlement left some bad feelings, though, with one Wyoming farmer telling the Post, "We got screwed and there was not a freaking thing we could do about it. There was no way to fight multimillionaires."

Richard Budd, who became chief executive of ABT after it bought his family's seed company, defended the candidate to Kranish, arguing, "Your attempts to tie my son to this business are dishonest and offensive. I wish my personal efforts to save ABT had been successful, but they were not." Ted Budd's campaign also denied any wrongdoing, saying the trustee's claims were "untrue allegations that are typical in that sort of litigation."

Budd and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund, meanwhile, are each running commercials arguing that Beasley wants 87,000 more IRS agents, which continues to be a popular line of attack in GOP ads across the country. As we've written before, the agency reportedly will use the funds provided by the Inflation Reduction Act to replace many of the nearly 50,000 of its employees who could retire over the next five years. Many of the thousands of newly created IRS jobs beyond those positions would be in customer service and information technology.

And while the SLF has run ad after ad accusing Democrats of hating the police, its own commercial features menacing footage of what NBC says is "police raids and special agents at a gun range." Those videos accompany the narrator's prediction that "Beasley's gonna knock on your door with an army of new IRS agents" and that she "backs the liberal scheme to spend billions auditing the middle class, sending the IRS beast to collect her taxes on working families."

However, even Trump-appointed IRS Director Charles Rettig has stated that the agency would not crack down on those making less than $400,000, explaining that the beefed up enforcement of tax evasion would only target corporations and the richest 1-2% of households.

PA-Sen: John Fetterman is airing another commercial pushing back on Republican Mehmet Oz and his allies' ads hitting the Democrat's work as head of the state Board of Pardons, which has been the GOP's favorite line of attack in the general election.

"Here's the truth: John gave a second chance to those who deserved it―nonviolent offenders, marijuana users," Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny tells the audience, continuing, "He voted with law enforcement experts nearly 90% of the time. He reunited families and protected our freedom―and he saved taxpayer money." Kilkenny adds, "Dr. Oz doesn't know a thing about crime. He only knows how to help himself."

The GOP, though, is trying to push a very different line. Some of the party's favorite targets have been Lee and Dennis Horton, brothers who spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of second degree murder. The two in 1993 gave a ride to a friend named Robert Leaf who had just killed someone in a robbery, though they have always maintained that they didn't know Leaf had just committed murder. Gov. Tom Wolf last year commuted the Hortons' life sentences after Fetterman and prison officials championed their case, and the two went on to take jobs on Fetterman's Senate campaign.

Oz's campaign, though, has been happy to try to turn them into a liability for their boss, saying, "If John Fetterman cared about Pennsylvania's crime problem, he'd prove it by firing the convicted murderers he employs on his campaign." Fetterman, for his part, told the New York Times that if Republicans "destroy" his political career for advocating for people like the Hortons, "then so be it."

Polls:

AZ-Sen: Suffolk University for the Arizona Republic: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 49, Blake Masters (R): 42, Marc Victor (L): 2

NC-Sen: GSG (D) for Cheri Beasley: Cheri Beasley (D): 46, Ted Budd (R): 46 (May: 45-45 tie)

OH-Sen: Siena College for Spectrum News: Tim Ryan (D): 46, J.D. Vance (R): 43

PA-Sen: InsiderAdvantage (R) for WTXF-TV: John Fetterman (D): 45, Mehmet Oz (R): 42

PA-Sen: Marist College: Fetterman (D): 51, Oz (R): 41

Governors

PA-Gov: Campaign finance reports covering the period of June 7 to Sept. 19 are out, and they show that Democrat Josh Shapiro's $25.4 million haul utterly dwarfed the $3.2 million that Republican Doug Mastriano took in. Shapiro goes into the final weeks with a $10.9 million to $2.6 million cash-on-hand edge over Mastriano, who still has not so much as reserved any TV time and who recently lamented he's "[r]eally not finding a lot of support from the national-level Republican organizations."

P.S. Politico's Holly Otterbein flags that Mastriano received a $500 donation from Andrew Torba, the founder of the white supremist social network Gab. That's still far less than the $5,000 that Mastriano paid Gab in April for "campaign consulting," though.

Polls:

AZ-Gov: Suffolk University for the Arizona Republic: Katie Hobbs (D-inc): 46, Kari Lake (R): 45

CT-Gov: Western New England University for CTInsider and WFSB: Ned Lamont (D-inc): 55, Bob Stefanowski (R): 40

ME-Gov: University of New Hampshire: Janet Mills (D-inc): 53, Paul LePage (R): 39, Sam Hunkler (I): 1

OH-Gov: Siena College for Spectrum News: Mike DeWine (R-inc): 55, Nan Whaley (D): 32

PA-Gov: InsiderAdvantage (R) for WTXF-TV: Josh Shapiro (D): 52, Doug Mastriano (R): 37

PA-Gov: Marist College: Shapiro (D): 53, Mastriano (R): 40

Quinnipiac University last week gave Lamont a similar 57-40 lead in its home state.

Early September numbers from the progressive Maine People's Resource Center showed Mills up 49-38 in a race that hasn't gotten much attention from pollsters.

House

MT-01: Democrat Monica Tranel has publicized an internal from Impact Research that shows her trailing Republican Ryan Zinke only 45-43 in this newly-created seat in the western part of the state. This is the first poll we've seen from this 52-45 Trump constituency.

House: The Washington Post reports that top allies of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were involved in a serious effort to deny the GOP nod to several House candidates they feared would either threaten his power or prove to be weak general election candidates, a drive the paper says they concealed during the primaries by sending cash "from top GOP donors through organizations that do not disclose their donors or have limited public records."

Their most prominent target was North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who was a massive pain even before the far-right freshman claimed that an unidentified colleague had invited him to an "orgy" and that he'd witnessed prominent conservatives doing "a key bump of cocaine." Cawthorn lost renomination to state Sen. Chuck Edwards after a group called Results for N.C. spent $1.7 million against the incumbent, and the Post writes that two McCarthy allies were part of its effort.

The paper adds that the minority leader's people were involved in the successful drives to block Anthony Sabatini in Florida's 7th District and Carl Paladino in New York's 23rd, who were each attacked by a newly-established group called American Liberty Action PAC. Both men blamed McCarthy for what happened, and the Post writes that his allies were indeed working to stop them: "They would have been legislative terrorists whose goal was fame," explained one unnamed source.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is close to the GOP leadership, also openly got involved in several more primaries, though it got decidedly mixed results for the $7 million it spent. CLF's ads helped secure general election berths for California Reps. Young Kim and David Valadao; Mississippi Rep. Michael Guest; and Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei. CLF also managed to advance Morgan Luttrell through the primary for Texas' open 8th District over a candidate backed by the troublesome Freedom Caucus, while it spent $40,000 on get out the vote calls for Florida Rep. Daniel Webster.

The super PAC, though, failed to get its preferred nominees across the finish line elsewhere. In Arizona's 4th, restaurateur Kelly Cooper overcame $1.5 million in CLF spending meant to ensure that establishment favorite Tanya Wheeless was Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton's rival instead. Democrats have since launched commercials faulting Cooper for, among other things, having "compared federal law enforcement agents to Nazis and the Gestapo."

CLF also fell short in its efforts to block Karoline Leavitt in New Hampshire's 1st and Brandon Williams in New York's 22nd, while another organization it funded couldn't prevent Joe Kent from beating out Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the top-two primary.

But CLF's worst failure is arguably in North Carolina's 1st District where its $600,000 offensive wasn't enough to stop Sandy Smith. Democrats have spent the general election running commercials focusing on the abuse allegations that surfaced against her during the May primary, including a new spot highlighting how her daughter and two former husbands have accused her of domestic violence.

Obituaries

Mark Souder: Indiana Republican Mark Souder, who was elected to the House during the 1994 red wave but resigned in 2010 after revealing an affair with a staffer, died Monday at the age of 72. Souder, who was perhaps best known for his advocacy of abstinence education, was an ardent conservative, though he defied his party leaders in two notable occasions early in his career: Souder was part of the failed 1997 revolt against Newt Gingrich, and he voted against two of the four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton the next year.

Souder got his start as an aide to then-Rep. Dan Coats, and in 1994 he decisively won a six-way primary to reclaim the Fort Wayne-based 4th District that Coats had once represented. Souder’s opponent was Democratic incumbent Jill Long Thompson, who pulled off a big upset in the 1989 special to replace Coats after he was appointed to replace Vice President Dan Quayle in the Senate. However, while Thompson had convincingly won her next two terms, the terrible climate for her party powered Souder to a 55-45 win in this historically Republican area.

Souder quickly became entrenched in his new seat, which was renumbered the 3rd District in the 2002 round of redistricting: The congressman only failed to win by double digits once when he turned back Democrat Tom Hayhurst 54-46 during the 2006 blue wave. However, Souder became a tea party target in 2010 after supporting the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program and later the Obama administration’s Cash for Clunkers program.

Souder ended up turning back self-funding auto dealer Bob Thomas by an unimpressive 48-34 margin, but he had very little time to enjoy his win. Just weeks later, the married congressman announced, “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff,” and that he’d be resigning over the scandal. Souder, whose marriage survived the ordeal, never ran for office again, though he became a regular columnist for the Indiana tip-sheet Howey Politics and wrote extensively about Fort Wayne’s local TV and baseball history.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: The GOP shouldn’t have to bail out JD Vance, yet it’s pouring $28 million into Ohio

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

OH-Sen: The conservative Senate Leadership Fund announced Thursday that it was reserving―cue the Dr. Evil Voice28 million dollars in TV and radio time for after Labor Day to help Republican J.D. Vance fend off Democrat Paul Ryan in a contest where national Republicans likely expected to spend $0 just a short while ago.

Campaign Action

But Vance, who won the May primary shortly after getting Trump’s endorsement, has spent months dealing with articles detailing his fellow Republicans' complaints about his campaign, or lack of it. “The Republican faithful are telling me they can't find J.D. Vance with a search warrant,” conservative radio host Bill Cunningham told the Daily Beast in July. Fellow talk radio presenter Ron Verb was even less kind, griping, “I think he’s running the worst campaign that you could possibly run,” while one GOP operative said to NBC, “They are burning bridges faster than they can build them.”

Republicans also fretted about Vance’s underwhelming fundraising numbers from the second quarter of 2022, with one unnamed source telling the Daily Beast, “When the fundraising numbers came out, it’s full-on panic now.” It took another month, though, for prominent GOP groups to set their panic level to full-on even as Ryan and his allies released several polls showing him ahead in a state that Trump decisively carried twice.

The NRSC and Vance a few weeks ago launched a coordinated buy for $1 million to help the nominee air his first ad since he won the nomination, while its allies at One Nation devoted $3.8 million towards attacking Ryan. SLF’s investment, however, marks a dramatic escalation here: Indeed, NBC notes that the super PAC so far has devoted more money to only two other Senate contests, Georgia and Pennsylvania. SLF is almost certainly hoping that its $28 million offensive will at least be enough to sink Ryan and take this race off the map.

Even if it does, though, the damage may go far beyond Ohio: As one national GOP operative told NBC, “Every dollar spent on his race is a dollar not spent in a more competitive state.” That’s also an especially big sacrifice for Team Red to make now that SLF’s allies at the NRSC have needed to cut planned TV time in other races in the face of fundraising issues.

Senate

CO-Sen: Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is going up with his first negative ad against Republican Joe O'Dea, focusing on abortion rights. Bennet's commercial touts his work protecting abortion access while chastising O'Dea for opposing such measures and stating he would have voted to confirm Donald Trump's and George W. Bush's Supreme Court appointees, who were responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade.

NC-Sen, NC Supreme Court: Republican firm Cygnal, polling on behalf of the conservative John Locke Foundation, has surveyed North Carolina's hotly contested statewide races and finds the Senate election tied 42-42 between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd. That's an improvement for Beasley compared to Cygnal's previous poll in June, which had Budd ahead 45-40.

Looking further down the ballot at the state Supreme Court, Cygnal finds Republican attorney Trey Allen leading Democratic Justice Sam Ervin IV 45-40, which is a drop from Allen's 49-39 lead in June. In the other contest for an open Democratic-held seat, Republican Richard Dietz holds a similar 45-39 edge over Democrat Lucy Inman, a fellow Court of Appeals judge, which is also a modest gain for Democrats compared to Diet's 49-38 advantage two months ago. Democrats currently hold a 4-3 majority on the high court, but Republicans would flip it if they win either seat up this November.

OK-Sen-B: The Republican pollster Amber Integrated's first, and probably last, look at Tuesday's GOP primary runoff shows Rep. Markwayne Mullin beating former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 49-31. Mullin also got some extra welcome news this week when he earned the backing of Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Governors

AZ-Gov: An RGA ad attacking Democrat Katie Hobbs on immigration earlier this month featured a purported "advocate for human trafficking victims" who castigated Hobbs for enabling human traffickers to cross the border, but the Arizona Mirror reports that the woman identified as Traci Hansen has no involvement with actual anti-trafficking groups. Instead, Hansen has ties to QAnon activists, who have made false claims about human trafficking a centerpiece of their conspiracy theories, and participated in a march at the state capitol organized by a local QAnon adherent.

MI-Gov: The bipartisan duo of Republican pollster Fabrizio Ward and Democratic firm Impact Research have conducted a poll for the AARP that finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leading 51-46 over newly minted Republican nominee Tudor Dixon, marking their first foray into this year's contest. This result is notably closer than the few others released by other pollsters this year, who had found Whitmer similarly close to 50% but her opponent with significantly less support while the GOP primary was ongoing and Dixon was still getting her name out.

House

FL-01: While wealthy businessman Mark Lombardo has used most of his ads to remind GOP primary voters about the ongoing federal sex trafficking investigation against incumbent Matt Gaetz, his new commercial speculates without evidence that Gaetz is "the informant" who talked to the FBI ahead of its Mar-a-Lago search.

The narrator begins, "When Trump really endorses someone, he goes big. You've seen none of that for lying Matt Gaetz." After asking what Trump knows about the congressman, she continues, "Is Gaetz the informant? Gaetz hired Jeffrey Epstein's attorney. Another Epstein attorney approved the raid on Trump's house." The commercial tries to bring it back to Gaetz by arguing, "Remember, Gaetz pressured Trump to give him a pardon, but Trump said no."

Gaetz, for his part, is airing his own spot that utilizes clips of Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis praising him to the stars. While this piece is unlikely to generate anywhere near as much attention as Lombardo's commercial, more viewers in this Pensacola-area district may see it on their televisions: NBC reports that the incumbent has so far outspent his self-funding opponent $1 million to $400,000 on TV.

NH-01: A pair of newly released polls by Republican firms find 2020 GOP nominee Matt Mowers, who has the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, with a sizable edge over former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt ahead of the Sept. 13 Republican primary.

The first poll, by the Tarrance Group for the McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, has Mowers beating Leavitt 37-13 with 10% for state Rep. Tim Baxter, 8% for former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown, and 6% for former state Executive Councilor Russell Prescott. The second poll by co/efficient on behalf of the conservative-leaning NH Journal has Mowers ahead by a similar 31-16 margin while Baxter earned 9%, Brown took 8%, and Prescott notched just 3%.

These two polls stand in sharp contrast with a recent Saint Anselm College survey that found Mowers ahead of Leavitt just 25-21.

NY-10, NY-12: Donald Trump tried to troll Democrats in the 10th and 12th Districts on Wednesday evening by "endorsing" Dan Goldman, who was the House Democrats' lead counsel during his first impeachment, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney in their respective Aug. 23 primaries. Trump also sarcastically praised Maloney's main foe, fellow incumbent Jerry Nadler, writing, "You can't go wrong with either, but Carolyn Maloney is the better man." Congresswoman Maloney and Goldman both responded by making it clear how much they despised Trump, with Goldman calling it "a pathetic attempt at fooling Democrats who are far smarter than Trump is."

However, several of Goldman's intra-party foes―17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones and Assemblywomen Yuh-Line Niou and Jo Anne Simon―acted as though they believed Trump really was supporting their opponent; attorney Suraj Patel, who is trying to unseat both Maloney and Nadler, also said this shows "Donald Trump is scared of a younger, more dynamic Democratic Party." Two notable 10th District candidates, former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman and New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, avoided bringing the matter up.

Rivera is also getting some late support in the final days from Nuestro PAC, a group devoted to reaching out to Latino voters. The PAC is spending $500,000 on a TV and digital effort for Rivera, who like most of the field has not been airing TV spots herself in the ultra-expensive New York City media market.

NY-22: NBC reports that the Congressional Leadership Fund is spending another $170,000 to boost businessman Steve Wells in next week's Republican primary on top of the $350,000 it's already deployed on his behalf. Wells faces Navy veteran Brandon Williams, who has brought in considerably less money, for the nomination in a Syracuse-based seat Biden would have carried 53-44.

Mayors

San Jose, CA Mayor: In a surprise, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez earned a general election endorsement this week from City Councilwoman Dev Davis, who finished third in the June nonpartisan primary with 10% of the vote. The move was unexpected because Chavez and Davis hail from opposite political factions: Chavez is a longtime labor leader, albeit one who has influential supporters in the business community, while Davis has aligned with business groups.

Chavez' general election foe is City Councilman Matt Mahan, who has a similar voting record as Davis, and the defeated candidate acknowledged that "if it was only a question of similar views, my choice would have been easier—and it would have gone the other way." Davis, though, noted that Mahan had only been elected in 2020 and argued, "No successful large business hires an inexperienced businessperson to lead them. As voters in one of America's largest cities, we have to acknowledge that political leadership experience matters too."

Mahan earned an endorsement as well from termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, but the incumbent has long made it clear that Mahan is his guy. Indeed, Liccardo's PAC spent heavily to help Mahan in June, though Chavez ultimately outpaced the councilman 39-32 in the first round.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Abortion rights supporters win massive victory at the ballot box in Kansas

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

Leading Off

 KS Ballot: Abortion rights supporters won a resounding victory in deep-red Kansas on Tuesday night, sending an amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution down to defeat in a 59-41 landslide.

Republican lawmakers placed the initiative on the ballot in January of last year in response to a 2019 decision by the state Supreme Court that overturned legislation banning an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. In their ruling, a majority concluded that the state constitution protects "the right of personal autonomy," which includes "whether to continue a pregnancy." Only restrictions that "further a compelling government interest" and are "narrowly tailored to that interest" would pass muster, said the justices. The ban in question did not, and so more aggressive restrictions would not as well.

That infuriated Republicans, who were eager to clamp down on abortion if not ban it outright. They therefore drafted misleading language that would undo this ruling by amending the constitution. "Because Kansans value both women and children," the amendment superfluously began, "the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion"—even though the Supreme Court case had no bearing on such funding.

The accompanying explanatory text was also heavily tilted to the "Yes" side, saying that a "No" vote "could restrict the people, through their elected state legislators, from regulating abortion by leaving in place the recently recognized right to abortion."

Republicans further sought to tilt the scales in their favor by scheduling the vote to coincide with the state's August primary, almost certainly expecting light mid-summer turnout that would favor their side. That emphatically did not come to pass. Remarkably, the total vote on the abortion amendment was 25% greater than the combined tally in both parties' primaries for governor, meaning at least 150,000 voters showed up just to vote on the ballot measure.

In the state's most populous county, Johnson County in the Kansas City suburbs, at least 243,000 voters participated in the vote on the amendment, 90% of the turnout of the hotly contested general election for governor in 2018. What's more, the "No" side demonstrated considerable crossover appeal: While Democrat Laura Kelly carried Johnson 55-38 four years ago, the pro-abortion position prevailed by a far wider 68-32 margin on Tuesday.

A similar phenomenon repeated itself across the state, even in deeply conservative Sedgwick County, home to Wichita—the longtime headquarters of the anti-abortion terrorist group Operation Rescue and the city where abortion provider George Tiller was assassinated in 2009 while leaving church. Donald Trump won Sedgwick 54-43 in 2020, but "No" also won, 58-42.

Both sides spent heavily, about $6 million apiece, with half of the "Yes" funding coming from the Catholic Church. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the leading group that worked to defeat the measure, carefully targeted its messaging: Ads in Democratic-leaning areas warned that the amendment "could ban any abortion with no exceptions," while those in more conservative parts of the state avoided mentioning abortion at all and instead decried the measure as "a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions."

Amendment supporters, meanwhile, relied on more partisan framing, blasting "unelected liberal judges appointed by pro-abortion politicians" who "ruled the Kansas constitution contains an unlimited right to abortion, making painful dismemberment abortions legal." But even though Trump won Kansas by a wide 56-41 margin just two years ago, this sort of message failed to break through.

The final result also defied the only public poll of the race, a survey from the Republican firm co/efficient that found the amendment passing by a 47-43 margin. It will also buoy activists in Kentucky, who are fighting a similar amendment in November, as well as those in Michigan, who are seeking to enshrine abortion rights into their state's constitution. And it should serve as a reminder to Democrats that protecting the right to an abortion is the popular, mainstream position in almost every part of the country.

election recaps

 Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here. Before we dive in, though, we’ll highlight that the margins may change as more votes are tabulated; indeed, we should expect considerably more ballots to be counted in both Arizona and Washington, as well as Michigan’s Wayne County.

In Maricopa County, which is home to over 60% of the Grand Canyon State’s residents, election authorities say that they’ll use Wednesday to verify signatures for any early ballots that were dropped off on Election Day and that they expect an updated vote tally by 10 PM ET/ 7 PM local time; a large amount of votes remain to be counted in the other 14 counties as well. Washington, meanwhile, conducts its elections entirely by mail, and ballots postmarked by Election Day are still valid as long as they're received within a few days.

Finally, a huge amounts of votes remain to be counted in Wayne County for a very different reason. Officials in Michigan’s most populous county said on Tuesday evening, “Based on the recommendation of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guideline 2.0 issued by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, coupled with AT&Ts decision in March 2022 to no longer support 3G modems, 65 out of 83 Counties in Michigan are no longer modeming unofficial election results.” The statement continued, “We do not have a definitive time of when we will reach 100 percent reporting, but will continue to work throughout the evening and morning until this is achieved.”

 AZ-Sen (R): Former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, who picked up Trump’s endorsement in June, beat wealthy businessman Jim Lamon 39-29 for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in what will be one of the most contested Senate races in the nation.

 AZ-Gov (R): Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned far-right conspiracy theorist, leads Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson 46-44―a margin of about 11,000 votes―with just over 637,000 ballots tabulated; the Associated Press, which has not called the race, estimates that 80% of the vote has been counted so far. Lake, who trailed until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, has Trump’s endorsement, while termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey is for Robson.

 AZ-Gov (D): Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defeated former Homeland Security official Marco López in a 73-22 landslide.

 AZ-01 (R): Republican incumbent David Schweikert holds a 43-33 lead over wealthy businessman Elijah Norton with 96,000 votes in, or 82% of the estimated total. The winner will be defending a reconfigured seat in the eastern Phoenix area that, at 50-49 Biden, is more competitive than Schweikert’s existing 6th District.

 AZ-01 (D): Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, defeated former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf 61-39.

 AZ-02 (R): Trump’s candidate, Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane, enjoys a 34-24 lead over state Rep. Walter Blackman in another uncalled race; 76,000 votes are in, which the AP says is 90% of the total. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that Trump would have taken 53-45.

 AZ-04 (R): In potentially bad news for the GOP establishment, self-funding restaurant owner Kelly Cooper leads former Arizona Bankers Association president Tanya Wheeless 30-25; 56,000 ballots are counted, and the AP estimates this is 82% of the total. The powerful Congressional Leadership Fund supported Wheeless, who benefited from $1.5 million in outside spending to promote her or attack Cooper. The eventual nominee will take on Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton in a reconfigured 54-44 Biden seat in the southern Phoenix suburbs.

 AZ-06 (D): Former state Sen. Kirsten Engel defeated state Rep. Daniel Hernandez 60-34 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. This new Tucson-based seat would have backed Biden just 49.3-49.2.

 AZ-06 (R): Juan Ciscomani, who is a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, turned back perennial candidate Brandon Martin 47-21. Ciscomani always looked like favorite to capture the GOP nod against an underfunded set of foes, though his allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund unexpectedly spent $1 million to support him in the final days of the race.

 AZ-AG (R): The GOP primary has not yet been resolved, but Trump’s pick, former prosecutor Abe Hamadeh, leads former Tucson City Councilor Rodney Glassman 32-24 with 605,000 ballots tabulated; the AP estimates that 80% of the vote is in. The winner will go up against former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes, who had no opposition in the Democratic primary, in the contest to replace termed-out Republican incumbent Mark Brnovich.

 AZ-SoS (R): State Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Biden's victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol, defeated advertising executive Beau Lane 41-25 to win the GOP nod to succeed Democratic incumbent Katie Hobbs. Trump was all-in for Finchem while Ducey backed Lane, the one candidate in the four-person primary who acknowledges Biden’s win.

 AZ-SoS (D): Former Maricopa County Clerk Adrian Fontes leads House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding 53-47 in another race that has not yet been called. A total of 467,000 ballots are in, which the AP estimates is 77% of the total vote.

 Maricopa County, AZ Attorney (R): With 328,000 votes in, appointed incumbent Rachel Mitchell leads former City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere 58-42 in the special election primary to succeed Allister Adel, a fellow Republican who resigned in March and died the next month. The winner will face Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel 51-49 in 2020; this post will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.

 KS-AG (R): He’s back: Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated state Sen. Kellie Warren 42-38 in a tight primary to succeed Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who easily won his own GOP primary to take on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Kobach, a notorious voter suppression zealot who lost to Kelly in a 2018 upset, will take on attorney Chris Mann, who had no Democratic primary opposition.

 MI-Gov (R): Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon won the nomination to face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by defeating wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke 41-22; Dixon picked up Trump’s endorsement in the final days of the campaign, though he only supported her when it was clear she was the frontrunner. Note that these totals don’t include write-ins, so we don’t know yet exactly how poorly former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s last-ditch effort went.

 MI-03 (R): Conservative commentator John Gibbs’ Trump-backed campaign denied renomination to freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote for impeachment, 52-48. Meijer and his allies massively outspent Gibbs’ side, though the challenger got a late boost from Democrats who believe he’d be easier to beat in November.

Gibbs will now go up against 2020 Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten, who had no primary opposition in her second campaign. Meijer defeated Scholten 53-47 in 2020 as Trump was taking the old 3rd 51-47, but Michigan's new independent redistricting commission dramatically transformed this Grand Rapids-based constituency into a new 53-45 Biden seat.

 MI-08 (R): Former Trump administration official Paul Junge beat former Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Matthew Seely 54-24 for the right to take on Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. Junge lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in the old 8th District in 2020 and decided to run here even though the old and new 8th Districts do not overlap. Biden would have carried the revamped version of this seat in the Flint and Saginaw areas 50-48.

 MI-10 (D): Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga beat former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell 48-17 in the Democratic primary for a redrawn seat in Detroit's northeastern suburbs that's open because of the incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchup in the 11th (see just below).

Marlinga will face Army veteran John James, who was Team Red's Senate nominee in 2018 and 2020, in a constituency Trump would have taken 50-49. James narrowly lost to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters within the confines of the new 10th by a 49.3-48.6 margin last cycle, but he begins this general election with a massive financial lead.

 MI-11 (D): Rep. Haley Stevens beat her fellow two-term incumbent, Andy Levin, 60-40 in the Democratic primary for a revamped seat in Detroit’s northern suburbs that Biden would have carried 59-39. Stevens represented considerably more of the new seat than Levin, whom some Democrats hoped would campaign in the 10th instead of running here; Stevens and her allies, led by the hawkish pro-Israel organization AIPAC, also massively outspent Levin’s side.

 MI-12 (D): Rep. Rashida Tlaib turned back Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey 65-20 in this safely blue seat. The AP estimates only 66% of the vote is counted because of the aforementioned delays in Wayne County, but the agency has called the contest for the incumbent.

 MI-13 (D): Wealthy state Rep. Shri Thanedar leads state Sen. Adam Hollier 28-24 with 51,000 votes tabulated in this loyally blue Detroit-based constituency, but the AP estimates that this represents only 49% of the total vote and has not made a call here.

 MO-Sen (R): Attorney General Eric Schmitt beat Rep. Vicky Hartzler 46-22 in the primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Roy Blunt; disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, who was the other “ERIC” Trump endorsed one day before the primary, took third with only 19%. (Yet another Eric, Some Dude Eric McElroy, clocked in at 0.4%.) Republican leaders who weren’t Trump feared that the scandal-ridden Greitens could jeopardize the party’s chances in this red state if he were nominated, and Politico reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies at the Senate Leadership Fund quietly financed the main anti-Greitens super PAC.

Schmitt, though, will be the favorite against businesswoman Trudy Busch Valentine, who claimed the Democratic nod by beating Marine veteran Lucas Kunce 43-38. A onetime Republican, former U.S. Attorney John Wood, is also campaigning as an independent.

 MO-01 (D): Rep. Cori Bush turned back state Sen. Steve Roberts 70-27 to win renomination in this safely blue St. Louis seat.

 MO-04 (R): Former Kansas City TV anchor Mark Alford won the nod to succeed unsuccessful Senate candidate Vicky Hartzler by beating state Sen. Rick Brattin 35-21 in this dark red western Missouri seat. Brattin had the backing of School Freedom Fund, a deep-pocketed affiliate of the anti-tax Club for Growth, while the crypto-aligned American Dream Federal Action and Conservative Americans PAC supported Alford.

 MO-07 (R): Eric Burlison defeated fellow state Sen. Jay Wasson 38-23 to claim the nomination to replace Rep. Billy Long, who gave up this safely red southwestern Missouri seat only to come in a distant fourth in the Senate race. Burlison had the backing of both the Club for Growth and nihilistic House Freedom Caucus.

 WA-03: The AP has not yet called either general election spot in the top-two primary for this 51-46 Trump seat in southwestern Washington. With 105,000 votes counted, which represents an estimated 57% of the vote, Democrat Marie Perez is in first with 32%. GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted for impeachment, holds a 25-20 edge over Trump’s candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent.

 WA-04: Things are similarly unresolved in this 57-40 Trump seat in eastern Washington with 74,000 votes in, which makes up an estimated 47% of the total vote. GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also supported impeaching Trump, is in first with 27%; Democrat Doug White leads Trump’s pick, 2020 GOP gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, 26-22 for second.

 WA-08: Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier took first with 49% in this 52-45 Biden seat in suburban Seattle, but we don’t yet know which Republican she’ll be going up against. With 110,000 ballots in, or 53% of the estimated total, 2020 attorney general nominee Matt Larkin is edging out King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn 16-15; Jesse Jensen, who came unexpectedly close to beating Schrier in 2020, is in third with 13%.

 WA-SoS: Appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs easily secured a spot in the November special election, but he may need to wait a while to learn who his opponent will be. With 965,000 votes in, which the AP estimates is 47% of the total, Hobbs is in first with 41%; Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party, enjoys a 12.9-12.4 edge over a first-time GOP candidate named Bob Hagglund, while Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner is just behind with 12.2%.

Governors

 NY-Gov: Siena College's first general election poll finds Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul defeating Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin 53-39; this is the first survey from a reliable pollster since both candidates won their respective primaries in late June.

 RI-Gov: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has publicized a Lake Research Partners internal that shows her beating Gov. Dan McKee 27-22 in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary; former CVS executive Helena Foulkes takes 14%, while former Secretary of State Matt Brown is a distant fourth with just 7%. The last survey we saw was a late June poll from Suffolk University that gave Gorbea a similar 24-20 edge over the governor as Foulkes grabbed 16%.

Campaign finance reports are also now available for all the candidates for the second quarter of the year:

  • Foulkes: $550,000 raised, $1.4 million spent, $690,000 cash-on-hand
  • McKee: $280,000 raised, $140,000 spent, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • Gorbea: $270,000 raised, $380,000 spent, $790,000 cash-on-hand
  • Brown: $50,000 raised, additional $30,000 reimbursed, $90,000 spent, $70,000 cash-on-hand

The only serious Republican in the running is businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who raised only a little more than $60,000 from donors during this time but self-funded another $1.7 million. Kalus spent $1.1 million, and she had that same amount available at the end of June.

House

 HI-02: While former state Sen. Jill Tokuda has far outraised her only serious intra-party rival, state Rep. Patrick Branco, ahead of the Aug. 13 Democratic primary for this open seat, outside groups have spent a total of $1 million to help Branco. One of the state representative's allies, VoteVets, recently aired an ad attacking Tokuda for receiving a 2012 endorsement from the NRA; the spot does not mention Branco, a former U.S. Foreign Service diplomat who served in Colombia and Pakistan.

Another major Branco backer is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is hoping to elect Hawaii's first Latino member of Congress. The other organizations in his corner are the crypto-aligned Web3 Forward and Mainstream Democrats PAC, a new group with the stated purpose of thwarting "far-left organizations" that want to take over the Democratic Party. The only poll we've seen here was a late June MRG Research survey for Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now that put Tokuda ahead 31-6, but it was conducted before Blanco's allies began spending here.

 IL-02: Rep. Robin Kelly on Friday evening ended her bid to stay on as state Democratic Party chair after acknowledging that she did not have a majority of the Central Committee in her corner. The next day, the body unanimously chose state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, who had the backing of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, as the new party chair.

 OK-02: Fund for a Working Congress, a conservative super PAC that has gotten involved in a few other GOP primaries this cycle, has deployed $400,000 to aid state Rep. Avery Frix in his Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff against former state Sen. Josh Brecheen. The group made its move around the same time that the Club for Growth-backed School Freedom Fund dropped a larger $1.1 million to boost Brecheen.

 TN-05: Retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead has released a Spry Strategies internal that shows him trailing former state House Speaker Beth Harwell 22-20 ahead of Thursday's Republican primary for this newly-gerrymandered seat; Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles is in third with 15%, while an underfunded contender named Timothy Lee takes 10%.

Mayors

 Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday endorsed Democratic Rep. Karen Bass ahead of November's officially nonpartisan general election to lead America's second-largest city. Bass' opponent this fall is billionaire developer Rick Caruso, a former Republican and independent who is now a self-described "pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat."

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: D.A. leading reform charge in Philadelphia faces primary challenge from skeptic

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

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: Larry Krasner's 2017 victory in the race for Philadelphia district attorney gave criminal justice reformers an early high-profile win, but he faces a competitive May 18 Democratic primary fight to hold onto his office. Krasner's opponent is former prosecutor Carlos Vega, who has argued that the incumbent has been running "an experiment that is costing the lives of our children." The eventual nominee should have no trouble in the November general election in this heavily blue city.

Politico's Holly Otterbein writes that Vega, who was one of the 31 prosecutors whom Krasner fired shortly into his tenure, has avoided "campaigning as a tough-on-crime politician." Vega instead has argued he can deliver "real progressive reform" and insisted that "we don't have to choose between safety and reform." Vega has also blamed the city's spike in homicides on the district attorney's policies.

Krasner has responded by pointing out that murders have increased nationwide for reasons far beyond his control, saying, "What has happened, and essentially every criminologist agrees on this, is that the pandemic, closing of society and closing of so many different aspects of what protects and surrounds especially young men have disappeared." Krasner has further defended himself by arguing, as Otterbein writes, that he's "delivered on his campaign promises by lowering the jail population, exonerating the innocent and reducing the amount of time people are on probation and parole."

Campaign Action

The incumbent, in turn, is framing his contest as a choice between criminal justice reform and "past that echoes with names like [Frank] Rizzo," the city's racist late mayor. Krasner is also trying to turn the local Fraternal Order of Police's support for Vega into a liability by pointing out that the national organization backed Donald Trump last year. Vela, who was the first Latino homicide prosecutor in Pennsylvania, has pushed back, saying it was "really rich" for Krasner to compare him to Trump "when this is coming from a person who's white, elite, from an Ivy League school."

Krasner outraised his opponent by hauling in $420,000 during the first three months of 2021, but Vega still brought in a credible $340,000. Krasner also has to deal with a well-funded group called Protect Our Police PAC, which has mostly been financed by pro-Trump megadonor Timothy Mellon. The PAC, though, generated plenty of negative attention in early April when it sent out a fundraising email falsely blaming George Floyd for his own death.

Vela quickly disavowed the group, which blamed the message on a marketing firm, and said he didn't want its backing. Protect Our Police, in turn, responded by saying that it wasn't endorsing Vela but was "laser-focused" on unseating Krasner.

One major question looming over the race is whether billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has in the past donated heavily to groups supporting Krasner and likeminded candidates, will help him again. Otterbein also notes that there have been no public polls here, and insiders disagree on how vulnerable Krasner is next month.

1Q Fundraising

NV-Sen: Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): $2.3 million raised, $4.7 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AK-Sen: The prominent GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund has backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who already faces an intra-party challenge from former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Murkowski, who has not yet announced if she'll seek re-election, had suggested she might run as an independent back in January, but SLF's endorsement indicates that party leaders doubt she'll abandon the party label.

As we've noted before, Alaska will not hold a conventional party primary next year thanks to a new ballot measure Alaska voters passed in November that radically reforms how elections are conducted in the state. Under Measure 2, all candidates from all parties will now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a November general election. Voters would then choose a winner from that quartet by means of an instant runoff.

AZ-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence showing its ally, extremist Rep. Andy Biggs, edging out Gov. Doug Ducey 46-45 in a hypothetical Republican primary.

Biggs said a few weeks ago that he'd decide by the end of March if he'd challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but the month concluded without any public comment from the congressman about his plans. Ducey, by contrast, took his name out of consideration in January, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly has been trying to get him to reconsider.

GA-Sen: While Donald Trump generated plenty of chatter about former NFL running back Herschel Walker's interest in this race last month when he not-tweeted "Run Herschel, run!", the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Walker himself has remained "silent" about a possible campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The paper says that Walker, who remains a Texas resident, also "hasn't returned the calls of even some senior Republican officials trying to ascertain his next move."

Meanwhile another Republican, banking executive Latham Saddler, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential campaign.

NC-Sen: On Thursday, a consultant for far-right Rep. Ted Budd named Michael Luethy told the News & Observer that his boss would make his decision whether to run for the state's open Senate seat "sooner than later." Luethy also said of the Budd's deliberations, "It's fair to say he's leading towards it."

That same day, the conservative Carolina Journal published a piece by Dallas Woodhouse, the infamous former executive director of the state GOP, who wrote that multiple unnamed sources believed that Budd "will enter the U.S. Senate race in the coming weeks." Luethy, though, insisted that, while Budd is putting together a "formidable team," the congressman had not yet made a final decision.

The only notable Republican in the running right now is Budd's former colleague, ex-Rep. Mark Walker, though others are eyeing this contest. The potential candidate who continues to generate the most attention is former Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, while former Gov. Pat McCrory has been flirting with a bid for years.  One Republican who will not be running, though, is state party chair Michael Whatley, who took his name out of contention on Thursday.

NV-Sen: On Thursday, former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval unambiguously ruled out running against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto. "I have no interest in running and I will not be a candidate" said Sandoval, who now serves as president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Governors

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Baker's decision came as a surprise, as his name had not been mentioned much before he kicked off his second campaign for this office.

Baker, who would be Maryland's first Black governor, competed in the 2018 primary to take on Hogan, and he attracted the support of almost the entire state party establishment. However, Baker lost by a surprisingly wide 40-29 margin to former NAACP president Ben Jealous, whom Hogan went on to defeat in the general election.

The Washington Post's Arelis Hernandez took a close look at what went wrong for Baker right after the primary and pointed to a number of factors that led to his downfall. These included his refusal to heed advice that he campaign more visibly, Jealous' aggressive courting of unions and stronger fundraising, and the fact that Baker didn't jump on developments coming out of the Trump White House in the way that Jealous did. On Friday, fellow Post writer Rachel Chason noted that Baker was also held back by "political enemies he made in Prince George's, including labor unions and opponents of his controversial efforts to improve county public schools."

In an interview Thursday with Maryland Matters, Baker acknowledged that his underwhelming fundraising had played a big role in his defeat last time. Baker argued, though, that he was limited at the time by his responsibilities as county executive and local ethics rules restricting how much officeholders could take from developers, which will not be factors for him now.

Baker joins a primary field that already includes state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has been running for over a year, and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, while more could be in before long. Maryland Matters' Bruce DePuyt writes that former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who badly lost the 2014 primary for governor, is "expected to announce that he's running later this month." DePuyt also relays that Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski "is expected" to decide next month after the county council acts on his proposed budget.

Several other Democrats could also join the field, but it looks like Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will not be one of them. Alsobrooks, who was elected in 2018 to succeed Baker as leader of the state's second-largest county, said last month that "in this moment I'm running for re-election."

While Alsobrooks' statement didn't quite close the door on a campaign for higher office, Baker said Thursday that he'd only made his decision after talking with her the day before. Baker said he'd spoken to her about the gubernatorial race and added that "[w]e're genuinely friends" and "our supporters are the same."

NV-Gov: Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo acknowledged to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday that he was thinking about seeking the Republican nomination to face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Rep. Mark Amodei also recently reaffirmed his interest, while former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson has reportedly been considering as well. The paper writes of this group, "The consensus among local Republican political operatives is that the trio is working to reach an agreement on a single candidate to support by the beginning of summer.

NY-Gov: Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik's team on Thursday put out their first statement directly addressing the possibility that she could run for governor, which came hours after her colleague, Lee Zeldin, kicked off his own bid. "Congresswoman Stefanik continues to receive encouragement from all corners of the state as she would immediately be the strongest Republican candidate in both a primary and general gubernatorial election," said senior advisor Alex DeGrasse, who added that she "is not ruling anything out - nor will she make her decision based on others' timetables."

House

FL-01, NY-23: The House Ethics Committee on Friday announced that it had opened investigations into two Republicans embroiled in separate scandals, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and New York Rep. Tom Reed.

The committee says it is "aware of public allegations" that Gaetz "may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct." Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for sex trafficking, has rejected calls for his resignation.

The Ethics Committee, meanwhile, is probing allegations that Reed "may have engaged in sexual misconduct." Last month, a woman named Nicolette Davis accused Reed of sexually harassing her at a Minneapolis restaurant in 2017. While Reed initially denied Davis' account as "not accurate," he published a statement two days later apologizing to her and announcing that he would not be on the ballot for anything next year.

FL-20: The Sun Sentinel writes that, while Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness hasn't yet launched a campaign to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, Holness has "been informally running for months" for this safely blue South Florida seat. The paper also name-drops Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard as another possible Democratic contender for the unscheduled special election.

NY-01: Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who took third in last year's Democratic primary, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential bid to succeed Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor. Fleming did not immediately announce a bid, though she responded to a tweet the previous day urging her to run by writing, "Stay tuned."

Morning Digest: Facing Trump venom and GOP censure, Murkowski goes wobbly on seeking re-election

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

AK-Sen: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski unequivocally said back in January that she was running for re-election, but she's sounding a lot less certain now. When reporters recently asked her when she would decide, the 18-year incumbent noncommittally responded, "Well, I have to do it before 2022, right?" If Murkowski does choose to retire, it would mark the first time that an incumbent senator has not sought re-election in Alaska since it became a state in 1959.

One person who would be incredibly happy if Murkowski decided to call it a career is Donald Trump, who talked about trying to unseat her even before she voted to remove him from office in January. Trump has continued to make it clear he'd try to help defeat Murkowski if she ran again, though the Washington Post reported in March that some members of his inner circle are skeptical "that he will be as much of a potent force in the race because traveling to campaign against her would require such a long flight, which Trump generally avoids." The Alaska Republican Party's central committee, which has a much shorter commute, also piled on Saturday when it voted to censure the senator over her vote.

If Murkowski did seek a fourth full term, she would compete under very different electoral rules that could actually make it easier for her to fend off a hard-right challenger regardless of whether Trump actually schlepps out to Anchorage. Last year, Alaska voters approved a referendum that would require all parties to now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to November. Such a system would make it all but impossible to block Murkowski from the general election, when voters would then choose a winner by means of an instant runoff.

Campaign Action

Senate

AZ-Sen: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said back in January that he would not challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but CNN reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still hasn't given up trying to recruit him. There's no word whether the termed-out governor is listening to McConnell's entreaties, though, and some very loud voices closer to home would prefer he just leave the political scene altogether. The Arizona Republican Party censured Ducey over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic around the same time that the governor took his name out of contention, vividly demonstrating the kind of primary he'd have been in for.

GA-Sen: Lt. Gov Geoff Duncan said over the weekend that he would not seek the Republican nomination to face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

KY-Sen: Former state Rep. Charles Booker said Sunday that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination to face Republican Sen. Rand Paul. Booker campaigned for Kentucky's other U.S. Senate seat last year and lost a surprisingly close primary to national party favorite Amy McGrath, who in turn went on to lose badly to Sen. Mitch McConnell.

MO-Sen: Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports that major GOP outside groups are open to spending in Missouri’s open seat primary to stop disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens if he runs. Isenstadt says that Senate Leadership Fund, a major super PAC close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, "has been engaged in talks about how to keep the former governor from endangering their hold on what should be a safe seat," though no one has settled on anything yet.

Isenstadt adds that GOP operatives in the Show Me State are aware that a crowded field could make it easier for Greitens to win the nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, though unnamed "top Republicans" acknowledge that they haven't come up with a plan to stop him at this early point in the cycle.

NV-Sen: CNN says that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red's 2018 nominee for governor, is considering challenging Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto next year. The incumbent will be a top GOP target as she seeks re-election in a state that backed Joe Biden by a close 50-48 margin, but a bit surprisingly, we've heard very little about the prospective field to face her until now.

Laxalt, who unsuccessfully sued to overturn Biden's victory in the state, has not yet said anything publicly about his interest, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly sees him as a Republican who "could bring together the warring wings of the party." Back in December, the Las Vegas Review-Journal also relayed "rumors" that Laxalt was thinking about seeking a rematch with Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who beat him 49-45, but we've heard nothing new since then.

OH-Sen: While "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance hasn't publicly expressed interest in seeking the Republican nomination for Ohio’s open seat, that hasn't stopped a group of far-right billionaires from pouring massive sums into a super PAC set up to aid him if he does. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Peter Thiel has given $10 million to a group called Protect Ohio Values, while the PAC’s spokesperson says that Robert Mercer's family has also made a "significant contribution."

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan recently told CNN he would decide "in the next few weeks" if he'll campaign to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

UT-Sen: Former state Rep. Becky Edwards recently told Utah Policy that she was "all in" for a Republican primary campaign against Sen. Mike Lee, but she'll be in for an exceedingly difficult race: Edwards, who retired from the legislature in 2018, spent last year encouraging fellow Mormon women to vote against Donald Trump.  

Governors

CT-Gov: New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said Sunday that she would not seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, a move that the Hartford Courant writes "appeared to take both parties by surprise."

MD-Gov: Nonprofit executive Jon Baron told the Baltimore Sun's Bryn Stole that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s open governorship. Stole writes that Baron, who is a former official in the Clinton-era Department of Defense, currently serves as vice president of Arnold Ventures, a group supported by a billionaire couple that describes its mission as "invest[ing] in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice."

MN-Gov: Republican Rep. Pete Stauber said Sunday that he would not challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. KSTP’s Ricky Campbell reports that some GOP operatives “had considered Stauber a favorite,” while one top Republican, former state House Speaker Kurt Zellers, was openly dismayed. “I'm a little shocked and, honestly, disappointed," said Zellers. "I would have loved to see Congressman Stauber run. I don't know if there's a clear path right now for any candidate."

NE-Gov, NE-02: In a development that will almost certainly be a relief to House Republicans, Rep. Don Bacon announced Monday that he would run for re-election rather than campaign for governor. While Republicans are the heavy favorites to keep the governor's office in deep red Nebraska no matter whom they nominate next year, holding Bacon’s Omaha-based 2nd District would be a much more difficult task without him. In its current form, the seat swung from 48-46 Trump to 52-46 Biden last year, but the congressman ran far ahead of the ticket and won his third term 51-46.

 NY-Gov: On Friday, reporter Jessica Bakeman became the seventh woman to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. Bakeman wrote that she attended a 2014 holiday party at the executive mansion where Cuomo had held her in place without her consent and refused to let go of her after taking a picture with her even as she “practically squirmed to get away from him.” She further described how Cuomo went on to make a joke about what had just happened in front of her colleagues, which Bakeman said left her in “stunned silence, shocked and humiliated.”

Two days after Bakeman’s allegations became public, the New York Times and Washington Post both reported that Larry Schwartz, a longtime Cuomo adviser tasked with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, had been contacting county executives over the last two weeks to assess their loyalty to the governor.

One unnamed Democratic executive reportedly filed an ethics complaint with the state attorney general’s office because, as the Post wrote, they “feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if Schwartz was not pleased with the executive’s response to his questions about support of the governor.” On Monday, Cuomo’s attorney put out a statement insisting that Schwartz “would never link political support to public health decisions,” though she didn’t deny the calls had taken place.

Both stories attracted attention days after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Thursday that state lawmakers would open an impeachment investigation into Cuomo, a development that came after a majority of legislators called for his resignation. Notably, if a majority of the Assembly votes to impeach Cuomo, his powers would temporarily be transferred to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. The governor would regain his powers if he manages to avoid conviction.

Cuomo has repeatedly said that he won’t step down, but now one of his longtime allies is reportedly considering running to replace him. The New York Daily News writes that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a moderate Democrat, has been talking to donors and fundraisers about a possible bid, though he has not yet said anything publicly. There’s no word if Bellone would be willing to challenge Cuomo if the governor is in a position to seek re-election next year.

VA-Gov: On Friday evening, the Virginia Republican Party's State Central Committee opted to allow convention delegates who will be choosing the party's statewide nominees on May 8 to vote at one of roughly 37 locations across the state. The decision came weeks after the party originally opted to hold its gathering at Liberty University in Lynchburg, only for the school to announce the next day that it hadn’t in fact agreed to host the event at all.

But if you thought the intra-party bloodletting over this convention is finally over, think again. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Patrick Wilson writes that, even after the party reached its decision, "the meeting veered into a bitter debate related to minutia over how people will file to become delegates." The GOP also won't finalize its list of voting locations until April 24, about two weeks before the event itself.

Democrats, meanwhile, will pick their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general in a traditional June primary―an event that will be open to any eligible voter and feature far more than 37 voting locations.

House

 NM-01: The U.S. Senate confirmed Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland as secretary of the interior on Monday, making Haaland, who is a member of the federally recognized Laguna Pueblo tribe, the first Native American to ever run a cabinet-level department. The congresswoman's departure from the House will also set off a special election in New Mexico’s 1st District in the Albuquerque area, which supported Joe Biden 60-37 last year.

In anticipation of a vacancy, several candidates from both parties have been running here for some time, but there won't be any primaries. Instead, state law requires each party's central committee to pick their candidate: The Democrats’ body is made up of about 180 members, while Republicans put their own membership at 119. Lawmakers introduced a bill this year to institute traditional primaries instead, but it looks unlikely to win the support of the necessary two-thirds of each chamber before the legislature's session ends on Saturday.

We’ll have a look at both parties’ fields in a future Digest, but there was one notable development on the GOP side shortly before Haaland was confirmed when state Sen. Mark Moores announced he would run. Political observer Joe Monahan writes that while Moores, who is the only Republican in the chamber who represents any part of the city of Albuquerque, would have a tough time flipping this seat, even an unsuccessful House campaign could help raise his profile for a bid against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham next year.

Haaland’s confirmation also ends, at least for now, her brief but historic time in elective office. Haaland, who was a longtime Democratic activist, first appeared on the ballot in 2014, when she was then-Attorney General Gary King’s running mate in that year's election for governor. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s strong poll numbers and the terrible political climate for Democrats made the race very challenging, though, and the King-Haaland ticket lost 57-43.

Haaland soon won the race to chair the state party during the 2016 cycle, an election that saw Democrats retake the state House after two years of GOP control. Haaland got a chance to run for the 1st District to succeed Lujan Grisham when the congresswoman ran for governor, but she had to get through an expensive primary. The contest effectively turned into a three-way race between Haaland, who earned the top place on the ballot by winning the state party convention; retired University of New Mexico law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez; and former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez.

Haaland ran commercials talking about how she'd put herself through college and law school as a single mom, noting that she “doesn't look like most people in Congress.” She also received outside help from a new group called 7Gen Leaders that ran ads that promoted her chance to make history as the first Native American woman elected to Congress. (The group's name refers to the philosophy, attributed to the Iroquois, that those living today should strive to work for the benefit of those who will live seven generations from now.)

Still, while Haaland looked like she had a real chance to win, there didn’t seem to be an obvious frontrunner heading into the primary. Sedillo Lopez spent more than any other candidate, while Martinez received considerable outside help. EMILY’s List, meanwhile, aired ads attacking Martinez even though it didn’t endorse either Sedillo Lopez or Haaland.

Ultimately, though, Haaland beat Martinez by a surprisingly wide 41-26, and she had no trouble in November. In January of 2019, Haaland and a fellow Democrat, Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids, together made history when they were sworn in as the first American Indian women to serve in Congress, which Haaland did while wearing traditional Native dress.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales have both announced that they've raised enough money from small donors to qualify for the city's matching funds program. The city's Campaign Finance Board, though, will need to verify that they've met all of the requirements before they can receive public money.

Other Races

King County, WA Executive: It's been over a decade since there was a competitive race for the top elected position in Washington's most populous county, but that could change this year. Incumbent Dow Constantine has had no trouble winning since he was first elected in 2009, but state Sen. Joe Nguyen, a fellow Democrat who has represented West Seattle in the legislature since 2018, is now saying he's seriously considering a run against him this fall. The filing deadline is in late May.

Constantine may be in for a tough race because the backlog at the very top of Washington's political pyramid—where Democrat Jay Inslee took the unusual step of running for and winning a third term as governor last year—is starting to have some trickle-down effects on the next tier of political positions. Constantine had looked like a probable candidate for governor in 2020, but he backed Inslee once it became clear the governor wasn’t going anywhere. (As it happens, fully one-third of all elected King County executives have gone on to the governorship, so it's a good stepping stone.) That’s left Nguyen, in turn, stuck in line behind Constantine.

With King County's Republican bench currently consisting of blowing tumbleweeds, it's likely that if Nguyen does run, he and Constantine would face each other in this November’s general election thanks to Washington’s top-two primary system. Nguyen would presumably stake out terrain to the left of the already-progressive Constantine, though note that this race is officially nonpartisan.

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: Anti-impeachment Trump surrogate launches bid against GOP senator in Georgia special

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

GA-Sen-B: On Wednesday morning, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins announced that he would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election. Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

As we recently noted, Collins’ decision to run almost certainly crushes the GOP’s hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

Collins’ run could be a mixed blessing for Democrats, though. While Team Blue would very much like a bloody intra-party battle between the Republicans, it’s possible that Loeffler and Collins could each secure enough support to lock Democrats out of a January runoff.

While there’s a chance that Democrats could instead secure both runoff spots and automatically flip this seat from red to blue, it’s not a good one. Businessman Matt Lieberman is the party’s only declared candidate so far, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon.

This lineup would mean that Georgia’s Democratic voters would be dividing their support among a trio of candidates while Republicans would have just a pair to choose from—a scenario that would give the GOP a very real shot to take the top two spots in the all-party primary.

However, it’s possible that this special election law will change soon. Both Collins’ allies in the state legislature as well as Democrats are backing a bill that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly scheduled Senate race. Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler, has said he’d veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though Democrats and Republicans could override him with a two-thirds supermajority.

While it remains to be seen when Loeffler and Collins will compete, it’s clear that the congressman is a serious threat to her chances. While Collins has made a name for himself with the Trump fans across the state by loudly defending the White House from impeachment, Loeffler had very little name recognition when she was appointed in December. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December even showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary.

However, Loeffler very much has the resources to get her name out and attack Collins. The wealthy senator recently launched a $2.6 million ad campaign to introduce herself to voters and declare her fealty to Trump, and she’s reportedly pledged to spend a total of $20 million of her own money on this race. While Collins might be able to raise a serious amount of cash for this contest, he’s probably going to have a tough time bringing in anywhere near enough to match Loeffler’s self-funding.

Two prominent GOP groups are also making it clear that they’re going to support Loeffler. The NRSC, which endorsed the incumbent right after Kemp appointed her, put out a statement right after Collins announced that contained this angry, though rather ungrammatical, pair of phrases: “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come.”

The Senate Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also blasted Collins as “selfish” and praised Loeffler as “a warrior for the President.” It remains to be seen how much each group will be willing to spend here in a cycle when control of the Senate is on the line, but the SLF said of Loeffler, “We’ll have her back if she needs us.”

The biggest player in GOP politics, though, has not yet taken sides. The White House reportedly made an unsuccessful push to convince Kemp to appoint Collins instead of Loeffler, and Trump no doubt is still happily watching the congressman’s frequent appearances on his behalf on Fox News. (It’s almost certainly no accident that Collins launched his campaign on Wednesday on Trump’s beloved “Fox & Friends.”)

However, while Trump may be inclined to support Collins, Loeffler is doing whatever she can to quickly get into his good graces. She may already be succeeding: Hours after Collins entered the contest, Trump singled Loeffler out at a bill signing and said, “Congratulations, Kelly. They really like you a lot. That’s what the word is.” McConnell, who is arguably both the White House and Loeffler’s most important ally, may also be able to persuade Trump to at least stay out of this contest.

Of course, there’s never any telling what Donald Trump will or won’t do, so both Loeffler and Collins may be kept in suspense for a long time to come.

4Q Fundraising

NH-Sen: Corky Messner (R): $51,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $1.07 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: John Cornyn (R-inc): $2.75 million raised, $12.1 million cash-on-hand

ME-02: Dale Crafts (R): $128,000 raised, additional $47,000 self-funded, $134,000 cash-on-hand

MI-03: Lynn Afendoulis (R): $112,000 raised

NV-04: Jim Marchant (R): $156,000 raised, $209,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: Dana Balter (D): $205,000 raised, $220,000 cash-on-hand; Francis Conole (D): $250,000 cash-on-hand; Roger Misso (D): $120,000 raised, $130,000 cash-on-hand

WA-03: Carolyn Long (D): $498,000 raised

Senate

MA-Sen: Sen. Ed Markey picked up a Democratic primary endorsement this week from former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was the party's 1988 presidential nominee. Dukakis left office in 1991, though he's occasionally been in the news in recent years as he's pushed for a rail link between Boston's two major train stations. You can stop leaving your leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcasses outside his house, though.

TX-Sen: Every poll we've seen of the March Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn has found a large plurality of voters undecided, and new surveys from the nonpartisan nonprofit Texas Lyceum and the progressive group Data for Progress each are no different.

Texas Lyceum's poll gives 2018 House nominee MJ Hegar the lead with 11% of the vote while state Sen. Royce West edges nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez 8-7 for the second spot in the likely runoff. Former Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards is just behind with 6 while a group of other candidates, including former Rep. Chris Bell and 2018 Senate candidate Sema Hernandez, take 5% each. The firm finds that 42% are undecided in a contest where no one has aired many ads yet.

Data for Progress' survey finds that more voters have chosen one of the candidates, but 34% are still undecided. The poll has Hegar ahead with 18%, while both West and Ramirez take 13%. Bell is at 8%, while none of the other contenders take more than 4%.

The survey also tests Hegar out in three different primary runoff scenarios:

32-33 vs. Ramirez 42-16 vs. Edwards 48-19 vs. West

On Tuesday, West also picked up an endorsement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who leads Texas' largest city.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: On Wednesday, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth issued a stay preventing the committee trying to recall GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from gathering signatures. Aarseth had taken this very action last week only to reverse himself the following day because that stay had been "inadvertently issued." However, Aarseth now says that the Alaska Supreme Court should rule on the constitutionality of the recall campaign before it is allowed to collect signatures to reach the ballot.

MO-Gov: Uniting Missouri, which is the main super PAC supporting GOP Gov. Mike Parson, is out with a poll from the Republican firm American Viewpoint that gives the incumbent a 54-36 lead over Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway. The only other survey of this contest we've seen over the last several months was a November PPP poll for the Democratic Governors Association that gave Parson a smaller 45-36 edge.

House

FL-26: While Donald Trump endorsed Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez last week, both former Miami-Dade County firefighters union president Omar Blanco and restaurateur Irina Vilariño say they plan to keep campaigning for the GOP nomination. However, neither of them looks like they'll be much of a threat to Giménez in the August primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Vilariño didn't even commit to staying in the race, since The Miami Herald writes that "she's evaluating her options." The paper writes that Vilariño raised just $70,000 during the most recent quarter, so she may not be able to put up much of a fight even if she opts to keep running.

Blanco also acknowledged that Giménez has harmed his fundraising, though he hasn't revealed how much he brought in during the last months of 2019. It may not matter much, though, since Blanco said that he didn't plan to go negative on Giménez, who is actually his boss: The mayor oversees the county fire department, where Blanco serves as a lieutenant.

GA-09: GOP Rep. Doug Collins' decision to run for the Senate opens up Georgia's 9th District in the rural northeastern part of the state. This seat backed Donald Trump 78-19, which was his best performance in any of the state's 14 congressional districts, and there's no question that whoever wins the GOP nod will prevail with ease in the general election.

The primary will take place in mid-May, and there would be a runoff in July if no one takes a majority of the vote. The filing deadline is March 6, so potential candidates have about five weeks to decide whether or not to run.

State Sen. John Wilkinson didn't need anywhere near that long to make up his mind, though, and he entered the race right after Collins announced that he was leaving to run for the Senate. Wilkinson has represented the 50th Senate District, which makes up about a quarter of this seat, since late 2011, and he's spent the last eight years as chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

Several other Republicans are eyeing this contest, including one familiar name. Former 10th District Rep. Paul Broun confirmed that he was considering a comeback here, and Lauren Souther of the local news site Fetch Your News writes that he "indicated" that he'd decide this week. Broun was elected to the House in a 2007 special election, and he quickly emerged as the go-to guy for far-right quips, including his infamous 2012 proclamation that "[a]ll that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell."

It was Broun's career that soon descended into the pit of hell, though. In 2014, Broun gave up his seat representing the neighboring 10th District to run for an open Senate seat, but he finished a weak fifth in the primary with just 10% of the vote. Two years later, Broun relocated to the 9th District and challenged Collins for renomination, but the former congressman failed to raise much money and lost by a lopsided 61-22 margin.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner is also talking about running, and he told Fetch Your News on Wednesday that he would decide in "the next few days." Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley called a congressional race "an intriguing possibility" and said he hadn't decided anything yet, but he also said he was very happy at his current post. In addition, Fetch Your News writes that fellow state Rep. Matt Gurtler is reportedly mulling it over, but Gurtler didn't respond for comment. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentioned fellow state Rep. Emory Dunahoo as a possibility, though there's no word on his interest.

Another group of Republicans sounds unlikely to run, though they didn't outright say no. Conservative radio host Martha Zoller, who lost the 2012 open seat primary runoff to Collins 55-45, said, "I am certainly going to consider running for this position, but I, at this time, am leaning toward not running."

Chris Riley, a longtime aide to former Gov. Nathan Deal, said Tuesday that, while he wasn't saying no, he was focused on "helping our friends who are seriously considering and helped make the Deal Administration successful." State Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller sounded even less enthusiastic, and he told the AJC that "the likelihood of me running for Congress is very low."

By contrast, Enotah Judicial Circuit Court Judge Stan Gunter and state Sen. Steve Gooch each made it clear that they would sit this race out.

MD-07: Former state Democratic Party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is out with her first TV ad ahead of Tuesday's crowded special primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Rockeymoore Cummings begins by telling the audience, "Elijah worked hard, especially for children and youth. I know because I was right there with him." The candidate continues, "Together, we worked for social and economic justice, and we were in the trenches side by side fighting for Baltimore." Rockeymoore Cummings then says she's running "to continue that fight—for more affordable healthcare and prescription drugs, and an end to the gun violence and trauma that is wiping out a generation of black talent."

NC-11: GOP state Sen. Jim Davis uses his first TV spot for the crowded March GOP primary for this open seat in Appalachian North Carolina to express his hatred for Mondays liberals. Davis, who is situated between a table with a huge plate of cheeseburgers and a black backdrop, begins the commercial wielding a handgun in what could easily be mistaken for an ad for the world's most terrifying fast-food restaurant.

But of course, this is really a political spot, and Davis continues by loading his weapon and telling the audience that liberals want to make his nine-millimeter gun illegal. He then drags his platter of burgers to him and repeats one of the GOP's favorite Trump-era lies by saying that liberals also want to outlaw cheeseburgers. That idea comes from conservatives' deliberate misreading of the Green New Deal, and a similar falsehood has already appeared in ads attacking Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan.

Davis then goes on a rant about how the left "want[s] to tell us how to live, how to worship, even how to eat." Davis never fires his gun during the spot, but he does end it by taking a hardy bite out of Chekov's cheeseburger. Wisely, though, the senator leaves the other dozen or so patties on the table uneaten.

NY-15: End Citizens United has endorsed New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres in the crowded Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. José Serrano.

NY-22: Freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi uses his first TV spot of the cycle to stress how he's worked across party lines in Congress. The commercial features several clips of news people talking about his accomplishments, including how he got four bills signed by Donald Trump. The ad does not mention the conservative TV commercials that have already run here attacking the congressman, though Brindisi told Politico he was going on the air early "to set the record straight."

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt, who is the national GOP's favored candidate in the March primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, is out with a TV spot where he declares that Donald Trump is right to call drug cartels "terrorist organizations." The candidate calls for building the border wall before the narrator notes that Hunt has the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz.

TX-22: Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush is out with a GOP primary ad starring his wife, Sarahbeth Bush. She tells the audience how her father developed a drug addiction when she was 10 and that "[d]rugs smuggled across the border ruin lives and shatter families." Sarahbeth Bush then praises the candidate as someone who understands the border crisis.

WA-10: Democratic state Rep. Beth Doglio, who'd previously said she'd decide on whether to seek Washington's open 10th Congressional District after the legislature's session ends on March 12, has now filed paperwork to create a campaign committee with the FEC. Several notable Democrats are already running, and a number of others are considering. However, no prominent Republicans have expressed interest in seeking this seat, which voted 51-40 for Hillary Clinton.

Legislative

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's four special elections:

TX-HD-28: Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz 58-42 to hold this suburban Houston district for his party. The result is disappointing for Democrats, who aggressively targeted this race as part of a larger effort to flip the Texas House later this year, as Markowitz's performance in this district lagged behind Hillary Clinton's 10-point loss in 2016 and Beto O'Rourke's narrow 3-point loss in 2018.

Democrats will now ask themselves why Markowitz fell well short of what the fundamentals of this district would have augured. One key reason may have been the wealthy Gates' heavy self-funding, which totaled at least $1.5 million. In addition, younger voters and Latinos, who are among Democrats' most important constituencies in Texas, are less apt to turn out for an unusually timed special election as opposed to a November general election.

Markowitz and Gates will likely face off again in the fall, but one important reminder for Democrats is this district is not a prerequisite for taking the state House. The Texas Democratic Party recently ranked this district as its 16th-most attractive pickup opportunity on an initial target list of 22 seats, ranked by O'Rourke's 2018 margins.

TX-HD-100: Democrat Lorraine Birabil defeated fellow party member James Armstrong 66-34 to hold this deep blue Dallas seat.

TX-HD-148: Democrat Anna Eastman defeated Republican Luis LaRotta 65-35 to hold this seat for her party. These three special elections in Texas return this chamber to full strength, with Republicans in control 83-67.

GA-HD-171: Republican Joe Campbell took 58% of the vote in this three-way race to avoid a runoff and hold this south Georgia seat for the GOP. Democrat Jewell Howard was the runner-up with 33%, while Republican Tommy Akridge rounded out the voting with 8%.

This result moves the makeup of the Georgia state House to 105-74 in favor of Republicans with one seat vacant.