Morning Digest: Trump backs longtime coal operative in Ohio special election for red House seat

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

Leading Off

OH-15: Donald Trump waded into the crowded August Republican primary to succeed former Rep. Steve Stivers by endorsing coal company lobbyist Mike Carey on Tuesday.

Trump's decision came days after Stivers, who officially resigned from this very red suburban Columbus seat last month, backed state Rep. Jeff LaRe. That move, as well as Stivers' decision to use his old campaign committee to air ads for the state representative, briefly made LaRe the primary frontrunner; another candidate, state Rep. Brian Stewart, subsequently dropped out and acknowledged he didn't think he could compete against his Stivers-supported colleague. Trump's support for Carey, though, likely upends this contest.

Carey himself doesn't appear to have run for office since his 1998 defeat in an eastern Ohio state House seat against the late Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who went on to represent that area in Congress from 2007 to 2011, but he's long been influential in state politics.

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Back in 2011, Politico described Carey, who worked as an operative for the state coal industry, as "a one-man wrecking ball for Democrats who have strayed too far green for voters' liking." It noted that Carey's political organization ran TV ads in Ohio in 2004 savaging the Democratic presidential nominee as "John Kerry, Environmental Extremist," and he also targeted Barack Obama four years later.

Carey went on to work as a lobbyist for the coal giant Murray Energy, which was renamed American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc. last year after it emerged from bankruptcy protection. The company and its leadership has long been a major foe of environmentalists in Ohio and nationally, with former chief executive Robert Murray, a close Trump ally, lavishly funding global warming deniers.

Senate

AK-Sen: A new poll from Change Research for the progressive group 314 Action finds Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski faring poorly under Alaska's new top-four primary. In a hypothetical matchup against fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka (who is running) and independent Al Gross (who unsuccessfully ran for Senate last year with Democratic support and is considering another bid), Tshibaka leads with 39%, while Gross takes 25 and Murkowski just 19. John Wayne Howe of the far-right Alaska Independence Party would get 4%, and 12% are undecided.

Murkowski would still advance to the general election in this scenario, since, as the name implies, the four highest vote-getters in the primary move on, but she'd do no better then. To reduce the risk of spoilers, November elections will be decided via ranked-choice voting, but in a simulated instant runoff, Tshibaka would beat Gross 54-46. 314 Action, which endorsed Gross last cycle, is arguing that the poll suggests that Murkowski's weakness offers Democrats an opening, but Tshibaka's performance—and recent history—show just how tough it is for Democrats to win statewide in Alaska.

AL-Sen: The Club for Growth has dusted off a late April poll from WPA Intelligence showing Rep. Mo Brooks leading businesswoman Lynda Blanchard by a wide 59-13 margin in next year's GOP Senate primary, with Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt at 9 and 19% of voters undecided. (The survey was conducted well before Britt, who just kicked off her campaign the other day, entered the race.) The Club hasn't endorsed Brooks yet, but sharing this poll is a signal that it may do so.

FL-Sen: On Wednesday, several weeks after a consultant said Rep. Val Demings would run for Senate, Demings herself made her campaign against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio official. Demings, who was a manager during Donald Trump's first impeachment trial and reportedly was under consideration as Joe Biden's running-mate last year, is by far the highest-profile Democrat to enter the race, though she faces Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and (apparently?) former Rep. Alan Grayson for the nomination.

OH-Sen: A new poll of next year's GOP Senate primary in Ohio from former state Treasurer Josh Mandel unsurprisingly finds Mandel leading former state party chair Jane Timken 35-16, with all other candidates (actual and hypothetical) in the mid-to-low single digits and 34% of voters undecided. The survey, from Remington Research, is likely intended as pushback to a recent set of Timken internals from Moore Information that showed her gaining on Mandel, the newest of which had Mandel up just 24-19.

Governors

MI-Gov: A new poll from the Michigan Republican Party from Competitive Edge finds former Detroit police Chief James Craig (who hasn't actually kicked off a campaign yet) leading Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 45-38 in a hypothetical test of next year's race for governor. Somewhat strangely, the survey also finds Whitmer beating Army veteran John James, who lost back-to-back Senate bids in 2018 and 2020 (and also hasn't announced a gubernatorial run), by a 50-45 margin.

These numbers are peculiar for two reasons: First, why would the state GOP want to make a prominent potential recruit like James look less electable—unless party leaders actually would prefer he stay out of the race, that is? The second oddity is the data itself. The 12-point difference in Whitmer's share as between the two matchups suggests that Craig, who's never run for office before, has an ability to win over Democratic voters so strong as to be almost unique in American politics today.

This extremely bifurcated take also stands in contrast to an independent poll last month from Target Insyght for the local tipsheet MIRS News, which found Whitmer up 48-42 on Craig and 49-39 on James. We'll need more polling before we can get a better sense of where things stand, but in today's extremely polarized political environment, the results from Target Insyght make much more sense than those from Competitive Edge.

NJ-Gov: Just hours before polls closed in the Garden State for Tuesday's primary, Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics released a poll of a matchup between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli that showed Murphy comfortably ahead 52-26. The survey found 10% of respondents undecided and an additional 11% who declined to choose either candidate.

The poll only pitted Murphy against Ciattarelli, a matchup that's no longer hypothetical since Ciattarelli secured the GOP nod with 49% of the vote on Tuesday and Murphy faced no intra-party opposition.

OR-Gov: Businesswoman Jessica Gomez has joined next year's race for governor, making her the second notable candidate to seek the Republican nod after 2016 nominee Bud Pierce. Gomez has run for office once before, losing an open-seat race for the state Senate to Democrat Jeff Golden 55-45 in 2018.

PA-Gov: The Associated Press reports that Republican strategist Charlie Gerow is considering a bid for governor, though there's no quote from Gerow himself. Gerow's run for office twice before, losing bids in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania's old 19th Congressional District in both 1996 and 2000. (The closest successor to the 19th is the present-day 10th District, as both are centered around York and Cumberland counties.)

VA-Gov: With the general election matchup between former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin now set, Youngkin immediately began attacking his opponent, releasing two ads the day after McAuliffe clinched his party's nod.

The first commercial prominently features former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who finished second in the Democratic primary, and shows several clips of her criticizing McAuliffe. Youngkin appears at the end to call himself "a new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia". However, before the ad even had a chance to air, Carroll Foy had already unambiguously endorsed McAuliffe's bid for a second term as governor.  

The second spot follows a similar theme of a "new day". It begins showing a legion of grey-haired white men in suits while Youngkin's voiceover decries "the same politicians taking us in the wrong direction". Youngkin, a younger, less-grey white man wearing a vest, then appears amid the crowd to describe the policies he would pursue as governor.

House

TX-08: Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Texas' open 8th Congressional District, says he won't run for the seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Kevin Brady.

Legislatures

NJ State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, won Tuesday's state Senate primary for the open 16th Legislative District by a 65-35 margin. Pappas will take on Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker for an open GOP-held seat in the west-central part of the state that Hillary Clinton carried 55-41.

Pappas earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, "Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr/ Now we see how brave you are." Politicos would later blame that bit of awful poetry for Pappas' 50-47 defeat against Democrat Rush Holt that fall. Pappas tried to return to Congress in 2000, but he lost the primary to former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who in turn lost to Holt.

Special elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in New Hampshire:

NH-HD-Merrimack 23: Democrat Muriel Hall defeated Republican Christopher Lins 58-42 to hold this seat for her party. Hall improved on Joe Biden's 55-44 win in this suburban Concord district last year, which was the best showing of any of the last three Democratic presidential nominees.

Republicans control this chamber 213-186, with one other seat vacant.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Former Mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork Wednesday to set up a campaign to regain his old office, and while he has yet to make an announcement, there's little question he'll be on this year's ballot.

Local NBC reporter Shiba Russell tweeted that Reed "could officially announce he plans to enter the race" at a Thursday birthday fundraiser, a message the ex-mayor retweeted. If Reed wins this fall, he would be the first Atlanta mayor to secure a third term since the city's first-ever Black leader, Maynard Jackson, won back this office in 1989.

Reed himself had no trouble winning re-election the last time he was on the ballot in 2013 (term limits prevented him from seeking a third consecutive term in 2017), but a federal corruption investigation that ultimately resulted in bribery convictions for two senior city officials generated plenty of bad headlines during the end of his tenure. The matter isn't over, as Reed's former chief financial administration officer and director of human services are currently under indictment but unlikely to go on trial before this year's election.

Last month, Channel 2's Dave Huddleston asked Reed whether he was under investigation, to which the former mayor replied, "The Justice Department under [former Attorney General] Bill Barr has looked into every aspect of my life for more than three years and took no action." The former mayor also said of the scandals involving his old staffers, "Anything on my watch, I take responsibility for," adding, "I'm sorry I didn't see it faster."

Reed himself used that interview to argue that he could tackle Atlanta's rising crime rate if he returned to office, declaring, "I do know how to fix crime, and I do know I could turn our crime environment around in 180 days, and I know that I've done it before."

A number of fellow Democrats are already campaigning in this November's nonpartisan primary to succeed incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms, who shocked the city last month when she decided not to seek a second term, and others could still get in ahead of the August filing deadline. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Tharon Johnson, whom the paper identifies as a "veteran Democratic strategist and businessman," is one of the prospective contenders thinking about running.

Boston, MA Mayor: This week, state Rep. Jon Santiago became the first candidate to air TV commercials ahead of the September nonpartisan primary; Politico's Lisa Kashinsky says his "six-figure ad buy is for two 30-second spots that will air on the city's cable systems and Spanish-language broadcast."

Both Santiago's English and Spanish spots focus on his work as an emergency room physician and military service, with the narrator in the former ad asking, "You want a mayor who's got a pulse on Boston and its problems, literally?"

New York City, NY Mayor: Attorney Maya Wiley picked up an endorsement Wednesday from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams ahead of the June 22 Democratic primary. Williams, who was elected in 2019 as an ardent progressive, is one of just three citywide elected officials: The others are termed-out Mayor Bill de Blasio and one of Wiley's rivals, city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative

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

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

Other Races

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

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

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

Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

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While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

Morning Digest: Eric Greitens, the GOP’s worst nightmare in Missouri, already has a major opponent

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

MO-Sen: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Wednesday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the state's open Senate seat, a decision that came two days after disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens also entered the primary.

An unnamed source close to the attorney general told the Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry that Greitens' kickoff had no impact on the timing of Schmitt's own launch. Lowry, though, notes that, by getting in early, Schmitt may be trying to establish himself as the main intra-party adversary for Greitens, whom national Republicans reportedly fear could endanger their hold over this seat should he win the nomination.

However, while Schmitt may be hoping that his entrance could deter other Republicans from running, a former Greitens adversary is also making it clear he's thinking about diving in. On Tuesday, wealthy businessman John Brunner posted a photo of himself with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul captioned, "Does Rand Paul need another freedom fighter in the US Senate?" Brunner lost the 2012 primary for Missouri's other Senate seat to the infamous Todd Akin before he campaigned for governor in 2016. Greitens, though, defeated Brunner 35-25 after a truly ugly contest.

Campaign Action

Schmitt, for his part, was first elected statewide that year when he decisively won the race for state treasurer, a contest that coincided with Greitens' victory in the gubernatorial contest. However, while Greitens resigned in 2018 in the face of multiple scandals, including allegations that he'd sexually assaulted a woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her into silence, Schmitt secured a more powerful post months later following that year's elections. That promotion came about when the state's new governor, Mike Parson, appointed Schmitt attorney general to succeed Josh Hawley, who had just been elected to the Senate

Schmitt before long used his new job to sue the government of China over its response to the pandemic, a move that got him plenty of press but unsurprisingly went nowhere after China refused to be served. (Chuck Hatfield, who served as chief of staff to Democrat Jay Nixon when he held that office, snarked, "You're suing the Chinese Communist party in Cape Girardeau, Missouri? What do they have a field office down there?") Schmitt also continued the state's lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act even after Missouri voters approved a referendum last August to expand Medicaid.

Schmitt had no trouble winning a full term last year, and he quickly became one of the main figures behind a lawsuit by multiple Republican attorneys general to overturn Joe Biden's victory. The U.S. Supreme Court quickly dismissed the attempt, but that hardly stopped Schmitt from using his Wednesday campaign appearance on Fox to brag, "I fought alongside President Trump in defending election integrity." At no point did Schmitt ever refer to Joe Biden as president.

P.S. One of Schmitt's allies in that suit was fellow Republican Derek Schmidt, the attorney general of neighboring Kansas. Schmidt is currently competing in the primary for governor of his state, so both Attorneys General Schmitt and Schmidt will be on the ballot around the same time next year. That could make for a confusing experience for TV viewers in media markets that cover both states, especially Kansas City, though Kansas will be the only one of those two states to host a gubernatorial race in 2022.

Senate

AL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell said Wednesday that she would remain in the House rather than run for the Senate in this very red state.

AZ-Sen: Extremist Rep. Andy Biggs recently told the Wall Street Journal that he would decide by the end of the month whether to seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly.

NC-Sen: State House Speaker Tim Moore has reportedly been considering seeking the Republican nomination for next year's Senate race, but he said this week that he planned on re-election to the legislature. That declaration seems unlikely to silence chatter about Moore's 2022 plans, though, as it came in the midst of a strange story that only led to more questions about whether the speaker would be sticking around state government.

The News & Observer reports that Tom Fetzer, a powerful lobbyist who previously served as mayor of Raleigh and as state GOP chair, sent out a text over the weekend for, in his words, "putting together a fundraiser" to benefit House Majority Leader John Bell. Fetzer tried to entice would-be attendees by writing, "As Tim Moore has stated he is not seeking another term in the House, John is the odds on favorite to be Speaker in 2023."

State law, though, forbids lobbyists from hosting fundraisers or soliciting contributions while the legislature is in session, as it is scheduled to be through July. Bell said that Fetzer wasn't involved with the event, which has since been canceled, and that he hadn't heard that Moore planned to leave the legislature. "It's way too early for me to be talking about that," said Bell about his boss' future.

The paper writes that Moore, for his part, "texted an N&O reporter Tuesday to say he plans to seek a fifth term, which would be a record." However, while Fetzer says he wasn't actually involved in holding that ill-fated fundraiser ("I dictated the text into my phone and just sent," he said), the lobbyist insisted that he'd made no mistake when he said Moore was on his way out. "I do think the speaker has informed people that he does not intend to seek another term," Fetzer said, adding, "I don't know that that's a real surprise."

The story did not mention the Senate race, but N&O reporter Brian Murphy tweeted it out saying, "Lots of news in this story, but one takeaway that will lead to lots of speculation: Is NC House Speaker Moore planning a run for U.S. House or U.S. Senate?" This is the first we've heard of the possibility that Moore, who is in place to play a major role during the upcoming round of redistricting, could run for the House.

NV-Sen: The National Journal's Madelaine Pisani takes a look at Nevada's surprisingly quiet Senate race, where no major Republicans have publicly expressed interest yet in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and she mentions a few possible contenders for Team Red

Pisani name-drops former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, though she adds that "none have made public indications they are preparing bids." Ex-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was the party's 2018 gubernatorial nominee, reportedly has been eyeing this contest, though he's said nothing about his deliberations.

Governors

CA-Gov: Probolsky Research, a firm that has worked for Republicans in the past but says it has no client in this year's recall campaign, has released a poll that finds likely voters saying they'd vote against ousting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom by a 53-35 margin.

The recall has not yet been officially scheduled, much less declared, though, which makes it especially tricky to determine who is likely to turn out. Probolsky asks the same question among all voters and also finds a plurality opposed to recalling Newsom, but by a much-smaller 46-40 spread.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that billionaire Tom Steyer, an environmentalist who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020, recently commissioned a poll of his own testing his prospects in a hypothetical race to succeed Newsom. A spokesperson for Steyer only said to check back in "late April," which is around the time that county clerks have to validate signatures for the recall petition. However, an unnamed source close to Steyer said he'd be "very, very surprised if he is looking at the recall ballot."

IL-Gov: Chicago Now writes that wealthy businessman Gary Rabine will announce "next Tuesday" that he'll seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

MI-Gov: Craig Mauger of the Detroit News reports that officials from the Republican Governors Association have met with three possible candidates in next year's race to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: 2020 Senate nominee John James, conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, and businessman Kevin Rinke. Of this trio, Dixon has said she's looking at the race, while Rinke has very much not ruled it out; James, meanwhile, has been quiet about his intentions.

We'll start with James, who is the best known of the trio. James ran in 2018 against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and lost 52-46 while Whitmer was beating Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette 53-44. That showing impressed national Republicans, who recruited James to take on Michigan's other Democratic senator, Gary Peters: After a very expensive contest, Peters won 50-48 as Joe Biden was carrying the state by a slightly-larger 51-48 spread

James has spent the last several weeks attacking Whitmer in media appearances, but he hasn't said if he's thinking about challenging her. Mauger writes that some Republicans would prefer he run for the House after redistricting because they believe it would be easier than a third statewide campaign, and that James' 2022 "decision could still be months away."

Dixon was much more forthright, saying, "Michigan needs to mount a comeback with a new governor, and that might just be me." Mauger says that she recently spoke at a protest against the arrest of a restaurant owner who had defied Whitmer's COVID-19 restrictions and a court-order.

Finally, there's businessman Kevin Rinke, who also argued Tuesday that the state needed a new governor. "Who the candidate will be?" Rinke asked, before answering, "To be determined." Mauger writes that the family has owned car dealerships in the Detroit area, which gives them a recognizable name in this large section of the state.

Mauger also mentions Schuette, former Rep. Mike Bishop, and former state House Speaker Tom Leonard as possible contenders. Leonard, he writes, is "expected" to instead seek a rematch with Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, who beat him 49-46 in 2018, though Mauger says he is still "viewed as a potential gubernatorial candidate."

NE-Gov: Republican Sen. Deb Fischer confirmed Wednesday that she was considering running in next year's open seat race for governor, though she said she was "in no hurry" to decide. That could be very unwelcome news for other Republicans looking at this race, as Fischer would be a very prominent contender who could deter others from running.

NY-Gov: Democrat Charles Lavine, who chairs the New York Assembly's Judiciary Committee, said on Tuesday that he expects the committee's impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo will take "months, rather than weeks." Two women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, Ana Liss and Lindsey Boylan, have said they won't participate in the investigation, citing both its slow pace and criticisms about its independence. A third, Charlotte Bennett, has said she will take part, but her attorney said "questions remain" about the probe.

House

GA-10: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that businessman Ames Barnett, the former mayor of the small community of Washington (pop. 4,000) is considering seeking the Republican nomination to succeed incumbent Jody Hice and "hopes to make a decision within the next week."

NJ-02: Hector Tavarez, a former member of the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, said this week that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew. Tavarez joins civil rights attorney Tim Alexander in the primary for this South Jersey seat.

The New Jersey Globe notes that Tavarez, who is also a retired police captain, has a more conservative pitch than most Democrats. Tavarez notably said in his kickoff, "Welfare and other social programs were designed to assist American families in need for a short period of time while they got themselves up on their feet. Over the years, these programs have evolved into a way of life, generation after generation."

NY-23: Several Republicans are showing at least some interest in running to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Reed, though many acknowledged that they'd want to wait and see what the new congressional map looks like. New York, as we've noted before, is likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for map makers to eliminate this upstate constituency.

Former state Sen. Cathy Young told WIVB reporter Chris Horvatits that she was thinking about it, while Assemblyman Joe Giglio said it was something he "might consider." In a separate interview with the Olean Times Herald, Giglio said he'd be interested if the 23rd District "still existed" after the remap.

State Sen. George Borrello, who was elected to succeed Young in a 2019 special election, also told Horvatits he wasn't ruling it out. Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel also said he was focused on his re-election bid and didn't appear to directly address a congressional bid. Assemblyman Andy Goodell, though, said he wouldn't be running himself.

On the Democratic side, 2020 state Senate candidate Leslie Danks-Burke said she was open to a House race. Meanwhile, Tracy Mitrano, who lost to Reed in 2018 and 2020, said she wouldn't wage a third congressional campaign.

Legislative

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Virginia:

VA-SD-38: Republican Travis Hackworth defeated Democrat Laurie Buchwald 76-24 to hold this seat for his party. Hackworth's win was similar to Donald Trump's 75-22 victory here in 2016.

This chamber is now at full strength, with Democrats maintaining their narrow 21-19 majority.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Core Decision Analytics has released its second poll of the instant-runoff Democratic primary for Fontas Advisors, a lobbying group that is not working for any candidates, and it shows 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang leading Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 16-10.

The firm has changed one important part of its methodology since its February survey, which had Yang beating Adams 28-17. The earlier poll included a brief description of each candidate while this one just lists their names, which helps explain why the proportion of undecideds skyrocketed from 19% to 50%.

Yang's campaign, meanwhile, has released another poll from Slingshot Strategies that shows him outpacing Adams 25-15, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer at 12%. This survey, which the pollster tells us was in the field March 12-18, is very similar to its January survey finding Yang up 25-17.

The crowded primary field also got a little smaller Wednesday when City Councilman Carlos Menchaca exited the contest.

Morning Digest: With Trump’s blessing, congressman seeks to oust Georgia’s GOP secretary of state

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-SoS, GA-10: Far-right Rep. Jody Hice announced Monday that he would challenge Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year's Republican primary rather than seek a fifth term in the safely red 10th Congressional District in the east-central part of the state. Hice immediately earned an endorsement from Donald Trump, who last year unsuccessfully pressured Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" in order to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state.

Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost the 2018 nomination fight to Raffensperger 62-38, also announced over the weekend that he would seek a rematch. Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting ex-Democrat who joined the Republican Party right after the 2020 election, had also been mentioned, though he turned his gaze to the governor's race on Monday. Georgia requires a runoff in any primaries where no one takes a majority of the vote.

Campaign Action

Hice, though, will likely be Raffensperger's main foe thanks to Trump's endorsement and prominent position, but his many ugly views could also prove to be a liability in a general election in what's now become a swing state.

Hice, a pastor who worked as a conservative radio host before his 2014 election to Congress, made a name for himself with a 2012 book where he wrote, "Evidently there are many who believe a 'Gestapo-like' presence is needed by the government in order to corral and keep under control, all these 'dangerous' Christians." Hice also used that tome to attack LGBTQ people and Muslims, as well as compare supporters of abortion rights to Hitler.

Hice has remained a far-right favorite in Congress, especially this year. Hice posted on Instagram hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, "This is our 1776 moment." The message was quickly deleted after New York Times reporter Charles Bethea flagged it on Twitter in the midst of the assault on the building. Hice's spokesperson said the next day, "The 1776 post was our way of highlighting the electoral objection—we removed the post when we realized it could be misconstrued as supporting those acting violently yesterday and storming the Capitol."  

That violence was hardly enough to stop Hice from spreading conspiracy theories. Last month, the congressman used his CPAC panel titled "Who's Really Running the Biden Administration" to declare, "I guarantee you, Georgia is not blue, and what happened this election was solely because of a horrible secretary of state and horrible decisions that he made."

On the Democratic side, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that one of the "leaning potential candidates" for secretary of state is state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is the first Vietnamese American to serve in the chamber. Nguyen has been in the news in recent days as she's spoken out against racism against Asian Americans following last week's lethal attack on Atlanta-area spas.

Meanwhile, Republicans are already eyeing the race to succeed Hice in Georgia's 10th Congressional District. This seat backed Donald Trump 60-39, and it will almost certainly remain safely red after the GOP devises new maps.

Two Republican members of the legislature, state Sen. Bill Cowsert and state Rep. Houston Gaines, expressed interest in recent days. The AJC also name-drops 2014 candidate Mike Collins, state Rep. Jodi Lott, and former state party chair John Padgett as possible candidates for Team Red.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, a hard-right favorite who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, announced on Monday that he would compete in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks joins major GOP donor Lynda Blanchard, who served as ambassador to Slovenia, in a nomination fight that could attract more Republicans in this extremely red state.

Brooks previously competed in the 2017 special election for the Yellowhammer State’s other Senate seat in a race that turned out quite badly for him. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund aired ad after ad using footage from the previous year of Brooks, who had supported Ted Cruz in the presidential primary, attacking Donald Trump. One piece showed the congressman saying, "I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says" before the narrator argued that Brooks sided with Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi against Trump.

The ad campaign worked, but not to the GOP’s benefit. Brooks took third place with 20%, but Roy Moore went on to defeat Strange in the runoff; Moore later went on to lose to Democrat Doug Jones after multiple women accused the Republican nominee of preying on them as teenagers.

Brooks, though, didn’t have to give up his House seat to run in that special, and he soon reinvented himself as one of Trump’s most ardent allies. Brooks proved to be an especially eager promoter of Trump’s election conspiracy theories, and in a speech delivered four hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he told rally goers, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” CNN later reported that several Republicans later talked about ejecting him from his committee assignments after that day’s violence, though unsurprisingly, they didn’t actually do anything.

One Republican who was delighted by Brooks, though, was Trump, something that could go a long way towards helping the congressman avoid a repeat of his 2017 experience. Politico reports that Trump is leaning towards endorsing Brooks over Blanchard in part because of a major mistake from her campaign.

“The president doesn’t know Lynda all that well and it had gotten back to him and his team that people on her team had been overstating how close they supposedly are,” said one unnamed Trump ally, adding, “One of her aides was telling any donor who would listen that Trump was going to endorse her and that left him annoyed.” A Blanchard insider, naturally, countered, saying, “That’s bullshit. That’s somebody spinning someone to help Mo out. She would never oversell it, she’s not that kind of person.”

P.S. Brooks’ decision will open up the 5th Congressional District, a northern Alabama seat that backed Trump 63-37 in 2020.

AK-Sen, AK-Gov: Last week, the Associated Press' Mark Thiessen name-dropped a few Republicans as possible intra-party opponents for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has not yet said if she'll run again in 2022. The most familiar name is former Gov. Sarah Palin, who is perennially mentioned as a possible Murkowski foe even though she hasn't actually appeared on a ballot since her 2008 vice presidential bid.

Thiessen also lists Gov. Mike Dunleavy as a possibility, though he hasn't shown any obvious interest in doing anything other than run for re-election next year. Dunleavy hasn't announced his 2022 plans, though he said last week, "I enjoy the job and there's a lot of work to be done.

There's also Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in a 2010 primary shocker but went on to lose to her that fall when the senator ran a write-in campaign. Miller, who unsuccessfully sought the 2014 GOP nod for Alaska's other Senate seat, campaigned against Murkowski as a Libertarian in 2016 and lost 44-29. Miller also does not appear to have said anything about another campaign.

MO-Sen: Less than three years after he resigned in disgrace, former Gov. Eric Greitens announced Monday that he would seek the Republican nomination for this open seat. We’ll have more in our next Digest.

NC-Sen: Meredith College takes a look at an extremely early Democratic primary scenario and finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and state Sen. Jeff Jackson tied 13-13. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost the 2020 primary, takes 11%, while virologist Richard Watkins is at 4%. (Watkins ran in 2018 in the primary against veteran Rep. David Price and took just 6% of the vote.) Beasley is the only person tested who is not currently running.

Meredith also released numbers for the GOP primary but sampled just 217 respondents, which is below the 300-person minimum we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NV-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence that finds its old ally, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, leading former Sen. Dean Heller 44-25 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Heller, who lost Nevada's other Senate seat to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, has not shown any obvious signs of interest in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto.

Laxalt has not said anything about his 2022 plans, though CNN recently reported that he is considering a Senate bid. McClatchy, citing an unnamed GOP aide, also writes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "is also said to favor Laxalt's candidacy."

OH-Sen: 314 Action, which is trying to recruit former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to run for this open seat, has released a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows her outperforming her fellow Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, in hypothetical general election matchups against a trio of Republicans. First up are the Acton numbers:

  • 42-41 vs. former state Treasurer Josh Mandel
  • 40-40 vs. former state party chair Jane Timken
  • 40-38 vs. author J.D. Vance

Next up is Ryan:

  • 38-42 vs. Mandel
  • 38-41 vs. Timken
  • 37-39 vs. Vance

314 publicized another PPP poll last week that had Acton leading Ryan 37-32 in a potential primary. Both Democrats are publicly considering running, though neither of them has announced a bid.

Mandel and Timken currently have the GOP side to themselves, but plenty of others could get in. Vance, who is best known as the writer of "Hillbilly Elegy," has not said anything about his interest, but Politico reports that he recently met with people close to Trump. Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer also revealed that far-right billionaire Peter Thiel had contributed $10 million to a super PAC set up to help Vance if he runs.

Governors

GA-Gov: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, an ardent Trump fan who left the Democratic Party in January, tweeted Monday that he was "looking closely" at a GOP primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jones, unsurprisingly, echoed his patron's lies about election fraud by insisting, "If it weren't for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States." Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority even if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp.

Jones had a long career in Democratic politics, though he'd struggled to win higher office under his old party. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, Jones "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office, but he lost the 2008 primary runoff for Senate 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26.

In 2013, a grand jury probing Jones' time as DeKalb County CEO recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for DeKalb County sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. Jones, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate.

Jones finally switched parties in January, and he's been eyeing another statewide bid over the last few months. Jones has been mentioned as a prospective Senate candidate, and he reportedly eyed a primary campaign for secretary of state against Brad Raffensperger as recently as last week. Trump, though, has touted former NFL running back Herschel Walker as a prospective Senate candidate and endorsed Rep. Jody Hice's bid against Raffensperger on Monday (see our GA-SoS item), which may be why Jones is now talking about taking on Kemp instead.

MO-Gov, MO-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe announced Monday that he would compete in the 2024 race to succeed Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who will be termed-out, rather than run in next year's open seat race for the Senate.

Kehoe's kickoff is extremely early, but while it's not unheard of for prominent gubernatorial candidates to enter the race well over three years before Election Day, that preparation doesn't always pay off. Then-California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom notably launched his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign in February of 2015, while Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced his 2022 bid in August of 2019 only to drop down to attorney general last month after Donald Trump backed a rival Republican primary candidate.

NY-Gov: A ninth woman, Alyssa McGrath, has come forward to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, making her the first current Cuomo employee to do so on the record. McGrath, an executive assistant in the governor's office, says Cuomo "would ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make suggestive comments to her" and a coworker. She also says Cuomo called her "beautiful" in Italian and on one occasion stared down her shirt.

Cuomo once again did not deny the interactions had taken place. Instead, a spokesperson insisted that "the governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like 'ciao bella.' None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone."

PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Several more Republicans, including a few familiar names, have made their interest in running to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf known in recent days.

On Monday, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain formed a fundraising committee for a potential bid. That step came days after Rep. Mike Kelly said he was thinking about running either for governor or for the Senate. The Associated Press also writes that another congressman, Rep. Dan Meuser, "has said he is considering running" for governor, but there's no quote from him.

Former Rep. Lou Barletta, who badly lost the 2018 Senate general election, also acknowledged his interest in the gubernatorial race and pledged to decide over the next few weeks. Additionally, state Sen. Dan Laughlin said over the weekend that he was thinking about campaigning to replace Wolf. The Erie Times-News writes that Laughlin is one of the more moderate Republicans in the legislature, which could be helpful in a general but toxic in a primary.

VA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Pete Snyder has earned an endorsement from Rep. Bob Good ahead of the May 8 Republican nominating convention. Good himself won the GOP nomination last year through this system when he unseated incumbent Denver Riggleman.

House

LA-02: Two Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson (the two are not related), will face off in the April 24 runoff to succeed Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House. Carter took first in Saturday's all-party primary with 36%, while Peterson edged out Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers by a surprisingly small 23-21 margin.

Carter has the backing of Richmond, the state AFL-CIO, and a high-profile Republican in the region, Cynthia Lee Sheng. On Monday, Carter also earned an endorsement from East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, whose constituency cast just under 10% of the vote. Peterson, for her part, has benefited from about $600,000 in outside spending from EMILY's List.

Both Carter and Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, have campaigned as ardent Democrats, though Peterson has argued she's the more progressive of the two. Notably, while Peterson and other contenders called for a Green New Deal, Carter merely characterized it as "a good blueprint" that won't be in place for a long time and that he doesn't support.

Both candidates also say they back Medicare for all, though only Peterson has run commercials focused on it. Carter, for his part, has insisted he'd have a far easier time working with Republicans than Peterson. Carter has additionally played up his relationship with Richmond, saying, "I would have the ear of the guy who has the ear of the president of the United States of America." Peterson, who is a former state party chair, has pushed back by saying she has her own ties to senior White House officials and does "not need to have the ear of the ear of the ear of the toe of the thumb of someone."

Peterson will likely need Chambers' supporters to disproportionately break for her in order for her to close the gap next month, and she may be better positioned to appeal to them than Carter. That's far from guaranteed to happen, though, and Chambers himself hasn't hinted if he's leaning towards supporting one of them over the other. Chambers, while acknowledging Sunday that his endorsement would be very valuable, said of the two runoff contenders, "I don't think either one of them is a true progressive."

Local politics in New Orleans, which is coterminous with Orleans Parish, also may impact this race, as the two state senators represent conflicting factions in local Democratic politics. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power player in the Crescent City that has clashed with Richmond and his allies. Each side scored some big wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and Clancy DuBos of the New Orleans weekly The Gambit recently noted, "Many see this contest as the latest bout between BOLD and Richmond."

In Orleans Parish, which cast just over half the vote on Saturday in this 10-parish district, it was Carter's side that very much came out on top in the first round. Carter led with 39%, while Chambers actually narrowly led Peterson 27-25 for second.

LA-05: University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow defeated Democrat Candy Christophe 65-27 in the all-party primary to succeed her late husband and fellow Republican, Luke Letlow, which was well more than the majority she needed to avoid a runoff. Luke Letlow won an open seat runoff for this safely red northeast Louisiana seat in December, but he died weeks later of complications from COVID-19 before he could take office.

Julia Letlow will be the first woman to represent Louisiana in Congress since Democrat Mary Landrieu left the Senate following her 2014 defeat, as well as the first Republican woman to ever serve in the state's delegation.

Letlow will also join Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, as the only member of Congress elected to succeed a late husband. (Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell won the 2014 contest to succeed John Dingell, which made her the first member elected to succeed a living spouse; John Dingell died in 2019.) Texas Republican Susan Wright is also currently running to succeed Rep. Ron Wright, who also died after contracting COVID-19.

NY-23: Chemung County Executive Chris Moss said Monday that he was interested in running to succeed Rep. Tom Reed, a fellow Republican who on Sunday apologized for sexually harassing a woman in 2017 as he announced he would not run for office in 2022. But Moss, who was the party's 2014 nominee for lieutenant governor, said that he would first run for re-election to his current office this year and would not decide on anything until he sees the new congressional map.

Moss has good reason to be wary, as no one knows what this 55-42 Trump seat, which currently includes Ithaca and southwestern New York, will look like next year. New York is very likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for mapmakers to eliminate this upstate New York seat.

It's also not clear, though, who those mapmakers will even be. An amendment to the state constitution backed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed in 2014 that, under the pretense of establishing an independent redistricting commission—a judge literally ordered that the word "independent" be stricken from the amendment's description because it was nothing of the sort—was actually designed to ensure Republican lawmakers would have a say in redistricting no matter if they lost their then-control over the state Senate. Legislative Democrats, though, now have the two-third supermajorities that would allow them to bypass this amendment―if they choose to try, that is.

All we know for now is that Reed's Sunday announcement will mark the end of a decade-long political career that included one unexpectedly competitive race. Reed was the mayor of Corning, a small city best known as the headquarters of the eponymous glassworks company, in 2008 when Democrat Eric Massa scored a pickup in what was numbered the 29th District at the time. The ancestrally red seat, though, had supported John McCain 51-48, and Republicans planned to make Massa a top target.

Reed entered the race to take on the freshman Democrat, but he never got the chance to take him on. Massa resigned in disgrace in March of 2010 after an aide accused him of sexual harassment, and Democrats had a very tough time finding a viable replacement candidate. Reed ultimately avoided any intra-party opposition and decisively outraised his Democratic foe, Afghanistan veteran Matthew Zeller. Major outside groups on both sides largely bypassed the race and Reed won 56-43; he also scored a similar win in a special election held that day for the final weeks of Massa's term.

Redistricting left Reed with a less conservative seat, but his huge financial advantage over Democratic Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa made him look like the heavy favorite to keep the new 23rd District red. It was therefore a big surprise when Reed only defeated Shinagawa 52-48 as Mitt Romney was carrying the seat 50-48, and Democrats were determined to give him a serious fight next time.

Fellow Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson stepped up for Team Blue, but 2014 proved to be a very difficult year for her party. Reed ran ad after ad portraying Robertson as an "extreme Ithaca liberal," including one commercial with a very strange cartoon of Robertson driving around in a hippie car as the narrator sarcastically threw in hippie slang.

Reed ended up winning 62-38, but Democrats hoped that the 2016 climate would revert back to something more like 2012. That's very much not what happened, though: Instead, Trump won 55-40 here, and Reed beat Democrat John Plumb 58-42. Reed had a closer 54-46 shave against cybersecurity expert Tracy Mitrano in 2018, but he won their 2020 rematch 58-41.

OH-16: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has followed Donald Trump's lead and endorsed former Trump administration official Max Miller's Republican primary bid against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach the party's leader in January. The Club has also released a poll from WPA Intelligence that shows Miller beating Gonzalez 39-30, though no one knows what this district will look like after redistricting.

TX-06: 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean has released a poll from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group that shows her in contention to advance past the May 1 all-party primary:

  • GOP activist Susan Wright (R): 18
  • 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez (D): 9
  • State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R): 8
  • 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean (D): 6
  • Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison (R): 6
  • Education activist Shawn Lassiter (D): 4
  • Former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses (D): 2
  • 2020 Nevada congressional candidate Dan Rodimer (R): 1

The only other poll we've seen was a Victoria Research survey for Sanchez released last week that showed Wright leading her 21-17, with Ellzey and Bean at 8% and 5%, respectively.

TX-34: In a surprise, Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela said Monday that he would not seek a sixth term in Texas' 34th Congressional District, a heavily Latino seat that snapped hard to the right last year. Vela is the second Democratic House member to announce his retirement following Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who made her 2022 plans known earlier this month.

This constituency, which includes Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley and rural counties to the north, went for Joe Biden 52-48 four years after it supported Hillary Clinton by a hefty 59-38 margin in 2016. This was the biggest shift toward Trump of any congressional district in Texas, and his third-largest improvement in the entire nation. Vela himself won re-election by a comfortable 55-42 against an underfunded Republican in a contest that attracted very little outside spending, but the dynamics of an open seat race could be very different.

Further muddling the picture for 2022 is redistricting. While Texas Republicans were ecstatic about their gains with Latino voters, they saw an even broader disintegration in their former suburban strongholds across the state that's left many of their incumbents on the brink. While the GOP will have full control over redistricting for the coming decade once again, Republicans in the legislature will have to make many hard choices about which districts to prop up and which to cut loose.  

Vela, for his part, has not had to worry about a competitive race since he won his first primary in 2012. Vela had never sought office before he entered that crowded contest for the newly-drawn 34th District, but his family had some very strong ties to the seat: His mother, Blanca Vela, was the first woman to serve as mayor of Brownsville while his father and namesake, Filemón Vela Sr., was a longtime federal judge who had a courthouse named for him in the city.

The younger Vela looked like the frontrunner especially after his most prominent opponent, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, was indicted for racketeering weeks before the primary. (He was later sentenced to 13 years in prison.) Vela reached the runoff by taking 40%, while his opponent, former congressional staffer Denise Saenz Blanchard, was far behind with 13%.

Blanchard ran to Vela's left and portrayed her opponent, whose wife was a GOP member of the state Court of Appeals, as far too conservative. Blanchard hit Vela for having voted in GOP primaries in the past, and some Republicans even insisted that Vela himself had planned to run for Congress as a member of Team Red until he saw the new congressional map.

However, Blanchard had little money available in a contest that attracted very little outside attention (Daily Kos Elections at the time dubbed it, "The most under-watched nominating battle in the nation."), and Vela won 67-33. Vela had no trouble that fall or in any other campaigns.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Saturday's special election in Louisiana and a preview of Tuesday's race in Virginia:

LA-HD-82: An all-Republican runoff is on tap for April 24 after Eddie Connick and Laurie Schlegel were the top two vote-getters for this seat in the New Orleans suburbs. Connick led Schlegel 40-36 in the first round, while Democrat Raymond Delaney took third with 25%.

Despite some recent leftward movement in this solidly red district, the two Republican candidates outpaced the Democrat 75-25. The strong GOP performance here could partially be attributed to the Republican candidates' connections to well-known local political figures.

VA-SD-38: This Republican district in southwest Virginia became vacant after former Sen. Ben Chafin died earlier this year. Former Radford City Councilwoman Laurie Buchwald is the Democratic candidate taking on Republican Travis Hackworth, a Tazewell County supervisor.

Buchwald has run for office once before, losing a state House of Delegates race to GOP incumbent Joe Yost 58-42 in 2015.

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Donald Trump 75-22 in 2016, and according to The News and Advance, Trump took 78% of the vote here in 2020. This is the only vacancy in this chamber, which Democrats narrowly control 21-18.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Joe Biden will be hosting a Friday virtual fundraiser for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, which is the president's first such event for any candidate since he became president. Bottoms faces a potentially competitive re-election fight this fall against City Council President Felicia Moore, while others are also considering taking her on.

Morning Digest: 17 districts flipped from Trump to Biden in 2020, while only two went the other way

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

House: Thanks to the recent completion of Daily Kos Elections' effort to calculate the 2020 presidential election results by congressional district, we now know that Joe Biden won 224 districts to Donald Trump's 211, a net increase of 15 seats for Democrats compared to the 2016 results under the same district lines. In a new story, Stephen Wolf has created maps and a chart showing the geography and electoral stats of the 19 districts that changed parties at the presidential level in 2020. Of those districts, 17 flipped from backing Trump in 2016 to Biden last year, while two districts switched from supporting Hillary Clinton four years ago to voting for Trump in 2020.

The districts that changed hands share some demographic commonalities, and many were competitive at the House level in November. Those that went from Trump to Biden include many historically red suburban seats with high levels of college education and voters who have grown increasingly hostile to the Republican Party under Trump. That's an extension of the pattern seen in 2016, when Clinton also flipped many historically red suburban seats.

Campaign Action

Unlike four years ago when Trump flipped many districts with large populations of white voters without a college degree, the two districts that Trump picked up this time both have large populations of Latino voters, a demographic that shifted sharply back toward Republicans in 2020 after giving Clinton historically high levels of support four years earlier.

Governors

CA-Gov: Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a vocal proponent of the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, isn't so sure about running himself if the recall makes the ballot. "I'm not planning on it now," he told Politico this week, adding that he'll "look at how the field shapes up."

CO-Gov: Businessman Greg Lopez, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018, has announced that he'll try for the Republican nod to take on Democratic Gov. Jared Polis again next year. The little-known Lopez finished a surprising second at the state GOP's convention three years ago, which allowed him to move on to the party's primary, but his campaign was badly underfunded and he ended up a very distant third with just 13% of the vote.

KS-Gov: Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who'd reportedly been looking at a bid against Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, now confirms that he's "seriously considering" a campaign, though he did not offer a timetable for a decision.

MN-Gov: Unnamed GOP operatives tell the Minnesota Reformer that Republican state Sen. Michelle Benson could be a candidate for governor next year, when Democratic Gov. Tim Walz is up for re-election, though there's no word on whether she's interested. So far, no major Republican names have entered the race.

PA-Gov: The Cook Political Report adds former Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings to the long list of Republicans who could run for governor next year, though she doesn't appear to have said anything publicly. Cummings briefly ran for the Senate in 2012 before dropping down to challenge Democrat Matt Cartwright for what was then the newly redrawn 17th Congressional District and got smooshed.

House

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter has released a mid-February internal survey conducted by veteran New Orleans pollster Silas Lee that finds him leading the March 20 all-party primary with 28% of the vote, which is below the majority he'd need to avoid an April runoff. The poll finds that Carter's most likely opponent is fellow state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who edges out a third Democrat, activist Gary Chambers, 19-6 for second place.

The only other poll we've seen of the contest for this safely blue seat was a late February survey conducted for Trust the People PAC, a group opposed to Carter, that also found the two state senators advancing. Unfortunately, the PAC did not reveal the name of its pollster, which is information we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NC-11: Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara just kicked off a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, making her the first notable Democrat to do so. Beach-Ferrara, who described herself "a gay woman who's a Christian minister" in her announcement video, won a second four-year term on the commission last year. Buncombe, which is home to the college town of Asheville, makes up about a third of North Carolina's 11th District and is its bluest bastion. The district overall is quite red, though: According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, it supported Donald Trump 55-43 last year.

OH-01: Ohio's 1st Congressional District may already be represented by a member of his own party, but Franklin Mayor Brent Centers is eagerly trying to elbow aside Republican Rep. Steve Chabot ahead of next year's midterms. That may not go so well, however: Centers says "my assumption and the assumption of a lot of people who are endorsing me" is that Chabot will retire, but a spokesperson for the congressman says he's running for a 14th term and pointed to an op-ed Chabot wrote immediately after winning his second straight difficult re-election campaign in November saying he'd be on the ballot in 2022.

According to Centers, though, that hasn't stopped a whole host of officials in his home base of Warren County from backing his would-be candidacy, which he says he plans to launch in early May. It's possible that some of these local pols think they're avoiding a direct conflict with Chabot because Warren could be drawn into another neighboring district, and Centers even hinted that could set him on a collision course with two other Republicans: Reps. Warren Davidson and Brad Wenstrup. But redistricting is still a long ways away, so if Centers is serious about kicking off a bid in just two months' time, he'll have to make it clear whether or not he's actually going to primary Chabot.

TX-06: There was a surprise less than an hour before candidate filing closed Wednesday when Dan Rodimer, who was the Republican nominee for Nevada's 3rd District last year, filled out paperwork to run in the May 1 special all-party primary. Rodmier's campaign didn't come completely out of nowhere, as the Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers mentioned him as a possible contender last week, but the former WWE wrestler hadn't said anything publicly until now.

Rodimer, whose Twitter account still listed his location as Las Vegas even as he was filing to run in the Lone Star State, said, "We need fighters in Texas, and that's what I'm coming here for. I'm moving back to Texas." We'll have more about Rodimer and the rest of this crowded field in our next Digest.

Meanwhile, former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson tweeted on Tuesday night that she'd be sitting the contest out. A third Republican, party activist Susan Wright, also earned an endorsement this week from 21st District Rep. Chip Roy in her quest to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright.

TX-13: The Department of Defense on Wednesday released its long-awaited inspector general’s report into allegations against freshman Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson from his time as chief White House physician, and it concluded that he displayed egregious behavior during his tenure.

The report concluded that Jackson “engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol” during two presidential trips; “disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated” subordinates, which included “sexual and denigrating” comments against one; and “took Ambien during official travel, raising concerns about his potential incapacity to provide medical care during his travel.”

Jackson, who represents one of the most Republican seats in the nation, responded by once again declaring, “Democrats are using this report to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity.”

WA-04: Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp, who lost a bid for governor by a 57-43 margin to Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee last year, suggested this week that he might run against Rep. Dan Newhouse in Washington's 4th Congressional District next year. Newhouse, of course, is one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, earning him the ire of local GOP officials and conservative activists alike.

However, a Culp campaign could actually benefit him. That's because Republican state Rep. Brad Klippert already launched a challenge in January, meaning that the high-profile Culp might only help fracture the disaffected Trumpist vote on the right. Klippert does have one advantage, though: His entire legislative district is contained in the 4th, while Culp, notes NCWLIFE's Jefferson Robbins, doesn't even live in Newhouse's district but rather in the 5th.

WI-03: Republican Derrick Van Orden, who previously had not ruled out a rematch against Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, says he is "very seriously considering" another bid, though he did not say when he might decide.

Legislatures

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

AL-SD-26: Democrat Kirk Hatcher defeated Republican William Green 78-22 to hold this seat for his party. Hatcher's win was right in line with past Democratic performances in this district. According to FiveThiryEight's Nathaniel Rakich, Hillary Clinton won this district 77-20 in 2016 and former Sen. David Burkette won here 80-20 in 2018.

Republicans now have a 27-7 majority in this chamber with one other seat vacant.

CA-SD-10: As of early Wednesday, Democrat Sydney Kamlager was leading in this South Los Angeles-area district and is on track to easily avoid a runoff. Kamlager declared victory and was leading her closest competition, fellow Democrat Daniel Lee, 68-13.

As the likely outcome of this race is a Democratic hold, the composition of this chamber would return to a 31-9 lead for Team Blue.

CT-SD-27: Democrat Patricia Miller defeated Republican Joshua Esses to hold this seat for her party. The state of Connecticut has not released vote totals for this race yet, but according to the Stamford Advocate, Miller was leading by approximately 100 votes and Esses had conceded the race.  

This chamber will return to a 24-12 advantage for Democrats.

MA-HD-19th Suffolk: Former Winthrop Town Council president Jeffrey Turco won the Democratic primary in this reliably blue seat in the Winthrop area. Turco came out ahead of union representative Juan Jaramillo 36-30 in a contest where there were very sharp ideological contrasts between the two top contenders.

Jaramillo was endorsed by notable progressives such as Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and also had the backing of several labor groups, such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Turco, meanwhile, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, was supported by several police unions, and received backlash from groups such as NARAL for his stance on reproductive rights. Turco's support of GOP candidates extended into the 2020 cycle as well, when he donated to the re-election campaign of Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

Former Massachusetts House staffer Alicia DelVento, meanwhile, took third with 26% while Valentino Capobianco, who is chief of staff to state Sen. Paul Feeney, took 7%. Capobianco had the backing of establishment figures such as state Attorney General Maura Healey and former Rep. Joe Kennedy but lost their support when sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against him.

Turco will begin as the favorite over Republican Paul Caruccio in the March 30 general election in this district that supported Hillary Clinton 60-36 in 2016.

Mayors

 New York City, NY Mayor: On Wednesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams earned an endorsement from the Hotel Trades Council, which is one of the major unions in city politics, for the June instant-runoff Democratic primary.

St. Louis, MO Mayor: St. Louis on Tuesday became the first large city in America to host a race using an "approval voting" system, which allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, and City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderman Cara Spencer advanced to next month's nonpartisan general election.

Tishaura Jones, who narrowly lost the 2017 Democratic primary to retiring incumbent Lyda Krewson under the old system, won support from 57% of voters, while 46% selected Cara Spencer as a choice. A third Democratic contender, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, earned the backing of 39% of voters, while 19% selected Republican Andrew Jones.

Tishaura Jones and Cara Spencer will compete again in the April 6 general election, where voters will only be able to select one of them. Tishaura Jones would be the city's first Black leader since 2001.

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: St. Pete Polls, working on behalf of Florida Politics, surveys the August nonpartisan primary of its namesake city and finds three Democrats in a close fight for the two spots in a likely general election, though with a large plurality of voters still undecided. City Councilwoman Darden Rice leads with 15%, while former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and former state Rep. Wengay Newton are each just behind with 14%; another five candidates were tested, but none of them took more than 5% of the vote.

St. Pete also tests a hypothetical November matchup between Rice and Welch and finds Welch ahead 31-24.

Data

Pres-by-CD: We've made some minor adjustments to our calculations of the 2020 presidential election results by congressional district in Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York based on more precise data we've received since we initially published our findings for each state.

The largest shift came in New Jersey, which resulted in 427 votes moving between the 5th District to the 9th, with Donald Trump's margin increasing by that sum in the former and Biden's growing a corresponding amount in the latter. We also corrected a minor error in Oklahoma that resulted in a total of 484 votes shifting from the 4th District to the 5th with no change to the raw vote margin between the two candidates.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The district attorney’s office in Shawnee County, Kansas announced this week that it had reached a diversion agreement with former Republican Rep. Steve Watkins that would allow him to avoid trial over voter fraud charges. If Watkins follows the conditions, avoids breaking the law, and pays a $250 fine, the charges against him would be dropped in September.

Back in late 2019, the Topeka Capital-Journal first reported that Watkins may have committed voter fraud by listing a UPS store in Topeka as his home address on his voter registration form and then proceeding to cast a ballot the previous month as though he lived there. Watkins’ team insisted he’d made an "inadvertent" error and insisted he had "no improper purpose" because the UPS store and his supposed residence are both in the same county and congressional district. However, the locations are in different city council districts, and the contest Watkins cast his ballot in was decided by just 13 votes.

Local authorities began investigating Watkins for potential voter fraud soon afterwards, and they charged him the following July with three felonies, including lying to law enforcement. Watkins, who was already facing a tough intra-party challenge from state Treasurer Jake LaTurner even before the UPS story broke, argued he was the victim of a “hyper-political” attack, but LaTurner beat him by a blistering 49-34 margin that following month and went on to prevail in November. As part of Watkins’ diversion agreement, he acknowledged that he’d lied to a detective by claiming he hadn’t voted in that tight city council contest.

Morning Digest: These are the top 10 state supreme court battles of the coming cycle

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

State Supreme Courts: In a new story, Daily Kos Elections' Stephen Wolf looks state-by-state at the supreme court elections in 2021-2022 where progressives or conservatives could gain majorities or make major inroads. The federal judiciary grew ever more hostile to voting rights during the Trump era, and the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to curtail partisan gerrymanders designed to entrench one-party rule. But at the same time, state courts such as Pennsylvania's have started striking down these gerrymanders and issuing their own decisions defending voting access.

Crucially, these decisions have relied on protections found in state constitutions, meaning that they're insulated from U.S. Supreme Court review (at least for the time being). Almost every state constitution, in fact, offers similar protections—the issue is who's interpreting them. Unlike federal judges, most state supreme court justices are elected to their posts, and while the almost uniquely American practice of electing judges creates serious problems for judicial impartiality, it nevertheless presents progressives with the opportunity to replace conservative ideologues with more independent-minded jurists.

Campaign Action

​With 10 major states up for grabs over the next two years, progressives have the chance to flip Ohio's Supreme Court, gain a more solid majority in Montana, and make gains that could set them up to flip conservative-heavy courts in Georgia, Texas, and Virginia later this decade. Meanwhile, Republicans could take control of Democratic-leaning courts in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Elections in these states could have major implications for efforts to constrain gerrymandering and protect the right to vote over the next decade.

Senate

AL-Sen, AL-Gov: Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, whose name had come up as a possible candidate for Alabama's open Senate seat, announced on Friday that he would not join the GOP primary. However, while Ainsworth did not mention next year's race for governor, he did say in a statement that he believes "that God's plan currently calls for me to continue leading on the state, not federal, level of government"—a hint that he could instead run for that post. The current incumbent, Republican Kay Ivey, could seek another term but hasn't yet announced her plans and may, at age 76, opt to retire.

OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Republican Rep. Warren Davidson said over the weekend that he's considering a bid for Ohio's open Senate race and also suggested he could primary Gov. Mike DeWine. In an interview with Fox at CPAC, Davidson criticized DeWine for his "overbearing" approach to fighting the pandemic and said he should have behaved more like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Of course, it's one thing to take jabs at an incumbent unpopular with conservatives when in the most friendly possible environment; it's quite a lot further to challenge him in an actual campaign.

Governors

MA-Gov: Democrat Joe Curtatone announced on Monday that he would not seek a sixth term this fall as mayor of Somerville, a city of 81,000 located just north of Boston, and he once again did not rule out a bid for governor in 2022. Curtatone said his decision was not a "political calculus to a calendar or timeline," adding, "I'm not even thinking about what I may or may want to do."

Back in December, the conservative Boston Herald reported that Curtatone was mulling over a bid against Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has not yet revealed his own plans. While Curtatone still hasn't publicly expressed interest, though, one of his longtime advisors did say the mayor was thinking about it. Consultant Mark Horan, who acknowledged that it would have been "extremely difficult" for Curtatone to seek a promotion while also running for reelection, said of a potential gubernatorial run, "It certainly makes sense that he is considering it."

NY-Gov: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo will face an independent investigation into charges that he sexually harassed female members of his staff after a second aide, former health policy staffer Charlotte Bennett, accused him of repeatedly asking her invasive and unwanted questions about her sex life. Following Bennet’s allegations, a third woman, Anna Ruch, said on Monday that Cuomo made an unsought advance on her at a wedding, grabbing her face and asking if he could kiss her before she was able to pull away.

Bennett, who is 25, revealed to the New York Times's Jesse McKinley that the 63-year-old Cuomo, whom she served as an executive assistant, did not touch her but asked her questions like whether "she was romantically involved," "was monogamous in her relationships," "believed if age made a difference in relationships" and "had ever been with an older man." According to Bennett, Cuomo told her "he's fine with anyone above the age of 22." She told McKinley, "I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared."

Bennett contemporaneously documented her encounters in text messages with friends and family members. She also reported them to Cuomo's chief of staff in June and was soon transferred to a new position advising on health policy, explaining that she chose not to press for an investigation because she was happy with her new post and "wanted to move on." However, Bennett left her job in November, saying, of Cuomo, "His presence was suffocating. I was thinking that I could recover and have distance but that is so naïve."

Following the Times report on Friday, which came just two days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused Cuomo of fostering a hostile workplace and kissing her on the mouth without her consent, top Democrats across the state immediately demanded an inquiry. Cuomo sought to head off these demands on Saturday by trying to hand-pick his own investigator, former federal Judge Barbara Jones—a move that was met with instant derision given Jones' close ties to a former top Cuomo aide, Steven Cohen.

In a rare climb-down reflecting his precarious position, Cuomo quickly reversed course on Sunday and asked state Attorney General Tish James and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to jointly name an independent attorney to investigate the allegations. James, however, instantly shot down that proposal as well, saying that her office alone has the legal authority to handle the matter. (And though James didn't mention it, DiFiore was appointed to her position leading New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, by Cuomo.)

Remarkably, Cuomo backed down a second time later that same day and said he would refer the matter outright to James, which he did the following day. James promised to hire an outside law firm to lead the probe and pledged she would "oversee a rigorous and independent investigation."

Cuomo's response to the substance of Bennett's charges has also differed markedly from how he reacted to Boylan's accusations, which he simply denied entirely. On Sunday, in a statement that referenced Bennett but not Boylan, Cuomo said, "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended," and added a no-pology: "To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."

Bennett rejected Cuomo's remarks as insufficient on Monday, saying in a statement that the governor "has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior." She also offered encouragement to other women who might come forward.

Whether or not in response to Bennett’s entreaty, Ruch did just that. On Monday, she told the New York Times that, after she thanked the governor for making a toast on behalf of her newly married friends, Cuomo swiftly placed his hand on her bare lower back. A friend photographed the ensuing moments, in which Cuomo placed both hands on Ruch’s cheeks and, says Ruch, asked, “Can I kiss you?” Ruch’s friend says Cuomo kissed Ruch on the cheek as she removed herself from his grasp. A Cuomo spokesperson “did not directly address Ms. Ruch’s account,” says the Times, only directing reporters back to the Sunday statement described above.

While a number of prominent Democrats have said Cuomo should resign if James' investigation inculpates him, a growing chorus has called for him to leave office immediately. A telling example came from Rep. Kathleen Rice, who tweeted, “The Governor must resign” shortly after the Times published Ruch’s story. In 2010, Rice was Cuomo’s preferred candidate to succeed him as attorney general, though she lost the Democratic primary to Eric Schneiderman.

If Cuomo were to leave office early, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman who is serving her second term as Cuomo’s number two.

House

NC-11: In a new report from BuzzFeed, two more women, Caitlin Coulter and Leah Petree, have publicly accused freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of sexually harassing them while they attended Patrick Henry College in 2016 and 2017. Previously, three women (including two by name) came forward in the summer of 2020 to charge Cawthorn with similar acts both before and during his time at Patrick Henry.

Several other students also told BuzzFeed that Cawthorn had developed a reputation for predatory behavior despite his brief enrollment at the school (he was there for just over a semester), and two dorm leaders also confirmed that they'd warned women about him.

NJ-02: Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo has announced he'll run for a competitive state Senate seat that's open this fall due to a Republican retirement, which probably takes him out of the running for a challenge to Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew. Win or lose in November, it'd be unlikely that Mazzeo would want to immediately turn around and run another tough race.

OH-16: With the support of his old boss, former Donald Trump aide Max Miller has entered the GOP primary against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Trump in January. Miller, a Marine Corps reservist, hails from a family of prominent Jewish philanthropists in the Cleveland neighborhood of Shaker Heights but only recently moved into Gonzalez's 16th District, which lies to the west, south, and east of the area where Miller grew up (yes, it's that hideously gerrymandered).

The announcement makes Miller the first notable Republican to join the race, but former state Rep. Christina Hagan has also hinted at her interest. However, she's said she might instead choose to seek Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan's 13th District, depending on how redistricting turns out.

TX-06: Republican Brian Harrison, who served as chief of staff to former Trump Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar during his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic, announced Monday that he could compete in the May 1 special election to succeed the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright. Politico wrote last month of the now-candidate, "In the West Wing, a handful of his detractors derisively referred to Harrison as 'the dog breeder'—a reference to the labradoodle-breeding family business that he helped run prior to joining the Trump administration." More on that here.

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson also plans to run. The filing deadline is Wednesday, so we'll have a full-line up for the all-party primary very soon.

WY-AL: State Rep. Chuck Gray just filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible primary challenge to Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, though he has yet to speak publicly about his interest. Gray's name surfaced last month when a poll for Donald Trump's super PAC included him. His Twitter bio only describes him as a member of the legislature, not a congressional candidate, though his feed is mostly filled with attacks on Cheney. Another GOP lawmaker, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, is already running.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings the busiest special election night of the year so far, with three races on deck in Alabama, California, and Connecticut.

AL-SD-26: This Democratic Montgomery-based seat became vacant when former Sen. David Burkette resigned last year. Burkette did not cite a reason for his resignation at the time, but was arrested and sentenced to a year of probation just a few weeks later because of a campaign finance violation.

Democratic state Rep. Kirk Hatcher will take on Republican William Green, a minister. Alabama is a difficult state to wrangle data from, so we don't have presidential results for this district. Based on prior results for races here, though, this is a strongly Democratic district. Burkette twice defeated Republican DJ Johnson here in 2018; once in a special election by an 89-10 spread and again later in the year in the regular election 80-20.

Republicans have a 26-7 edge in this chamber with this and one other seat vacant.

CA-SD-10: This South Los Angeles-area seat became vacant when former Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell was elected to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors last year. Three Democrats and two Republicans (plus two non-major party candidates) are vying to replace Mitchell in this strongly Democratic seat that backed Joe Biden 84-12 in 2020, according to data from Los Angeles County.

The Democrats are Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager, Culver City Council Member Daniel Lee, and Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles President Cheryl Turner, while businessman Joe Lisuzzo and business consultant Tiffani Jones are the Republicans. Community organizer Ernesto Huerta is representing the Peace and Freedom Party and Army veteran Renita Duncan is running without a party affiliation as an independent candidate.

Unlike other California elections, where the top two candidates advance to the next round even if one candidate wins a majority, special elections can be won in the first round if the leading candidate takes more than 50%. If no candidate does, though, a runoff will be held on May 4.

Democrats currently hold a 30-9 supermajority in this chamber, with just this seat vacant.

CT-SD-27: This seat located in Stamford became vacant when former Democratic Sen. Carlo Leon resigned to join the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont. The candidates for this race were selected by their parties, and Democrats nominated state Rep. Patricia Miller while Republicans tapped attorney Joshua Esses.

This is a safely blue district that Hillary Clinton won 66-30 in 2016. Democrats control this chamber 23-12, with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation on Friday that would avert a special election in the event that Mayor Marty Walsh resigns before March 5 to become U.S. secretary of labor. The regularly scheduled nonpartisan primary for a four-year term will still take place in September, and the two candidates with the most votes will compete in the November general election.

Morning Digest: What if the GOP held a convention but no one remembered to rent the parking lot?

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

VA-Gov: On Tuesday, the Virginia Republican Central Committee held another contentious meeting during which its members voted to nominate their 2021 candidates for statewide office at a May 8 convention in the parking lot of Liberty University … but they seem to have failed to tell their would-be hosts. The evangelical school put out a statement the following day saying it had yet to agree to hold the event at all and that GOP leaders had not even informed it about the date of the gathering.

The institution instead said that it had notified GOP leaders that it would "consider" hosting the event, "provided that full rental cost for the use was paid." That could be a real concern, since the state party had all of $1,514 in the bank at the end of 2020. (Democrats, who will pick their nominees in a traditional June primary―an event that will be paid for by the state and open to any eligible voter―were flush.) It's too late for Republicans to reverse themselves, though, because Tuesday was the deadline for parties to notify Virginia election authorities that they'd like to hold a primary.

Old Dominion Republicans were already dealing with serious agita even before Liberty raised a stink on Wednesday, since many prominent officials were very unhappy that a small group of delegates would choose the party's nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

Campaign Action

Earlier this week, in fact, the GOP's last three governors―Bob McDonnell, Jim Gilmore, and George Allen―unsuccessfully tried to persuade party leaders to instead hold a "firehouse primary." Under such an arrangement, the party would have set up a single polling place in each county—vastly fewer than the number of voting locations in a regular primary, but more than the single statewide site that the GOP settled on. A firehouse primary also would have allowed all voters to participate.

Instead, officials announced that party-approved delegates would gather on May 8 in the parking lot of Liberty University, the school that was led by Jerry Falwell Jr. until he resigned in disgrace in August. Because of the pandemic, the delegates will fill out a ranked-choice ballot from their cars―if Liberty actually lets them camp out there, that is.

Even before Liberty's statement, GOP leaders admitted that they hadn't figured out all the logistics for this year's convention yet, with the Virginia Mercury's Ned Oliver writing, "There were also questions about whether spreading convention delegates out through multiple parking garages and surface lots across a college campus would meet the party's definition of an assembled convention."

Other Republicans also worried that the event will exclude anyone who can't make it to Lynchburg, a city that has lovely views of the Blue Ridge Mountains but is far from most of Virginia's major population centers. Another Mercury reporter, Graham Moomaw, tweeted that one official asked if delegates from Tangier Island, a small and heavily Republican community in the Chesapeake Bay that isn't connected to the rest of the state by land, were "supposed to float to Lynchburg for this big convention."

Roanoke Times reporter Amy Friedenberger responded, "The James River will get them there. Might have to leave a week or so early." However, if party leaders can't reach a deal with Liberty, they may not need to put on their swim trunks after all.

Senate

AL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell told The 19th News this week that she'd decide "very soon" whether she would run for Alabama's open U.S. Senate seat.

IA-Sen: Apparently, Chuck Grassley is just going to mess with us for as long as he feels like. The seven-term Republican said on Wednesday that he'd make a decision about whether to seek re-election "sometime in September, October or November," even though earlier this month he said an announcement was "several weeks off," which followed a January statement that he'd make up his mind in "several months," which in turn superseded remarks from last year in which a reporter said he'd decide "eight months to a year before the 2022 election."

GA-Sen: With David Perdue now safely out of the way, a variety of Republicans are popping their heads up to express interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year. In addition to the two big names already on the list, former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Rep. Doug Collins, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein catalogs a whole host of alternatives:

  • Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan: A close Loeffler ally and former minor-league pitcher for the Florida Marlins, Duncan said he might run for Senate, seek re-election to his current job, or simply retire from politics altogether
  • Attorney General Chris Carr: Bluestein calls him a "mainstream conservative" and says he "hasn't ruled it out"
  • Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black: No word on his interest, but he's a longtime Collins supporter so likely wouldn't run if Collins does
  • Attorney Randy Evans: A former ambassador to Luxembourg under Trump who is reportedly considering
  • Businessman Kelvin King: Hasn't commented but is "one of Trump's most prominent Black supporters in Georgia"
  • Justice Harold Melton: Stepping down as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court on July 1, but Bluestein says "he's not likely to run" and a backer says "he's had no serious conversations" about the race
  • Former NFL star Herschel Walker: A favorite of pundits, there's no indication that the one-time University of Georgia standout has any desire to run for office—and he lives in Texas

PA-Sen: A spokesperson for former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands confirmed to The Hill this week that Sands is indeed considering seeking the Republican nomination for this open Senate seat. Sands, whom Politico described as "a former socialite, B-list movie star and chiropractor," was a major Trump donor who managed to draw the wrong type of attention both during and after her time as ambassador.

In 2019, Sands banned a NATO expert named Stanley Sloan from an event celebrating the alliance's 70th anniversary for what Sloan characterized as his "critical evaluation of Trump's impact on transatlantic relations." This month, the Office of Special Counsel also concluded that Sands had broken federal law for using her official Twitter account to solicit donations for Trump's 2020 campaign, spread racist conspiracy theories about Kamala Harris' eligibility to serve as vice president, and attack Joe Biden.

Governors

FL-Gov: The Orlando Sentinel reports that state Sen. Randolph Bracy is considering seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. Bracy, who would be the Sunshine State's first Black governor, has used his time in the legislature to champion criminal justice reforms that have mostly failed to advance in the GOP-dominated body. Bracy was also in the news in early 2017 when he expressed interest in a primary challenge against then-Sen. Bill Nelson, though he didn't end up going for it.

MA-Gov: Democrats have speculated for years that Attorney General Maura Healey could run for governor in 2022 whether or not Republican Gov. Charlie Baker seeks re-election, and the talk only intensified this week after Healey made a pair of high-profile visits to vaccination sites. Healey, unsurprisingly, has denied that these stops were, in the words of the conservative Boston Herald, a "precursor to a potential gubernatorial bid," but she doesn't appear to have publicly addressed if she's thinking about running for the state's top job.

Healey, like Baker, is eligible to seek a third term next year, and there's little question she'd win re-election. If she instead ran for governor, though, Healey would almost certainly start the primary as the most-high profile contender in the race: Healey won re-election in 2018 by a 70-30 margin, and she has nearly $3 million on-hand in her state account. Healey would be both the first woman elected to lead Massachusetts (Republican Jane Swift ascended to this office in 2001 but never sought election in her own right), as well as the Bay State's first LGBTQ governor.

MD-Gov: Nonprofit head Wes Moore, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, told Maryland Matters this week that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Moore, who would be the state's first Black governor, did not give a timeline for when he'd decide, though Maryland Matters' Josh Kurtz writes that he's told it would likely be in "mid-to late spring."

Moore is also a nonfiction author whose work includes Five Daysa well-received 2020 book about the 2015 "uprising that overtook Baltimore after the police killing of Freddie Gray." Moore himself has not run for office before, though Kurtz notes that his wife served as a top aide to then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

A number of other Democrats are considering entering the race including Brown, who lost the 2014 contest to Hogan but was elected to the U.S. House two years later. For now, though, the only two announced candidates are Comptroller Peter Franchot, who recently received an endorsement from the Laborers' International Union of North America, and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain.

NY-Gov: This week, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin confirmed that he was considering a bid for governor.

House

CT-02: Republican state Rep. Mike France announced Tuesday that he would take on Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney. France is Courtney's most prominent opponent since 2006, when the Democrat first won his seat by ousting Republican Rep. Rob Simmons by 83 votes, but he'll still have a very tough time prevailing in an area that almost always favors Democrats: While this eastern Connecticut seat backed Hillary Clinton only 49-46, it returned to form last year and supported Joe Biden 54-44.

France, whom the CT Post's Emilie Munson notes was one of only eight lawmakers to vote no on a 2017 law to ban gay conversion "therapy," also doesn't seem at all interested in moderating himself. He opposed a 2019 bill that would have removed the state's religious exemption to mandatory immunizations for public school students―legislation that, unfortunately and ironically, failed to advance after the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed everything else.

France used the crisis to try to further undermine public health by challenging Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's emergency powers in court, arguing the state wasn't facing a "major disaster." A judge dismissed France's lawsuit a few months later.

IL-16: Former Trump administration official Catalina Lauf announced Tuesday that she would challenge Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who infuriated conservatives nationwide by voting to impeach Donald Trump, for the Republican nomination. This seat, which is based in north-central Illinois, supported Trump 57-41 last year, but no one knows what this turf will look like after redistricting.

Lauf campaigned against Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood last year in the neighboring 14th District, but Lauf's bid came to an end after she took a close third place in the crowded primary. The self-proclaimed "anti-AOC" remained popular with national Republicans, though, and Lauf appeared in a convention video months later with her sister and proclaimed, "We come from Spanish descent and we're millennial women and that's not what the media wants."

TX-06: Republican activist Susan Wright announced Wednesday that she would compete in the May 1 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright. Susan Wright served as a district director for two state representatives, and she also holds a post on the State Republican Executive Committee.

Wright is the first notable Republican to enter the race ahead of the March 3 filing deadline, but she's likely to have company. State Rep. Jake Ellzey, who lost the 2018 open seat runoff to Ron Wright, filed paperwork with the FEC this week.

Katrina Pierson, who was a prominent spokesperson for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and has spent the last few months spreading conspiracy theories about Joe Biden's win, also said over the weekend that she was thinking about running. Before she entered Trump's orbit, Pierson ran in the 2014 primary against incumbent Pete Sessions in the 32nd District, another seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and lost 64-36. (Sessions now represents a third seat, the 17th District.)

The Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers also mentions state Rep. Tony Tinderholt as a possible Republican candidate as well as Dan Rodimer, who was Team Red's 2020 nominee for Nevada's 3rd District. This is the very first we've heard of Rodimer, whose active Twitter account continues to list his location as Las Vegas, campaigning in another state.

On the Democratic side, 2020 nominee Stephen Daniel said Tuesday that he would not run. Jeffers, meanwhile, mentions former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses, who works as a minister, as a potential candidate.

WA-03: Three Republicans recently announced campaigns against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January, though it remains to be seen if any of them are capable of running a serious campaign. The field consists of Navy veteran Wadi Yakhour, who worked on the Trump campaign; evangelical author Heidi St. John; and Army veteran Joe Kent.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special runoff election in Texas.

TX-HD-68: Republican David Spiller defeated fellow party member Craig Carter 63-37 to win this North Texas seat. Spiller's victory puts this chamber at full strength for the current legislative session, with Republicans in control 83-67.

Other Races

SD-AG: A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the South Dakota legislature have advanced articles of impeachment against Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg after he was charged with three misdemeanors following a deadly car crash in which he struck and killed a man walking on the side of a highway last September.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has also called on Ravnsborg to resign and amped up the pressure on Tuesday by releasing two videos of interviews law enforcement officials conducted with him. In one, an investigator questioned Ravnsborg's claim that he was unaware he'd hit a person—he said he thought he'd run into a deer—by noting that the state Highway Patrol had found the victim's glasses inside Ravnsborg's vehicle. "His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that," said one detective.

A spokesperson for Ravnsborg has said the attorney general will not resign. A simple majority in the state House would be necessary to impeach him, and two-thirds of the state Senate would have to vote to convict him in order to remove him from office. In the event of a vacancy, Noem would name a replacement.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: On Tuesday, federal Judge Marcia Cooke ordered former Rep. David Rivera, a Florida Republican who has been accused of being part of a mind-boggling number of scandals, to pay a $456,000 fine to the FEC for illegally funneling $76,000 to prop up a straw candidate named Justin Lamar Sternad in the 2012 Democratic primary. Sternad and Rivera consultant Ana Alliegro were previously convicted for their role in the scheme, but the Miami Herald notes that this is the first time the ex-congressman has been penalized for this matter.

Cooke wrote, "Perhaps by virtue of the Court barring Rivera from engaging in similar unlawful conduct in the future, 'that will do the trick' in convincing Rivera — a former U.S. Congressman — to stop violating the law." Rivera is currently under FBI investigation as part of an unrelated scandal involving Venezuela's socialist government.

Morning Digest: Expected delay in census data release could wreak havoc with redistricting timelines

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

2020 Census, Redistricting: On Wednesday, the Census Bureau revealed that the state-level population data from the 2020 census that is needed to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state receives is not expected to be released until April 30, four months after the original deadline. This delay is the result of pandemic-related disruption to census operations last year and Donald Trump's so far unsuccessful attempt to manipulate census data for his own partisan ends.

Additionally, the census also announced that the more granular population data needed for states to actually draw new districts won't be released until at least after July 30, which is also a delay of at least four months from the original March 31 deadline. Consequently, these delays will create major disruptions for the upcoming 2020 round of congressional and legislative redistricting.

New York University Law School's Brennan Center for Justice released an in-depth report in 2020 looking at which states have deadlines that are in conflict with a potentially delayed data release schedule and what the impact of a delay may be. The most directly affected states are New Jersey and Virginia, which are the only two states that are set to hold legislative elections statewide in 2021 and would normally redraw all of their legislative districts this year.

Campaign Action

However, New Jersey Democrats passed a constitutional amendment in 2020 that will require legislative redistricting be delayed until the 2023 state elections if the census doesn't provide the necessary data by Feb. 15, 2021, which is now virtually guaranteed. In Virginia, primary elections are currently planned for June 8, but if redistricting data isn't released until August, it would be practically impossible to conduct redistricting, hold delayed candidate filing, and hold a delayed primary with enough time before November, meaning that the current legislative districts drawn in 2011 would likely remain in place for November's elections.

The situation isn't much better for several other states that have constitutionally mandated redistricting deadlines set to kick in this summer before they could feasibly draw new districts if data isn't released until late summer. Every state constitution requires a lengthy process for amendments that includes a required voter referendum, passage in multiple years, or both, and it's thus too late to amend these constitutions to alter those deadlines this year, increasing the likelihood of litigation over failure to meet key deadlines.

One major state in particular that could be thrown into turmoil due to a delayed release of census data is Illinois, whose constitution sets a deadline of June 30 for passing new legislative districts following a census year. If legislators fail to adopt new districts by the June 30 deadline, legislators would cede control over legislative redistricting to a bipartisan backup commission where the tiebreaking member is chosen in a 50-50 game of chance between the two parties. Democrats currently hold the legislature and have been expected to have total control over redistricting, but if the process reverts to the backup commission, Republicans would have even odds of controlling legislative redistricting in this blue state.

However in the case of Illinois, the situation pivotally would depend on which year would be categorized as the census year. Normally, that would be a year ending in zero—i.e. 2020—but the Brennan Center details how Illinois leaves open the possibility for 2021 to instead be considered the census year, which would give lawmakers until June 30, 2022 to draw new legislative districts (congressional redistricting does not use the same timeline or process as legislative redistricting). It's unclear how such a determination of the census year is made, and litigation over it is a strong possibility.

Meanwhile, nearly every state has different procedures and timelines for congressional redistricting than they do for legislative redistricting, and the delayed release of census data will be less disruptive nationally at the congressional level than it may be for state legislatures.

Senate

FL-Sen: Oh, vom. Politico reports that former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is making calls about a possible challenge to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, and when asked about it, Grayson's only response was, "Repeal Rubio. That's all I have to say." Anyone but Grayson—that's all we have to say.

KS-Sen: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who last month did not rule out a bid for governor next year, just accepted a position at a conservative think tank in D.C., which is not the kind of gig you usually take if you're planning to run for office in your home state. It's certainly not impossible, though—we've seen politicians do brief stints as Washington lobbyists before staging comebacks—so don't count Pompeo out just yet.

OH-Sen: Team Blue is hoping that Republican Sen. Rob Portman's surprise retirement will give them a better shot at prevailing in a state that has been trending the wrong way, and more Democrats are publicly and privately discussing running. One familiar name who told CNN he was considering the contest is Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor, who lost two close 2018 races in the conservative 12th Congressional District against Republican Troy Balderson.

State House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, who would be the state's first Black senator, also said she was thinking about entering the Senate race. Sykes previously expressed interest last month in campaigning to succeed cabinet nominee Rep. Marcia Fudge, if there's a special election for the safely blue 11th District, and it's not clear if she's also considering running there.

Cleveland.com's Seth Richardson also relays that former state health director Amy Acton is considering running as a Democrat, though she hasn't said anything publicly. Acton attracted state and national attention during the opening months of the coronavirus crisis through her prominent place at Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's afternoon briefings, and Richardson writes that she impressed many through her "her frank discussion of the dangers of coronavirus and the need for mitigation." Acton, who was also the target of conservative attempts to undermine her, as well as antisemitic attacks, stepped down in June.

On the GOP side, 2018 nominee Jim Renacci said Tuesday he was interested in another Senate bid and would "be exploring my options to reenter public office over the next 60 days." Renacci, who previously served four terms in Congress, has spent the last several months talking about challenging DeWine for renomination in part over the governor's efforts to limit the spread of the pandemic. Republicans who remember his 53-47 loss to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, though, probably won't want him as their standard bearer for either race.

State GOP chair Jane Timken also confirmed Wednesday that she was "seriously considering" a Senate run. Timken, who won her post in early 2017 by unseating an incumbent with the Trump campaign's support, is also part of a prominent donor family in state party politics.

Two other Republicans who had shown some interest in getting in, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and former Rep. Pat Tiberi, each said Wednesday that they wouldn't enter the race. Several unnamed Republicans also suggested to Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias that others could stay out should Rep. Jim Jordan, a key Trump sycophant, get in, including 2012 nominee Josh Mandel. However, some unnamed observers pointed out that Jordan has talked about running statewide but never done it, and they predict that 2022 will be no different.

VT-Sen: Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was hospitalized for a few hours on Tuesday after suffering what he described as muscle spasms, said on Wednesday that "of course" he'll continue to serve out the rest of his term but said he wouldn't make a decision about whether to seek a ninth term until the end of the year.

"You all know this, I never make up my mind until November or December the year before and I'm not going to now," said the 80-year-old Leahy. "Usually when we start skiing and snowshoeing then we talk about it." Leahy, who is currently the longest-serving member of the Senate, sounded ready to run again, saying "the latest polls show me winning easily."

Retirement Watch: With Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's surprise announcement on Monday making him the third GOP senator to retire so far in this young election cycle, Republicans are nervously waiting to see how many more of their brethren might also call it quits. Among those on the watch list:

AL-Sen: Richard Shelby is 86 and has been in office since 1987. After last year's elections, Shelby promised a decision by January, but now he tells Roll Call's Bridget Bowman that he won't say anything more until after Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, which will not begin until Feb. 8. When asked about his plans this week by CNN, Shelby would only say, "I'll let you know." Bowman says the senator "is not expected to run for reelection."

AR-Sen: John Boozman, 70, said a year ago that he’s planning to run for a third term, and he repeated that intention this week to CNN. However, the senator has experienced some health problems that required heart surgery in 2014 and again in 2017, and he hasn’t yet announced a re-election bid.

IA-Sen: 87-year-old Chuck Grassley, who was first elected in 1980, said in February of last year that he'd come to a decision eight to 12 months before Election Day 2022, though now he seems to have moved his timetable up. In new remarks, he says he'll make an announcement in "several months." If Grassley were to run and win again, he'd be 95 years old at the end of what would be his eighth term.

ID-Sen: Mike Crapo, 69, also told CNN he plans to run for a fifth term but likewise hasn’t actually kicked off a campaign. He was treated for prostate cancer in 2000 and 2005.

MO-Sen: A spokesperson for Roy Blunt, 71, said in November that the senator would seek a third term, but now he's sounding less definitive. Blunt told Roll Call's Bowman that he's "planning on reelection, but I haven't made a final statement on that yet." In separate remarks about his plans to Politico, Blunt said, "I really have not been thinking much about it to tell you the truth. ... I keep thinking there will be a little breathing space, so far it’s not happening."

SD-Sen: John Thune, whose 60 years of age put him just below the senatorial average of 63, would only tell CNN that he'll make an announcement about a fourth term "at some point in the future." Trump exhorted Republicans to primary Thune late last year after the senator said that efforts to overturn the Electoral College "would go down like a shot dog."

WI-Sen: Ron Johnson, 65, pledged prior to his last election in 2016 that he would only serve one more term if he won, but now he's contemplating going back on his word. However, he still hasn't made up his mind about whether to break his promise and run for a third term, saying, "I don't think I have to for a while."

CNN also notes that Kansas’ Jerry Moran and South Dakota’s John Hoeven have not launched re-election bids yet, but both are in their mid-60s—relatively young by Senate standards—and joined the Senate in 2011.

Governors

CA-Gov: Tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya has announced that he'll run to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the event a recall election moves forward, though he didn't specify which party banner, if any, he'd fly. Palihapitiya has given $1.3 million to Democratic candidates and causes over the last decade, along with one $5,000 donation to Ted Cruz in 2011.

MD-Gov: Unnamed advisers to Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, who previously did not rule out a run for governor, say Olszewski is now considering a bid for the Democratic nomination. Another Democrat, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, is also not ruling out the race, according to Maryland Matters. Meanwhile, 2018 Democratic nominee Ben Jealous, who last year said he had not "closed the door on running for governor again," is staying involved in Maryland politics by taking the helm of a new marijuana reform initiative.

SC-Gov: 2018 candidate John Warren recently refused to rule out a second GOP primary bid against incumbent Henry McMaster, and The State’s Maayan Schechter reports that he might not be the only Republican looking at this race.

Schechter writes that there’s “buzz” that state Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey could challenge the governor, and that he would not comment for her story. Massey has been a loud critic of McMaster’s response to the pandemic: Last month, Massey was one of several Republicans to prepare bills that would give legislators the final say over emergency orders.

Catherine Templeton, who also ran in 2018, said back in August that she was likely to run, though we haven’t heard anything from her since then. A runoff would take place if no one wins a majority in the first round of the primary, so McMaster couldn’t slip by with a plurality.

South Carolina has been a very tough state for Democrats especially in recent years, but a few local politicians have shown some interest in running. Former Rep. Joe Cunningham told Schechter he would consider his future "[o]ver the next few months.” Cunningham also expressed interest last year in seeking a rematch with Republican Nancy Mace, who narrowly unseated him in November, though redistricting could make that contest less attractive.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who would be the state’s first Black governor, has also been mentioned as a prospective candidate for years, and he once again did not rule it out when asked. Benjamin and McMaster faced off in the open 2002 race for attorney general, a race McMaster won 55-44. Benjamin is up for re-election this year, and he hasn’t said if he’ll seek a fourth term.

State Sens. Marlon Kimpson and Mia McLeod also said they were thinking about a gubernatorial bid as did 2018 contender Marguerite Willis, an attorney who lost that year’s primary to James Smith 62-28. Schechter also lists former state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, who was Smith’s candidate for lieutenant governor, as considering, though there’s no quote from her.

VA-Gov: A second rich dude, former private equity executive Glenn Youngkin, has entered Virginia's Republican primary for governor, just days after another finance guy, Pete Snyder, did the same. Snyder, by the way, has already released a TV ad, which the National Journal says is backed by a $250,000 buy, complaining about the slow pace of reopening schools and calling himself a "disruptor." It's not clear who he's trying to reach with this sort of advertisement, though, given that the GOP nomination will be decided by, at most, just a few thousand delegates at the party's May 1 convention.

House

CA-21: Former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, who was last seen taking a distant third in the GOP primary for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District last year, has announced a challenge to Rep. David Valadao, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump earlier this month. Fresno isn't located in California's 21st Congressional District either, though it is closer than New Mexico.

CA-39: Democrat Jay Chen, a Navy Reserve officer and local community college trustee, has announced a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Young Kim. Chen previously ran for California's 39th Congressional District in 2012, losing 58-42 to Republican Rep. Ed Royce, though the area was considerably redder back then: That same year, Mitt Romney carried the district 51-47, while in 2020, Joe Biden won it 54-44.

Chen also briefly ran here in 2018 after Royce retired, but to help avoid a disaster in the top-two primary, he took one for the team and dropped out in order to reduce the number of Democratic candidates and, thereby, the chance that a fractured voted would allow two Republicans to advance to the general election.

PA-07: Republican Lisa Scheller, who lost to Democratic Rep. Susan Wild 52-48 last year in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, has filed paperwork with the FEC in anticipation of another congressional bid, though it's not clear exactly where she might run. Redistricting is set to scramble Pennsylvania's map, and mindful of that, Scheller changed the name of her campaign committee from "Scheller for PA-07" to "Scheller for Congress, Inc." (no, we don't know why she thinks she's running a corporation). She's promised "a more formal announcement" about her plans over the summer.

PA-10: Politico reports that, according to an unnamed source, the DCCC is trying to recruit 2020 nominee Eugene DePasquale for another go at Republican Rep. Scott Perry in Pennsylvania's 10th District. DePasquale, whose press list has understandably been largely dormant since November, recently put out a statement calling on his former opponent to resign after the New York Times reported that he played a central role in trying to overturn last year's presidential election.

Perry, the Times said, introduced Donald Trump to a Justice Department attorney who proposed ousting acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and directing the DOJ to pressure Georgia officials into altering their state's results. The congressman later confirmed the report. DePasquale wound up losing to Perry by a 53-47 margin last year but he insisted to Politico that the surge in Republican enthusiasm generated by Trump's presence on the ballot "will not be in play in 2022."

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Iowa:

IA-SD-41: Republican Adrian Dickey defeated Democrat Mary Stewart 55-45 to hold this seat for the GOP. An unusual complicating factor arose on Election Day when a major snowstorm hit southeastern Iowa, and Democrats were reportedly leading in mail ballots heading into Tuesday. This was enough to make Dickey himself nervous about the final outcome, but the red tilt of this district was enough for him to prevail.

While Stewart did worse than in her first bid for this seat, a 52-48 loss to Mariannette Miller-Meeks in 2018, she was able to once again improve upon Hillary Clinton's 57-38 loss here in 2016.  

This chamber moves to a 32-18 advantage for Republicans with no other vacancies.

Mayors

Detroit, MI Mayor: Incumbent Mike Duggan got his first notable opponent for the August nonpartisan primary on Tuesday when Anthony Adams, who served as deputy mayor in former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration, launched his campaign.

Adams, who is also a former school board president, argued that “there is a dramatic need for mayoral change in the city of Detroit." Adams also played down his ties to Kilpatrick, who resigned in disgrace in 2008, saying, "I am my own man and I'm running on my own record." Kilpatrick, who was later sentenced to 28 years in prison for corruption, was in the news last week after Donald Trump commuted his punishment, a decision that Duggan praised.    

Meanwhile, school board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo said this week that she planned to sit the contest out. The former state representative didn't quite rule out a bid, though, saying instead that she wouldn't run "[u]nless there is a massive cry for me to reconsider." The candidate filing deadline is April 20.

New York City, NY Mayor: Businessman and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang has released a survey of the June Democratic primary from Slingshot Strategies that gives him a 25-17 lead over Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer in third with 12%, though a hefty 32% of respondents are initially undecided. The survey then simulates the instant runoff process and shows Yang defeating Adams 61-39 on the 11th and final round of voting. This poll, which was in the field Jan. 15-19 and sampled 800 people, is the first survey we've seen since Yang joined the race earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Marine veteran Zach Iscol announced this week that he was dropping out of the race and would instead run to succeed Stringer as controller. Around that same time, though, businesswoman Barbara Kavovit, who was a regular on the "Real Housewives of New York City," kicked off her own campaign for the Democratic mayoral nomination.

Seattle, WA Mayor: Colleen Echohawk, who leads the nonprofit Chief Seattle Club, announced Monday that she would run to succeed retiring Mayor Jenny Durkin this year. Echohawk, who is a member of both the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake, would be the first woman of color to lead Washington's largest city.

Echohawk has not run for office before, but she has been prominent in local government. In addition to serving on the Community Police Commission, she also founded the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness and previously served on the Downtown Seattle Association's board.

Echohawk joins Lance Randall, the director of economic development of the nonprofit SEED, and architect Andrew Grant Houston in the August nonpartisan primary, though it remains to be seen if either of them have the connections to run a serious bid. The candidate filing deadline is in May.

Other Races

New York City, NY Comptroller: The City's Rachel Holliday Smith takes a look at the June Democratic primary to succeed Scott Stringer, who is running for mayor, as New York City comptroller, a post that has plenty of influence over the nation's largest city. Democrats have controlled this office since 1946, and Team Blue's nominee should have no trouble holding it.

First, though, Smith discusses what the comptroller actually does. Among other things, the office is responsible for reviewing contracts, auditing and overseeing city agencies, and "[e]nsuring transparency and accountability in setting prevailing wage and vigorously enforcing prevailing wage and living wage laws." The comptroller is also one of only a trio of citywide elected offices: The other is public advocate, where Democratic incumbent Jumaane Williams doesn't face any serious opposition for re-election this year.

What the comptroller's post hasn't been, though, is a good springboard to the mayor's office. The last person to successfully make the jump was Democrat Abe Beame, who was elected mayor in 1973 on his second try and lost renomination four years later. Since then four other comptrollers have unsuccessfully campaigned for the city's top job, a streak Stringer will try to break this year.

Six notable Democrats are competing in the June primary, which will be decided through instant runoff voting. The two with the most cash by far are City Councilman Brad Lander and state Sen. Brian Benjamin, who have both brought in enough to qualify for matching funds (a system we explain here).

Benjamin, though, earned some unwelcome headlines earlier this month when The City reported that multiple donors said that they had not actually contributed any money to his campaign, and some even volunteered that they had never even heard of Benjamin. One of his unwilling donors said that he didn't blame Benjamin for what happened and instead said the problem rested with his former employer. Benjamin's team soon announced that they would give the New York City Election Campaign Finance Fund $5,750, which represented 23 donations of $250 each.

Assemblyman David Weprin, who unsuccessfully ran to succeed the disgraced Anthony Weiner in the 2011 special election for what was numbered the 9th Congressional District at the time, and state Sen. Kevin Parker have also been campaigning for a while. Neither of them have the resources that Lander or Benjamin do at the moment, though they could receive a big boost if they qualify for matching funds: The New York Times reports that Weprin has likely brought in enough, though the campaign finance board needs to confirm this before it dispenses any public money.

Two other Democrats also joined the race this week. Marine veteran Zach Iscol, a moderate who is close to Hillary Clinton, abandoned his mayoral bid to run here. Iscol will be able to transfer the cash he raised for his previous campaign to his new race, which could matter quite a bit: While he fell about $20,000 short of the minimum needed to qualify for public money for mayor, the Times reports that he's likely already hit the lower threshold needed for the comptroller contest.

The other new contender is Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor who challenged Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last year's Democratic primary. Caruso-Cabrera, who ran well to the congresswoman's right, raised millions from AOC haters nationwide and self-funded over $1 million, but she lost by a lopsided 74-18 margin.

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide hits Kentucky. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Donald Trump won the Bluegrass State 62-36, which was pretty similar to his 63-33 performance in 2016, and he once again carried five of Kentucky's six congressional districts. The one exception was, as before, Rep. John Yarmuth's 3rd District in Louisville, which is also the only Democratic-held seat in the commonwealth: Joe Biden took the seat 60-38, compared to 55-40 for Hillary Clinton four years earlier, a shift due in part to the decline in third-party voting.

The closest constituency was again the 6th District in the Lexington area, where Trump's margin shrunk a bit from 55-39 in 2016 to 54-44 in 2020. Republican Rep. Andy Barr won re-election in 2018 by beating Democrat Amy McGrath just 51-48 in a very expensive race, but Barr had a much easier time last year and prevailed 57-41.

Trump took at least 65% of the vote in the remaining four GOP-held seats. His strongest performance in the state was his 80-19 romp in veteran Rep. Hal Rogers' 5th District in rural eastern Kentucky, which makes this the Trumpiest of the 345 seats we've released numbers for so far. (The seat that got displaced for that title, though only just, was Texas' 13th District, which backed the top of the ticket 79-19.) Believe it or not, though, Trump's 2016 margin in this coal country constituency was slightly larger at 80-17.

The 83-year-old Rogers has decisively won re-election 20 times, but this area was extremely divided when he was first elected in 1980. The current version of the 5th District contains several ancestrally Democratic areas that favored Team Blue even in tough years, including Elliott County, which famously never supported a Republican presidential nominee from the time of its formation in 1869 through 2012—the longest streak of Democratic support in any county in the country. Those days are long gone, however, as Trump carried Elliott County with 70% in 2016 and 75% last year.

The 5th is also home to areas that were deep red even when Democrats were the dominant party statewide, as they were at the time Rogers was first elected. This includes Jackson and Leslie Counties, which have not once backed a Democrat for president since they were created in the 19th century. They're not likely to start anytime soon, either, as Trump won close to 90% in both.

Kentucky Democrats, thanks in large part to their downballot dominance in parts of the eastern part of the state, ran the state House nonstop from the early 1920s through the 2016 elections, which always gave them at least a seat at the table for redistricting. The GOP took firm control of the legislature for the first time ever when Trump first won the state, though, and they have more than enough votes to override any possible veto by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and pass their own maps for the first time.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several media outlets have mentioned a few others as possibilities:

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

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

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

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

Other Democrats mentioned include:

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislatures

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

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

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

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

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

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