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.

Campaign Action

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: Mega MAGA perennial candidate is throwing a scare into New Jersey GOP’s frontrunner

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

NJ-Gov: It looks like the Democratic Governors Association wants to stir up some GOP anxiety by releasing a poll of New Jersey's June 8 Republican primary for governor that shows the ostensible frontrunner, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, leading perennial candidate Hirsh Singh just 29-23.

But with Hudson County pastor Phil Rizzo taking 8% and former Franklin Mayor Brian Levine at just 2%, according to the survey from Public Policy Polling, that means 38% of voters are undecided, so there's lots of room left for wiggling. Perhaps most surprisingly, PPP's numbers also suggest that a recent Singh poll that had him up 22-20 weren't completely bonkers.

Ciattarelli seems to agree. As the New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein notes, he just went up with ads criticizing Singh for "attacking our men and women in blue" alongside "the woke mob" and aggressively criticized his rival in the lone debate of the race on Tuesday night. Singh has portrayed himself as the only true Trump acolyte running, which explains why Ciattarelli's ad labels him a "fake MAGA candidate."

Campaign Action

It's all quite a turnaround from where we were just last month: Ciattarelli was acting as though he had the nomination sewn up, seeing as he was firing off a barrage of ads attacking Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. We'll know in less than two weeks how premature his pivot to the general election really was.

Senate

MO-Sen: The Missouri Independent reports that, according to unnamed "sources familiar with her plans," Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler will announce a Senate bid early next month.

OH-Sen: Republican Rep. Bill Johnson, who'd been considering a Senate bid ever since Rob Portman unexpectedly announced his retirement in January, has opted against joining the race. Johnson cited the presence of several well-funded candidates already seeking the GOP nod (including some with personal wealth) as an obstacle, explaining, "I'm not going to deny that coming from a base in Appalachia, where fundraising is a challenge under the best of circumstances, it can be exceptionally slow in a contested primary." Johnson's 6th Congressional District ranks 359th in the nation in median household income.

WI-Sen: State Sen. Chris Larsen kicked off a bid Wednesday for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (who still hasn't said whether he's seeking re-election). Larsen has represented a seat in the Milwaukee area for a decade and has twice sought the position of Milwaukee County executive, including an extremely tight 2020 race that he lost 50.05-49.52 to fellow Democrat David Crowley.

Larsen is the fourth notable Democrat to enter the race, after state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson.

Governors

CA-Gov: The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds the likely recall election of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom failing by a 57-40 margin, virtually unchanged from its 56-40 result in March.

NV-Gov: Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports that former Sen. Dean Heller is "preparing to run for governor" next year and is meeting with party leaders about a bid at a conference hosted by the Republican Governors Association, according to unnamed sources "familiar with the conversations." Heller's apparent interest in running—and the RGA's interest in him—is particularly notable because of the recent entry of Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who just gave the GOP a high-profile candidate with experience winning in Nevada's most populous (and bluest) county.

But that's precisely why Lombardo's conservative bona fides might come into question. Two years ago, for instance, he ended the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's collaboration with ICE to detain individuals arrested on local charges until federal officials can apprehend them if they are also suspected of immigration violations.

Heller, however, may not be the antidote. These days, fealty to conservative dogma is entirely subordinate to fealty to Donald Trump when it comes to Republican primary voters, and the ex-senator has not scored well on that front. Most vividly, he earned undying Trumpist ire when he initially voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act in 2017, then sealed his doom when he later voted in favor of doing so. The painful flip-flop played a key role in his 50-45 loss to Democrat Jackie Rosen, which Trump himself claimed came as a consequence of Heller being "extraordinarily hostile" to him.

So who will claim the Trump mantle? The third notable candidate in the race, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, was a Democrat until last month (albeit a conservative one), a resume that poses its own obvious problems. That could leave an opening for someone else, but the most prominent name still considering the race, Rep. Mark Amodei, has been an imperfect disciple: Just two years ago, after he expressed a vague openness to Trump's first impeachment, the extremist (and extremely well-funded) Club for Growth threatened to back a primary challenger. Amodei wound up voting against impeachment, of course, but as far as the die-hards are concerned, it's very hard to erase the taint of sinning against Trump in the first place.

VA-Gov: As the June 8 Democratic primary for Virginia’s open gubernatorial race approaches, we have a rundown of candidate spending on TV ads. According to Medium Buying, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is outspending former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy on the airwaves $3.28 million to $1.33 million. The pair are dwarfing the rest of the field as the third-biggest spender, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, has shelled out just $108,000.

On the Republican side, businessman Glenn Youngkin, who already has the nomination locked up, is out with his first general election spot. In the commercial, he plays up his business experience and attempts to paint himself as an outsider. He also takes a veiled swipe at McAuliffe, the Democratic frontrunner, when he proclaims, “What we need isn’t a politician or worse: the same politician”.

House

FL-10: With Rep. Val Demings running for Senate, fellow Democrats are lining up to succeed her in Florida's 10th Congressional District, located in the Orlando area. Former State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who served one term as the top prosecutor in Orange and Osceola counties, had been considering a Senate bid herself but quickly shifted gears and announced a bid for Demings' seat. State Sen. Randolph Bracy has jumped in as well; he, too, reportedly had his eye on statewide office—in his case, the governorship.

Civil rights attorney and Navy veteran Natalie Jackson also kicked off a campaign this week. She is best known for her work on behalf of a number of families who've lost relatives to police violence, including those of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

GA-10: Wealthy businessman Matt Richards is the latest Republican to enter the race for Georgia's deep-red 10th Congressional District. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that he's prepared to self-fund at least $1 million in his bid for this open seat.

ME-02: Republican state Rep. Mike Perkins, who said last month that he was exploring a bid against Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, has now filed paperwork to create a campaign committee with the FEC.

NM-01: Democrat Melanie Stansbury is out with a positive ad ahead of Tuesday’s special election. The spot touts her background in the district and also attempts to tie herself to the Biden administration. Stansbury is pictured with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (whose confirmation to that position opened this seat) and first lady Jill Biden as the voiceover says “In Congress, she’s ready to get to work with President Biden.”

Stansbury was endorsed by Biden himself earlier this week, and second gentlemen Douglas Emhoff is slated to campaign with her on Thursday.

Attorneys General

OK-AG: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter abruptly announced his resignation on Wednesday, a day after The Oklahoman sent him questions about an alleged extramarital affair with a state employee. Hunter, who filed for divorce last week, did not respond to the questions or address any details, but in a statement he said, "Regrettably, certain personal matters that are becoming public will become a distraction for this office."

Hunter, a Republican, was appointed to the office by then-Gov. Mary Fallin in 2017 after the incumbent at the time, Scott Pruitt, was tapped by Donald Trump to run the EPA. He easily won election in his own right the following year, defeating Democrat Mark Myles 64-36, and had been gearing up to run for a second full term next year. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who had experienced some friction with Hunter, will now be able to name a replacement of his own.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: There's no doubt that Boston will elect a person of color as mayor for the first time ever now that candidate filing has closed in this year's all-Democratic race, but as Gabby Deutch notes in her deep look at the field for Jewish Insider, this year's contest is very different from those of the past in another key way: None of the six serious contenders, writes Deutch, "are actively seeking the endorsement of the city's police union."

Of this sextet, only City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George has spoken out against the idea of reallocating funds from the police budget to other areas, though she's acknowledged that "tough conversations" are needed on the future of law enforcement. The rest of the field consists of acting Mayor Kim Janey, who was elevated from City Council president to the top job earlier this year; City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu; state Rep. Jon Santiago; and the former head of economic development for the city, John Barros. All have called for changes in how the police conduct their work.  

While a major part of this shift is due to the national movement aimed at reforming law enforcement, two unrelated scandals involving senior Boston police officials have also dominated the headlines in recent months. In April, the public learned that former officer Patrick Rose, who would later go on to head the police union, remained on the force in the mid-1990s even though a contemporary internal report concluded there was enough evidence to charge him with molesting a 12-year-old.

Other documents said that Rose had been placed on administrative duty, but even this limited sanction was withdrawn after the union threatened to file a grievance on his behalf. Rose is currently under indictment for allegedly abusing other children during the subsequent decades.

The second matter is a still-unfolding debacle that began in late January, after then-Mayor Marty Walsh was nominated to become secretary of labor but before he was confirmed. Boston Police Commissioner William Gross announced his resignation shortly after Joe Biden tapped Walsh for his cabinet, prompting Walsh to immediately appoint Gross' close friend and chief of staff, Dennis White, to succeed him.

Just days later, though, Walsh placed White on leave after the Boston Globe began asking about allegations that the new commissioner had abused his wife in 1999. Walsh also commissioned a report into what had happened, but it was still unfinished when Janey took over as acting mayor in March.

That report was released this month, though, and it revealed a previously unknown 1993 confrontation between White and a 19-year-old. The investigator, Tamsin Kaplan, also said that both the police and the Walsh administration had interfered with her probe, with Kaplan writing, "One retired BPD officer told me that they had received at least five phone calls directing them not to talk with me."

Janey quickly announced she would fire White, who went to court in an effort to block her from doing so. Gross also filed an affidavit saying that Walsh had known about the allegations against White when he made the appointment, something that the labor secretary quickly denied. It may be some time before all of this is settled: While a state judge ruled that Janey could fire White, she issued a stay the next day, allowing the commissioner to keep his job while he appeals.

It remains to be seen how this ongoing mess will impact September's officially nonpartisan face-off, which will winnow the field down to two ahead of the November general election. The entire field agrees that White needs to be replaced, though Essaibi George still accepted an endorsement from Gross, who briefly considered running for mayor himself. (A far-less controversial public safety group, the local firefighters union, is also backing her.)

There has been little polling here, though a MassINC survey conducted last month found a 46% plurality undecided. That poll also showed Wu leading Janey 19-18, while fellow Campbell was in third with 6%.

Janey's ascension to the mayor's office in March made her the city's first Black mayor, as well as its first woman leader, and she would again make history if she won the post in her own right this year. Wu, Campbell, and Essaibi George would also each be the first woman elected to the top job.

All of the contenders would also achieve another historic first. Wu, who has the backing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and many of the young activists who helped propel Ed Markey to victory in his own Senate primary last year, would be the first Asian American person to lead Boston. Campbell or former city administration official John Barros, meanwhile, would be the first Black person elected in a city that still has a reputation for racism targeting African Americans. State Rep. Jon Santiago, meanwhile, would be Boston's first Latino chief executive, while Essaibi George would be its first Arab American leader.

New York City, NY Mayor: A new poll from Core Decision Analytics on behalf of Fontas Advisors, a lobbying group that is not working for any candidates, shows Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leading 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang 18-13 in the June 22 Democratic primary, with former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia at 13%. That’s a notable shift from March, when this firm had Yang beating Adams 16-10 as Garcia barely registered with just 2% of the vote.

Garcia was endorsed by the New York Times earlier this month, and another survey also shows her gaining ground since then. Yang recently released a Slingshot Strategies poll that found him edging out Adams 19-16, with city Comptroller Scott Stringer and Garcia at 13% and 10%, respectively; in late April, Slingshot showed Yang leading Stringer 24-16, with Garcia at 3%. This May survey has Yang beating Adams by a narrow 51-49 after simulating the instant runoff process.

Meanwhile, another candidate is in bad shape heading into the final weeks. Three senior staffers for nonprofit head Dianne Morales, including her campaign manager, resigned over the last few days over what Politico calls “accusations of mistreatment, inadequate pay and lack of unionization and health care.” Morales responded by saying she “accepted accountability in my role as the head of this campaign that allowed for this harm to occur.”

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: The June 22 Democratic primary to succeed Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is coming up quickly, and voters got another reminder of the power of this office on Tuesday when news broke that the retiring incumbent had convened a grand jury to weigh potential charges for Donald Trump. It remains to be seen what role Vance's eventual successor would have in this matter, but there's no question that whoever wins the primary in this extremely blue borough will be the overwhelming favorite to head what's arguably the most prominent local prosecutor's office in America.

Eight Democrats are competing in a race where it takes just a plurality to win the Democratic nomination. (While New York City voters backed a 2019 referendum to institute instant-runoff voting in primaries for many local offices, the measure does not apply to state-level posts like this one.) Almost all of the contenders have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much-needed changes to the post, but as the New York Times' Jonah Bromwich explained in March, there are some important differences between them.

"The race can be divided into two camps," wrote Bromwich, "with three candidates who have not worked as prosecutors and five who have." The former group consists of civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi, public defender Eliza Orlins, and Assemblyman Dan Quart, who is also the only elected official running. This trio, wrote Bromwich, has argued that the D.A.'s role needs to involve a shift "toward reducing incarceration and cutting back prosecution of low-level crimes."

The five ex-prosecutors in the contest are Alvin Bragg, Liz Crotty, Diana Florence, Lucy Lang, and Tali Farhadian Weinstein. Crotty, a self-described centrist backed by several police unions, has run to the right of the field and cast doubt on reform efforts, saying at one debate, "I am the candidate who from the beginning of my campaign has talked about public safety." The remainder, says Bromwich, have "pitched themselves as occupying a middle ground, focused on less sweeping changes."

(The Appeal's Sam Mellins has also detailed the candidates' views on key issues, including sentencing and sex work, with helpful graphics breaking down where the field stands.)

As Bromwich noted, every contender save Quart would achieve a historic first should they prevail. Six of the candidates would be the first woman to win this office, while Aboushi would additionally be the first Muslim or Arab American to hold the post. Bragg, meanwhile, would be Manhattan's first Black district attorney.

There's still no clear frontrunner, but two of the candidates have significantly more resources than the rest of the field. Farhadian Weinstein, who is married to wealthy hedge fund manager Boaz Weinstein, took in $2.2 million from mid-January to May 17, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that more than half of her haul "came from four dozen donors, many of whom work in the financial sector."

Bragg raised a considerably smaller $710,000 during this time, though he led Farhadian Weinstein, who has been spending heavily, in cash-on-hand for the stretch run, $1.2 million to $805,000. Bragg also has the backing of three of the city's most politically influential unions, and he's benefited from $1 million in outside spending from Color of Change.

Aboushi had the third-largest war chest with $560,000 on-hand, while Quart and Orlins had $555,000 and $525,000 in the bank, respectively. Lang, who has been self-funding much of her race, had $400,000 available , while Crotty was further back with $250,000; Florence brought up the rear with $115,000 on-hand.

Obituaries

John Warner, a Republican who served as Senator from Virginia from 1979 through 2009, died Tuesday at the age of 94. Warner cultivated a reputation for moderation and bipartisanship during his 30 years in the Senate, and he was long willing to oppose Republicans he disliked. In 1994, rather than back Iran-Contra figure Oliver North’s campaign against Democratic colleague Chuck Robb, Warner recruited another Republican, 1989 gubernatorial nominee Marshall Coleman, to run as an independent, a development that helped Robb win in that disastrous year for Democrats.

Warner served as secretary of the Navy during the Nixon administration from 1972 to 1974, and he attracted global attention in 1976 when he married the famed actress Elizabeth Taylor. Warner ran for an open Senate seat in 1978 but lost the GOP nominating convention to a more conservative opponent, Richard Obenshain. Obenshain, though, died in a plane crash two days later, and party officials selected Warner as their new nominee.

Warner was often overshadowed by his famous spouse during that campaign. The most remembered incident of the contest occurred in the Appalachian community of Big Stone Gap, where Taylor was hospitalized after a chicken bone became lodged in her throat, an experience that made it to “Saturday Night Live.” Warner ultimately ended up very narrowly beating his Democratic opponent, former state Attorney General Andrew Miller, 50.2-49.8, a margin of fewer than 5,000 votes. Warner spent his first few years in office still known mostly as Taylor’s husband, though their marriage ended during his first term in 1982.

Warner himself easily won re-election two years later, and he had no Democratic opposition at all in 1990. In 1996, though, he faced a serious general election challenge from wealthy businessman Mark Warner. The race was defined by the novelty of a contest between the two unrelated Warners: The challenger ordered “Mark, not John” bumper stickers that were sometimes mistaken for a biblical reference, while the incumbent urged voters to “make your mark for John.” The Republican, though, appeared safe, so it was a surprise when he held off Mark Warner just 53-47.

John Warner won his last term in 2002 again without Democratic opposition, and almost no one guessed this would be the last time Team Red would win a Virginia Senate race through today. Warner decided not to run again in 2008 and was easily succeeded by his old opponent Mark Warner, who had been elected governor during the ensuing years.

John Warner went on to back the Democratic incumbent in 2014, an endorsement that may have made the difference in what proved to be an unexpectedly tight race. Warner would go on to support Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden over Donald Trump and back a number of Democratic congressional candidates, though he still endorsed Republican nominee Ed Gillespie’s failed 2017 run for governor.

Morning Digest: GOP primary for open Ohio Senate seat grows larger and could get even more crowded

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: The Republican field for Ohio's open Senate seat swelled to four on Tuesday when Mike Gibbons, an investment banker who lost the 2018 primary, announced that he would launch a second bid.

Gibbons joins former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, ex-state party chair Jane Timken, and fellow businessman Bernie Moreno in what could be a crowded race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman. Several other Republicans are also talking about running including venture capitalist J.D. Vance and Reps. Bill Johnson, Steve Stivers, and Mike Turner, so this contest will likely become even larger.

Gibbons hoped to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in the 2018 contest for the Buckeye State's other Senate seat, but he spent much of the primary looking like the clear underdog against Mandel. The race took a shocking turn early that year, though, when Mandel, citing his then-wife's health, suddenly dropped out.

Campaign Action

Gibbons briefly had the contest to himself, but if he was hoping he'd emerge as the party's default nominee, he soon got a rude awakening. Rep. Jim Renacci switched from the governor's race to the Senate contest, and he quickly emerged as Team Red's new frontrunner even before he received Donald Trump's endorsement. Gibbons ended up self-funding $2.8 million, which represented more than 80% of his campaign's total haul, but Renacci beat him by a wide 47-32 margin; Renacci ultimately lost to Brown that fall.

Gibbons is hoping that he'll be the one to receive Trump's backing this time, and Politico reported last month that he joined each of his now-rivals in Florida as they each made their case for an endorsement. Gibbons, however, acknowledged to the Cincinnati Enquirer this week that he doesn't "expect" to receive Trump's coveted not-tweet.

That pessimism may at least prevent Gibbons from the kind of embarrassing headlines that Mandel received over the weekend. Axios' Alayna Treene reports that Mandel made another trip to Florida to attend the Republican National Committee's donor retreat, an event that Trump addressed on Saturday. Mandel didn't get the chance to hobnob with his party's leader, though, as he was told to leave the previous day because he hadn't been invited in the first place. Timken, by contrast, was a credentialed attendee on account of her major donor status.

1Q Fundraising

IL-Sen: Tammy Duckworth (D-inc): $3.7 million raised, $1.8 million cash-on-hand

CA-25: Mike Garcia (R-inc): $650,000 raised

MA-04: Jake Auchincloss (D-inc): $460,000 raised, $850,000 cash-on-hand

NY-11: Nicole Malliotakis (R-inc): $358,000 raised, $338,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: John Katko (R-inc): $436,000 raised, $586,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: For the first time since early this year, Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne has spoken about her plans for 2022, saying she'd be "interested in doing a job for Iowa that improves people's lives." That, Axne, said, could mean running for Senate or governor, or seeking re-election to the House. The Storm Lake Times, which reported Axne's remarks, incorrectly concluded that the congresswoman had listed those offices in order of preference; her communications team, however, clarified she'd done no such thing, saying that "all three options are on the table." In an interview in January, Axne declined to rule out bids for either statewide office.

Governors

IL-Gov: Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, who previously hadn't ruled out a run for governor, now says that his preference is to seek re-election but, depending on the upcoming round of redistricting, he could opt for a gubernatorial bid instead. Illinois is one of the few states where Democrats will have unfettered control of the mapmaking process this decade, and they could make Davis' 13th Congressional District considerably bluer.

MD-Gov: Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, who was reported to be weighing a bid for governor, publicly confirmed for the first time on Sunday that he's "considering" entering the Democratic primary. John Olszewski didn't offer a timetable for making a decision, but he noted that he'd be introducing a budget on Thursday and said he would "take the time necessary to ensure its passage." In recent years, county budgets have passed sometime in May.

VA-Gov: Term-limited Gov. Ralph Northam, who just endorsed former Gov. Terry McAuliffe last week, now stars in his predecessor's newest TV ad. Northam praises McAuliffe for having "the experience and vision to lead Virginia into a stronger and more equitable future."

House

CA-39: Former Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros, who had expressed some interest in a rematch after losing his first bid for re-election last fall, has been nominated by Joe Biden to run the Defense Department's personnel office. If Cisneros, a veteran who served in the Navy at the rank of lieutenant commander, is confirmed by the Senate, that presumably would take him out of the running for another congressional campaign.

Following the Cisneros news, Rep. Ted Lieu endorsed the lone notable Democrat running against freshman Republican Rep. Young Kim, community college trustee Jay Chen. Lieu, who was one of the House managers of Donald Trump's second impeachment, represents a Los Angeles-area district not far from California's 39th, which is based in Orange County.

FL-20: Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness kicked off a campaign for Florida's vacant 20th Congressional District on Monday with the backing of Alcee Hastings II, who'd been mentioned as a possible candidate for the seat that had been held by his late father. Holness joins state Sen. Perry Thurston and Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief among the notable Democrats running in the as-yet unscheduled special election to replace the elder Hastings, who died earlier this month at the age of 84.

Sharief had in fact filed paperwork to run in the 20th District back in December, months before Hastings died, but she hasn't used that extra time to build up much of a donor base: In her first quarterly fundraising report, she brought in just $13,000 from individuals during the first three months of the year, though she also loaned her campaign another $100,000 on top of that.

GA-06, GA-07: Army veteran Harold Earls, who recently became the first notable Republican to launch a challenge to Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, says he might change races depending on how redistricting turns out. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Earls says he might switch to the neighboring 7th District, represented by freshman Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, "if her district was made more friendly to the GOP."

LA-02: State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson earned an endorsement Tuesday from the progressive group End Citizens United ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff.

Meanwhile, campaign finance reports covering the time between March 1 and April 4 are out (the March 24 all-party primary fell in the middle of this period), and they show that fellow state Sen. Troy Carter maintains a financial advantage. Carter outraised Peterson about $610,000 to $363,000 (Peterson self-funded an additional $10,000) and outspent her $676,000 to $444,000. Carter held a $223,000 to $138,000 edge in cash-on-hand for the final weeks of the campaign.

NY-24: Public policy professor Dana Balter, who lost two straight campaigns to Republican Rep. John Katko in 2018 and 2020, says she won't be back for a third try next year. However, Navy veteran Francis Conole, who lost last year's Democratic nomination to Balter by a 63-37 margin, says he's considering another campaign. Meanwhile, Roger Misso, another Navy veteran who also ran last cycle but dropped out a few months before the primary, says he "has no plans to seek office," according to syracuse.com.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the city firefighters’ union, the Uniformed Firefighters Officers Association, for the June Democratic primary.

Morning Digest: Nephew of Arkansas’ GOP governor bails party to mull independent run for governor

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

AR-Gov: State Sen. Jim Hendren expressed interest only weeks ago in seeking the Republican nomination to succeed his uncle, termed-out GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, but he instead shocked politicos on Thursday by announcing that he was leaving the party to become an independent. Hendren, who recently finished a stint leading the chamber, called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol "the final straw," continuing, "I asked myself what in the world I would tell my grandchildren when they asked one day what happened and what did I do about it?"

Hendren said that he would form an organization to fund moderate candidates, and he also did not rule out running for governor himself without a party affiliation. "Right now, I've pushed that decision to the backburner because before anybody can win any serious race as an independent there has to be some sort of platform, some sort of foundation," he said, though he added that he might instead back a different independent contender.

Senate

AL-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Lynda Blanchard entered the race for Alabama's open Senate seat on Thursday, seeding her campaign with what she described as "an initial $5 million deposit." In launching her bid, Blanchard made sure to emphasize that she "served as U.S. ambassador to First Lady Melania Trump's home country of Slovenia." Blanchard is the first notable Republican to join the contest, but many, many others are eyeing the race.

Campaign Action

FL-Sen: The New York Times reports that Ivanka Trump will not primary Republican Sen. Marco Rubio next year, according to unnamed "people close to her," and Rubio's office says that Trump herself has told the senator the same thing. In a statement, Trump didn't directly address the race but praised Rubio and called him "a good personal friend."

OH-Sen: Jane Timken, who recently stepped down as chair of the state Republican Party, announced Thursday that she would run to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

Timken joins former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the primary, and he immediately tried to out-Trump his new opponent by tweeting out a picture of her embracing former Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who dynamited his last bridges with the party last year by endorsing Joe Biden. Kasich though, got into the trolling game by quickly sharing a photo of a smiling Mandel looking on as Kasich stumped for him during the former treasurer's failed 2012 Senate campaign. (The only commentary that accompanied Kasich's tweet was an eye-roll emoji.)

Timken herself emerged on the political scene in 2017 by unseating a Kasich ally as state party chair. Donald Trump publicly backed Timken in that contest and called about a dozen central committee members on her behalf. Timken is also part of a prominent donor family in state party politics, and the wealthy candidate already seems to have money available for her bid: Politico reports that Timken is launching a $263,000 buy on Fox.

PA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean recently attracted national attention as one of the managers of Donald Trump's second impeachment, and several of her allies are now publicly encouraging her to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Pat Toomey. A spokesperson for Dean only told Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman in response that the congresswoman hasn't had time to consider, which very much isn't a no.

The most prominent Democrat to announce before this week was Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, but others may make their move no matter what Dean ends up doing. Bowman relays that two unnamed Democrats say that Montgomery County Commission chair Val Arkoosh "is expected to announce a Senate bid soon." Dean's 4th Congressional District includes just over 85% of this populous suburban Philadelphia community, so she and Arkoosh might end up competing over the same geographic base if they both ran.

Party strategist Mark Nevins also tells Bowman that for every "whisper you hear about Congresswoman Dean running for Senate, you also hear one about" other Democratic House members including Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, whom we hadn't previously heard mentioned for this race.

Governors

CA-Gov: A new poll from WPA Intelligence for Republican Kevin Faulconer, who recently left office as mayor of San Diego, says that California voters support recalling Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom by a 47-43 margin, with 10% undecided. A recent poll for UC Berkley found just the opposite, with voters opposing the idea 45-36. Faulconer's survey also included numbers for a horserace matchup pitting himself against several other potential candidates, but his proposed field is so deep into the realm of the hypothetical that the data isn't in any way useful.

OH-Gov: While Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nod for the Senate last month, he also opened the door this week to a possible campaign against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine or for another statewide office. O'Connor, who lost two competitive 2018 races for the 12th Congressional District, said, "An executive office in a state like Ohio is always going to have more of an impact than legislative offices ... I love the thought of running across this state … and having conversations about the type of Democrat that I am."

O'Connor didn't give a timeline for when he'd decide, though the Columbus Dispatch noted that his wife is expected to give birth in May and "family matters are taking precedence over political aspirations for the moment."

VA-Gov: A new Global Strategy Group poll of Virginia's Democratic primary for governor conducted on behalf of former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy finds former Gov. Terry McAuliffe far out in front with 42% of the vote, with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax at 14%, Carroll Foy at 7%, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan at 6% while 30% are undecided.

GSG argues, however, that Carroll Foy is best poised to grow, saying that she trails McAuliffe by a narrower 37-27 after respondents were read "evenhanded profiles and images of the four core candidates," with the other two Democrats still well behind. The memo did not include the text of the profiles.

House

CO-03: State Rep. Donald Valdez announced Thursday that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on the 3rd District's extremist incumbent, freshman Republican Lauren Boebert. Valdez, a moderate who has often voted against his party in the legislature, ran for this western Colorado seat last cycle, but he dropped out after raising little money.

Legislatures

IL State House: Democratic state Rep. Mike Madigan announced Thursday that he was resigning from the state House, a move that concludes his 50-year career in the legislature one month after his record-breaking tenure as speaker came to an involuntary end. The still-powerful Madigan will remain state party chair, though, so he's far from done with Prairie State politics. Madigan is also the head of his local Chicago ward party, which allows him to pick his replacement in the House. (There are no special elections to the Illinois legislature.)

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 House seats nationwide nears its end with Louisiana, which will host not one but two special elections on March 20. 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's 58-40 victory in the Pelican State over Joe Biden was little different from his 58-38 showing against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Trump once again easily won five of Louisiana's six congressional districts. Trump scored at least 62% of the vote in each of these constituencies, all of which are held by Republicans.

The one blue seat is the 2nd District, which stretches from the New Orleans area west to Baton Rouge. Republican mapmakers drew this constituency to take in as many African American voters as possible to make the surrounding districts whiter, and Biden's 75-23 win was almost identical to Clinton's 75-22 performance. Several candidates are competing in next month's all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House, and there's no question that the eventual winner will be a Democrat.

Louisiana has always had a district anchored by New Orleans, and Democrats have held it since the 1890 election—with one very unusual exception a little more than a decade ago. In 2008, Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson lost re-election to Republican Joseph Cao in a huge upset thanks to a confluence of scandal, a major change in election law, and a hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast.

Perhaps most importantly, Jefferson was under indictment on corruption charges after he was filmed allegedly taking $100,000 in marked cash from a government informant, $90,000 of which was later discovered in his freezer. For a time, though, it seemed like Jefferson's electoral career would continue despite the scandal. The state temporarily abandoned its all-party primaries for congressional races in 2008 and 2010 and switched to the type of partisan primary-plus-runoff system that's used in neighboring Southern states. Jefferson won the first round of the primary with a 25% plurality, and he prevailed in the runoff 57-43.

But timing is everything in politics, and events outside of Jefferson's control dramatically altered the political calendar in Cao's favor. The primary was originally set for early September, but the state postponed the contest for a month when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast at the end of August. (The storm also led to the cancelation of the first night of the Republican National Convention.) Primary runoffs instead took place on Election Day in November, with the general election for those races pushed off until December.

Unfortunately for Jefferson, his contest was one of those affected. The congressman won the runoff as Barack Obama was carrying his seat 74-25, but he still needed to fend off Cao in December. Turnout would have almost certainly dropped no matter what, but the state's new election rules likely led many Democratic voters to mistakenly believe that they'd already re-elected Jefferson in November when they'd only renominated him. Other voters who might otherwise have voted Democratic also stayed home, or even backed Cao, out of disgust for the incumbent.

Still, it was a massive surprise when Cao defeated Jefferson 50-47, a victory that made him the first Vietnamese American to ever serve in Congress. Republicans were thrilled about their pickup after a second brutal cycle in a row, with Minority Leader John Boehner memorably putting out a memo afterwards proclaiming, "The future is Cao." Jefferson himself was convicted the next year and began serving a 13-year sentence in 2012, though he ended up leaving prison in late 2017.

Cao, meanwhile, struggled to repeat his shock win against a stronger opponent. While Republicans enjoyed a very strong election cycle in 2010, the 2nd reverted to form when state Rep. Cedric Richmond, who had unsuccessfully challenged Jefferson in the 2008 primary, unseated Cao 65-33. That victory restored the 2nd District's status as a safely blue seat, and even with Richmond's departure for a job in the Biden White House, that's not going to change in next month's special.

The other March 20 special will take place in the 5th District to succeed Republican Luke Letlow, who died from complications from the coronavirus just weeks after he won an open seat race against a fellow Republican but before he could be sworn in. This seat, which includes Monroe and Alexandria in the central part of the state, backed Trump 64-34, and Republicans should have little trouble keeping it.

This area, though, did send a Democrat to the House under the state's previous congressional map in 2002, but Team Blue's hold proved to be very brief. State Rep. Rodney Alexander won an open seat race 50.3-49.7 that year, and he looked like he'd be one of the most vulnerable members of the Democratic caucus in 2004. Alexander filed to run for re-election as a Democrat that year, but he refiled as a Republican two days later―on the final day of the candidate qualifying period.

The congressman's former party was infuriated, but Democrats were never able to take revenge. The incumbent won his 2004 race, as well as his next four campaigns, without any trouble. Alexander resigned in 2013 to take a position in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, and, despite a high-profile scandal surrounding his immediate successor, Team Red has always easily held the seat.

Louisiana Republicans had control of the redistricting process in 2011 for the first time in living memory, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards may be able to block them from passing another gerrymander. The legislature has only ever overridden two gubernatorial vetoes in more than two centuries of statehood (the last was in 1993), and while Republicans have the two-thirds majority necessary to defy Edwards in the state Senate, they don't have quite the numbers on their own in the House.

That's because, while Republicans outnumber Democrats 68-35 in the lower chamber, the House crucially also contains two independents who often vote with the minority party. This means that, if no seats change hands before redistricting takes place, and no Democrats vote for a Republican map, GOP legislators would need to win over both independents to pass their own boundaries again.

P.S. Because Louisiana does not assign pre-Election Day votes to precincts, we have relied on the same method to estimate congressional district vote totals that we recently used in Alabama.

International

Israel: Israel will hold a general election on March 23 because the results of the 2020 election were inconclusive. That election was held because the results of the September 2019 election were inconclusive. And that election was held because the results of the April 2019 election were inconclusive. We'll give you one guess as to the likely result of this next election.

Through all of this turmoil one constant has remained: radical-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some parliamentary systems have a tradition of deploying a caretaker prime minister, who takes over if the current officeholder loses a no-confidence vote or resigns. The caretaker PM leads the government for a short time until elections are held or the crisis at hand has abated. This is common in Italy, and in fact just happened. There is no such tradition in Israel, however, and so Netanyahu sticks around not because a majority of any of these Knessets (the Israeli parliament) want him to, but because there's no majority for anyone else to take over.

In the April 2019 election, the pro-Netanyahu coalition won 60 of the chamber's 120 seats. In September of that year, it won just 56 seats, and in 2020 it won 58. For both the second and third elections in question, if a vote of confidence in Netanyahu had been taken, he would have lost. But the anti-Netanyahu side ranges from left-wing Arab-majority parties to right-wing secular nationalists, a disunified confederation at the best of times.

After the 2020 elections, the anti-Netanyahu faction managed to get 61 members of Parliament to recommend that Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party form the next government, but Gantz was unable to hold this disparate group together long enough to actually form a working coalition. He instead made a deal with Netanyahu in which each man would supposedly serve as prime minister for 18 months. Netanyahu went first, of course, and another election was scheduled before Gantz got his turn. This surprised exactly no one who has spent more than five minutes following Netanyahu's career.

So far, the upcoming election has largely followed the pattern of its recent predecessors. The new center-right hope to unseat Netanyahu is former fellow Likud MP Gideon Sa'ar, who left Likud as new elections were being called and has largely picked up the center-right anti-Netanyahu vote that had been going to Gantz's Blue and White Party. Also arrayed against Netanyahu are the right-wing secular nationalists, the centrists, the center-left, and the Arab-majority parties. On the pro-Netanyahu side, you've got his Likud Party, of course, as well as the Orthodox Haredi parties and the far-right extremists. You will be shocked to learn that recent polling puts each side at about 60 seats.

If Netanyahu's side wins a majority, however, he'll remain prime minister. If not, he'll probably remain in charge anyway while the opposition fails to unite behind a replacement. There is one entity that might prevent this outcome and end this stalemate, but it lies far outside the Knesset: the Israeli justice system. Netanyahu has been under investigation for corruption since 2016 and was indicted in 2019 for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. His trial has been ongoing since May of last year, prolonged by many COVID-related delays. Prosecutors are finally slated to start providing evidence for their case within weeks, though that too could be delayed until after the election.

Even if Netanyahu were convicted, appeals would likely string the process along for years, though he could conceivably be forced to step down. However, barring significant voting shifts one way or another, there's no obvious alternative path out of this perpetual deadlock.

Kosovo: As in Israel, voters in Kosovo were just sent back to the ballot box earlier than normal, though with a very different outcome. The left-wing Vetevendosje (Albanian for "Self-Determination'') turned a small 2019 plurality victory into a landslide mandate to govern the country, skyrocketing from 26% of the vote to 48%, with the counting of overseas votes still ongoing.

The major leftist party in Kosovo, Vetevendosje had grown out of an anti-corruption protest movement in the 2000s and first contested parliamentary elections in 2010. The party is also the main proponent of ethnic Albanian nationalism, pushing for a referendum to unify Albanian-majority Kosovo with neighboring Albania itself. While the party placed first two years ago, its relatively small share of seats pushed it into an unstable coalition with the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), which had narrowly finished second.

That coalition lasted less than four months as the DLK bolted over the handling of the pandemic and formed a new government with just 61 votes in the 120-seat chamber. However, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo later ruled that because one of the 61 members voting for the new government had been convicted of fraud, the vote creating the new government did not actually pass with the needed majority, leading to new elections on Feb. 14.

Vetevendosje had long campaigned as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption party, and years of problems came to a head as the pandemic caused a sharp downturn in the country's economic fortunes. The party was also boosted by acting President Vjosa Osmani, who took over after the previous president, Hashim Thaci, was indicted at The Hague for war crimes. Osmani was a DLK MP and was elevated to the position of speaker last year, which in turn led to her assuming the powers of the presidency after Thaci's departure. But Osmani soon left the DLK and campaigned with Vetevendosje during the election.

The party will likely fall just short of an outright majority but should be able to form a stable coalition with some of the smaller parties and the seats set aside for minority groups. Leaders have said that they will prioritize curbing corruption and tackling unemployment rather than negotiations with Serbia, from whom Kosovo declared independence back in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo's independence, and their disputed diplomatic relations have often been the focus of other countries, but the issue repeatedly rates as a low priority both in polls and for the incoming Vetevendosje government itself.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?, NJ State Senate: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, announced this week that he would run this year for an open seat in the state Senate in the west-central part of the state being vacated by retiring GOP incumbent Kip Bateman.

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, who quickly earned the support of influential party leaders for his new campaign, also scared off former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who had competed with Pappas in a 2000 primary that occurred when both of them were out of Congress. While Zimmer, who gave up this seat back in 1996 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, decisively won that intra-party engagement, he went on to lose a very tight contest to Holt. Zimmer, though, endorsed Joe Biden last year, so he was very unlikely to pull off another victory against Pappas.

Pappas, however, is no sure bet to return to elected office. While we don't yet have the 2020 presidential results calculated for the New Jersey legislature, Hillary Clinton carried the 16th Legislative District 55-41 four years before.