Morning Digest: Seven states host primaries today, including the biggest of them all

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

Primary Night: The Gregs of Rath: After a brief break, the primary season continues Tuesday with contests in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. As always, we've put together our preview of what to watch starting at 8 PM ET when the first polls close. You'll also want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.

Democrats are going on the offensive in several California contests to try to help weaker Republicans pass more formidable opponents in the top-two primary. One of Team Blue's biggest targets is Rep. David Valadao, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year and now faces two intra-party foes in the Central Valley-based 22nd District.

House Majority PAC has dropped $280,000 to boost one of them, former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, by ostensibly attacking him as "100% pro-Trump and proud," while also promoting Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas. Valadao's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund, though, aren't sitting idly by, as they've deployed a larger $790,000 on messaging hoping to puncture Mathys by labeling him "soft on crime, dangerously liberal."

Orange County Democrat Asif Mahmood is trying a similar maneuver against Republican Rep. Young Kim over in the 40th District by airing ads to boost Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, a Republican who has a terrible record in local congressional races. That's also prompted a furious backlash from the CLF, which is spending $880,000 to stop Raths from advancing. But there's been no such outside intervention to the south in the 49th District, where Democratic Rep. Mike Levin is taking action to make sure his GOP foe is Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez rather than 2020 rival Brian Maryott.

That's not all that's on tap. We'll be watching GOP primary contests in Mississippi and South Dakota, where Reps. Steven Palazzo and Dusty Johnson face potentially serious intra-party challenges. Both parties will also be picking their nominees for hotly contested general election contests, as well as in safe House seats. You can find more on all these races, as well as the other big elections on Tuesday's ballot, in our preview.

Election Night

California: While the Golden State's many competitive House top-two primaries will take center-stage on Tuesday, we also have several major local races to watch. Unless otherwise noted, all of these races are officially nonpartisan primaries where candidates need to win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a Nov. 8 general election.

We'll begin in the open seat race for mayor of Los Angeles, a contest that's largely been defined by a $34 million spending spree by billionaire developer Rick Caruso. However, while some progressives have feared that the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat's offensive could allow him to win outright, a recent poll from UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times shows Democratic Rep. Karen Bass in first with 38%. That survey has Caruso not far behind with 32%, while City Councilman Kevin de León, who ran for Senate in 2018 as a progressive Democrat, lags in third with just 6%.

Over to the north there's a competitive contest to succeed termed-out San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a Silicon Valley community where the major fault lines are usually between business-aligned politicians like Liccardo and candidates closer to labor. The top fundraiser has been Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, a longtime union ally who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2006 and now enjoys the backing of PACs funded by labor, police unions, and even the San Francisco 49ers.  Another prominent contender is Councilmember Matt Mahan, who is supported by Liccardo's PAC even though the mayor himself has yet to endorse. The field also includes two other council members, the labor-aligned Raul Peralez and the business-allied Dev Davis, but they have not received any outside aid. San Jose voters Tuesday will also decide on Measure B, which would move mayoral contests to presidential years starting in 2024.

There are also several competitive district attorney races to watch, including in San Jose's Santa Clara County. Three-term incumbent Jeff Rosen is arguing he's made needed criminal justice reforms, but public defender Sajid Khan is campaigning as the "true, real progressive DA" he says the community lacks. The contest also includes former prosecutor Daniel Chung, a self-described "moderate" who has a terrible relationship with his one-time boss Rosen. Over in Orange County, Republican District Attorney Todd Spitzer is hoping that multiple scandals won't prevent him from scoring an outright win against Democrat Peter Hardin and two other opponents.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has a tough race of his own as he tries to turn back a recall campaign, and several polls find voters ready to eject the criminal justice reformer. If a majority vote yes on the recall question, which is identified as Proposition H, Mayor London Breed would appoint a new district attorney until a special election is held this November. However, SF voters will also be presented with Proposition C, which would prevent Breed's pick from running in that contest and make it extremely difficult to get recall questions on future ballots.    

Back in Southern California we'll also be watching the race for Los Angeles County sheriff, where conservative Democratic incumbent Alex Villanueva is trying to win a majority of the vote against eight foes. Bolts Magazine has details on several more law enforcement contests across California as well.

Finally, we also have the special general election to succeed Republican Devin Nunes, who has amazingly not yet been fired as head of Trump's disastrous social media project, in the existing version of the 22nd Congressional District, a Central Valley seat Trump carried 52-46. The first round took place in April and saw former Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway lead Democrat Lourin Hubbard, who is an official at the California Department of Water Resources, 35-19 in all-party primary where Republican candidates outpaced Democrats 66-34. Neither Conway nor Hubbard are seeking a full term anywhere this year.

Senate

AL-Sen: While Rep. Mo Brooks surprised plenty of observers two weeks ago by advancing to the June 21 runoff with former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt, his allies at the Club for Growth aren't acting at all confident about his chances of actually winning round two. Politico reports that the Club on Thursday canceled more than $500,000 in advertising time meant to benefit Brooks, who trailed Britt 45-29 on May 24.

The congressman got some more disappointing news the following day when Army veteran Mike Durant, who took third with 23%, announced that he wouldn't support or even vote for either Britt or Brooks. While Durant claimed hours before polls closed on May 24 that he'd endorse Brooks over Britt, he now says, "Mo Brooks has been in politics for 40 years, and all he does is run his mouth." Durant also had harsh words for the frontrunner, arguing, "Katie Britt doesn't deserve to be a senator."

CO-Sen: Wealthy businessman Joe O'Dea has publicized a survey from Public Opinion Strategies that gives him a 38-14 lead over state Rep. Ron Hanks in the June 28 Republican primary to face Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. O'Dea has also announced that he's spending $325,000 on a TV and radio campaign against Hanks, who ended March with all of $16,000 in the bank.

MO-Sen: While state Attorney General Eric Schmitt's allies at Save Missouri Values PAC have largely focused on attacking disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens ahead of the August GOP primary, the super PAC is now spending $510,000 on an offensive against a third candidate, Rep. Vicky Hartzler. The spot argues that Hartzler "voted to give amnesty to over 1.8 million illegal immigrants, and she even voted to use our tax dollars to fund lawyers for illegals who invaded our country."

Governors

KS-Gov: Wednesday was the filing deadline for Kansas’ Aug. 2 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here.

While several Republicans initially showed interest in taking on incumbent Laura Kelly, who is is the only Democratic governor up for re-election this year in a state that Donald Trump carried, Attorney General Derek Schmidt has essentially had the field to himself ever since former Gov. Jeff Colyer dropped out in August. The RGA isn’t waiting for Schmidt to vanquish his little-known primary foe, as it’s already running a commercial promoting him as an alternative to Kelly.

MA-Gov: Attorney General Maura Healey won Saturday's Democratic Party convention with 71% of the delegates, while the balance went to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz. Chang-Díaz took considerably more than the 15% she needed in order to secure a spot on the September primary ballot for governor, but she faces a wide polling and financial deficit.

MD-Gov: The first independent poll of the July 19 Democratic primary comes from OpinionWorks on behalf of the University of Baltimore and the Baltimore Sun, and it finds state Comptroller Peter Franchot in the lead with 20%. Author Wes Moore is close behind with 15%, while former DNC chair Tom Perez and former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker take 12% and 7%, respectively; a 31% plurality remains undecided.

While former U.S. Secretary of Education John King snagged just 4%, here, though, his own numbers show him in far better shape. He released an internal from 2020 Insight last month that showed Franchot at 17% as King and Moore took 16%; Perez took the same 12% that OpinionWorks gave him, while 27% were undecided.

OpinionWorks also gives us a rare look at the GOP primary and has former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who is backed by termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan, beating Trump-endorsed Del. Dan Cox 27-21; wealthy perennial candidate Robin Ficker is a distant third with 5%, while a hefty 42% of respondents didn't choose a candidate.

MI-Gov: The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday ruled against former Detroit police Chief James Craig and wealthy businessman Perry Johnson's attempts to get on the August Republican primary ballot after state election authorities disqualified them for fraudulent voter petition signatures, but neither of them is giving up hope of still capturing the GOP nod.

Craig acknowledged last month that he would consider a write-in campaign if his legal challenge failed, and he said Sunday on Fox, "It's not over. We are going to be evaluating next steps." While Craig doesn't appear to have addressed the possibility of a write-in campaign since the state's highest court gave him the thumbs down, he responded in the affirmative when asked, "Are they trying to steal your election?" Johnson, for his part, asked a federal judge the following day to halt the printing of primary ballots.

NY-Gov: Last week was the deadline for independent candidates to turn in the 45,000 signatures they'd need to make the November ballot, and disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not submit any petitions.

House

FL-07: Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine has announced that he'll stay out of the August Republican primary for this newly gerrymandered seat.

KS-03: Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids faces a rematch with former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who faces only minor opposition for renomination. Davids beat Adkins 54-44 in 2020 as Joe Biden pulled off an identical win in her suburban Kansas City seat, but Republican legislators passed a new gerrymander this year that slashes Biden’s margin to 51-47.

MD-04: Former Rep. Donna Edwards has earned an endorsement from AFSCME Maryland Council 3, which is the state's largest government employee's union, as well as AFSCME Council 67 and Local 2250 for the July 19 Democratic primary.

MI-10: Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga has dropped an internal from Target Insyght that shows him leading two-time GOP Senate nominee John James 44-40 in a general election contest in this swing seat, which is similar to the 48-45 edge he posted in January. The firm also gives Marlinga a 40-16 advantage over Warren Council member Angela Rogensues in the August Democratic primary.

NC-13: The DCCC has released an in-house survey that shows Democrat Wiley Nickel with a 45-43 advantage over Republican Bo Hines. This poll was conducted May 18-19, which was immediately after both men won their respective May 17 primaries in this competitive district in Raleigh's southern suburbs; it's also the first we've seen from this contest.

NH-01: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday endorsed 2020 nominee Matt Mowers' second campaign to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas. Mowers lost to Pappas 51-46 as Biden was carrying the district 52-46, and he faces several opponents in the August GOP primary for a seat that barely changed under the new court-ordered map.

NV-01: Former 4th District Rep. Cresent Hardy startled observers when he filed to take on Democratic incumbent Dina Titus right before filing closed March 18, but the Republican still doesn't appear to have gotten around to cluing in donors about his latest comeback attempt. Hardy, mystifyingly, waited until April 15 to even open a new fundraising account with the FEC, and he proceeded to haul in all of $9,000 through May 25 without spending a penny of it.  

Hardy faces intra-party opposition next Tuesday from conservative activist David Brog, Army veteran Mark Robertson, and former Trump campaign staffer Carolina Serrano, all of whom we can accurately say spent infinitely more than him. Titus herself is going up against activist Amy Vilela, who took third place with 9% in the 2018 primary for the 4th District.  

NY-19 (special), NY-23 (special): Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has officially set Aug. 23 special elections to succeed Democrat Antonio Delgado and Republican Tom Reed in the existing versions of the 19th and 23rd Congressional Districts, respectively. Both races will coincide with the primaries for the new congressional and state Senate districts. The 19th supported Biden 50-48, while the 23rd went for Trump 55-43.

In New York special elections, party leaders select nominees, rather than primary voters, and Democrats in the 23rd District picked Air Force veteran Max Della Pia over the weekend. Della Pia, who unsuccessfully ran in the 2018 primary, has also announced that he'll run for a full two-year term to succeed Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs in the new 23rd, which contains much of Reed's now-former constituency.

NY-23: Developer Carl Paladino launched his bid over the weekend to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs, and the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee immediately picked up an endorsement from the House’s third-ranking Republican, 21st District Rep. Elise Stefanik. Paladino won’t have a glide path to the nomination, though, as state party chair Nick Langworthy reportedly will also enter the August primary ahead of Friday’s filing deadline. Trump would have carried this seat in southwestern upstate New York 58-40.

Langworthy hasn’t said anything publicly about his plans, but Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler has abandoned his own nascent campaign to support him. Paladino himself told the Buffalo News he tried to deter the chair from running, but added, “He's all about himself and is using party resources to pass petitions so he can go down to Washington and act like a big shot.”

Both Paladino and Langworthy have longtime ties to Trump, and the two even made an unsuccessful attempt to recruit him to run for governor in 2014. Paladino was all-in for Trump’s White House bid in 2016, and he even dubbed none other than Stefanik a “fraud” for refusing to endorse the frontrunner. (Stefanik has since very much reinvented herself as an ardent Trumpist.) Langworthy himself also was all-in for Trump well before the rest of the GOP establishment fell into line.

Trump’s transition committee condemned Paladino in late 2016 after the then-Buffalo School Board member said he wanted Barack Obama to “catch[] mad cow disease” and for Michelle Obama to “return to being male” and be “let loose” in Zimbabwe; Trump and Paladino, though, have predictably remained buds. Langworthy, for his part, reportedly had Trump’s support in his successful bid to become state party chair.

OH-01: Democrat Greg Landsman has publicized a mid-May internal from Impact Research that shows him deadlocked 47-47 against Republican incumbent Steve Chabot. This is the first survey we've seen of the general election for a Cincinnati-based seat that would have supported Joe Biden 53-45.

TN-05: On Friday night, a state judge ordered music video producer Robby Starbuck back onto the August Republican primary ballot, though the Tennessee Journal predicted, "An appeal appears all but certain." Party leaders ejected Starbuck and two others in April for not meeting the party's definition of a "bona fide" Republican, but the judge ruled that the GOP's decision was invalid because it violated state open meeting law. The deadline to finalize the ballot is Friday.

TX-15: Army veteran Ruben Ramirez announced Monday that he would seek a recount for the May 24 Democratic runoff, a decision he made shortly after the state party's canvas found that he still trailed businesswoman Michelle Vallejo by 30 votes. The eventual nominee will go up against 2020 Republican nominee Monica De La Cruz, who won the Republican primary outright in March, in a Rio Grande Valley seat that Trump would have taken 51-48.

TX-28: Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar's lead over progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros increased from 177 votes immediately following their runoff two weeks ago to 281 with the final county-by-county canvass of votes that concluded on Friday. Cuellar again declared victory, but Cisneros said on Monday that she would seek a recount.

TX-34 (special): The Texas Tribune reports that Republican Maya Flores and her outside group allies have spent close to $1 million on TV ahead of the June 14 all-party primary for this 52-48 Biden seat. By contrast, Democrat Dan Sanchez and the DCCC are spending $100,000 on a joint digital buy, but they don't appear to be on TV yet. One other Democrat and Republican are also on the ballot, which could keep either Flores or Sanchez from winning the majority they'd need to avert a runoff.

Secretaries of State

MA-SoS: Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan outpaced seven-term Secretary of State Bill Galvin 62-38 at Saturday's Democratic convention, but Galvin proved four years ago that he can very much win renomination after being rejected by party delegates. Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim snagged 55% of the convention vote back in 2018 after arguing that the incumbent had done a poor job advocating for needed voting rights reforms only to lose the primary to Galvin 67-32 months later.

Sullivan, who sports an endorsement from 6th District Rep. Seth Moulton, is adopting a similar argument against Galvin this time. The challenger used her convention speech to argue, "Despite record voter turnout in 2020, hear me on this, voters from some of our most vulnerable communities still saw the lowest voter turnout across Massachusetts, leaving behind far too many voices. I'm talking about the voices of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and AAPI folks."

Galvin, though, insisted his presence was more vital than ever, saying, "I am now the senior Democratic election official in the United States and I intend to use that role to make sure that we're able to make sure that citizens throughout our country have the opportunity to vote."

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Georgia incumbents fend off Trump’s Big Lie slate in Tuesday Republican primaries

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

 Primary Night: We had another packed primary night on Tuesday, and below is a summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in the big contests. You can also find our cheat-sheet here.

  • AL-Sen (R): Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt took first place with 45% in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, who is ardently supporting his one-time chief of staff, though it was still a few points below the majority she needed to win outright. Rep. Mo Brooks, whom Donald Trump dramatically unendorsed back in March, earned the second spot in the June 21 runoff by turning back Army veteran Mike Durant 29-23.

  • GA-Sen (R): Former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, in what proved to be one of Tuesday’s rare statewide victories for a Donald Trump-endorsed candidate in Georgia, defeated Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black 68-13. Walker will now go up against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock in what will be one of the most competitive Senate contests in the nation.

  • GA-Gov (R): Gov. Brian Kemp turned in a landslide 74-22 win against former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump recruited last year after the governor refused to help steal Georgia’s electoral votes following the 2020 election. Perdue played up his support from the MAGA master but offered little else beyond Big Lie conspiracy theories, and one party strategist memorably summed up the challenger’s effort as “a boring Trump video over and over again.” Kemp will now face a rematch against 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who had no intra-party opposition in her second campaign.

  • GA-07 (D): Rep. Lucy McBath defeated her fellow incumbent, the more moderate Carolyn Bourdeaux, 63-31 in what is now a safely blue seat in Atlanta's northeastern suburbs. Bourdeaux is at least the third House member to lose renomination this cycle following West Virginia Republican David McKinley and North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn, though Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader badly trails in a May 17 Democratic primary that has not yet been called.

  • TX-28 (D): With just over 45,200 ballots tallied, conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar holds a 50.2-49.8 edge over Jessica Cisneros―a margin of 177 votes. Cuellar has declared victory, but Cisneros has not conceded in a contest that the Associated Press has also not called.

  • TX-28 (R): Cassy Garcia, who is a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, defeated 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten 57-43. Republicans are hoping for an opening in a Laredo-area seat that Biden would have carried 53-46.

  • GA-AG (R): Incumbent Chris Carr decisively fended off Trump-supported foe John Gordon, a previously little-known attorney who renewed his law license last year so that he could help Trump undo his Georgia defeat, 74-26. Carr will go up against state Sen. Jen Jordan, who claimed the Democratic nod 78-22.

  • GA-SoS (R): Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused to go along with Trump’s 2020 demand to "find 11,780 votes," won renomination outright by beating Trump-endorsed Rep. Jody Hice 52-33.

  • GA-SoS (D): State Rep. Bee Nguyen took first with 44%, which was below the majority she needed to avert a June 21 runoff. The Associated Press has not yet called the second runoff spot: With 681,000 votes in, former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler holds a 19-16 edge over former Cobb County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Owens.

There were more big contests on the ballot Tuesday, and we’ll be summarizing the outcomes in our next Digest. For now, you can find real-time results at the following links for Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and the special election primary for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

Redistricting

AK Redistricting: The Alaska Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that found the state's Republican-dominated redistricting board had illegally gerrymandered its map for the state Senate a second time and also affirmed the court's decision to order an alternate map for this year's elections. As a result, Democrats will have a better shot at gaining a seat in the 20-member Senate, which is the smallest legislative chamber in the nation. Republicans currently hold a 13-7 majority, but one Democrat caucuses with the GOP.

Senate

OK-Sen-B: Physician Randy Grellner, a Republican who so far hasn't attracted much attention in the crowded June 28 GOP primary, has launched a $786,000 ad buy for a cheaply produced spot with choppy editing that features the candidate speaking directly to the camera. Grellner rattles off various right-wing themes and boasts that he refuses to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

WA-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Washington's Aug. 2 top-two primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here. Just like in California, the state requires all candidates running for Congress and for state office to compete on a single ballot rather than in separate party primaries. The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, will then advance to the Nov. 8 general election—a rule that sometimes results in two candidates from the same party facing off against one another. Note that candidates cannot win outright in August by taking a majority of the vote.

Unlike in the Golden State, though, contenders don't need to restrict themselves to running as Democrats, Republicans, third-party candidates, or without a party affiliation at all. Instead, as the state explains, anyone on the ballot gets "up to 18 characters to describe the party" they prefer. For example, the U.S. Senate race features one candidate running as a "JFK Republican" while a secretary of state hopeful is identified with an "America First (R)" even though neither is actually a political party in Washington.

While Democratic Sen. Patty Murray faces 17 opponents in her bid for a sixth term, her only serious foe is motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley, who is designated on the ballot as a standard-issue "Republican." The Evergreen State supported Joe Biden 58-39 and it would take a lot for Murray to lose even in a GOP wave year, though Republicans remember their near-miss in 2010. Murray ended March with a $7.9 million to $2.5 million cash-on-hand lead.

Governors

MI-Gov: In a stunning development, the Michigan Bureau of Elections announced Monday evening that five of the 10 Republicans running for governor have failed to qualify for the August primary ballot because thousands of the signatures they submitted were invalid. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has led in the polls, and self-funding businessman Perry Johnson are among those disqualified, along with state police Capt. Mike Brown, financial adviser Michael Markey, and businesswoman Donna Brandenburg. Brown has already dropped out, while Craig said he wasn't ready to do so and urged the state attorney general to open a criminal investigation.

Following the bureau's recommendations, the Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to consider them, and the board could reject the bureau's findings to allow a candidate with insufficient signatures to appear on the ballot. However, such action would require three of the four board members' approval, and the body is equally divided between two Democrats and two Republicans.

While it's common for at least some modest percentage of signatures to be found invalid for various reasons every cycle, something that well-run campaigns plan for by submitting more than the minimum, the issue here goes well beyond that. The bureau indicated that at least 68,000 signatures were invalid across all 10 campaigns, many of which included obvious forgeries, duplicates, and signatures from dead people among other issues aside from mere voter error.

Among the 21,000 signatures that Craig submitted, just shy of 11,000 were deemed invalid, leaving him with roughly 10,000 of the 15,000 needed to qualify. Similarly, more than 9,000 of Johnson's 23,000 signatures were invalidated, giving him just under 14,000 valid signatures. There's no indication yet that any of the campaigns themselves were behind the apparent signature fraud rather than the paid circulators they had hired to gather signatures, and multiple campaigns such as Johnson's said they were considering whether to go to court and contest their disqualification if need be.

Should these disqualifications hold up, though, it would completely shake up the GOP's primary for governor in a key swing state. Craig had appeared to be the frontrunner since he announced last summer, while Johnson had vowed to spend "whatever it takes" to win the primary and already deployed millions of his wealth to do so.

If Craig and Perry are ultimately kept off the ballot, some of the currently lesser-known candidates could gain an opening, including right-wing radio host Tudor Dixon, chiropractor and anti-lockdown activist Garrett Soldano, and wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, who had previously said he would self-fund at least $10 million.

MN-Gov: Rep. Pete Stauber has endorsed former state Sen. Scott Jensen after the latter won the state GOP convention earlier this month. Meanwhile, former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek's campaign says he's still considering whether to continue on to the August primary, with the filing deadline quickly approaching on May 31. Stanek had beforehand vowed to abide by the state GOP's convention process and withdraw should he not win the endorsement, but he ended up not placing his name before delegates, saying injuries from a car accident in April prevented him from attending.

House

CA-37: The cryptocurrency-aligned Web3 Forward is spending $317,000 on a media buy to aid Democratic state Sen. Sydney Kamlager ahead of the top-two primary on June 7. Kamlager has previously gotten support from Protect Our Future PAC, which is funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

CA-40: Rep. Young Kim is running a commercial attacking her fellow Republican, Mission Viejo Councilman ​Greg Raths, a move that comes as Democrat Asif Mahmood is running his own ads designed to help Raths beat the incumbent in the June 7 top-two primary. According to Democratic operative Nathan Click, Kim is spending at least $500,000 in the ultra-expensive Los Angeles media market to air this spot on broadcast television.

Kim's narrator compares Raths to Joe Biden and other Democrats by arguing that the candidate has hiked up taxes and fees "[e]ight times in a row" and wanted to increase his own salary. The second half of the piece praises the congresswoman as a loyal conservative who is "fighting Raths and the liberals."

FL-10: The crypto-aligned Protect Our Future PAC says it will spend $1 million for progressive activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost ahead of the Democratic primary in August. Frost has led the field in fundraising here in both the last two quarters, bringing in $350,000 during the first three months of 2022 while none of his rivals cracked six figures in either quarter.

IL-03: VoteVets has launched a $360,000 buy to promote Chicago Alderman Gil Villegas, which makes this the first outside spending on his side ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary. The commercial touts Villegas' time in the Marines and work on the Chicago City Council. Villegas' main intra-party rival is state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has so far benefited from $200,000 in support from the Working Families Party and another $70,000 from EMILY's List.

NC-11, TX-13, WV-02: The nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics announced it had referred two cases to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation on Monday, recommending the committee look into possible violations by two Republicans, Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson and West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney. The committee said it would do so and also separately announced that it had opened an investigation into Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who lost in last week's Republican primary but still has seven months of lame-duck service left.

Cawthorn faces scrutiny over two separate matters: whether he "improperly promoted a cryptocurrency in which he may have had an undisclosed financial interest," per the committee, and whether he had an "improper relationship" with an aide. The relationship in question may involve a staffer named Stephen L. Smith, to whom Cawthorn allegedly provided undisclosed loans, gifts, travel, and housing.

Cawthorn also hyped a "Let's Go Brandon" cryptocurrency late last year while possibly being privy to inside information about the coin's future prospects. It surged the following day when NASCAR driver Brandon Brown announced the coin would sponsor his upcoming season, but it's now worthless.

Mooney, meanwhile, is accused of accepting a free family vacation to Aruba from a direct-mail firm his campaign has paid tens of thousands of dollars to in recent years and also having congressional staffers walk his dog and take his laundry to the cleaners. Mooney is already under investigation for allegedly using campaign funds on personal expenses and possibly for obstructing that initial investigation as well.

Finally, the OCE said that Jackson may have spent campaign money for membership at a private social club in Amarillo, Texas, which is prohibited by federal law. Both Jackson and Mooney have refused to cooperate with their respective investigations, according to the committee.

NY-03: The progressive Working Families Party has endorsed healthcare advocate Melanie D'Arrigo, who previously waged an unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge from the left against departing Rep. Tom Suozzi in 2020. D'Arrigo may have a better shot this time without an incumbent in the August primary, which includes DNC member Robert Zimmerman, deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman, and Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan. State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi's departure on Monday to instead run in the redrawn 17th District could also help D'Arrigo consolidate progressive voters here.

NY-12: A spokesperson for nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid says she's considering whether to continue in the Democratic primary after court-ordered redistricting significantly scrambled the lines here. Abdelhamid is based in Queens, but the portions of that borough that were previously in the 12th were removed under the court's reconfiguration of the district, which is now contained solely in Manhattan.

NY-18: State Sen. James Skoufis has announced that he won't run for Congress after previously considering a bid, leaving Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan as the only notable Democrat in the race so far.

NY-22: Businessman Steve Wells announced over the weekend that he would seek the Republican nomination for the open 22nd District, a constituency in the Syracuse and Utica areas that Biden would have won 53-45. Wells ran in 2016 for the old 22nd District, which makes up just under 40% of this new seat, when moderate Rep. Richard Hanna retired; however, while Wells enjoyed a financial advantage and an endorsement from the departing incumbent, he lost the primary 41-34 to eventual winner Claudia Tenney.

Wells will again have intra-party opposition in August as Navy veteran Brandon Williams says he'll continue for his campaign to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. John Katko. Williams, though, had less than $100,000 in the bank at the end of March, while Wells proved in 2016 he was capable of self-funding. Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, meanwhile, has dropped out and endorsed Wells, a decision he made after the new court-drawn map relocated his community to the 19th District. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente also has made it clear he won't be running for Congress.

On the Democratic side, nonprofit executive Vanessa Fajans-Turner has ended her campaign. Both Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok and Navy veteran Francis Conole, who lost the 2020 primary to take on Katko, have announced that they remain in the race for the newest incarnation of the seat, however.

WA-03: Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler earned herself a prominent place on Donald Trump's shitlist after she voted for impeachment, and she now faces four fellow Republicans, two Democrats, and two unaffiliated candidates. Trump himself is supporting Joe Kent, an Army veteran who has defended Putin's invasion of Ukraine and who has outraised the other challengers. The GOP side also includes evangelical author Heidi St. John, who has brought in a notable amount of money, and state Rep. Vicki Kraft, who hasn't.

The Democratic field, meanwhile, consists of 2020 candidate Davy Ray and auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Neither has brought in much cash, but it's possible one will advance to the general election in this 51-46 Trump seat in southwestern Washington.

WA-04: Six Republicans have lined up to challenge GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also voted to impeach Donald Trump, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat campaigning for this 57-40 Trump constituency in eastern Washington. Trump is all-in for 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, though the far-right ex-cop has struggled to bring in money for his new bid. The GOP field also includes businessman Jerrod Sessler, who has self-financed most of his campaign, and underfunded state Rep. Brad Klippert.

WA-08: Three notable Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbent Kim Schrier in a suburban Seattle seat that, just like her current constituency, would have supported Joe Biden 52-45. Schrier's most familiar foe is 2020 nominee Jesse Jensen, who unexpectedly held her to a 52-48 win last time despite bringing in little money and is proving to be a considerably stronger fundraiser this time.

Another well-established Republican is King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who lost the 2012 open seat race for attorney general 53-47 to Democrat Bob Ferguson; Dunn is the son of the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who represented previous versions of this constituency from 1993 to 2005. Team Red's field also includes 2020 attorney general nominee Matt Larkin, who lost to Ferguson 56-43 and has been self-funding much of his newest bid. The field includes an additional two Republicans, a pair of Democrats, and a trio of third-party candidates.

Attorneys General

MI-AG, MI-SoS: EPIC-MRA, surveying for WOOD-TV, shows Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel leading Big Lie booster Matthew DePerno just 43-41 in the first general election poll we've seen here. Nessel's fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, holds a larger 47-38 edge in her re-election bid against another conspiracy theorist, Kristina Karamo.

Secretaries of State

WA-SoS: Steve Hobbs became the first Democrat to hold this post since 1965 when Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him last year to succeed Kim Wyman, a Republican who resigned to join the Biden administration, and he faces seven opponents in the special election for the final two years of Wyman's term.

The GOP side includes two election conspiracy theorists, including former state Sen. Mark Miloscia, a one-time Democratic state representative who recently resigned as head of a social conservative organization. Another notable Republican is state Sen. Keith Wagoner, who has not called Biden's win into question. Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party, is also in, as are three little-known candidates.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Rep. Karen Bass and her allies at Communities United for Bass have each released a survey showing her and billionaire Rick Caruso advancing to a November general election, though they disagree which candidate is ahead in the June 7 nonpartisan primary.

David Binder Research's internal for Bass has the congresswoman at 34%, which is well below the majority needed to win outright, while Caruso beats out City Councilman Kevin de León 32-7 for second. FM3's poll for a pro-Bass committee, meanwhile, has Caruso in the lead with 37% with the congresswoman at 35%; in a distant third with 6% each are de León and City Attorney Mike Feuer, who recently dropped out and endorsed Bass. FM3, though, has Bass beating Caruso 48-39 in a head-to-head matchup.

Communities United for Bass, which is funded in large part by labor groups and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, is also spending at least $1 million on an ad campaign that quotes the Los Angeles Times in calling Caruso "the Donald Trump of Los Angeles." The narrator goes on to fault the former Republican for his donations to GOP candidates like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before arguing that "Caruso himself has opposed abortion." Caruso, who has dominated the airwaves for weeks, quickly hit back with an ad defending his pro-choice credentials while portraying Bass as an ally of "special interests."

Prosecutors

King County, WA Prosecutor: Incumbent Dan Satterberg, a former Republican who joined the Democratic Party in 2018, is not running for re-election as the top prosecutor of Washington's most-populous county, and two candidates are competing to succeed him in an officially nonpartisan race. In one corner is Leesa Manion, who is Satterberg's chief of staff and would be both the first woman and person of color to serve here. Her opponent is Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, who is a former prosecutor.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Trump’s man in Georgia keeps flogging election conspiracies as his campaign craters

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

GA-Gov, GA-Sen, GA-SoS: A new survey from the University of Georgia for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the latest poll to find Gov. Brian Kemp cruising to renomination in the May 24 GOP primary, with Kemp holding a 53-27 lead over Big Lie proponent David Perdue and earning the majority needed to avoid a June primary runoff against the former senator. This latest survey is one of Kemp's best results so far from any pollster and marks a significant improvement for him from UGA's last poll taken in late March and early April, which found Kemp ahead 48-37. Still, every other recent poll here has also found Kemp with a sizable lead.

Perdue has failed to gain traction in the polls despite Donald Trump's endorsement, but that hasn't stopped his zealotry for spreading Trump's 2020 election conspiracy theories from shaping the race. Perdue and his allies have run ad after ad spreading the Big Lie that Trump was cheated in 2020 and chastising Kemp for failing to help Trump steal the contest, and Perdue's opening statement in Sunday's debate reiterated his bogus accusation of election theft. Kemp, meanwhile, has focused his campaign message on reminding voters that Perdue's re-election defeat makes him a proven loser and touting the governor's record on bread and butter conservative issues such as immigration, crime, and taxes.

In the Senate primary, UGA's poll does have unambiguously good news for the Trump-backed candidate: Former NFL star Herschel Walker has a 66-7 edge over his closest rival, state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, which is little different than his 64-8 lead in their previous poll.

Looking further downballot in the GOP primary for secretary of state, another of Trump's endorsees running a campaign focused on 2020 election denial has found more success than in the governor's race, but UGA's latest poll finds it is no sure thing. Their survey shows incumbent Brad Raffensperger holding a 28-26 lead over Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump's backing, which marks an improvement for the incumbent from Hice's 30-23 advantage in UGA's prior poll. However, Hice has done significantly better in one of the few other credible polls here from GOP firm Landmark Communications, which had Raffensperger trailing by a wide 35-18 earlier this month.

Trump's election lies almost certainly aren't going anywhere as a campaign topic regardless of the outcome of the primaries for secretary of state. One of the leading Democratic contenders, state Rep. Bee Nguyen, has focused her initial ad on her support for protecting voting rights against Trump's attacks and previews what the general election message may look like.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama Patriots PAC, which is backing Army veteran Mike Durant in the May 24 GOP primary, has reported spending more than $3 million on his behalf thus far.

FL-Sen: Former Donald Trump operative Roger Stone, whom Trump pardoned in December 2020 after he was convicted on several felony charges of obstructing Congress' investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said he isn't ruling out a primary bid against GOP Sen. Marco Rubio over the latter's vote against overturning the 2020 election outcome. Stone, however, hardly looks like a serious candidate: even he conceded that he wasn't the ideal challenger and implored someone else to run. Stone had also mulled running for governor as an independent to stymie Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis before acknowledging he was barred from doing so by state law preventing recent party switchers from running for office.

OH-Sen: Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has released a poll finding that the May 3 GOP primary is still up in the air with 33% undecided and no candidate topping 20%. The pollster, who did not disclose who, if anyone, was their client, shows state Sen. Matt Dolan with a slim 18-17 lead over venture capitalist J.D. Vance, while businessman Mike Gibbons earns 13%, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel takes 12%, and former state party chair Jane Timken wins just 7%.

This is the first survey from any outfit this cycle showing Dolan in first, but with all three other polls disclosed this month from reputable firms each finding three different leaders and many voters still undecided, it's another sign of just how uncertain the outcome of next week's vote is.

Governors

MI-Gov: Republican Rep. Jack Bergman, whose 1st District covers the Upper Peninsula and northernmost portion of the Lower Peninsula, has switched his endorsement in the August GOP primary from former Detroit Police Chief James Craig to self-funding businessman Perry Johnson. In doing so, Bergman complained that Craig ignored "campaigning in Northern Michigan and the U.P. in favor of a self proclaimed Detroit-centric approach."

NE-Gov: The Republican firm Data Targeting has conducted a survey of the May 10 GOP primary for Neilan Strategy Group, which says it's not working on behalf of any candidate or allied group, that shows state Sen. Brett Lindstrom taking a narrow lead for the first time in a very expensive and ugly race where he'd largely been overshadowed.

The firm shows Lindstrom edging out Trump-backed agribusinessman Charles Herbster 28-26, with University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, who is termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts' endorsed candidate, just behind with 24%; former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau lags far behind in fourth with 6%. Back in mid-February, the firm showed Herbster edging out Pillen 27-26, with Lindstrom taking third with 21%.

This new poll is the first we've seen conducted since the Nebraska Examiner published an April 14 story where Republican state Sen. Julie Slama and seven other women accused Herbster of groping and other forms of sexual assault; Herbster denied the allegations and soon went up with a commercial claiming "the establishment" was lying about him just like they supposedly did with Trump. Unsurprisingly, Trump himself has stuck behind his man, and he's scheduled to hold a rally with him on Friday.

While no other polls have found Lindstrom in first place, there were previously signs that his detractors were treating him as a serious threat even though he lacked the money and big-named endorsements that Pillen and Herbster have available. (Lindstrom's most prominent supporter is arguably Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.) A group called Restore the Good Life began running ads against the state senator weeks ago that portrayed him as wrong on taxes, while another outfit called Say No to RINOs launched its own spots in mid-April saying, "Liberal Brett Lindstrom is no conservative, he just plays one on TV."

But perhaps most tellingly, Conservative Nebraska, a super PAC funded in part by Ricketts, recently began running its own spots using similar arguments against Lindstrom after it previously focused on attacking Herbster only. The termed-out governor himself joined in the pile-on, characterizing Lindstrom as "a liberal (who) does not have a conservative voting record in the Legislature." The state senator, for his part, said last week that he wouldn't be running negative ads against Pillen and Hebster.

PA-Gov: State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is unopposed in the May 17 Democratic primary, has laid out $950,000 of the $16 million his campaign recently had on hand to air his first two ads. The first commercial is a minute-long spot that devotes its first half to Shapiro's biography, referencing his Pennsylvania roots, family values, and the importance of his Jewish faith, while the second part highlights his record of keeping taxes low when serving in local office and how he has "taken on powerful institutions" as attorney general.

The second spot expands on the latter theme, featuring a nurse praising Shapiro's work going after predatory student loan companies like the one that she says tried to rip her off.

WI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Tim Michels, who announced a sizable ad buy when he joined the GOP primary over the weekend, will spend $980,000 on his initial ads, though no copy of a spot is available yet.

House

FL-04: Navy veteran Erick Aguilar this week became the first notable Republican to announce a bid for the new 4th District, a Jacksonville area constituency that would be open should incumbent John Rutherford run for the 5th as fellow Republicans expect. The new 4th would have supported Trump 53-46.

Aguilar himself had been waging a second primary bid against Rutherford, who beat him in an 80-20 landslide two years before, before redistricting changed things. But while Aguilar's doomed first campaign brought in all of $16,000, his second try is a far better-funded affair: Aguilar raised $320,000 during the first quarter of 2022, and he ended March with a hefty $812,000 on hand thanks in part to earlier self-funding.

FL-23: Republican state Rep. Chip LaMarca has announced that he won't run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch in the new 23rd District, which contains most of Deutch's existing 22nd District.

IL-03: SEIU Local 1, which represents maintenance workers, has backed Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas in the June Democratic primary.

IL-17: SEIU Illinois, which represents more than 170,000 public sector employees and workers in private service sectors statewide, has endorsed former state Rep. Litesa Wallace in the June Democratic primary, which has no clear frontrunner yet. Wallace faces a field that includes former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen, Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann, and Rockford Alderwoman Linda McNeely.

OH-11: Democratic Majority for Israel is airing its first negative spot of the year against former state Sen. Nina Turner ahead of her Democratic primary rematch next week against Rep. Shontel Brown. The narrator faults Turner for not supporting Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016 before declaring that the challenger "said voting for Biden was like eating ****." (The screen flashes the words "EATING S**T.") The super PAC, which recently began running positive commercials for Brown, has spent close to $600,000 so far.    

OR-06: In an effort to unravel why billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried's super PAC, Protect Our Future, has spent more than $7 million so far boosting first-time candidate Carrick Flynn's quest for the Democratic nomination in Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District, OPB's Dirk VanderHart dives deep into the possible ties between the two men.

Most notably, Flynn's wife, Kathryn Mecrow-Flynn, worked at an organization called the Center for Effective Altruism in 2017—the same time that Bankman-Fried served as the group's director of development. Flynn has maintained he "has never met or talked to Sam Bankman-Fried"—by law, super PACs are forbidden from coordinating with campaigns they're seeking to boost—and in response to VanderHart's reporting, he said of his wife, "If she's met him she hasn't said anything. I think she would have said something."

VanderHart also points out that Bankman-Fried's younger brother, Gabe Bankman-Fried, runs yet another super PAC called Guarding Against Pandemics that has likewise endorsed Flynn; it so happens that the president of Protect Our Future, Michael Sadowsky, also works for Guarding Against Pandemics. Gabe Bankman-Fried offered effusive praise for Flynn in remarks to VanderHart, though he insisted he "could not comment" on the interest shown in Flynn by his older sibling, who has not said anything about the candidate publicly.

TX-28: Attorney Jessica Cisneros is focusing on abortion rights in her first spot for the May 24 Democratic primary runoff against conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar, a topic the Texas Tribune says she didn't run many spots on during the first round. The narrator declares that Cuellar sided with Texas Republicans when they "passed the most extreme abortion ban in the country," characterizing the incumbent as "the lone Democrat against a woman's right to make her own decisions, even opposing life-saving care."

Cuellar's new ad, meanwhile, features people praising him for having "kept our businesses open during the pandemic and reduced taxes" and funding law enforcement and border security, language that's usually more at home in GOP ads. The commercial then pivots to the left by commending him as a champion of healthcare and affordable college. One elderly woman goes on to make the case that he's vital for the district, saying, "Henry helps us with prescriptions and Social Security benefits. If we lose him in Congress, we lose everything."

Cuellar goes into the final weeks of the runoff with a cash-on-hand lead over Cisneros, but she's managed to close much of what had been a massive gap. Cuellar ended March with a $1.4 million to $1 million edge, while he enjoyed a $2.3 million to $494,000 advantage three months before.

TX-30: The cryptocurrency-aligned group Web3 Forward has reported a $250,000 ad buy ahead of the May 24 Democratic primary runoff to support state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who came just shy of winning the nomination outright last month with a 48-17 lead over party operative Jane Hamilton. Web3 Forward may have more where that came from if the initial primary, where they and another crypto-oriented group had already spent over $2 million aiding Crockett, was any indication.

Attorneys General

KS-AG: Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach has released a survey from WPA Intelligence arguing that he's well-positioned to win the August Republican primary for attorney general and revive his career following his disastrous bids for governor and Senate. The firm shows Kobach taking 52% in the race to succeed Derek Schmidt, who is leaving to run for governor, with state Sen. Kellie Warren and former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi far behind with 12% and 7%, respectively. The Democrats are fielding attorney Chris Mann, a former prosecutor who currently faces no serious intra-party opposition.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: City Attorney Mike Feuer is spending about $1 million on an opening TV and digital buy for the June nonpartisan primary, which his strategist acknowledges to the Los Angeles Times is "pretty close" to all they have available. The spot features the candidate, who took just 2% in a recent UC Berkeley poll, walking a dachshund (who at one point rides a skateboard while leashed) through the city as a song proclaims him the "underdog." Feuer tells the audience, "Even with the most experience, being outspent 30 to 1 could make the odds of becoming mayor … well, long. But L.A.'s a city of underdogs."

Billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who had the airwaves to himself until now, has run numerous ads focused on crime without mentioning any of his rivals, but one of his most prominent allies will soon be going after his main competitor. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is the city's well-funded police union, has so far given $500,000 to a new super PAC opposed to Democratic Rep. Karen Bass.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel, has dropped out of the August special Republican primary and endorsed Rachel Mitchell, who was appointed interim county attorney last week. The nomination contest still includes Gina Godbehere, who recently announced that she was stepping down as prosecutor for the City of Goodyear in order to concentrate on her campaign.

Ad Roundup

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

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redistricting

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

Senate

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

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

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

44-46 vs. state Senate President Chuck Morse

45-44 vs. former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith

46-40 vs. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redistricting

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

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

1Q Fundraising

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: A day after being forced into surprise runoff, Texas congressman quits amid scandal

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

Check out our new podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

TX-03: Republican Rep. Van Taylor shocked Texas politicos Wednesday by announcing that he was ending his re-election campaign because of an affair the married congressman had with a woman who had fled her ISIS terrorist husband years ago, a move that came hours after he was forced into a primary runoff against former Collin County Judge Keith Self. Taylor said he would be taking his name off the May runoff ballot, which will automatically make Self the GOP nominee. Self will now be the clear favorite to win the general election in a Plano-based seat the GOP legislature aggressively gerrymandered: While Trump took the old version just 50-49, the new 3rd District would have supported him 56-42.

In the primary that took place only the day before, Taylor took 49% of the vote―just below the majority he needed to win outright―while Self beat out businesswoman Suzanne Harp 27-21 for what turned out to be a very important second runoff spot. Self, who was badly outspent, used the campaign to bash Taylor for voting to accept Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the hours after the attack on the Capitol and for supporting the creation of a Jan. 6 commission, but there was no talk from him about any personal scandal involving his opponent.

Taylor’s allies, including the Congressional Leadership Fund, also didn’t know what was about to come: The groups spent a combined $800,000 in the weeks after a new super PAC called Defeating Communism PAC dropped $435,000 against him, but surprisingly, their intervention wasn’t quite enough to get the not-yet-scandal-ridden incumbent a majority on Tuesday.

However, whispers about the story that would end the two-term congressman's career began to circulate on far-right sites two days before the March 1 primary when the National File posted audio of a Plano resident named Tania Joya, who escaped Syria with her children in 2013 weeks after her now-dead husband brought them there, talking about their affair. The white supremacist site Breitbart published its own account on Monday, but mainstream outlets didn't pick it up before the primary (the Texas Tribune says it wasn't able to independently verify the story).

On election eve, though, Harp insisted the allegations made it "dangerous to have compromised and corrupt representation in Washington," and this wasn't her first encounter with the story. That's because Harp, reports the Dallas Morning News, sent one of her supporters to do the interview with Joya that National File ran days later, after Joya contacted the candidate on Thursday. Joya, who lives in Plano and works to rehabilitate ex-terrorists, said she had met Taylor through her work and the two became "very close" before the relationship, which she said spanned October 2020 through June of last year, ended. Joya also said that, as the affair concluded, she asked Taylor to pay her $5,000 to pay off her bills. She declared, "For him, it was like, 'Okay, on the condition you don't tell anyone.' ... I didn't want to tell anybody anything."

Unfortunately for Taylor, things didn't remain amicable between the two. Joya said she didn't even know his primary was about to take place when she went to Harp, but she grew tired of seeing his face on billboards across her community. "All I wanted was for Suzanne Harp to just say, 'Hey, I know your little scandal with Tania Joya," she said, adding, "'Would you like to resign before we embarrass you?' But it didn't happen like that."

The story only became widely known Wednesday when Taylor emailed his supporters to tell them he was exiting the race. "About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world," he wrote, continuing, "I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life."

Taylor's admission concludes what had been a promising political career. The Republican, who is descended from the founder of the giant Humble Oil, served with the Marines in Iraq and first sought elected office in 2006 by taking on Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in the 17th District, a Waco-based seat located over 100 miles from Plano. Edwards, though, had survived a GOP gerrymander two years before by winning re-election even as George W. Bush was carrying his constituency in a 70-30 landslide, and Taylor struggled to gain traction in what was rapidly turning into an awful year for his party. Edwards went after his opponent for only recently moving to the district and won 58-40, but Taylor was far from done with politics.

Taylor soon relocated to Collin County and won a 2010 runoff against Mabrie Jackson to succeed state Rep. Brian McCall in a state House seat that Democrats weren't contesting. (Edwards that same year lost re-election to Republican Pete Flores.) In a strange set of circumstances, though, McCall resigned early to become chancellor of the Texas State University System, and Jackson beat Taylor in the special election for the final months of his term even though she'd already dropped out. But Taylor still won the special by default and any embarrassment was brief, as he won a promotion to the state Senate in 2014 without any serious opposition.

The same thing happened in 2018 when longtime Republican Rep. Sam Johnson retired and Taylor, who self-funded $3 million, easily prevailed in the primary and general elections for a historically red seat. The incumbent had a tougher fight in 2020 when Democratic attorney Lulu Seikaly ran a credible campaign against him at a time when Team Blue hoped that Trump's toxicity in the suburbs would drag down Republicans like Taylor. But it wasn't enough: While Trump's margin of victory crashed from 55-41 in 2016 to just 50-49, the congressman ran well ahead and prevailed 55-43. The GOP legislature didn't want to take any chances with that trend, however, which is why they implemented an even stronger gerrymander this cycle.

The beneficiary of that new map and Taylor's failure to claim a majority on Tuesday is Self, a hardline conservative who has his own long record in local politics. Self ran for Congress all the way back in 2002 for the 26th District, but physician Michael Burgess beat him 22.5-22.2 to claim the second spot in the runoff (Burgess won the nod in an upset and remains in the House). Self bounced back in 2006 by winning the race for Collin County judge, an executive post that's the rough equivalent of a county executive, and he quickly established a reputation for picking fights with other members of the local government.

Self faced a serious renomination fight in 2010 from Plano School Board member John Muns, who tried to portray himself as the true conservative in the race. The judge, who had his own ardent right-wing support, again made headlines during that campaign when he pushed back on a Muns attack by quoting the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels saying, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." Self defended his actions by insisting that, while he wasn't linking Muns to the Nazis, "I said he was using the method. There's a huge difference. This is one of those things where the PC police immediately go crazy."

Self prevailed 58-42 ahead of an easy general election win (Muns himself was elected mayor of Plano last year), and while he considered running for the 3rd in 2018, he retired that year instead. He looked like a longshot when he announced his own primary bid against Taylor in October, whom he went after for accepting Biden's victory, and he still seemed to be the clear underdog after the incumbent only narrowly failed to win a majority on Tuesday. The congressman's self-destruction, though, now puts Self on a glide path to win a House seat 20 years after his first attempt.

The Downballot

● On the latest episode of The Downballot, David Nir and David Beard recap the action from Texas' Tuesday primaries, including the runoff between conservative Democrat Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros; the demise of Louie Gohmert's political career; and the shocking developments in Texas' 3rd Congressional District, where a scandal derailed an unexpected runoff.

The co-hosts also embark on a deep dive into the world of Democratic open seats in the House, discussing the role of redistricting in prompting retirements and the many ways in which primaries this year have the chance to move the party in a more progressive direction and increase its diversity. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Redistricting

OH Redistricting: Ohio's Republican-dominated redistricting commission passed a new congressional map on a 5-2 party-line vote on Wednesday, but it still faces review by the state Supreme Court, which isn't apt to like it. The map contains 10 safely Republican seats and just three solidly Democratic districts, with two more nominally competitive seats that could easily go to the GOP given the likely midterm environment this year. The justices struck down the GOP's previous map as an illegal partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution for its excessive Republican skew.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon's new spot for the August Republican primary rhetorically asks how Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, who has only been in office since December of 2020, can run "to solve the problems you've created?" The only mention of Lamon is his brief appearance at the beginning giving his required approval to his commercial.

OH-Sen: NBC's Henry Gomez reports that former state party chair Jane Timken, who has mostly directed her TV ads at Fox News until now, is spending six figures on her first broadcast spot for the May Republican primary. The ad dubs Timken "the real Trump conservative" running against the "pretenders" and shows a long clip of Trump praising her. As Gomez notes, "If you didn't know any better, you might think Trump has endorsed her."

OK-Sen-B: A former campaign manager for former Rep. J.C. Watts tells Read Oklahoma that his old boss is considering entering the June Republican primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe. Watts, a one-time University of Oklahoma football star who was one of the most prominent African American Republicans in the nation during his eight years in Congress, retired in 2003, but he's remained an active media presence. That's not necessarily an asset, though, as Politico's Burgess Everett notes that Watts was a vocal Trump critic well into his administration.

UT-Sen: The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights finds Republican Sen. Mike Lee leading independent Evan McMullin by double digits in a pair of hypothetical three-way general election matchups.

Lee bests McMullin 34-24, with Democrat Kael Weston taking 12%. When former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt is substituted in as Team Blue's candidate, Lee's edge over McMullin grows to 36-23, with 11% going to the Democrat. Weston, who was the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District last cycle, is running, while Schmidt, who left the GOP during the Trump era, hasn't shown any obvious interest in getting in since November of 2020. OH Predictive Insights also takes a look at the June GOP primary and shows Lee beating former state Rep. Becky Edwards in a 51-5 landslide.

McMullin, for his part, is going up with what appears to be the first campaign ad anywhere based around Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "As the world rallies around Ukraine, Mike Lee was only one of two senators to oppose sanctions on Putin," says the candidate, "then he flew to the Kremlin and discussed dropping sanctions." He continues, "Lee even opposed arming Ukrainians fighting for their lives." McMullin concludes by talking about his "decade protecting America from dictators and terrorists." Lee ended 2021 with a $2.17 million to $703,000 cash-on-hand lead over McMullin, who ran for president in 2016 as an anti-Trump conservative.

WI-Sen, WI-Gov: Marquette University has released the first independent poll of either the August Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson or the GOP contest to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. In the Senate contest, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes outpaces Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry 23-13, with Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson at 5%; a recent Lasry internal from Normington Petts found him trailing Barnes 35-27.

Over in the GOP gubernatorial primary, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch leads businessman Kevin Nicholson 30-8, while state Rep. Timothy Ramthun grabs 5%. A January Kleefisch poll from the Tarrance Group, which was taken before either of her intra-party foes announced, showed her defeating Nicholson 61-8, while Ramthun was not tested.

Governors

MN-Gov: Former TV and radio host Cory Hepola announced Tuesday that he would run for governor under the banner of the newly established Forward Party. Hepola avoided saying much about his actual political beliefs other than that he's pro-choice, though he volunteered that in 2018 he voted for the man he's now trying to unseat, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, as well as for Joe Biden two years later.

Democrats seem to think Hepola is more of a threat to Walz than to the eventual Republican nominee, as state party chair Ken Martin warned, "A vote for Cory Hepola is a vote to help the GOP cut taxes for the rich, defund public schools, and force their anti-choice agenda on Minnesotans." Republican operatives, by contrast, took to social media to celebrate his entrance.

NY-Gov: Rep. Lee Zeldin earned the support of 85% of delegates at the state GOP convention on Tuesday, making him the only candidate to secure an automatic spot on the June 28 primary ballot. Because the other Republican hopefuls failed to win at least 25% of the vote, they'll all have to collect 15,000 signatures statewide in order to run in the primary. All of them, including businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and former Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, have said they'll do so.

House

CA-40: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who currently represents almost two-thirds of California's new 40th Congressional District, has endorsed physician Asif Mahmood's bid against Republican Rep. Young Kim. Porter is seeking re-election in the neighboring 47th District.

FL-13: EMILY's List has endorsed Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner in her campaign for Florida's open 13th Congressional District.

FL-22: Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says he's considering a bid for Florida's 22nd District, which recently became open after Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch announced he'd resign later this year. Jewish Insider also drops the name of another potential Democrat, former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, though there's no word on whether he's interested. Meanwhile, on the GOP side, former state Rep. George Moraitis says he too is thinking about the race.

MI-13: Former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail, a Democrat who served a single term on the City Council in the 2000s, tells MIRS News in a paywalled report that she's "going to be on the ballot" for the August primary in Michigan's safely blue 13th District. McPhail ran for mayor three times (in 1993, 2005, and 2009) but fared poorly on each occasion. However, a new poll from Target-Insyght taken for the state Democratic Party's Black Caucus shows that she'd start off in first place with 24% of the vote while state Rep. Shri Thanedar takes 12 and former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee is at 11, with all other candidates in single digits and 31% undecided.

MN-01: Former Republican state Rep. Brad Finstad, who'd been mentioned as a possible candidate, confirms he's considering running in the Aug. 9 special election for Minnesota's vacant 1st District.

NC-01: Democratic state Rep. James Gailliard, who had announced a bid for Congress in November after North Carolina Republicans passed their first gerrymander—which was since struck down by the courts and replaced with a much fairer map—has instead filed for re-election.

NY-03: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has endorsed Jon Kaiman, one of his deputy executives, in the Democratic primary for New York's open 3rd Congressional District. Meanwhile, former Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party in 2016, says he won't run.

NY-04: Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages, who recently filed paperwork with the FEC, has announced a bid for New York's open 4th Congressional District.

OK-02: State Sen. Marty Quinn on Wednesday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid to succeed Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a fellow Republican who is giving up this safely red seat in eastern Oklahoma to run for the Senate. The filing deadline is April 15, so other potential contenders have about a month-and-a-half to mull over their options.

OR-06: State Rep. Andrea Salinas has earned an endorsement from 1st District Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who currently represents just over 40% of this new seat, in the May Democratic primary.

PA-10: Carlisle School Board member Rick Coplen, a Democrat who had announced a state Senate bid last week, declared Tuesday that he would instead challenge Republican Rep. Scott Perry. Coplen, who is an Army veteran and professor at the U.S. Army War College, said he made his decision after 2020 nominee Eugene DePasquale said Monday that he wouldn't seek a rematch against Perry, who heads the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus. The redrawn version of this Harrisburg-based seat would have favored Trump 51-47.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Land Commissioner George P. Bush spent the first hours of his Republican primary runoff campaign against scandal-plagued incumbent Ken Paxton by publicly appealing to Donald Trump to unendorse the attorney general ahead of the May 24 second round. The Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek relays that Bush, who is the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, told conservative radio host Mark Davis that he wanted to "re-establish those lines of communication and say, 'Look, Mr. President, I believe you made a mistake on this one.'" The Land Commissioner continued, "There's great conservatives that have also won without the endorsement. I'm giving you a chance to reassess ... because there's a lot at stake here."

Bush tried hard last year to win Trump's support, a charm offensive that famously involved him creating beer koozies dissing his family: That merchandise depicted outlines of Bush and Trump shaking hands above a Trump quote reading, "This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him." But Trump soon demonstrated that he liked Paxton, who spearheaded an unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at overturning Joe Biden's victory, a whole lot more by backing him for renomination.

CNN wrote all the way back in July that even Bush's allies correctly predicted this would happen and "warned him not to publicly play up to the former President because Trump would once again take glee in embarrassing the Bush family." One source even said then that "Trump endorsing Paxton is like Lucy and the football and Charlie Brown." Bush, though, seems to be quite content to take more kicks at the pigskin.  

Paxton, for his part, also previewed his runoff strategy against Bush earlier on Wednesday by telling Davis, "If conservatives unite ... we can end the Bush dynasty." The attorney general added that his opponent "has got personal issues too that I can bring up that I've never brought up. ... I don't want to do that." Paxton didn't hint what he meant, though he predicted that Bush "knows it's gonna change the dynamic of the race."

Paxton outpaced Bush on Tuesday 43-23, with former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert taking 17% each. Neither defeated candidate, though, seems interested in helping Bush unite anti-Paxton voters right now: Gohmert also told Davis, "I see myself just completely staying out of" the runoff, while Guzman put out a statement that didn't mention either runoff contender.  

On the Democratic side, former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza took first place in the primary with 43%, while the second runoff spot has not yet been decided. With 989,000 votes counted, former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski, who is the grandson of Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, held a tiny 19.6-19.5 edge over civil rights attorney Lee Merritt.

Election Recaps

TX-Gov: Gov. Greg Abbott took 66% of the vote in Tuesday's Republican primary, while former state Sen. Don Huffines and former state party chair Allen West were far behind with 12% each. That huge win for the incumbent wasn't a surprise to anyone except maybe West, as the one-time Florida congressman released several polls from Paradigm Partners showing him in contention―including a late January survey that found him beating Abbott 43-34. The governor will face former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the 2018 Senate nominee who easily won his own Democratic primary, in November.  

TX-01: Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran won 63% of the vote in the Republican primary to succeed Rep. Louie Gohmert, who gave up this safely red seat in northeast Texas to wage a failed bid for attorney general. Far behind in second place with 24% was Joe McDaniel, who lives far from the 1st District in Dallas.

TX-04: Republican Rep. Pat Fallon ended up defeating former TV anchor Dan Thomas by an unimpressive 59-30 in this safely red seat in east Texas, though that was more than enough for him to win the primary outright. Thomas, who was fired in October as News 12 anchor for refusing to get vaccinated for what he claimed were health reasons, may have benefited from his existing name recognition even though he raised little for his campaign.

Fallon himself also was waging his very first congressional primary because party leaders awarded him the nod in 2020 when incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned after securing the nomination in order to become Trump's director of national intelligence. The congressman only represents about 55% of this new seat, which may also explain why he didn't do better.

TX-08: With 65,000 votes counted in the 11-way Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady, retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell is in first with 52%, a little over the majority he'd need to win this very expensive race outright, but the AP has not yet made a call. Political operative Christian Collins, who is a former Brady campaign manager, is well behind with 22%. This seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, is safely red.

TX-15: 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz secured the Republican nod again with 57% of the vote in her bid to succeed Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run for the considerably safer 34th District rather than defend a redrawn Rio Grande Valley constituency that would have favored Trump 51-48. De La Cruz sported endorsements from Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and she enjoyed a big financial lead over Mauro Garza, a self-funder who was a distant second with 15%.

On the Democratic side, Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who has Gonzalez's endorsement, took first with 28% of the vote. Businesswoman Michelle Vallejo edged out attorney John Rigney 20-19 for the second runoff spot, and Rigney conceded Wednesday afternoon.

TX-23: Marine veteran John Lira beat social worker Priscilla Golden 56-44 in the Democratic primary, but national Democrats haven't signaled much interest yet in his campaign to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales. The GOP legislature extended Trump's margin of victory in this west Texas seat from 50-48 to 53-46, and Lira so far has struggled with fundraising.

TX-26: Rep. Michael Burgess took 67% in his latest Republican primary for a safely red seat in Fort Worth's northern exurbs, while self-funder Raven Harrison ended up taking last place in the five-way race with just 5%.

TX-27: Republican incumbent Michael Cloud defeated A.J. Louderback, who recently left office as the sheriff of tiny Jackson County, 72-12 in this 60-37 Trump seat in the Corpus Christi area.

TX-28: While the Democratic primary runoff between conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros will generate the most attention on May 24, the Republican contest will also be going into a second round. Cassy Garcia, a former Ted Cruz staffer who is campaigning with his support, took first with 23%. Her opponent will be 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten, who lost to Cuellar 58-39 last time; Whitten took 18% on Tuesday, which put her a few points ahead of four other contenders. None of the Republicans have brought in much money so far, but Team Red is hoping they'll have an opening in a Laredo seat that would have gone for Biden 53-46.

TX-30: State Rep. Jasmine Crockett took first place in the nine-way Democratic primary with 48%, just below the majority she needed to win outright. Party operative Jane Hamilton secured second by defeating Cedar Hill Independent School District Trustee Keisha Lankford 17-8. Crockett has the backing of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who is retiring after 30 years representing a safely blue Dallas district, while two groups affiliated with the cryptocurrency industry together expended a massive $2.15 million to boost her. Hamilton, who didn't benefit from any major outside spending, has the support of neighboring Rep. Marc Veasey and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.

TX-35: Former Austin City Council member Greg Casar took 61% of the vote in the Democratic primary for this open and safely blue seat, which the GOP once again gerrymandered to connect the Austin area with San Antonio by means of a pencil-thin corridor along Interstate 35; two other candidates, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, were far behind with 16% each. Casar, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, enjoyed the support of Mayor Steve Adler as well as a number of prominent national progressive organizations, and he also had a big financial edge over Rodriguez.

TX-37: Rep. Lloyd Doggett had no trouble defeating Donna Imam, who lost to Republican Rep. John Carter in 2020 in the old 31st District, 79-18 in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around his longtime Austin base.

TX-38: Army veteran Wesley Hunt beat former State Republican Executive Committee member Mark Ramsey 55-30 in the Republican primary for this new and reliably red seat in the Houston suburbs. The well-funded Hunt impressed Republican leaders last cycle with his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in the 7th District, which helped make him the overwhelming frontrunner to prevail here.

Tarrant County, TX District Attorney: Tarrant County Criminal Court Judge Phil Sorrells, who picked up Donald Trump's endorsement weeks ahead of the Republican primary for this GOP-held open seat, took first with 41%, while state Rep. Matt Krause edged out Criminal District Court Judge Mollee Westfall 31-29 for the second runoff spot. On the Democratic side, Tiffany Burks won the nomination outright by beating her fellow former prosecutor, Albert John Roberts, 61-29.  

Morning Digest: The 7th time was finally the charm for ‘Little Tark.’ Will he press his luck an 8th?

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

Check out our new podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

NV-02: Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian, a Republican who finally ended his legendary losing streak last cycle, revealed to the Nevada Independent that he's considering challenging Rep. Mark Amodei in the June primary for Nevada's 2nd Congressional District. The congressman quickly responded to the news by telling the site, "[I]t's America. ... If somebody thinks that they've got a better mousetrap, then those are the avenues available to them." The filing deadline is March 18, and whoever wins the GOP nod will be the heavy favorite in a northern Nevada seat that, according to Dave's Redistricting App, would have backed Donald Trump 54-43.

While it remains to be seen what argument Tarkanian might put forward to persuade primary voters to oust Amodei, the congressman's experience last cycle could preview what's to come. In September of 2019, Amodei pissed off conservatives nationwide when he became the first House Republican to identify as impeachment-curious, saying of the inquiry into Trump, "Let's put it through the process and see what happens." Amodei added, "I'm a big fan of oversight, so let's let the committees get to work and see where it goes." Where it went was a firestorm of far-right outrage, with angry conservatives convinced that Amodei had actually called for impeaching Trump.

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Amodei quickly responded by protesting, "In no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment," though even expressing openness to an inquiry was enough to infuriate not only the rank-and-file but top Republicans as well. The Trump campaign soon rolled out its state co-chairs for 2020, and politicos noticed that Amodei, who was and remains Nevada's only Republican member of Congress, was snubbed.

The far-right Club for Growth joined in the fracas by releasing a poll showing former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt beating Amodei in a hypothetical primary, but all of this sound and fury ended up signifying nothing—for 2020 at least. Amodei joined the rest of the GOP caucus in voting against both the inquiry and Trump's first impeachment, and neither Laxalt nor anyone else of stature ended up running against him.

Things played out in a familiar manner right after the Jan. 6 attack when Amodei told Nevada Newsmakers, "Do I think he [Trump] has a responsibility for what has occurred? Yes." The congressman, though, this time used his interview to say upfront that he'd oppose an impeachment inquiry, and he soon joined most of his party colleagues in voting against impeachment. However, as South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace just learned the hard way, Trump is very happy to back primary challenges to members who dared blamed him for the attack on the Capitol even if they sided with him on the impeachment vote.

Tarkanian, for his part, is also a very familiar name in Silver State politics, though not entirely for welcome reasons. Tarkanian himself comes from a prominent family: His late father was the legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, while his mother, Democrat Lois Tarkanian, was a longtime Las Vegas city councilwoman who now serves on the state Board of Regents. The younger Tarkanian—sometimes distinguished from his more famous father with the sobriquet "Little Tark"—was a resident of Las Vegas' Clark County when he lost the:

But while Tarkanian's long string of defeats has made him a punchline to state and national political observers for years, his name recognition, personal wealth, and connections to Nevada's hardcore conservative base mean that he was never just another perennial candidate either party could dismiss. Notably in 2016, Tarkanian overcame $1.6 million in outside spending directed against him in the GOP primary to defeat state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, the choice of then-Gov. Brian Sandoval and national Republicans, by a surprisingly large 32-24 margin. That result might have cost Team Red the swingy 3rd District, but only just: Tarkanian lost to his Democratic foe, now-Sen. Jacky Rosen, 47-46 as Donald Trump was carrying the district 48-47.

Republicans also took Tarkanian seriously in 2017 when he launched a primary challenge to Sen. Dean Heller and a pair of polls showed him winning. Trump, however, managed to redirect Tarkanian just before the filing deadline when he convinced him to drop out and run for the 3rd District a second time, with his endorsement. Tarkanian, though, lost to Democrat Susie Lee by a wide 52-43 spread as Rosen was unseating Heller.

Tarkanian decided soon afterwards that he'd had enough of Vegas and moved to Douglas County, a small rural community located well to the north, near the Reno area. But he was hardly done with politics: Amodei himself suggested in April of 2019, months before his impeachment inquiry flirtations, that Tarkanian could run against him.

Tarkanian didn’t follow through but instead devoted his efforts to denying renomination to an incumbent with a far lower profile, Douglas County Commissioner Dave Nelson. The challenger joined a pro-development slate of candidates seeking seats on the five-member body, and this time, fortune was, at last, just barely on his side: Tarkanian won the nomination 50.1-49.9―a margin of 17 votes―and he had no opposition in the general election. We'll find out in the next five weeks if, now that he's finally an elected official, Little Tark decides to test out his newfound luck by going after Amodei.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Louisiana's GOP-run state House has passed a new congressional map with two independents joining all 68 Republicans to total 70 votes in favor—exactly the number that would be needed to override a veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. However, the plan differs somewhat from the map that the state Senate approved a few days earlier (also with a two-thirds supermajority), so the two chambers will have to iron out their differences. Edwards has indicated he would veto a map that does not create a second Black district, which neither the House or Senate proposals do.

Senate

AL-Sen: Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt's new ad for the May Republican primary is centered around her opposition to abortion.

AZ-Sen: The Republican pollster co/efficient, which tells us they have no client, finds no clear favorite in the August GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Attorney General Mark Brnovich edges out businessman Jim Lamon 17-13, with Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters just behind with 12%. Two other Republicans, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire and state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, barely register with 3% and 1%, respectively. The firm also tests out a scenario in which Gov. Doug Ducey runs and finds Brnovich narrowly outpacing him 14-13 as Lamon and Masters each take 11%.

These numbers are quite a bit different than those another GOP firm, OH Predictive Insights, found a few weeks ago. That earlier survey of the current field had Brnovich leading McGuire 25-11; when Ducey was added, he beat the attorney general 27-12.

OH-Sen: The Republican firm co/efficient has released the very first survey of the May primary that wasn't done on behalf of a candidate or allied group, and it shows businessman Mike Gibbons leading former state Treasurer Josh Mandel 20-18, with state Sen. Matt Dolan in third with 7%; former state party chair Jane Timken takes 6%, while venture capitalist J.D. Vance grabs fifth with 5%.

Gibbons, who badly lost the 2018 primary for Ohio's other Senate seat, also has dropped a Cygnal poll giving him a wider 23-11 edge over Mandel, which is a huge improvement from the 16-13 edge the firm gave him two weeks ago,

Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values, meanwhile, are going up with their first TV spot since mid-November, a move that come days after Politico reported that the Peter Thiel-funded group's own polls showed that "Vance needs a course correction ASAP that will resolidify him as a true conservative." The commercial seeks to do that with clips of the candidate attacking "elites" and concludes with footage of Fox host Tucker Carlson telling him, "You've really, I think, understand what's gone wrong with the country."

Governors

LA-Gov: Republican state Rep. Daryl Deshotel attracted lots of local attention when he recently gave his own campaign $1 million, and he told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser on Thursday, "I'm open to everything, but I honestly don't have a target right now." While much speculation has centered around next year’s open-seat race for governor, Deshotel, who has described himself as "fiscally conservative but more moderate on social issues," didn’t specifically mention the contest, and he didn't even commit to using the money to aid himself. Deshotel instead said, "It may be that I end up using the money to support other candidates who I believe can help the state."

MI-Gov: Blueprint Polling, which describes itself as a "sister company" to the Democratic firm Chism Strategies, is out with a survey showing Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer deadlocked 44-44 with former Detroit Police Chief James Craig. Blueprint, which says it did this survey "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee or interest group," did not release numbers testing Whitmer against any other Republican.

NY-Gov: Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who previously backed Attorney General Tish James during her abortive six-week campaign for governor, has now thrown his support behind Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul.

House

CA-03: Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones received an endorsement from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents an inland San Diego County seat, for the June top-two primary for this open district in Sacramento's eastern suburbs. While Issa's constituency is located hundreds of miles to the south of the new 3rd District, he may have some clout with conservatives more broadly thanks in part to his long history of using his influence in Congress to torment Democrats.

IL-03: State Rep. Delia Ramirez has picked up an endorsement from 14th District Rep. Lauren Underwood ahead of the June Democratic primary.

NJ-07: On Thursday evening, 2020 nominee Tom Kean Jr. narrowly defeated Assemblyman Erik Peterson at the Hunterdon County Republican Convention, which gives him the important party endorsement in the June primary to take on Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. Peterson is a longtime politician from Hunterdon County, which makes up 17% of the population this six-county congressional district, and he's enjoyed the county's support in past bids for local races.

Endorsements from county parties are typically very important in New Jersey primaries on both sides of the aisle. That's because, in many counties, endorsed candidates appear in a separate column on the ballot along with other party endorsees, a big deal in a state where party machines are still powerful. (This designation is known colloquially as the "organization line.")

You can see an example of this on the 2018 Democratic primary sample ballot from Burlington County. Sen. Robert Menendez and 2nd Congressional District candidate Jeff Van Drew, who was still a year away from his infamous party switch, appeared in the column identified as "BURLINGTON COUNTY REGULAR DEMOCRATS," along with party-backed candidates running for other offices. Lisa McCormick, who was challenging Menendez for renomination, was listed on her own in the second column while the three candidates running against Van Drew each had a column entirely to themselves.

Kean will likely have another line before long: The New Jersey Globe writes that he recently received the unanimous support of the Republican Executive Committee in Warren County, which forms another 14% of the 7th District, meaning "he is the favorite to win the county organizational line there as well."

NJ-11: Morris County Surrogate Heather Darling has announced that she'll stay out of the Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill.

PA-18: Nonprofit executive Stephanie Fox, a Democrat who didn't report any fourth quarter fundraising with the FEC, has announced that she'll run for a state House seat rather than continue with her congressional bid.

RI-02: Allan Fung, a former Cranston mayor who twice was the Republican nominee for governor, announced Friday that he'd run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin in the 2nd Congressional District. He joins a September primary that includes state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz and 2020 nominee Bob Lancia, who lost to Langevin 58-42.

The current version of this constituency, which is unlikely to change much when redistricting is finished, moved from 51-44 Clinton to a stronger 56-43 Biden. But in between those presidential contests, according to Dave's Redistricting App, Fung lost this seat by a close 47-43 margin in his 2018 general election against then-Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Fung was decisively elected to lead Rhode Island's second-most populous city in 2008 on his second try, an accomplishment that made him the state's first Chinese American mayor, and he quickly emerged as a Republican rising star in the heavily Democratic Ocean State. Fung went ahead with a long-awaited campaign for governor during the 2014 red wave, and while he lost to Raimondo 41-36 (a hefty 21% went to the late Robert Healey of the Moderate, or "Cool Moose," Party), he remained the state GOP’s biggest name following his near miss.

After easily winning re-election in Cranston, Fung soon launched a 2018 rematch with Raimondo, and it looked like he had a real chance to finish what he'd started. While the national political climate very much favored Democrats, Raimondo had posted unimpressive poll numbers throughout her tenure. That was due in part to her turbulent relationship with progressives ever since she pushed through pension reforms as state treasurer and some bad headlines on a variety of topics while in office.

The incumbent, though, enjoyed a huge fundraising lead over Fung, and she and her allies worked to tie him to the toxic Trump administration―a task the mayor made pretty easy the previous year when he posted a picture on Facebook of him at Trump's inauguration smiling and wearing a Trump wool cap. Things got worse for him when national Republicans began canceling their TV ads weeks ahead of Election Day, while Fung himself had to run commercials warning that conservative independent Joe Trillo's presence on the ballot would make Raimondo's re-election more likely. The governor this time captured the majority that eluded her in 2014 by beating Fung by a decisive 53-37, with Trillo taking 4%.

But Fung, while termed-out as mayor in 2020, was far from finished exerting influence in local politics. On his way out of office, Fung put serious effort into supporting his eventual successor, Councilman Kenneth Hopkins, in both the GOP primary and the general election, while Fung's wife, Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, scored a huge win in November by unseating state House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. (Many Democrats weren't at all sad to see the conservative Mattiello go, since the party easily hung on to its majority.) Fung himself showed some interest in a third run for governor this cycle but seemed far more intent on campaigning for state treasurer, though all that changed when Langevin announced his retirement last month.

TX-28: Democrat Jessica Cisneros' newest ad is narrated by a woman named Esther who says she's lived in Laredo for four decades but complains, "Nothing changes—even the problems stay the same." She goes on to say she "used to like Henry Cuellar," the congressman Cisneros is hoping to unseat in the March 1 primary, but criticizes him for "taking money from big insurance and drug companies" even as the cost of medication and insurance has risen for her. "You ask me, Henry Cuellar's been in Washington too long," she concludes.

The left-wing group Justice Democrats is also reportedly spending $78,000 to air a spot on Cisneros' behalf, attacking Cuellar for living it up as a politician (he "got rides in donors' private jets" and "fixed his BMW with campaign cash"). It also mentions the FBI raid of his home last month. "After 36 years in politics," says the narrator, "Cuellar has changed." The spot concludes with the voiceover saying, "We need someone who works for us" and shows a photo of Cisneros along with her name on screen, but for no clear reason, the narrator doesn't actually say her name aloud.

TX-30: Web3 Forward, a new super PAC with ties to the crypto industry, is out with its first TV spot in support of state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, and the group says it will spend $1 million to aid her in the March 1 Democratic primary. (A different crypto-aligned PAC, Protect our Future, has also pledged to deploy $1 million for Crockett.) The opening ad praises Crockett for leading "the fight to stop voter suppression efforts in Texas" and reminds the audience that she's backed by retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

VA-02: In an email to supporters that begins with the line, "I don't know what I'm doing," former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor says he's giving "serious consideration" to yet another comeback bid in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District.

Taylor's tenure in D.C. was short. In 2016, he easily won election over Democrat Shaun Brown following an unusual series of events that began when a federal court threw out much of Virginia's congressional map for illegally diminishing the political power of Black voters. After the court drew new lines, GOP Rep. Scott Rigell announced his retirement, which prompted another Republican congressman, Randy Forbes, to say he'd seek re-election in Rigell's district, since his own had been made unwinnably blue. But Forbes didn't represent any part of the 2nd District, and Taylor, a former Navy SEAL who'd been elected to the state House in 2013, defeated him in the primary 53-41.

Two years later, however, Taylor ran headlong into the blue wave, as shifting demographics in the Virginia Beach area plus a far stronger Democratic opponent in Navy veteran Elaine Luria combined to give him a difficult race. But in the end, Taylor was likely done in by his own hand: His own staffers conspired to put Brown on the ballot as an independent in order to siphon votes from Luria, but they were busted for forging signatures on her petitions. Taylor disavowed all knowledge, but an investigation into the scandal (which resulted in multiple aides getting indicted) consumed his campaign and was the focus of countless Democratic ads.

Luria wound up unseating Taylor 51-49, then beat him again by a wider 52-46 margin in 2020. (In between those two campaigns, Taylor briefly tried his hand at a bid for Senate.) One favorable development for Taylor since then, though, is the fact that the 2nd became a couple of points redder in redistricting: Under the old lines, it voted for Joe Biden by a 51-47 margin, but the new version would have supported Biden by a slightly narrower 50-48 spread.

Taylor, though, would have to contend with a few candidates who are already seeking the Republican nomination, including state Sen. Jen Kiggans and high school football coach Jarome Bell, both of whom are also Navy vets (Virginia Beach is home to a huge Naval air station). Kiggans raised $251,000 in the fourth quarter and had $342,000 on hand, while Bell, who finished third in the primary last cycle, brought in $112,000 but finished with just $121,000 in the bank. Luria swamped them both, however, with a $672,000 haul and a giant $2.3 million cash stockpile.

WV-02: Republican Rep. Alex Mooney's allies at the Club for Growth have released a new internal poll from WPA Intelligence showing him beating fellow Rep. David McKinley by a 43-28 margin in the May 10 primary. That is similar to a January poll from Mooney's own campaign that had him up 45-32, though a McKinley survey from December featured McKinley leading 40-34.

Morning Digest: Supreme Court blocks ruling that ordered Alabama to draw a second Black district

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

Leading Off

AL Redistricting: The Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling that stuck down Alabama's new congressional map for violating Section Two of the Voting Rights Act on Monday, ensuring that the November election will take place using the map Republicans passed late last year.

Two weeks ago, a panel of three federal judges ruled that lawmakers were required to draw a second district where Black voters would be likely to elect their preferred candidates, determining that Black Alabamians are "sufficiently numerous" and "sufficiently geographically compact" to allow the creation of a second "reasonably configured" district with a voting-age Black majority.

Without issuing a written opinion explaining its rationale, the Supreme Court blocked that order from taking effect pending final resolution of the case, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three liberal members to oppose the stay. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh claimed a stay was necessary because the lower court issued its ruling too close the 2022 elections.

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Justice Elena Kagan responded in a dissent that Alabama's primary is not until May 24 and that the court has in the past declined to stay redistricting decisions issued on similar timelines. Kagan further chastised the majority for failing to identify any way in which the three-judge panel might have erred, saying the only way its ruling could be reversed is if the Supreme Court were to adopt a brand-new requirement advocated by the Republican defendants that a computer, programmed to ignore race entirely, must automatically generate an unspecified number of maps that would yield a second Black district.

As a result, Alabama will use the GOP's preferred map, which features six majority-white districts and just one majority-Black district, despite the fact that African Americans make up 27% of the state's population. While it's possible that the lower court's ruling could eventually be sustained by the Supreme Court, the majority's move—and the high court's long hostility toward the Voting Rights Act—is a poor augur for the case's future.

Redistricting

Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.

NJ Redistricting: New Jersey's Legislative Apportionment Commission has released two draft maps for the state legislature, which uses the same map to elect both chambers (each district elects one senator and two assemblymembers). The panel is evenly divided between the parties, with a tiebreaking member, retired appellate judge Philip Carchman, who was appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. Carchman has his roots in Democratic politics, though he was first named to the bench in 1986 by Republican Gov. Tom Kean.

The commission must complete its work by March 1. Because New Jersey elects its legislature in odd-numbered years, new maps will not be used until 2023 (elections last year were held under the old maps because of delays in receiving data from the Census Bureau).

LA Redistricting: A committee in Louisiana's Republican-run state Senate has advanced a new congressional map that would not create a second district where Black voters could elect their preferred candidate, instead maintaining the status quo of a single Black district. A committee in the state House also passed a similar plan. Given the ease with which a second such district could be drawn—Democrats submitted several maps that would have done so—the state could be at risk of seeing its map overturned on the grounds that it violates the Voting Rights Act, though the U.S. Supreme Court gave voting rights advocates discouraging news Monday with its move in Alabama.

A more immediate question is whether Democrats can sustain a potential veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. In the Senate, Republicans hold 27 of 39 seats, one more than the 26 needed to muster a two-thirds supermajority. The picture is cloudier in the House, where Republicans have 68 seats but would need 70 votes to override Edwards. The chamber is home to three independents who have sometimes sided with Democrats, but one independent and one Democrat voted for the GOP's plan in the House (the Senate vote broke along party lines).

OH Redistricting: The Ohio Supreme Court once again ruled that legislative maps passed by the state's Republican-dominated redistricting commission violate the state constitution, ordering the panel to convene for a third time to produce a compliant plan by Feb. 17.

In a 4-3 opinion released Monday evening, the court chastised commissioners for merely tweaking the invalid maps rather than starting afresh as they had been ordered to do. The majority also said that the commission failed to meet a constitutional requirement that the number of districts that favor each party must "correspond closely" to voters' statewide preferences, improperly classifying tossup districts as tilting toward Democrats.

"Bluntly, the commission's labeling of a district with a Democratic vote share between 50 and 51 percent (in one case, a district having a 50.03 percent vote share) as 'Democratic-leaning' is absurd on its face," wrote Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican who joined with the court's three Democrats.

The justices once more noted, as they did in their initial ruling, that they "retain jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the new plan." They also advised state lawmakers to delay the upcoming May 3 primary "should that action become necessary."

PA Redistricting: Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, who last week was tasked by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with recommending a new congressional map, has selected the plan passed by Republican lawmakers but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in January. However, the Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 Democratic majority, is all but certain to reject the advice of McCullough, a conservative Republican who herself ran for the top court last year by pitching herself as "the ONLY Judge in America to order the 2020 Presidential Election results not be certified." (She lost the primary 52-33 to the eventual winner, Kevin Brobson.)

The justices will hold oral arguments on Feb. 18 and will likely settle on a final map soon after.

TN Redistricting: Republican Gov. Bill Lee has signed Tennessee's new congressional and legislative maps, which Republicans in the legislature recently passed. The congressional plan dismembered the 5th District, splitting the blue city of Nashville between three solidly red seats and prompting Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper to retire.

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski earned an endorsement over the weekend from Joe Manchin, her Democratic colleague from West Virginia, in the August top-four primary.  

Alabama: While a panel of three federal judges last month moved Alabama's filing deadline for U.S. House races from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, the earlier date still applied to candidates for all other offices on the May 24 primary ballot. WHNT has put together a list of statewide contenders; a runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one secured a majority of the vote.  

AL-Sen: Six Republicans are facing off in a closely watched primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, in this dark red state. Rep. Mo Brooks, who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, has endorsements from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, while Shelby is pulling for his one-time chief of staff, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt.

Army veteran Mike Durant, who was held as a prisoner of war in Somalia for 11 days in 1993 after his helicopter was shot out of the sky in the incident later depicted in the book and film "Blackhawk Down," doesn't have the same big-named allies, but he's using his personal wealth to get his name out. Three little-known Republicans are also competing in a race that Democrats aren't seriously targeting.

While Brooks looked like the frontrunner after winning the support of his party’s supreme leader, even Trump has reportedly been complaining that he’s running a weak campaign. One of the biggest gripes about the congressman for months has been his underwhelming fundraising, and the fourth quarter numbers only led to a fresh round of skepticism about his abilities:

  • Britt: $1.2 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Brooks: $380,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
  • Durant: $165,000 raised, additional $4.2 million self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand

The Club has already spent $1.4 million to boost Brooks, and it recently released a poll putting him in the lead with 35% as Durant led Britt 30-25 for second. However, that’s a big drop from its October survey, which was done before Durant entered the race, which gave Brooks a dominant 55-12 advantage over Britt. Shelby, for his part, reportedly plans to send $5 million of his campaign funds to a pro-Britt super PAC.

Indiana: The filing deadline to appear on Indiana's May 3 candidate filing deadline was Friday, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Alabama’s U.S. House deadline is Friday while the state to watch afterwards will be Maryland, where major party contenders have until Feb. 22 to submit their paperwork.

IN-Sen: Even though the Hoosier State has hosted several competitive and expensive Senate races over the last decade, Republican incumbent Todd Young is the overwhelming favorite to win a second term in a state that Donald Trump took 57-41. Young outraised his most prominent Democratic foe, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, $1.5 million to $75,000 during the fourth quarter, and he ended December with a $6.2 million to $50,000 cash-on-hand lead.  

ND-Sen: Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, a far-right lawmaker with a history of trying to undermine public health during the pandemic, launched a long-shot primary campaign against Sen. John Hoeven on Sunday. Becker, who previously was best known for trying to curtail the use of surveillance drones by police, campaigned for governor in 2016 but dropped out before the primary following a disappointing showing at the state party convention. There is no indication that Hoeven, who ended 2021 with $3.1 million on-hand, is vulnerable in the June nomination contest.

OH-Sen: You know things are bad when your own allies are talking about how your poll numbers are in a "precipitous decline," but that's exactly where venture capitalist J.D. Vance finds himself with about three months to go before the Republican primary. Politico's Alex Isenstadt obtained a 98-page report from Fabrizio Lee for Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC funded by megadonor Peter Thiel, that found the "Hillbilly Elegy" author in fifth place in mid-January with just 9%.

Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel edged out businessman Mike Gibbons 15-14, while former state party chair Jane Timken took a close third with 13%. Vance was even behind businessman Bernie Moreno―a self-funder who has since exited the race―who was at 11%. To make matters worse, Fabrizio Lee's October poll had Vance trailing Mandel only 19-16.

The pollster was blunt about why Vance could soon be authoring his own political elegy. While the one-time Trump critic has tried to refashion himself as an all-out MAGA champion, Mandel's allies at the Club for Growth and USA Freedom Fund spent last fall running ads based around 2016 footage of Vance saying, "I'm a Never Trump guy," as well as a screenshot of him tweeting about his party's nominee, "My god what an idiot."

Those attacks seem to have done exactly what they were intended to do: Fabrizio Lee now says that Vance's "association as a Never Trumper has only grown since November," and "being anti-Trump is the #1 reason voters do not like Vance." It adds, "The groups where Vance has improved are those we don't want him doing better with: Trump disapprovers and moderate/liberals." The presentation, of course, argued that Vance still had a path, but it didn't hide how bad things are for him at the moment: "Vance needs a course correction ASAP that will resolidify him as a true conservative. He has a ton of strong messaging to make that happen and he should push it hard."

Governors

AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey faces an expensive Republican primary battle against former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard and businessman Tim James, who took a tight third in the 2010 nomination battle for this post. Six other Republicans, including nonprofit director Lew Burdette, are also in, but none of them have emerged as serious intra-party threats to the governor yet. The eventual nominee should have no trouble in the general election.

AdImpact reported Friday that the self-funding Blanchard, who dropped out of the Senate race to run here, is spending $4.1 million on advertisements compared to $2.6 million for Ivey. James, who is the son of two-time former Gov. Fob James, is far behind right now with $705,000.

James, though, did debut a new TV ad this week that tries to stoke as much conservative fury as he can. "Our leaders tell us that our country is racist to the core, that looting and burning down cities is normal and there are 50 genders," says the candidate, who does not mention Ivey.

GA-Gov, GA-10, GA-06: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones announced Monday that he was exiting the Republican primary for governor and would instead run for Congress in an as-of-yet unnamed constituency. Jones, a Trump-obsessed Democrat-turned-Republican, also endorsed former Sen. David Perdue's campaign to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp in May.

As for what's next for Jones, unnamed allies tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he plans to seek the 10th District instead of the 6th, another open and safely red seat. CNN previously reported that Donald Trump had offered to endorse the former Democrat if he dropped down to a House race.

NE-Gov: Agribusinessman Charles Herbster has an almost-painfully generic ad for the May Republican primary that informs the audience that the contender, whom the narrator claims is "not a politician," is also "the only candidate endorsed by President Trump."

NY-Gov, NY-AG: In a long interview with Bloomberg published Monday, disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly refused to directly address whether he was interested in running for office in 2022, while CNN reported hours later that he was "seriously considering a political comeback as early as this year." Cuomo's allies, said CNN, "have called to solicit opinions about his prospects should he decide to challenge New York Attorney General Letitia James in a Democratic primary." The candidate filing deadline is about two months away.

PA-Gov: State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman's campaign describes his opening spot for the May Republican primary as a piece starring "Corman, his daughter, Bella, and a 1990s hair-band rocker," and let's just say it probably played better on paper than it does on TV.

House

CA-15: AFSCME Local 829 has endorsed David Canepa, a Democrat who serves on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, in the June top-two primary for this safely blue seat.

IA-02: State Sen. Liz Mathis has released the first survey we've seen of the race for this northeastern Iowa seat, and her internal from Public Policy Polling shows her trailing Republican incumbent Ashley Hinson only 43-42.

IN-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan faces several Republicans in the redrawn 1st District, a northwestern Indiana constituency that would have backed Joe Biden 53-45, though only former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo looks like a serious opponent at this point. Mrvan finished December with $330,000 on-hand, while Milo launched her campaign in the following month.

IN-09: Rep. Trey Hollingsworth surprised just about everyone last month when he announced he would not seek a fourth term in the 9th District, a southeastern Indiana constituency that would have backed Donald Trump 63-35, and nine fellow Republicans are campaigning to succeed him. Only four of these contenders look serious, though Hollingsworth himself initially looked like just Some Dude in 2015 before the recent Tennessee transplant used his fortune to get his name out.

Perhaps the most familiar name is former Rep. Mike Sodrel, who is trying to return to the House after a 16-year absence. Sodrel ran five consecutive campaigns for a previous version of this southeastern Indiana seat—four of which were against Democrat Baron Hill—starting from 2002, but his one and only win came in 2004. After losing to Hill in 2006 and 2008, Sodrel's last campaign came to an unceremonious end in 2010 when he took third in a tight three-way primary against Todd Young, who went on to unseat Hill in the fall. While the one-term congressman has been out of the game for some time, his personal wealth gives him the resources to reintroduce himself to voters.

Another notable name is state Sen. Erin Houchin, who ran in 2016 when Young left to campaign for the Senate seat but she lost the primary to Hollingsworth 34-25. Houchin's second bid has the support of Rep. Larry Bucshon of the neighboring 8th District, as well as 2nd District Rep. Jackie Walorski. Rounding out the field are state Rep. J. Michael Davisson and Army veteran Stu Barnes-Israel.

KY-03: Retiring Rep. John Yarmuth on Monday endorsed state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey in the May Democratic primary to succeed him in what remains a reliably blue seat. McGarvey faces state Rep. Attica Scott, who launched her campaign in July well before the incumbent announced his departure; McGarvey, by contrast, kicked off his own bid in October less than 10 minutes after Yarmuth said he wouldn't be seeking re-election.

Despite Scott's head start, though, McGarvey went into the new year with a massive financial lead. The minority leader outraised her $795,000 to $80,000 during the fourth quarter, and he concluded the period with a $700,000 to $20,000 cash-on-hand lead.

While Democrats initially feared that Republicans would try to gerrymander this Louisville seat, they ended up making only very minor alterations to the 3rd: We've crunched the 2020 presidential results here, and like the old district, the new one would have voted for Joe Biden by a 60-38 margin.

We're also pleased to present the results of the 2020 presidential election for Kentucky's other five new congressional districts: You haven't previously seen this data because last cycle, all but one county in the state reported returns solely at the county-wide level. (This was the consequence of a pandemic-related decision to establish large "vote centers" where any eligible voter can vote, rather than require them to cast ballots at their own specific precinct.) That means there's insufficient precinct-level data available, so systems that use precinct results to calculate district-level results have nothing to work with.

Fortunately, there's a workaround. Only six counties are split between districts on Kentucky's new map, and one of them is Jefferson. Not only is it the largest in the state (it's the home of Louisville), it's also the one place that provided precinct results for 2020, letting us calculate results for the districts it encompasses in the traditional manner.

The other five, meanwhile, are relatively small, ranging from Bath County (pop. 13,000) to Nelson County (pop. 47,000). That allows us to treat each of them as, in essence, one giant precinct that we can divide proportionally between districts based on population. That's not ideal, and it means some district-level calculations will have error bars. Luckily, though, these five counties only amount to 3% of the state's total population, and they're also fairly homogenous: All are heavily white and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. What's more, precinct results from 2016 show the Trump vote was evenly distributed throughout these counties.

Ultimately, the new boundaries changed very little. Kentucky Republicans notably drew an extended tongue from the rural 1st District, which starts at the Kentucky Bend in the far western reaches of the state, to absorb the state capital of Frankfort—an appendage that is more vividly seen than described. The maneuver was designed to shore up Republican Rep. Andy Barr, whose 6th District was the site of a competitive election in 2018, but the toplines did not shift much: The old 6th voted for Trump by a 54-44 margin (about 9 points without rounding), while the revamped district would have gone for Trump 55-44.

MI-11: The local pollster Target Insyght finds Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens deadlocked 41-41 in their August Democratic primary showdown. Last week, Stevens released an Impact Research internal giving her a 42-35 advantage in this incumbent vs. incumbent race.  

NC-11: Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning declared Friday morning she was "planning on running," and she correctly predicted that the state Supreme Court would strike down a GOP gerrymander. Had that map stood, Manning would have most likely gone up against Republican incumbent Virginia Foxx for a 57-42 Trump seat.

NY-03: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi announced Monday that she would compete in the June Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, an open Long Island-based seat that just picked up a slice of her base in the Bronx and Westchester County in its latest incarnation. Data from Dave's Redistricting App shows that the revamped 3rd, which is open because Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi is waging a long-shot bid for governor, would have supported Joe Biden 56-42, which makes it a hair bluer than his 55-44 showing in the old version.  

Biaggi is the granddaughter of the late Rep. Mario Biaggi, who was elected to a Bronx-based seat in 1968 and resigned in 1988 after becoming ensnared in a tangle of several different corruption cases. The younger Biaggi, who worked as an attorney for then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a staffer on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, first sought elected office in 2018 when she launched a primary campaign against state Sen. Jeff Klein, the well-financed leader of the renegade faction of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference.

While Klein and the rest of the IDC were despised by the party's grassroots for helping Republicans stay in control of the state Senate even when Democrats held a majority of the seats, the incumbent easily defeated a prominent intra-party foe in 2014 and very much looked like the frontrunner to hold on again. Biaggi, though, quickly consolidated support from notable mainstream Democrats; Klein was also on the defensive after a former Senate staffer accused him of forcibly kissing her in 2015.

Ultimately, Biaggi defeated Klein 54-46 as five of his seven IDC allies were also going down, an outcome that helped Democrats months later secure their first stable majority in the chamber since World War II. Biaggi quickly established herself as a progressive star who was talked about as a possible candidate for higher office: In early 2021 she didn't rule out running against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and she reportedly considered challenging her old boss, Cuomo, just before he resigned in disgrace.

While Biaggi enters the race with experience winning a tough primary, the new 3rd Congressional District's shape still poses a potentially big obstacle for her. Only about 6% of the seat's denizens are currently her constituents, so the state senator starts out without much of a geographic base. Still, a total of 18% of the seat lives in Westchester County with another 5% in the Bronx, and Biaggi may be able to appeal to these voters especially if she's the only serious contender from the northern part of the district.

However, the bulk of the 3rd is still based in or near Long Island: 36% of its residents live in Nassau County compared to another 29% in Suffolk County to the east, with the remaining 11% in Queens. Several Long Island-based politicians are already seeking the Democratic nod including Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman, who lost to Suozzi in 2016 when the 3rd was last open; Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan; DNC member Robert Zimmerman; and Melanie D'Arrigo, a progressive activist who lost to Suozzi in the 2020 primary. Lafazan outraised D'Arrigo $455,000 to $80,000 during the fourth quarter and held a $405,000 to $115,000 cash-on-hand lead, while Kaiman and Zimmerman entered in the new year.

Whoever wins the Democratic nod will be favored in November, though Republicans are hoping that their good showing in last year's local elections in Nassau and Suffolk counties mean they'll have an opening. Team Red's only notable contender is 2020 nominee George Santos, who lost to Suozzi 56-43; Santos raised $250,000 for the quarter and had $320,000 on-hand.

NY-16: Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said last week he was "looking at" challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary, though the "hardcore moderate in the middle" seemed more interested in backing the bid that Westchester Public Works Commissioner Tom Meier is reportedly planning in what remains a safely blue seat. Spano was far more direct about what he thought of the congressman, who was arrested last month at a pro-voting rights protest: The mayor declared that "they should have arrested him for his vote on the infrastructure bill," with the local NAACP quickly responding, “To call for the arrest of a congressman, the first Black one to represent us in the 16th Congressional District, was intentional and we are outraged.”

NY-22: Former Assemblyman Sam Roberts announced Monday that he was joining the Democratic primary for the new 22nd District, an open Syracuse area seat that would have supported Joe Biden 58-40. (About 70% of the new 22nd's residents live in the old 24th, where Republican Rep. John Katko is retiring.) Roberts made history in 2010 when he became the first Black person elected to represent Central New York in the legislature, and he resigned in 2015 to lead the state's Office of Temporary Assistance and Disability.

TN-05, TN-07: Former State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Monday that she would compete in the August Republican primary for the newly-gerrymandered 5th District, an announcement that came less than two weeks after Donald Trump pre-endorsed her.

Several MAGA talking heads have already expressed their disappointment that Trump didn't instead back music video producer Robby Starbuck, who was running even before the new map transformed this from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency, but it remains to be seen if primary voters will care. Other Republicans could also get in including attorney Kurt Winstead, a retired brigadier general in the Tennessee National Guard who filed FEC paperwork on Monday.  

On the Democratic side, community activist Odessa Kelly's team acknowledged that she could switch to the 7th District and take on Republican Rep. Mark Green. Trump would have prevailed 56-41 here, which makes it on paper even less friendly turf than the 5th.

TX-28: For the first time, attorney Jessica Cisneros is running a TV ad focused on the recent FBI raid on conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar's home and campaign headquarters ahead of their March 1 Democratic primary rematch. The spot begins with several news reports about Cuellar's troubles before the narrator promotes Cisneros as "a better choice."

TX-35: State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez's first TV spot ahead of next month's Democratic primary parodies the old Dos Equis "most interesting man in the world" ad campaign with a narrator proclaiming near the end, "He is … the most interesting candidate for Congress." Before that, the commercial commends Rodriguez for being one of the rare state legislators to cast a vote against a pro-Iraq War resolution, defending an Austin Planned Parenthood clinic from Republicans, and helping "Democrats escape on a plane to protest voter suppression" while remembering "a case of beer."

TX-37: Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's new spot promotes him as a "true blue progressive."

Morning Digest: Texas progressive kicks off primary rematch against conservative House Democrat

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

TX-28: Immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros announced Thursday that she would seek a rematch against Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, a conservative Democrat who defeated her 52-48 in a very expensive 2020 primary. The current version of the 28th District, which includes Laredo, has been reliably blue turf for some time, but like other heavily Latino seats in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, it lurched hard toward Trump last year: Joe Biden won 52-47 in a seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 58-38, though Cuellar won his general election 58-39 against an unheralded Republican foe.

Cuellar is a longtime force in local politics who has spent his decades in public life frustrating fellow Democrats, and his nine terms in Congress have been no different. In 2014, for instance, the congressman joined with Republicans on legislation to make it easier to deport child migrants. During the first two years of the Trump administration, FiveThirtyEight found that Cuellar voted with the administration nearly 70% of the time, more than any other Democrat in either chamber.

Cuellar, who is the extremely rare Democrat to have ever been endorsed by the radical anti-tax Club for Growth, is also no stranger to crossing party lines. In 2000, he supported George W. Bush's presidential campaign, and in 2018 he came to the aid of a home state colleague, John Carter, during the Republican's competitive re-election fight in the 31st District.  

Campaign Action

While Cuellar inflamed national Democrats, though, he went over a decade without attracting a serious primary foe until Cisneros decided to challenge him from the left last cycle, but she quickly proved she could raise a serious amount of money for what turned out to be a pricey and nasty race. Cisneros went after Cuellar for his conservative voting record, with one ad declaring, "Not only did Cuellar vote for Trump's wall twice, but he's taken over $100,000 from corporations that build facilities and cages to detain families." EMILY's List also spent $1 million to back her, while many labor groups were in Cisneros' corner as well.

The congressman, meanwhile, ran a race that could have easily passed for a GOP campaign against the woman his team derided as "the Socialist Cisneros." He argued that Cisneros' support for environmental protection policies would destroy local oil industry jobs, and he aired a commercial arguing that she "supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents' knowledge."

Cuellar and his allies also tried to portray Cisneros, who was born and raised in South Texas and returned home after briefly practicing law in New York, as an outsider; one particularly ugly mailer from a pro-Cuellar group charged that the challenger was "bringing New York flavor to Texas," complete with pictures of "NYC Pizza" and "NYC Bagel."

Cuellar benefited from spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and, remarkably, the Koch network, the first Democrat ever to do so. Republican voters also likely pushed him across the finish line in what turned out to be a tight race: Texas does not have party registration, which left GOP voters who didn't participate in Donald Trump's uncompetitive primary free to vote in the Democratic race.

Cisneros kicked off her new campaign Thursday arguing that not only did Cuellar remain too conservative, he'd also done a poor job aiding his constituents during the pandemic: She specifically took him to task for helping obtain coronavirus testing kits for the district last year that turned out to be defective.

Cisneros' entry into the race attracted far more attention than her launch did two years ago, but that's not the only way that the 2022 primary will be different from last cycle's fight. Perhaps most importantly, no one knows what this constituency will look like after the GOP legislature finishes redistricting, much less whether map makers will try to make it more Republican. And even if the new 28th District doesn't change much, Trump's gains last year could leave some Democrats nervous about losing Cuellar as their nominee.

One other factor is that while the 2020 race was a duel between Cuellar and Cisneros, next year's race could be more crowded. One other contender, educator Tannya Benavides, kicked off her own campaign in mid-June: While Benavides brought in just over $10,000 over the next few weeks, her presence on the ballot could make it tougher for anyone to win the majority of the vote they'd need to avoid a primary runoff.

Cuellar, for his part, raised $240,000 during the second quarter of 2021 and ended June with $1.7 million in the bank. That's considerably less than the $3 million he had available at this point in the 2020 cycle, but it does give him a big head start ahead of his rematch with Cisneros.

Redistricting

Redistricting: Mark your calendars: The U.S. Census Bureau will release the population data essential for redistricting at a press conference on the afternoon of Aug. 12. The deadline was originally set for April 1, but it was delayed because of disruptions from the pandemic.

Senate

GA-Sen: CNN reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of the many prominent Republicans who is worried that former football star Herschel Walker will jeopardize Team Red's chances against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock should he run, and that he's hoping one prominent name will reconsider his plans to stay out of the race. Former Sen. David Perdue took his name out of contention back in February, but CNN writes that ​​McConnell "has suggested to allies" that he'd like for Perdue to switch course.

Perdue met with McConnell last month in D.C., and while we don't know exactly what was discussed, it's a good bet this contest came up. Perdue himself ignored questions at the time inquiring if he'd run again, and CNN says he also attended a party donor dinner on that trip and "indicated he had nothing to say about whether he would launch another Senate campaign."

The story also says that McConnell would like it if another former GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler, ran as well. Loeffler, unlike her ex-colleague, has shown some public interest, but it's not clear if she's willing to take on Walker if he gets in. An unnamed source did tell CNN that Loeffler would "likely" run should Walker, whom Donald Trump has been aggressively trying to recruit, ultimately stay out, though that would hardly solve McConnell's immediate dilemma.

A trio of notable Peach State Republicans are already in, and McConnell reportedly will be meeting with at least some of them. The top fundraiser so far is banking executive Latham Saddler, who raised $1.4 million and ended June with $1.1 million to spend. State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, meanwhile, brought in just over $700,000 during his opening weeks and had $680,000 in the bank. Businessman Kelvin King, finally, took in $380,000 from donors, self-funded an additional $300,000, and had $570,000 on-hand.

So far, Black has been the only one to attack Walker, though he hasn't yet brought up the allegations that his would-be rival threatened to kill his ex-wife in 2005. Instead, the commissioner released a digital ad this week making fun of a video where Walker, a longtime Texas resident, got out of a car sporting what appeared to be his new Georgia license plate. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that plate is suspended.) "For fun, my ride's a tractor," said Black, "And I've had Georgia plates all my life."

Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will be in for an expensive race against Warnock, who remains a strong fundraiser months after his January special election win. The senator brought in $6.9 million during the second quarter, and he had $10.5 million on-hand.

Governors

AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey raised $525,000 during July ahead of a potential Republican primary challenge from state Auditor Jim Zeigler, and she had $1.7 million on-hand. Zeigler, who says he'll announce if he'll run on Aug. 21, did set up a fundraising committee this week, though he says state law required him to do that because his GoFundMe campaign fundraiser brought in more than $1,000.

CA-Gov: SurveyUSA's first poll of the Sept. 14 recall election shows two very unexpected outcomes: a majority of voters are ready to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom, but a fellow Democrat leads in the race to replace him.

While almost every other poll has found at least a plurality of voters saying they'll vote against firing Newsom, SurveyUSA has a 51-40 majority in favor of the pro-recall yes side. Recent numbers from UC Berkeley and Core Decision Analytics showed the anti-recall side ahead 50-47 and 49-42, respectively―closer than Democrats might feel comfortable with, but nowhere near as bad as what these newest numbers show.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, SurveyUSA finds Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a financial analyst who is best known for his YouTube videos about personal finance, leading conservative radio host Larry Elder 27-23 in the race to replace Newsom. Both the aforementioned polls found Elder ahead of other Republicans, with Paffrath, who has no establishment support, taking a mere 3% of the vote.

We always caution that you should never let one poll determine your outlook of a race, and that's especially true when that poll has such startling results. We'll almost certainly get more numbers here before too long, though, which will give us a better idea of the state of next month's race.

HI-Gov: Honolulu City Councilwoman Andria Tupola, a Republican, announced Wednesday that she would not run for governor next year. Tupola was Team Red’s 2018 nominee against Democratic Gov. David Ige, a contest she lost 63-34.

Tupola is the only Republican who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for this office so far, which Republicans have not won since 2006.

IL-Gov: Kirk Dillard, who heads the board of directors for the Regional Transportation Agency, said on Wednesday that he was considering seeking the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker next year. Dillard was the runner-up in the 2010 and 2014 Republican primaries for this seat, losing both races by narrow margins.

NH-Gov: John DiStaso of WMUR writes that some New Hampshire Democrats are urging Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington to run for governor next year. There’s no quote from Warmington about her 2022 plans, though DiStaso also relays that she’s focused on her current job, which is not a no.

Warmington is the lone Democrat on the five-member Executive Council, a body that is key for certain legislation along with approving executive and judicial appointments. Currently, Democrats do not yet have a notable candidate for this seat, though Rep. Chris Pappas and 2020 nominee Dan Feltes have not ruled out bids.

NY-Gov: Following Tuesday’s bombshell release of the state attorney general's investigation report concluding that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, five New York district attorneys have confirmed that they’re investigating sexual harassment allegations against the governor, with two of them saying that they’ve already opened criminal investigations. Cuomo may have more immediate worries, though, as the Associated Press reports that 86 of the 150 members of the state Assembly say they support opening impeachment proceedings.

If a majority of the lower chamber votes to impeach him, Cuomo’s powers would be temporarily transferred to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul; the governor would only regain his powers if he manages to avoid conviction in the Senate. It will likely be a little while, though, before impeachment can start. The Democratic-run Assembly has given Cuomo until Aug. 13 to submit evidence in his defense, and two members of the Judiciary Committee, Tom Abinanti and Phil Steck, tell the AP they expect the chamber’s investigation to end in “weeks or a month.”

The pair said that plenty of their colleagues want Cuomo impeached much faster following the release of Attorney General Tish James’s report. However, they argued that the Assembly needs time to build a strong argument for the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats and would ultimately decide Cuomo’s fate.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said that should the Assembly vote to impeach, his chamber could begin Cuomo’s trial weeks later. As we’ve written before, members of New York’s highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, would also sit as jurors. Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would not participate, however, because she is second in the line of succession after the lieutenant governor. As a result, the jury would consist of seven judges—all of whom are Cuomo appointees—and 62 senators, with a two-thirds majority, or 46 votes, needed to convict the governor and remove him from office.

Cuomo could avoid all this by resigning, but he’s continued to proclaim his innocence and refuse to quit. The governor was similarly defiant in March as more and more allegations surfaced about his behavior and other alleged abuses in office, but while he had enough allies back then to hang on, his situation has very much deteriorated following James’ Tuesday press conference. Several longtime Cuomo backers, including state party chair Jay Jacobs and the state’s influential unions, have turned against him, and the New York Times notes that he has very few prominent defenders left.

Indeed, Cuomo’s most high-profile advocate at this point may be disgraced Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who characteristically compared Cuomo’s situation to the multitude of allegations leveled at his old client. Giuliani’s son, former White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, announced earlier this year that he’d run against Cuomo.

House

FL-20: State Sen. Bobby Powell said Wednesday that he would support state Rep. Bobby DuBose rather than compete in November's special Democratic primary. The filing deadline is Aug. 10.

MO-07: GOP Rep. Billy Long kicked off a Senate bid earlier this week, and several Republicans have already been mentioned or expressed interest in replacing the six-term congressman in this 70-28 Trump seat.

State Sen. Mike Moon, former state Sen. Jay Wasson, and physician Sam Alexander all indicated they were considering getting in. State Sen. Lincoln Hough, whom the Missouri Independent mentioned as a possible candidate on Wednesday, also did not rule out a bid. State Rep. Cody Smith and former state Sen. Gary Nodler likewise did not rule out bids, but both sound unlikely to run.

State Sen. Bill White, former state House Speaker Elijah Haahr, Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, and former state Sen. Ron Richard all said they would not enter the contest, while former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison was mentioned as a possible candidate by St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum.

Mayors

Cleveland, OH Mayor: EMILY’s List has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Sandra Williams for mayor of Cleveland.

Morning Digest: Daily Kos Elections presents our 2020 calendar of key elections across the country

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 Elections: The presidential election and competitive races for the House and Senate may be generating most of the headlines, but there are many important contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year. From mayoral races to district attorney elections and contests for control of county boards of supervisors, 2020 will feature major battles in some of the country's largest cities and counties. Daily Kos Elections has compiled a calendar with all the key dates for this year's major local races, and there's a lot to keep track of.

Campaign Action

Wisconsin will be the site of the first big downballot election night of the year on Tuesday, when party primaries for the special election in the vacant 7th Congressional District will take place; the general election will follow on May 12. The main event, though, will be the primary for a seat on the state Supreme Court, while Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee will also be voting for county executive and mayor, respectively. Runoffs between the top two vote-getters in all three of these races will take place on April 7. You can find a preview of those races here.

It will be an interesting year on the mayoral front in particular. Of the 100 largest cities in the country, 29 will hold elections for mayor at some point during 2020. Yet even though Republicans hold less than a third of all big-city mayoralties, they're defending 15 seats this year, versus 12 for Democrats (two are held by independents).

The biggest city on the list is San Diego, California, where Democrats are hoping for a pickup, in part because Republican Kevin Faulconer is term-limited. The largest Democratic-held prizes are Portland, Oregon and Baltimore, Maryland, though Republicans have no shot at flipping either.

Further down the ballot, the three largest counties in California—Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange—will hold elections for their boards of supervisors, as will Maricopa County, Arizona. All except Los Angeles have a Republican majority, and control of each of those GOP-held bodies is on the line.

Meanwhile, the two largest counties in the entire country, Los Angeles and Cook County, Illinois (home of Chicago), will be selecting their district attorneys. Orleans Parish in Louisiana, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, will also vote for its top prosecutor; embattled incumbent Leon Cannizzaro is eligible for re-election.

2020 promises to be an active year and we may also see more contests come onto the radar as events develop. Bookmark our calendar to keep tabs on all the action. Also check out our separate calendar of congressional and state-level primaries for all 50 states.

Senate

KS-Sen: Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is out with a poll from the GOP firm McLaughlin & Associates that shows him leading Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier 47-38 in a hypothetical general election. Kobach released his survey from the less than reliable McLaughlin days after a poll from the Democratic firm DFM Research for the union SMART came out showing him tied with Bollier 43-43.

Despite this McLaughlin poll, national Republicans remain worried that Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Democrat Laura Kelly, would put them in danger in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1932. Senate Republicans made it clear before Kobach even announced his campaign that they'd take action to stop him from winning the August primary, and CNN reported over the weekend that they remained as opposed to him as ever.

However, one notable Republican isn't ready to strand Kris Kobach on the Isle of Misfit Senate Candidates. CNN writes that Donald Trump spoke to his old ally in person late last month, and that Jared Kushner is working with Kobach on a White House immigration plan. Trump's advisers reportedly "have gently pressed him" to back Rep. Roger Marshall, who is one of the many other Republican candidates here, but Trump doesn't seem to be in any hurry to decide.

Still, there is at least one indication that Trump may be listening. The Kansas City Star reports that Trump met with Marshall in the Oval Office in mid-January and tried to call Kobach up right then and there to convince him to drop out. Trump got Kobach's voicemail, though, and the two ended up speaking a few hours later after Marshall had left the White House. There's no word on what they said to one another, but Kobach remains in the race a month later.

TX-Sen: The University of Texas is out with a survey for the Texas Tribune of the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and it's the first survey we've seen that shows a clear frontrunner. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, who has the DSCC's endorsement, leads with 22%, which is still well below the majority she'd need to avoid a May runoff.

Nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez holds a 9-7 edge over former Rep. Chris Bell for second place, while former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and state Sen. Royce West each are just behind with 6%. Two underfunded contenders, Annie "Mamá" Garcia and Sema Hernandez, each take 5%.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: The Alaska Supreme Court announced Friday that it would hear oral arguments on March 25 about the legality of the recall campaign against GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy. While the justices have not yet determined if Alaskans can vote whether to cut short Dunleavy's tenure, they also ruled last week that Recall Dunleavy is allowed to collect signatures to get a recall measure on the ballot.

As we've written before, an official in Alaska may only be recalled for "(1) lack of fitness, (2) incompetence, (3) neglect of duties, or (4) corruption." This provision, which recall expert Joshua Spivak calls a "malfeasance standard," differs from the practice in many other states, where only voters' signatures are needed for a recall to go forward.

Recall Dunleavy, the group that is seeking to fire the governor, is focusing on the first three grounds for recall. However, in an opinion for the state Division of Elections, Republican state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson argued that the stated allegations listed on the campaign's petitions "fail[ed] to meet any of the listed grounds for recall." Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth ruled in January, though, that the recall campaign could proceed because all but one of their stated grounds was valid.

However, in a confusing series of events, Aarseth soon issued a stay that prevented Recall Dunleavy from gathering signatures before the state Supreme Court heard the appeal, quickly said that the stay have been "inadvertently issued," then issued another stay a week later that once again halted the signature gathering. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday, though, that Aarseth "did not expressly consider the harm to Recall Dunleavy from a stay, and as a result it appears to have applied an incorrect analysis." This decision allows Recall Dunleavy to collect petitions even though its legal battle is far from over.

If Recall Dunleavy successfully convinces the justices that its campaign is valid under state law, organizers will need to collect another 71,000 signatures in order to place the recall on the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.

If the recall is successful, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who is also a Republican, would replace Dunleavy. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.

MO-Gov: On Friday, former Gov. Eric Greitens declined to rule the idea that he’d challenge Gov. Mike Parson, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in 2020 after Greitens resigned in disgrace, in the August GOP primary. People close to Greitens tell the Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock that this comeback is unlikely to actually happen this year, but Parson’s allies are still taking the idea seriously. Missouri’s filing deadline is at the end of March.

Greitens has avoided the media since his departure from office, but he reemerged last week one day after he got some welcome news from the Missouri Ethics Commission. The body announced that it was fining Greitens $178,000 after it ruled that his 2016 campaign had not disclosed its coordination with a federal PAC and a nonprofit. However, the Commission said they had “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens” and that most of the fine would be forgiven as long as he pays $38,000 and doesn’t incur any other violations over the next two years.

Greitens used the occasion to go on a conservative media tour and proclaim in Trump-like fashion that he had received a “total exoneration,” and he wasn’t just talking about the matters the Commission ruled on last week. Back in early 2018, his once promising political career began to unravel in the face of allegations that he'd sexually assaulted the woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her.

Greitens ended up getting indicted by local prosecutors twice: Once on allegations of first-degree felony invasion of privacy related to this story, and once for unrelated charges of computer tampering involving his charity. The GOP-led state legislature, which had little love for Greitens after spending a year feuding with him, also began to move towards removing him from office.

Greitens eventually resigned in exchange for the tampering charges getting dropped. A short time later, the Jackson County Prosecutor's office also announced that it was dropping the charges in the sexual assault and blackmail case because it believed it was impossible to successfully prosecute Greitens.

Greitens declared on Friday that the GOP legislature’s old investigation was some “Joseph Stalin stuff,” but he wasn’t so vocal about his current plans. When host Jamie Allman asked him if he was considering a 2020 bid for his old office Greitens responded, “Anything is a possibility.” Greitens added that he’d be willing to reappear on Allman’s program later to talk about this contest, but he didn’t say anything else about it.

However, unnamed Greitens associates tell Hancock that the former governor is well aware that he’s still unpopular and that he’s not sure if he could raise enough money to compete. They didn’t dismiss the idea that he’d run against Parson, though, and neither did the incumbent’s allies. John Hancock, who runs the well-funded pro-Parson super PAC Uniting Missouri, said he didn’t expect Greitens to get in, “But we don’t take anything for granted in a political campaign.”

A Parson adviser put it more bluntly to the paper: “Will he run? I doubt it. Are we going to be haunted by his ghost until he declares or filing for the primary closes? Absolutely.”

House

AL-05: On Friday, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement for Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the March 3 GOP primary. Brooks faces a challenge from retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Lewis, who earned the support of the Alabama Farmers Federation but has very little money.

NJ-03: Over the weekend, former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs received the recommendation of the Ocean County Republican Screening Committee, which puts her in a good position to win the county party’s backing at its March 4 convention.

As we’ve noted before, county party endorsements matter quite a bit in New Jersey, and Gibbs’ already has the support of the Burlington County GOP. Ocean County contains the somewhat larger share of Republican primary voters in this two-county district, though, which makes it a very important prize in the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim.

TX-18: On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed a lawsuit brought against Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's office and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation by a former CBCF aide identified only as Jane Doe. Doe had alleged that she'd been fired by Jackson Lee in 2018 after she'd told the congresswoman's chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, that she would take legal action against the CBCF, which was led by Jackson Lee at the time.

Doe said in her suit that she had been raped by a CBCF supervisor in 2015 when she was interning there. She further said she'd told Rushing about the assault in 2018 after she learned that her alleged assailant was looking for a job in Jackson Lee's congressional office. The man was not hired, but Doe said she then told Rushing she planned to sue the foundation and wanted to speak to Jackson Lee about it. No meeting took place, and Doe said she was fired two weeks later, ostensibly for "budgetary issues."

Jackson Lee announced in January of last year that she was resigning as head of the CBCF and temporarily stepping aside from a House Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship as a result the lawsuit. Friedrich, though, ruled that Doe had not alleged any legally sufficient claims for which Jackson Lee's office or the CBCF could be held liable. Doe's attorney says that she's unsure if her client will appeal.

TX-28: Texas Forward, which is allied with EMILY's List, is out with a Spanish language TV spot ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary that argues that conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has embraced Washington and is no longer “one of us.” Meanwhile, a large coalition of labor groups are spending $350,000 on radio and digital ads, as well as voter turnout operations, in support of immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros.

WA-05: Former Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase announced on Friday that he would challenge Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a fellow Republican, in the August top-two primary. Chase lost his 2018 bid for a seat on the county commission by a lopsided 61-39 margin to a fellow Republican, and he's unlikely to pose much of a threat to the well-funded incumbent.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Siena College announced on Friday that former GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who represented a competitive seat in upstate New York from 2011 through 2017, would become its new president in July. Gibson is a Siena graduate, and he will be the first non-friar to lead the Franciscan college.

Gibson has been mentioned as a possible GOP statewide candidate in the past, though he surprised political observers when he decided to pass on a 2018 run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Gibson's new gig probably means that he won't be running for office anytime soon, though he'll still have a connection to the world of politics: Siena has a prolific polling arm that conducted the New York Times' famous (or infamous) live polls in 2018.