Morning Digest: Trump targets one of last two pro-impeachment House Republicans

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

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Leading Off

WA-04: Donald Trump on Friday endorsed former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler's intra-party bid against Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the two remaining House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 riot.

Trump's backing makes Sessler, who waged an unheralded campaign two years ago, Newhouse's only notable foe in what had been a quiet Aug. 6 top-two primary for Washington's conservative 4th District. However, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will once again consolidate behind a single candidate as they did in 2022, a development that could make it tougher for one of the two Republicans to reach the November general election.

Newhouse's own plans are also uncertain. Two months ago, the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner relayed that there had been "rampant speculation in state Republican circles that Newhouse may be the next to announce his retirement." The incumbent doesn't appear to have confirmed his 2024 plans yet, though he tweeted out an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business on Monday. The candidate filing deadline isn't until May 10, so it may still be a few weeks before the roster is set here.

Newhouse, who was elected to represent central Washington in 2014, attracted little attention during his first three terms in Congress, but all of that changed early in 2021 when he responded to the Jan. 6 attack riot by voting to impeach Trump.

"A vote against this impeachment is a vote to validate the unacceptable violence we witnessed in our nation's capital," he said in a statement. "It is also a vote to condone President Trump's inaction."

Sessler, who had raced in local NASCAR competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues (his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.info), was one of several hard-right politicians who reacted by launching campaigns against the congressman. Trump, however, was far more impressed by 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, a former cop who refused to recognize his decisive loss to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

Trump's endorsement, though, didn't do much to help Culp augment his weak fundraising numbers hauls. Newhouse's allies at Defending Main Street, which is aligned with the GOP leadership, also spent over $1 million to boost the incumbent while the challenger received no major outside help. Sessler, who self-funded about $400,000 but raised little from donors, attracted comparatively little attention.

The 4th District had favored Trump 57-40 in 2020, but businessman Doug White benefited from being the only Democrat on the ballot in a top-two primary that featured seven Republicans. Newhouse and White took 25% apiece, while Culp and Sessler respectively grabbed 22% and 12%. That victory made Newhouse and California Rep. David Valadao the only two pro-impeachment Republicans to win renomination in a cycle that saw their eight fellow travelers either opt to retire or lose their own primaries.

Newhouse went on to easily beat White 66-31 in the general election (Valadao narrowly won in a more competitive seat), and he resumed his former role as a quiet conservative vote. The congressman even made it clear earlier this month that, despite saying three years ago that Trump "failed to fulfill his oath of office," he'd support his return to the White House. Trump repaid him Friday with a Truth Social missive branding Newhouse "a weak and pathetic RINO named Newhouse, who voted to, for no reason, Impeach me."

Trump, as he almost always does, also extolled his newest endorsee as someone who will "stand for the Rule of Law," though Sessler had a recent run-in with authorities. In September of 2022, a month after Sessler's first congressional campaign came to an end, a code enforcement officer in Benton County named Dale Wilson said that he'd investigated a complaint that someone was living on Sessler's property without the proper permits. Wilson said that Sessler confronted him and threatened to retrieve a gun and "deal with him" if Wilson returned.

County commissioners sent the once and future candidate a letter a few months later telling him that the actions described by Wilson constituted a felony, adding, "If you continue to threaten Benton County employees, the county will involve law enforcement to conduct a full investigation." There do not appear to have been any public developments since then.

Another Washington Republican who voted to impeach Trump, former Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, will also be on the Aug. 6 top-two primary ballot as she campaigns for the open post of state lands commissioner. Herrera Beutler's career representing the 3rd District came to an end two years ago when her Trump-backed foe, Joe Kent, edged her out in the first round, though Kent went on to suffer an upset general election loss to Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.

Herrera Beutler faces one fellow Republican, Sue Kuehl Pederson, who badly lost the 2020 general election for lands commissioner, along with several Democrats. Kent, meanwhile, needs to get past Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen to set up a rematch with Gluesenkamp Perez. Trump has not yet endorsed in either contest.

Election Night

AL-02: The downballot primary season picks back up on Tuesday in Alabama's revamped 2nd District, which is the only place in America that's hosting a congressional nominating contest this week. Whoever wins the Democratic primary runoff will be favored in November to claim a constituency that, under the new map drawn by a federal court, is now a plurality Black district that would have backed Joe Biden 56-43.

Former Justice Department official Shomari Figures led state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels 43-22 in the first round of voting on March 5. While Figures' share of the vote was below the majority needed to win the Democratic nod outright, his performance established him as the frontrunner for the runoff.

Subsequent developments have only underscored the perception that Figures is the one to beat. State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, who took third place with 16%, went on to endorse him, and a late March Impact Research poll for an unknown client showed Figures beating Daniels 59-24.

Figures has once again gotten a major assist from Protect Progress, a super PAC with ties to the cryptocurrency industry that spent heavily on him ahead of the primary and has poured in another $900,000 for the runoff. The only pro-Daniels outside spending, by contrast, is about $50,000 from Progress for Alabama, a super PAC that Politico reports is run by Republican operative David Driscoll. Driscoll did not comment when Politico asked him about his interest in the race.

Each Democrat is arguing that the other has weak ties to this district, which now takes in Mobile, Montgomery, and the eastern Black Belt. Figures, who hails from a prominent political family in Mobile, has highlighted the fact that Daniels represents a legislative seat in Huntsville, far off in the northern part of the state.

Daniels, however, has emphasized his roots in the Montgomery area and pointed out that Figures only recently returned to Alabama after spending his career in and around the nation's capital.

The GOP runoff pits former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker and attorney Caroleene Dobson. Brewbaker led Dobson 40-26 on March 5.

MI State House: Two special elections taking place in the Detroit suburbs on Tuesday would allow Democrats to regain the majority they earned in the state House in 2022 if they prevail in both. The contests are being held to succeed a pair of Democrats who resigned to become mayor of their respective communities, Kevin Coleman of Westland and Lori Stone of Warren.

The election to replace Coleman in the 25th District pits his cousin and fellow Democrat, Westland City Councilman Peter Herzberg, against Republican businessman Josh Powell. Joe Biden, according to data from Dave's Redistricting App, carried this seat 59-40 in 2020.

The race to succeed Stone, meanwhile, is between Democrat Mai Xiong, a member of the Macomb County Commission, and Republican Ronald Singer, a perennial candidate. Xiong, who would be the first Hmong American elected to the state House, should have little trouble Tuesday in a seat that favored the president 64-35

However, November's contest for a full term would likely be more difficult. That's because, under the replacement map that Michigan's independent redistricting commission recently passed pursuant to a court order, the redrawn 13th would have backed Biden just 50-48.

Senate

KY-Sen & Louisville, KY Mayor: Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature overrode vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of two election-related bills, one that will have an impact statewide and one more local.

The first bill prohibits the governor from appointing anyone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. This legislation replaces a 2021 law that required the governor to pick from a three-person list submitted by the party of the person who last held the Senate seat.

The new bill's sponsor, state House Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy, denied that these new changes have anything to do with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's health. McConnell himself expressed support for the legislation even as he once again reiterated that he'd serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in early 2027.

The legislature, which only requires a simple majority in each chamber to override vetoes, also defied Beshear by approving a new law that, among other things, makes elections for Louisville's local government officially nonpartisan starting next year. All the candidates would face off on one ballot, and the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.

Kentucky's largest city, which was consolidated with the rest of Jefferson County in 2003, favored Joe Biden 59-39 in 2020, so this switch could make it easier for Republicans to win races now that party affiliation won't be included on the ballot.

State Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, however, told Louisville Public Media last month he was supporting the legislation "out of respect for" Mayor Craig Greenberg, a Democrat whom he says was involved in discussions about the law. Greenberg, who is up for reelection in 2026, didn't answer when LPM asked him about the bill when it was first introduced earlier this year.

MD-Sen: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has publicized an internal from Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group that shows her trailing Rep. David Trone by a small 43-40 spread ahead of the May 14 Democratic primary. It's the first data that Alsobrooks has shared since launching her campaign, and it's also the first internal poll of the race we've seen since Trone shared a Hickman Analytics internal two months ago that had him up 49-32.

In between, two March polls conducted by Braun Research for separate clients found Trone ahead by larger margins: An early March poll for the Washington Post and the University of Maryland gave the congressman a 34-27 edge, while its subsequent numbers for Goucher College and the Baltimore Banner showed him leading 42-33.

NJ-Sen: Fairleigh Dickinson University shows Democratic Rep. Andy Kim posting 9-point leads over his two most notable Republican rivals, developer Curtis Bashaw and Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner. Were Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez to run as an independent, Kim would still defeat both Republicans by a 6-point margin:

  • Kim (D): 48, Bashaw (R): 39
  • Kim (D): 47, Glassner (R): 38
  • Kim (D): 44, Bashaw (R): 38, Menendez (I-inc), 6
  • Kim (D): 45, Glassner (R): 39, Menendez (I-inc): 7

Presidential numbers were not included in this release.

Governors

WV-Gov: The Club for Growth, which supports Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the May 14 Republican primary, has launched what appears to be the first TV ad from anyone attacking former Del. Moore Capito. Morrisey and his allies until now had focused on tearing down businessman Chris Miller, but this shift in strategy suggests they think Capito has now emerged as a threat as well.

The Club's ad declares that Capito, who is the son and namesake of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, was "born with a silver spoon in his mouth," though the commercial doesn't reference the senator by name. Instead, it features several animations of Capito accompanied by spoons (maybe the ad maker is a fan of "The Room") as the narrator accuses him of repeatedly voting to raise taxes.

Capito, meanwhile, has launched a spot in which his narrator declares, "Moore Capito wrote the bill blocking puberty blockers for children while Morrisey got rich lobbying for the puberty blocker companies." Miller recently used a similar line of attack against Morrisey, who has run his own transphobic ad campaign.

Capito ends his ad by portraying Morrisey as an outsider, though strangely, he doesn't actually bring up the state the attorney general is originally from. "California's that way," Capito tells the New Jersey-reared attorney general, who ran for Congress in the Garden State back in 2000 only to finish last in a four-way primary.

House

CA-16: Election officials in California's 16th Congressional District began the process for a machine recount of the March 5 top-two primary on Monday, but there are still big questions over just what will happen next in this wild race.

The Mercury News reports that Jonathan Padilla, who was a 2020 Biden delegate, paid the county a $12,000 deposit to start the recount. However, election administrators in Santa Clara County, which makes up over 80% of this Silicon Valley-based seat, tell KQED's Guy Marzorati that it will cost $16,800 per day for what they estimate will be a five-day undertaking.

Their counterparts in San Mateo, which forms the balance of the 16th District, say it will take another $4,550 per day to recount its ballots, though they told Marzorati they hadn't received a deposit as of Monday morning.

Marzorati writes that if Padilla misses a day's payment, the recount would end and the results certified by the state earlier this month would stand. A second voter, Dan Stegink, had sought a recount as well, but he withdrew his request and did not put down the requisite deposit.

Padilla's own plans have also changed somewhat, as he said he originally intended to seek a manual recount before opting for a machine recount. A manual recount is more likely to catch errors, but it's also far more expensive.

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, whom Padilla worked for in 2014, is guaranteed a spot in the November general election, while two other Democrats, Assemblyman Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, would both advance if they remain tied for second. Should a recount shift the results even a single vote for either runner-up, however, then Liccardo would face the second-place finisher in a one-on-one matchup.

FL-15: Far-right social media troll Rogan O'Handley told the conservative site The Floridian over the weekend that he's decided not to challenge freshman Rep. Laurel Lee in the Aug. 20 Republican primary. The candidate filing deadline is April 26.

IN-03: Winning for Women, a conservative super PAC largely funded by megadonor Ken Griffin, has launched a commercial accusing former Rep. Marlin Stutzman of being weak on border security. The spot does not mention former Judge Wendy Davis, whom Politico says the group supports in the May 7 Republican primary for this safely red seat in northeastern Indiana. According to reports filed with the FEC, WFW has spent $414,000 so far.

The offensive comes at a time when another super PAC, America Leads Action, is spending a similar amount to derail Stutzman's comeback campaign. The former congressman's allies at the far-right House Freedom Caucus have deployed $110,000 to return him to Congress after an eight-year absence, but most of that spending came last year.

IN-05: State Rep. Chuck Goodrich's new commercial for next month's GOP primary utilizes material from a 2022 Politico article to argue that Rep. Victoria Spartz is an abusive boss. "Manic behavior," says the narrator, continuing, "She yells and curses, calling them morons and idiots." The spot goes on, "Victoria Spartz's behavior is embarrassing. We don't need politicians who lie and disrespect employees and lack the temperament for public service."

IN-08: Former Rep. John Hostettler is getting some welcome outside support from Protect Freedom PAC, which is airing commercials starring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. There is no word yet as to how much the PAC is spending to promote Hostettler, who has been on the receiving end of at least $1.75 million in attacks from a trio of super PACs. Hostettler's campaign, according to AdImpact data from Howey Politics, had not run any TV ads for the May 7 GOP primary as of April 5.

Paul uses the ad to tout Hostettler as someone who will resist "the politicians that are destroying America," a crowd that, according to footage shown on-screen, includes Paul's home state colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Paul was elected to the upper chamber four years after Hostettler lost reelection in the 2006 blue wave, but his father, then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and Hostettler were part of a small group of House Republicans who opposed the Iraq War. The elder Paul went on to endorse Hostettler's failed 2010 Senate primary campaign.

NH-02: State Sen. Becky Whitley announced Sunday that she would run to succeed retiring Rep. Annie Kuster, a fellow Democrat. Whitley says she's raised $100,000 for her bid in her first week since forming an exploratory committee earlier this month.

Whitley, who has worked as a disability rights lawyer, joined the legislature in 2020 after winning a safely blue Senate seat, but she first had to get past a familiar name in the primary. To earn the nomination, she scored a 41-33 victory over former Rep. Paul Hodes, who was seeking a comeback a decade after his failed bid for the U.S. Senate.

WMUR wrote earlier this month that Whitley, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, has since "been on the legislative front lines" in battles to safeguard abortion rights. She joins a September primary that includes former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, who has Kuster's endorsement.

But two would-be Democratic candidates, state Reps. Angela Brennan and Rebecca McWilliams, each said this week they'd seek to replace Whitley in the state Senate rather than run for Congress.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: OpinionWorks shows incumbent Brandon Scott edging out former Mayor Sheila Dixon 38-35 in the May 14 Democratic primary, with former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah far back at 10%. The survey was conducted for FOX45 News, the Baltimore Sun, and the University of Baltimore.

The only other independent poll we've seen of Baltimore's mayoral race this year was a Braun Research survey released last week on behalf of Goucher College and The Baltimore Banner, which gave Scott a larger 40-32 edge over Dixon. (Vignarajah was similarly situated at 11%.) It only takes a plurality to secure the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in this dark blue city.

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Morning Digest: Democrats and Republicans unite to elect an independent as speaker … in Pennsylvania

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

PA State House: In a pair of true surprises, moderate Democrat Mark Rozzi was elected speaker of the Pennsylvania state House Tuesday just before he announced that he’d lead the chamber as an independent.

Rozzi, who will be the first non-aligned speaker in the history of the body, defeated Republican state Rep. Carl Metzgar 115-85 after Democratic leader Joanna McClinton threw her support behind him rather than submit her own name. Following that endorsement, the entire Democratic caucus supported Rozzi, while 16 Republicans crossed over to back him. Rozzi’s win comes after two months of uncertainty about which party would lead the chamber, though few observers guessed that the answer would be neither.

Democrats, including Rozzi, won 102 of the 203 seats in the House on Nov. 8, which appeared to set them up for their first majority since the 2010 GOP wave. However, Democrats could only claim 99 members because state Rep. Tony DeLuca was re-elected a month after he died, while fellow Pittsburgh-area Democrats Summer Lee and Austin Davis resigned weeks later to prepare to assume their new roles as congresswoman and lieutenant governor, respectively. Republicans therefore began Tuesday with a 101 to 99 advantage, but no one knew if that would be enough for the party to elect a speaker.

Indeed, a deadlock appeared certain after one Republican joined the Democratic caucus in voting to adjourn during the middle of the day―a tied vote that failed because the remaining 100 Republicans were opposed. Unexpectedly, though, multiple Republicans and Democrats soon nominated Rozzi, whose name hadn’t previously been seriously mentioned. Rozzi prevailed with the support of all of the Democrats and a minority of Republicans, including Bryan Cutler, who had been speaker going into November’s elections.

So, what happens next? First, there will almost certainly be a vacant GOP-held seat before long, as state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver is the favorite to win the Jan. 31 special election for a dark red state Senate district. Culver’s 108th House District supported Donald Trump 65-33 in 2020, but her absence could deny her party a crucial vote in the closely divided lower chamber until a special election could take place. PennLive.com says such a race likely wouldn’t take place before May 16, which is the same date as Pennsylvania's regular statewide primary.

As for the three vacant Democratic constituencies, both parties agree that a Feb. 7 special will go forward in DeLuca’s HD-32, which went for Joe Biden 62-36. In Pennsylvania special elections, the parties, rather than voters, choose nominees: Democrats have selected local party official Joe McAndrew, while Republicans are fielding pastor Clay Walker.

There’s no agreement, however, about when the contests for Lee’s and Davis’ constituencies will take place. That’s because legislative special elections are scheduled by the leader of the chamber with the vacant seat, but there was no speaker between late November, when the last session ended, and Tuesday. That duty, as a result, fell to the majority leader, and both McClinton and Cutler claimed that title in December, issuing dueling writs of election: McClinton set these two specials to also take place on Feb. 7, while Cutler picked May 16.

Cutler filed a lawsuit to block McClinton’s schedule, but the Pennsylvania Department of State is going forward with February specials right now. There’s no question that Democrats will hold Lee’s HD-34, which Biden took 80-19, but the president pulled off a smaller 58-41 win in Davis’ HD-35.

Democrats in the former district have picked Swissvale Borough Council President Abigail Salisbury, who will go up against kickboxing instructor Robert Pagane. The Democratic nominee to succeed Davis is Matt Gergely, who serves as finance director for the community of McKeesport. Local Republicans are running Don Nevills, who lost to Davis 66-34 in November; Nevills himself has said in his social media posts that the special will be Feb. 7.

P.S. Rozzi’s win makes this the second time in the 21st century that Pennsylvania Democrats successfully maneuvered to stop Republicans from taking the speakership. In 2006, Democrats likewise won a 102-101 majority, but one of their members, Thomas Caltagirone, soon announced he’d cross party lines to keep Republican John Perzel on as speaker instead of electing Democrat Bill DeWeese. DeWeese, who was speaker in 1994 when Democrats last controlled the chamber, ended up nominating Republican Dennis O'Brien rather than put his name forward; O’Brien ultimately won 105-97.

Democrats secured a workable majority the following year, and Keith McCall became the party’s first, and to date only, speaker since DeWeese. In a strange twist, DeWeese and Perzel went on to become cellmates after being convicted in separate corruption cases. Incidentally, one House Democrat heavily involved in the plan to make O'Brien speaker was Josh Shapiro, now the governor-elect of Pennsylvania.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Doug Ducey, whose tenure as governor ended on Monday, said before Christmas he was "not running for the United States Senate" and that "it's not something I'm considering." And just like two years ago, Ducey's fellow Republicans are not taking this seemingly unequivocal statement as final: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who is another Republican on Donald Trump's shit list, instead told The Hill, "I hope that he'll get in."

Former state Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who narrowly lost last year's primary to succeed Ducey, may be more interested in campaigning for the Senate seat held by Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema. Vox's Christian Paz writes that Taylor Robson "told me she is not ruling out running for statewide office again," though it's not clear if the former regent said anything about the Senate in particular.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Ruben Gallego released late-December numbers from Public Policy Polling showing a tight race whether or not Sinema runs. The survey found Republican Kari Lake, who continues to deny her loss to now-Gov. Katie Hobbs, edging out Gallego 41-40, with Sinema grabbing 13%. When the incumbent is left out, however, it's Gallego who leads Lake 48-47. The congressman has made it clear he's likely to run, while NBC reported last month that Lake is trying to recruit Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb rather than campaign herself.

The poll was conducted days before The Daily Beast's Sam Brodey reported that Sinema's office had a 37-page guide for staffers that includes tasks that "appear to go right up to the line of what Senate ethics rules allow, if not over." Among other things, Brodey writes that Sinema requires her subordinates perform personal tasks for her, including arranging massages and buying groceries on their own dime, which she later reimburses them for.

The Senate's ethics handbook, though, specifies that "staff are compensated for the purpose of assisting Senators in their official legislative and representational duties, and not for the purpose of performing personal or other non-official activities for themselves or on behalf of others." Sinema's spokesperson told Brodey that "the alleged information—sourced from anonymous quotes and a purported document I can't verify—is not in line with official guidance from Sen. Sinema's office and does not represent official policies of Sen. Sinema's office."

IN-Sen, IN-Gov: Bellwether Research released mid-December numbers before Christmas for the 2024 GOP primaries for the Senate and governor: The firm previously worked for former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is a prospective Senate candidate, but a Daniels consultant tells Politico's Adam Wren that this survey was done without his knowledge.

The firm tested out hypothetical Senate scenarios with and without Daniels, who just completed his tenure as president of Purdue University. We'll start with the former matchup:

former Purdue University President Mitch Daniels: 32

Rep. Jim Banks: 10

former Rep. Trey Hollingsworth: 9

Rep. Victoria Spartz: 7

Attorney General Todd Rokita: 7

Someone Else: 6

In the Daniels-free scenario, Rokita leads Banks 16-14 as Spartz and Hollingsworth grab 12% and 11%, respectively.

Spartz herself quickly publicized her own numbers from Response:AI that put Daniels in front with 35% as she and Banks deadlocked 14-14 for second. That survey placed Hollingsworth at 6% while two people who were not tested by Bellwether, 2022 House nominee Jennifer-Ruth Green and disgraced former Attorney General Curtis Hill, took 4% and 2%. Wren recently named Hill, whom we hadn't heard mentioned for Senate, as a possible candidate, though there's been no sign yet that he's thinking about campaigning.

None of the other Republicans tested in either poll are currently running for the Senate either, and Daniels' ultimate decision may deter some of them from getting in. Indeed, an unnamed person close to Spartz told Politico that she may decide not to go up against the former governor: The congresswoman, writes Wren, "declined to comment on that question, but told POLITICO she is seeking a meeting with Daniels before making her decision."

A Banks ally, though, insists his man "won't make his decision based on what others do and I think the poll numbers released by Daniels and Spartz will only embolden him to run."

Bellwether also posted numbers for the GOP race to succeed termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb:

Sen. Mike Braun: 25

Attorney General Todd Rokita: 9

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch: 7

former Rep. Trey Hollingsworth: 6

Businessman Eric Doden: 3

Someone Else: 9

Braun, Crouch, and Doden are currently running.

Governors

KY-Gov: State Rep. Savannah Maddox announced days before Christmas that she was dropping out of the packed May Republican primary to face Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

An unnamed GOP source soon told the Lexington Herald Leader they believed Maddox's departure means that Papa John's founder John Schnatter "could get in the race, since he's got the resources and with Savannah not in the race it could open up a lane." Schnatter, who resigned as board chairman in 2018 after news broke that he'd used racist language, has not taken any obvious steps toward running ahead of Friday's filing deadline.

Self-funder Kelly Craft, meanwhile, is not waiting until the field fully takes shape to go up with the first TV campaign ad of the contest, which the paper says ran for $114,000 from Dec. 27 to Jan. 3. Craft uses the message to tout her roots growing up on a farm in Barren County in the south-central party of the state, and she goes on to tout how she went on to become ambassador to the United Nations. The ad shows photos of Craft with Donald Trump, who is supporting Attorney General Daniel Cameron for the GOP nod.  

MS-Gov: The Daily Journal reported before Christmas that Secretary of State Michael Watson is indeed considering taking on Gov. Tate Reeves in this August's Republican primary. Watson and other potential contenders have until the Feb. 1 filing deadline to make up their minds, but there's one name we can already cross off. While former state Rep. Robert Foster, who took third in 2019, reportedly was thinking about another campaign over the summer, he announced last week that he'd instead run for a seat on the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors.

NC-Gov, NC-??: The conservative Washington Examiner relayed in mid-December that former Rep. Mark Walker is considering seeking the Republican nomination for governor or to return to the House after his party crafts a new gerrymander. Walker last cycle campaigned for the Senate even though Donald Trump tried to persuade him to drop down and run for the lower chamber, but he earned just 9% of the primary vote for his stubbornness.

House

MD-05: Veteran Rep. Steny Hoyer told CNN Sunday that he hadn't ruled out seeking re-election in 2024 even though he's no longer part of the Democratic leadership. "I may. I may," the incumbent said about waging another run.

MD-08: Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said last week that he'd "been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, which is a serious but curable form of cancer." Raskin added that he was "about to embark on a course of chemo-immunotherapy on an outpatient basis," and that "[p]rognosis for most people in my situation is excellent after four months of treatment." The congressman also said he planned to keep working during this time, and he was present Tuesday for the opening of the 118th Congress.  

NY-03: At this point in the George Santos saga, his entirely fictional life story is almost beside the point: When he's called on any of his lies, he just lies some more—it's pathological. But that same reckless behavior is also why the new Republican congressman-to-be is in serious legal jeopardy, at the local, state, federal, and, amazingly, international levels. And because of that, he's exceedingly unlikely to serve out a full term. So what happens if he resigns?

In short, there would be a special election, but in a break with past practice, we'd immediately know when it would take place—and it would happen quickly. Governors in New York previously had wide latitude over when to call elections to fill vacant posts, both for Congress and state legislature, and disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo notoriously abused this power, frequently delaying specials when it suited him.

But in 2021, as state law expert Quinn Yeargain explains, lawmakers finally passed legislation to correct this problem, which Cuomo signed shortly before resigning. Now, Gov. Kathy Hochul would be required to call a special election within 10 days of Santos' seat becoming vacant, and that election would have to take place 70 to 80 days afterward. This law has already come into play multiple times, including for two congressional special elections that took place last year.

One thing hasn't changed, though: There still would be no primaries. Instead, as per usual, nominations for Democrats and Republicans alike would be decided by small groups of party insiders. The actual election would, however, be hotly contested. While Joe Biden would have carried New York's 3rd District, which is based on the North Shore of Long Island, by a 54-45 margin, according to our calculations, Republican Lee Zeldin almost certainly won it in last year's race for governor. Santos dispatched Democrat Robert Zimmerman 52-44 after Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi left the seat open to pursue his own unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.

NY-17: Former Rep. Mondaire Jones told NY1 before Christmas that he was not ruling out seeking the Democratic nomination to take on the new Republican incumbent, Mike Lawler. Jones unsuccessfully decided to run in New York City last year in order to avoid a primary against DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney, who himself went on to lose to Lawler, but he made it clear a future campaign would take place in the area he'd represented. "I've also learned my lesson, and that is home for me is in the Hudson Valley," Jones said.

VA-04: Jennifer McClellan beat her fellow state senator, conservative Joe Morrissey, in an 85-14 landslide to win the Democratic nomination in the Dec. 19 firehouse primary to succeed the late Rep. Donald McEachin. McClellan should have no trouble defeating Republican nominee Leon Benjamin, who badly lost to McEachin in 2020 and 2022, in the Feb. 21 special election for this 67-32 Biden seat; McClellan's win would make her the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress.

WA-03: Democrats will still have election conspiracy theorist Joe Kent to kick around this cycle, as the 2022 GOP nominee declared before Christmas, "I'm running again in 2024."

DCCC: House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries announced ahead of Christmas that the new DCCC chair would be Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents a Washington seat that Joe Biden carried 64-33. Jeffries' decision came weeks after House Democrats voted 166-38 to give the caucus' leader the opportunity to select the head of the DCCC rather than have the chair be elected by the full body. The new rule still requires members approve the choice, and they ratified DelBene two days after she was picked.

Attorneys General and Secretaries of State

AZ-AG: Democrat Kris Mayes' narrow win over election denier Abe Hamadeh was affirmed after a recount concluded last week, and Mayes was sworn in as attorney general on Monday. The Democrat's margin dropped from 511 to 280 votes; most of this difference came from dark red Pinal County, which said it had initially failed to count over 500 ballots because of "human error." Hamadeh characteristically refused to accept his defeat and announced Tuesday he was "filing a 'Motion for New Trial.'"

Judges

NY Court of Appeals: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul nominated Hector LaSalle, an appeals court judge, to fill the vacant post of chief judge on New York's highest court just before the holidays, but her decision was immediately met with fierce resistance by state senators in her own party, 14 of whom have already publicly come out against the choice.

LaSalle, who was named to the Appellate Division by disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014, has compiled what City & State described as one of the "most conservative" records of any appellate judge in the state. Progressives have raised serious alarms over his hostility toward criminal defendants, labor unions, and especially reproductive rights: A group of law professors have pointed to a 2017 decision LaSalle signed on to that helped shield a network of so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" (which try to dissuade women from getting abortions) from an investigation by the state attorney general.

At stake is more than LaSalle's promotion, though: The seven-member top court, known as the Court of Appeals, has for several years been in the grips of a reactionary four-judge majority that has ruled against victims of police misconduct, workers seeking compensation for injuries on the job, and tenants who'd been overcharged by their landlords. Most notoriously, this quartet—all appointed by Cuomo—struck down new congressional and legislative maps passed by Democratic lawmakers last year on extremely questionable grounds and ordered that a Republican judge in upstate New York redraw them.

Leading this coalition was Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who unexpectedly announced her resignation last year. That vacancy has given Hochul the chance to reshape the court, but instead she's tapped someone who appears poised to continue DiFiore's legacy. But while judicial confirmations in New York are normally sleepy affairs, a large number of senators—who'd be responsible for voting on LaSalle's nomination—immediately denounced the choice.

That chorus of opposition hit a crucial threshold shortly before the New Year when state Sen. Mike Gianaris, a member of leadership, became the 11th Democrat to say he would vote against LaSalle. With 42 Democrats in the 63-member upper chamber but only 28 still open to Hochul's pick, the governor would now have to rely on the support of Republicans to confirm LaSalle. None, however, have yet come out in favor.

There's no definite timeline for confirmation hearings or a vote on LaSalle's nomination, but if Hochul were to withdraw his name, she'd be able to choose from a list of six other candidates vetted by the state's Commission on Judicial Nomination. A coalition of progressive groups previously endorsed three individuals on that list while calling three others, including LaSalle, "unacceptable" (a seventh option was unrated). If instead LaSalle were voted down by the Senate, the entire process would start over again, with the commission once again reviewing potential candidates.

WI Supreme Court: Judge Everett Mitchell, a progressive candidate for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court this spring, was accused by his then-wife of sexual assault during their 2010 divorce proceeding, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice reported on Tuesday. Mitchell was never charged with any wrongdoing and has denied the allegations, while his ex-wife, Merrin Guice Gill said her former spouse "should be evaluated on the work he has done and the work he is doing as a judge" rather than on her past accusations.

However, Guice Gill "declined to say whether she stood by the abuse allegations," telling Bice, "I'm not going to respond to that." During her divorce, Bice writes that she told the court that Mitchell had "undressed her and had sex with her without consent shortly after she took a sleeping pill" in 2007 and also provided documents showing she had informed both her therapist and a police officer about the alleged incident shortly afterwards. The accusations came up when she contacted police about a possible custody dispute involving the couple's daughter, but she declined to press charges, saying that she "was only concerned with her daughter's whereabouts."

Mitchell is one of two liberals seeking a spot on the Supreme Court, along with Judge Janet Protasiewicz. Two conservatives are also running, former Justice Dan Kelly and Judge Jennifer Dorow. All candidates will appear together on an officially nonpartisan primary ballot on Feb. 21, with the top two vote-getters advancing to an April 4 general election. The seat in question is being vacated by conservative Justice Pat Roggensack; should progressives win, they'd take control of the court from the current 4-3 conservative majority.

Legislatures

AK State House: A judge ruled ahead of Christmas that far-right state Rep. David Eastman's membership in the Oath Keepers does not preclude him from serving in elected office even though the state constitution prevents anyone from holding office who "advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or association which advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the United States."

Goriune Dudukgian, the attorney representing an Eastman constituent who sued to block him from holding office, said Tuesday his camp would not appeal. No one has formed a majority coalition in the Alaska State House in the almost two months since the election.

NY State Senate: Democrats learned ahead of Christmas that they'd maintained a two-thirds supermajority in the upper chamber after a judge ruled that incumbent John Mannion had fended off Republican Rebecca Shiroff by 10 votes in his Syracuse-based seat. Shiroff conceded the contest, and Mannion's term began New Year's Day.

OH State House: While Democrats are deep in the minority in the Ohio state House, the caucus joined with enough GOP members on Tuesday to elect Republican Jason Stephens as speaker over Derek Merrin, who began the day as the heavy favorite to lead the chamber. Cleveland.com's Jeremy Pelzer writes, "Stephens, while conservative, is not considered to be as far to the right as Merrin."

The GOP enjoys a 67-32 majority, so a Merrin speakership appeared likely after he won November's caucus vote against Stephens. Pelzer writes that in the ensuing weeks there were "rumblings since then about some sort of challenge to Merrin," but that "the insurgency to lift him to the speaker's chair only picked up speed starting a few days ago."

Indeed, Minority Leader Allison Russo says Democrats decided just two hours before the vote to cast their lot in with Stephens. Another 22 Republicans joined them, however, which left Merrin with only 43 votes. Russo, whose caucus supplied most of the support for the new speaker, declared that there was "no grand deal," but "there were lots of discussions about things and areas of agreement on issues." She also relays that Merrin spoke to her about getting Democratic support, which very much did not end up happening.

This is the second time in the last few years that the Democratic minority has played a key role in helping a Republican win the gavel over the candidate favored by most of the GOP caucus, though Merrin himself was on the other side of that vote. In 2019, he was one of the 26 Republicans who joined that same number of Democrats in supporting Larry Householder over Speaker Ryan Smith. Unlike four years ago, though, Smith got the backing of 11 Democrats as well as 34 GOP members.

Stephens, for his part, was appointed to the chamber later that year to succeed none other than Smith, who resigned to become president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College. The victorious Householder, though, was removed as speaker in 2020 after being arrested on federal corruption charges; Householder's colleagues expelled him the following year, though Merrin voted to keep him in office.

WI State Senate: Former state Sen. Randy Hopper ended his brief comeback campaign days after Christmas and endorsed state Rep. Dan Knodl in the Feb. 21 Republican special election primary.

Mayors and County Leaders

Chicago, IL Mayor: The Chicago Electoral Board in late December removed two minor contenders, police officer Frederick Collins and freelance consultant Johnny Logalbo, from the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary ballot after determining that they didn't have enough valid signatures to advance. However, challenges were dropped against activist Ja'Mal Green, Alderman Roderick Sawyer, and wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson, so they will be competing in what is now a nine-person race.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court ruled Friday that state House Republicans failed to demonstrate any of the legally required standards for "misbehavior in office" when they voted to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in November. The order, though, did not say if Krasner's trial before the state Senate, which is scheduled for Jan. 18, must be called off.

Obituaries

Lincoln Almond: Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Almond, a Republican who served from 1995 to 2003, died Tuesday at the age of 86. Almond, who made his name as the state's U.S. attorney, badly lost the 1978 general election to Democratic incumbent Joseph Garrahy, but he prevailed 16 years later by defeating state Sen. Myrth York in a close contest. You can find much more at WPRI's obituary.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III was chosen before Christmas to serve as the State Department's special envoy for economic affairs for Northern Ireland. Kennedy, who is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, was elected to the House in 2012 and left to unsuccessfully challenge Sen. Ed Markey in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Morning Digest: Wisconsin’s 2023 Supreme Court race may decide fate of abortion and gerrymandering

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WI Supreme Court: With the conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on the line in 2023—and with it the outcomes of future battles over fair elections and abortion rights—the contest to succeed retiring conservative Justice Patience Roggensack will likely be one of the most consequential elections in any state next year.

Wednesday was the campaign launch date for conservative Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, who recently finished presiding over the high-profile trial where Darrell Brooks was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people at last year’s Waukesha Christmas parade. Dorow joins a field that includes former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who is also a conservative, and two liberal-aligned candidates, Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz.

All candidates will compete on the same nonpartisan primary ballot on Feb. 21, and the top two contenders will advance to an April 4 general election alongside local elections throughout much of the state that day. Petitioning to get on the ballot starts on Dec. 1, and the filing deadline is Jan. 4.

Although Supreme Court candidates in Wisconsin don't have partisan labels on the ballot, the ideological fault lines have been clear in recent elections, which have looked very similar to partisan contests. One key difference this time, though, is that each side is fielding two candidates apiece, meaning either progressives or conservatives could snag both spots in the second round of voting.

To avoid such a lockout, both factions may try to consolidate around a single standard-bearer before the primary. One far-right billionaire is already signaling that he'll make his influence felt: Dick Uihlein, who along with his wife Elizabeth was the biggest GOP megadonor nationally in 2022, has indicated he'll spend millions backing Kelly.

The election will be pivotal, and abortion rights tops the list of reasons why. Most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade earlier this year resurrected an 1849 Wisconsin law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion in almost all cases. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who narrowly won re-election in November, has filed a suit seeking to have that 19th century law ruled unenforceable, a case that will likely wind up before the state Supreme Court.

The court has also been central in the battle against GOP voter suppression efforts. In 2020, Kelly was ousted by liberal Judge Jill Karofsky in an election at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that was plagued by exceptionally long voting lines due to the closure of most polling places. The court's conservative majority exacerbated the problem by blocking an executive order by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to delay the election, but Kelly nonetheless lost by a wide 55-45 margin. More recently, the conservative majority ruled in favor of a ban on absentee ballot drop boxes following their widespread adoption in the 2020 elections due to the pandemic.

In addition to restrictions on voting, the court is also critical to the fate of Republican gerrymandering efforts. Heading into the current round of redistricting, Wisconsin's state government was divided, with Evers facing a legislature that Republicans dominated in large part thanks to their previous gerrymanders. When the two parties predictably deadlocked over drawing new congressional and legislative maps, the courts stepped in and took over the process, ostensibly with the aim of drawing neutral lines.

However, in another ruling along ideological lines, the court's conservative majority made up its own requirement that any new maps make only the minimum changes possible when compared to the previous maps, solely to restore population equality. Justice Brian Hagedorn, the lone conservative who is occasionally a swing vote, later sided with his three liberal colleagues to adopt new districts proposed by Evers because they moved fewer residents than GOP proposals did. However, the least-change requirement meant that even the maps proposed by the Democratic governor still heavily favored Republicans compared to their statewide vote share, effectively locking in much of the impact of the prior decade's GOP gerrymanders in all but name.

Wisconsin once again saw the dramatic effects of this rigged redistricting in action this year: Although Evers beat his GOP foe 51-48 and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson turned back his Democratic challenger 50-49, Republicans gained a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate and fell just two seats shy of one in the Assembly. While Democrats have next to no hope of winning majorities so long as these districts stand, a more independent-minded court could overturn these maps for violating state constitutional protections and order the adoption of fairer maps that more accurately reflect Wisconsin's status as a longtime swing state.

The Downballot

Why did Democrats do so surprisingly well in the midterms? It turns out they ran really good campaigns, as strategist Josh Wolf tells us on this week's episode of The Downballot. That means they defined their opponents aggressively, spent efficiently, and stayed the course despite endless second-guessing in the press. Wolf gives us an inside picture of how exactly these factors played out in the Arizona governor's race, one of the most important Democratic wins of the year. He also shines a light on an unsexy but crucial aspect of every campaign: how to manage a multi-million budget for an enterprise designed to spend down to zero by Election Day.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard, meanwhile, take a look at how turnout differed between Republicans and Democrats in 2022 (and why it's bad news for the GOP for 2024); why the Republican House majority is the most precarious it's been in a long time; how bonkers conspiracy theorists in a dark-red county in Arizona could flip two major races by refusing to certify their own votes; and a key special election coming up in Wisconsin that could allow Democrats to roll back the GOP's new supermajority in the state Senate.

New episodes of The Downballot come out every Thursday morning. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Georgia Runoff

GA-Sen: Senate Majority PAC's Georgia Honor affiliate is deploying another $5.8 million in advertising for the final week of the runoff, and its new spot opens with the narrator proclaiming, "Herschel Walker's violence has hurt so many people." The commercial then plays clips or quotes of both the Republican's ex-wife and son saying he'd threatened to kill them, before the narrator reminds viewers, "An ex-girlfriend says Walker used threats of violence to force her to have an abortion."

Meanwhile, another SMP affiliate, Majority Forward, has announced that it's spending $11 million on a get-out-the-vote effort in partnership with America Votes. Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock is also airing a minute-long ad starring former President Barack Obama, who opens, "Serious times call for special leaders."

Governors

IN-Gov, IN-Sen: Politico's Adam Wren reported Wednesday that Sen. Mike Braun filed paperwork the previous day for a potential run to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb. Braun, whose seat is also up in 2024, didn't quite commit to a bid to lead the Hoosier State, saying, "We'll talk to you down the road." Braun's chief of staff, though, sounded far more sure about his boss' plans, telling Wren, "Mike Braun has filed his paperwork to run for governor and will be making an official announcement of his candidacy very soon."

There's already plenty of talk about which Republicans could run to replace Braun in the Senate. A spokesperson for Rep. Jim Banks said last week, "He will strongly consider it if Sen. Braun runs for governor in 2024." Politico also reported back in September that fellow Rep. Victoria Spartz had told people she planned to campaign for an open seat.

It's rare for a first-term senator to leave after just one term, though Braun burned his bridges just after the election when he supported NRSC chair Rick Scott's failed effort to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It's also fairly unusual for members of the upper chamber to campaign for governor, where most states have term limits for their chief executives.

Indeed, the University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier last year found that just three sitting senators have been elected governor during the 21st century, with Kansas Republican Sam Brownback pulling this off most recently in 2010. Louisiana Republican David Vitter also tried this career switch in 2015, but the scandal-ridden senator lost to Democrat John Bel Edwards in a true upset.

House

NJ-07: NJ Spotlight News this week asked outgoing incumbent Tom Malinowski if he planned to seek another bout against Republican Rep.-elect Tom Kean Jr., to which the Democrat responded, "I'm going to stay very very interested in the fate of our district, New Jersey, and the fight for democracy in America. I haven't decided how I'm gonna do that, but I'm certainly not going anywhere." Kean unseated Malinowski 52-48 in a constituency that Biden won 51-47.  

VA-04: Several Democrats aren't ruling out running in the upcoming special election to succeed the late Rep. Donald McEachin, though they're understandably reluctant to say much this soon after the congressman's death. It also remains to be seen how Democrats will choose their nominee for this safely blue Richmond-based seat.  

Del. Lamont Bagby told 8News of McEachin, whom he's called a father or brother figure, "I think it's a little too soon to talk about it, but there is no secret I've always wanted to follow in my big brother's footsteps." Fellow Del. Jeff Bourne likewise relayed that he was still "trying to process the immense loss of such a wonderful father, husband and public servant."

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who succeeded McEachin in the legislature, responded, "We're mourning him right now and that is a conversation that probably will be had eventually but I'm not prepared to have it right now." A spokesperson for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney also declared that a special election bid "is not on the Mayor's mind at all right now."

Finally, state Sen. Joe Morrissey, who has long been one of the most unreliable Democrats in the legislature in between two different stints as an independent, said, "It's way too premature for me to say yay or nay." Morrissey, though, sounded happy where he is as the key vote in Team Blue's 21-19 majority, adding, "I will say this. I love being in the [state] Senate. I love being able to do something substantive for Virginia, and I'm not so sure that being one of 435 members would allow me to be as effective."

Mayors and County Leaders

Denver, CO Mayor: State Rep. Alex Valdez this week became the latest candidate to enter the ever-expanding April 4 nonpartisan primary to succeed Mayor Michael Hancock, a fellow Democrat who cannot seek a fourth term. "The next mayor must be able to bring progressives and moderates together to solve challenges," said Valdez, who previously founded a solar energy company.

Valdez, like several other contenders in what's now a 22 person-field, would be the second Latino elected to lead Colorado's capital and largest city; the first was Federico Peña, who won the first of his two terms in 1983. Valdez would also be the Denver's first gay mayor, a distinction he'd share with fellow state Rep. Leslie Herod.

Prosecutors

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: The state Senate will begin its trial of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a leading criminal justice reformer whom the outgoing GOP majority in the state House voted to impeach two weeks ago, on Jan. 18, which is after the new legislature takes office. It would take 34 senators to hit the two-thirds majority needed to remove Krasner, and since Republicans will only control 28 of the 50 seats next year, they'd need at least six Democrats to side with them.

That's a tough task, though, especially since just one Democrat, Jimmy Dillon, sided with the GOP on Tuesday on a pair of votes setting the rules for the trial. Potentially complicating things further is the fact that Republican John Gordner resigned this week halfway through his term in order to become counsel to state Senate Interim President Pro Tempore Kim Ward.

Morning Digest: After blocking liberal bills, conservative Dem lawmakers lose New Mexico primaries

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

NM State Senate: Conservative Democrats in the New Mexico State Senate have blocked some important pieces of legislation, but progressives scored several key wins in Tuesday's primaries. Five incumbents lost to progressive challengers: Richard Martinez, Gabe Ramos, and Clemente Sanchez, who lost renomination to opponents who each took more than 60% of the vote; Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, who lost 55-45; and finally Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, the highest-ranking Democratic senator in the chamber, who lost 49-44.

Campaign Action

Republicans may make a play for some of these seats in the fall. Smith's SD-35 in the southwestern corner of the state backed Donald Trump 50-41, while Sanchez and Ramos' districts were very closely divided in the 2016 presidential contest. The other two constituencies, though, were overwhelmingly Democratic, and it would be a huge surprise if Team Blue's 26-16 majority is threatened.

Despite the partisan makeup of the chamber, though, conservatives have stopped progressive legislation supported by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state House, where the party also holds a sizable majority. Conservative Democrats have been blamed for weakening legislation to increase the minimum wage and of blocking efforts to legalize marijuana.  

Perhaps worst of all, though, is the conservatives' actions on abortion rights. Last year, the House passed a bill to repeal a 1969 law that made it a felony to perform an abortion in most cases. However, all five of the aforementioned Senate Democrats, as well as three others, joined with the GOP minority to kill the legislation. The current anti-abortion law is unenforceable thanks to Roe v. Wade, but there's the terrifying possibility that a U.S. Supreme Court decision could make provisions like this one more than just a legal relic.

However, Tuesday's results, as well as a successful showing in November, could give progressives the chance to finally shape the agenda in New Mexico.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete compilation of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to election and voting procedures.

California: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an order allowing county election officials to reduce the number of in-person voting sites for the November general election, but in exchange, they must provide at least three days of early voting. Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla also said that there would be at least one in-person polling place for every 10,000 residents.

Meanwhile, a committee in California's Democratic-run state Senate has approved a bill requiring counties to send ballots to all voters for the November election. Newsom previously issued an order instituting the same mandate, but that order has been challenged by two Republican lawsuits that claim Newsom usurped the legislature's powers. If lawmakers pass legislation similar to Newsom's order, that could help insulate the state's vote-by-mail plans from further legal attack.

Michigan: A new federal lawsuit brought by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA on behalf of a pair of civic organizations and three voters is seeking to have the state of Michigan pay for return postage on absentee ballots and accept all ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within 14 days, both for the state's Aug. 4 primary and the November general election.

Currently, ballots must be received by election officials no later than Election Day in order to count. Plaintiffs argue that their unusually long proposed receipt deadline is justified because state law does not require election results to be certified until 14 days after Election Day.

Ohio: Ohio's Republican-led state House is preparing to advance a bill that would eliminate three days of early voting right before Election Day and end the state's practice of sending absentee ballot applications to all active voters. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose and an organization representing election officials both expressed their opposition to the measure, saying it would lead to longer lines at polling places.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Cindy Abrams, claims that cutting early voting would "clarify existing law" and that no longer mailing ballot applications would "save the state money." According to cleveland.com, Ohio spent $1.1 million to send out applications in 2016, the previous presidential election year. The state's most recent annual budget was $78.8 billion.

The legislation's claimed goal is to establish a set of emergency procedures that would allow for an all-mail election during the pendency of a public health crisis like the current pandemic. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine would have to issue a recommendation that the election be conducted by mail at least 60 days before Election Day, and the legislature would have to approve any such recommendation.

However, the state would not send ballots or even ballot applications to voters. Instead, the secretary of state would send postcards to voters explaining how they can request absentee ballots—similar to the heavily criticized procedures the state deployed for its canceled-then-rescheduled primaries earlier this year.

Pennsylvania: On Tuesday, a state court judge ruled that officials in Bucks County could count mail ballots cast in Pennsylvania's June 2 primary so long as they were postmarked by June 1 and are received by June 9. Bucks was not included in a Monday order by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that granted a similar extension to six other counties.

However, one of those counties, Delaware, sought and received further relief in the courts. Officials there had said they would be unable to send out 400 to 500 mail ballots in time for voters to return them and therefore planned not to send them at all. However, after a different state judge ruled that any such ballots could be counted as long as they are received by June 12—regardless of when they are postmarked—Delaware officials decided to send them out. The ruling is potentially subject to challenge since it allows voters to cast ballots after Election Day.

Vermont: Vermont's Democratic-run state Senate has passed a bill that would remove Republican Gov. Phil Scott's power to block Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos from ordering that the November general election be conducted by mail, a plan Condos has long sought to implement. The state House, which is also controlled by Democrats, reportedly will also approve the measure. Scott has said he does not oppose the effort to remove him from the decision-making process.

Senate

CO-Sen: Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is out with his first TV spot ahead of the June 30 Democratic primary. Romanoff talks about his work improving mental healthcare and declares, "But it shouldn't take a crisis to teach us our healthcare system is broken." Romanoff concludes by saying that "when you're fighting for your life, you shouldn't worry about how to pay for it."

GA-Sen-A: The GOP firm Cygnal is out with a survey of Tuesday's Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. David Perdue that shows investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff very close to the majority of the vote he needs to avoid an August runoff. Cygnal, which conducted a general election poll for the Georgia House GOP Caucus about a month ago, tells us this poll was done for "an interested party," and the firm said it was not involved in this primary.

Cygnal finds Ossoff taking 49% of the vote, while former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson leads 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico 16-8 for second. The only other poll we've seen of this contest was a March University of Georgia survey that had Ossoff at 31%, while Tomlinson edged Amico 16-15. Cygnal also showed Ossoff beating Tomlinson 58-24 in a hypothetical runoff.

MN-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Minnesota's Aug. 11 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

Appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith won the 2018 special election 53-42, and she's now seeking her first full term. Donald Trump and the rest of the party establishment have consolidated behind former Rep. Jason Lewis, who lost his re-election last cycle 53-47 to Democrat Angie Craig and faces minimal intra-party opposition in August.

Lewis, a former conservative radio host who has a long record of racist and misogynist tirades, hasn't attracted much outside help so far, though. Smith ended March with a wide $4.6 million to $714,000 cash-on-hand lead, and no major outside groups on either side have booked airtime here. Trump came surprisingly close to winning Minnesota in 2016, but he'll almost certainly need to flip the state this time for Lewis to have a shot. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.  

MT-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward's new ad declares that GOP Sen. Steve Daines "voted for a $500 billion dollar slush fund to bail out big corporations, even Wall Street, on top of trillions in special tax breaks Daines voted to give them already." The narrator continues, "But Daines voted against paid leave for Montanans and refused to support relief for our hospitals and nurses."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: The GOP firm Harper Polling is out with another survey for the conservative Civitas Institute, and it gives GOP Sen. Thom Tillis a small 38-36 edge against Democrat Cal Cunningham. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also leads Republican Dan Forest 49-37, while the sample favors Donald Trump 47-44. Back in mid-April, Harper showed Tillis and Cooper ahead 38-34 and 50-33, respectively, while Trump held a 49-42 advantage.

House

HI-02: Democratic state Sen. Kai Kahele, who launched his campaign early last year as a challenge to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, now finds himself on a glide path to Congress after Tuesday's candidate filing deadline passed with no serious alternatives entering the race for Hawaii's safely blue 2nd Congressional District.

Gabbard's endless string of apostasies—from cozying up to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to bashing Barack Obama for refusing to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism"—had made her a favorite of Fox News and anathema to progressives. However, she remained popular at home, making her a daunting target for any would-be rivals.

But Kahele, a combat pilot with the Air National Guard who's flown missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, was undeterred. He kicked off a bid in January of 2019, just after Gabbard embarked on a vanity run for president. That created an opening for Kahele, who was able to meet voters across the district while Gabbard was spending time in New Hampshire diners, underscoring a common complaint that Gabbard was more interested in boosting her national profile than in addressing problems at home.

Under Hawaii law, Gabbard was able to both pursue the presidency and seek re-election at the same time, though she long kept the political world guessing as to what she'd ultimately do. Finally, in October, she announced she wouldn't run for a fifth term, though it wasn't until after Tuesday's filing deadline that Kahele could be sure she wouldn't have a last-minute change of heart. (Gabbard of course eventually bailed on her presidential ambitions, too.)

Most surprisingly, in the long stretch from Gabbard's retirement announcement until now, not a single notable Hawaii Democrat joined Kahele in running for what had become an open seat, and few even considered it. Kahele's early start may have played a role, since he'd been able to amass a sizable war chest by the time Gabbard called it quits. He'd also earned support from several key figures in the state's political establishment, a movement that crescendoed in the spring when Hawaii's entire congressional delegation—minus Gabbard, of course—endorsed him.

While several other candidates did enter the race, none have even filed a single fundraising report with the FEC, making Kahele the prohibitive favorite to win the Aug. 8 primary. Assuming he does, he'll also be a lock for the November general election, given that Hillary Clinton carried the 2nd District by a 61-30 margin.

Victory in the fall would make Kahele just the second Native Hawaiian to represent the state in Congress after the late Sen. Dan Akaka. He'd also be he first from Hawaii's more rural Neighbor Islands, the term for every island apart from Oahu, which is home to the capital of Honolulu—and to every U.S. senator and representative the state has ever had.

IA-04: While state Sen. Randy Feenstra is no less extreme than the notorious figure he beat in Tuesday's primary, he does a much better job of saying the quiet parts quietly than soon-to-be-former Rep. Steve King. As such, that makes him what passes for a bog-standard Republican these days: build the wall, ban sanctuary cities, ban abortion, ban gay marriage, and swear undying fealty to Donald Trump—Feenstra's on board with the whole program.

And that in turn makes him a sure fit for Iowa's conservative 4th Congressional District, a heavily Republican area that's only grown more so in the Trump era. King's ability to generate funds for Democrats just by opening his mouth, plus a perception at home that he'd grown more interested in buffing his reputation with international members of the far-right than the concerns of his district, nearly cost him his career against Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2018, when he survived by just a 50-47 margin. That backdrop gave Scholten an opening once again, however slight.

But as the GOP's new nominee, Feenstra, won't trail the top of the ticket, where Trump is sure to dominate. Daily Kos is Elections is therefore changing our rating on this race from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.

MN-01: Republican Jim Hagedorn defeated Army veteran Dan Feehan 50.1-49.7 in a 2018 open seat contest, and Feehan is back for a rematch. Feehan, who faces no primary opposition, ended March with a wide $1.1 million to $787,000 million advantage, and outside groups on both sides have booked TV time in this area.

Despite his tiny win last cycle, though, Hagedorn has the edge this time. This southern Minnesota seat swung from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump, so Feehan will likely need to win over a significant number of Trump voters to win this time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

MN-02: Democrat Angie Craig unseated Republican Rep. Jason Lewis 53-47 in 2018 to flip a suburban Twin Cities seat that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump narrowly carried, and Republicans don't seem to have a strong candidate to try to take it back. The only Republican in the running is Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who ended March with a wide $2 million to $100,000 cash-on-hand deficit in a contest we rate as Likely Democratic.

MN-03: Democrat Dean Phillips unseated GOP incumbent Erik Paulsen 56-44 after an expensive race, but the new incumbent doesn't appear to be in any danger this time.

The only notable Republican in the race is healthcare executive Kendall Qualls, who trailed Phillips $346,000 to $242,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of March. While Phillips didn't have a large war chest for an incumbent, the district's shift to the left will make it hard for Qualls to gain traction: This suburban Twin Cities seat moved from 50-49 Obama to 51-41 Clinton, and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Democratic.

MN-05: Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been one of the most high-profile members of the freshman Democratic class, faces four opponents in the primary for this safely blue Minneapolis seat. Omar's most high-profile foe is attorney Antone Melton-Meaux, who has argued that Omar "appears to be more focused on her own celebrity than on serving the district." Omar ended March with a wide $1.3 million to $200,000 cash-on-hand lead over Melton-Meaux.

MN-07: Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson has held this rural western Minnesota seat for 30 years even as it has become more and more Republican, and he faces his greatest test this fall. The GOP establishment, including Donald Trump, has consolidated behind former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach in this 62-31 Trump seat. A few other Republicans are running including self-funding physician Noel Collis and 2016/2018 nominee Dave Hughes, but it's unlikely they'll be able to stop Fischbach.

Peterson, who chairs the important House Agriculture Committee, ended March with a wide $1.1 million to $312,000 cash-on-hand lead over Fischbach. However, this seat gave Trump the highest vote share of any House district that Democrats currently hold, and with Trump almost certain to easily carry this seat again, it's likely that Republicans will invest plenty of money in their campaign to unseat the longtime incumbent. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.

MN-08: Republican Pete Stauber flipped this seat 51-45 last cycle, and the new incumbent looks secure this time. The Democrats are fielding diabetes research advocate Quinn Nystrom, who is a former member of the Baxter City Council. Stauber ended March with a wide $849,000 to $103,000 cash-on-hand lead in a northeast Minnesota seat that swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump, and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Republican.

NJ-05: Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich, who is challenging Rep. Josh Gottheimer in the July 7 Democratic primary, is out with a survey from Data for Progress that shows her losing 64-17. Kreibich argues that she makes gains when voters learn about her, though she still trails when respondents are exposed to positive and negative messaging about both contenders.  

NY-16: Veteran Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, on his first visit back to his district in months, was caught on camera Tuesday pleading with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for the chance to speak at a press conference, telling Diaz twice, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

While Engel was referring to his lack of a speaking slot at the event, which was convened after a night of looting along the Fordham Road retail corridor, the gaffe was quickly refracted as a commentary on Engel's feelings about his race and his constituents. Engel tried to explain away the remarks, saying, "In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that's why I asked to speak," but his leading opponent, educator Jamaal Bowman, immediately seized on the blunder to call the 16-term incumbent out of touch and said he raised $150,000 in the 24 hours following the incident.

Last month, Engel was the subject of an unflattering profile in the Atlantic highlighting the fact that he had holed up in his DC-area home for the duration of the pandemic, not even returning to New York when the state's first coronavirus epicenter was identified in the city of New Rochelle, which is in his district. (Many other members of New York's delegation, including several fellow committee chairs, had managed to split time between Washington and their home turf.)

Bowman's campaign had in part centered around Engel's alleged absenteeism even before the pandemic, immediately making Tuesday's hot mic comments part of a pre-existing narrative about the race. But Bowman only has three more weeks to make his case ahead of the June 23 primary for the safely blue 16th District, and Engel had a roughly five-to-one cash advantage as of the end of March. However, the financial picture—and the race itself—might now look very different going forward.

P.S. Oddly, the event Engel was attending wasn't even in his district: It was held at an intersection on the border of the 13th and 15th Districts. 13th District Rep. Adriano Espaillat was in attendance, as were a long list of other local politicians. It's understandable, then, why Diaz told Engel, "I cannot have all the electeds talk because we will never get out of here" and snapped back, "Don't do that to me—everybody has a primary" when Engel tried to plead his case.

NY-17: In his second TV spot for the June 23 Democratic primary, attorney Mondaire Jones tells the audience, "I'm grateful to the grocery store workers and delivery people who help us get through this crisis. Don't they deserve affordable healthcare? Doesn't everyone?" Jones talks about growing up on food stamps and declares, "No one should lose their healthcare because they've lost their job." Jones concludes by saying he's the one Democrat in the contest who backs Medicare for All.

NY-27: On Tuesday, Donald Trump implored his Twitter followers to vote for state Sen. Chris Jacobs on June 23. Trump had already endorsed Jacobs in February for the special general election to succeed disgraced Rep. Chris Collins, though the political calendar looked different at the time. Back then, the special was set for late April while the regular primary was in June, but the coronavirus pandemic led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to consolidate the two contests.

Jacobs' primary opponents have insisted that Trump's earlier endorsement only applied to the special, but that's a tougher argument to make now. Trump himself didn't refer to either the special or the primary, though, he simply tweeted, "Chris has my Complete and Total Endorsement! Vote for Chris on June 23!"

TX-10: 2018 Democratic nominee Mike Siegel picked up an endorsement this week from freshman Rep. Veronica Escobar. Siegel faces physician Pritesh Gandhi in the July 14 Democratic primary runoff to take on veteran GOP Rep. Michael McCaul.

Election Result Recaps

Baltimore, MD Mayor: With 80,000 votes counted, former Mayor Sheila Dixon leads City Council President Brandon Scott 30-25 in the Democratic primary for mayor. It's not clear how many votes remain to be counted, though the head of the city's board of elections says that it will resume tabulating mail-in ballots on Thursday. Whoever emerges with the Democratic nomination should have no trouble winning the general election in this very blue city.

Ferguson, MO Mayor: Ferguson elected its first-ever black mayor, as well as its first woman leader, on Tuesday when City Councilwoman Ella Jones defeated colleague Heather Robinett 54-46. Voters in this St. Louis suburb also made history by electing a black majority to the local school board.

Ferguson attracted global attention in 2014 after a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, sparking focus for Black Lives Matter. One big fact stood out amidst the city's botched handling of the protests that followed Brown's death: While Ferguson is two-thirds black and heavily Democratic, this municipality of 21,000 was led by a white Republican mayor, James Knowles. Five of Ferguson's six city councilmembers were also white, as were six of the seven local school board members. In large part because local elections didn't take place the same day as state or federal ones, very low turnout produced a majority-white electorate.

However, reformers made gains the next year when Jones and another black candidate won seats on the City Council in a contest that attracted much higher turnout than normal. Another African American joined the body the next year, which gave it a black majority for the first time. In 2017, though, Jones challenged Knowles for re-election and lost 56-44. But Knowles, who has been in office since 2011, was termed-out this year, and Jones won a three-year term to succeed him.

IA-Sen: Businesswoman Theresa Greenfield won the Democratic nomination to face GOP Sen. Joni Ernst by defeating retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken 48-25. Greenfield had the support of national Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC, which spent close to $7 million on her behalf, and EMILY's List.

Greenfield will be in for a difficult race against Ernst in a state that moved hard to the right in 2014 and 2016, but as SMP's big primary investment demonstrates, this is a contest that outside groups are taking very seriously. The DSCC and SMP have booked $20.4 million to unseat Ernst, while the senator's allies at the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund have reserved a total of $15.2 million to defend her. The only survey we've seen here all year, an early May poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, had Ernst ahead just 43-42. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

IA-02: State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was the party's nominee here in 2008, 2010, and 2014, won the GOP nod for this competitive seat once again by beating former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling 48-37. Miller-Meeks will take on former state Sen. Rita Hart, who had no Democratic primary opposition, in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack.

This southeastern Iowa seat swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump, and it will be one of the House GOP's top targets. However, this terrain has been more difficult for Team Red downballot. Loebsack turned back Miller-Meeks 52-47 during the 2014 GOP wave, and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell, who had Hart on his ticket as his nominee for lieutenant governor, carried the district 51-47 as he was narrowly losing statewide. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

IN-01: In a surprise, North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan defeated Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott 34-29 in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky in this safely blue seat. Mrvan will take on Republican Mark Leyva, who has run here during 10 of the last 12 election cycles and never come close to winning.

McDermott, a self-described moderate who considered challenging Visclosky before the incumbent retired, looked like the frontrunner for this northwest Indiana seat. The mayor deployed the most cash, and he also received a $525,000 boost from third-party groups—mostly from VoteVets and an organization called Democratic Progress, whose treasurer works for a super PAC that backs independent candidates. Another candidate, state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, also benefited from outside support.

Mrvan, meanwhile, raised very little money, though some allied PACs dropped about $110,000 to help him. However, Mrvan had the support of Visclosky and the local branch of the United Steelworkers of America, which is a prominent force in a district with a large steel industry. Mrvan may have benefited from some family name recognition: His father and namesake is local state Sen. Frank Mrvan, who was first elected in 1978 and has served in the legislature almost continuously since then.

IN-05: State Sen. Victoria Spartz won a truly ugly GOP primary to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Susan Brooks in this open seat by defeating businesswoman Beth Henderson 41-18. Spartz will take on former state Rep. Christina Hale, who beat 2018 nominee Dee Thornton 39-28 in a race that didn't attract much outside attention.

Spartz used her personal resources to decisively outspend all of her opponents, while her allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth ran ads attacking Henderson and another candidate, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Henderson, who was backed by Sen. Mike Braun, in turn launched a xenophobic and misogynist ad against the Ukrainian-born Spartz.

This suburban Indianapolis seat was safely red turf until the Trump era, but Democrats are hoping to score a pickup here this fall. This district moved from 58-41 Romney to 53-41 Trump, and former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly narrowly prevailed here 48.4-47.9 in 2018 even though he lost 51-45 statewide. So far, no major outside groups on either side have booked TV time in the Indianapolis media market, which covers the entire district, though there's still plenty of time for that to change. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

MD-07: Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who recently returned to the House after a 24-year absence, beat former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings 78-9 in the primary for this safely blue Baltimore seat. Mfume defeated Rockeymoore Cummings 43-17 back in February in the special primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

MT-Gov: Rep. Greg Gianforte won the GOP primary by defeating Attorney General Tim Fox 53-27, while Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney beat businesswoman Whitney Williams 55-45 to secure the Democratic nod. Gianforte and Cooney will face off in the fall in the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who is Team Blue's nominee for the Senate.

Republicans last won the governorship in Montana in 2000, but that losing streak may finally come to an end in 2020 thanks to the state's increasingly red trend. Gianforte, who threw down $1.5 million of his own money for the primary, also may be able to decisively outspend Cooney. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

However, while Gianforte is the favorite in the fall, he's hardly invincible. The now-congressman was the party's nominee back in 2016, and Democrats ran a barrage of ads portraying the former New Jersey resident as a greedy outsider eager to deny the public access to waterways for fishing and swimming that were located near his "riverfront mansion"—so much so that he in fact went to court. Gianforte ultimately lost to Bullock 50-46 even though Trump carried Montana by a dominant 56-35 margin.

Undeterred by his loss, Gianforte ran in a special election for Montana's lone House seat when Rep. Ryan Zinke temporarily got beamed up to Trump's cabinet. Gianforte made international news the night before Election Day by body-slamming reporter Ben Jacobs after he asked Gianforte a question about Obamacare. Gianforte filed a statement with the police afterwards in which he claimed that Jacobs had provoked the attack—an utter lie, and a particularly shameful one since several witnesses were present and the incident was also captured on audiotape.

Gianforte ended up winning 50-44, but since most voters had already cast their ballots ahead of Election Day, it's not clear how much damage this story did or didn't do to the Republican's political fortunes. A few months after the election, Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. The congressman paid a $385 fine and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service as well as another 20 hours of training for anger management. However, Gianforte was never charged with lying to the police. He and Jacobs also reached a settlement in which Gianforte accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, heading off a lawsuit by Jacobs.

Gianforte faced an expensive re-election contest last cycle against Democrat Kathleen Williams, who ran ads going after the incumbent for his attack on Jacobs. However, one high-profile Republican was very much not bothered by Gianforte's transgressions. Donald Trump ventured to Montana in October and told a rally, "Greg is smart and, by the way, never wrestle him." In case that was too subtle, Trump pantomimed throwing someone to the ground and added, "Any guy that can do a body slam—he's my guy." Gianforte went on to beat Williams by a modest 51-46 margin.

MT-AL: State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who was the GOP's nominee for Senate last cycle, defeated Secretary of State Corey Stapleton 48-33 in the primary for this open seat. Rosendale, who had Donald Trump's endorsement, will take on 2018 Democratic nominee Kathleen Williams, who defeated state Rep. Tom Winter by a lopsided 89-11 margin.

Williams held GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte, who gave up this seat to run for governor, to a 51-46 win last cycle. However, while Rosendale's 50-47 loss against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester shows he can be defeated in this red state, he'll probably be harder for Williams to attack than the notorious Gianforte was. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

NM-02: 2018 GOP nominee Yvette Herrell beat businesswoman Claire Chase 45-32, which earned Herrell a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. This was a truly ugly primary, with both candidates calling one another enemies of Trump; Herrell was even accused of spreading rumors about Chase's first marriage.  

This southern New Mexico seat backed Donald Trump 50-40, but Herrell lost it to Torres Small 51-49 two years later. Team Blue was eager to face Herrell again following that defeat, and the Democratic group Patriot Majority even ran ads during the final weeks of the primary designed to help Herrell against Chase. A GOP establishment-flavored group called Defending Main Street tried to counter with anti-Herrell ads, but it was too little, too late.

Still, while Democrats have the opponent they want, Herrell could still win in a seat this red. Torres Small is a very strong fundraiser, though, and she proved in 2018 that she's able to secure crossover votes. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.

NM-03: Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez won the Democratic primary to succeed Senate nominee Ben Ray Luján in this reliably blue seat by beating former CIA agent Valerie Plame 42-25.

This was a very expensive contest and Plame, who was at the center of a national firestorm that lasted for years during the presidency of George W. Bush after her name was publicly leaked, decisively outspent Leger Fernandez. However, several outside groups, including EMILY's List, spent heavily on ads touting Leger Fernandez's local roots in northern New Mexico.

P.S. Tuesday's primary results mean that all of New Mexico's House seats will almost certainly be represented next year by women of color, which would be a first in American history for a state with more than two districts. Leger Fernandez is Latina, while 1st District Rep. Deb Haaland, who holds a safely blue seat, is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Native American people. Over in the 2nd District, Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, while GOP nominee Yvette Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

PA-01: In a surprise, GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick held off underfunded businessman Andrew Meehan, who was challenging the "anti-Trump, Trump hating RINO" congressman for renomination, just 57-43. On the Democratic side, Christina Finello, who has worked as a Bucks County housing department official, beat businessman Skylar Hurwitz 77-23.

While much of the party base seems quite angry at Fitzpatrick, who has always portrayed himself as a moderate, it remains to be seen if Democrats can exploit his problems. Finello, who became the party's frontrunner after the two most prominent contenders dropped out, raised a total of just around $210,000 through mid-May, and we'll need to see if she can do better now that she's the nominee. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, is a very strong fundraiser who will have all the money he needs to defend himself.  

This seat, which is centered around Bucks County north of Philadelphia, narrowly backed both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but Fitzpatrick won an expensive contest 51-49 during the 2018 Democratic wave. With the cash battle so lopsided, at least for now, Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

PA-07: Businesswoman Lisa Scheller defeated 2018 primary runner-up Dean Browning, who is also a former member of the Lehigh County Commission, 52-48 in the GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. Scheller, who has self-funded much of her campaign, decisively outspent Browning, and she also had the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Scheller picked up an endorsement in the final days of the contest from Donald Trump, a tweet that may have made all the difference in this close race.

This Lehigh Valley district shifted from 53-46 Obama to just 49-48 Clinton, but Wild decisively won an open seat race last cycle after national Republicans abandoned their nominee. Scheller may prove to be a better contender, but Wild has over $1.5 million to defend herself in a race we rate as Lean Democratic.

PA-08: Former Trump administration official Jim Bognet beat former police officer Teddy Daniels 28-25 in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright; Army veteran Earl Granville, who had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement, finished just behind with 24%.

This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung from 55-43 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but Cartwright turned back a self-funding opponent last cycle by a convincing 55-45 margin. However, the incumbent could be in considerably more danger with Trump at the top of the ballot. Bognet, for his part, has made sure to emulate the GOP leader by running racist ad after racist ad declaring that he'll punish China for having "sent us the Wuhan flu."

Bognet raised only about $300,000 from when he entered the race in January through mid-May, though he may attract considerably more attention now that he's the GOP nominee. Democrats are already preparing for an expensive race in any case: House Majority PAC has reserved $1.8 million in fall TV time in the Wilkes-Barre media market, which contains most of this seat, though Republicans have yet to book time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

PA-10: With 38,000 votes counted, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale leads attorney Tom Brier 63-37 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Scott Perry. The Associated Press has not yet called the race, and The Patriot-News reported Wednesday that there are still 40,000 ballots to be counted in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties, while most votes are in for DePasquale's York County base. (This district includes 80% of Cumberland County and all of Dauphin County.)

Brier is leading 66-35 in Dauphin County, while he has a bare majority in Cumberland County, so he'll likely pick up ground as more votes come in. Gov. Tom Wolf's recent executive order requires any mail ballots in Dauphin County that are received by June 9 to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, so we may not have a resolution here until next week.

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's two Massachusetts special elections, including a Democratic flip:

MA-HD-3rd Bristol: Democrat Carol Doherty defeated Republican Kelly Dooner 57-43 to flip this seat for Team Blue. Though this district backed Hillary Clinton 52-42 and Barack Obama 58-40, former GOP state Rep. Shaunna O'Connell routinely won re-election, making Doherty's win a significant downballot shift for this district.

This victory continues Democrats' streak of flips in the Bay State; two weeks ago, Democrats flipped two state Senate districts that were similarly blue at the federal level.

MA-HD-37th Middlesex: Democrat Danilo Sena easily beat Republican Catherine Clark 74-26 to hold this seat for his party. Sena's win was large even for this strongly Democratic district, running well ahead of Clinton's 62-31 win and Obama's 57-41 win here.

The composition of this chamber is 127-31 (with one independent member) with one other seat vacant.

Morning Digest: Nevada Democrats won big in 2018. Our new data shows they may again in 2020

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

Senate-by-LD, Governor-by-LD: Nevada was a huge success story for Team Blue in 2018, with Democrats making big gains in both houses of the legislature at the same time that the party was flipping the U.S. Senate seat and governor's office. And as our new data, which was crunched for us by elections analyst Bill Coningsby, illustrates, Democrats have opportunities to pick up more seats this fall.

Democrats currently hold a 13-8 majority in the Senate, which is just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass certain revenue-related measures that the GOP blocked in the previous sessions of the legislature without any GOP votes. In the state Assembly, though, Team Blue has a 29-13 supermajority.

We'll start with a look at the Senate, where half the chamber was up in 2018 while the rest of the seats will be on the ballot this fall. Democrat Jacky Rosen carried 15 of the 21 seats while she was unseating GOP Sen. Dean Heller 50-45, while Democrat Steve Sisolak took those very same districts while he was being elected governor 49-45 over Adam Laxalt. The median district backed Rosen by 53-43 and Sisolak by 52-44, placing it somewhat to the left of the state overall.

Two Republicans sit in Rosen/Sisolak seats, while no Democrats hold Heller/Laxalt districts. The only one of that pair of Republicans up this year is Heidi Gansert, who holds Senate District 15 in the Reno area. This constituency supported Rosen 51-45, while Sisolak took it 50-45; four years ago, the district also backed Hillary Clinton 47-44 while Gansert was winning by a convincing 53-42. This cycle, the Democrats are fielding Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, who lost a close primary for Washoe County assessor last cycle.

The other Republican on unfriendly turf is Keith Pickard, who won a four-year term in 2018 by 24 votes. That year, Rosen and Sisolak carried his SD-20 50-47 and 50-46, respectively.

Democrats do have a few potentially competitive seats to defend this year. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro won SD-06 51-49 as Clinton was pulling off a 50-45 victory. Last cycle, though, the seat backed Rosen 53-44, while Sisolak took it by a similar 52-44 spread. Democrats will also be looking to keep the open SD-05, which supported Clinton just 48-46 but went for Rosen and Sisolak 53-43 and 52-44.

We'll turn to the 42-person Assembly, where members are elected to 2-year terms. Both Rosen and Sisolak carried the same 29 districts, while Heller and Laxalt took the remaining 13 districts. The two median districts backed Rosen by 54-42 and Sisolak by 53-41, placing them several points to the left of Nevada overall.

One assemblymember from each party holds a seat that was carried by the other side's statewide nominee. On the Democratic side, incumbent Skip Daly won 52-48 in a seat Heller and Laxalt took 49-47 and 49-45; Trump won by a larger 49-43 margin here in 2016. Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick is termed-out of a seat that backed both Rosen and Sisolak 49-48 but where Trump prevailed 49-46.

We'll also take a quick look at the state's four congressional seats. The 3rd District, which is located in Las Vegas' southern suburbs, backed both Rosen and Sisolak 50-46, which was a shift to the left from Trump's 48-47 win. The 4th District supported Rosen 51-44, while Sisolak took it 50-44; the seat went for Clinton by a similar 50-45 margin in 2016. The 1st District went overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket, while Republicans had no trouble carrying the 2nd District.

P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states. Additionally, you can find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker spreadsheet for a compilation of the latest developments in major lawsuits over changes to election and voting procedures, along with our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, all of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

Alabama: Civil rights advocates have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to loosen Alabama's restrictions on mail voting during the pendency of the pandemic. The plaintiffs want the court to order the state to suspend requirements that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot, have their ballot envelope notarized, and include a photocopy of their ID with their ballot. Additionally, the plaintiffs want 14 days of in-person early voting, which Alabama currently offers none of, along with drive-through voting and other measures to make voting safe for those not voting by mail.

Florida: Officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, which are home to the greater Tampa area and one in every nine registered voters in Florida, have announced that both counties will pay for postage on mail-in ballots. Officials in the southeastern Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach, which are home to around a quarter of Florida voters, had previously announced measures to implement prepaid postage and also mail out applications for mail ballots to voters or households who had yet to request one.

Montana: Montana's Supreme Court has reversed a lower court ruling that had allowed absentee mail ballots to count if they were postmarked by Election Day and received within a few days afterward. As a result, voters in the June 2 primary, which is taking place almost entirely by mail, will have to make sure election officials receive their ballots by Election Day.

The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' request but rather explained that it was reinstating the original deadline to avoid voter confusion and disruption to election administration. Plaintiffs will still have a chance to make their case that the ballot receipt deadline should be extended for the November general election.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that he has no further plans to alter procedures for the July 7 primary. Murphy recently ordered the election to take place largely by mail with active registered voters belonging to a party being sent ballots and inactive or unaffiliated voters getting sent applications, while municipalities operate at least one in-person voting each.

New Mexico: Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for Senate in New Mexico, is urging Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to delay the deadline to return absentee mail ballots, saying he has heard reports of voters failing to receive a mail ballot in time even though the primary is taking place just days away on June 2.

A spokesperson for Toulouse Oliver says that extending the deadline, which currently requires ballots to be received by Election Day rather than simply postmarked by that date, would require legislative action. However, the state legislature isn't in session, and there's no indication yet whether Luján or anyone else will file a last-minute lawsuit instead.

North Carolina: North Carolina's Republican-run state House has almost unanimously passed a bill that would make it easier to vote absentee by mail. In particular, the bill would ease—though not eliminate—the atypical requirement that absentee voters have a notary or two witnesses sign their ballot envelope by allowing only one witness instead.

However, the bill also makes it a felony for election officials to mail actual ballots to voters who haven't requested one, which would prevent Democratic officials in charge of running elections from conducting elections by mail. Activists had also called on lawmakers to make other changes such as prepaying the postage on mail ballots or making Election Day a state holiday, but Republican legislators refused.

Even if it becomes law, this bill is not likely to be the final word on voting changes in North Carolina. Two separate lawsuits at the federal and state levels are partially or wholly challenging the witness requirement, lack of prepaid postage, and other absentee voting procedures.

South Carolina: South Carolina's all-Republican state Supreme Court has rejected a Democratic lawsuit seeking to waive the requirement that voters under age 65 provide a specific excuse to vote absentee by mail in June's primary. The court ruled that the issue was moot after the Republican-run state legislature recently passed a law waiving the excuse requirement for the June 9 primary and June 23 runoffs. However, that waiver will expire in July, so Democrats are likely to continue pressing their claim in either state court or a separate federal lawsuit for November.

Texas: Texas' all-Republican Supreme Court has sided with Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton in determining that lack of coronavirus immunity doesn't qualify as an excuse for requesting a mail ballot under the state's definition of "disability." Consequently, all voters must present an excuse to vote by mail except for those age 65 or older, a demographic that favors Republicans.

While the ruling did note that it's up to voters to decide whether or not to "apply to vote by mail based on a disability," that may not be much of a silver lining, because Paxton has repeatedly threatened activists with criminal prosecution for advising voters to request mail ballots. If campaigns and civic groups limit their outreach as a result of Paxton's threats, then even voters still entitled to mail ballots may not learn about the option.

However, in one positive development for voting access, the court ruled that Paxton couldn't tell officials in five counties not to send absentee ballots to voters citing disability even for coronavirus, since Texas' absentee application doesn't ask what a voter's disability is. In addition, separate federal litigation remains ongoing after a lower court blocked the absentee excuse requirement. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to rule soon on whether to in turn block that ruling for the state's July 14 primary runoff.

Virginia: Conservatives filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month seeking to block Virginia from implementing its absentee voting plan for the state's June 23 primary, specifically targeting instructions that voters "may choose reason '2A My disability or illness' for absentee voting." Although a new law was passed this year to permanently remove the excuse requirement, it doesn't go into effect until July. Consequently, the plaintiffs argue that the current law is being impermissibly interpreted to let those concerned about coronavirus cite it as an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot when they aren't physically ill themselves and don't otherwise qualify.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin's bipartisan Elections Commission has unanimously voted to send applications for absentee mail ballots to all registered voters, which requires a photo ID. However, the commissioners still must decide on the wording of the letter sent to voters, and a deadlock over the language could prevent the commission from sending anything at all. Notably, the Republican commissioners' votes to mail applications comes after the major Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee and some other Democratic-leaning cities had already moved to do so, so the GOP may face pressure to extend the practice statewide.

Senate

GA-Sen-A: Investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff talks about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in his new ad for the June 9 Democratic primary. Ossoff tells the audience that his business involves investigating corruption, "And when a young black man in Georgia is shot dead in the street, but police and prosecutors look the other way? That's the worst kind of corruption." He continues by pledging to "work to reform our criminal justice system" in the Senate.

KS-Sen: On Thursday, just days ahead of the June 1 filing deadline, state Senate President Susan Wagle announced that she was dropping out of the August GOP primary. Wagle's move is good news for state and national party leaders, who are afraid that a crowded field will make it easier for former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to win the primary.

Wagle's decision came weeks after Kansas GOP chair Mike Kuckelman asked her to leave the race in order "to allow our Party to coalesce behind a candidate who will not only win, but will help Republicans down the ballot this November." Wagle's campaign responded to Kuckelman's appeal at the time by saying she wasn't going anywhere and adding, "Others can speculate on his motives, but it may be as simple as he doesn't support strong, pro-life conservative women."

On Thursday, though, Wagle herself cited the party's need to avoid a "primary fight that will divide our party or hurts my colleagues in the state legislature" as one of her main reasons for dropping out. Wagle also argued that a competitive nomination fight would help Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier in the fall.

Wagle's departure came hours after Rep. Roger Marshall, who looks like Kobach's main rival, picked up an endorsement from Kansans For Life, a development the Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry characterized as a major setback for Wagle.

The organization, which Lowry called the state's "leading anti-abortion group," notably backed both Kobach and then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. Kobach won that contest by less than 350 votes before losing the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly, and Lowry says that plenty of state Republican operatives believe things would have turned out very differently if KFL had only supported Colyer.

Meanwhile, Bollier's second TV ad touts her as a "sensible centrist" and a "leading moderate voice."

ME-Sen: A progressive group led by former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is out with a survey from Victory Geek that shows Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon leading GOP Sen. Susan Collins 51-42. The poll also tested 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betty Sweet, who is a longshot candidate in the July Democratic primary, and found her edging Collins 44-43; Strimling disclosed that he was close to Sweet and had contributed to her campaign.

This is the first poll we've ever seen from Victory Geek, a firm Strimling characterized as "a non-partisan data and telecom provider with mostly conservative clients." Strimling called this survey a "joint left/right partnership" between Victory Geek and his progressive organization, "Swing Hard. Run Fast. Turn Left!"

The is also the first poll we've seen here in close to three months, so we don't have a good sense if Collins really is badly trailing. Indeed, the only other numbers we've seen from Maine all year were a February SocialSphere poll that had Gideon up 43-42 and an early March survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had her ahead 47-43. While it's very clear that Collins is in for the fight of her career, we need more data before we can call her an underdog.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The conservative pollster We Ask America finds GOP Gov. Mike Parson leading Democrat Nicole Galloway 47-39, while Donald Trump edges Joe Biden 48-44. The only other poll we've seen here in the last month was a late April survey from the GOP firm Remington Research for the Missouri Scout tipsheet that showed Parson ahead 52-39.

VT-Gov: On Thursday, which was the candidate filing deadline, GOP Gov. Phil Scott confirmed that he'd seek a third two-year term. While Scott waited until now to make his plans official, there was never any serious talk about him stepping aside. Scott also pledged that he wouldn't bring on "a campaign staff or office, be raising money, or participating in normal campaign events" until the current state of emergency is over.

House

HI-02: On Thursday, VoteVets endorsed state Sen. Kai Kahele in the August Democratic primary. Kahele currently faces no serious intra-party opposition for this safely blue open seat, though it's always possible someone could launch a last-minute campaign before the filing deadline passes on Tuesday.

IA-04: Politico reports that Iowa Four PAC, a group run by former GOP state House Speaker Christopher Rants, has launched a $20,000 TV buy against white supremacist Rep. Steve King ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary. The commercial declares that it's "sad that Steve King lost his committee assignments in Congress and embarrassed Iowa." The narrator also says that "President Trump stopped allowing Steve King to fly on Air Force One." The rest of the ad touts state Sen. Randy Feenstra as a reliable Trump ally.

Meanwhile, 2018 Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten, who doesn't face any intra-party opposition next week, has launched what Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports is a $50,000 TV buy. The 60-second ad, which is narrated by "Field of Dreams" star Kevin Costner, is a shorter version of Scholten's launch video. The spot features images of western Iowa and its people and declares that the area is "rooted within us. Within him."

IN-01: Former Sen. Joe Donnelly endorsed Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott on Monday ahead of next week's Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the Voter Protection Project has announced that it will spend "six figures" on mailers supporting state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon.

IN-05: The anti-tax Club for Growth began targeting former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi a little while ago, and it recently went up with a commercial targeting businesswoman Beth Henderson, who is another candidate in next week's GOP primary. Roll Call's Jessica Wehrman writes that the Club, which backs state Sen. Victoria Spartz, has spent $400,000 on ads for this contest.

The ad shows an old clip of Henderson from just before the 2016 Indiana presidential primary saying of Donald Trump, "I don't like his outbursts and his inappropriateness with the public and … his scruples." The narrator goes on to argue that Henderson "even went on Facebook to support a liberal group that called for Trump's impeachment."

Spartz, who has self-funded most of her campaign, has decisively outspent her many opponents in this competitive open seat. A recent poll for the Club also showed her leading Brizzi 32-14 as Henderson took 13%, and no one has released any contradictory numbers.

Henderson is also acting like Spartz is the one to beat here. Henderson made sure to inform voters in a recent ad that she was born in the United States in what appears to be a not-very subtle shot at Spartz, who has discussed leaving her native Ukraine in her own commercials.

NY-24: 2018 nominee Dana Balter is out with her second TV spot ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Katko.

Balter tells the audience that she has a pre-existing condition and continues, "I know the fear of living without insurance, so it's personal when John Katko repeatedly votes to sabotage Obamacare and put coverage for pre-existing conditions at risk." Balter declares that she came closer to defeating Katko last cycle than anyone ever has, and pledges "we'll finish the job so everyone has good healthcare."

NV-03: The conservative super PAC Ending Spending recently launched an ad against former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz ahead of the June 9 GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy for the TV and digital campaign is $300,000.

UT-04: Former Rep. Mia Love has endorsed state Rep. Kim Coleman in the June 30 GOP primary to take on freshman Rep. Ben McAdams.

DCCC: The DCCC has added another six contenders to its program for top candidates:

  • AK-AL: Alyse Galvin
  • AR-02: Joyce Elliott
  • MT-AL: Kathleen Williams
  • NC-08: Pat Timmons-Goodson
  • NE-02: Kara Eastman
  • OH-01: Kate Schroder

Kathleen Williams, who was the 2018 nominee for Montana’s only House seat, does face a primary on Tuesday against state Rep. Tom Winter. However, Winter has struggled with fundraising during the contest.

Judicial

MI Supreme Court: On Tuesday, the Michigan Democratic Party announced its endorsements for the two state Supreme Court seats on the ballot in November, backing Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and attorney Elizabeth Welch. Both Democratic-backed candidates will face off against two Republican-supported candidates in elections this fall that are nominally nonpartisan and let voters select up to two candidates elected by plurality winner. If McCormack is re-elected and Welch wins office to succeed a retiring GOP justice, Democrats would gain a 4-3 majority on the bench.

A Democratic majority would have major implications for battles over redistricting and voting access, two topics that are currently the subject of active lawsuits at both the state and federal levels in Michigan. While Michigan has a new independent redistricting commission, Republicans are currently suing in federal court to strike it down, something that isn't outside the realm of possibility given the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority, but a Democratic state court could serve as a bulwark against unfair maps in such a scenario.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who represented Dallas' northern suburbs from 1991 to 2019, died Wednesday at the age of 89. Johnson was the last Korean War veteran to serve in Congress, as well as a founding member of what later became the influential Republican Study Committee.

Johnson was serving as a fighter pilot in Vietnam in 1966 when his plane was shot down and he was captured by North Vietnamese forces. Johnson spent almost seven years as a prisoner of war, a period that included physical and mental torture. Johnson and another future Republican politician, John McCain, also shared a tiny cell for 18 months.

Johnson was released in 1973, and he went on to become a homebuilder back in Texas. Johnson was elected to the state House in 1984, and he sought an open U.S. House seat in a 1991 special election after Republican Steve Bartlett resigned to become mayor of Dallas. Johnson took second in the all-party primary against a fellow Vietnam veteran, former Reagan White House aide Tom Pauken, and the two met in an all-Republican general election. Johnson emphasized his military service and won 53-47, and he never had trouble winning re-election for the rest of his career.

In 2000, Johnson notably endorsed George W. Bush over McCain, saying of his former cellmate, "I know him pretty well … and I can tell you, he cannot hold a candle to George Bush." Three years later, though, McCain would say of the Texan, "I wasn't really as courageous as Sam Johnson." Johnson would ultimately back McCain in the 2008 primaries, arguing it was "time to get behind the front-runner."

Morning Digest: Competitive race to succeed longtime GOP congressman begins to take shape

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

NY-02: This week, the crowded GOP primary to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Peter King in this competitive Long Island seat began to take shape … sort of.

On Thursday, state party chairman Nick Langworthy endorsed Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino in the June primary, a move that came days after Garbarino picked up endorsements from the party chairs of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. However, while the powers that be are lining up behind Garbarino, he’s not going to avoid a primary.

Campaign Action

Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger announced Wednesday that she would run despite failing to get the endorsement of the county party chairs the previous day. Hemendinger has worked in the department for 36 years, and this appears to be her first run for office.

Assemblyman Mike LiPetri also said the following day that he would remain in the race. Another candidate, Suffolk County Board of Elections member Nick LaLota, said Tuesday that he was still deciding whether to keep running after the county chairs backed Garbarino.

Garbarino, whose father is the GOP chair in the large town of Islip, only announced he was running this week. However, he began quietly raising money last quarter, and he ended 2019 with the largest war chest on the GOP side. Garbarino led LaLota in cash-on-hand $218,000 to $145,000, while LiPetri only opened up his fundraising committee on Jan. 1. Another Republican, Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, announced she was running back in November, but she didn’t report raising any money in 2019.

By contrast, there’s only one notable candidate on the Democratic side. Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon began running against King months before he announced his retirement in November, and her fundraising spiked after this became an open seat. Gordon took in $261,000 during the fourth quarter compared to the $76,000 she raised during the preceding three months, and she ended 2019 with $290,000 in the bank. The DCCC recently added Gordon to its Red to Blue list for top candidates, so national Democrats don’t seem to be expecting her to have a serious primary.

King always won re-election with ease during his decades representing this area until his final campaign last cycle, and his departure gives Democrats the chance to finally flip the seat. New York’s 2nd District, which is home to Babylon and most of Islip, swung from 52-47 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but it lurched back to the left in 2018. While Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 60-36 statewide win was very similar to Hillary Clinton's 59-37 victory, Cuomo carried King's seat by a 51-47 margin.  

Senate

MI-Sen: Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is out with his first TV spot, which will run during Saturday's men's basketball game between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. The commercial touts Peters' time in the Navy Reserve and work helping veterans.

NC-Sen: A mysterious new PAC called Faith and Power recently launched what CNN reports is a two week $1.56 million TV buy to aid state Sen. Erica Smith in the March 3 Democratic primary, and there's good reason to think that Republicans are behind it. There's no information about who runs or funds the organization, but The Hill's Reid Wilson reports that Faith and Power is banking with a firm that frequently does business with GOP groups, including Donald Trump's campaign. The ads were also purchased by a media buyer that has plenty of conservative clients.

National Democrats are supporting former state Sen. Cal Cunningham over Smith in the contest to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, and Cunningham also has benefited from millions in spending from VoteVets. Cunningham, who ended December with a lopsided $1.7 million to $95,000 cash-on-hand lead over Smith, also recently began airing commercials, and a new survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling indicates that the pro-Cunningham media campaign is having an impact. PPP finds Cunningham leading Smith 29-10, which is an improvement from his 22-12 edge last month.

Republicans seem to believe that the underfunded Smith would be easier to beat than Cunningham in November, though, and Faith and Power's new ad campaign could give her a boost next month. The commercial begins with a narrator asking, "Who's the Democrat for US Senate endorsed by progressives and unions? Erica Smith." It continues, "Who's got the courage to vote for 'Medicare for All'? Erica Smith. The number one supporter of the Green New Deal? Erica Smith again."

Whoever wins the nomination will be in for an expensive race against Tillis in this light red state. The incumbent, who does not face a serious primary challenger, ended December with $5.3 million in the bank.

Gubernatorial

IN-Gov: On Wednesday, businessman Josh Owens dropped out of the Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb and endorsed former state Health Commissioner Woody Myers. The deadline to turn in signatures to make the primary ballot is on Friday, so it's incredibly unlikely that Myers will face any serious intra-party opposition.

House

CA-16: Rep. Jim Costa has launched his first TV spot against Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, a fellow Democrat who is running to his left in the March 3 top-two primary. The narrator accuses Soria of saying "she's living paycheck to paycheck" when she "gets $96,000 a year from taxpayers and paid perks and benefits."

The narrator goes on to declare that Soria not only gave herself a pay raise but that her "fiancé and business partner received city contracts worth millions." What the ad doesn't mention is that Soria recused herself from the City Council's discussion and votes on matters concerning her significant other, developer Terance Frazier.

While Costa's decision to go negative less than a month before Election Day could be a sign that he's worried that Soria could take enough support to join him in the November general election, she'll still need a lot to go right to advance past the top-two. Costa has been a weak fundraiser in past cycles, but the incumbent outpaced Soria $506,000 to $135,000 during the fourth quarter (Soria self-funded an additional $13,000), and he ended December with a huge $904,000 to $149,000 cash-on-hand lead.

It doesn't help Soria that there's just one Republican, real estate agent Kevin Cookingham, on the top-two ballot, while former Foreign Service diplomat Kim Williams is also running as a Democrat. This seat, which includes Merced and part of Fresno, backed Clinton 58-36, so even though Cookingham has very little money, he will have a good chance to advance to November if he can just consolidate the conservative vote.

FL-13: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed attorney Amanda Makki this week in the crowded August GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist.

Makki had by far the most money in the bank on the Republican side at the end of December, but she still trailed Crist in cash-on-hand by a lopsided $2.8 million to $470,000. This St. Petersburg seat backed Hillary Clinton by a small 50-46 spread, but national Republicans haven't made defeating Crist, a former Republican governor who is utterly detested by his old party, a priority so far.

GA-14: Former state Rep. Bill Hembree and Army veteran Andy Gunther each announced this week that they would join the May GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Gunther, who works as inspector for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, appears to be running for the first time. Hembree, by contrast, has a long history in Georgia politics, though not a lot of local voters may be aware of him.

Hembree was first elected to the lower house in 1992 from a seat in Douglas County, which is located just outside of this northwestern Georgia congressional district. Hembree served for the next two decades, apart from a two-year absence following his unsuccessful 1996 run for the state Public Service Commission, but he gave up his spot to run for a state Senate seat in 2012. Hembree lost the GOP runoff for Senate District 30, which contains a very small portion of the 14th Congressional District, and he was defeated in another primary there two years later.

Former state School Superintendent John Barge also filed to run here this week, but he hasn't said anything publicly yet. Barge was elected statewide in 2010, but he quickly came into conflict with GOP Gov. Nathan Deal by opposing the party leadership's charter school amendment. Barge went on to wage a very longshot primary challenge against Deal in 2014 that went absolutely nowhere: Deal secured renomination with 72% while another candidate led Barge 17-11 for second.

Barge defied his party again months later by endorsing a Democrat over Republican Richard Woods in the contest to replace him as school chief. Woods won the general election, though, and Barge decided to challenge him for renomination in the 2018 primary. This campaign also went badly for Barge, and Woods won 60-40.

While Barge seems to have burnt bridges with almost everyone in Peach State GOP politics, one familiar name is reportedly on his side. The Rome New-Tribune writes that former Rep. Jack Kingston, who now works as a Washington lobbyist and serves as a pro-Trump TV talking head, has been talking to people on Barge's behalf.

IA-01: The conservative Future Leaders Fund, which is supporting GOP state Rep. Ashley Hinson, is out with a mid-January survey from the GOP firm Harper Polling that shows Hinson trailing freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer by a small 44-40 margin. This is the first poll we've seen from this 49-45 Trump seat in northeastern Iowa.

IL-03: Businesswoman Marie Newman is out with her first TV ad ahead of her March 17 Democratic primary rematch against conservative Rep. Dan Lipinski.

The narrator touts Newman's local ties and how she "scrubbed floors to pay for college and went without health insurance when she couldn't afford it." The commercial only mentions the incumbent at the end when the narrator declares, "Now Marie is running for Congress to do what Dan Lipinski won't: raise wages for working people and ensure health care is a right for everyone."

IL-14: State Sen. Jim Oberweis is out with a survey from McLaughlin & Associates that gives him a clear lead in next month's GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. McLaughlin finds Oberweis leading fellow state Sen. Sue Rezin 46-16 in this seat in the western Chicago exurbs, while former Trump administration official Catalina Lauf is at 6%.

McLaughlin has a bad reputation even in GOP circles, but so far, no one has released any other polls here. And while Oberweis has a terrible electoral history, his large financial advantage over his intra-party rivals could help him win the March 17 primary. Oberweis, who has self-funded most of his campaign, ended December with a $1.1 million war chest, while businessman Ted Gradel was well behind with $649,000 in the bank. (Gradel took 2% of the vote in that McLaughlin poll.) Rezin had $329,000 to spend, while Lauf had a mere $32,000 on-hand.

Even if the GOP avoids nominating Oberweis, though, Team Red will be in for a serious fight against Underwood. The incumbent, who flipped this 49-44 Trump seat in an upset last cycle, ended December with $1.7 million in the bank.

IN-05: On Wednesday, just two days before the filing deadline, state Sen. Victoria Spartz announced that she was joining the crowded May GOP primary for this open seat. Originally hailing from Ukraine, Spartz would be one of a handful of immigrants serving in Congress if she were elected.

Spartz's 20th Senate District is located entirely in the 5th Congressional District, but she's never had to face the voters before. In mid-2017, local party officials chose Spartz to fill a vacancy in the Senate (Indiana does not hold special elections for the legislature) for a term that doesn't expire until the end of this year.

NC-01: Back in December, farmer Sandy Smith ditched her extremely longshot GOP primary campaign against Sen. Thom Tillis and filed to challenge veteran Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield. Smith, who spent most of the fourth quarter running for the Senate, raised just $90,000 from donors but self-funded another $170,000, and she ended 2019 with $202,000 in the bank. Butterfield, by contrast, had $566,000 to spend.

Redistricting moved this inland northeastern North Carolina seat to the right quite a bit: While it supported Hillary Clinton 68-30 under the lines used in 2016 and 2018, the new constituency backed her by a smaller 55-44 spread. However, this is still blue turf that hasn’t voted for a Republican in any federal or statewide partisan election since likely the 1980s, and it will be very difficult for Smith to defeat Butterfield.

NY-22: Former Rep. Claudia Tenney got some good news last week when former Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell dropped out of the GOP primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, and it looks very unlikely that she will face any serious intra-party opposition now.

George Phillips, who lost the 2016 primary to Tenney, ended December with just $57,000 in the bank, while high school teacher Franklin Sager didn't have so much as one cent to spend. As a result, we've removed this contest from our Primaries to Watch spreadsheet and on to a second tab called "Off the list."

Tenney, though, ended last year at a huge financial disadvantage against Brindisi, who narrowly unseated her in 2018. Brindisi outraised Tenney by a massive $903,000 to $297,000 during her opening quarter, and he enjoyed a $1.85 million to $287,000 cash-on-hand edge. However, Democrats can take absolutely nothing for granted this fall in an upstate New York seat that supported Donald Trump 55-39.

Mayoral

San Diego, CA Mayor: On Monday, GOP San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob crossed party lines and endorsed Democratic City Councilwoman Barbara Bry over Republican City Councilman Scott Sherman. Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria very much looks like the most likely candidate to advance past the March 3 nonpartisan primary, while Sherman and Bry appear to be competing for the second spot in the November general election. Sherman may have the chance to pull ahead of Bry if he can consolidate the city's Republican voters, but Jacob's support for Bry could make his task harder.