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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislatures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several media outlets have mentioned a few others as possibilities:

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

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

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

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

Other Democrats mentioned include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislatures

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

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

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

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

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

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