Morning Digest: Democrats launch first stage of plan to flip Wisconsin Senate

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WI State Senate: The Wisconsin Democratic Party announced on Wednesday that it plans to spend a hefty $7 million on TV ads in five state Senate districts, a sum the Associated Press' Todd Richmond says represents "the biggest ad buy of its kind Democrats in the state have ever made in legislative races."

The offensive comes after the state approved new legislative maps to replace Republican gerrymanders that the state Supreme Court struck down late last year. Energized by the new districts, which much more closely reflect Wisconsin's swingy nature, Democrats are fielding candidates in every Senate seat on the ballot for the first time in more than two decades.

Reclaiming their first majority since 2012, however, will likely take two election cycles because only 16 of the upper chamber's 33 seats are up this year. But making gains this fall is critical for Democrats to have a shot at flipping the chamber in 2026, when the other half of the Senate will go before voters.

Republicans won a 22-11 advantage in 2022, a two-thirds supermajority that would allow them to remove impeached state officials—a power they've threatened to wield but have yet to do so. They also hold a lopsided edge in the Assembly, which has the power to start impeachment proceedings with just a simple majority, though they're just short of the two-thirds threshold in the lower chamber.

But the new maps, which Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed in February after it was passed by the legislature, will make it all but impossible for the GOP to retain those skewed margins.

That's because Joe Biden would have carried 18 Senate districts under the new boundaries compared to 15 for Donald Trump, according to VEST data from Dave's Redistricting App. That's a stark difference from the old map, which gave Trump a 22-11 edge—figures that mirror the Republicans' current numbers there.

In total, six Democratic-held seats will be on the ballot in 2024 compared with 10 for Republicans. Four of those 10 GOP seats went for Biden, giving Democrats the chance to win them all. Every Democratic seat, by contrast, was also won by Biden.

The AP's Richmond reports Wisconsin Democrats are targeting these four Biden-Republican seats, as well as one swingy Democratic constituency that could be vulnerable, with ads set to begin after the state's Aug. 13 primaries. In each case, the president's margin was in single digits, so all will be competitive affairs.

The Democrats' best pickup target may be the 18th District, an open seat that stretches from Appleton south to Oshkosh and favored Biden 53-45. Republicans will choose between physician Anthony Phillips and businessman Blong Yang. The Democratic frontrunner, meanwhile, is Appleton Alderperson Kristin Alfheim. (Wisconsin's filing deadline isn't until June 3, so the roster of candidates in each of these races may not be set.)

The GOP also doesn't have an incumbent defending the 30th District in the Green Bay area, which backed Biden by a smaller 51-47 spread. Business consultant Jamie Wall announced in March that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on Republican Sen. Eric Wimberger, but the incumbent later opted to relocate to the dark red 2nd District next door. The GOP doesn't lack a candidate here, though, as Allouez Village President Jim Rafter launched a bid soon after Wimberger switched races.

Two Republican senators, meanwhile, are seeking reelection in competitive constituencies. Sen. Joan Ballweg is defending the 14th District to the north of Madison against Democrat Sarah Keyeski, who works as a mental health counselor. Biden also prevailed 51-47 here.

GOP Sen. Duey Stroebel, meanwhile, is trying to hold the 8th District, a seat in Milwaukee's northern suburbs that went for Biden by just half a percentage point. Environmental attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin, who rose to prominence in a competitive special election last year, has the Democratic nod to herself.

Habush Sinykin campaigned in 2023 for the previous version of the 8th, which favored Trump 52-47, in a contest that took place following former GOP Sen. Alberta Darling's resignation. Habush Sinykin outperformed those presidential baselines but narrowly lost to state Rep. Dan Knodl by a 51-49 margin.

But while Knodl's victory returned the GOP to supermajority status, he didn't have long to enjoy his promotion. The new maps placed Knodl and Stroebel in the same Senate district, prompting Knodl to run for his old seat in the Assembly rather than oppose his new colleague. (Knodl will instead take on Rep. Janel Brandtjen, an election denier he beat in last year's special election primary.)

Meanwhile, the only vulnerable Democratic-held seat up this year belongs to Sen. Brad Pfaff, whose 32nd District around La Crosse favored Biden 52-46. Pfaff lost a close contest in 2022 for the 3rd Congressional District to Republican Derrick Van Orden, but he opted to seek reelection rather than try for a rematch.

Pfaff's only announced Republican opponent is Trempealeau County Board member Stacey Klein, who abandoned her hopeless campaign to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin last month to instead run for the legislature.

Should Democrats run the table by holding all their current seats and flipping the four Biden-Republican districts, the GOP would still hold a small 18-15 advantage overall. It's unlikely Democrats can hope for much more this year because the remaining six Republican seats all went for Trump by double-digit margins, though three more winnable Biden districts held by Republicans will be up in 2026.

These Senate races won't be the only closely watched legislative contests in the state, though, as Democrats are also working to flip the Assembly. And unlike in the Senate, Democrats have a chance to secure a majority this year: While the GOP holds an imposing 64-35 majority, all 99 representatives are up for new two-year terms. (Members of the assembly, somewhat confusingly, hold the title of representative rather than assemblymember or something similar.)

Trump carried 64 districts under the old boundaries, which, like the Senate, matches the number of constituencies his party holds. However, Trump took just 50 seats under the new map, which gives Democrats the chance to take their first majority since the 2010 red wave.

Senate

MD-Sen: Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports that EMILYs List has now spent a total of $2.5 million on ads to help Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks beat Rep. David Trone in Tuesday's Democratic primary. EMILYs previously reported spending $1.6 million on television and digital platforms in FEC documents filed May 3.

NV-Sen: A billionaire-backed super PAC supporting Army veteran Sam Brown is now running ads attacking former diplomat Jeff Gunter despite a poll last month that showed Brown with a monster lead in Nevada's June 11 GOP primary.

The new spot for Duty First Nevada, which is chiefly funded by software company mogul David Duffield, hammers Gunter, a dermatologist appointed by Donald Trump as ambassador to Iceland in 2018, as an "infomercial doctor" and "longtime California Democrat" who "cashed in telling seniors he could reverse their age."

The ad features clips of those late-night infomercials, in which Gunter hawked a purported wrinkle-removing "serum" under the auspices of an outfit he created called the "Youthology Research Institute."

The commercial goes on to claim Gunter has never voted in Nevada and didn't vote for Trump's reelection in 2020. The Daily Beast's Sam Brodey reported last year that Gunter registered to vote as a Democrat in 2000 in California, where he grew up and started his medical practice and that he last cast a ballot in the Golden State in 2018.

Brodey also wrote that there's no record of Gunter voting anywhere in 2020. The longtime Nevada property owner registered to vote in the Silver State the following year, but he does not appear to have returned the 2022 absentee ballot he requested. (Gunter made that request from California.)

Duty First Nevada has yet to file reports detailing its spending on this new ad campaign, but it previously spent $1.2 million to boost Brown's campaign. That the PAC feels it necessary to get involved to this degree is something of a surprise, though, as an early April survey for the NRSC, which is backing Brown, showed him with a 58-3 lead on Gunter.

House

MD-03: Retiring Sen. Ben Cardin expressed his support for state Sen. Sarah Elfreth's bid for the Democratic nomination in Maryland's open 3rd Congressional District, both appearing with her at a campaign event and telling the Baltimore Sun in a statement that "she is ready for the job." Cardin himself represented previous versions of the safely blue 3rd District for the 20 years preceding his successful Senate bid in 2006.

According to the Sun's Dana Munro, Cardin's team claims his involvement in the race for his old seat did not constitute "a formal endorsement," but of course, there's no such thing as a formal endorsement. And as we always note when politicians insist on playing games like this, actions speak far louder than words.

It's particularly unclear why Cardin would even want to hedge in this case, since he offered effusive praise for Elfreth, calling her "one of our great leaders" on climate change and saying she "knows how to get things accomplished." Regardless of what Cardin might call it, we call that an endorsement.

Elfreth is an apparent frontrunner in the massive 21-candidate primary that will take place next week, along with former Capitol police officer Harry Dunn. Dunn has raised more than $4.5 million for his campaign while Elfreth has benefited from almost $4.2 million in spending from the United Democracy Project, a super PAC affiliated with AIPAC.

But while UDP had previously stuck to airing positive ads for most of the campaign, it just deployed a new commercial that argues Dunn should be "ashamed of himself" for running negative spots against Elfreth. (Those Dunn ads went after the state senator for benefiting from spending from AIPAC, which his narrator characterized as a "right-wing SuperPAC funded by Trump donors.")

UDP's new spot doesn't say anything more about Dunn, though. Instead, it moves on to praise Elfreth as a loyal Democrat who is "as anti-Trump as they come." Another ad focuses entirely on reproductive rights and doesn't mention Dunn.

MD-06: Former Commerce Department official April McClain Delaney has released an internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang that shows her leading Del. Joe Vogel 37-24 in Tuesday's Democratic primary, with 22% undecided and the balance split between the rest of the field. (A total of 16 names are listed on the ballot, though some candidates have dropped out.)

Delaney publicized her survey days after Vogel's allies at Equality PAC released a late April poll from Public Policy Polling that showed the two deadlocked 24-24 in the contest to replace Senate candidate David Trone, a fellow Democrat. We have not seen any other recent polls.

NH-02: Maggie Goodlander, a former official in the Biden administration who had reportedly been considering a bid for New Hampshire's open 2nd District, joined the September primary for the Democratic nomination on Thursday.

Goodlander, who was once an aide to the late Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain, has deep connections to the White House. The Boston Globe's James Pindell last month characterized her as part of an "elite circle of aides to President Biden," which includes her husband, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Goodlander grew up in the 2nd District (her mother, Betty Tamposi, lost a close GOP primary for a previous version of the seat in 1988), and she touted her local roots in her kickoff. However, Pindell notes that she and Sullivan purchased a home in 2018 in Portsmouth, which is located in the 1st District. Goodlander says she recently signed a lease for a residence in her hometown of Nashua in the 2nd.

Goodlander is the third notable Democrat to enter the race, following state Sen. Becky Whitley and former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, who has the endorsement of retiring Rep. Annie Kuster.

NJ-10: Hudson County Commission Jerry Walker has joined the July 16 Democratic primary for the special election to replace Rep. Donald Payne Jr., who died last month. Candidate filing for the race for this safely blue seat in the Newark area closes at 4 PM ET today.

SC-04: Rep. William Timmons is now airing negative ads against state Rep. Adam Morgan ahead of their June 11 Republican primary showdown for South Carolina's 4th District, a safely red constituency in the Greenville area. The narrator accuses Morgan of missing "over 400 votes" in the legislature before reminding viewers that Timmons has Donald Trump's endorsement.

Morgan, who chairs his chamber's far-right Freedom Caucus, received an endorsement this week from the eponymous congressional group. Republicans in Congress who resent the antics of the nihilistic caucus, though, got a new reason this week to dread what might happen if Morgan were to join the House.

The final days of South Carolina's legislative session were defined by a chaotic battle between Morgan's Freedom Caucus and the rest of the GOP-led state House. Morgan upset most of his fellow Republicans when he unsuccessfully attempted to bar state agencies from sending voter registration forms to non-citizens.

"These are stunts … circus antics, people," said one exasperated Republican, state Rep. Gil Gatch. Micah Caskey, another Republican lawmaker who is no fan of Morgan's crew, went even further by addressing the lower chamber while donning a tinfoil hat labeled "South Carolina Freedom Caucus."

Obituaries

Pete McCloskey: Former California Rep. Pete McCloskey, a liberal Republican who rose to national prominence in 1972 by challenging President Richard Nixon for renomination as an anti-Vietnam War candidate, died Wednesday at age 96. McCloskey, as Margaret O'Mara wrote in her book "The Code," also played a role in Silicon Valley's rise as a technological powerhouse.

McCloskey first made his mark in politics in 1967 by beating another well-known Republican, former child star Shirley Temple Black, 34-22 in the first round of an all-party special election for a House seat in the Bay Area. (McCloskey's surprise win was the basis of a 1968 nonfiction book, "The Sinking of the Lollipop.")

McCloskey easily won the general election and served in the House for many years. In 1982, however, he sought a promotion to the Senate but ended with a 38-25 loss in the primary to the eventual winner, San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson. You can find much more about McCloskey's eventful career, including a quixotic 2006 primary bid against a conservative congressman that helped Democrats flip the Bay Area's last GOP-held seat, in the San Jose Mercury News' obituary.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now? Federal prosecutors have re-indicted former Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry for lying to federal agents in connection with an effort to funnel $30,000 to Fortenberry's campaign via straw donors.

While Fortenberry was convicted by a jury in Los Angeles in 2022, a federal appeals court overturned his conviction late last year, saying prosecutors had tried him in the wrong jurisdiction.

The Department of Justice had brought charges against Fortenberry in Los Angeles, where the straw-donor scheme was originally put in motion by a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire. However, the false statements for which the jury convicted the then-congressman were made in Washington, D.C., and at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska. To resolve the problem, prosecutors have brought their renewed charges in D.C.

Fortenberry announced his resignation from Nebraska's conservative 1st District two days after his conviction in 2022. He was sentenced later that year to two years' probation, 320 hours of community service, and a $25,000 fine. In a statement responding to the new charges, an attorney for Fortenberry did not appear to address his client's culpability but rather accused the Justice Department of "overzealous prosecution."

Poll Pile

  • NC-Gov: Cygnal (R) for Carolina Journal: Josh Stein (D): 39, Mark Robinson (R): 39, Mike Ross (L): 4, Wayne Turner (G): 1 (43-38 Trump) (April: 40-38 Robinson)
  • NC Supreme Court: Cygnal (R) for Carolina Journal: Jefferson Griffin (R): 40, Allison Riggs (D-inc): 39

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Democrats launch first stage of plan to flip Wisconsin Senate

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WI State Senate: The Wisconsin Democratic Party announced on Wednesday that it plans to spend a hefty $7 million on TV ads in five state Senate districts, a sum the Associated Press' Todd Richmond says represents "the biggest ad buy of its kind Democrats in the state have ever made in legislative races."

The offensive comes after the state approved new legislative maps to replace Republican gerrymanders that the state Supreme Court struck down late last year. Energized by the new districts, which much more closely reflect Wisconsin's swingy nature, Democrats are fielding candidates in every Senate seat on the ballot for the first time in more than two decades.

Reclaiming their first majority since 2012, however, will likely take two election cycles because only 16 of the upper chamber's 33 seats are up this year. But making gains this fall is critical for Democrats to have a shot at flipping the chamber in 2026, when the other half of the Senate will go before voters.

Republicans won a 22-11 advantage in 2022, a two-thirds supermajority that would allow them to remove impeached state officials—a power they've threatened to wield but have yet to do so. They also hold a lopsided edge in the Assembly, which has the power to start impeachment proceedings with just a simple majority, though they're just short of the two-thirds threshold in the lower chamber.

But the new maps, which Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed in February after it was passed by the legislature, will make it all but impossible for the GOP to retain those skewed margins.

That's because Joe Biden would have carried 18 Senate districts under the new boundaries compared to 15 for Donald Trump, according to VEST data from Dave's Redistricting App. That's a stark difference from the old map, which gave Trump a 22-11 edge—figures that mirror the Republicans' current numbers there.

In total, six Democratic-held seats will be on the ballot in 2024 compared with 10 for Republicans. Four of those 10 GOP seats went for Biden, giving Democrats the chance to win them all. Every Democratic seat, by contrast, was also won by Biden.

The AP's Richmond reports Wisconsin Democrats are targeting these four Biden-Republican seats, as well as one swingy Democratic constituency that could be vulnerable, with ads set to begin after the state's Aug. 13 primaries. In each case, the president's margin was in single digits, so all will be competitive affairs.

The Democrats' best pickup target may be the 18th District, an open seat that stretches from Appleton south to Oshkosh and favored Biden 53-45. Republicans will choose between physician Anthony Phillips and businessman Blong Yang. The Democratic frontrunner, meanwhile, is Appleton Alderperson Kristin Alfheim. (Wisconsin's filing deadline isn't until June 3, so the roster of candidates in each of these races may not be set.)

The GOP also doesn't have an incumbent defending the 30th District in the Green Bay area, which backed Biden by a smaller 51-47 spread. Business consultant Jamie Wall announced in March that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on Republican Sen. Eric Wimberger, but the incumbent later opted to relocate to the dark red 2nd District next door. The GOP doesn't lack a candidate here, though, as Allouez Village President Jim Rafter launched a bid soon after Wimberger switched races.

Two Republican senators, meanwhile, are seeking reelection in competitive constituencies. Sen. Joan Ballweg is defending the 14th District to the north of Madison against Democrat Sarah Keyeski, who works as a mental health counselor. Biden also prevailed 51-47 here.

GOP Sen. Duey Stroebel, meanwhile, is trying to hold the 8th District, a seat in Milwaukee's northern suburbs that went for Biden by just half a percentage point. Environmental attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin, who rose to prominence in a competitive special election last year, has the Democratic nod to herself.

Habush Sinykin campaigned in 2023 for the previous version of the 8th, which favored Trump 52-47, in a contest that took place following former GOP Sen. Alberta Darling's resignation. Habush Sinykin outperformed those presidential baselines but narrowly lost to state Rep. Dan Knodl by a 51-49 margin.

But while Knodl's victory returned the GOP to supermajority status, he didn't have long to enjoy his promotion. The new maps placed Knodl and Stroebel in the same Senate district, prompting Knodl to run for his old seat in the Assembly rather than oppose his new colleague. (Knodl will instead take on Rep. Janel Brandtjen, an election denier he beat in last year's special election primary.)

Meanwhile, the only vulnerable Democratic-held seat up this year belongs to Sen. Brad Pfaff, whose 32nd District around La Crosse favored Biden 52-46. Pfaff lost a close contest in 2022 for the 3rd Congressional District to Republican Derrick Van Orden, but he opted to seek reelection rather than try for a rematch.

Pfaff's only announced Republican opponent is Trempealeau County Board member Stacey Klein, who abandoned her hopeless campaign to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin last month to instead run for the legislature.

Should Democrats run the table by holding all their current seats and flipping the four Biden-Republican districts, the GOP would still hold a small 18-15 advantage overall. It's unlikely Democrats can hope for much more this year because the remaining six Republican seats all went for Trump by double-digit margins, though three more winnable Biden districts held by Republicans will be up in 2026.

These Senate races won't be the only closely watched legislative contests in the state, though, as Democrats are also working to flip the Assembly. And unlike in the Senate, Democrats have a chance to secure a majority this year: While the GOP holds an imposing 64-35 majority, all 99 representatives are up for new two-year terms. (Members of the assembly, somewhat confusingly, hold the title of representative rather than assemblymember or something similar.)

Trump carried 64 districts under the old boundaries, which, like the Senate, matches the number of constituencies his party holds. However, Trump took just 50 seats under the new map, which gives Democrats the chance to take their first majority since the 2010 red wave.

Senate

MD-Sen: Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports that EMILYs List has now spent a total of $2.5 million on ads to help Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks beat Rep. David Trone in Tuesday's Democratic primary. EMILYs previously reported spending $1.6 million on television and digital platforms in FEC documents filed May 3.

NV-Sen: A billionaire-backed super PAC supporting Army veteran Sam Brown is now running ads attacking former diplomat Jeff Gunter despite a poll last month that showed Brown with a monster lead in Nevada's June 11 GOP primary.

The new spot for Duty First Nevada, which is chiefly funded by software company mogul David Duffield, hammers Gunter, a dermatologist appointed by Donald Trump as ambassador to Iceland in 2018, as an "infomercial doctor" and "longtime California Democrat" who "cashed in telling seniors he could reverse their age."

The ad features clips of those late-night infomercials, in which Gunter hawked a purported wrinkle-removing "serum" under the auspices of an outfit he created called the "Youthology Research Institute."

The commercial goes on to claim Gunter has never voted in Nevada and didn't vote for Trump's reelection in 2020. The Daily Beast's Sam Brodey reported last year that Gunter registered to vote as a Democrat in 2000 in California, where he grew up and started his medical practice and that he last cast a ballot in the Golden State in 2018.

Brodey also wrote that there's no record of Gunter voting anywhere in 2020. The longtime Nevada property owner registered to vote in the Silver State the following year, but he does not appear to have returned the 2022 absentee ballot he requested. (Gunter made that request from California.)

Duty First Nevada has yet to file reports detailing its spending on this new ad campaign, but it previously spent $1.2 million to boost Brown's campaign. That the PAC feels it necessary to get involved to this degree is something of a surprise, though, as an early April survey for the NRSC, which is backing Brown, showed him with a 58-3 lead on Gunter.

House

MD-03: Retiring Sen. Ben Cardin expressed his support for state Sen. Sarah Elfreth's bid for the Democratic nomination in Maryland's open 3rd Congressional District, both appearing with her at a campaign event and telling the Baltimore Sun in a statement that "she is ready for the job." Cardin himself represented previous versions of the safely blue 3rd District for the 20 years preceding his successful Senate bid in 2006.

According to the Sun's Dana Munro, Cardin's team claims his involvement in the race for his old seat did not constitute "a formal endorsement," but of course, there's no such thing as a formal endorsement. And as we always note when politicians insist on playing games like this, actions speak far louder than words.

It's particularly unclear why Cardin would even want to hedge in this case, since he offered effusive praise for Elfreth, calling her "one of our great leaders" on climate change and saying she "knows how to get things accomplished." Regardless of what Cardin might call it, we call that an endorsement.

Elfreth is an apparent frontrunner in the massive 21-candidate primary that will take place next week, along with former Capitol police officer Harry Dunn. Dunn has raised more than $4.5 million for his campaign while Elfreth has benefited from almost $4.2 million in spending from the United Democracy Project, a super PAC affiliated with AIPAC.

But while UDP had previously stuck to airing positive ads for most of the campaign, it just deployed a new commercial that argues Dunn should be "ashamed of himself" for running negative spots against Elfreth. (Those Dunn ads went after the state senator for benefiting from spending from AIPAC, which his narrator characterized as a "right-wing SuperPAC funded by Trump donors.")

UDP's new spot doesn't say anything more about Dunn, though. Instead, it moves on to praise Elfreth as a loyal Democrat who is "as anti-Trump as they come." Another ad focuses entirely on reproductive rights and doesn't mention Dunn.

MD-06: Former Commerce Department official April McClain Delaney has released an internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang that shows her leading Del. Joe Vogel 37-24 in Tuesday's Democratic primary, with 22% undecided and the balance split between the rest of the field. (A total of 16 names are listed on the ballot, though some candidates have dropped out.)

Delaney publicized her survey days after Vogel's allies at Equality PAC released a late April poll from Public Policy Polling that showed the two deadlocked 24-24 in the contest to replace Senate candidate David Trone, a fellow Democrat. We have not seen any other recent polls.

NH-02: Maggie Goodlander, a former official in the Biden administration who had reportedly been considering a bid for New Hampshire's open 2nd District, joined the September primary for the Democratic nomination on Thursday.

Goodlander, who was once an aide to the late Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain, has deep connections to the White House. The Boston Globe's James Pindell last month characterized her as part of an "elite circle of aides to President Biden," which includes her husband, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Goodlander grew up in the 2nd District (her mother, Betty Tamposi, lost a close GOP primary for a previous version of the seat in 1988), and she touted her local roots in her kickoff. However, Pindell notes that she and Sullivan purchased a home in 2018 in Portsmouth, which is located in the 1st District. Goodlander says she recently signed a lease for a residence in her hometown of Nashua in the 2nd.

Goodlander is the third notable Democrat to enter the race, following state Sen. Becky Whitley and former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, who has the endorsement of retiring Rep. Annie Kuster.

NJ-10: Hudson County Commission Jerry Walker has joined the July 16 Democratic primary for the special election to replace Rep. Donald Payne Jr., who died last month. Candidate filing for the race for this safely blue seat in the Newark area closes at 4 PM ET today.

SC-04: Rep. William Timmons is now airing negative ads against state Rep. Adam Morgan ahead of their June 11 Republican primary showdown for South Carolina's 4th District, a safely red constituency in the Greenville area. The narrator accuses Morgan of missing "over 400 votes" in the legislature before reminding viewers that Timmons has Donald Trump's endorsement.

Morgan, who chairs his chamber's far-right Freedom Caucus, received an endorsement this week from the eponymous congressional group. Republicans in Congress who resent the antics of the nihilistic caucus, though, got a new reason this week to dread what might happen if Morgan were to join the House.

The final days of South Carolina's legislative session were defined by a chaotic battle between Morgan's Freedom Caucus and the rest of the GOP-led state House. Morgan upset most of his fellow Republicans when he unsuccessfully attempted to bar state agencies from sending voter registration forms to non-citizens.

"These are stunts … circus antics, people," said one exasperated Republican, state Rep. Gil Gatch. Micah Caskey, another Republican lawmaker who is no fan of Morgan's crew, went even further by addressing the lower chamber while donning a tinfoil hat labeled "South Carolina Freedom Caucus."

Obituaries

Pete McCloskey: Former California Rep. Pete McCloskey, a liberal Republican who rose to national prominence in 1972 by challenging President Richard Nixon for renomination as an anti-Vietnam War candidate, died Wednesday at age 96. McCloskey, as Margaret O'Mara wrote in her book "The Code," also played a role in Silicon Valley's rise as a technological powerhouse.

McCloskey first made his mark in politics in 1967 by beating another well-known Republican, former child star Shirley Temple Black, 34-22 in the first round of an all-party special election for a House seat in the Bay Area. (McCloskey's surprise win was the basis of a 1968 nonfiction book, "The Sinking of the Lollipop.")

McCloskey easily won the general election and served in the House for many years. In 1982, however, he sought a promotion to the Senate but ended with a 38-25 loss in the primary to the eventual winner, San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson. You can find much more about McCloskey's eventful career, including a quixotic 2006 primary bid against a conservative congressman that helped Democrats flip the Bay Area's last GOP-held seat, in the San Jose Mercury News' obituary.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now? Federal prosecutors have re-indicted former Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry for lying to federal agents in connection with an effort to funnel $30,000 to Fortenberry's campaign via straw donors.

While Fortenberry was convicted by a jury in Los Angeles in 2022, a federal appeals court overturned his conviction late last year, saying prosecutors had tried him in the wrong jurisdiction.

The Department of Justice had brought charges against Fortenberry in Los Angeles, where the straw-donor scheme was originally put in motion by a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire. However, the false statements for which the jury convicted the then-congressman were made in Washington, D.C., and at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska. To resolve the problem, prosecutors have brought their renewed charges in D.C.

Fortenberry announced his resignation from Nebraska's conservative 1st District two days after his conviction in 2022. He was sentenced later that year to two years' probation, 320 hours of community service, and a $25,000 fine. In a statement responding to the new charges, an attorney for Fortenberry did not appear to address his client's culpability but rather accused the Justice Department of "overzealous prosecution."

Poll Pile

  • NC-Gov: Cygnal (R) for Carolina Journal: Josh Stein (D): 39, Mark Robinson (R): 39, Mike Ross (L): 4, Wayne Turner (G): 1 (43-38 Trump) (April: 40-38 Robinson)
  • NC Supreme Court: Cygnal (R) for Carolina Journal: Jefferson Griffin (R): 40, Allison Riggs (D-inc): 39

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Democrats spend big to pick preferred GOP opponent in Montana primary

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MT-Sen: Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale has now all but announced that he'll seek a rematch with the man who beat him in 2018, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester—news that brought smiles to Democrats and angst to the NRSC and its allies.

The GOP establishment is all-in for wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, but Democrats have already spent millions on messaging designed either to knock Sheehy out in the June 4 primary or damage him for the general election.

But Sheehy might be his own worst enemy. News of a 2019 plane crash involving the death of a pilot and the injury of a teenager on the ground resurfaced Friday after Politico reported that someone identified as "Timothy Sheehy" listed "plane crasher" as his occupation when making political donations. And there's reason to think this wasn't the work of a troll with money to burn.

Read Jeff Singer's piece for much more on the unfolding race between two flawed Republicans—including why Rosendale's alliance with Florida's most infamous congressman helps explain why Democrats would still rather face him again.

4Q Fundraising

  • NE-02: Don Bacon (R-inc): $780,000 raised, $1.5 million cash on hand; Tony Vargas (D): $552,000 raised
  • PA-10: Janelle Stelson (D): $282,000 raised
  • NC-AG: Jeff Jackson (D): $2 million raised (in two months)

Senate

WV-Sen: Disgraced coal baron Don Blankenship decided to add "perennial candidate" to his résumé on Friday when he filed to run as a Democrat for West Virginia's open Senate seat.

The state Democratic Party quickly made it clear it wanted nothing to do with Blankenship, who spent a year in prison in connection to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at one of his properties. "Blankenship, or as he’ll forever be known, federal prisoner 12393-088, lost a previous race for U.S. Senate when he ran as a Republican," said chairman Mike Pushkin. "He followed that up with a failed race for president running on the Constitution Party ticket," Pushkin noted.

House

CO-05: Former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said on Friday that he would not enter the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Doug Lamborn but would instead endorse conservative radio host Jeff Crank.

IN-08: State Sen. Mark Messmer on Thursday became the first elected official to announce a bid to replace retiring Rep. Larry Bucshon, a fellow Republican. Messmer previously served as the chamber's majority floor leader, but he set his sights higher in 2022 when he challenged Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray for the top job. Bray prevailed, though, and the Indiana Capital says that Messmer lost his leadership positions afterward.

MD-02: Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger on Friday became the first Democratic congressman to announce his retirement in the new year. His decision marks the close of a long career that saw Ruppersberger rise high in Old Line State politics―though not quite as high as he had envisioned.

  • Going Dutch. Ruppersberger was elected Baltimore County executive in 1994, and he seemed primed to run for governor in 2002. However, his troubles at home, including an embarrassing loss at the ballot box for a measure he'd supported, kept him out of the contest.
  • "Ruppersberger facing uphill battle." The termed-out executive still got his chance to run for higher office that same year after Democrats in the legislature redrew the congressional map, but he had to go through an unexpectedly bruising primary just two months before a general election showdown with former Republican Rep. Helen Bentley—one he was no longer expected to win.
  • Not going way down in the hole. It would take more than a decade before Ruppersberger finally put his gubernatorial ambitions to rest. However, he quickly became so secure in Congress that even the most famous politician on "The Wire" wouldn't challenge him.

Check out Jeff Singer's piece for more on Ruppersberger's career―and how one local Democrat has spent months laying the groundwork to succeed him.

NC-06: Journalist Bryan Anderson reported Thursday that Speaker Mike Johnson has yanked back his endorsement of former Rep. Mark Walker, though Walker claims the reversal actually happened several months ago.

The former congressman tells The News & Observer that Johnson backed him before becoming speaker in October but then notified him the following month that he would now be neutral in the March 5 Republican primary. Walker also showed the paper a text that reporter Danielle Battaglia says "seemingly confirms" he was Johnson's initial pick.

However, Johnson, at least, did in fact support Walker at some point. Not so, however, with another member of Congress whose endorsement Walker has claimed. Walker has posted on social media that he had the backing of Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin, but the senator's staff now tells N&O that no such endorsement ever happened. "I don’t know what’s going on," said Mullin's chief of staff.

NJ-07: Summit Councilman Greg Vartan announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary to take on Republican Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Vartan's departure leaves former Working Families Party state director Sue Altman and former State Department official Jason Blazakis as the only notable candidates competing in the June 4 nomination contest.

NY-16: The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it was ending its probe into Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman for pulling a fire alarm at the Capitol in September. The body said that it would not sanction the congressman even though it found his explanations about the incident "less than credible and otherwise misleading," adding that he "failed to take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of unnecessary harm."

Bowman, who has insisted he believed the alarm would open a locked door as he was "rushing to a vote," pleaded guilty in October for "willfully or knowingly" instigating a false alarm. The case was dismissed Thursday after it was determined that Bowman had paid his $1,000 fine and apologized to the Capitol Police. The congressman faces serious opposition in the June 25 primary from Westchester County Executive George Latimer, though the challenger did not mention the fire alarm incident in his December launch video.

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has, for the second time, rejected the proposed ballot summary for an initiative that would enshrine extensive voting access protections and policies in Ohio's constitution, which we've previously detailed.

Yost claims that the measure's proposed title, which supporters have called the "Ohio Voters Bill of Rights," is misleading, even though the amendment would, among other things, establish voting as a "fundamental right" and prohibit "any means whatsoever" that have the intent or effect of denying or unreasonably burdening the right to vote.

Proponents can revise and resubmit their summary, but this rejection further delays the start of gathering voter signatures, which must be submitted by an initial July 3 deadline to qualify for November's ballot.

Legislatures

NC Redistricting: U.S. District Judge James Dever, a George W. Bush appointee, has rejected a request to block a pair of state Senate districts in northeastern North Carolina that Black plaintiffs alleged violate the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters.

Plaintiffs quickly indicated they would appeal Dever's ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals while the case continues at the district court level. Republicans passed new gerrymanders last year and claimed the VRA no longer applied in North Carolina despite extensive evidence that voting patterns remain polarized along racial lines, particularly in rural regions such as those challenged in this case.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The Justice Department determined that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 13 different women who worked in state government between 2013 and 2021, findings that were made public as part of a settlement with the governor's office. Investigators concluded that Cuomo, who resigned in disgrace amid the threat of impeachment in 2021, had created "a sexually hostile work environment" and engaged in "a pattern or practice of retaliation" after employees complained.

The agreement requires Cuomo's successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, to institute a number of reforms to prevent future civil rights violations. They include expanding her office's human resources department and implementing policies that require complaints against the governor and "high-level" aides to be reported and investigated externally. In response to the settlement, an attorney for Cuomo issued a statement denying her client had committed sexual harassment.

Cuomo has reportedly been considering bids for Senate and for New York City mayor.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: North Dakota is the latest GOP-run state to treat the Voting Rights Act as optional

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

ND Redistricting: Federal judges keep finding that Republican-drawn election maps violate the Voting Rights Act—and Republican lawmakers keep defying court orders to remedy them. The latest to do so just this year is North Dakota, which recently saw two legislative districts struck down for undermining the rights of Native American voters.

  • "No way" to comply on time. A month ago, a judge directed the GOP-run legislature to come up with a new map by Friday. But a top Republican said lawmakers wouldn't meet that deadline, even though only a handful of districts need to be adjusted.
  • The third time is no charm. Earlier this year, Alabama Republicans outright refused to draw a second Black congressional district, and just this month, Georgia Republicans dismantled a diverse House seat that had elected a Black Democrat even though a judge expressly warned them not to.
  • A ticking time bomb. North Dakota Republicans are appealing, and they're putting forth an extremely dangerous argument that wouldn't just upend their case but could shred what remains of the VRA.

Read more on this pattern of GOP intransigence, including how a Republican president could end all enforcement of the Voting Rights Act if North Dakota's appeal succeeds.

Senate

NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim is out with a new poll from Breakthrough Campaigns that shows him beating former financier Tammy Murphy 45-22 in the June Democratic primary, with indicted Sen. Bob Menendez clocking in at just 6%. A mid-November Kim internal from another firm, Public Policy Polling, showed him leading New Jersey's first lady 40-21, with 5% going to the incumbent. Neither Murphy nor Menendez have released their own numbers.

Murphy, as we've written before, will still be hard to beat because she's poised to win the "county line" in several large counties, which ensures her an advantageous place on the ballot. (This is also sometimes called the "organizational line.") The New Jersey Globe's Joey Fox is out with a thorough county-by-county look at the battle for the organizational line, and he writes that the process can vary quite a bit.

In the state's most populous county, Bergen, Fox writes that chairman Paul Juliano almost always gets to decide who gets the line, and his support for Murphy means "that’s probably the end of the story for Kim." It's a similar state of affairs in the three next largest counties―Middlesex, Essex, and Hudson―where party leaders have made it clear that Murphy is their choice.

However, things aren't as clear in Ocean County, a longtime conservative bastion that nonetheless has a large number of Democratic primary voters. Kim represented about half of the county under the last map, and Fox says many local Democrats remain "hugely loyal" to him. He adds that, while Murphy could make a play for the line here, she'll likely face a tough task.

Over to the north in Hunterdon County, meanwhile, Fox says that the organization line will be decided by a "genuinely open convention with little intervention from party leaders." You can find out a lot more in the Globe about the state of play across the state.

OH-Sen: Donald Trump endorsed rich guy Bernie Moreno on Tuesday for the March GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown even though a poll released the previous day put Moreno in third place.

SurveyUSA, working on behalf of the Center For Election Science, which promotes approval voting, showed Secretary of State Frank LaRose leading state Sen. Matt Dolan 33-18, with Moreno at 12%. Morero recently publicized a pair of internals giving him a small edge over LaRose, with Dolan a close third.

Texas: Filing closed Dec. 11 for Texas' March 5 primary, though there's a quirk: Candidates file with their respective political parties, which had an additional five days to send final lists to the secretary of state. That means we can now take a comprehensive look at who is running in the major contests.

Texas may be the second-largest state in the union, but as far as House races are concerned, most of the action will be confined to the primaries (and, in contests where no candidate takes a majority, May 28 runoffs). That's because Republicans enacted a very precise defensive gerrymander following the most recent census, opting to make competitive GOP-held districts safely red rather than aim for further gains by targeting Democratic seats.

You'll also want to bookmark our calendar of every filing deadline, primary, and runoff for the 2024 elections. One person we're very sure does not use our calendar is Donald Trump, who on Monday night called for someone to challenge GOP Rep. Chip Roy for renomination in the 21st District. "If interested, let me know!!!" Trump wrote a week after it was too late for anyone to take him up on his offer. Roy, who appears to have pissed off his party's supreme leader by campaigning with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is unopposed in March.

TX-Sen: Ten Democrats have filed to take on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, though Rep. Colin Allred ended September with a huge financial advantage over the entire primary field. However, a new survey from YouGov on behalf of the University of Texas and Texas Politics Project finds that many primary voters have yet to make up their minds with about two-and-a-half months to go.

Allred leads state Sen. Roland Gutierrez 28-7, who is the only other Democrat who had at least a six-figure war chest at the end of the third quarter. Two other notable options, state Rep. Carl Sherman and former Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, were at just 2% each. A 38% plurality volunteered they "haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion," while another 10% answered "don't know." Spending has yet to begin in earnest, however, so this state of affairs should soon change.

House

AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich has publicized an internal from Remington Research that shows him outpacing his fellow Republican, Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, in the August top-four primary, though he notably did not include numbers simulating how he'd do in an instant-runoff race against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola. The congresswoman takes first with 42% as Begich leads Dahlstrom 28-9 for second, with another 7% going to Libertarian Chris Bye, who ran in 2022 along with Begich. All of these contenders would advance to the November general election if these results held.

CA-20: GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday submitted his resignation letter to the House, and his departure will take effect Dec. 31. It remains to be seen if Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will schedule a special election to succeed the former speaker; the top-two primary for a full two-year term will take place March 5.

NY-26: Reporter Robert J. McCarthy writes in WKBW that Erie County Legislator Jeanne Vinal is considering competing in the unscheduled special election to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, while an unnamed source says that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown will decide early next year.

These two Democrats' deliberations may not matter much, though, because the person who may single-handedly get to pick the party's nominee for the special seems happy with someone else. Erie County Democratic chair Jeremy Zellner tells McCarthy that the one major declared candidate, state Sen. Tim Kennedy, is "far ahead" of Brown and Vinal in organizing a campaign. "I am very impressed at this point in what he has put together in fundraising and forming a team," Zellner said, adding, "And whoever does this has to be ready."

OH-02: State Sen. Shane Wilkin announced Tuesday that he was joining the March GOP primary to replace retiring Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a declaration that came one day before the filing deadline. Wilkin already represents about a third of this safely red southern Ohio seat.

OH-15: Cleveland.com reports that Democratic state Rep. Adam Miller last week filed FEC paperwork for a bid against Republican Rep. Mike Carey. Donald Trump took this seat in the southwestern Columbus area 53-46 in 2020.

TX-03: Freshman Rep. Keith Self faces a GOP primary rematch against businesswoman Suzanne Harp, whom he outpaced in a truly strange 2022 contest. Harp, though, finished September with less than $5,000 in the bank, so she's unlikely to be much of a threat. Three other Republicans are also running for this Plano-based seat that Donald Trump took 56-42.

TX-04: GOP Rep. Pat Fallon is running for reelection after waging a bizarre one-day campaign to return to the state Senate, but he seems to be in for a soft landing. Fallon faces just one little-known primary foe in a safely red seat based in the northeastern Dallas exurbs.

TX-07: Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher's only intraparty foe in this safely blue seat is Pervez Agwan, a renewable energy developer whose challenge from the left has been overshadowed in recent weeks by sexual harassment allegations.

The Houston Landing reported this month that one of Agwan's former staffers is suing him for allegedly trying to kiss her; the candidate responded by insinuating that the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC was involved in the lawsuit, but he did not produce any evidence to back it up his claim. The New Republic later reported that 11 staffers resigned in October from Agwan's campaign, which it described as an environment "where multiple women faced frequent sexual harassment from senior staff."

TX-12: Longtime Rep. Kay Granger is retiring from this conservative seat in western Fort Worth and its western suburbs, and five fellow Republicans are competing to succeed her. The early frontrunner is state House Republican Caucus Chair Craig Goldman, who has the support of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Another name to watch is businessman John O'Shea, who began running well before Granger announced her departure in November. However, while O'Shea has the support of Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom Goldman voted to impeach earlier this year, he ended the third quarter with a mere $20,000 in the bank.

Also in the running is businesswoman Shellie Gardner, the self-proclaimed "Queen of Christmas Lights." (Gardner says her business has spent nearly two decades "supplying Christmas lights across the country, including the United States Capitol Christmas Tree.") Two other lesser-known Republicans round out the field.

TX-15: Freshman GOP Rep. Monica De La Cruz faces a rematch against businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, whom she beat 53-45 last year after major Democratic groups spent almost nothing on the race. Donald Trump won this gerrymandered seat in the Rio Grande Valley 51-48 in 2020. The incumbent ended September with a huge $1.4 million to $184,000 cash on hand lead.

Vallejo herself drew a familiar intra-party opponent on the final day of filing from attorney John Villarreal Rigney. Vallejo edged out Rigney 20-19 for second place in the 2022 primary, while Army veteran Ruben Ramirez took first with 28%, though Vallejo went on to narrowly beat Ramirez in the runoff.

TX-18: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced she would seek a 16th term just two days after she was blown out by state Sen. John Whitmire, a fellow Democrat, in Houston's mayoral race, but she faces a challenging renomination fight in this safely blue seat.

Former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who once was a Jackson Lee intern, began campaigning after the congresswoman kicked off her bid for mayor and pledged to stay in the race even if the incumbent ultimately were to run for reelection—a promise she's kept. Edwards finished September with a hefty $829,000 banked, around four times as much as Jackson Lee reported. A third candidate named Rob Slater is also in, and his presence could prevent either Jackson Lee or Edwards from claiming a majority.

TX-23: GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales faces four primary foes in a sprawling West Texas seat that went 53-46 for Trump, one of whom has attracted some attention. Two Democrats are also running, though neither has earned much notice.

Gunmaker Brandon Herrera, who has over 3 million subscribers on his "The AK Guy" YouTube channel, finished September with $240,000 in the bank, which was far more than any of Gonzales' other intra-party challengers. Those hopefuls include former Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Victor Avila, Medina County GOP Chair Julie Clark, and Frank Lopez, who claimed 5% as an independent in last year's general election.

Gonzales infuriated hardliners by confirming Joe Biden's victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack and later supporting gun safety legislation after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, which took place in his district. The state GOP responded to his apostasies in March by censuring him, a move that bars him from receiving party help until after any runoffs take place. Gonzales may not care, though, since he ended the third quarter with $1.7 million to spend.

TX-26: Rep. Michael Burgess announced his retirement shortly before Thanksgiving, and 11 fellow Republicans want to replace him in a safely red seat located in the northern Fort Worth suburbs and exurbs.

Donald Trump is supporting far-right media figure Brandon Gill, who is the son-in-law of MAGA toady Dinesh D'Souza. Gill also recently earned the backing of the like-minded House Freedom Caucus, which is capable of spending serious money in primaries.

Southlake Mayor John Huffman, meanwhile, picked up the support of 24th District Rep. Beth Van Duyne, who serves a neighboring seat. And in a blast from the past, former Denton County Judge Scott Armey is also in the running, more than two decades after losing a nasty 2002 runoff to Burgess. (Armey is the son of former Majority Leader Dick Armey, who was Burgess' immediate predecessor.)

Also in the running is Luisa Del Rosal, who previously served as chief of staff to 23rd District Rep. Tony Gonzales. The fourth quarter fundraising numbers, which are due at the end of January, will provide clues as to whether any of the other seven Republicans are capable of waging a serious effort.

TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar, who is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, does not face any intraparty opposition this year, following narrow back-to-back wins against progressive Jessica Cisneros. Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes Laredo and the eastern San Antonio suburbs, 53-46.

Cuellar turned back a well-funded general election rival by a comfortable 57-43 margin in 2022, so it remains to be seen if any of his four Republican foes are capable of giving him a scare this time. The candidate who has attracted the most attention so far is Jose Sanz, who is a former Cuellar staffer. Not all the attention has been welcome, though, as the Texas Tribune reported in October that the Republican was arrested for throwing a chair at his sister in 2021; the case was eventually dismissed after Sanz performed community service and attended batterer intervention classes.

TX-32: Ten Democrats are competing to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred in a diverse northern Dallas constituency that Republicans made safely blue in order to protect GOP incumbents elsewhere in the area.

The two early frontrunners appear to be state Rep. Julie Johnson, whose 2018 victory made her the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, and Brian Williams, the trauma surgeon who attracted national attention in 2016 after he treated Dallas police officers wounded by a sniper. Williams finished September with a $525,000 to $404,000 cash lead over Johnson; the only other Democrat with a six-figure campaign account was Raja Chaudhry, who owns a charter bus company and self-funded his entire $266,000 war chest.

Also in the running are Alex Cornwallis, who was the party's 2022 nominee for a seat on the state Board of Education; former Dallas City Council member Kevin Felder; and civil rights attorney Justin Moore.

TX-34: Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez is in for a rematch against former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores, whom he convincingly beat 53-44 in an unusual incumbent vs. incumbent contest last year. Gonzalez finished September with a $944,000 to $230,000 advantage in cash on hand.

Three other Republicans are also running, including wealthy perennial candidate Mauro Garza, but none of them appear to pose much of a threat to Flores. Joe Biden won this seat in the eastern Rio Grande Valley 57-42.

Judges

OH Supreme Court: The state GOP announced Tuesday that appointed Justice Joe Deters will take on Democratic colleague Melody Stewart for a full six-year term. Deters previously said he would challenge either Stewart or Democratic Justice Michael Donnelly rather than run for the remaining two years of the term of the Republican he replaced, Sharon Kennedy. (Kennedy won a promotion from associate justice to chief justice last year as part of a sweep by Republican hardliners after Republicans enacted a law adding party labels to the ballot.)

TX Supreme Court: Partisan control of Texas' all-Republican, nine-member Supreme Court isn't at stake, but progressives are hoping that the trio of justices up in 2024 will pay a price for their unanimous ruling rejecting Kate Cox's petition for an emergency abortion. Cox, who said her fetus suffered from fatal abnormalities and posed a risk to her own health, left the state to undergo the procedure in a case that continues to attract national attention.

Each of the three Republicans faces at least one Democratic foe in their respective statewide race. Justice John Devine is being challenged by Harris County District Judge Christine Weems, who narrowly won reelection last year in Texas' largest county. Two pairs of Democrats, meanwhile, are competing to take on each of the other incumbents.

Going up against Justice Jimmy Blacklock are Harris County District Judge DaSean Jones, who last year survived an extremely tight reelection contest, and attorney Randy Sarosdy. And in the race to unseat Justice Jane Bland are Court of Appeals Judge Bonnie Lee Goldstein, who prevailed in a close 2020 race in the Dallas area, and Judge Joe Pool, who has run for the Supreme Court in the past as a Republican but won a local judgeship last year in Hays County as a Democrat.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The U.S. Senate confirmed former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Monday night as secretary of the Social Security Administration. The Democrat will take over from acting secretary Kilolo Kijakazi, who has served since July of 2021.

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Bookmark our new 2024 calendar of primary dates and filing deadlines

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

Primary Calendar: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to unveil our 2024 primary calendar, where you'll find a complete list of major-party filing deadlines, primaries, and runoffs for all 50 states. We also include the dates of each presidential primary, which often take place months before the state's downballot nomination contests. Sometimes, though, the two coincide, which frequently leads to higher-than-normal primary turnout.

One of the things we pay careful attention to at Daily Kos Elections is each state's candidate filing deadline, since it represents the point at which prospective candidates need to decide whether or not they'll actually run for office. The first deadline of the cycle was on Friday in Alabama, where a brand-new congressional map will be used for the first time.

That gives us the opportunity to run down the state of play for the state's key races, something we'll do as each state's filing deadline passes. And several are coming up soon: Arkansas is next on Nov. 14, while Illinois, California, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio all have deadlines next month.

Filing season doesn't end, though, until July 19 in Louisiana, which traditionally brings up the rear. (Louisiana holds an all-party primary on Nov. 5, which is the date of the general election, rather than separate partisan primaries.) Some precise dates are not yet set such as the filing deadline for Georgia, which likely will be sometime in early March, so we'll update our calendar as soon as they are.

We also include important notes about those deadlines. Nebraska, for example, has a unique law that requires any incumbents, regardless of whether they are seeking reelection or another office, to file by Feb. 15; the deadline for everyone else is March 1. We also list states where party conventions are important for determining ballot access, winnowing the field, or officially picking nominees.

Finally, we provide details about which states require primary runoffs, including what percentage of the vote is needed in each state to trigger a second round of voting. For instance, in Georgia, a runoff is needed if no candidate takes a majority of the vote, while in North Carolina, runoffs are only conducted if no one takes more than 30%—and then only if the runner-up requests one.

The 2024 downballot primary season officially kicks off on March 5 (Super Tuesday), with Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas leading the way. Some primary dates could change, though. For instance, while Massachusetts is currently set for Sept. 17―the very last partisan primary in the nation―the state House passed a bill Wednesday to move it to Sept. 3.

The state Senate and Gov. Maura Healey still need to assent, but there's good reason to think they will. As the Boston Globe notes, the legislature has routinely bumped up the date over the last decade since late primaries interfere with federal laws that require mail ballots to be sent to overseas voters 45 days before a general election. (Legislation setting a permanent earlier date has yet to pass.) We'll update our calendar when Massachusetts finalizes its plans, and we'll do the same for any other adjustments to the calendar elsewhere.

There's a lot to explore, so you should check out—and bookmark—our calendar for all the details. You can also find a sortable version here.

Senate

NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein writes that First Lady Tammy Murphy will announce in the coming week that she'll seek the Senate seat held by her fellow Democrat, indicted incumbent Bob Menendez. Murphy would join Rep. Andy Kim in the June 4 primary; Menendez, who is set to go on trial the month before, hasn't announced his plans yet, though Wildstein writes that "few expect" him to run again.

Wildstein also reports that longtime South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross will likely support Murphy. Norcross' brother, Rep. Donald Norcross, didn't rule out running himself in late September, but we can probably cross his name off the potential candidate list now.

OH-Sen: The liberal firm Data for Progress tests Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown against four Republican foes:

  • 46-46 vs. Secretary of State Frank LaRose
  • 47-46 vs. state Sen. Matt Dolan
  • 47-44 vs. businessman Bernie Moreno
  • 48-43 vs. Some Dude Joel Mutchler

DPF tells us it has no client for this survey.

WI-Sen: NRSC chair Steve Daines told Punchbowl News that rich guy Eric Hovde is his top choice to oppose Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin. No major candidates have launched bids here yet, and that may not change for a while: Unnamed sources predicted that Hovde would launch sometime next year.

House

AL-01: Due to the creation of Alabama's new 2nd Congressional District (see just below), two Republican incumbents will face off for the right to represent the neighboring 1st District, Reps. Barry Moore and Jerry Carl. The revised 1st, which stretches from the Gulf Coast in the west to Dothan in the east, is a deep red, heavily white district, so whoever survives the GOP primary will be assured of another term in the House. The loser will go home.

The two incumbents, who are both white, are both intensely conservative, though Moore may be even more extreme. While both men voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump in 2020, Moore went even further in inflaming Trump supporters following the Jan. 6 attacks. [I]t was a Black police officer who shot the white female veteran," he tweeted of rioter Ashli Babbit, who was shot attempting to breach a hallway adjacent to the House chamber.

Moore, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, could also earn the backing of the deep-pocketed Club for Growth, which aided him in his initial bid for the prior version of the 2nd District in 2020 while also seeking to thwart Carl that same year. But Carl, who was elected to the old 1st District, does have one notable advantage: He represents 59% of the population of the redrawn 1st versus 41% for Moore, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.

Alabama’s primary is March 5, though an April 2 runoff is required should no candidate win a majority of the vote. However, since Carl and Moore were the only two to file, their race will be settled in the first round.

AL-02: Alabama is poised to send two Black Democrats to Congress for the first time ever, thanks to a brand new court-ordered 2nd District that's designed to bring the state into compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The new open seat has inspired a large field of hopefuls to join the race, including 13 Democrats and eight Republicans, according to AL.com's Mike Cason.

One major name, however, had a last-minute change of heart. State Sen. Kirk Hatcher, who had announced a bid late last month, said on Friday that he would not file for the race after all. His decision means that the Democratic primary will feature no prominent candidates from the city of Montgomery, which anchors one end of the redrawn district. (The new-look 2nd runs east-west across the state to include most of the rural Black Belt, reaching down to take in Mobile along the Gulf Coast in Alabama's southwestern corner.)

That still leaves five Democratic lawmakers seeking the seat, including one who entered just before the filing deadline, state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels. Like several other contenders, Daniels represents a district a ways away from the one he's now hoping to represent: His Huntsville-based seat is nearly 200 miles from Montgomery. Daniels, however, grew up in Bullock County, one of the Black Belt counties now in the 2nd, which he has said gives him an understanding of rural communities that other candidates lack.

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, meanwhile, represents Birmingham, which forms the heart of the state's other Black-majority district, the 7th. (There, veteran Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell faces minimal opposition in her bid for reelection; see more below.) Givan says that she, too, has ties to the district, though she seemed less concerned about the issue. "I feel I'm just as qualified to run for this seat as anybody else," Cason reports she said at her campaign kickoff, "whether I live here in Montgomery, or whether I live across the street, or up the street, or back the street, or anywhere else."

Another Birmingham-area legislator, state Sen. Merika Coleman, pointed to her itinerant upbringing as a child of a military veteran. Coleman said that although she was not "indigenous" to her district in the legislature, "most people would never know that because I have fought the good fight" for her constituents, according to AL.com's Roy Johnson.

The other two lawmakers in the mix do actually serve parts of the 2nd District. State Rep. Jeremy Gray, best known for spearheading the repeal of Alabama's ban on yoga in public schools, represents a seat at the far eastern end of the state, though his hometown of Opelika is just outside the 2nd. Finally, state Rep. Napoleon Bracy hails from Prichard, a city just outside of Mobile. That makes him the only elected official from the region in the primary.

But he's not the only notable Mobile-area Democrat in the race: Shomari Figures, who recently stepped down from a position with the Justice Department, joined the contest the day before the filing deadline. Figures is the son of state Sen. Vivian Figures, a prominent Mobile politician who has been in public office for three decades and had considered a bid herself.

The 2nd was created specifically to give African American voters the opportunity to elect their preferred candidate—almost certainly a Black Democrat, like all of the contenders mentioned above. To that end, the district is now home to a 51% Black majority and would have voted for Joe Biden by a 56-43 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App. Given Alabama's history of racially polarized voting, that will make the Democratic nominee the heavy favorite in next year's general election.

But that hasn't stopped a number of Republicans from hoping they can pull off an unlikely upset. The GOP field includes two politicians, state Sen. Greg Albritton and former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker, both of whom are white. Another late entrant was former NFL defensive end Wallace Gilberry, who was a star for the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide before playing professionally for nine seasons; Gilberry is Black.

AL-07: State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton has opted against a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell in the 7th District, despite saying in September that he was "looking forward" to just such a campaign, according to AL.com's Roy Johnson. When he announced he was considering a bid, Singleton told the Alabama Daily News, "I want the big fish." But when the filing deadline came and went, Singleton's name was nowhere to be found on the menu. Sewell should have no problem winning another term in the majority-Black 7th, which would have voted for Joe Biden 64-35, per Dave's Redistricting App.

CO-04: State Rep. Richard Holtorf declared Thursday that he was entering the June GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ken Buck in this reliably red eastern Colorado constituency. Holtorf formed an exploratory committee back in September before the incumbent announced that he wouldn't run again, but the state representative isn't done trashing his would-be opponent. "Ken Buck let us down when he failed to push for the Trump agenda," declared Holtorf.

Holtorf, who cosponsored a resolution last year calling for a "full forensic audit of the 2020 and 2021 elections in Colorado," has also made it clear exactly what he thinks of Buck's anger with Republicans who refuse to accept Joe Biden's win. He previously took Buck to task for condemning a letter from local Republicans accusing the federal government of violating the rights of Jan. 6 defendants, as well as Buck's opposition to his party's fervor to impeach Biden. "Why is he on CNN and MSNBC?" Holtorf asked in September, "I don't think the message he is explaining represents the sentiment of the district."

Holtorf, by contrast, made national news in 2021 when he called a Latino colleague "Buckwheat," claiming later that he didn't know of the racist origins of the word. Holtorf again attracted unwanted attention again the next year when he accidentally dropped his gun in the state capitol while rushing to a vote, an episode that one observer called "reckless and scary."

FL-20: The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it was investigating Democratic Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, though it did not include any details about what it was looking into. A spokesman for Cherfilus-McCormick, who represents a safely blue seat in South Florida, only said the congresswoman was "committed to compliance and will work to see that the matter is resolved."

OH-02: Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup's Thursday evening retirement announcement unexpectedly set off an open-seat race for Ohio's 2nd District, a longtime conservative bastion in the eastern Cincinnati suburbs. Donald Trump took this constituency 72-27, so whoever wins a plurality in the March 19 GOP primary should have no trouble holding it. But because the filing deadline is Dec. 20, Wenstrup's potential successors have only a few weeks to make up their minds.

Wenstrup himself got to Congress after pulling off a major primary upset against the infamous Rep. Jean Schmidt in 2012, when he made his second bid for office. Wenstrup, who worked as an orthopedic surgeon, was awarded a Bronze Star by the Army for his service as a combat surgeon in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. He also had a small, albeit apolitical, fanbase back in southern Ohio: When Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Kiesewetter asked which local physicians fit the nickname "Dr. McDreamy" from "Grey's Anatomy," some readers submitted Wenstrup's name.

Wenstrup entered the officially nonpartisan 2009 contest for mayor of Cincinnati but lost to Democratic incumbent Mark Malloy, albeit by a respectable 54-46 margin. Though he said he didn't have any plans to enter another race, he would later tell the Enquirer his feelings changed after a religious retreat in early 2011. "One of the themes of the retreat was, 'What are you going to do with the rest of your life?'" he'd recount the next year. "I felt Congress was the place to be. It was the place where I could make a difference, and I wanted to go for it."

The incumbent he decided to challenge in the 2012 primary, though, seemed secure despite a rough tenure in office. Schmidt had struggled to win her initial 2005 special election against Democrat Paul Hackett months, even though George W. Bush had decisively carried the 2nd District—a poor performance she followed up with weak victories in both the 2006 and 2008 general elections. However, the woman nicknamed "Mean Jean" by her many enemies finally had an easy time during the 2010 red wave, suggesting that she had at last turned a corner.

The ultraconservative Schmidt, though, managed to alienate her base when she gave President Barack Obama a kiss on the cheek at the president's State of the Union address in 2012, a gesture that played badly in the tea party era. The House Ethics Committee had also determined that Schmidt had improperly taken $500,000 in legal services from a Turkish group.

On top of that, redistricting left Schmidt with a seat that was about a quarter new to her. A new super PAC called the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which had the stated goal of denying renomination to incumbents from both parties, got involved with a $50,000 radio and phone campaign attacking the congresswoman.

But it was still a major surprise when Wenstrup, who didn't air a single TV ad, racked up a 49-43 win that March—a result that made Schmidt the first member of Congress to lose reelection that cycle. "Jean has always had some tough races, but she's always sort of hung on and won, so I guess I expected that again," fellow Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan told Roll Call after the votes were tallied. "It just wasn't on my radar screen."

Observers realized in retrospect that it hadn't been on Schmidt's radar screen either. The congresswoman had gone on the air only in the final days of the race and even spent the morning of the primary in D.C. rather than campaigning at home. "She just didn't work it or take this seriously," one national GOP source told Politico hours after the dust had settled. (Schmidt eventually resurrected her career by winning a state House seat in 2020.) Wenstrup, unlike the congresswoman he'd just beaten, had no trouble in the general election, and he never struggled to hold the 2nd.

Wenstrup attracted national attention in 2017, when he treated Rep. Steve Scalise immediately after a gunman shot the Louisianan at practice for that year's congressional baseball game. "Happened to have Brad Wenstrup on the field that day, and he was one of the first to come to my side," Scalise would say when he returned to Congress months later. "Who would've thought that God would've put Brad out there on that field with me because the tourniquet he applied―many will tell you―saved my life so that I could actually make it to the hospital in time with all the blood loss."

Wenstrup would later sign on to the lawsuit alleging "unconstitutional irregularities involved in the 2020 presidential election," though he'd ultimately vote to recognize Joe Biden's win in the hours after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The congressman expressed interest a few weeks later in running to fill the seat held by retiring Sen. Rob Portman, but he ultimately decided to seek what would be his final term in the House.

WA-06, WA-Gov: Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced Friday that she was ending her uphill bid for governor and would instead run for the seat held by Rep. Derek Kilmer, a fellow Democrat who announced his retirement the day before. Franz served on the city council for Bainbridge Island, which is located in the 6th, from 2008 to 2011, though the Seattle Times writes that she's since registered to vote outside the district in Seattle. However, Franz's announcement says she lives in Kilmer's district in Grays Harbor County.

On the GOP side, state Sen. Drew MacEwen told the paper Friday that he was forming an exploratory committee. This seat backed Joe Biden 57-40, though Democrats will want to keep an eye out to make sure two Republicans don't advance past the August top-two primary.

Attorneys General

NC-AG: Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry unexpectedly announced Friday she would seek the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Deberry will take on Rep. Jeff Jackson, who until now had no serious opposition in the March primary to replace their fellow Democrat, gubernatorial candidate Josh Stein. The winner will likely take on far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, who still has no major opponents in the GOP contest.

Deberry was elected in 2018 to become the top prosecutor for Durham County, which is the bluest in the state, and she won again last year. Deberry, who would be the first Black woman to hold one of the 10 statewide offices that are part of the North Carolina Council of State, has touted herself as a "progressive prosecutor."

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Snohomish County, WA Sheriff: Susanna Johnson declared victory Thursday evening over hard-right Sheriff Adam Fortney after more ballots were tabulated from Nov. 7's officially nonpartisan race. Johnson led 51-48, a margin of almost 5,400 votes, with heraldnet.com saying there just 500 ballots left "plus any mail-in ballots still en route." Fortney had the county GOP's support, while Johnson had the support of several Democratic groups.

Fortney was elected to this post in 2019, and he spent the first months of his tenure refusing to enforce Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's public health rules. He's also rehired deputies accused of wrongdoing, including one fired for an unjustified killing. Johnson, who would be the first woman to hold this post, told Bolts Magazine the return of these deputies inspired her to run, arguing it's led to constituents becoming "terrified of the cops."

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby was convicted Thursday evening on two counts of perjury, and each carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Mosby last year took third place in her Democratic primary against the eventual winner, Ivan Bates.

Prosecutors argued that Mosby lied when she submitted paperwork to withdraw $90,000 from Baltimore's Deferred Compensation Plan during the pandemic, as she checked the box saying she'd suffered "adverse financial consequences" when her salary actually rose. Mosby's team insisted that the travel business she founded had been forced to close, but prosecutors made the case that it never had any employees, clients, or income. Mosby still awaits trial for allegedly filing false mortgage applications.

Morning Digest: A right-wing darling wants a CNN gig. His enemies want his seat

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

CO-04: Colorado state Rep. Richard Holtorf announced Tuesday that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential primary bid against Republican Rep. Ken Buck, a Freedom Caucus member who has improbably morphed into a vocal critic of extremists in his own party. Holtorf may not get his chance to take on Buck, though, as the congressman revealed that same day that he was interested in leaving the House to take an on-air cable news job.

Holtorf, who is the first notable Republican to publicly express interest in campaigning against the incumbent in the 4th District, told Colorado Public Radio he'd make up his mind in December. The state representative took Buck to task for condemning a letter from local Republicans accusing the federal government of violating the rights of Jan. 6 defendants, as well as Buck's opposition to his party's fervor to impeach Joe Biden. "Why is he on CNN and MSNBC?" asked Holtorf, "I don't think the message he is explaining represents the sentiment of the district."

But voters may soon see a whole lot more of their congressman on one of those networks than in eastern Colorado. The New York Post published a story shortly after the CPR interview went live in which Buck said, "I am interested in talking to folks at CNN and other news organizations—on the, I don't want to call them left, but sort of center-left—and having an opportunity to do that full-time or do that as a contributor would be great also."

Buck went on to inform the paper he was also eyeing similar roles at hard-right outlets like Fox News and Newsmax, though he added that he hasn't decided if he wants to leave the House just yet. And despite publishing a Washington Post piece titled, "My fellow Republicans: One disgraceful impeachment doesn't deserve another," Buck also said he hadn't actually ruled out voting to impeach Biden. "I am not opposed to impeachment, I'm opposed to the impeachment inquiry because I don't think it gives us any broader authority to investigate this," the congressman argued.

Until recently, it would have been tough to imagine Buck speaking out against his party's far-right elements. Buck, who previously served as Weld County district attorney, first emerged on the national scene as a prominent tea partier in the 2010 cycle when he challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. His hardline rhetoric, however, helped cost his party a pickup during what was otherwise a massive GOP wave.

Late in the campaign, Buck appeared on "Meet the Press" and said he stood by his 2005 declaration that he had refused to prosecute an alleged rape because "a jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer's remorse." He also argued that being gay was a choice. "I think birth has an influence over it," he said, "like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice." Republicans quickly responded to Buck's narrow loss by citing him, along with Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and Nevada's Sharron Angle, as a cautionary example of what happens when the party chooses extremist nominees in crucial Senate races.

Unlike his fellow travelers, though, Buck actually had a future in elected office. For a time in 2014, he waged another Senate bid, but then switched places with Rep. Cory Gardner when the latter decided to wage a late campaign against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

Buck decisively won the primary for Gardner's seat by a 44-24 margin, and he's never had trouble holding his reliably red constituency. He went on to chair the state GOP ahead of a dispiriting 2020 cycle and has spent most of his tenure as an ardent conservative, though he broke from Freedom Caucus doctrine in 2021 when he became part of the minority of Republicans to vote to recognize Biden's win.

Holtorf, by contrast, likely has far more in common with most of Buck's colleagues on the extreme right. The state representative made national news in 2021 when he called a Latino colleague "Buckwheat," claiming later that he didn't know of the racist origins of the word. Holtorf again attracted unwanted attention again the next year when he accidentally dropped his gun in the state capitol while rushing to a vote, an episode that one observer called "reckless and scary."

The Downballot

 We did it! And it's all thanks to Molech! We're devoting this week's episode of "The Downballot" to giving praise to the dark god himself after New Hampshire Democrat Hal Rafter won a critical special election over Republican Jim Guzofski, the loony toons pastor who once ranted that liberals make "blood sacrifices to their god Molech." Democrats are now just one seat away from erasing the GOP's majority in the state House and should feel good about their chances in the Granite State next year. Republicans, meanwhile, can only stew bitterly that they lack the grassroots fundraising energy provided by Daily Kos, which endorsed Rafter and raised the bulk of his campaign funds via small donations.

We're also joined by Daily Kos Elections' own Stephen Wolf to update us on the ongoing litigation over Alabama's congressional map. In an unusual move, the court's appointed expert invited the public to submit their own proposals as he prepares replacement maps, so Wolf took him up on the offer and drew two plans of his own. Wolf describes those plans in detail and sings the praises of Dave's Redistricting App, the invaluable free tool that has allowed ordinary citizens to participate in the redistricting process in ways never before possible.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Politico reported Wednesday that Republican Kari Lake, who continues to challenge her defeat in last year's race for governor, will "almost certainly" announce in October that she'll run for the Senate, which is the same timeline Axios laid out last month. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has been campaigning for the GOP nod since April, but it remains to be seen if any other notable names will join in. While multiple publications said just before Labor Day that 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters had decided to get in, a separate Politico story from Wednesday says his entry is "now on hold as Kari Lake preps her entry."

IN-Sen: Wealthy businessman John Rust has filed a lawsuit to challenge the state law that would keep him off the GOP primary ballot, though he'd be the underdog against Rep. Jim Banks even if he succeeded in court.

The state only allows candidates to run with the party they belong to, and the easiest way for Hoosiers to establish party affiliation is to cast their two most recent primary votes in that side's nomination contests. (There is no party registration in Indiana.) But while Rust most recently participated in the 2016 GOP primary, his prior vote was in the 2012 Democratic race. Candidates can get an exemption if their local party chair certifies that they belong to the party, but Jackson County party head Amanda Lowery said last month she wouldn't do this.

Governors

KY-Gov: Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear has launched his most hard-hitting ad of the race, a spot where a rape survivor condemns Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron's ardent opposition to abortion rights.  "I was raped by my stepfather after years of sexual abuse," says a woman identified as Hadley. "I was 12."

Hadley continues, "Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it's like to stand in my shoes. This is to you, Daniel Cameron: to tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather, who raped her, is unthinkable."

Beshear last month became probably the first statewide candidate to ever air a general election ad attacking the GOP's opposition to abortion rights, and Planned Parenthood has also launched digital ads on the topic. Cameron has defended the state's near-total ban, which has no exemptions for rape or incest, in court and on the campaign trail, telling LEX 18 News in April, "I'm not going to waiver in my position on this and we're going to continue to defend the law as is."

The attorney general seems to have finally recognized that that stance is toxic even in this conservative state, and he declared Monday, "If our legislature was to bring legislation before me that provided exceptions for rape and incest, I would sign that legislation."

Beshear's side quickly made it clear they wouldn't stop attacking his record in office, though. The state Democratic Party posted 2022 footage Tuesday where Cameron celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade by proclaiming, "Abortion is, for all intents and purposes, over here in the commonwealth, with the exemption of life [of the mother]. There is no rape and incest exemption." The governor's campaign debuted this new ad the following day.

LA-Gov: State Rep. Richard Nelson, who raised little money and barely registered in the polls, announced Wednesday that he was exiting the Oct. 14 all-party primary and endorsing his fellow Republican, far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry. Nelson said last month that he was interested in replacing another now-former GOP rival, Stephen Waguespack, as head of the state's Chamber of Commerce affiliate, but he also acknowledged Wednesday that the group had passed him over.

UT-Gov, UT-Sen: While former Rep. Jason Chaffetz still hasn't ruled out running for governor or Senate this cycle, the Republican acknowledged to KSL he's likely to remain a Fox News talking head instead. "That's not something I'm planning to do, challenging Gov. [Spencer] Cox is not in my plans," said Chaffetz, adding he's more interested in seeking the governorship in 2028. He also said of a campaign to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, "I haven't fully closed the door on it, but it's not something I'm actively pursuing."

House

CA-40: EMILY's List has endorsed Tustin Unified School District trustee Allyson Muñiz Damikolas in the top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Young Kim in an eastern Orange County seat that Joe Biden carried 50-48. Damikolas' only notable intra-party foe is retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr, who previously earned endorsements from four Southern California House Democrats: Senate candidates Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, plus Reps. Lou Correa and Mike Levin.

Ballot Measures

AZ Ballot: A campaign has launched in Arizona to place an amendment on next year's general election ballot to do away with the state's partisan primaries starting in 2026, an effort that comes months after Republican legislators placed their own amendment on the ballot to protect the status quo and ban instant-runoff voting. The Arizona Mirror says that if both amendments won next year, only the one with the most support would take effect.

However, even if voters opted to change how elections are conducted, it still wouldn't be up to voters what system they'd get to use. Axios' Jeremy Duda explains that, while all the candidates would run on one all-party primary ballot, it would be up to the legislature if anywhere between two and five contenders would advance to the general election for races where only one candidate can win.

Instant-runoff voting would be used for the second round of voting if more than two contenders are allowed to move forward, but the GOP's hatred of ranked-choice voting means that this almost certainly wouldn't happen as long as the party maintains its narrow majorities in both chambers. Should the legislature fail to reach an agreement, though, it would be up to the secretary of state―a post currently held by Democrat Adrian Fontes―to make this call.

In order to qualify for the ballot, the campaign must secure about 384,000 valid signatures by July 3. Republican leaders very much hope it fails to hit this target, with state party chair Jeff DeWit ardently condemning the effort.

OH Ballot: Ohio's Republican-led Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld most of the summary that the conservative Ohio Ballot Board crafted for the Nov. 7 proposed abortion rights amendment to replace the one drawn up by the amendment's backers, including text that substitutes the words "unborn child" in place of "fetus." The actual text of the amendment that would go into the state constitution remains unchanged.

One Republican on the seven-member body, Justice Pat Fischer, sided with the three Democrats to order the Ballot Board to swap the words "state of Ohio" out for "citizens of the state of Ohio" in a passage describing who had the power to limit access to the procedure. However, the summary that will go before voters will still declare that the amendment would "[a]lways allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician's determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman's life and health."

Mayors & County Leaders

Manchester, NH Mayor: Republican Jay Ruais and Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh advanced out of Tuesday's nonpartisan primary to the Nov. 7 general election to succeed retiring incumbent Joyce Craig, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, for a two-year term as leader of New Hampshire's largest city. Ruais secured 42% while Cavanaugh, a former state senator who went into the first round with endorsements from Craig and Sen. Maggie Hassan, beat out fellow Democratic Alderman Will Stewart 25-19 for second; a third Democratic alderman, June Trisciani, took the remaining 14% and quickly backed Cavanaugh.

While supporters of Ruais, who is a former congressional staffer, celebrated his first-place finish, at least one prominent Republican strategist noted that the three Democrats outpaced him 58-42. Michael Biundo tweeted that Ruais "will celebrate tonight and he should," but continued, "as someone that has spent a lot of time around Manchester politics, the fact the Democrats got a combined majority is a cautionary tale for the GOP. Lots of work ahead if Manchester is going to move in a better direction."

While Manchester, with a population of just over 110,000, isn't a particularly large city by American standards, its status as one of the few places with a sizable concentration of voters and activists in New Hampshire makes it an enticing place for presidential hopefuls to burnish their profiles—not to mention fill their favor banks. The mayor's office also is an attractive springboard to bigger things, particularly given the dearth of statewide elected positions in New Hampshire (only the governor and its two U.S. senators are elected by the entire state).

Republicans had held the mayor's office for more than a decade prior, but Craig broke their streak in 2017 by unseating incumbent Ted Gatsas. The GOP is now hoping to win this key city back even though Biden carried it by a 56-42 margin, which was the best performance by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.

San Mateo County, CA Board of Supervisors: Former Rep. Jackie Speier unexpectedly announced Tuesday that she would run for an open seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the five-member body the Democrat previously served on four decades ago. Speier first won that post in 1980, two years after she survived the 1978 Jonestown cult shooting that murdered her boss, Rep. Leo Ryan, by unseating a 20-year incumbent. She left after she was elected to the state Assembly in 1986, and she'd eventually serve close to 15 years in Congress.

Speier, who retired from the House last cycle, launched her new effort this week by declaring, "The people of District 1 know me, and I know them. I will use the skills I've honed, the relationships I've built, and the experiences I've earned to fix problems our community confronts." She should have a far easier time winning the officially nonpartisan race south of San Francisco than she did in 1980, as the two major contenders, Millbrae Councilmember Gina Papan and Burlingame Councilmember Emily Beach, both dropped out and endorsed her. The nonpartisan primary will be in March, with a November general if no one wins a majority.

P.S. Three of Speier's former House colleagues currently serve on the board of supervisors for other counties in California. Democrat Janice Hahn gave up her seat in 2012 to wage a successful bid in Los Angeles County, while Republican Paul Cook did the same thing in 2020 in San Bernardino County to the east. Another Democrat, Hilda Solis, left the House in 2009 to become U.S. secretary of labor, and she later won the 2014 race to join Hahn on the governing body for America's most populous county, whose five supervisors each represent nearly three times as many constituents as House members do.

This sort of career switch hasn't worked out for every House member, though. In 2014 freshman Democratic Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod left her safely blue seat to run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors only to lose a tight race to Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman, and their 2018 rematch went the same way.

Other Races

Los Angeles, CA City Council: City Councilmember Kevin de León announced Wednesday that he'd seek reelection, a development that comes almost a year after audio surfaced where he and two of his then-colleagues made racist comments about other councilmembers and Los Angeles residents. De León, who defied calls for his resignation from President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats, told Politico, "I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That's why I'm still here."

De León, who is a former leader of the state Senate, rose to national prominence in the 2018 cycle when he waged an unsuccessful challenge from the left against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but he returned to elected office in 2020 when he won a seat on the 15-member City Council in America's second-largest city.

De León went on to take a distant third place in the 2022 nonpartisan primary for mayor, but he had much bigger concerns a few months later when audio leaked of his 2021 conversation with City Council President Nury Martinez, City Councilman Gil Cedillo, and labor leader Ron Herrera. The quartet discussed how to use City Council redistricting to strengthen Latino representation and weaken their opponents, and Martinez also made bigoted remarks about Jews, Armenian Americans, African Americans, and Oaxacans.

At one point De León was recorded agreeing when Martinez described the Black adopted child of a white colleague, Mike Bonin, as "an accessory," with De León saying Bonin's decision to bring his son to political events was like "when Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag." De León also described Bonin as the council's "fourth Black member," adding, "Mike Bonin won't fucking ever say peep about Latinos. He'll never say a fucking word about us."

The release of the recording turned into a national scandal, and both Martinez and Herrera ended up resigning; Cedillo, who had lost reelection months before, ended up staying until his term ended that December. But De León, who would call his insult about the younger Bonin as "a flippant remark," remained put. He argued to Politico this week that, while he should have called out Martinez and the others during their talk, "The context of our conversation was about redistricting and ensuring equal representation." He continued, "You have to look no further than the maps that were drawn. Are they fully reflective of the demographics of the city? Not really."

De León's many foes, though, aren't accepting any of his apologies or explanations. Two Democratic members of the California Assembly, Miguel Santiago and Wendy Carrillo, said that, while they didn't diverge with the incumbent on policy, he couldn't remain in office. Another contender, tenants rights attorney Ysabel Jurado, meanwhile argued she'd represent a change from the unacceptable status quo in city politics.

All of the candidates will face off on one nonpartisan ballot in March, which is the same day that California holds its federal and state primary, and a November runoff would take place unless someone secures a majority. However, several labor leaders argue to Politico that the incumbent is anything but doomed. "He's out in the community," said one unnamed source, while another said the crowded field could make it tougher to present a united front.

Where Are They Now?: Heading to the pokey. Former Rep. Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who served from 1993 until his 2011 retirement, was sentenced to 22 months in prison Tuesday for insider trading, and the judge ordered him to report to jail in late November.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Check out our preview of special elections in Utah and Rhode Island

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

The Daily Kos Elections team will be taking Friday off for the Labor Day weekend. The Live Digest will be back on Tuesday, and the Morning Digest will return on Wednesday. Have a great holiday!

Leading Off

Primary Night: Tuesday is primary night for two vacant House seats on opposite ends of the country: Rhode Island's 1st District, which Democrat David Cicilline departed at the end of May, and Utah's 2nd District, where Republican Chris Stewart remains in office but triggered a special election by notifying Gov. Spencer Cox in June that he would "irrevocably resign" effective the evening of Sept. 15.

Given the respective lean of each district—Joe Biden took Rhode Island's 1st 64-35, while Donald Trump carried Utah's 2nd 57-40—the primaries will likely be dispositive in both cases. It'll still be a little while, though, before either state sends a new member to Congress: The general election in Rhode Island will take place on Nov. 7, while Utah's is set for Nov. 21. Below, we preview both contests.

RI-01: A total of 12 Democrats are on the ballot to replace Cicilline, though one of them, businessman Don Carlson, dropped out over the weekend amid a scandal.

The main contenders for this dark blue constituency are former Biden administration official Gabe Amo, state Sen. Sandra Cano, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, and former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg. Also running are Navy veteran Walter Berbrick, state Rep. Stephen Casey, Providence City Councilman John Goncalves, and state Sen. Ana Quezada.

Amo, Cano, Goncalves, Matos, and Quezada would each have the chance to make history as the first person of color to represent the Ocean State in Congress.

The only poll we've seen in the last month was a mid-August internal for Amo that showed Regunberg leading him 28-19 as Matos and Cano took 11% each. The survey, which found Carlson taking 8%, did not ask about the rest of the field by name and instead found 8% opting for "another candidate not mentioned here." However, there are further indications that Regunberg, who touts endorsements from prominent national progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is the frontrunner going into Tuesday.

Regunberg, who is the nephew of Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, was on the receiving end of more attacks than any of his opponents at Tuesday's debate. A group called Committee for a Better Rhode Island followed up days later by making Regunberg its target in the first negative TV ad of the entire race, though WPRI says it's only putting $81,000 behind its offensive. The spot attacks the candidate over his May declaration that he would have voted against Biden's debt ceiling deal with Speaker Kevin McCarthy; Regunberg said at Tuesday's debate that he'd have supported the agreement if he'd been the decisive vote.

Amo, for his part, picked up an endorsement Thursday from former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who represented prior versions of this seat from 1995 to 2011 but has since moved out of the state. Kennedy, who is the son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, also appeared in a commercial for Amo and touted his work in the Biden administration.

Matos, meanwhile, looked like the frontrunner until July, when multiple local election boards asked the police to probe allegations that her campaign had turned in forged signatures in order to get on the ballot. State election authorities have reaffirmed that the lieutenant governor submitted a sufficient number of valid petitions, but the state attorney general's office is continuing to investigate the matter. Matos' allies at EMILY's List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus remain in her corner, however, as she's benefited from more outside spending than any of her rivals.

Cano has trailed her opponents in fundraising and hasn't received any third-party help, but she has several influential labor groups on her side. The rest of the field has raised little money and hasn't picked up many notable endorsements.

UT-02: The GOP contest to succeed Stewart is a three-way battle between Celeste Maloy, the congressman's former legal counsel; former state Rep. Becky Edwards; and former RNC member Bruce Hough. The winner will face Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who has no intra-party opposition, for a seat located in central and western Salt Lake City and southwestern Utah.

Maloy, who has Stewart's support, earned her spot on the primary ballot by winning the support of delegates at the GOP's convention in June. Just days later, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that she'd last voted in Utah in 2018 before taking a job in D.C. to work for Stewart, which led election officials to move her voter registration to inactive status. Maloy's detractors unsuccessfully argued in court that she'd violated state law because she only became an active voter again after she filed to run for Congress, but they've continued working to portray her as an interloper.

Edwards, meanwhile, infuriated conservatives in 2020 when she endorsed Joe Biden (she has since expressed "regret"), a move she followed by waging a failed primary challenge to far-right Sen. Mike Lee in which she portrayed herself as a more pragmatic option. However, the one poll anyone has released finds voters may not be holding it against her: A mid-August survey from Dan Jones & Associates showed Edwards beating Hough 32-11, with Maloy at 9%. However, half of respondents were undecided, so if this survey is accurate, the race remains up for grabs.

Unlike in Rhode Island, there has been little outside activity in this contest. Hough and Edwards had each spent about $450,000 as of mid-August, while Maloy had spent about half that.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Blake Masters, who was one of the GOP's very worst Senate nominees last cycle, has decided to try again this year, and Politico says his declaration could come as soon as next week. Masters would join Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb in the primary for the seat held by Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent who still hasn't revealed her 2024 plans.

The Republican that everyone's waiting on, though, is election denier Kari Lake, who Axios previously reported plans to launch in October. She and Masters campaigned together last year by urging voters to back "Lake and Blake," but their relationship is anything but friendly these days. Lake on Sunday responded to the news that Masters would be talking to a local conservative activist by tweeting, "I hope you bring up election fraud, and Election crime. You've been quite silent."

MI-Sen: Following a new report on Thursday from the Detroit News that former Republican Rep. Peter Meijer had formed an exploratory committee ahead of a possible bid for Michigan's open Senate seat next year, the ex-congressman released a statement once again confirming that he's "considering running." The development comes as another former member of Congress, Mike Rogers, is also reportedly preparing to join the GOP primary. Democrats have a multi-way primary of their own, but Rep. Elissa Slotkin has raised far more money and earned more high-profile endorsements than the rest of the field.

MT-Sen: Republican pollster J.L. Partners has shared a recent poll with Semafor that tests next year's primary and general election, though there's no indication about who, if anyone, was their client. The GOP primary portion finds far-right Rep. Matt Rosendale with a wide 52-21 edge over wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, who is the favorite of establishment Republicans and the NRSC. That result is only modestly better for Sheehy than a June survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had found Rosendale up 64-10 right before Sheehy kicked off his campaign.

While Rosendale has yet to formally announce his own campaign, he's recently been acting like he's going to run, and Democrats likely would prefer to face him given that he already lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester when this seat was last up in 2018. However, J.L. Partners' poll finds little difference between the two Republicans in a hypothetical 2024 general election: Rosendale leads Tester 46-43 while Sheehy beats the incumbent 46-42. Polling has been very limited here so far, but those numbers are very similar to Rosendale’s 46-41 edge over Tester that GOP pollster OnMessage Inc. found in February.

Governors

KY-Gov: Pluribus News reports that Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear and his allies have reserved $17.3 million in TV time for the remainder of the campaign, compared to $5 million from Republican Daniel Cameron and his backers.

LA-Gov: Conservative independent Hunter Lundy has self-funded more than $1 million to air his first TV ad, which is a minute-long spot that highlights his working-class upbringing and emphasizes his Christian faith. Lundy also calls for raising the minimum wage, investing in education, and holding responsible the "people who wreck our air and water."

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot: Missouri voters could see dueling ballot measures on abortion rights next year after a new group submitted six petitions that would create several exceptions to the state's near-total ban on the procedure, including in cases of rape or fatal fetal abnormalities. One version of the petition would also allow abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy, while two others would permit it until fetal viability, which is generally viewed as beginning at around 23 to 24 weeks.

However, the proposals, which were put forward by a former Republican political operative and artist named Jamie Corley, have earned the ire of the state's Planned Parenthood affiliate, particularly for their focus on exceptions to Missouri's ban. Yamelsie Rodríguez, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement that Corley's approach "will continue to harm Missourians" and warned that "exceptions have never provided meaningful access."

Reproductive rights activists have been working to qualify their own measure for the 2024 ballot after filing 11 different petitions earlier this year, all of which are more expansive than Corley's proposals. (Proponents will ultimately settle on a single plan.) However, the local Planned Parenthood has taken exception to this push, too: Politico reported in April that the organization had pulled out of the coalition behind the effort, called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, because most of its petitions also impose a fetal viability limit.

Corley is arguing that her more restrictive petitions have a better chance of becoming law. "I have respect for other organizations that are working in this realm," she told KCUR. But, she added, "I would say I think we have a much different view and assessment about what is ultimately passable in Missouri."

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom is also in the midst of a lawsuit against Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft over the summary language he drafted for six of the group's petitions.

Ashcroft, who is running for governor, wrote that the measures would "allow for dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions, from conception to live birth, without requiring a medical license or potentially being subject to medical malpractice." The ACLU of Missouri, which is leading the challenge, charged that the descriptions are "misleading" and prejudicial." A state court will hold a trial on the dispute on Sept. 11, with the judge promising to deliver a ruling "pretty quick."

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was one of the most powerful Republicans in Arizona just seven years ago, announced Wednesday that he'll run again in 2024 for mayor of the Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills, the 24,000-person community where incumbent Ginny Dickey beat him 51-49 last year. Arpaio, who is 91, previously lost his 2016 reelection campaign for sheriff, his 2018 primary for U.S. Senate, and the 2020 primary to regain the sheriff's office.

Morning Digest: It’s groundhog day for Republicans in Punxsutawney Phil’s home state

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

PA-Sen: The Associated Press' Brian Slodysko reported Monday that the Senate GOP's top choice to run in Pennsylvania, former hedge fund manager David McCormick, lives in a $16 million Connecticut mansion that "features a 1,500-bottle wine cellar, an elevator and a 'private waterfront resort' overlooking Long Island Sound."

McCormick listed the rented property in Westport, which is in the heart of the Nutmeg State's affluent "Gold Coast" region, as his address on both a January document selling his $13.4 million Manhattan condo and a March campaign contribution. Slodysko notes that McCormick's children also attend private school in Connecticut. The story further observes that McCormick carried out virtual interviews earlier this year from his New England mansion, a fact the reporter was able to ascertain because "[d]istinguishing features in the background match pictures that were posted publicly before the McCormicks moved in."

That last detail may give the GOP some unwelcome déjà vu after the disastrous candidacy of Mehmet Oz, who lost last year's race for Pennsylvania's other Senate seat from his own mansion in New Jersey. Oz, after narrowly defeating none other than McCormick by 950 votes in the GOP primary, even filmed some of ads from his palatial home overlooking the Manhattan skyline—a blunder that Democrat John Fetterman's campaign discovered and blasted out far and wide.

Fetterman was able to identify the location of his opponent's shoot because People magazine had helpfully profiled the house a few years earlier, complete with a six-minute video revealing distinctive decorative elements—including a candlestick—similarly found peeking out from behind Oz.

McCormick, unlike Oz, actually grew up in Pennsylvania, but he lived in Connecticut from 2009 until he sold a different mansion there in late 2021 ahead of his first campaign. The candidate, who purchased a home in Pittsburgh, argued at the time he'd never really left behind his native state and pointed to his continued ownership of his family's Christmas tree farm in Bloomsburg as evidence.

McCormick, whose 2022 primary vote for himself marked the first time in 16 years that he'd cast a ballot in the Keystone State, sought to play up his Pennsylvania roots even after his tight loss to Oz. "We're not going anywhere," he insisted. "This is my home." Political observers immediately began to speculate that he could challenge Sen. Bob Casey in 2024, an idea that delighted the GOP establishment. But McCormick has played coy all year: NRSC chair Steve Daines, according to The Dispatch, joked to a room full of donors this spring that they should "beg" him to run.

The once and perhaps future candidate, for his part, declared in March, "People want to know that the person that they're voting for 'gets it.' And part of 'getting it' is understanding that you just didn't come in yesterday." A spokesperson told Slodysko that McCormick "maintains a residence in Connecticut as his daughters finish high school" but his "home is in Pittsburgh."

McCormick's team, however, declined to answer questions about how much of his time he spends in Connecticut. It's also not clear how long he's occupied the Westport mansion, though Slodysko writes that it went off the market in January of last year, at about the same time that McCormick was selling his other property in the state.

Both parties have long expected McCormick to take on Casey, though multiple Republicans recently indicated to the Philadelphia Inquirer that they didn't think he'd made up his mind. "I was told he stuck his toe in the Atlantic Ocean and the temperature's not where he needs it to be right now," said one party official, adding, "I think at some point, we will just go ahead and plunge in, but I dunno when that day will be." (You can't actually tip your toe into the Atlantic from anywhere in Pennsylvania―but you sure can off the Gold Coast.) If McCormick does surprise everyone and sits out the race, it's not clear who, if anyone, the NRSC has in mind as a backup option.

P.S. McCormick may have one other argument he can use to defend his Keystone State bona fides that Oz couldn't use. "There are parts of Northern PA that were claimed by Connecticut at the time of the nation's founding," snarked Willamette University history professor Seth Cotlar, "so maybe McCormick is claiming PA residence on originalist grounds?"

Senate

NJ-Sen: Politico's Matt Friedman writes that, despite the ongoing federal investigation into Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, no serious intra-party foes are anywhere in sight. Indeed, Friedman says that the one and only Democrat "who was willing to say anything that Menendez could possibly construe as disloyal" was former Sen. Bob Torricelli, and Torricelli (who himself left office in disgrace two decades ago) has made it clear he's done running for office.

UT-Sen: Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz tells the National Journal's Sydney Kashiwagi that he remains interested in running for the Senate seat held by fellow Republican Mitt Romney, and he adds that he's likely to make up his mind in the fall. Romney himself said last month that he'd also "wait 'til the fall" before deciding whether to seek a second term.

Governors

WA-Gov: The state GOP chose state Rep. Jim Walsh as its new chairman on Saturday, a move that likely means he won't run for governor next year. Walsh, who had to apologize in 2021 for comparing COVID mitigation policies to the Holocaust, initially expressed interest in seeking the governorship right after Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee announced his retirement in May, but he doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about running since then. Walsh told the Seattle Times over the weekend that he wasn't even sure if he'd seek reelection to the state House, though he said he was "inclined to."

House

AZ-03: Duane Wooten, a pediatrician who has been quoted by the local news concerning medical issues, tells the Arizona Republic he's filed FEC paperwork for this safely blue open seat and anticipates joining the Democratic primary later in the month.

CA-41: The prominent labor group SEIU California has endorsed former federal prosecutor Will Rollins, a Democrat who faces only a few underfunded intra-party foes as he seeks a rematch against Republican Rep. Ken Calvert.

FL Redistricting, FL-05: Plaintiffs challenging Florida's GOP-drawn congressional map before a state court reached an agreement with defendants on Friday to narrow their claims to just a single seat in the northern part of the state, dropping arguments concerning several other districts.

As a result of that deal, the case will now focus solely on whether Republicans violated the state constitution's prohibition on diminishing the ability of racial or language minorities to elect their preferred candidates when they dismantled the 5th District in redrawing Florida's map last year. That district, which was created in 2016 in response to a previous round of litigation, was home to a 46% Black plurality and elected Al Lawson, a Black Democrat, three times in a row.

But after Republicans sliced the 5th down the middle to wring out a new, solidly red seat in north Florida, Lawson was left with the choice of either retiring or running in the revamped 2nd District, which contained his Tallahassee base. That district, though, was home to a 63% white majority and would have voted for Donald Trump by a 55-44 margin. It also was home to GOP Rep. Neal Dunn, though Lawson forged ahead nonetheless, losing in a 60-40 landslide.

That reality, however, seems to have informed the new agreement between the parties. In exchange for plaintiffs consenting to limit the scope of the case, defendants stipulated that "none of the enacted districts in North Florida are districts in which Black voters have the ability to elect their preferred candidates." That admission should boost plaintiffs' chances of success when the case proceeds to trial, which both sides have asked take place on Aug. 24.

In response to the development, Lawson told Politico that he said he'd consider a comeback if a version of his old district were restored. "It's almost like they have no representation there," Lawson said, relaying the concerns of former constituents who've said their pleas for assistance from Republican members of Congress have gone unheeded.

Disappointed Democrats in the rest of the state, however, may not get a shot at redemption. The plaintiffs, who are backed by national Democrats, had also alleged that a large number of districts ran afoul of the state constitution's ban on partisan gerrymandering, including not just the 5th but also the 4th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 26th, and 27th.

Those claims have now been abandoned, though it's conceivable different plaintiffs could raise them in a new suit. Given the sharp right turn Florida's Supreme Court has taken in recent years—five of its seven members were appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—it's likely that the plaintiffs in the present suit believed their best hope lies in focusing on the 5th District and dispensing with their partisan gerrymandering arguments.

GA-13: The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that "rumors persist" that Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Waites will seek a rematch with veteran Rep. David Scott after falling short in the 2020 Democratic primary in 2020, and Waites herself did nothing to dispel the chatter.

While saying that she had nothing to announce at the moment, Waites highlighted concerns from fellow Democrats about the 78-year-old Scott's ability to effectively do his job. "The point of sending our representatives to Washington is to be our voice," Waites argued, "and if their capacity is limited due to illness or whatever the case may be, I think it puts us at a disservice." Scott recently reaffirmed that, despite rumors to the contrary, he'll seek reelection. "Age happens," he declared. "As long I'm doing the job, I'm going to do it."

Waites previously served in the state House from 2012 until she resigned to wage a failed 2017 bid for chair of the Fulton County Commission, and she was out of office when she joined the 2020 primary to take on Scott. She raised virtually nothing in her bid to beat one of the more conservative Democrats in the chamber and lost 53-25, though she came unexpectedly close to forcing Scott into a runoff. She had better luck the following year when she won an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council, but only about 700 of Scott's constituents live within the city limits.

IN-06, IN-LG: GOP Rep. Greg Pence tells The Republic that he plans to file for reelection in his reliably conservative seat, though he doesn't appear to have addressed the possibility that he could instead serve as Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch's running mate should she win the Republican primary for governor. Nominees for lieutenant governor are chosen by convention delegates rather than primary voters a month or more after the primary, so it's possible Pence could hedge his bets and simultaneously run for Congress and statewide office.

MD-03, MD-Sen: While Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes raised all of $15,000 during the first six months of the year, Maryland Matters writes that the nine-term congressman "says he isn't going anywhere."

There's no direct quote from Sarbanes announcing that he'll seek reelection in his safely blue seat, though the incumbent said, "I always come off each cycle looking forward to the next campaign." He added of his meager fundraising, "I typically give my individual supporters a break to catch their breath. I think the constant barrage of fundraising appeals do wear them out." Sarbanes, who is the son of the late Sen. Paul Sarbanes, also revealed he won't join the race for Maryland's open Senate seat or run for the upper chamber at any point in the future. "I decided a few years back that was something that I wasn't drawn to," said the congressman.

MT-02, MT-Sen: Two Republicans, Auditor Troy Downing and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, announced Monday that they were forming exploratory committees in case Rep. Matt Rosendale decides to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, though both said they have no wish to challenge the incumbent in this dark red seat should he instead seek reelection.

Downing, who took third place against Rosendale in the 2018 Senate primary, praised his former rival to KURL and added, "If Congressman Rosendale decides to pursue the US Senate seat, I will discuss with my family and prayerful consideration running for the second congressional district." Arntzen, meanwhile, would be the first woman to represent Montana in Congress since the trailblazing  Jeannette Rankin, who was herself the first woman ever elected to Congress in 1916 and voted against involving America in both world wars during her two nonconsecutive terms. She went further than Downing and made it clear she'd endorse a Rosendale reelection bid.

Pluribus News also takes a look at the many other Republicans who are waiting to see whether Rosendale will give up his eastern Montana constituency, though per our usual practice, we'll wait to see whether he seeks a promotion before running down the potential field to succeed him. But we may be waiting a while longer to see if the congressman will defy Senate GOP leaders, who have consolidated behind wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy. "Montana voters will make their decision over the next few months over who will replace" Tester, a Rosendale spokesperson told KURL, "not Mitch McConnell and the DC cartel."

NH-01: 2022 GOP nominee Karoline Leavitt dispelled whatever talk there was about a rematch against Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas Monday, saying, "I have decided not to put my name on the ballot in the next election." Leavitt, a Big Lie spreader who now works for a pro-Trump super PAC, lost that campaign 54-46.

RI-01: EMILY's List and its allies at Elect Democratic Women are spending $400,000 on a TV buy to support Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, whom WPRI says doesn't have the resources to air her own spots ahead of the Sept. 5 special Democratic primary. The spot, which comes a week after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC deployed $300,000 on its own pro-Matos ad campaign, touts her record on reproductive rights.

Businessman Don Carlson, meanwhile, is airing his own commercial that begins with footage of gunshots and the sounds of people panicking during a shooting, both of which the on-screen text says are dramatizations. Carlson, whose daughter spent the night in lockdown after a man fired gunshots into a hallway at Colby College (only the shooter was injured), tells the audience, "That was the scene at my daughter's college a few months ago. We were lucky that night, but no parent should ever have to wait by the phone to find out if their child was a victim of gun violence."

VA-07: Two Republicans who served in different branches of the armed forces, retired Marine Jon Myers and Navy SEAL veteran Cameron Hamilton, have each filed FEC paperwork for the seat that Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger reportedly plans to retire from. Myers' site says he's raising money for an "exploratory committee," while we're still waiting to hear directly from Hamilton.

WA-03: The Washington Republican Party on Saturday endorsed election conspiracy theorist Joe Kent in his bid for a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, despite the mess Kent unleashed less than a year ago. Kent's extremism, which included his belief that the Jan. 6 rioters were "political prisoners," helped Gluesenkamp Perez pull off a 50.1-49.9 upset in a southwestern Washington seat that Trump took 51-47 in 2020. That win helped ensure that House Democrats now represent every district that touches the Pacific Ocean, a feat they hadn't accomplished since before Washington became a state in 1889.

GOP donors so far don't seem happy with the idea of a second Kent campaign, but they're also not rallying behind his only notable intra-party foe. Kent outraised Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen $185,000 to $135,000 during the second quarter of 2023, and he finished June with a $371,000 to $124,000 cash-on-hand advantage. There was briefly some chatter last year that Tiffany Smiley, who was the party's Senate nominee last year, could run, but the Northwest Progressive Institute says she's backing Lewallen. Gluesenkamp Perez, for her part, hauled in $665,000 during the last quarter and had $1.2 million banked to defend herself.

Judges

WI Supreme Court: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos warned in a new interview with WSAU on Friday that Wisconsin's Republican-run legislature might impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz, the newest member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, if she does not recuse herself from cases where "she has prejudged" the dispute.

Vos specifically objected to Protasiewicz's condemnation of the state's GOP-drawn legislative district as "rigged" on the campaign trail earlier this year. Those districts are now the subject of a new lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates. But lawmakers, Vos said, might seek to remove Protasiewicz from office because "she bought into the argument" that Republicans have been successful at the ballot box due to gerrymandering, "not the quality of our candidates," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Molly Beck.

Republicans can easily make good on these threats, at least in terms of raw numbers. It only takes a simple majority in the Assembly to impeach, and thanks to those gerrymandered maps, Republicans have the necessary two-thirds supermajority to secure Protasiewicz's removal in the state Senate. The greater worry, though, is that Republicans simply stall.

If Protasiewicz were to actually be removed from her post, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would be able to appoint a replacement. However, the act of impeaching a state official strips them of their powers until a trial can be held. Republicans could therefore try to indefinitely delay a trial, to keep the court divided between three conservatives and the remaining three liberals.

But as state law expert Quinn Yeargain explains in a detailed post at Guaranteed Republics, the state legislature might not actually have the power to impeach a Supreme Court justice. He also points out that any attempt to slow-walk an impeachment trial could run afoul of the state constitution, saying that in such a scenario, Protasiewicz could sue to demand that the Senate take action.

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: Activists in Ohio have begun collecting signatures to place an amendment on next year's ballot that would establish an independent commission to draw election maps in place of the state's current GOP-dominated redistricting board, WOSU's George Shillcock reports. Organizers must first gather 1,000 voter signatures and submit their petition to state officials for their approval before they can amass the 413,487 total signatures they need to put their measure before voters in 2024.

The proposal would create a 15-member panel made up of five Democrats, five Republicans, and five independents, with a ban on politicians or lobbyists serving. The commission would be prohibited from taking incumbents' residency into account and would be required to draw congressional and legislative maps that closely reflect the statewide partisan preferences of Ohio voters. (In light of a similar provision in Ohio's current constitution, the parties in redistricting litigation last year agreed that Republican candidates had, on average, won 54% of the two-party vote in statewide elections over the previous decade while Democrats had won 46%.)

State Legislatures

NJ State Senate: A long chapter in New Jersey politics is coming to a close following Monday's retirement announcement from Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey, whose record 50 years in the legislature includes the 14 months he spent as acting governor from 2004 to 2006.

  • Popular, but not where it counted. Codey became acting governor in 2004 after incumbent Jim McGreevey announced he would resign over an affair with an aide. But while Codey's high approval numbers would have made him the favorite to win a full term the next year in almost any other state, powerful party leaders mobilized behind wealthy Sen. Jon Corzine.
  • From governor to backbencher. Codey had the honor of being designated the state's full governor at the end of his tenure, but entrenched powerbrokers like George Norcross spent 2009 preparing a successful coup to give the state Senate's top job to Steve Sweeney.
  • Not one to "back off from a fight." Codey nonetheless remained in the state Senate for 14 years, and he got to witness almost all of his major intra-party foes, including Corzine and Norcross, lose elections and influence. Codey himself won his final contest months ago by beating a colleague for renomination.

Find out much more about Codey's long career―as well as about a surprising potential comeback from one crucial player in his story―in our writeup.

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: Democrats will soon have the chance to undo Wisconsin GOP’s new Senate supermajority

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.

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Leading Off

WI State Senate: Though Wisconsin Republicans just captured a supermajority in the state Senate earlier this month, they could soon give it back: Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, longtime GOP state Sen. Alberta Darling announced she'd resign effective Dec. 1, a move that will require Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to call a special election.

Republicans made Darling's 8th District a few points redder under the tilted map they convinced the conservative-dominated state Supreme Court to adopt in April: Under the old lines, Donald Trump carried the 8th by a hair, 49.4 to 49.3, but the current iteration would have backed Trump 52-47, according to Dave's Redistricting App. In the just-concluded midterms, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won the district 54-46, according to our calculations, while GOP gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels prevailed by a smaller 52-48 spread.

Darling won re-election for a four-year term in 2020 in the old district, but since the new map is now in effect, state constitutional law expert Quinn Yeargain concludes that the new lines will likely be used. But despite the seat's GOP lean, Democrats will contest this seat to the utmost.

Republicans were able to take a two-thirds majority this year by flipping the open 25th District in the northwestern part of the state—another seat they gerrymandered—giving them 22 seats in the 33-member Senate. As a result, if Republicans in the Assembly impeach any state officials, their counterparts in the upper chamber can now remove them from office without a single Democratic vote. And if they were to impeach Evers, he'd be suspended from office until the end of a trial in the Senate, which Republicans could try to drag out even if they lack the votes to convict.

Rolling back this supermajority will therefore be critical for Democrats. One thing working in the party's favor is the fact that the suburbs and exurbs north of Milwaukee where Darling's district is based have been moving to the left in recent years—a key reason Republicans tried to gerrymander this seat further. One potentially strong option, however, has already said no: state Rep. Deb Andraca, who represents a third of the district, took herself out of the running on Monday.

Since Wisconsin "nests" three Assembly districts in each Senate district, there are two other seats that make up the 8th, both held by Republicans. One, Dan Knodl, says he's "seriously considering" a campaign; the other, Janel Brandtjen, doesn't appear to have said anything yet. (Brandtjen, an election denier, was recently barred from private meetings of the Assembly GOP caucus after supporting a primary challenge to Speaker Robin Vos.)

It's not clear when exactly the special will be held, but in her statement declining a bid, Andraca suggested it would take place "this spring." Wisconsin is set to hold its annual "spring election" for state and local offices on April 4, so this race could potentially be consolidated with those contests.

Election Recaps

AK-Sen, AK-AL, AK-Gov: Alaska conducted instant-runoff tabulations one day before Thanksgiving, and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola each won re-election after their respective opponents failed to consolidate enough support to pull ahead. Hardline GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy, meanwhile, claimed a bare majority of the first-choice preferences, so election officials did not do the ranked choice process for his race.

Murkowski held a tiny 43.4-42.6 edge over intra-party rival Kelly Tshibaka, a former state cabinet official backed by Donald Trump, with Democrat Pat Chesbro and Republican Buzz Kelley taking 10% and 3%, respectively. But Murkowski, who has crossed party lines on some high-profile votes, always looked likely to take the bulk of Chesbro's support, and she emerged with a clear 54-46 win when tabulations were complete.

Tshibaka responded to her defeat by blasting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's allies at the Senate Leadership Fund for deploying "millions of dollars in this race on deceptive ads to secure what he wanted—a Senate minority that he can control, as opposed to a majority he could not." Trump weeks before the election also ranted that "[t]he Old Broken Crow, Mitchell McConnell, is authorizing $9 Million Dollars to be spent in order to beat a great Republican" rather than target Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, though SLF itself only ended up spending $6.1 million in Alaska.

Peltola, meanwhile, began Wednesday with 49% of the vote while two Republican rivals, former reality TV star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, clocked in at 26% and 23%; the balance went to Libertarian Chris Bye. While Palin had announced her chief of staff the day after the election, reality made his services unnecessary: Peltola ended up beating Palin by a staggering 55-45 after the instant-runoff process was finished, a big shift from her 51.5-48.5 upset win in their August special election contest. Peltola will be one of five House Democrats in a Trump seat in the 118th Congress, and hers will be the reddest of the bunch.

Dunleavy, finally, claimed an outright win with 50.3%. His two main rivals, former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara and former independent Gov. Bill Walker, took 24% and 21%, respectively, while the remainder went to Republican Charlie Pierce, who was challenging the already staunchly conservative Dunleavy from the right. Gara and Walker both said they'd be ranking the other as their second choice, but we don't know how many of their respective supporters followed their lead.

Seattle, WA Ballot: Seattle has narrowly voted to replace its municipal top-two primaries with a ranked choice system by 2027, though voters will still need to go to the polls in two different elections even after the switch takes place.

Candidates for mayor, city attorney, and the City Council will continue to compete on one nonpartisan primary ballot, but voters will be able to rank their preferred choices instead of selecting just one option. The two contenders who emerge with the most support after the ranked choice tabulations are completed will advance to the general election, where voters would select just one choice. This is different from several other American cities like Minneapolis, Oakland, and San Francisco where all the contenders compete in a single election decided through instant-runoff voting.

It's not clear yet if the new ranked choice system will be in place in time for Seattle's next mayoral race in 2025. A spokesperson for King County's elections department explained that software and ballot updates, as well as tests and voter education, will be needed, saying, "It is possible that we may be able to roll it out before 2027, but until we're able to dive into the details with the city and state, we won't know." Officials also will need to decide how many candidates a voter can rank.

Seattleites earlier this month were presented with a two-part ballot measure called Proposition 1. The first asked voters whether they wanted to replace the top-two primary for city offices, and voters answered in the affirmative by a 51-49 margin. They were then asked if they wanted to adopt ranked choice voting or approval voting if voters on part one favor changing the status quo, and ranked choice won 76-24.

This contest took place because backers of approval voting collected enough signatures for a referendum to bring it to the Emerald City: The approval voting system, which is used in St. Louis, allows voters to cast as many votes as there are candidates, with up to one vote per contender and each vote counting equally. The City Council, though, responded by also placing a ranked choice question on the ballot as a rival option.

The group supporting approval voting enjoyed a huge financial edge thanks to enormous contributions from the Center for Election Science, a pro-approval voting organization funded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, as well as now-former cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried: The dramatic failure of Bankman-Fried's preferred option, though, turned out to be far from the worst news he got in mid-November.

Georgia Runoff

GA-Sen: AdImpact tells Politico that Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and his outside group allies have outspent Republican Herschel Walker’s side by a lopsided $31 million to $12 million from Nov. 9 to Nov. 28 on TV, radio, and digital ads. The GOP has a $7 million to $5 million advantage in ad time for the remaining week of the contest, though this number can change if new spots are purchased.

Warnock’s campaign alone has outpaced Walker $15 million to $5 million through Monday, an important advantage since FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio. The senator was able to amass this sort of spending lead because he’s also continued to overwhelm Walker in the fundraising department: Warnock outraised his foe $51 million to $20 million from Oct. 20 to Nov. 16 and concluded that period with a $30 million to $10 million cash-on-hand lead.

Warnock’s supporters at the Senate Majority PAC affiliate Georgia Honor also outspent their GOP counterparts at the Senate Leadership Fund $13 million to $5 million, though SLF is hoping one prominent surrogate will help them overcome that disadvantage. Just before Thanksgiving the group debuted a spot starring Gov. Brian Kemp, who won re-election outright 53-46 on Nov. 8 as Walker lagged Warnock 49.4-48.5: While Kemp didn’t campaign with the Senate nominee during the first round, he now pledges to the audience, “Herschel Walker will vote for Georgia, not be another rubber stamp for Joe Biden.”

Walker also has benefited from a $1.5 million ad buy from the NRA that began shortly ahead of Thanksgiving. The candidate additionally is running his own ad attacking Warnock’s character.

Senate

OH-Sen: Axios published a profile of venture capitalist Mark Kvamme last week where it briefly noted the Republican "also acknowledges that he's had informal talks about running for public office, possibly as a challenger to Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2024."

Senate: The Associated Press' Michelle Price takes a very early look at the 2024 Senate battleground map and gives us some new information in several key races:

NV-Sen: Army veteran Sam Brown, who lost this year's Senate primary 56-34 after running an unexpectedly well-funded campaign against frontrunner Adam Laxalt, is being mentioned as a prospective foe against Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen. A Brown advisor didn't rule anything out, saying, "He has committed to his supporters that he will never stop fighting for their issues, but he has not made any decisions as to whether that involves a future run for office."

PA-Sen: Neither former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick nor Big Lie spreader Kathy Barnette, who both lost this year's Senate primary to Mehmet Oz, would respond to Price's inquiries about a campaign against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. An unnamed person close to McCormick told Politico all the way back in June that he was considering the idea.

UT-Sen: An advisor for Attorney General Sean Reyes said of a possible GOP primary challenge to incumbent Mitt Romney, "He's certainly set up to run, but it does not mean he's considering it." The Deseret News wrote earlier this month that Reyes was "actively pursuing a campaign" against Romney, who has not announced if he'll seek a second term.

WI-Sen: GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher deflected Price's questions about his interest in taking on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, merely saying, "Any talk of the next election, especially since we just had an election, distracts from the serious work we need to do."

Governors

KY-Gov: Republican state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, who just months ago expressed interest in running for governor of Kentucky, has very firmly taken himself out of the running by accepting the post of health commissioner of Tennessee.

LA-Gov: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser's Greg Hilburn on Sunday that it "will absolutely make a difference in my decision" whether or not his fellow Republican, Sen. John Kennedy, runs in next year's all-party primary. Nungesser, though, seems to think that Kennedy will make his plans known in the next month-and-a-half, because he says his own announcement will come Jan. 10.

Hilburn also relays that another Republican, Rep. Garret Graves, "will also likely wait on Kennedy to make a final decision." However, he notes that Graves may opt to stay put no matter what due to his rising status in the House leadership.

House

NM-02: Outgoing GOP incumbent Yvette Herrell last week filed FEC paperwork for a potential 2024 rematch against Democratic Rep.-elect Gabe Vasquez, who unseated her 50.3-49.7. These super-early filings from defeated candidates, as we recently noted, often have more to do with resolving financial matters from their last campaign than they do about the future, though the Republican hasn't said anything publicly over the last week about her plans.

Herrell may also be hoping for a favorable ruling from the state Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in January in a case brought by Republicans alleging that the congressional map violates the state constitution as a partisan gerrymander. Herrell lost this month's contest to Vasquez in a constituency that favored Biden 52-46.

VA-04: Democratic Rep. Don McEachin, who has represented Virginia’s 4th Congressional District since 2017, died on Monday night at the age of 61 due to colorectal cancer. We will have a detailed look at his career in the next Digest.

Legislatures

AK State Senate, AK State House: Following Wednesday's tabulation of ranked-choice votes in races where no candidate won a majority on Nov. 8, nine Democrats and eight Republicans in Alaska's state Senate announced the formation of a bipartisan majority coalition, similar to one that held sway in the chamber from 2007 to 2012. The situation in the House, however, remains uncertain.

The alliance ends a decade of Republican control over the Senate, though GOP Sen. Gary Stevens will hold the top role of president, a position he served in during the last bipartisan coalition. That leaves just three far-right Republicans out in the cold; Stevens said they've been "difficult to work with" and specifically cited the fact that they've voted against state budgets their own party had crafted. (Members of the majority are required to vote for the budget, a system known as a "binding caucus" whose enforcement is evidently now being given effect.)

The House has likewise been governed by a shifting consortium of Democrats, independents, and Republicans since 2017, but it's not clear whether such an arrangement will continue. While Republicans lost two seats in the Senate, they retained nominal control of 21 seats in the House—theoretically enough for a bare majority. One of those, however, belongs to House Speaker Louise Stutes, a member of the current coalition, while another is represented by David Eastman, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers who is disliked by many fellow Republicans for his obstructionism.

There are many possible permutations that could result in either side winding up in charge. One big question mark is state Rep. Josiah Patkotak, a conservative independent and coalition member who could potentially join forces with the GOP. Another is the 15th District, where Republican Rep. Tom McKay leads Democrat Denny Wells by just four votes after ranked-choice tabulations; Wells says he will likely seek a recount after results are certified on Tuesday.

Whatever happens, we could be in for a long wait: Following both the 2018 and 2020 elections, alliances in the House weren't finalized until February, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see a similar delay this time.

NH State House: Control of the New Hampshire state House remains up in the air after a wild election night and even wilder post-election period that saw Democrats make big gains and left Republicans with just a 201-198 advantage—plus one tied race that could get resolved in a special election.

Even though the GOP will hold a bare majority no matter what happens, that may not be enough to elect a Republican speaker when the chamber—the largest state legislative body in the nation—is sworn in on Dec. 7. Absences are frequent in this part-time legislature, where lawmakers are paid just $100 a year and receive no per diem. Given that reality, a different majority could show up every time the House convenes, a truly chaotic situation that could result in a new speaker every time unless the parties hammer out a power-sharing agreement.

Members will also have to decide what to do in Strafford District 8 (known locally as Rochester Ward 4), which ended in a tie following a recount after election night results put Republican challenger David Walker up just a single vote on Democratic state Rep. Chuck Grassie. The House could simply vote to seat whichever candidate it likes in a raw display of partisan power, or it could order a special election, as was done on at least three prior occasions. In one bizarre case in 1964, however, legislators opted to seat both candidates in a tied race—and gave them half a vote each.

In the event of a special election, though, expect both sides to go all out, especially given the swingy nature of this district, which would've voted 51-47 for Joe Biden. And expect more specials in the near future either way, as resignations are also a regular occurrence in the New Hampshire House.

VA State House, Where Are They Now?: Former Rep. Tom Garrett, a Republican who dropped out of his 2018 bid for a second term in bizarre fashion after winning renomination, has announced that he'll run in next year's race for a safely red open seat in the state House. Garrett, who previously served in the state Senate, kicked off his campaign at the Virginia Civil Rights Monument on the state Capitol grounds in Richmond rather than in the rural 56th District to what the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Charlotte Rene Woods calls a "crowd of five."

Garrett said he was choosing that monument both because he admires Barbara Johns, one of the Civil Rights heroes depicted, and because this was the very place he ended his 2018 re-election campaign. The Republican back then disclosed he was leaving Congress to focus on his fight with alcoholism, and he now says, "I haven't had to drink in four-and-a-half years. As soon as I start declaring victory over anything, it will come back and tap me on the shoulder."

Garrett, though, doesn't appear to have mentioned how the House Ethics Committee issued a lengthy report on his final day in office determining that he'd violated House rules by directing his staff to run personal errands for him. Staffers also told the committee that the congressman's wife "would berate staff, often using profanity and other harsh language, for failing to prioritize her needs over their regular official duties." The report additionally accused the Garretts of deliberately dragging their feet during the investigation so that they could run out the clock and avoid censure before the congressman's term expired.

Mayors and County Leaders

Allegheny County, PA Executive: Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb announced Monday that he would compete in what could be a busy May 2023 Democratic primary to succeed incumbent Rich Fitzgerald, who cannot seek a fourth term as head of this populous and reliably blue county. Lamb, who is the uncle of outgoing Rep. Conor Lamb, carried Allegheny County 77-12 in his 2020 primary for state auditor general even as he was losing statewide 36-27 to Nina Ahmad. (Ahmad in turn lost to Republican Timothy DeFoor.)

WESA reporter Chris Potter describes the city comptroller as "the rare politician who travels easily in Democratic Party circles while also having been an outspoken government reformer," noting that, while he's "not necessarily a political firebrand," Lamb "seems likely to incorporate some progressive concerns with county government, especially on matters of criminal justice." Lamb previously won renomination in 2015 by beating back a Fitzgerald-endorsed foe, and Potter says the two have a "wary relationship."

Lamb's only announced intra-party opponent is Erin McClelland, who came nowhere close to unseating GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus in her 2014 and 2016 campaigns for the old and dark red 12th Congressional District. McClelland, who has worked as a project manager for the county's social-services department, kicked off her bid in August by saying she expected to face both the "old-boys network" and opponents who "dive into performative propaganda on a social media post."

Potter also relays that observers anticipate that former County Councilor David Fawcett and state Rep. Sara Innamorato will compete in the Democratic primary. Fawcett, whom Potter calls a "celebrated attorney," served on the Council as a Republican from 2000 to 2007 before waging an aborted 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

Innamorato, for her part, rose to prominence in 2018 when the Democratic Socialists of America member defeated incumbent Dom Costa for renomination; that victory came the same night that her ally Summer Lee, who was also backed by DSA, scored an upset of her own against another Costa brother, state Rep. Paul Costa. Innamorato went on to support now-Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Lee in her own successful 2022 campaign for the new 12th District.

We unsurprisingly haven't seen any notable Republicans mentioned for the race to lead a county that Biden took 59-39 and where Team Blue did even better in this year's Senate and governor races. Republican James Roddey actually did win the 1999 contest for what was a newly created office, but he badly lost re-election four years later to Democrat Dan Onorato. The GOP hasn't come anywhere close to retaking the post since then, and Fitzgerald won his final term in 2019 in a 68-32 landslide.  

Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Former Municipal Court Judge Jimmy DeLeon, who recently retired after 34 years on the bench, announced shortly before Thanksgiving that he was joining the May 2023 Democratic primary, promising to be a "no-shenanigans-let's-follow-the-law-there-will-be-order-in-the-courtroom" mayor. Billy Penn says that there was little chatter about DeLeon running until he jumped in last week.  

DeLeon, who unsuccessfully ran for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and state Superior Court during the 2000s, was sanctioned by the Court of Judicial Discipline in 2008 for issuing "a bogus 'stay away order' on behalf of a social acquaintance." DeLeon says of that incident, "I made a mistake, and I was given a second chance … That's why I believe in second chances."