Morning Digest: Ohio Republicans who collaborated with Democrats try to ward off primary challengers

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

Our two big stories at Daily Kos Elections on this Monday morning:

Ohio Republicans have been feuding for more than a year now, but with primaries just weeks away, hostilities between the warring factions have crescendoed to explosive levels. The official campaign arm of the state House GOP is spending heavily to protect a group of lawmakers loyal to Speaker Jason Stephens—who won his post thanks to the votes of Democrats. As you can imagine, the rest of the GOP is still furious and aims to take revenge. Get all the gory details on this major meltdown and how it could impact the next race for speaker.

A party's official endorsement can be a valuable seal of approval, but sometimes it's better not to seek it at all rather than lose badly. That, at least, seems to be the thinking of Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, who is running for North Dakota's open governorship. She's decided to skip the GOP convention and head straight to the primary. Read more about Miller's conundrum—and some informative recent history that suggests she might be making the right choice.

Senate

CA-Sen: A group called Standing Strong PAC, which recently began running ads designed to help Republican Steve Garvey advance to the general election, has now spent at least $5.2 million, per analyst Rob Pyers. The super PAC, which is run by allies of Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, has followed the congressman's lead by ostensibly attacking Garvey as a Donald Trump backer who is "too conservative for California."

IN-Sen: Wealthy egg farmer John Rust's Senate campaign got some ominous news Thursday when the Indiana Supreme Court placed a stay on a December ruling by a lower court that gave him the chance to appear on the May 7 GOP primary ballot.

While the state's highest court hasn't issued an opinion on the merits of Rust's case, his attorney predicted that when it comes, it will be bad for the candidate. Rust's team, though, says it might appeal an unfavorable decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rust, who is waging a longshot primary challenge against Rep. Jim Banks, is in this situation because of a state law that only allows candidates to run with the party they belong to. Because there's no party registration in Indiana, the easiest way for Hoosiers to establish their affiliation is if by casting their last two voters in their party's primaries. But while Rust most recently participated in the 2016 GOP primary, his prior vote was in the 2012 Democratic race.

Rust sued to block this law, and a lower court judge sided with him in December. The state Supreme Court heard the state's appeal on Feb. 12, days after candidate filing closed. No other Republicans challenged Banks.

MI-Sen: Former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers on Friday publicized a list of 110 "financial supporters" that featured multiple members of the wealthy and influential DeVos family, including former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Also on the list is former Gov. John Engler, who served from 1991 to 2003 and later had a turbulent stint as interim president of Michigan State University that lasted just a year.

MT-Sen: In the first poll we've seen out of Montana this year, SurveyUSA finds Democratic Sen. Jon Tester with a 49-40 lead over his likely Republican foe, wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy. The survey, conducted for KULR-TV, was finished the day that Rep. Matt Rosendale abruptly ended his week-long Senate bid and shows the congressman losing by an identical 49-40 spread.

Nebraska: Thursday was the deadline for sitting elected officials in Nebraska to file for the May 14 primary, even if they're seeking a different post than the one they currently hold. The filing deadline for candidates not currently in office is March 1, though some non-incumbents have already submitted their names to election officials.

WI-Sen: Former GOP Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed wealthy businessman Eric Hovde ahead of his planned Senate launch this coming week.

Governors

NC-Gov: East Carolina University's newest general election poll shows a 41-41 deadlock between Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a small shift from Robinson's 44-40 advantage in December. The sample favors Donald Trump 47-44 over Joe Biden.

ECU also looks at both sides' March 5 primaries and finds Stein and Robinson far ahead of their respective intraparty rivals. The attorney general outpaces former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan 57-7, while Robinson beats wealthy businessman Bill Graham 53-13.

WA-Gov: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson leading former Republican Rep. Dave Reichert 46-42 in its new survey for the Northwest Progressive Institute. That's a turnaround from PPP's last poll, which put Reichert ahead 46-44 in November.

What hasn't changed, though, is that Ferguson and Reichert appear poised to easily advance out of the Aug. 6 top-two primary. PPP places Ferguson in first with 35% as Reichert leads his fellow Republican, former Richland school board member Semi Bird, 27-9 for the second general election spot. Another 4% opt for Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet, while the remaining 25% are undecided.

House

CA-20: Republican businessman David Giglio announced Friday that he was ending his campaign and endorsing Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux in the March 5 top-two primary, though Giglio's name will remain on the ballot. Giglio made national news in October when he launched an intraparty challenge to then-Rep. Kevin McCarthy, but he finished the year with just $3,000 in the bank. Giglio also did not file to compete in the March 19 special election for the remainder of McCarthy's term.

CA-47: Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel flags that AIPAC's United Democracy Project has spent an additional $700,000 in its bid to stop Democratic state Sen. Dave Min from advancing out of the March 5 top-two primary, which brings its total investment to $1.5 million.

NC-13: A woman named Angela McLeod Barbour has accused one of the Republicans competing in the busy March 5 primary for North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, businessman DeVan Barbour, of repeatedly propositioning her for sex through phone calls and text messages, according to a new report from journalist Bryan Anderson.

"He wanted me to drive to his house and have sex with him," she said of the married candidate, whom she also claims was "fully unclothed" and intoxicated in his communications with her on the night in question in 2021. (The two are not related.)

DeVan Barbour, who has promoted himself as a proud husband, told Anderson in response that "[t]hese accusations are 100% false." Last month, Anderson described Barbour as one of the four main Republicans running to succeed Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel, who did not seek reelection after the GOP legislature gerrymandered his seat. The other three are attorney Kelly Daughtry, former federal prosecutor Brad Knott, and businessman Fred Von Canon.

TN-07: Two Republicans tell the Tennessee Lookout's Sam Stockard that they're interested in running to succeed GOP Rep. Mark Green, who unexpectedly announced his retirement on Wednesday. One prospective candidate for the August primary is former state Rep. Brandon Ogles, whose cousin, Andy Ogles, represents the neighboring 5th District. The other is state Sen. Bill Powers, whom Stockard identifies as a car dealer.

Other GOP candidates Stockard mentions are physician Manny Sethi, who lost the 2020 Senate primary to eventual winner Bill Hagerty, and former Williamson County GOP chairman Omar Hamada. Political scientist Michael Bednarczuk separately name-drops state Sen. Kerry Roberts in a piece for The Tennessean.

Stockard also runs down a further list of Republicans he says were "mentioned on a conservative radio talk show," though some of these options seem completely unrealistic:

  • 2023 Franklin mayoral candidate Gabrielle Hanson
  • Former State Department official Morgan Ortagus
  • Conservative TV host Candace Owens
  • Singer John Rich
  • Singer Kid Rock
  • 2023 Nashville mayoral candidate Alice Rolli
  • Music video producer Robby Starbuck

Kid Rock (real name Robert James Ritchie) spent much of 2017 flirting with a Senate bid in Michigan against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, but he never went for it. He later told Howard Stern he wasn't ever serious about the idea either, recounting that he'd informed Eminem's manager, "I've got motherfuckers thinking I'm running for Senate.' People who are in on it are like, 'Are you really doing it?' I'm like: 'Dude, you're fucking in on the joke! Why you asking me if I'm doing it?'"

Meanwhile, both Ortagus and Starbuck tried to run against Andy Ogles in the 5th District last year, only to be denied a place on the ballot by party leaders for failing to meet the GOP's criteria for running in a primary. Starbuck unsuccessfully sued, which is a big problem for his future hopes for office: The state GOP last month passed new by-laws stating that any person who's sued the party cannot appear on a primary ballot for the ensuing decade.

At least one Republican is demurring, though: Stockard writes that state Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson has conveyed to sources that he's not at all interested.

On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry began running for this 56-41 Trump seat back in December. Stockard also writes that state Rep. Bo Mitchell is "rumored to be considering." The filing deadline is April 4.

VA-07: Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson publicized an endorsement on Friday from 2nd District Rep. Jen Kiggans ahead of the GOP nomination contest. Anderson already had the support of Speaker Mike Johnson in his quest to flip the competitive 7th, which Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is giving up to concentrate on her 2025 bid for governor.

WA-05: Former Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich tells The Inlander's Nate Sanford he'll decide over the next two weeks whether he'll compete in the August top-two primary to succeed retiring Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a fellow Republican. Sanford notes that Knezovich, who did not seek reelection in 2022, relocated to Wyoming after leaving office.

On the Democratic side, both state Rep. Marcus Riccelli and state Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig tell Sanford they won't run for this 54-44 Trump seat.

Ballot Measures

NV Ballot: A Nevada state court has ruled that two proposed constitutional amendments that would establish a bipartisan redistricting commission cannot appear on the ballot because they would fail to raise the needed revenue. One of the proposals would take effect in 2027 and replace Nevada's current Democratic-drawn maps ahead of the 2028 elections, while the other would not come into force until 2031, following the next census.

Supporters have not yet indicated whether they will appeal or revise their proposals. However, they would have only until June 26 to submit the 102,362 voter signatures needed to qualify for November's ballot. Initiated amendments in Nevada must be approved by voters in two consecutive elections to become law.

Ad Roundup

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: Alabama poised to have two Black Congress members for first time thanks to new map

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

AL Redistricting: A federal court on Thursday chose a new congressional map to impose in Alabama for the 2024 elections, finally creating a second district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidate. You can see the new map here, and click here for an interactive version.

The court had previously found that the map Republicans enacted in 2021 violated the Voting Rights Act, though the map was still used in last year's elections while the GOP appealed. Consequently, a Black Democrat will likely replace a white Republican after 2024, which would give Alabama two Black House members (out of seven total) for the first time in its history, roughly matching the 27% of its population that is Black.

Compared with the previous map, the new map significantly reconfigures the 1st and 2nd districts in southern Alabama to turn the latter district from a majority-white, safely Republican constituency into one that is 49% Black and just 44% white. To do so, the new map gives the 2nd the rest of Montgomery and most of Mobile—two cities that both have large Black populations—while the 2nd sheds the heavily white rural areas along the Florida border and exurbs north of Montgomery. (Changes to the other five districts were relatively limited.)

Consequently, the redesigned 2nd District would have favored Joe Biden 56-43 in 2020, making it a likely Democratic flip in 2024. Current 2nd District Rep. Barry Moore, a Republican who is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, is now at significant risk of losing his seat, though Moore recently indicated he could bail on the 2nd District and instead run against fellow GOP Rep. Jerry Carl in the primary for the 1st. However, Moore would likely be starting at a disadvantage there since our calculations indicate Carl currently represents 59% of the new district compared to Moore's 41%.

The new map is the culmination of multiyear litigation that saw the lower court strike down the GOP's 2021 map last year because it packed Black voters into the heavily Democratic 7th District while dispersing them elsewhere to ensure that the other six districts would remain heavily white and safely Republican. The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold for the 2022 elections while Republicans appealed, but it subsequently upheld the lower court's ruling in a landmark decision this past June, preserving a key protection of the Voting Rights Act.

Following the Supreme Court's ruling, the lower court gave the Republican-controlled legislature a second chance to draw a compliant map, instructing them to draw two districts that were either majority-Black or "something quite close to it." But in July, Republicans brazenly defied the courts, enacting a new map with just one majority-Black district and another that was only 39.9% Black—well short of a majority and therefore safely Republican.

Last month, the lower court blocked this new Republican map, and the Supreme Court also rejected the GOP's last-ditch attempt to keep it in place. Republican Secretary of State Wes Allen subsequently dropped the state's appeal to the high court earlier this week. This ensures the new map adopted by the lower court will be used in 2024, though state Republicans could still sue to invalidate the court-imposed map later this decade.

election recaps

Memphis, TN Mayor: Downtown Memphis Commission CEO Paul Young defeated Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner 28-23 Thursday to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Mayor Jim Strickland, in a 17-way contest where it took only a simple plurality to win. Young, who outspent each of his opponents, was long involved in city government but had never before run for office, and he argued he'd be the most prepared mayor in history while also representing change.

The winning candidate, who is the son of two well-known pastors, also focused on turning out younger voters. Young, when questioned why he'd voted in two GOP primaries since 2016, argued this was "strategic crossover voting to ensure that we have good people on both sides of the ledger." "I'm a Democrat," he said at one debate, "but I'm gonna get the job done."

3Q Fundraising

  • AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): $3 million raised, $5 million cash on hand
  • NV-Sen: Jacky Rosen (D-inc): $2.7 million raised, $8.8 million cash on hand
  • PA-Sen: Bob Casey (D-inc): $3.2 million raised, $7.3 million cash on hand
  • WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): $3.1 million raised, $7 million cash on hand
  • CA-27: George Whitesides (D): $400,000 raised, additional $300,000 self-funded, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • CA-41: Will Rollins (D): $830,000 raised
  • CO-03: Adam Frisch (D): $3.4 million raised, $4.3 million cash on hand
  • NY-17: Mondaire Jones (D): $1.15 million raised, $840,000 cash on hand
  • WI-03: Rebecca Cooke (D): $400,000 raised

Senate

CA-Sen: Politico relays that Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff have all made it clear they'd continue to run for the Senate even if their fellow Democrat, appointed incumbent Laphonza Butler, sought a full term.

NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim's allies at End Citizens United are out with an internal from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows the congressman beating First Lady Tammy Murphy 42-19 in a hypothetical Democratic primary, with indicted Sen. Bob Menendez taking all of 5%. The firm also finds Kim, who remains the only major declared candidate, defeating the incumbent 63-10 in a one-on-one fight. This is the only primary poll we've seen other than a Data for Progress survey that showed Kim beating fellow Rep. Mikie Sherrill 27-20 in a crowded contest, but that survey was largely conducted after Sherrill said she wouldn't run.

Another Democratic House member, Rep. Frank Pallone, sounds unlikely to seek a promotion, though he didn't quite rule it out to Politico. Pallone, who has served in the lower chamber since 1988, instead says he wants to regain the top post on the Energy and Commerce panel under a new Democratic majority. He said of the Senate chatter, "I’m flattered by the suggestions."

The story also adds that Rep. Josh Gottheimer is continuing to prepare his likely 2025 gubernatorial bid and isn't "planning to change course and run for Senate," though he hasn't said this publicly. (See our NJ-11, NJ-Gov item below for more on both Gottheimer and Sherrill's 2025 deliberations.)

WV-Sen: The Tarrance Group's late-September poll for the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC tied to Mitch McConnell, shows GOP Gov. Jim Justice leading Sen. Joe Manchin 49-43 in a hypothetical general election scenario where the senator runs as an independent rather than as a Democrat. The memo did not mention Rep. Alex Mooney, who is waging an uphill primary battle against Justice.

Governors

MS-Gov: The conservative Magnolia Tribune has released a survey from Mason-Dixon that shows GOP Gov. Tate Reeves leading Democrat Brandon Presley 51-43, which is only a little smaller than the 52-41 advantage that Siena College found in late August. Mason-Dixon does not appear to have asked respondents about independent Gwendolyn Gray, whose presence on the ballot could conceivably prevent anyone from taking the majority needed to avert a Nov. 28 runoff; Siena, though, found just 1% opting for "someone else."

House

AZ-01: Former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods has publicized an endorsement from former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who served from 2003 to 2009, in the Democratic primary to face GOP incumbent David Schweikert.

MI-08: Saginaw police officer Martin Blank, who served as an Army trauma surgeon in Afghanistan, on Thursday became the first notable Republican to launch a bid against Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. Joe Biden would have carried this seat, which is based in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas, 50-48, but Kildee won an expensive race 53-43 two years later.

Blank has twice run for the state legislature, but he came nowhere close to securing the nomination either time. He lost his 2020 bid for the state House 50-31 against Timothy Beson, who went on to win the seat. Black campaigned for the upper chamber last year in a four-way primary, but he finished dead last with 18%. (Annette Glenn won that nomination contest with 41% only to lose to Democrat Kristen McDonald Rivet in the fall.)

MN-03: DNC member Ron Harris tells Punchbowl News he's considering running for the seat currently held by Rep. Dean Phillips, and he didn't rule out challenging the would-be Biden primary foe. Harris sounds more interested in running for an open seat, however, even though Minnesota's June filing deadline means that Phillips wouldn't need to choose between humoring his longshot presidential dreams and seeking reelection. "As Dean considers a run for President, I'm exploring a run for Congress to ensure this district stays in Democratic hands," Harris tweeted Thursday.

Harris, who is currently the DNC's Midwestern Caucus chair, previously served as Minneapolis' chief resilience officer from 2019 until last year. (Minnesota's largest city is located entirely in Rep. Ilhan Omar's 5th District.) Harris would be the first Black person to represent the 3rd, a seat in the western Minneapolis suburbs that favored Biden 60-39.

NJ-11, NJ-Gov: Politico relays chatter that New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill could retire this cycle to prepare for a potential 2025 bid to succeed her fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Phil Murphy, though there's no word from the congresswoman about her thinking. The current version of Sherrill's 11th District, which includes New York City's western suburbs and exurbs, would have backed Joe Biden 58-41, and Democrats would be favored to keep it no matter what.

The congresswoman would be free to seek a fourth term in the House in 2024 and even remain in Congress should she lose a bid for governor, but Sherrill could decide instead that she'd prefer to focus on a statewide campaign. Indeed, Politico previously reported in July that another Democrat who flipped a seat during the 2018 blue wave, Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, has decided against running for reelection so she can commit all of her time towards her own 2025 gubernatorial bid: Spanberger herself says she'll reveal her plans after the Nov. 7 legislative elections. (New Jersey also holds its state House and Senate contests that day.)

If Sherrill were to run for governor, she'd be in for an expensive primary battle. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop launched his campaign all the way back in April, and he announced Thursday that he'd raised enough money to receive all $7.3 million from the state's matching funds program, which provides $2 in state funds for every dollar raised. Anyone participating in the program can only spend $7.3 million during the primary, though super PACs like the pro-Fulop Coalition for Progress, which had $6.5 million available at the end of June, can deploy as much as they want.

Sherrill also isn't the only Democratic House member who might try to be the next inhabit of Drumthwacket, the governor's delightfully named official residence. An advisor for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a prominent centrist who represents a neighboring seat to the north, confirmed the congressman's interest back in July to the New Jersey Globe. However, Politico relays that unnamed "Democrats close to Gottheimer" anticipate he'll also seek reelection next year to the 5th District, which favored Biden 56-43.

Plenty of other Democrats have also been talked about as potential candidates to replace Murphy in this blue state, and we'll take a closer look at the many potential contenders after the Nov. 7 elections. On the GOP side, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli announced he was in days after he lost the 2021 general election to Murphy by a surprisingly narrow 51-48 spread.

VA-10: Axios' Hans Nichols reports that former National Security Council advisor Eugene Vindman, the whistleblower who attracted national attention in the leadup to Donald Trump's first impeachment, is considering running to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton. Vindman didn't deny anything to Nichols when asked at an event for the Democratic group VoteVets, saying instead, "I'm focused on Ukraine funding. I'm focused on war crimes now. That's all I'm focused on."

Nick Minock of the local ABC affiliate 7News, meanwhile, writes that Loudoun County Supervisor Juli Briskman discussed campaigning for the Democratic nod after Wexton announced that she wouldn't run following her diagnosis with Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy. Briskman, who was photographed flipping off Donald Trump's motorcade while biking in 2017, divulged last week that she was being treated for breast cancer, and she said doctors are optimistic about her prospects. The supervisor, who is up for reelection on Nov. 7, did not respond to 7News' inquiry about her 2024 plans.

Minock also mentions state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, and former Attorney General Mark Herring as possible Democratic candidates. Nichols additionally names Jessica Post, who announced last week that she would step down as president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee after this year's races; like the aforementioned trio, Post does not appear to have said anything publicly about participating in this contest. But Del. Danica Roem, who is seeking a promotion to the state Senate, told 7News she wouldn't run herself; Roem previously ruled out a bid for the neighboring 7th District.

On the GOP side, attorney Mike Clancy on Thursday became the first declared candidate for this 58-40 Biden seat. Clancy, whom Minock describes as a "business executive with a global technology company," ran here last year and self-funded the majority of his campaign's $400,000 budget, but he didn't come close to winning the party-run "firehouse primary."

Minock also supplies a few names of possible GOP contenders:

  • 2020 nominee Aliscia Andrews
  • Loudoun County Supervisor Caleb Kershner
  • 2022 candidate Caleb Max
  • state Sen. Jill Vogel

Kershner is up for reelection next month, while Vogel is retiring from the legislature.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Mitt Romney, facing a difficult path to reelection, won’t run for second term

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

UT-Sen: Republican Sen. Mitt Romney announced on Wednesday that he would not run for reelection next year, bringing to an end a three-decade political career that featured several bids for office but only two victories years apart. Romney's decision creates a wide-open race to succeed him in a deeply conservative state dominated by Republicans but one where critics of Donald Trump, including Romney himself, retain a measure of support.

Romney was born in Detroit in the years immediately after World War II and, as a 15-year-old in 1962, watched his father win election as governor of Michigan. While George Romney would serve three two-year terms and wage an ill-fated bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968, Mitt, his youngest son, did not get involved in politics until the early 1990s—and did so in a different state.

The younger Romney had moved to Massachusetts in 1972 to pursue a joint JD/MBA program at Harvard and went on to make his name in the business world, co-founding the private equity firm Bain Capital in 1984. A decade later, he sought to challenge veteran Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, hoping that a favorable political climate for Republicans would help him oust the "liberal lion" of the Senate. But despite polls that showed a tight race, Kennedy prevailed by a comfortable 58-41 margin, though it would be the closest contest of his long career.

Romney immediately returned to Bain and was later credited with turning around the financially trouble committee responsible for running the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Just weeks after the closing ceremonies, though, Romney announced a campaign for governor after acting Gov. Jane Swift, a fellow Republican, dropped her bid for a full term.

While Massachusetts had for many decades seldom sent Republicans to Congress, it had a long tradition of electing them to the governorship; when Romney sought the post, the last time a Democrat had won it was in 1986, when Michael Dukakis secured his third and final term. As he had in his race against Kennedy, Romney campaigned as a moderate and claimed to support abortion rights. (Kennedy had jeered that Romney was not pro-choice but "multiple-choice.") Thanks in part to a large financial advantage—the wealthy Romney self-funded $6 million, a record at the time—he defeated his Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien.

The victory was Romney's first, and it also marked the fourth straight gubernatorial win for Massachusetts Republicans. But the streak wouldn't last long for Romney: With more than a year left in his term, he announced he would not seek reelection. The move came ahead of a widely expected campaign for president, which he'd telegraphed by shifting to the right on key issues like abortion.

Romney's metamorphosis left many conservatives unconvinced, however, and he lost the nomination to John McCain, who in turn was beaten by Barack Obama. Four years later, though, true believers failed to rally around a strong alternative and Romney captured the GOP nod, but he, too, lost to Obama. (Romney was reportedly "shellshocked" by the loss despite the incumbent's consistent polling leads.)

Romney later relocated to Utah, where he'd earned his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young and had long maintained a vacation home. But despite declaring he'd been branded a "loser for life" in a documentary about his attempts to win the presidency, he made one last foray into the political arena. Following Sen. Orrin Hatch's retirement, Romney easily won both the GOP primary and general election to succeed him in 2018, making him the first person in 150 years—and just the second ever, after the legendary Sam Houston—to serve as governor and senator in two different states.

While Romney remained a traditional conservative, his Senate tenure was marked by his criticism of Trump. (Hard as it may be to believe now, Trump actually endorsed Romney's initial campaign for Senate.) He made history in 2020 when he became the first senator to vote in favor of convicting a president from his own party at an impeachment trial during Trump's first impeachment, then voted (along with a handful of other Republicans) to convict him again at his second impeachment the next year.

The hatred his apostasies engendered from the MAGA brigades all but ensured he'd face a difficult fight to win renomination had he sought another term. An August poll showed him taking just 44% in a hypothetical primary matchup, a soft showing for an incumbent. It turned out that his 2018 victory would not only be just his second ever but also his last.

In remarks on Wednesday announcing his departure, Romney noted that he'd be in his mid-80s at the end of a second Senate term and said that "it's time for a new generation of leaders." That new generation likely won't look much like the outgoing senator, though it's possible that a split among extremists could see the GOP nominate a relative pragmatist: In the recent special election primary for Utah's 2nd Congressional District, former state Rep. Becky Edwards took a third of the vote despite saying she'd voted for Joe Biden and opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

At the moment, though, the only Republican in the race is Trent Staggs, mayor of the small community of Riverton. Other candidates, however, are already hovering in the wings, so we're likely to see a crowded primary in 2024.

The Downballot

What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Bipartisan officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also discuss a late entrant into the race for North Carolina governor; why Republicans are struggling to recruit in Ohio now that they can't gerrymander their congressional map again; how a Freedom Caucus member has bizarrely emerged as a voice of sanity within the GOP—and why it'll likely doom him; Mitt Romney's retirement in Utah; and proposed maps that our Daily Kos Elections colleague Stephen Wolf submitted to the federal court in Alabama that's about to impose new congressional districts.

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

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman John Tuttle, who's the vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange, has declared that he won't run for the GOP nomination next year. Tuttle's announcement leaves former Rep. Mike Rogers as the only major candidate in the primary so far, though some other big GOP names are still considering the open seat contest.

WI-Sen: Trempealeau County Board Supervisor Stacey Klein has filed paperwork to run as a Republican and said she would officially kick off her campaign on Saturday. Klein, who first won her board seat in April 2022, hails from a county that is home to less than 1% of Wisconsin's population, but her entry nonetheless makes her the most prominent GOP candidate so far in a longtime swing state where Republicans have struggled to land a major candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Governors

DE-Gov: Term-limited Gov. John Carney has endorsed Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long just one day after his fellow Democrat announced she was running to succeed him next year. Both Democrats are currently serving their second terms (governors and lieutenant governors are elected separately in Delaware), and Hall-Long faces a primary against New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, whose county contains 58% of the state's population.

IN-Gov: The far-right Club for Growth has endorsed Republican Sen. Mike Braun in his primary to succeed term-limited Gov. Eric Holcomb. Braun, who previously won the Club's endorsement during his competitive initial primary for Senate in 2018, faces a crowded GOP field for governor that includes Lt. Gov. Susanne Crouch, former state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers, former Indiana Economic Development Corporation president Eric Doden, and former state Attorney General Curtis Hill.

House

AR-03: Republican Rep. Steve Womack announced that he'll seek another term representing his safely red seat in northwestern Arkansas, which he first won in 2010. Although Womack himself is solidly conservative, he had nonetheless recognized Joe Biden's 2020 victory and had previously told the Washington Post that he had been considering retirement due to dissatisfaction with GOP leadership caving to far-right hardliners, though he's never had any trouble winning renomination before.

OH-13: Former state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken, who unsuccessfully competed in her party's 2022 primary for Senate, announced Wednesday that she wouldn't run for the 13th District next year. Timken's decision comes just a week after the state Supreme Court granted a request by plaintiffs to dismiss their legal challenges against the GOP's current gerrymander, which ensured that Republicans won't get a chance to draw an even more extreme map for 2024 that could have targeted freshman Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes in this 51-48 Biden seat in Akron.

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, which is supporting November's ballot initiative that would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution, has launched their first TV ad buy for $687,000 over the next week. The new spot argues that the government shouldn't be making difficult reproductive healthcare choices for Ohioans and that voting yes on Issue 1 would "end Ohio's extreme abortion ban," which has "no exceptions for rape or incest." It also emphasizes that the amendment would protect access to birth control and emergency care for miscarriages.

Legislatures

NY State Assembly: Democrat Sam Berger won Tuesday's special election to fill a Democratic-held seat in Queens by a 55-45 spread against Republican David Hirsch. This district contains large Asian American and Orthodox Jewish populations, two demographics that Democrats have lost some ground with in recent years in New York City, and some had feared that Republican Lee Zeldin's 56-44 win over Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul here last year was a warning sign of things to come.

However, Berger enjoyed a large fundraising advantage and nearly matched Joe Biden's 56-43 victory in the district. Assembly Democrats will retain a 102-48 supermajority once he's sworn in, which will make the 25-year-older Berger the chamber's youngest member.

To preserve gerrymandering, Wisconsin GOP threatens to impeach justice who critiqued gerrymandering

Wisconsin is so absurdly gerrymandered, a roughly 50-50 split between the state’s Republican and Democratic voters—Donald Trump edged out Hillary Clinton in 2016, President Joe Biden squeaked by Trump in 2020, and Badger Staters narrowly reelected Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in 2022—has somehow produced gaudy Republican supermajorities in both the state Assembly and Senate. The party currently holds a 64-35 advantage in the Assembly and a 21-11 edge in the Senate.

Of course, if Wisconsin Republicans had their druthers, they’d draw little circles around every Chick-fil-A in the state and make those congressional districts. And previous state supreme courts might have let them get away with it.

But when liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz trounced her conservative opponent in the state Supreme Court election in April, it was a big win—not just for those who care about reestablishing their reproductive rights, but for anyone who genuinely cares about representative democracy.

In other words, fair legislative maps looked achievable for the first time in more than a decade. Which meant it was now past time for the GOP to squeal.

On Friday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hinted that impeachment could be on the table if Protasiewicz votes to disrupt the GOP’s plans for a permanent white minority rule over our country—or, worse, if Sen. Ron Johnson is ever forced to fill out his ballot next to a Black person. Why? Because she will have “prejudged” the case.

"If there's any semblance of honor on the state Supreme Court left, you cannot have a person who runs for the court prejudging a case and being open about it, and then acting on the case as if you're an impartial observer," Vos said during an interview with WSAU host Meg Ellefson when questioned about the durability of the Republicans’ bullshit maps. “You cannot have a judge who said, you know, the maps are rigged because she bought into the argument that that’s why we're winning elections, not the quality of our candidates, and then she sits on that trial acting like she's gonna listen and hear both sides fairly—that just can't happen.”

Okay, fine, but it’s kind of hard not to “prejudge” a gerrymandered map. Vos clearly has! Granted, he’s not a judge—and judges do need to rule on the particulars of individual cases without making snap, predetermined decisions, but in the storied history of easy calls, this one is right up there with the 1989 cancelation of “She’s the Sheriff.” 

Anyone who looks at the issue and can’t see what’s going on has no business working at a Pep Boys, much less serving as a supreme court justice. 

Consider this April story from The Atlantic, published shortly after Protasiewicz’s win flipped the state’s highest court to a 4-3 liberal majority:

After Democrats got wiped out in the 2010 midterms, Republicans gerrymandered Wisconsin with scientific precision—ensuring that in a state more or less evenly divided politically, the GOP would maintain its grip on power regardless of how the voters felt about it. Democrats would have to win by a landslide—at least 12 points, according to one expert—just to get a bare majority of 50 seats in the assembly, whereas Republicans could do so by winning only 44 percent of the vote. The U.S. Supreme Court has fueled a bipartisan race to the bottom on gerrymandering by invalidating every voter protection that comes before it, but even in today’s grim landscape, the Badger State is one of the standouts.

Wisconsin is a famously closely divided state, but thanks to their precise drawing of legislative districts, Republicans have maintained something close to a two-thirds majority whether they won more votes or not. With that kind of job security, Republicans in Wisconsin could enact an agenda far to the right of the state’s actual electorate, attacking unions, abortion rights, and voting rights without having to worry that swing voters would throw the bums out. After all, they couldn’t. And year after year, the right-wing majority on the state supreme court would ensure that gerrymandered maps kept their political allies in power and safely protected from voter backlash. Some mismatch between the popular vote and legislative districts is not inherently nefarious—it just happens to be both deliberate and extreme in Wisconsin’s case.

Nice racket, huh? In other words, Wisconsin’s liberals have been held hostage for years by unscrupulous Republicans who couldn’t care less about representative democracy. And this was years before the party as a whole decided it had no use for such quaint throwbacks

But that doesn’t mean Wisconsin Republicans are done being shameless partisans.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In January, Protasiewicz called the state's legislative maps "rigged" in a public forum and in March, she told Capital Times reporters in a podcast interview she would "enjoy taking a fresh look at the gerrymandering question."

"They do not reflect people in this state. I don't think you could sell any reasonable person that the maps are fair," Protasiewicz, a former Milwaukee County judge, said in the January forum. "I can't tell you what I would do on a particular case, but I can tell you my values, and the maps are wrong."

Vos suggested if Protasiewicz does not recuse from cases involving the maps, she would violate her oath of office, which might push lawmakers to consider impeaching her.

"I want to look and see, does she recuse herself on cases where she has prejudged? That to me is something that is at the oath of office and what she said she was going to do to uphold the Constitution. That to me is a serious offense."

As The Journal Sentinel points out, Republicans now have the power to hold impeachment trials after having attained a supermajority in the state Senate—largely thanks to gerrymandered maps. And if they do, they could theoretically sideline Protasiewicz in order to protect those same maps.

An impeachment would prevent Justice Protasiewicz from hearing cases until & unless she is acquitted by the Wisconsin Senate. If the Senate drags its feet in holding a trial, that might be enough to leave gerrymandered maps in place for 2024. https://t.co/ifDTHoi9j0 pic.twitter.com/tknTlKAnJj

— Michael Li 李之樸 (@mcpli) August 12, 2023

As the above xweet from Brennan Center redistricting and voting counsel Michael Li explains, judges who’ve been impeached can’t even rule on cases until they’ve been acquitted. With Protasiewicz so sidelined if Republicans pull the trigger on impeachment, they could leverage a deadlocked 3-3 court to keep their maps (and minority rule) in place through 2024. 

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly are understandably calling bullshit. 

"That type of reaction shows how threatened the Republican majority is by a challenge to their rigged maps,” Rep. Evan Goyke, a Milwaukee Democrat, told The Journal Sentinel. “It's really good evidence that the state is gerrymandered, that they'd be willing to go to such an unprecedented maneuver.”

Goyke also suggested that Protasiewicz would have to be dense, corrupt, or a Republican (three great tastes that taste great together) to not see how untenable the current maps are.

"I also think that Justice Protasiewicz is a live human being in Wisconsin and understands that we are living in this gerrymander," Goyke said. "I don't think that one comment invalidates her ability to serve."

Goyke further noted that Protasiewicz’s commanding 11-point victory in April is “a pretty clear mandate where the people stand.”

Sure, but since when do Republicans care where people stand?  They’re typically more interested in forcing them to sit still and take their medicine, whether they want to or not.

But as the Daily Kos Elections team points out in a great thread worth a read, that approach is only going to continue to blow up in GOP faces.

So what would the WI GOP do then? Keep impeaching until there are just two hardcore conservatives left? As we saw in Ohio, voters don't much like it when elected officials try to abrogate their rights. Scorched-earth tactics risk a major backfire for the GOP

— Daily Kos Elections (@DKElections) August 12, 2023

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.  

Morning Digest: Why this Nebraska district will host an even bigger barn-burner in ’24

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

NE-02: Democratic state Sen. Tony Vargas announced Wednesday that he'd seek a rematch against Rep. Don Bacon, the Republican who beat him 51-49 in last year's expensive campaign for Nebraska's 2nd District. Vargas, who is the son of immigrants from Peru, would be the first Latino to represent the Cornhusker State in Congress. He currently faces no serious intra-party opposition as he seeks to avenge his 2022 defeat, and unnamed Democratic sources also the Nebraska Examiner they don't expect that to change.

This constituency, which includes Omaha and several of its suburbs, favored Joe Biden 52-46, but the four-term Republican has been tough to dislodge. Vargas and his allies ran ads last year emphasizing Bacon's supports for a bill banning abortion nationally after 15 weeks, something the congressman tried to pass off as a moderate option. The GOP, meanwhile, hit back with commercials accusing Vargas of voting "to release violent prisoners." Vargas, who favored bipartisan legislation that would have made prisoners eligible for parole after two years instead of halfway through their term, responded by stressing his support for law enforcement, but it wasn't enough.

Bacon's profile has risen nationally since that tight win, and he's emerged as one of Speaker Kevin McCarthy's most outspoken allies. The Nebraskan made news during the speakership vote when he suggested that members of both parties could unite behind one candidate as a "last resort," arguing that such an outcome would be the fault of "six or seven" far-right Republicans. Bacon has continued to denounce his colleagues in the Freedom Caucus, but while he continues to muse, "I'm of the position that at some point we gotta just do coalition government with the Democrats and cut these guys out," he's yet to take any obvious action to actually make that happen.

A few other things will be different for the 2024 cycle. Vargas' Republican colleagues in the officially nonpartisan legislature passed a bill in May banning abortion after 12 weeks. Vargas, who opposed the measure, used his kickoff to emphasize how he'd "work to protect abortion rights" in Congress. But rather than try to downplay the issue, as many other Republicans have, Bacon has responded by claiming that Vargas "wants zero restrictions" on the procedure. (Vargas argued last year that "elected officials like me should be playing absolutely no role" over women's health decisions.)

The presidential election could also complicate things, especially since Nebraska, along with Maine, is one of just two states that awards an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. Bacon ran well ahead of the top of the ticket in 2020 and prevailed 51-46 even as Donald Trump was losing the 2nd 52-46 (the presidential numbers were the same under both the old and new congressional maps thanks to GOP gerrymandering), but Democrats are hoping that he'll have a much tougher time winning over ticket-splitters next year.

2Q Fundraising

The second fundraising quarter of the year, covering the period of Apr. 1 through June 30, has come to an end, and federal candidates will have to file campaign finance reports with the FEC by July 15. But as per usual, campaigns with hauls they're eager to tout are leaking numbers early, which we've gathered below.

  • CA-Sen: Adam Schiff (D): $8.1 million raised
  • MD-Sen: Angela Alsobrooks (D): $1.6 million raised (in seven weeks), $1.25 million cash on hand
  • MO-Sen: Lucas Kunce (D): $1.2 million raised
  • PA-Sen: Bob Casey (D-inc): $4 million raised
  • TX-Sen: Colin Allred (D): $6.2 million raised (in two months)
  • WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): $3.2 million raised
  • CA-47: Scott Baugh (R): $545,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • NY-22: Sarah Klee Hood (D): $319,000 raised (in 10 weeks), $221,000 cash on hand
  • RI-01: Don Carlson (D): $312,000 raised, additional $600,000 self-funded, $750,000 cash on hand
  • TX-32: Julie Johnson (D): $410,000 raised (in 11 days), Brian Williams (D): $360,000 raised (in six weeks)

Ballot Measures

OH Redistricting: The U.S. Supreme Court vacated last year's ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that struck down the state's congressional map in a brief order issued just before the holiday weekend, directing the Ohio court to reconsider the case in light of the federal Supreme Court's recent decision in a related redistricting case out of North Carolina.

In the North Carolina case, known as Moore v. Harper, the Supreme Court rejected a radical argument by Republican legislators that would have allowed them to gerrymander without limits. Republicans claimed that the U.S. Constitution forbids state courts from placing any curbs on state lawmakers with regard to laws that concern federal elections, including the creation of new congressional maps. The supreme courts in both states had struck down GOP maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders, and in both cases, Republicans responded by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn those rulings.

The Supreme Court declined to do so in Moore, but a majority of justices in the North Carolina matter did embrace a more limited version of the GOP's argument, saying that "state courts may not transgress the ordinary bounds of judicial review" when assessing state laws that affect federal elections. The U.S. Supreme Court now is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to determine whether it did in fact transgress these bounds in its prior ruling.

The written opinion in Moore, however, declined to provide any guidance whatsoever as to what those bounds might be, or what transgressing them might look like. The Ohio Supreme Court, therefore, faces the awkward task of deciding whether to tattle on itself without really knowing what it might have done wrong. Still, it's hard to see how the court might have run afoul of this standard, even if interpreted loosely. But whatever it decides, the outcome likely won't make any difference.

That's because partisan Republicans took firm control of the state Supreme Court in November after moderate Republican Maureen O'Connor, who had sided with the court's three Democrats to block GOP gerrymanders, retired due to age limits. The new hardline majority would likely have overturned the court's previous rulings rejecting Republican maps regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court's new order. As a consequence, Ohio will likely be able to use the same tilted map next year, or possibly even a more egregiously slanted one, since Republicans recently said they might pass a new map this fall.

Senate

IN-Sen: Egg farmer John Rust, who is reportedly wealthy and could self-fund a bid for office, has filed paperwork to run in next year's GOP primary for Indiana's open Senate seat. Rust, however, has not yet commented publicly, so it's not clear what kind of opening he might see for himself, given that Republican leaders have almost universally rallied behind Rep. Jim Banks' campaign to succeed Sen. Mike Braun.

MI-Sen: Former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who previously said "never say never" in regard to a possible bid for Michigan's open Senate seat, is now "seriously weighing" a campaign, according to two unnamed sources cited by Politico's Burgess Everett. A consultant for Rogers, who's been weighing a hopeless campaign for president, also declined to rule out the possibility in a statement.

Meanwhile, Time's Mini Racker reports that John Tuttle, an executive with the New York Stock Exchange, "is likely to enter" the GOP primary, per an anonymous source, and could do so by the middle of this month. In May, NRSC chair Steve Daines praised Tuttle as "a strong potential recruit." Racker's source also says that former Rep. Peter Meijer is "seriously looking" at a campaign but "may wait months" to decide; earlier this year, Meijer would only say "no comment" when the New York Times asked about his interest.

The only noteworthy Republican in the race so far is state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, though her presence hasn't deterred anyone else. Democrats, by contrast, have largely coalesced around Rep. Elissa Slotkin, though she faces a few opponents, most notably state Board of Education President Pamela Pugh.

MT-Sen: Rep. Ryan Zinke took himself out of the running for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester by endorsing former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy for the GOP nomination instead. But while Sheehy is a favorite of D.C. Republicans, he's still likely to have company in the primary in the form of Montana's other congressman, the hard-right Matt Rosendale.

NV-Sen: The Nevada Independent's Gabby Birenbaum flags that Army veteran Sam Brown, who's reportedly a favorite of national Republicans, has a "special announcement" planned for Monday. So far, the only prominent Republican seeking to challenge first-term Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen is notorious election conspiracy theorist Jim Marchant, who came very close to winning last year's race for secretary of state.

OH-Sen: East Carolina University's new poll gives Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown small leads against a trio of Republican foes:

  • 45-44 vs. state Sen. Matt Dolan
  • 44-42 vs. Secretary of State Frank LaRose
  • 46-42 vs. businessman Bernie Moreno

LaRose hasn't announced yet, though he unsubtly tweeted a picture of an FEC statement of organization form dated July 15.

VA-Sen: Navy veteran Hung Cao, who was last year's GOP nominee against Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton, has filed FEC paperwork for what would be a longshot campaign against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

Governors

WA-Gov: Former Rep. Dave Reichert on Friday filed paperwork for a potential campaign for governor, which is the furthest the Republican has ever come to running for statewide office despite flirting with the idea several times during his career. Reichert, a former swing district congressman who is arguably his party's most formidable candidate, has yet to publicly commit to entering the top-two primary.

WV-Gov: 2020 Democratic nominee Ben Salango said Wednesday he's decided not to run to succeed termed-out Gov. Jim Justice, the Republican who beat him 63-30. No serious Democrats have entered the race to lead what has become an inhospitable state for their party especially over the last decade, though Huntington Mayor Steve Williams responded to the news by reaffirming his interest to MetroNews.

"I said at the Juneteenth that I intend to run, but that it won't be official until I intend to file and that wouldn't be until sometime in July or August" said Williams, who runs West Virginia's second-largest state. The mayor didn't commit to anything, adding, "It's never official until it's official."

House

AZ-06: Businessman Jack O'Donnell has quietly ended his month-old campaign for the Democratic nomination, a move the Arizona Republic says he made "without comment." O'Donnell's departure leaves former state Sen. Kirsten Engel without any intra-party opposition as she seeks a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Juan Ciscomani, who beat her 51-49 last cycle.

CO-08: Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who took second in last year's GOP primary, says she won't try again this cycle.

FL-11: While far-right troll Laura Loomer declared early this year that she'd be seeking a GOP primary rematch against veteran Rep. Daniel Webster, whom she held to a shockingly close 51-44 last cycle, she now tells Florida Politics she's still making up her mind about another try. "Right now, my entire focus is the re-nomination and reelection of President Donald J. Trump, and exposing Ron DeSantis for the con man that he is," she said, continuing, "I am preserving all of my options regarding a potential candidacy for U.S. Congress in Florida's 11th district."

Loomer also predicted that if she ran she'd "pulverize" both Webster and former state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who is the congressman's only notable declared intra-party foe in this conservative seat in the western Orlando suburbs. Sabatini, a hard-right extremist who lost last year's primary for the neighboring 7th District to now-Rep. Cory Mills, says he's raised $205,000 during the first three months in his campaign to replace Webster as the congressman for the gargantuan retirement community of The Villages.

IL-12: Darren Bailey, the far-right former state senator who was the GOP’s nominee for governor of Illinois last year, used a Fourth of July celebration at his family farm to announce that he’d challenge Rep. Mike Bost for renomination. Bost, who confirmed last month that he’d seek a sixth term in downstate Illinois' dark red 12th District, is himself an ardent Trumpist who voted to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the hours after the Jan. 6 attacks.

Bailey did not mention the incumbent in his kickoff or subsequent launch video, preferring instead to praise Trump and denounce “weak-kneed politicians who refuse to stand up and fight.” The also posted a picture on Facebook reading “Hands off my AR” on Tuesday—the first anniversary of the mass shooting in Highland Park. (The Chicago Tribune reminds us that last year, before the gunman was even caught, Bailey urged his followers to “move on and let’s celebrate — celebrate the independence of this nation.”)

The NRCC wasted no time making it clear that it was firmly in Bost's corner and previewed some of the material it might use. “Darren Bailey moved to a downtown Chicago penthouse to get blown out by JB Pritzker, now he’s back seeking another political promotion,” said in a statement. Bailey, who filed a 2019 bill to kick Chicago out of Illinois, sought to explain why he’d taken up residence in the Windy City last year. “You can’t deny there’s problems here," he argued. "And if we keep denying these problems, the problems are going to get worse.”

Just a day after 55-42 drubbing by Pritzker, the Tribune reported that Bost’s allies were worried the senator would turn around and take on the congressman—and they may have good reason to fret that he could put up a fight. According to an estimate from OurCampaigns, Bailey ran slightly ahead of Trump's 71-28 performance in the 12th District, carrying it 73-25 last year. Bost, though, also bested Trump's showing, winning his own race 75-25.

Trump has lent his support to both men in the past, so there's no telling whether he'll take sides this time. Just ahead of last year's primary, he endorsed Bailey—much to the delight of Democrats, who spent a fortune to help him win the nod in the ultimately correct belief he'd prove a weak opponent for Pritzker. Trump also headlined a rally for Bost in 2018, when the congressman was in the midst of a tough reelection battle. (Democrats later redrew the 12th District to make it much redder by packing in as many Republican voters as possible.)

MD-06: State House Minority Leader Jason Buckel tells Maryland Matters' Josh Kurtz that, while he's still considering a bid for the GOP nod, he's postponing his decision from late July to late August.

Former Del. Dan Cox, the election denier who cost the GOP any chance it had to hold Maryland's governorship last year, also says he remains undecided, but he adds that he had nothing to do with a "Dan Cox for U.S. Congress" FEC committee that was set up Monday. "I'd like to know who did this," Cox said of the committee, which ceased to exist the following day.

MI-07: Former state Sen. Curtis Hertel on Wednesday filed FEC paperwork for his long-anticipated campaign for this competitive open seat, a development that came days after the Democrat stepped down as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's director of legislative affairs.

NJ-07, NJ-Sen: Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello told the New Jersey Globe Monday that he's decided to end his longshot Democratic primary bid against Sen. Robert Menendez and instead challenge freshman GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Signorello's entire 14,000-person community is located in Democratic Rep. Donald Payne's 10th District, but the mayor previously said he lives "five minutes away" from Kean's constituency.

The only other notable Democrat campaigning for the 7th is Working Families Party state director Sue Altman, who says she raised $200,000 during her first month in the primary. Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak has talked about getting in as well, while the Globe reported last week that former State Department official Jason Blazakis is also considering joining the race.

NY-17: Former Rep. Mondaire Jones announced on Wednesday that he'd seek the Democratic nomination to take on freshman Republican Rep. Mike Lawler in New York's 17th District, a lower Hudson Valley constituency that Joe Biden carried 54-44 in 2020. Jones, who unsuccessfully ran in New York City last year because of a strange set of redistricting-induced circumstances, used his intro video to emphasize his local roots in Rockland County and record securing funds for the area during his one term in D.C.

Before Jones can focus on reclaiming this seat, though, he has to get through what could be an expensive primary against local school board member Liz Gereghty, the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Gereghty, who launched her campaign in mid-May, announced this week that she'd raised $400,000 though the end of last month. The field also includes former Bedford Town Supervisor MaryAnn Carr, but it remains to be seen if she'll have the resources to run a strong campaign.

In the 2020 election cycle, Jones sought what was, at the time, a safely blue seat held by Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey. Lowey, however, retired soon after Jones launched his campaign, and he won a competitive, multi-way battle for the Democratic nomination. Jones made history with his comfortable victory that fall by becoming the first openly gay black member of Congress, a distinction he shared with fellow New York Democrat Ritchie Torres. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.)

Two years later, Jones seemed to be on track for another easy win, but everything changed after New York's highest court rejected state's new Democratic-drawn congressional map and substituted in its own lines. Fellow Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who represented a neighboring district and also chaired the DCCC, infuriated Jones and many local Democrats when he decided to seek reelection in the 17th District rather than defend the 18th, a slightly more competitive seat that included the bulk of his current constituents.

Jones decided to avoid a primary by campaigning for the open 10th District, an open seat based in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan that was far from his home turf, though he offered an explanation for his change of venue. "This is the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement," he tweeted, "Since long before the Stonewall Uprising, queer people of color have sought refuge within its borders."

But while Jones enjoyed the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he had a tough time in a primary dominated by politicians with far stronger ties to New York City. Former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman, a self-funder who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Donald Trump's first impeachment, massively outspent the rest of the field and secured the influential support of the New York Times. Goldman ultimately beat Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou in a 25-24 squeaker, while Jones finished third with 18%.

Maloney, for his part, acknowledged months before his own general election that "there are a lot of strong feelings" among Democrats who felt he'd sent Jones packing. "I think I could've handled it better," he admitted. He'd soon have more reasons for regret: One local progressive leader would recount to Slate that volunteers canvassing for Maloney would be asked, "Isn't he the guy that pushed Mondaire out of this district?" Maloney ended up losing to Lawler 50.3-49.7 at the same time that Republican Lee Zeldin was beating Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul 52-48 in the 17th, according to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux. (Ironically, Democrat Pat Ryan held the 18th District that Maloney left behind.)

Jones soon made it clear that he was interested in returning to his home base to challenge Lawler, saying in December, "I've also learned my lesson, and that is home for me is in the Hudson Valley." (The Daily Beast reported in February that Jones hadn't ruled out waging a primary against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but there was little indication he'd ever seriously considered the idea.)

The once and perhaps future congressman continues to express strong feelings about how the midterm elections went down. "I never imagined that I would wake up one day and would have to decide against primarying a member of the Democratic Party at a time when we were seeing an assault on our democracy," he told News12 Westchester on Wednesday. "To that extent, yeah, I do regret not being the Democratic nominee last cycle."

Gereghty's team, though, made it clear they'd use his campaign in New York City against him. "Liz Whitmer Gereghty has lived in the Hudson Valley for 20 years," her campaign said in a statement, "and the reason you'll never see her moving to Brooklyn to chase a congressional seat is because the only place and only people she wants to represent are right here in the Hudson Valley."

RI-01: Candidate filing closed Friday for the special election to succeed former Rep. David Cicilline, and 22 of his fellow Democrats are campaigning for this 64-35 Biden constituency. The notable candidates competing in the Sept. 5 Democratic primary appear to be (deep breath):

  • State Rep. Marvin Abney
  • former Biden administration official Gabe Amo
  • former state official Nick Autiello
  • Lincoln Town Councilor Pamela Azar
  • Navy veteran Walter Berbrick
  • State Sen. Sandra Cano
  • Businessman Don Carlson
  • State Rep. Stephen Casey
  • Providence City Councilman John Goncalves
  • Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos
  • Narragansett Aboriginal Nation tribal elder Bella Machado Noka
  • State Sen. Ana Quezada
  • former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg

The field isn't quite set, though, because candidates still need to turn in 500 valid signatures by July 14. The general election will be Nov. 7.

VA-02: Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal, reports Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, is "moving toward" challenging freshman Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans in a competitive seat where Democrats are awaiting their first serious contender. Cotter Smasal previously lost an expensive race for the state Senate 52-48 against GOP state Sen. Bill DeSteph. (Donald Trump had carried that constituency 51-43 in 2016, though Joe Biden would take it 50-48 the year after Cotter Smasal's defeat.)

The current version of the 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads communities, also supported Biden 50-48. Kiggans last year went on to unseat Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria 52-48, and while Luria went on to form a PAC to help her party in this fall's state legislature contests, Rubashkin says she's "unlikely" to seek a rematch.

Ballot Measures

NY Ballot: New York could join the ranks of states whose constitutions protect the right to an abortion next year when voters decide whether to approve a far-reaching amendment placed on the ballot by lawmakers.

The amendment, which the legislature passed for the required second time in January, would outlaw discrimination based on a wide variety of factors, including race, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, and sex. Under "sex," the measure further adds several more categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as "pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy."

It is that last grouping that proponents say will protect abortion rights, though the amendment doesn't actually reference the word "abortion" anywhere. State law expert Quinn Yeargain expressed concern about that omission in an essay earlier this year. While noting that the amendment "encompasses a number of really good ideas" that would put New York at the vanguard of prohibiting a number of types of discrimination, he opined that it "leaves a lot to be desired" if it's to be regarded as "an abortion-rights amendment."

Yeargain contrasted New York's approach with a much more explicit amendment that will appear on the Maryland ballot next year. That amendment guarantees "the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one's own pregnancy." Regarding the New York amendment, Yeargain concluded that if he lived in the state, "I'd enthusiastically vote for this measure next year—but I wouldn't do so with the assumption that it'll constitutionalize abortion rights."

OH Ballot: Activists seeking to enshrine abortion rights into the Ohio constitution submitted 710,000 signatures on Wednesday to place an amendment on the November ballot, far more than the 413,000 required by law. That figure gives organizers a sizable cushion should any petitions get thrown out after state officials review them, but a much more serious hurdle looms: Next month, voters will decide on a separate amendment approved by Republican lawmakers that would raise the threshold for passage for any future amendments from a simple majority to 60%.

Republicans have been explicit in explaining why they're pushing their measure. "This is 100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution," Secretary of State Frank LaRose said at an event in May, according to video obtained by News 5 Cleveland. "The left wants to jam it in there this coming November." A broad array of organizations are opposing the GOP amendment, which will go before voters in an Aug. 8 special election.

Morning Digest: Tech executive eyes California Senate bid in state where self-funders have gone bust

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

CA-Sen: Former Google executive Lexi Reese on Thursday announced that she was forming an exploratory committee for a potential campaign to succeed her fellow California Democrat, retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Reese, whose team tells Politico's Christopher Cadelago she'd use a "significant" amount of her own money should she run, added, "I'm going to take the next couple of weeks to make a decision."

Reese's name hadn't previously surfaced in a top-two primary contest between Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff, though she appears to have spent a significant amount of time quietly preparing a campaign. Puck News reports that she "has been actively exploring a Senate run over the last few months," while Cadelago relays that she's already put a team together.

Reese's entrance could make it easier for a Republican to advance to the general election in a dark blue state that's hosted several fall contests between two Democrats. The San Mateo County resident would also end Lee's status as the only serious Democratic candidate who hails from the Bay Area instead of from Southern California, though unlike the longtime East Bay congresswoman, Reese has never run for office before. That last bit may be a tough hurdle to overcome because, despite the massive cost of running for office in America's most populous state, California has rejected several wealthy first-time candidates who wanted the governorship or a Senate seat.

Back in 1998, when the Golden State still held partisan primaries, former Northwest Airlines co-chair Al Checchi broke state records by dropping $40 million of his own money (about $75 million in 2023 dollars) to try and win the Democratic primary for governor. His investment helped him build an early lead in the polls, but Checchi soon found himself trading negative ads against Rep. Jane Harman, who was also deploying some of her fortune.

It also didn't help Checchi that, as CNN wrote over a month before the primary, voters were comparing him to Michael Huffington, a one-term Republican congressman who narrowly lost the 1994 Senate race to Feinstein after doing his own extensive self-funding. Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, who had languished in third place for most of the primary, promised "experience money can't buy" and beat Checchi in a 57-20 landslide, a win that set Davis on the path to becoming California's first Democratic governor in 16 years.

Davis’ tenure ended in a 2003 recall where he was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in a campaign where the superstar spent $10.6 million (nearly $20 million in 2023 dollars). That win made Schwarzenegger the last person to win either of the state’s top posts after doing a serious amount of self-funding, though unlike other wealthy contenders, the soon-to-be “Governator” began his race as a household name.

Checchi in 2010 would acknowledge the limits of his own strategy by griping to the San Francisco Chronicle, "What could you say in a 30-second commercial?" but Republican Meg Whitman that year would air many 30-second ads in her bid to lead the state. The former eBay CEO gave her campaign $144 million ($200 million today), which at the time made her the biggest self-funder in American electoral history. That same cycle saw former HP CEO Carly Fiorina challenge Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, though Fiorina deployed "just" $7 million as she relied more on donors.

But while Republicans were on the offensive that year nationally, the termed-out Schwarzenegger’s terrible approval ratings were too much of an anvil for California Republicans to overcome. Former Gov. Jerry Brown regained his old office by beating Whitman 54-41 the same night that Boxer scored a similar victory against Fiorina.

Senate

IN-Sen: Termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed Thursday that he would stay out of the GOP primary for the Senate, a declaration that comes months after almost everyone stopped seriously wondering if he’d run. (Holcomb himself only made this announcement in the seventh paragraph of an op-ed for the Indianapolis Star bemoaning the state of the federal government.) Far-right Rep. Jim Banks remains the only serious contender for this seat, and there’s no indication that will change.

WI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Scott Mayer tells The Messenger he’ll decide after Labor Day if he’ll enter the GOP primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, though he acknowledges he’s not his own first choice to run. Mayer reveals he wanted “someone like” Rep. Mike Gallagher to get in, but he says that “there is really no… awesome people stepping forward” now that the congressman has decided not to go for it. Mayer also reiterated that, while he’d “have to put some of my own money in,” he doesn’t have enough to get by only on self-funding.

Governors

ND-Gov: While Republican Gov. Doug Burgum doesn't appear to have said anything about running for a third term at home in the likely event that his White House hopes go nowhere, a pair of party strategists tell Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin they anticipate the incumbent will be seeking reelection.

There is no shortage of Republicans who could run if this becomes an open seat race, but one of Rubashkin's sources tells him that "nobody is going to do anything until they see if Burgum catches any fire in the presidential race." North Dakota's candidate filing deadline takes place in April, well after most states hold their presidential primaries.

House

MI-07: While 2022 GOP nominee Tom Barrett has yet to announce his long-anticipated new campaign, party strategists tell Inside Elections' Erin Covey they believe he will this summer. No other serious Republicans have shown any obvious interest in running for the swing seat that Barrett's last Democratic foe, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, is giving up to run for the Senate; one person mentioned former state House Speaker Tom Leonard as a possible option in the event that Barrett shocks everyone and stays out.

No notable Democrats are running yet either, but Covey says the party has "largely consolidated behind" former state Sen. Curtis Hertel. The Detroit News previously reported that Hertel, who currently serves as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's legislative director, could launch as soon as next month after the state budget is finished.

RI-01: Former state official Nick Autiello has launched the very first TV ad of the Sept. 5 special Democratic primary, and WPRI says he's spending less than $20,000 for a week-long buy. The spot features Autiello declaring, "It's time we ban assault weapons, make healthcare affordable, and deliver for Rhode Island."

TX-32: State Rep. Julie Johnson has filed with the FEC for a potential campaign to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Colin Allred.

UT-02: Candidate filing closed Wednesday for the special election to succeed outgoing Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, who will "irrevocably resign" effective the evening of Sept. 15, in a gerrymandered seat that Donald Trump carried 57-40, and the state has a list of contenders here. The party primaries will take place Sept. 5―a full 10 days before Stewart is to leave office―and the general election for Nov. 21, dates the legislature also approved in a special session Wednesday.

Contenders have two routes to make the ballot for their respective party primary. The first option is to turn in 7,000 valid signatures by July 5, while the other alternative is to win their party's convention: The GOP's convention is set for June 24, while Democrats will gather four days later.

Thirteen Republicans filed overall, and since eight are only going with the convention option, the field will be significantly smaller soon. That's because, under the state's special election law, only one person can advance out of the event instead of the maximum of two that are normally allowed. The Republicans who are only going with the convention option are:

  • State party activist Kathleen Anderson
  • Businessman Quin Denning
  • Academic Henry Eyring
  • State party official Jordan Hess
  • Leeds Mayor Bill Hoster
  • former state House Speaker Greg Hughes
  • Perennial candidate Ty Jensen
  • Stewart legal counsel Celeste Maloy

The remaining five are trying both routes:

  • former state Rep. Becky Edwards
  • Navy veteran Scott Hatfield
  • RNC member Bruce Hough
  • Some Dude Remy Bubba Kush
  • former congressional staffer Scott Reber

While candidates have the option to bypass the convention entirely and just collect signatures, none will this time. (Edwards originally checked off the box on her filing form saying she'd do this, but she later crossed it out and went with convention and signatures.) The petition process can cause headaches even for well-funded candidates, though, so some of these people may struggle to continue their campaigns if they lose the convention.

Three Democrats are also in, and all three are just competing at their convention: state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, businessman Guy Warner, and perennial candidate Archie Williams. Another six nonaligned contenders are running but, despite some early chatter, 2022 Senate candidate Evan McMullin is not one of them.

Mayors and County Leaders

Aurora, CO Mayor: Nonprofit head Rob Andrews this week became the second Democrat to launch a bid against Republican Mayor Mike Coffman in a Nov. 7 nonpartisan contest where it takes just a simple plurality to win. Coffman's only declared foe up until this point was City Councilmember Juan Marcano, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who started running in January. The filing deadline isn't until Aug. 29.

Andrews, who would be the first Black person elected to lead this suburb of 384,000 people just east of Denver, was briefly part of the Calgary Stampeders' 2007 roster, but that Canadian Football League team released him during the preseason. Andrews, who unsuccessfully ran for the City Council in Colorado Springs in 2009, now leads a nonprofit that describes its mission as "empower[ing] the unemployed and those with barriers to employment to become self-supporting through job preparation and placement."

Houston, TX Mayor: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee on Thursday publicized a high-profile endorsement from her fellow Democrat, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, ahead of the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary for mayor. Hidalgo leads a county that includes about 98% of Houston (in Texas, county judges are the top executive offices rather than judicial posts), with the rest split between Ford Bend and Montgomery counties.

Jackson Lee's main foe in the race to succeed termed-out incumbent Sylvester Turner appears to be another Democrat, state Sen. John Whitmire. The field also includes City Councilman Robert Gallegos; bond investor Gilbert Garcia; attorney Lee Kaplan; and former City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who lost the 2020 Democratic primary for Senate. Attorney Tony Buzbee, a self-funding independent who lost the 2019 runoff to Turner 56-44, also showed interest in another campaign in April, but he's since signed on to represent Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Republican's upcoming impeachment trial. The candidate filing deadline isn't until Aug. 21, and it's not clear if Paxton's trial before the state Senate will have started by then.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Palm Beach County, FL State Attorney: Alexcia Cox, who is the top deputy to retiring incumbent Dave Aronberg, announced Thursday that she'd compete in next year's Democratic primary to succeed him. Cox would be both the first Black person and first woman to serve as prosecutor for this populous South Florida county.

Morning Digest: Sen. Ben Cardin isn’t running next year, but these Maryland Democrats might

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MD-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin announced Monday that he would not seek a fourth term next year in Maryland, a decision that marks the beginning of the end for a political career that started in 1966 when he was still in law school. There's little question that Cardin's party will hold his seat in a state that favored Joe Biden 64-32 and where Republicans last won a Senate race in 1980, but there's already a great deal of interest among Old Line State Democrats in succeeding him.

Politico reported back in February that Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who would be the first Black woman to represent Maryland in the upper chamber, was already hiring people for a campaign, and she said that same month she would consider running if Cardin didn’t. The chatter only intensified Monday after the incumbent revealed his plans: Politico says she’d “almost certain” to jump in, while Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz anticipates she’ll launch “before the end of the month.” Alsobrooks was elected in 2018 to lead her populous and very blue community in the D.C. suburbs, and observers have credited her support for now-Gov. Wes Moore as an important factor in his close primary victory last year.

Another contender that Politico writes is all but assured to compete is Rep. David Trone, the Total Wine & More co-founder whom Insider ranked as the 17th wealthiest member of Congress in 2021. The moderate congressman, says the story, already knows who would likely be his campaign manager, and while Trone declined to answer Monday when asked if he intends to seek a promotion, Kurtz adds that his launch could come as soon as this week. Trone self-funded what was a record $13 million in his failed 2016 primary bid for the 8th Congressional District before pumping in a total of $33 million during his subsequent three victorious campaigns for the 6th, and Time Magazine reports he’s told allies he intends to deploy as much as $50 million of his own money to succeed Cardin.

Another name to watch is Rep. Jamie Raskin, a progressive favorite who defeated Trone in that 2016 primary. Raskin, who recently finished a successful treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma, said through his aides he was considering a statewide campaign. Kurtz, though, believes it’s more likely the congressman will stay in the lower chamber. 

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, meanwhile, said two weeks ago he was thinking about a Senate bid, and Maryland Matters now writes he’s “preparing to run.” The councilmember, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria, would be Maryland’s first Black senator. Jawando also competed in that 2016 primary for the 8th District and finished with just 5%, but he won his current countywide seat two years later; Kurtz predicts that, should Raskin go for Senate after all, Jawando would instead run for the 8th again.  

But wait, there’s more! Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s team also says their boss is interested, and unlike the aforementioned four officeholders, his geographic base of support comes from the Baltimore suburbs rather than the D.C. area. (Baltimore County is a separate jurisdiction from the neighboring city of Baltimore.) The executive, though, has also been eyeing a campaign for the 2nd District should veteran Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger retire; a spokesperson for the 77-year-old congressman said Ruppersberger “has not made any decisions about the next term, nor does he have a timeline to do so.”

Kurtz additionally names Rep. John Sarbanes as another person who is “expected to consider,” though there’s no word from the congressman. Sarbanes is the son of Cardin’s predecessor, the late Paul Sarbanes, and he mulled a bid for the state’s other Senate seat in 2015 before opting to stay put. The congressman, though, doesn’t appear to have been getting ready for a campaign for his father’s old seat, though, as he raised just $10,000 during the first three months of 2023.

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley also offers former DNC chair Tom Perez, who narrowly lost this primary to Moore last year, as a possibility, though Perez doesn’t appear to have said anything about a bid. There’s additionally talk that Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous, who badly lost the 2018 race for governor to Republican incumbent Larry Hogan, could go for it, though a former Jealous aide tells Politico “he has made clear to them that his preference is for Jamie Raskin to run.”

The GOP wish list, by contrast, pretty much starts and ends with Hogan, who left office earlier this year, but he once again doesn’t sound at all likely to go for it. The party unsuccessfully recruited the outgoing governor to take on Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen last year, and a source told Politico that his response to their new charm offensive was to again say that “he has never been interested in the Senate.” On Monday, the head of Hogan’s political organization forwarded Maryland Matters that article when asked if the former governor was now thinking about making the race.

Whoever eventually wins will succeed a senator who, despite one tough race in 2006, never lost an election in a career that began when Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Cardin grew up in a notable Baltimore political family that included his father, Meyer Cardin, who was elected to his sole four-year term state House in 1934 and later became a judge. An uncle, Maurice Cardin, enjoyed a 20-year career in the lower chamber, but he made it clear to his nephew that he wanted him as his successor when he retired.

That day came in 1966 when Ben Cardin was 23 and still a University of Maryland law student: Maurice Cardin himself recounted in 1982 that as the pair stood outside a polling place on Election Day voters went up to him rather than the soon-to-be-victorious candidate and said, "I voted for you again." The younger Cardin himself would say in 2006, "I worked hard in that [first] election, but I think it's fair to say that without the name, I wouldn't have won." But Cardin, with his uncle's encouragement, successfully sought a post on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and quickly became a respected member, and he went on to chair the body.

The delegate rose further in the state House by securing enough support to become speaker even before Election Day 1978, and the 35-year-old became the youngest person in state history up until that point to lead the chamber. Cardin, the Washington Post would write four years later, enjoyed "power [that] is almost absolute," and while there was talk he'd run as Gov. Harry Hughes running mate in 1982 to set himself up for a future bid for the top job, the speaker unsurprisingly opted to stay put. However, while Cardin said, "I would like to be governor some day," the paper noted that his name recognition was so low outside political circles that he'd had a tough time prevailing statewide.

While the speaker did eye a 1986 bid for governor, he instead ran that year to replace Rep. Barbara Mikulski when she left the safely Democratic 3rd District behind to wage a victorious Senate bid. Cardin easily claimed the nomination to replace her ahead of an overwhelming win, and he never had trouble holding his seat. The congressman, just like he did in the legislature, went on to become a member of the Ways & Means Committee and respected policy wonk, though essentially everyone agreed he was anything but a compelling orator. Cardin did spend much of 1997 mulling a primary campaign​ against Gov. Parris Glendening​, who suffered from low approval ratings, but the governor successfully maneuvered​ to keep him out​.  

Cardin finally got the chance to campaign statewide in the 2006 cycle when Maryland's other Democratic senator, Paul Sarbanes, retired, and what followed were the only seriously contested primary and general election campaigns he’d ever go through. His most prominent intra-party foe was former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman who would have been the state's first Black senator.

Cardin enjoyed a big financial advantage and considerably more support from powerful state Democrats, but Mfume's charisma and deep ties with the state's large African American population made him a formidable opponent. Cardin won by a tight 44-41 margin but immediately had to prepare for an expensive showdown with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who was Maryland’s first Black statewide elected official.

Democrats feared that, despite George W. Bush's horrible approval ratings, Steele could win enough African American support to pose a serious threat to Cardin. "The challenge of the opportunity is to build a bridge to communities the Democratic Party has taken for granted and has, by its choice of nominee," Steele declared on the campaign trail, while Mfume himself warned his party it wasn't doing enough to appeal to Black voters. This was another contest where Cardin, who joked in his own campaign ads, "Who says I'm not flashy?" faced a far more charismatic opponent, but he and his allies pushed back by tying Steele to Bush.

Cardin aired a spot late in the campaign where actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, told the audience that Steele wanted to "put limits on the most promising stem cell research." The Republican responded with his own commercial featuring his sister, a pediatrician who has multiple sclerosis, pushing back and condemning Cardin, but it wasn't enough. The Democrat prevailed 54-44, though Steele's losing effort helped launch him to a high-profile and turbulent career helming the Republican National Committee from 2009 to 2011; Mfume, for his part, returned to the House in a 2020 special election.

Cardin had a far easier time in 2012 when he turned back a primary challenge from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, who had made a name for himself as a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, 74-16. The incumbent went on to win a low-profile general election 56-26 against Republican Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who would almost win a House race two years later before reinventing himself as a Trumpian commentator.

The Cardin family suffered a political setback in the 2014 primary for attorney general when the senator's nephew, Del. Jon Cardin, took a distant second to eventual winner Brian Frosh, but Ben Cardin himself remained entrenched at home. In 2018 he won renomination in an 80-6 landslide over Chelsea Manning, the former Army soldier who was convicted of giving hundreds of thousands of classified military reports to the site Wikileaks, and he secured his final term with ease months later.

Election Night

Lincoln, NE Mayor: Republicans on Tuesday are hoping to oust Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, who is one of the few prominent Democrats who holds elected office in Nebraska, and the Flatwater Free Press' Ryan Hoffman reports that one family is spending huge to do it.

The Peed family, which owns the Lincoln-based information processing giant Sandhills Global, and their company together donated $1.1 million through April 17 to former Republican state Sen. Suzanne Geist's campaign, which Hoffman says represents about two-thirds of all the money that the candidate has received, and another $535,000 to her allied PAC. The Peeds have not revealed why they're hoping to unseat Gaylor Baird in the officially nonpartisan race, though they've become prolific GOP donors since 2020. Gaylor Baird, for her part, is hoping to portray Geist as "beholden" to her contributors.

Senate

MI-Sen: John Tuttle, who serves as vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange, is the newest Republican name to surface as a possible contender in a race where the party doesn't currently have any viable options. Politico's Ally Mutnick writes that Tuttle, who "splits his time" between New York and Michigan, is mulling over the idea, and NRSC chair Steve Daines praised him as "a strong potential recruit."

NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe writes that no notable Republicans appear interested in taking on Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez even as he's under federal investigation for corruption, though the article mentioned state Sen. Mike Testa, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, and Warren County Commissioner Lori Ciesla as possible just-in-case contenders.  

NY-Sen: A spokesperson for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played down talk that her boss could challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for renomination, telling Politico, "She is not planning to run for Senate in 2024. She is not planning to primary Gillibrand." That answer, as the story notes, isn't quite a no, but fellow Rep. Jamaal Bowman adds that he hasn't heard any discussion of AOC running "for months or weeks."

Politico adds that, while former Rep. Mondaire Jones mulled his own campaign against Gillibrand a while back, he's now decided not to go for it and is focusing on his likely bid to regain the 17th Congressional District from Republican incumbent Mike Lawler. Disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's camp, though, characteristically didn't comment when asked about his own interest in a Senate run, which at least keeps this bit of chatter alive.  

TX-Sen: Rep. Colin Allred, reports Politico, plans to announce "as soon as this week" that he'll challenge Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a development that would give Democrats a prominent candidate in a tough state.

WI-Sen: An unnamed source tells The Dispatch that businessman Kevin Nicholson is "keeping a close eye on" getting into the GOP primary to face Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, a contest where the party is waiting for its first viable contender to step up. Nicholson is a former College Democrats of America president who lost the 2018 primary to face Baldwin and dropped out of last year's nomination contest for governor.

WV-Sen: The far-right Club for Growth has launched its first TV ad against Gov. Jim Justice ahead of next year's GOP primary for $10,000, which is about how much money its endorsed candidate, Rep. Alex Mooney, devoted to his first anti-Justice broadside. This minute-long spot, which like Mooney's offering seemed to be aimed more at attracting media attention than getting seen on TV, excoriates the governor as a greedy coal billionaire who "got filthy rich by stiffing working people and small businesses out of millions, leaving a trail of tears and broken promises on his way to the Fortune 400 list."

Governors

NH-Gov: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig on Monday formed an exploratory committee, a step no other Democrats have taken yet as they wait to see if GOP Gov. Chris Sununu will seek another term next year. Craig, who didn't say how she'd be affected by the incumbent's deliberations, kicked off her effort with support from former Gov. John Lynch, who left office in 2013 after completing his fourth two-year term.

Later in the day 2022 nominee Tom Sherman said he would not be running again, but another Democrat isn't dismissing chatter she could campaign for governor. Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, who has reportedly been thinking about running, responded to Craig's announcement by saying, "There will be plenty of time for politics later."

WA-Gov: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared Monday that he wouldn't seek what would have been a historic fourth term as chief executive of the Evergreen State, a move that will set off a battle to succeed him next year. Under state election law all the candidates will run on one ballot rather than in separate party primaries, and the top two contenders, regardless of party, will advance to the general election. Republicans haven't won this office since the late John Spellman prevailed in 1980, though Inslee himself only narrowly prevailed the last time this post was open in 2012.

Two of Inslee's fellow Democrats, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, have long said they'd be interested in running whenever he retired, and the Seattle Times relays that each of them are "expected to quickly announce" their bids. King County Executive Dow Constantine, though, said in March he'd be staying put.

The GOP has a small bench in this longtime Democratic bastion, and it remains to be seen if the party will be able to mount a strong effort at a time when it has no statewide elected officials to turn to. The Dispatch reported in February that former Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was interested, though we haven't heard anything new since. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, however, took his name out of contention over a month ago.

Inslee's departure marks the conclusion of a career that that's seen both plenty of triumphs and some big setbacks. The Democrat first won office in 1988 when he pulled off a close victory for the state House, and he sought a promotion four years later by running for the open 4th Congressional District in the rural central part of the state.

Inslee managed to advance to the general election by edging out Democratic state Sen. Jim Jesernig 23-22 in the blanket primary, a precursor to the modern top-two primary, but he faced a tough fight in the fall against Republican colleague Doc Hastings. Inslee won 51-49 at the same time that, according to analyst Kiernan Park-Egan, George H.W. Bush was carrying the seat 43-35 over Bill Clinton (independent Ross Perot secured another 22%), but he had little time to rest up.

Hastings came back for a rematch in 1994 and emphasized the incumbent's support for the Clinton administration's assault weapons ban, a vote the Democrat would acknowledge hurt him at home. The GOP wave hit Washington hard and Hastings unseated Inslee 53-47 at the same time that Speaker Tom Foley was losing re-election to George Nethercutt in the neighboring 5th District, and both constituencies have remained in GOP hands ever since. Another victor that year was Republican Rick White, who denied then-Rep. Maria Cantwell a second term in the 1st District near Seattle.

But while that disastrous cycle ended plenty of Democratic careers (though not Cantwell’s), Inslee was determined that his would not be one of them. The ousted congressman, who soon moved to the Puget Sound community of Bainbridge Island, announced a 1996 campaign for governor and said of his recent defeat, "What it showed was when you vote your convictions over political expediency, on occasion it's not good for your career." Inslee, though, struggled to gain traction in a field that included the eventual winner, Democratic King County Executive Gary Locke, as well as Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, and he finished fifth in the blanket primary with just 10%.

Inslee then set his sights on a 1998 House comeback bid against White in a constituency that, per Park-Egan, had supported Clinton 51-37 two years before. Inslee, who had no intra-party opposition this time, was in for a difficult fight in a seat both parties identified as a major battleground, and White's 50-44 lead in the blanket primary seemed to foreshadow another uphill race for the Democrat.

The incumbent, though, wasn't as strong as he appeared to be. White had just gone through a high-profile divorce, and he feared that the third-party candidacy of social conservative Bruce Craswell would cost him some much-needed support. Inslee, meanwhile, ran ads blasting the Republicans for waging a long impeachment battle against Clinton, which proved to be a compelling argument that year. Inslee got back to the House by winning 49.8-44.1, with Craswell taking the balance.

Inslee's second stint in Washington, D.C., went far better for him than his first, and he never failed to win re-election by double digits. The Democrat, however, decided to give up his secure seat in 2012 for another campaign for governor even though retiring incumbent Christine Gregoire's weak approval ratings presented a big opening for the GOP. Republicans quickly consolidated around Attorney General Rob McKenna, who had scored a 59-41 victory in 2008 during an awful year for his party, while Inslee also had no serious intra-party opposition.

Most polls through July showed McKenna in the lead but Inslee, who resigned his seat to focus on his statewide bid, worked hard to tie his opponent to unpopular national Republicans. The Democrat, in one debate, responded to the attorney general's declaration that he didn't want Washington to be a place where a third of residents were on Medicare by saying, "Remember when Mitt Romney talked about the 47% that just weren't sort of part of our family in a sense? And now my opponent says that this one out of three somehow should not have insurance." McKenna worked to win over enough Obama voters to prevail, but he wasn't able to take quite enough: Inslee instead scored a 52-48 victory at a time when the president was carrying Washington 56-41.

The new governor got a big setback before he took office when two renegade Democrats in the state Senate, Tim Sheldon and Rodney Tom, put the GOP minority in charge of the chamber even though Democrats nominally held a 26-23 edge. Inslee himself appeared to be a tempting target for 2016 after several polls showed him with an unimpressive approval rating, but potentially strong GOP foes like McKenna and Rep. Dave Reichert sat the race out. The Republican who eventually stepped forward, Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, struggled with fundraising, and the governor beat him 54-46 as Hillary Clinton was scoring a 53-37 victory here.

Inslee had a better second term, especially after a 2017 special election put his party in control of the state Senate at long last, and in 2019 he joined a crowded presidential field. The governor's would-be successors, though, found themselves waiting for months to see if he'd turn around and seek a third term at home, which is exactly what happened when Inslee ended his White House quest in the face of poor polling. Inslee went on to become the first three-term governor since Dan Evans secured re-election in 1972 after he scored an easy 57-43 victory over far-right foe Loren Culp, a former small-town police chief who refused to recognize his landslide loss.

House

NY-03: Former state Sen. Anna Kaplan filed FEC paperwork Monday for a potential Democratic primary bid for the seat still held by scandal-drenched incumbent George Santos.

Kaplan, a Jewish refugee from Iran who came to the United States as a child, was a North Hempstead town councilwoman when she took fourth place in the 2016 nomination fight for a previous version of this seat. She had far more success two years later when she decisively unseated Republican state Sen. Elaine Phillips, but Kaplan went on to lose her 2022 general election to former state Sen. Jack Martins 53-47. Martins himself didn't rule out a campaign of his own against Santos in January, though he didn't sound likely to go for it.

WA-03: Camas City Councilor Leslie Lewallen announced last week that she'd run as a Republican in next year's top-two primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Lewallen, whose city has a population of just over 27,000, argued, "We already have a plan to raise more than the $5 million it will take to win this seat." This southwestern Washington constituency favored Donald Trump 51-47.

Lewallen joins a field that already includes Joe Kent, the far-right Republican who announced in December that he'd run to avenge his 50.1-49.9 upset loss against Gluesenkamp Perez from the month before. The incumbent, though, massively outraised Kent $820,000 to $200,000 during the first quarter of 2023, and she finished March with a $660,000 to $210,000 cash-on-edge advantage.

Morning Digest: Republican who got bounced from ballot in governor’s race now weighing Senate bid

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MI-Sen: The latest Michigan Republican to express interest in the state's open Senate race is former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who ran a chaotic 2022 campaign for governor even before he was ejected from the ballot over fraudulent signatures. But Craig, who went on to wage a hopeless write-in campaign last year, remains characteristically undeterred, telling The Detroit News he's giving a Senate effort a "real critical look" but has no timeline to make up his mind. Several more disastrous Republican candidates from last cycle are also eyeing Senate runs in other states, though unlike Craig, they were at least able to make the ballot before losing.

Craig was the frontrunner in the summer of 2021 when he entered the GOP primary to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, though his initial announcement that he was forming an exploratory committee―an entity that doesn't actually exist under Michigan law―was an early omen about the problems ahead. Indeed, the former chief's bid would experience several major shakeups, including the departure of two different campaign managers in less than four months.

Craig, who also made news for his heavy spending, got some more unwelcome headlines in April of 2022 when Rep. Jack Bergman announced he was switching his endorsement to self-funding businessman Perry Johnson; Bergman complained that his first choice ignored "campaigning in Northern Michigan and the [Upper Peninsula] in favor of a self proclaimed Detroit-centric approach." Still, polls showed Craig well ahead in the primary as he sought to become the Wolverine State's first Black governor.

Everything changed in May, though, when election authorities disqualified Craig, Johnson, and three other contenders from the ballot after they fell victim to a huge fraudulent signature scandal and failed to turn in enough valid petitions. Both Craig and Johnson both unsuccessfully sued to get reinstated, but only the former chief decided to forge ahead with a write-in campaign to win the GOP nod.

Craig blustered, "I'm going to win," but he became an afterthought even before far-right radio commentator Tudor Dixon emerged as the new frontrunner. Craig's write-in effort ended up taking all of 2% of the vote, though he was far from willing to back Dixon after she secured the nomination that once looked his for the taking. He instead endorsed U.S. Taxpayers Party contender Donna Brandenburg, who had also been ejected from the Republican primary, saying that Dixon's extreme opposition to abortion rights went too far even for him. Whitmer soon won 54-44, with Brandenburg in fourth with just 0.4%.

Craig's newest campaign flirtations come at a time when no major Republicans have stepped up to run for the Senate seat held by retiring Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow. The only notable declared contender is state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, who also failed to make the primary ballot in 2020 when she tried to challenge Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin. (Dixon herself didn't shut the door on a Senate bid right after Stabenow announced her departure in January, but we've heard little from her over the following three months.)

Slotkin continues to have the Democratic side to herself, though actor Hill Harper reportedly plans to run and state Board of Education President Pamela Pugh is publicly considering herself.

1Q Fundraising

  • CA-30: Mike Feuer (D): $654,000 raised (in eight weeks), $630,000 cash on hand
  • RI-02: Seth Magaziner (D-inc): $360,000 raised

Senate

CT-Sen: Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Sunday underwent what he said was a “completely successful” surgery for a broken leg after someone accidently tripped and collided with him at the previous day’s victory parade for the University of Connecticut's men’s basketball team. Homestate colleague Chris Murphy tweeted, “FYI after he broke his femur he got back up, dusted himself off, and FINISHED THE PARADE,” adding, “Most Dick Blumenthal thing ever.”

MS-Sen: Far-right state Rep. Dan Eubanks has filed FEC paperwork for a potential Republican primary bid against Sen. Roger Wicker, who doesn’t appear to have made many intra-party enemies. Eubanks, who said in 2020 his family would not be getting vaccinated for COVID, introduced a pair of bills the next year to criminalize abortion and to prevent employers from requiring COVID vaccines.

MT-Sen: Rep. Matt Rosendale doesn’t seem to be in the least bit of a hurry to reveal if he’ll seek a rematch with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, telling CNN, “We’re just taking a nice slow time to let the people in Montana decide who they want to replace him with.”

PA-Sen: Sen. Bob Casey confirmed Monday he’d seek a fourth term, a long-anticipated decision that still relieves Democrats who weren’t looking forward to the idea of defending an open seat in a swing state. Republican leaders continue to hope that rich guy ​​Dave McCormick will take on Casey after narrowly losing the 2022 primary for the other Senate seat, though McCormick has yet to reveal any timeline for deciding beyond sometime this year. Those same GOP leaders are also not looking forward to the prospect that state Sen. Doug Mastriano could make trouble for them again after his catastrophic bid for governor last cycle.

WI-Sen: CNN reports that GOP leaders are urging Rep. Mike Gallagher to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and he’s characteristically not quite ruling it out. “I’m not thinking about it at present,” the congressman said, which is similar to the response he’s given for months. He added of his time in office, “I’d never conceived of this as a long-term thing; I don’t think Congress should be a career ... I’m going to weigh all those factors and see where I can make the best impact.”

Governors

LA-Gov: Republican Stephen Waguespack says he’s raised about $900,000 in the four weeks since he stepped down as head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry to run for governor, but his super PAC allies have taken in considerably more to help jump start his campaign. Delta Good Hands and Reboot Louisiana together have hauled in $2.23 million during the not-quite quarterly fundraising period that finished April 7; reports are due for everyone April 17.

House

CA-45: Attorney Aditya Pai announced Monday that he would campaign as a Democrat against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in next year’s top-two primary for a constituency Biden carried 52-46. Pai, who immigrated from India as a child, would be the first Indian American to represent an Orange County-based seat in Congress.

Also in the running are two fellow Democrats: Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen and attorney Cheyenne Hunt, a former consumer advocate from Public Citizen whom Politico says enjoys a "substantial TikTok following."

OH-09: Real estate broker Steve Lankenau, who served as mayor of the small community of Napoleon from 1988 to 1994, has announced that he's joining the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Another local Republican, disastrous 2022 nominee J.R. Majewski, made news briefly Friday when he updated his information with the FEC, though some outlets initially and incorrectly reported that he'd filed paperwork for a rematch with Kaptur. As we've written before, though, what look like new filings from defeated candidates often have more to do with resolving financial and bureaucratic matters from their last campaign than they do about the future, and Majewski himself said, "Unfortunately I have not filed a statement of candidacy."

PA-07, PA-08, PA-17: Inside Elections' Erin Covey surveys the potential Republican fields in a trio of Democratic-held House seats in Pennsylvania, though no big names have so much as publicly expressed interest in running yet.

We'll start in Democratic incumbent Susan Wild's 7th District in the Lehigh Valley, a constituency Joe Biden took just 50-49 in 2020. Covey reports that Lisa Scheller, whom Wild narrowly held off in both 2020 and 2022, hasn't ruled out another try, though unnamed Republicans doubt she'll wage a third campaign. There's been some chatter about state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie and Kevin Dellicker, who lost last year's primary to Scheller just 52-48, though no word if either is interested.

The situation is similar in Rep. Matt Cartwright's 8th District just to the north, a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre constituency that Donald Trump carried 51-48. Another two-time nominee, Jim Bognet, reportedly hasn't closed the door on another attempt, but a GOP source tells Covey there's "definitely donor fatigue" about him. State Sen. Rosemary Brown and gastroenterologist Seth Kaufer have been talked about as alternatives, but a party operative acknowledges, "It's been oddly quiet at this point in terms of people talking with other people about potentially running."

There seems to be a bit more interest in taking on freshman Democratic incumbent Chris Deluzio in the 17th District across the state in the Pittsburgh suburbs, though still no takers yet for this 52-46 Biden seat. Covey writes that 2022 nominee Jeremy Shaffer, who lost to Deluzio 53-47, "has shown some interest" in a 2024 attempt, as has state Rep. Rob Mercuri. A few other Republicans have also been mentioned including 2022 primary runner-up Jason Killmeyer; businesswoman Tricia Staible, who dropped out before the primary; Allegheny County Councilman Sam DeMarco; and former state House Speaker Mike Turzai.

RI-01: Former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg declared Monday that he would compete in the upcoming special election while his fellow Democrat, state Rep. Steve Casey, has filed FEC paperwork and says he'll also announce soon. Regunberg in 2018 waged a primary bid against Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, who had long had an uneasy relationship with progressives and unions. The challenger, who accused McKee of accepting "dark money" from PACs, also benefited from the support of several major labor groups, and it was almost enough to unseat him.

But McKee, who argued that he'd be better positioned to lead the state should Gov. Gina Raimondo leave office early, maintained the backing of most Ocean State politicos, and he held on 51-49 before decisively winning the general election. The scenario the incumbent predicted indeed came to pass in 2021 when Raimondo became U.S. secretary of commerce and McKee replaced her as governor.

Judges

NY Court of Appeals: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that her new nominee to head New York's highest court would be a current member of its liberal wing, associate Judge Rowan Wilson, a development that comes almost two months after the state Senate overwhelmingly rejected her first choice for chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Hochul also revealed that she'd be picking attorney Caitlin Halligan, who is a former state solicitor general, to take the associate seat Wilson would be vacating.

New York Focus' Sam Mellins predicted that Halligan would be the swing vote on a body where liberals and conservatives have been evenly split since conservative Chief Judge Janet DiFiore unexpectedly resigned last year. DiFiore's departure last time gave Hochul a chance to reshape the court―a chance she very much did not take at first.

In New York the governor is required to pick from a list of seven court nominees submitted by the Commission on Judicial Nominations, and The Daily Beast reported in January that the one name that labor groups objected to was the person Hochul opted for, Hector LaSalle. LaSalle needed a majority of the state Senate to vote his way, but the Democratic-led body ultimately delivered him a historic 39-20 rejection.  

Prominent liberals this time responded by praising Wilson, who would be the Court of Appeals' first Black chief judge, while Halligan's nomination hasn't attracted anything like the backlash that greeted LaSalle. The Center for Community Alternatives, the progressive coalition that helped block LaSalle earlier this year, said that, while Halligan's time representing "a prosecutor's office and of major corporations in disputes against their employees and others raises concerns," she would still be "a marked improvement" from DiFiore.

CCA, which also noted Halligan had represented progressives, called for the state Senate to "scrutinize her closely in its consideration of her nomination." Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and other powerful Democrats who opposed LaSalle in turn issued statements supportive of both Wilson and Halligan.

PA Supreme Court: Newly released fundraising reports for the May 16 primaries show that the two contenders who have the backing of their respective state party, Democrat Daniel McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, hold a big edge over their intra-party foes. The post everyone wants to win on Nov. 7 became vacant last September when Chief Justice Max Baer died at the age of 74, just months before the Democrat was required to retire because of age limits.

McCaffery outraised fellow Superior Court Judge Deborah Kunselman $141,000 to $56,000 among donors during the first three months of 2023, with Kunselman throwing down another $11,000. Carluccio, who holds the title of president judge in Montgomery County, meanwhile raised $122,000 and threw down another $25,000.

Finally, Spotlight PA says that almost all of the $11,000 that Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough hauled in came from the campaign of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the QAnon ally who was the GOP's 2022 nominee for governor.

Legislatures

TN State House: Just days after being expelled from the Tennessee legislature for taking part in a demonstration on the House floor, Democrat Justin Jones was unanimously restored to his post by Nashville’s Metropolitan Council. Republicans had sought Jones' ouster after he used a megaphone to lead a chant in favor of gun law reforms from the chamber's well, but the state constitution gives local county governments the power to fill vacancies. (The Metro Council is officially nonpartisan but leans Democratic.)

The constitution also forbids lawmakers from punishing members twice for the same offense, so Jones should be able to keep his seat until a special election can be held for a permanent replacement—a race in which he's also eligible to run. Jones was unopposed last year in his bid for the safely blue 52nd District, though he first had to win a competitive primary.

A second Democrat who was ejected from the House, Justin Pearson, is also likely to be reinstated when the Shelby County Commission meets on Wednesday to discuss the fate of the Memphis-area 86th District, another deep blue seat. Like Jones, Pearson also ran uncontested when he won a special election just last month after dominating a large primary field.

One commissioner who supports Pearson said that Republican legislative leaders have threatened to cut funding for the county if it sends Pearson back to the legislature. GOP lawmakers have also retaliated against Nashville for thwarting their plans to host the 2024 Republican convention by, among other things, passing a bill to cut the 40-member Metro Council in half, but that effort was temporarily blocked by a court on Monday.

Mayors and County Leaders

Allegheny County, PA Executive: The first poll we've seen of the May 16 Democratic primary is an early March survey from the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies for the "business-organized labor-workforce-economic development alliance" Pittsburgh Works Together, and it shows county Treasurer John Weinstein leading Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb 28-24 as state Rep. Sara Innamorato took 17%. No other candidate earned more than 2% in the nomination fight to succeed termed-out incumbent Rich Fitzgerald in this loyally blue community.

WESA's Chris Potter writes that, while party insiders "say the numbers track with other internal polls taken in March," much has happened since this POS survey was conducted. Weinstein launched his first ads in late February and had a monopoly on the airwaves for weeks, but Lamb, Innamorato, and attorney Dave Fawcett have since started running commercials. Weinstein also has attracted weeks of scrutiny over his ethics in office, including what Potter weeks ago characterized as "alleged secret deals to be returned to the board of the county's sewer authority."

Philadelphia, PA Mayor: A judge on Monday issued a temporary order banning grocer Jeff Brown’s super PAC allies from spending more money on his behalf, a move that came after the Philadelphia Board of Ethics filed a lawsuit alleging that Brown and For A Better Philadelphia had improperly coordinated ahead of the May 16 Democratic primary. The PAC’s attorney said that the group, which has spent $1.1 million, had finished its spending for the campaign and would agree to the order, though it pushed back on the board’s claims. A full hearing is set for April 24.

The board alleges that Brown “engaged in extensive fundraising” for the PAC’s nonprofit arm, which in turn financed its electoral efforts. The candidate’s attorney disputes this, calling the suit “a disagreement on campaign finance between the lawyers.”

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.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

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."