Morning Digest: Trump backs longtime coal operative in Ohio special election for red House seat

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

Leading Off

OH-15: Donald Trump waded into the crowded August Republican primary to succeed former Rep. Steve Stivers by endorsing coal company lobbyist Mike Carey on Tuesday.

Trump's decision came days after Stivers, who officially resigned from this very red suburban Columbus seat last month, backed state Rep. Jeff LaRe. That move, as well as Stivers' decision to use his old campaign committee to air ads for the state representative, briefly made LaRe the primary frontrunner; another candidate, state Rep. Brian Stewart, subsequently dropped out and acknowledged he didn't think he could compete against his Stivers-supported colleague. Trump's support for Carey, though, likely upends this contest.

Carey himself doesn't appear to have run for office since his 1998 defeat in an eastern Ohio state House seat against the late Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who went on to represent that area in Congress from 2007 to 2011, but he's long been influential in state politics.

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Back in 2011, Politico described Carey, who worked as an operative for the state coal industry, as "a one-man wrecking ball for Democrats who have strayed too far green for voters' liking." It noted that Carey's political organization ran TV ads in Ohio in 2004 savaging the Democratic presidential nominee as "John Kerry, Environmental Extremist," and he also targeted Barack Obama four years later.

Carey went on to work as a lobbyist for the coal giant Murray Energy, which was renamed American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc. last year after it emerged from bankruptcy protection. The company and its leadership has long been a major foe of environmentalists in Ohio and nationally, with former chief executive Robert Murray, a close Trump ally, lavishly funding global warming deniers.

Senate

AK-Sen: A new poll from Change Research for the progressive group 314 Action finds Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski faring poorly under Alaska's new top-four primary. In a hypothetical matchup against fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka (who is running) and independent Al Gross (who unsuccessfully ran for Senate last year with Democratic support and is considering another bid), Tshibaka leads with 39%, while Gross takes 25 and Murkowski just 19. John Wayne Howe of the far-right Alaska Independence Party would get 4%, and 12% are undecided.

Murkowski would still advance to the general election in this scenario, since, as the name implies, the four highest vote-getters in the primary move on, but she'd do no better then. To reduce the risk of spoilers, November elections will be decided via ranked-choice voting, but in a simulated instant runoff, Tshibaka would beat Gross 54-46. 314 Action, which endorsed Gross last cycle, is arguing that the poll suggests that Murkowski's weakness offers Democrats an opening, but Tshibaka's performance—and recent history—show just how tough it is for Democrats to win statewide in Alaska.

AL-Sen: The Club for Growth has dusted off a late April poll from WPA Intelligence showing Rep. Mo Brooks leading businesswoman Lynda Blanchard by a wide 59-13 margin in next year's GOP Senate primary, with Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt at 9 and 19% of voters undecided. (The survey was conducted well before Britt, who just kicked off her campaign the other day, entered the race.) The Club hasn't endorsed Brooks yet, but sharing this poll is a signal that it may do so.

FL-Sen: On Wednesday, several weeks after a consultant said Rep. Val Demings would run for Senate, Demings herself made her campaign against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio official. Demings, who was a manager during Donald Trump's first impeachment trial and reportedly was under consideration as Joe Biden's running-mate last year, is by far the highest-profile Democrat to enter the race, though she faces Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and (apparently?) former Rep. Alan Grayson for the nomination.

OH-Sen: A new poll of next year's GOP Senate primary in Ohio from former state Treasurer Josh Mandel unsurprisingly finds Mandel leading former state party chair Jane Timken 35-16, with all other candidates (actual and hypothetical) in the mid-to-low single digits and 34% of voters undecided. The survey, from Remington Research, is likely intended as pushback to a recent set of Timken internals from Moore Information that showed her gaining on Mandel, the newest of which had Mandel up just 24-19.

Governors

MI-Gov: A new poll from the Michigan Republican Party from Competitive Edge finds former Detroit police Chief James Craig (who hasn't actually kicked off a campaign yet) leading Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 45-38 in a hypothetical test of next year's race for governor. Somewhat strangely, the survey also finds Whitmer beating Army veteran John James, who lost back-to-back Senate bids in 2018 and 2020 (and also hasn't announced a gubernatorial run), by a 50-45 margin.

These numbers are peculiar for two reasons: First, why would the state GOP want to make a prominent potential recruit like James look less electable—unless party leaders actually would prefer he stay out of the race, that is? The second oddity is the data itself. The 12-point difference in Whitmer's share as between the two matchups suggests that Craig, who's never run for office before, has an ability to win over Democratic voters so strong as to be almost unique in American politics today.

This extremely bifurcated take also stands in contrast to an independent poll last month from Target Insyght for the local tipsheet MIRS News, which found Whitmer up 48-42 on Craig and 49-39 on James. We'll need more polling before we can get a better sense of where things stand, but in today's extremely polarized political environment, the results from Target Insyght make much more sense than those from Competitive Edge.

NJ-Gov: Just hours before polls closed in the Garden State for Tuesday's primary, Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics released a poll of a matchup between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli that showed Murphy comfortably ahead 52-26. The survey found 10% of respondents undecided and an additional 11% who declined to choose either candidate.

The poll only pitted Murphy against Ciattarelli, a matchup that's no longer hypothetical since Ciattarelli secured the GOP nod with 49% of the vote on Tuesday and Murphy faced no intra-party opposition.

OR-Gov: Businesswoman Jessica Gomez has joined next year's race for governor, making her the second notable candidate to seek the Republican nod after 2016 nominee Bud Pierce. Gomez has run for office once before, losing an open-seat race for the state Senate to Democrat Jeff Golden 55-45 in 2018.

PA-Gov: The Associated Press reports that Republican strategist Charlie Gerow is considering a bid for governor, though there's no quote from Gerow himself. Gerow's run for office twice before, losing bids in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania's old 19th Congressional District in both 1996 and 2000. (The closest successor to the 19th is the present-day 10th District, as both are centered around York and Cumberland counties.)

VA-Gov: With the general election matchup between former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin now set, Youngkin immediately began attacking his opponent, releasing two ads the day after McAuliffe clinched his party's nod.

The first commercial prominently features former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who finished second in the Democratic primary, and shows several clips of her criticizing McAuliffe. Youngkin appears at the end to call himself "a new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia". However, before the ad even had a chance to air, Carroll Foy had already unambiguously endorsed McAuliffe's bid for a second term as governor.  

The second spot follows a similar theme of a "new day". It begins showing a legion of grey-haired white men in suits while Youngkin's voiceover decries "the same politicians taking us in the wrong direction". Youngkin, a younger, less-grey white man wearing a vest, then appears amid the crowd to describe the policies he would pursue as governor.

House

TX-08: Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Texas' open 8th Congressional District, says he won't run for the seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Kevin Brady.

Legislatures

NJ State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, won Tuesday's state Senate primary for the open 16th Legislative District by a 65-35 margin. Pappas will take on Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker for an open GOP-held seat in the west-central part of the state that Hillary Clinton carried 55-41.

Pappas earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, "Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr/ Now we see how brave you are." Politicos would later blame that bit of awful poetry for Pappas' 50-47 defeat against Democrat Rush Holt that fall. Pappas tried to return to Congress in 2000, but he lost the primary to former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who in turn lost to Holt.

Special elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in New Hampshire:

NH-HD-Merrimack 23: Democrat Muriel Hall defeated Republican Christopher Lins 58-42 to hold this seat for her party. Hall improved on Joe Biden's 55-44 win in this suburban Concord district last year, which was the best showing of any of the last three Democratic presidential nominees.

Republicans control this chamber 213-186, with one other seat vacant.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Former Mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork Wednesday to set up a campaign to regain his old office, and while he has yet to make an announcement, there's little question he'll be on this year's ballot.

Local NBC reporter Shiba Russell tweeted that Reed "could officially announce he plans to enter the race" at a Thursday birthday fundraiser, a message the ex-mayor retweeted. If Reed wins this fall, he would be the first Atlanta mayor to secure a third term since the city's first-ever Black leader, Maynard Jackson, won back this office in 1989.

Reed himself had no trouble winning re-election the last time he was on the ballot in 2013 (term limits prevented him from seeking a third consecutive term in 2017), but a federal corruption investigation that ultimately resulted in bribery convictions for two senior city officials generated plenty of bad headlines during the end of his tenure. The matter isn't over, as Reed's former chief financial administration officer and director of human services are currently under indictment but unlikely to go on trial before this year's election.

Last month, Channel 2's Dave Huddleston asked Reed whether he was under investigation, to which the former mayor replied, "The Justice Department under [former Attorney General] Bill Barr has looked into every aspect of my life for more than three years and took no action." The former mayor also said of the scandals involving his old staffers, "Anything on my watch, I take responsibility for," adding, "I'm sorry I didn't see it faster."

Reed himself used that interview to argue that he could tackle Atlanta's rising crime rate if he returned to office, declaring, "I do know how to fix crime, and I do know I could turn our crime environment around in 180 days, and I know that I've done it before."

A number of fellow Democrats are already campaigning in this November's nonpartisan primary to succeed incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms, who shocked the city last month when she decided not to seek a second term, and others could still get in ahead of the August filing deadline. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Tharon Johnson, whom the paper identifies as a "veteran Democratic strategist and businessman," is one of the prospective contenders thinking about running.

Boston, MA Mayor: This week, state Rep. Jon Santiago became the first candidate to air TV commercials ahead of the September nonpartisan primary; Politico's Lisa Kashinsky says his "six-figure ad buy is for two 30-second spots that will air on the city's cable systems and Spanish-language broadcast."

Both Santiago's English and Spanish spots focus on his work as an emergency room physician and military service, with the narrator in the former ad asking, "You want a mayor who's got a pulse on Boston and its problems, literally?"

New York City, NY Mayor: Attorney Maya Wiley picked up an endorsement Wednesday from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams ahead of the June 22 Democratic primary. Williams, who was elected in 2019 as an ardent progressive, is one of just three citywide elected officials: The others are termed-out Mayor Bill de Blasio and one of Wiley's rivals, city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Morning Digest: D.A. leading reform charge in Philadelphia faces primary challenge from skeptic

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

Leading Off

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: Larry Krasner's 2017 victory in the race for Philadelphia district attorney gave criminal justice reformers an early high-profile win, but he faces a competitive May 18 Democratic primary fight to hold onto his office. Krasner's opponent is former prosecutor Carlos Vega, who has argued that the incumbent has been running "an experiment that is costing the lives of our children." The eventual nominee should have no trouble in the November general election in this heavily blue city.

Politico's Holly Otterbein writes that Vega, who was one of the 31 prosecutors whom Krasner fired shortly into his tenure, has avoided "campaigning as a tough-on-crime politician." Vega instead has argued he can deliver "real progressive reform" and insisted that "we don't have to choose between safety and reform." Vega has also blamed the city's spike in homicides on the district attorney's policies.

Krasner has responded by pointing out that murders have increased nationwide for reasons far beyond his control, saying, "What has happened, and essentially every criminologist agrees on this, is that the pandemic, closing of society and closing of so many different aspects of what protects and surrounds especially young men have disappeared." Krasner has further defended himself by arguing, as Otterbein writes, that he's "delivered on his campaign promises by lowering the jail population, exonerating the innocent and reducing the amount of time people are on probation and parole."

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The incumbent, in turn, is framing his contest as a choice between criminal justice reform and "past that echoes with names like [Frank] Rizzo," the city's racist late mayor. Krasner is also trying to turn the local Fraternal Order of Police's support for Vega into a liability by pointing out that the national organization backed Donald Trump last year. Vela, who was the first Latino homicide prosecutor in Pennsylvania, has pushed back, saying it was "really rich" for Krasner to compare him to Trump "when this is coming from a person who's white, elite, from an Ivy League school."

Krasner outraised his opponent by hauling in $420,000 during the first three months of 2021, but Vega still brought in a credible $340,000. Krasner also has to deal with a well-funded group called Protect Our Police PAC, which has mostly been financed by pro-Trump megadonor Timothy Mellon. The PAC, though, generated plenty of negative attention in early April when it sent out a fundraising email falsely blaming George Floyd for his own death.

Vela quickly disavowed the group, which blamed the message on a marketing firm, and said he didn't want its backing. Protect Our Police, in turn, responded by saying that it wasn't endorsing Vela but was "laser-focused" on unseating Krasner.

One major question looming over the race is whether billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has in the past donated heavily to groups supporting Krasner and likeminded candidates, will help him again. Otterbein also notes that there have been no public polls here, and insiders disagree on how vulnerable Krasner is next month.

1Q Fundraising

NV-Sen: Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): $2.3 million raised, $4.7 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AK-Sen: The prominent GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund has backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who already faces an intra-party challenge from former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Murkowski, who has not yet announced if she'll seek re-election, had suggested she might run as an independent back in January, but SLF's endorsement indicates that party leaders doubt she'll abandon the party label.

As we've noted before, Alaska will not hold a conventional party primary next year thanks to a new ballot measure Alaska voters passed in November that radically reforms how elections are conducted in the state. Under Measure 2, all candidates from all parties will now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a November general election. Voters would then choose a winner from that quartet by means of an instant runoff.

AZ-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence showing its ally, extremist Rep. Andy Biggs, edging out Gov. Doug Ducey 46-45 in a hypothetical Republican primary.

Biggs said a few weeks ago that he'd decide by the end of March if he'd challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but the month concluded without any public comment from the congressman about his plans. Ducey, by contrast, took his name out of consideration in January, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly has been trying to get him to reconsider.

GA-Sen: While Donald Trump generated plenty of chatter about former NFL running back Herschel Walker's interest in this race last month when he not-tweeted "Run Herschel, run!", the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Walker himself has remained "silent" about a possible campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The paper says that Walker, who remains a Texas resident, also "hasn't returned the calls of even some senior Republican officials trying to ascertain his next move."

Meanwhile another Republican, banking executive Latham Saddler, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential campaign.

NC-Sen: On Thursday, a consultant for far-right Rep. Ted Budd named Michael Luethy told the News & Observer that his boss would make his decision whether to run for the state's open Senate seat "sooner than later." Luethy also said of the Budd's deliberations, "It's fair to say he's leading towards it."

That same day, the conservative Carolina Journal published a piece by Dallas Woodhouse, the infamous former executive director of the state GOP, who wrote that multiple unnamed sources believed that Budd "will enter the U.S. Senate race in the coming weeks." Luethy, though, insisted that, while Budd is putting together a "formidable team," the congressman had not yet made a final decision.

The only notable Republican in the running right now is Budd's former colleague, ex-Rep. Mark Walker, though others are eyeing this contest. The potential candidate who continues to generate the most attention is former Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, while former Gov. Pat McCrory has been flirting with a bid for years.  One Republican who will not be running, though, is state party chair Michael Whatley, who took his name out of contention on Thursday.

NV-Sen: On Thursday, former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval unambiguously ruled out running against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto. "I have no interest in running and I will not be a candidate" said Sandoval, who now serves as president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Governors

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Baker's decision came as a surprise, as his name had not been mentioned much before he kicked off his second campaign for this office.

Baker, who would be Maryland's first Black governor, competed in the 2018 primary to take on Hogan, and he attracted the support of almost the entire state party establishment. However, Baker lost by a surprisingly wide 40-29 margin to former NAACP president Ben Jealous, whom Hogan went on to defeat in the general election.

The Washington Post's Arelis Hernandez took a close look at what went wrong for Baker right after the primary and pointed to a number of factors that led to his downfall. These included his refusal to heed advice that he campaign more visibly, Jealous' aggressive courting of unions and stronger fundraising, and the fact that Baker didn't jump on developments coming out of the Trump White House in the way that Jealous did. On Friday, fellow Post writer Rachel Chason noted that Baker was also held back by "political enemies he made in Prince George's, including labor unions and opponents of his controversial efforts to improve county public schools."

In an interview Thursday with Maryland Matters, Baker acknowledged that his underwhelming fundraising had played a big role in his defeat last time. Baker argued, though, that he was limited at the time by his responsibilities as county executive and local ethics rules restricting how much officeholders could take from developers, which will not be factors for him now.

Baker joins a primary field that already includes state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has been running for over a year, and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, while more could be in before long. Maryland Matters' Bruce DePuyt writes that former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who badly lost the 2014 primary for governor, is "expected to announce that he's running later this month." DePuyt also relays that Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski "is expected" to decide next month after the county council acts on his proposed budget.

Several other Democrats could also join the field, but it looks like Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will not be one of them. Alsobrooks, who was elected in 2018 to succeed Baker as leader of the state's second-largest county, said last month that "in this moment I'm running for re-election."

While Alsobrooks' statement didn't quite close the door on a campaign for higher office, Baker said Thursday that he'd only made his decision after talking with her the day before. Baker said he'd spoken to her about the gubernatorial race and added that "[w]e're genuinely friends" and "our supporters are the same."

NV-Gov: Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo acknowledged to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday that he was thinking about seeking the Republican nomination to face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Rep. Mark Amodei also recently reaffirmed his interest, while former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson has reportedly been considering as well. The paper writes of this group, "The consensus among local Republican political operatives is that the trio is working to reach an agreement on a single candidate to support by the beginning of summer.

NY-Gov: Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik's team on Thursday put out their first statement directly addressing the possibility that she could run for governor, which came hours after her colleague, Lee Zeldin, kicked off his own bid. "Congresswoman Stefanik continues to receive encouragement from all corners of the state as she would immediately be the strongest Republican candidate in both a primary and general gubernatorial election," said senior advisor Alex DeGrasse, who added that she "is not ruling anything out - nor will she make her decision based on others' timetables."

House

FL-01, NY-23: The House Ethics Committee on Friday announced that it had opened investigations into two Republicans embroiled in separate scandals, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and New York Rep. Tom Reed.

The committee says it is "aware of public allegations" that Gaetz "may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct." Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for sex trafficking, has rejected calls for his resignation.

The Ethics Committee, meanwhile, is probing allegations that Reed "may have engaged in sexual misconduct." Last month, a woman named Nicolette Davis accused Reed of sexually harassing her at a Minneapolis restaurant in 2017. While Reed initially denied Davis' account as "not accurate," he published a statement two days later apologizing to her and announcing that he would not be on the ballot for anything next year.

FL-20: The Sun Sentinel writes that, while Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness hasn't yet launched a campaign to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, Holness has "been informally running for months" for this safely blue South Florida seat. The paper also name-drops Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard as another possible Democratic contender for the unscheduled special election.

NY-01: Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who took third in last year's Democratic primary, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential bid to succeed Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor. Fleming did not immediately announce a bid, though she responded to a tweet the previous day urging her to run by writing, "Stay tuned."

Morning Digest: With Trump’s blessing, congressman seeks to oust Georgia’s GOP secretary of state

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

Leading Off

GA-SoS, GA-10: Far-right Rep. Jody Hice announced Monday that he would challenge Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year's Republican primary rather than seek a fifth term in the safely red 10th Congressional District in the east-central part of the state. Hice immediately earned an endorsement from Donald Trump, who last year unsuccessfully pressured Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" in order to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state.

Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost the 2018 nomination fight to Raffensperger 62-38, also announced over the weekend that he would seek a rematch. Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting ex-Democrat who joined the Republican Party right after the 2020 election, had also been mentioned, though he turned his gaze to the governor's race on Monday. Georgia requires a runoff in any primaries where no one takes a majority of the vote.

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Hice, though, will likely be Raffensperger's main foe thanks to Trump's endorsement and prominent position, but his many ugly views could also prove to be a liability in a general election in what's now become a swing state.

Hice, a pastor who worked as a conservative radio host before his 2014 election to Congress, made a name for himself with a 2012 book where he wrote, "Evidently there are many who believe a 'Gestapo-like' presence is needed by the government in order to corral and keep under control, all these 'dangerous' Christians." Hice also used that tome to attack LGBTQ people and Muslims, as well as compare supporters of abortion rights to Hitler.

Hice has remained a far-right favorite in Congress, especially this year. Hice posted on Instagram hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, "This is our 1776 moment." The message was quickly deleted after New York Times reporter Charles Bethea flagged it on Twitter in the midst of the assault on the building. Hice's spokesperson said the next day, "The 1776 post was our way of highlighting the electoral objection—we removed the post when we realized it could be misconstrued as supporting those acting violently yesterday and storming the Capitol."  

That violence was hardly enough to stop Hice from spreading conspiracy theories. Last month, the congressman used his CPAC panel titled "Who's Really Running the Biden Administration" to declare, "I guarantee you, Georgia is not blue, and what happened this election was solely because of a horrible secretary of state and horrible decisions that he made."

On the Democratic side, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that one of the "leaning potential candidates" for secretary of state is state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is the first Vietnamese American to serve in the chamber. Nguyen has been in the news in recent days as she's spoken out against racism against Asian Americans following last week's lethal attack on Atlanta-area spas.

Meanwhile, Republicans are already eyeing the race to succeed Hice in Georgia's 10th Congressional District. This seat backed Donald Trump 60-39, and it will almost certainly remain safely red after the GOP devises new maps.

Two Republican members of the legislature, state Sen. Bill Cowsert and state Rep. Houston Gaines, expressed interest in recent days. The AJC also name-drops 2014 candidate Mike Collins, state Rep. Jodi Lott, and former state party chair John Padgett as possible candidates for Team Red.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, a hard-right favorite who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, announced on Monday that he would compete in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks joins major GOP donor Lynda Blanchard, who served as ambassador to Slovenia, in a nomination fight that could attract more Republicans in this extremely red state.

Brooks previously competed in the 2017 special election for the Yellowhammer State’s other Senate seat in a race that turned out quite badly for him. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund aired ad after ad using footage from the previous year of Brooks, who had supported Ted Cruz in the presidential primary, attacking Donald Trump. One piece showed the congressman saying, "I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says" before the narrator argued that Brooks sided with Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi against Trump.

The ad campaign worked, but not to the GOP’s benefit. Brooks took third place with 20%, but Roy Moore went on to defeat Strange in the runoff; Moore later went on to lose to Democrat Doug Jones after multiple women accused the Republican nominee of preying on them as teenagers.

Brooks, though, didn’t have to give up his House seat to run in that special, and he soon reinvented himself as one of Trump’s most ardent allies. Brooks proved to be an especially eager promoter of Trump’s election conspiracy theories, and in a speech delivered four hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he told rally goers, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” CNN later reported that several Republicans later talked about ejecting him from his committee assignments after that day’s violence, though unsurprisingly, they didn’t actually do anything.

One Republican who was delighted by Brooks, though, was Trump, something that could go a long way towards helping the congressman avoid a repeat of his 2017 experience. Politico reports that Trump is leaning towards endorsing Brooks over Blanchard in part because of a major mistake from her campaign.

“The president doesn’t know Lynda all that well and it had gotten back to him and his team that people on her team had been overstating how close they supposedly are,” said one unnamed Trump ally, adding, “One of her aides was telling any donor who would listen that Trump was going to endorse her and that left him annoyed.” A Blanchard insider, naturally, countered, saying, “That’s bullshit. That’s somebody spinning someone to help Mo out. She would never oversell it, she’s not that kind of person.”

P.S. Brooks’ decision will open up the 5th Congressional District, a northern Alabama seat that backed Trump 63-37 in 2020.

AK-Sen, AK-Gov: Last week, the Associated Press' Mark Thiessen name-dropped a few Republicans as possible intra-party opponents for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has not yet said if she'll run again in 2022. The most familiar name is former Gov. Sarah Palin, who is perennially mentioned as a possible Murkowski foe even though she hasn't actually appeared on a ballot since her 2008 vice presidential bid.

Thiessen also lists Gov. Mike Dunleavy as a possibility, though he hasn't shown any obvious interest in doing anything other than run for re-election next year. Dunleavy hasn't announced his 2022 plans, though he said last week, "I enjoy the job and there's a lot of work to be done.

There's also Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in a 2010 primary shocker but went on to lose to her that fall when the senator ran a write-in campaign. Miller, who unsuccessfully sought the 2014 GOP nod for Alaska's other Senate seat, campaigned against Murkowski as a Libertarian in 2016 and lost 44-29. Miller also does not appear to have said anything about another campaign.

MO-Sen: Less than three years after he resigned in disgrace, former Gov. Eric Greitens announced Monday that he would seek the Republican nomination for this open seat. We’ll have more in our next Digest.

NC-Sen: Meredith College takes a look at an extremely early Democratic primary scenario and finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and state Sen. Jeff Jackson tied 13-13. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost the 2020 primary, takes 11%, while virologist Richard Watkins is at 4%. (Watkins ran in 2018 in the primary against veteran Rep. David Price and took just 6% of the vote.) Beasley is the only person tested who is not currently running.

Meredith also released numbers for the GOP primary but sampled just 217 respondents, which is below the 300-person minimum we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NV-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence that finds its old ally, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, leading former Sen. Dean Heller 44-25 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Heller, who lost Nevada's other Senate seat to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, has not shown any obvious signs of interest in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto.

Laxalt has not said anything about his 2022 plans, though CNN recently reported that he is considering a Senate bid. McClatchy, citing an unnamed GOP aide, also writes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "is also said to favor Laxalt's candidacy."

OH-Sen: 314 Action, which is trying to recruit former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to run for this open seat, has released a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows her outperforming her fellow Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, in hypothetical general election matchups against a trio of Republicans. First up are the Acton numbers:

  • 42-41 vs. former state Treasurer Josh Mandel
  • 40-40 vs. former state party chair Jane Timken
  • 40-38 vs. author J.D. Vance

Next up is Ryan:

  • 38-42 vs. Mandel
  • 38-41 vs. Timken
  • 37-39 vs. Vance

314 publicized another PPP poll last week that had Acton leading Ryan 37-32 in a potential primary. Both Democrats are publicly considering running, though neither of them has announced a bid.

Mandel and Timken currently have the GOP side to themselves, but plenty of others could get in. Vance, who is best known as the writer of "Hillbilly Elegy," has not said anything about his interest, but Politico reports that he recently met with people close to Trump. Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer also revealed that far-right billionaire Peter Thiel had contributed $10 million to a super PAC set up to help Vance if he runs.

Governors

GA-Gov: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, an ardent Trump fan who left the Democratic Party in January, tweeted Monday that he was "looking closely" at a GOP primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jones, unsurprisingly, echoed his patron's lies about election fraud by insisting, "If it weren't for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States." Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority even if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp.

Jones had a long career in Democratic politics, though he'd struggled to win higher office under his old party. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, Jones "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office, but he lost the 2008 primary runoff for Senate 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26.

In 2013, a grand jury probing Jones' time as DeKalb County CEO recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for DeKalb County sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. Jones, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate.

Jones finally switched parties in January, and he's been eyeing another statewide bid over the last few months. Jones has been mentioned as a prospective Senate candidate, and he reportedly eyed a primary campaign for secretary of state against Brad Raffensperger as recently as last week. Trump, though, has touted former NFL running back Herschel Walker as a prospective Senate candidate and endorsed Rep. Jody Hice's bid against Raffensperger on Monday (see our GA-SoS item), which may be why Jones is now talking about taking on Kemp instead.

MO-Gov, MO-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe announced Monday that he would compete in the 2024 race to succeed Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who will be termed-out, rather than run in next year's open seat race for the Senate.

Kehoe's kickoff is extremely early, but while it's not unheard of for prominent gubernatorial candidates to enter the race well over three years before Election Day, that preparation doesn't always pay off. Then-California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom notably launched his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign in February of 2015, while Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced his 2022 bid in August of 2019 only to drop down to attorney general last month after Donald Trump backed a rival Republican primary candidate.

NY-Gov: A ninth woman, Alyssa McGrath, has come forward to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, making her the first current Cuomo employee to do so on the record. McGrath, an executive assistant in the governor's office, says Cuomo "would ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make suggestive comments to her" and a coworker. She also says Cuomo called her "beautiful" in Italian and on one occasion stared down her shirt.

Cuomo once again did not deny the interactions had taken place. Instead, a spokesperson insisted that "the governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like 'ciao bella.' None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone."

PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Several more Republicans, including a few familiar names, have made their interest in running to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf known in recent days.

On Monday, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain formed a fundraising committee for a potential bid. That step came days after Rep. Mike Kelly said he was thinking about running either for governor or for the Senate. The Associated Press also writes that another congressman, Rep. Dan Meuser, "has said he is considering running" for governor, but there's no quote from him.

Former Rep. Lou Barletta, who badly lost the 2018 Senate general election, also acknowledged his interest in the gubernatorial race and pledged to decide over the next few weeks. Additionally, state Sen. Dan Laughlin said over the weekend that he was thinking about campaigning to replace Wolf. The Erie Times-News writes that Laughlin is one of the more moderate Republicans in the legislature, which could be helpful in a general but toxic in a primary.

VA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Pete Snyder has earned an endorsement from Rep. Bob Good ahead of the May 8 Republican nominating convention. Good himself won the GOP nomination last year through this system when he unseated incumbent Denver Riggleman.

House

LA-02: Two Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson (the two are not related), will face off in the April 24 runoff to succeed Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House. Carter took first in Saturday's all-party primary with 36%, while Peterson edged out Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers by a surprisingly small 23-21 margin.

Carter has the backing of Richmond, the state AFL-CIO, and a high-profile Republican in the region, Cynthia Lee Sheng. On Monday, Carter also earned an endorsement from East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, whose constituency cast just under 10% of the vote. Peterson, for her part, has benefited from about $600,000 in outside spending from EMILY's List.

Both Carter and Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, have campaigned as ardent Democrats, though Peterson has argued she's the more progressive of the two. Notably, while Peterson and other contenders called for a Green New Deal, Carter merely characterized it as "a good blueprint" that won't be in place for a long time and that he doesn't support.

Both candidates also say they back Medicare for all, though only Peterson has run commercials focused on it. Carter, for his part, has insisted he'd have a far easier time working with Republicans than Peterson. Carter has additionally played up his relationship with Richmond, saying, "I would have the ear of the guy who has the ear of the president of the United States of America." Peterson, who is a former state party chair, has pushed back by saying she has her own ties to senior White House officials and does "not need to have the ear of the ear of the ear of the toe of the thumb of someone."

Peterson will likely need Chambers' supporters to disproportionately break for her in order for her to close the gap next month, and she may be better positioned to appeal to them than Carter. That's far from guaranteed to happen, though, and Chambers himself hasn't hinted if he's leaning towards supporting one of them over the other. Chambers, while acknowledging Sunday that his endorsement would be very valuable, said of the two runoff contenders, "I don't think either one of them is a true progressive."

Local politics in New Orleans, which is coterminous with Orleans Parish, also may impact this race, as the two state senators represent conflicting factions in local Democratic politics. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power player in the Crescent City that has clashed with Richmond and his allies. Each side scored some big wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and Clancy DuBos of the New Orleans weekly The Gambit recently noted, "Many see this contest as the latest bout between BOLD and Richmond."

In Orleans Parish, which cast just over half the vote on Saturday in this 10-parish district, it was Carter's side that very much came out on top in the first round. Carter led with 39%, while Chambers actually narrowly led Peterson 27-25 for second.

LA-05: University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow defeated Democrat Candy Christophe 65-27 in the all-party primary to succeed her late husband and fellow Republican, Luke Letlow, which was well more than the majority she needed to avoid a runoff. Luke Letlow won an open seat runoff for this safely red northeast Louisiana seat in December, but he died weeks later of complications from COVID-19 before he could take office.

Julia Letlow will be the first woman to represent Louisiana in Congress since Democrat Mary Landrieu left the Senate following her 2014 defeat, as well as the first Republican woman to ever serve in the state's delegation.

Letlow will also join Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, as the only member of Congress elected to succeed a late husband. (Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell won the 2014 contest to succeed John Dingell, which made her the first member elected to succeed a living spouse; John Dingell died in 2019.) Texas Republican Susan Wright is also currently running to succeed Rep. Ron Wright, who also died after contracting COVID-19.

NY-23: Chemung County Executive Chris Moss said Monday that he was interested in running to succeed Rep. Tom Reed, a fellow Republican who on Sunday apologized for sexually harassing a woman in 2017 as he announced he would not run for office in 2022. But Moss, who was the party's 2014 nominee for lieutenant governor, said that he would first run for re-election to his current office this year and would not decide on anything until he sees the new congressional map.

Moss has good reason to be wary, as no one knows what this 55-42 Trump seat, which currently includes Ithaca and southwestern New York, will look like next year. New York is very likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for mapmakers to eliminate this upstate New York seat.

It's also not clear, though, who those mapmakers will even be. An amendment to the state constitution backed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed in 2014 that, under the pretense of establishing an independent redistricting commission—a judge literally ordered that the word "independent" be stricken from the amendment's description because it was nothing of the sort—was actually designed to ensure Republican lawmakers would have a say in redistricting no matter if they lost their then-control over the state Senate. Legislative Democrats, though, now have the two-third supermajorities that would allow them to bypass this amendment―if they choose to try, that is.

All we know for now is that Reed's Sunday announcement will mark the end of a decade-long political career that included one unexpectedly competitive race. Reed was the mayor of Corning, a small city best known as the headquarters of the eponymous glassworks company, in 2008 when Democrat Eric Massa scored a pickup in what was numbered the 29th District at the time. The ancestrally red seat, though, had supported John McCain 51-48, and Republicans planned to make Massa a top target.

Reed entered the race to take on the freshman Democrat, but he never got the chance to take him on. Massa resigned in disgrace in March of 2010 after an aide accused him of sexual harassment, and Democrats had a very tough time finding a viable replacement candidate. Reed ultimately avoided any intra-party opposition and decisively outraised his Democratic foe, Afghanistan veteran Matthew Zeller. Major outside groups on both sides largely bypassed the race and Reed won 56-43; he also scored a similar win in a special election held that day for the final weeks of Massa's term.

Redistricting left Reed with a less conservative seat, but his huge financial advantage over Democratic Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa made him look like the heavy favorite to keep the new 23rd District red. It was therefore a big surprise when Reed only defeated Shinagawa 52-48 as Mitt Romney was carrying the seat 50-48, and Democrats were determined to give him a serious fight next time.

Fellow Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson stepped up for Team Blue, but 2014 proved to be a very difficult year for her party. Reed ran ad after ad portraying Robertson as an "extreme Ithaca liberal," including one commercial with a very strange cartoon of Robertson driving around in a hippie car as the narrator sarcastically threw in hippie slang.

Reed ended up winning 62-38, but Democrats hoped that the 2016 climate would revert back to something more like 2012. That's very much not what happened, though: Instead, Trump won 55-40 here, and Reed beat Democrat John Plumb 58-42. Reed had a closer 54-46 shave against cybersecurity expert Tracy Mitrano in 2018, but he won their 2020 rematch 58-41.

OH-16: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has followed Donald Trump's lead and endorsed former Trump administration official Max Miller's Republican primary bid against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach the party's leader in January. The Club has also released a poll from WPA Intelligence that shows Miller beating Gonzalez 39-30, though no one knows what this district will look like after redistricting.

TX-06: 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean has released a poll from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group that shows her in contention to advance past the May 1 all-party primary:

  • GOP activist Susan Wright (R): 18
  • 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez (D): 9
  • State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R): 8
  • 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean (D): 6
  • Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison (R): 6
  • Education activist Shawn Lassiter (D): 4
  • Former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses (D): 2
  • 2020 Nevada congressional candidate Dan Rodimer (R): 1

The only other poll we've seen was a Victoria Research survey for Sanchez released last week that showed Wright leading her 21-17, with Ellzey and Bean at 8% and 5%, respectively.

TX-34: In a surprise, Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela said Monday that he would not seek a sixth term in Texas' 34th Congressional District, a heavily Latino seat that snapped hard to the right last year. Vela is the second Democratic House member to announce his retirement following Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who made her 2022 plans known earlier this month.

This constituency, which includes Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley and rural counties to the north, went for Joe Biden 52-48 four years after it supported Hillary Clinton by a hefty 59-38 margin in 2016. This was the biggest shift toward Trump of any congressional district in Texas, and his third-largest improvement in the entire nation. Vela himself won re-election by a comfortable 55-42 against an underfunded Republican in a contest that attracted very little outside spending, but the dynamics of an open seat race could be very different.

Further muddling the picture for 2022 is redistricting. While Texas Republicans were ecstatic about their gains with Latino voters, they saw an even broader disintegration in their former suburban strongholds across the state that's left many of their incumbents on the brink. While the GOP will have full control over redistricting for the coming decade once again, Republicans in the legislature will have to make many hard choices about which districts to prop up and which to cut loose.  

Vela, for his part, has not had to worry about a competitive race since he won his first primary in 2012. Vela had never sought office before he entered that crowded contest for the newly-drawn 34th District, but his family had some very strong ties to the seat: His mother, Blanca Vela, was the first woman to serve as mayor of Brownsville while his father and namesake, Filemón Vela Sr., was a longtime federal judge who had a courthouse named for him in the city.

The younger Vela looked like the frontrunner especially after his most prominent opponent, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, was indicted for racketeering weeks before the primary. (He was later sentenced to 13 years in prison.) Vela reached the runoff by taking 40%, while his opponent, former congressional staffer Denise Saenz Blanchard, was far behind with 13%.

Blanchard ran to Vela's left and portrayed her opponent, whose wife was a GOP member of the state Court of Appeals, as far too conservative. Blanchard hit Vela for having voted in GOP primaries in the past, and some Republicans even insisted that Vela himself had planned to run for Congress as a member of Team Red until he saw the new congressional map.

However, Blanchard had little money available in a contest that attracted very little outside attention (Daily Kos Elections at the time dubbed it, "The most under-watched nominating battle in the nation."), and Vela won 67-33. Vela had no trouble that fall or in any other campaigns.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Saturday's special election in Louisiana and a preview of Tuesday's race in Virginia:

LA-HD-82: An all-Republican runoff is on tap for April 24 after Eddie Connick and Laurie Schlegel were the top two vote-getters for this seat in the New Orleans suburbs. Connick led Schlegel 40-36 in the first round, while Democrat Raymond Delaney took third with 25%.

Despite some recent leftward movement in this solidly red district, the two Republican candidates outpaced the Democrat 75-25. The strong GOP performance here could partially be attributed to the Republican candidates' connections to well-known local political figures.

VA-SD-38: This Republican district in southwest Virginia became vacant after former Sen. Ben Chafin died earlier this year. Former Radford City Councilwoman Laurie Buchwald is the Democratic candidate taking on Republican Travis Hackworth, a Tazewell County supervisor.

Buchwald has run for office once before, losing a state House of Delegates race to GOP incumbent Joe Yost 58-42 in 2015.

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Donald Trump 75-22 in 2016, and according to The News and Advance, Trump took 78% of the vote here in 2020. This is the only vacancy in this chamber, which Democrats narrowly control 21-18.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Joe Biden will be hosting a Friday virtual fundraiser for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, which is the president's first such event for any candidate since he became president. Bottoms faces a potentially competitive re-election fight this fall against City Council President Felicia Moore, while others are also considering taking her on.

Morning Digest: Nephew of Arkansas’ GOP governor bails party to mull independent run for governor

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

Leading Off

AR-Gov: State Sen. Jim Hendren expressed interest only weeks ago in seeking the Republican nomination to succeed his uncle, termed-out GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, but he instead shocked politicos on Thursday by announcing that he was leaving the party to become an independent. Hendren, who recently finished a stint leading the chamber, called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol "the final straw," continuing, "I asked myself what in the world I would tell my grandchildren when they asked one day what happened and what did I do about it?"

Hendren said that he would form an organization to fund moderate candidates, and he also did not rule out running for governor himself without a party affiliation. "Right now, I've pushed that decision to the backburner because before anybody can win any serious race as an independent there has to be some sort of platform, some sort of foundation," he said, though he added that he might instead back a different independent contender.

Senate

AL-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Lynda Blanchard entered the race for Alabama's open Senate seat on Thursday, seeding her campaign with what she described as "an initial $5 million deposit." In launching her bid, Blanchard made sure to emphasize that she "served as U.S. ambassador to First Lady Melania Trump's home country of Slovenia." Blanchard is the first notable Republican to join the contest, but many, many others are eyeing the race.

Campaign Action

FL-Sen: The New York Times reports that Ivanka Trump will not primary Republican Sen. Marco Rubio next year, according to unnamed "people close to her," and Rubio's office says that Trump herself has told the senator the same thing. In a statement, Trump didn't directly address the race but praised Rubio and called him "a good personal friend."

OH-Sen: Jane Timken, who recently stepped down as chair of the state Republican Party, announced Thursday that she would run to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

Timken joins former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the primary, and he immediately tried to out-Trump his new opponent by tweeting out a picture of her embracing former Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who dynamited his last bridges with the party last year by endorsing Joe Biden. Kasich though, got into the trolling game by quickly sharing a photo of a smiling Mandel looking on as Kasich stumped for him during the former treasurer's failed 2012 Senate campaign. (The only commentary that accompanied Kasich's tweet was an eye-roll emoji.)

Timken herself emerged on the political scene in 2017 by unseating a Kasich ally as state party chair. Donald Trump publicly backed Timken in that contest and called about a dozen central committee members on her behalf. Timken is also part of a prominent donor family in state party politics, and the wealthy candidate already seems to have money available for her bid: Politico reports that Timken is launching a $263,000 buy on Fox.

PA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean recently attracted national attention as one of the managers of Donald Trump's second impeachment, and several of her allies are now publicly encouraging her to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Pat Toomey. A spokesperson for Dean only told Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman in response that the congresswoman hasn't had time to consider, which very much isn't a no.

The most prominent Democrat to announce before this week was Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, but others may make their move no matter what Dean ends up doing. Bowman relays that two unnamed Democrats say that Montgomery County Commission chair Val Arkoosh "is expected to announce a Senate bid soon." Dean's 4th Congressional District includes just over 85% of this populous suburban Philadelphia community, so she and Arkoosh might end up competing over the same geographic base if they both ran.

Party strategist Mark Nevins also tells Bowman that for every "whisper you hear about Congresswoman Dean running for Senate, you also hear one about" other Democratic House members including Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, whom we hadn't previously heard mentioned for this race.

Governors

CA-Gov: A new poll from WPA Intelligence for Republican Kevin Faulconer, who recently left office as mayor of San Diego, says that California voters support recalling Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom by a 47-43 margin, with 10% undecided. A recent poll for UC Berkley found just the opposite, with voters opposing the idea 45-36. Faulconer's survey also included numbers for a horserace matchup pitting himself against several other potential candidates, but his proposed field is so deep into the realm of the hypothetical that the data isn't in any way useful.

OH-Gov: While Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nod for the Senate last month, he also opened the door this week to a possible campaign against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine or for another statewide office. O'Connor, who lost two competitive 2018 races for the 12th Congressional District, said, "An executive office in a state like Ohio is always going to have more of an impact than legislative offices ... I love the thought of running across this state … and having conversations about the type of Democrat that I am."

O'Connor didn't give a timeline for when he'd decide, though the Columbus Dispatch noted that his wife is expected to give birth in May and "family matters are taking precedence over political aspirations for the moment."

VA-Gov: A new Global Strategy Group poll of Virginia's Democratic primary for governor conducted on behalf of former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy finds former Gov. Terry McAuliffe far out in front with 42% of the vote, with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax at 14%, Carroll Foy at 7%, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan at 6% while 30% are undecided.

GSG argues, however, that Carroll Foy is best poised to grow, saying that she trails McAuliffe by a narrower 37-27 after respondents were read "evenhanded profiles and images of the four core candidates," with the other two Democrats still well behind. The memo did not include the text of the profiles.

House

CO-03: State Rep. Donald Valdez announced Thursday that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on the 3rd District's extremist incumbent, freshman Republican Lauren Boebert. Valdez, a moderate who has often voted against his party in the legislature, ran for this western Colorado seat last cycle, but he dropped out after raising little money.

Legislatures

IL State House: Democratic state Rep. Mike Madigan announced Thursday that he was resigning from the state House, a move that concludes his 50-year career in the legislature one month after his record-breaking tenure as speaker came to an involuntary end. The still-powerful Madigan will remain state party chair, though, so he's far from done with Prairie State politics. Madigan is also the head of his local Chicago ward party, which allows him to pick his replacement in the House. (There are no special elections to the Illinois legislature.)

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 House seats nationwide nears its end with Louisiana, which will host not one but two special elections on March 20. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Donald Trump's 58-40 victory in the Pelican State over Joe Biden was little different from his 58-38 showing against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Trump once again easily won five of Louisiana's six congressional districts. Trump scored at least 62% of the vote in each of these constituencies, all of which are held by Republicans.

The one blue seat is the 2nd District, which stretches from the New Orleans area west to Baton Rouge. Republican mapmakers drew this constituency to take in as many African American voters as possible to make the surrounding districts whiter, and Biden's 75-23 win was almost identical to Clinton's 75-22 performance. Several candidates are competing in next month's all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House, and there's no question that the eventual winner will be a Democrat.

Louisiana has always had a district anchored by New Orleans, and Democrats have held it since the 1890 election—with one very unusual exception a little more than a decade ago. In 2008, Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson lost re-election to Republican Joseph Cao in a huge upset thanks to a confluence of scandal, a major change in election law, and a hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast.

Perhaps most importantly, Jefferson was under indictment on corruption charges after he was filmed allegedly taking $100,000 in marked cash from a government informant, $90,000 of which was later discovered in his freezer. For a time, though, it seemed like Jefferson's electoral career would continue despite the scandal. The state temporarily abandoned its all-party primaries for congressional races in 2008 and 2010 and switched to the type of partisan primary-plus-runoff system that's used in neighboring Southern states. Jefferson won the first round of the primary with a 25% plurality, and he prevailed in the runoff 57-43.

But timing is everything in politics, and events outside of Jefferson's control dramatically altered the political calendar in Cao's favor. The primary was originally set for early September, but the state postponed the contest for a month when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast at the end of August. (The storm also led to the cancelation of the first night of the Republican National Convention.) Primary runoffs instead took place on Election Day in November, with the general election for those races pushed off until December.

Unfortunately for Jefferson, his contest was one of those affected. The congressman won the runoff as Barack Obama was carrying his seat 74-25, but he still needed to fend off Cao in December. Turnout would have almost certainly dropped no matter what, but the state's new election rules likely led many Democratic voters to mistakenly believe that they'd already re-elected Jefferson in November when they'd only renominated him. Other voters who might otherwise have voted Democratic also stayed home, or even backed Cao, out of disgust for the incumbent.

Still, it was a massive surprise when Cao defeated Jefferson 50-47, a victory that made him the first Vietnamese American to ever serve in Congress. Republicans were thrilled about their pickup after a second brutal cycle in a row, with Minority Leader John Boehner memorably putting out a memo afterwards proclaiming, "The future is Cao." Jefferson himself was convicted the next year and began serving a 13-year sentence in 2012, though he ended up leaving prison in late 2017.

Cao, meanwhile, struggled to repeat his shock win against a stronger opponent. While Republicans enjoyed a very strong election cycle in 2010, the 2nd reverted to form when state Rep. Cedric Richmond, who had unsuccessfully challenged Jefferson in the 2008 primary, unseated Cao 65-33. That victory restored the 2nd District's status as a safely blue seat, and even with Richmond's departure for a job in the Biden White House, that's not going to change in next month's special.

The other March 20 special will take place in the 5th District to succeed Republican Luke Letlow, who died from complications from the coronavirus just weeks after he won an open seat race against a fellow Republican but before he could be sworn in. This seat, which includes Monroe and Alexandria in the central part of the state, backed Trump 64-34, and Republicans should have little trouble keeping it.

This area, though, did send a Democrat to the House under the state's previous congressional map in 2002, but Team Blue's hold proved to be very brief. State Rep. Rodney Alexander won an open seat race 50.3-49.7 that year, and he looked like he'd be one of the most vulnerable members of the Democratic caucus in 2004. Alexander filed to run for re-election as a Democrat that year, but he refiled as a Republican two days later―on the final day of the candidate qualifying period.

The congressman's former party was infuriated, but Democrats were never able to take revenge. The incumbent won his 2004 race, as well as his next four campaigns, without any trouble. Alexander resigned in 2013 to take a position in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, and, despite a high-profile scandal surrounding his immediate successor, Team Red has always easily held the seat.

Louisiana Republicans had control of the redistricting process in 2011 for the first time in living memory, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards may be able to block them from passing another gerrymander. The legislature has only ever overridden two gubernatorial vetoes in more than two centuries of statehood (the last was in 1993), and while Republicans have the two-thirds majority necessary to defy Edwards in the state Senate, they don't have quite the numbers on their own in the House.

That's because, while Republicans outnumber Democrats 68-35 in the lower chamber, the House crucially also contains two independents who often vote with the minority party. This means that, if no seats change hands before redistricting takes place, and no Democrats vote for a Republican map, GOP legislators would need to win over both independents to pass their own boundaries again.

P.S. Because Louisiana does not assign pre-Election Day votes to precincts, we have relied on the same method to estimate congressional district vote totals that we recently used in Alabama.

International

Israel: Israel will hold a general election on March 23 because the results of the 2020 election were inconclusive. That election was held because the results of the September 2019 election were inconclusive. And that election was held because the results of the April 2019 election were inconclusive. We'll give you one guess as to the likely result of this next election.

Through all of this turmoil one constant has remained: radical-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some parliamentary systems have a tradition of deploying a caretaker prime minister, who takes over if the current officeholder loses a no-confidence vote or resigns. The caretaker PM leads the government for a short time until elections are held or the crisis at hand has abated. This is common in Italy, and in fact just happened. There is no such tradition in Israel, however, and so Netanyahu sticks around not because a majority of any of these Knessets (the Israeli parliament) want him to, but because there's no majority for anyone else to take over.

In the April 2019 election, the pro-Netanyahu coalition won 60 of the chamber's 120 seats. In September of that year, it won just 56 seats, and in 2020 it won 58. For both the second and third elections in question, if a vote of confidence in Netanyahu had been taken, he would have lost. But the anti-Netanyahu side ranges from left-wing Arab-majority parties to right-wing secular nationalists, a disunified confederation at the best of times.

After the 2020 elections, the anti-Netanyahu faction managed to get 61 members of Parliament to recommend that Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party form the next government, but Gantz was unable to hold this disparate group together long enough to actually form a working coalition. He instead made a deal with Netanyahu in which each man would supposedly serve as prime minister for 18 months. Netanyahu went first, of course, and another election was scheduled before Gantz got his turn. This surprised exactly no one who has spent more than five minutes following Netanyahu's career.

So far, the upcoming election has largely followed the pattern of its recent predecessors. The new center-right hope to unseat Netanyahu is former fellow Likud MP Gideon Sa'ar, who left Likud as new elections were being called and has largely picked up the center-right anti-Netanyahu vote that had been going to Gantz's Blue and White Party. Also arrayed against Netanyahu are the right-wing secular nationalists, the centrists, the center-left, and the Arab-majority parties. On the pro-Netanyahu side, you've got his Likud Party, of course, as well as the Orthodox Haredi parties and the far-right extremists. You will be shocked to learn that recent polling puts each side at about 60 seats.

If Netanyahu's side wins a majority, however, he'll remain prime minister. If not, he'll probably remain in charge anyway while the opposition fails to unite behind a replacement. There is one entity that might prevent this outcome and end this stalemate, but it lies far outside the Knesset: the Israeli justice system. Netanyahu has been under investigation for corruption since 2016 and was indicted in 2019 for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. His trial has been ongoing since May of last year, prolonged by many COVID-related delays. Prosecutors are finally slated to start providing evidence for their case within weeks, though that too could be delayed until after the election.

Even if Netanyahu were convicted, appeals would likely string the process along for years, though he could conceivably be forced to step down. However, barring significant voting shifts one way or another, there's no obvious alternative path out of this perpetual deadlock.

Kosovo: As in Israel, voters in Kosovo were just sent back to the ballot box earlier than normal, though with a very different outcome. The left-wing Vetevendosje (Albanian for "Self-Determination'') turned a small 2019 plurality victory into a landslide mandate to govern the country, skyrocketing from 26% of the vote to 48%, with the counting of overseas votes still ongoing.

The major leftist party in Kosovo, Vetevendosje had grown out of an anti-corruption protest movement in the 2000s and first contested parliamentary elections in 2010. The party is also the main proponent of ethnic Albanian nationalism, pushing for a referendum to unify Albanian-majority Kosovo with neighboring Albania itself. While the party placed first two years ago, its relatively small share of seats pushed it into an unstable coalition with the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), which had narrowly finished second.

That coalition lasted less than four months as the DLK bolted over the handling of the pandemic and formed a new government with just 61 votes in the 120-seat chamber. However, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo later ruled that because one of the 61 members voting for the new government had been convicted of fraud, the vote creating the new government did not actually pass with the needed majority, leading to new elections on Feb. 14.

Vetevendosje had long campaigned as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption party, and years of problems came to a head as the pandemic caused a sharp downturn in the country's economic fortunes. The party was also boosted by acting President Vjosa Osmani, who took over after the previous president, Hashim Thaci, was indicted at The Hague for war crimes. Osmani was a DLK MP and was elevated to the position of speaker last year, which in turn led to her assuming the powers of the presidency after Thaci's departure. But Osmani soon left the DLK and campaigned with Vetevendosje during the election.

The party will likely fall just short of an outright majority but should be able to form a stable coalition with some of the smaller parties and the seats set aside for minority groups. Leaders have said that they will prioritize curbing corruption and tackling unemployment rather than negotiations with Serbia, from whom Kosovo declared independence back in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo's independence, and their disputed diplomatic relations have often been the focus of other countries, but the issue repeatedly rates as a low priority both in polls and for the incoming Vetevendosje government itself.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?, NJ State Senate: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, announced this week that he would run this year for an open seat in the state Senate in the west-central part of the state being vacated by retiring GOP incumbent Kip Bateman.

Pappas earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, "Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr/ Now we see how brave you are." Politicos would later blame that bit of awful poetry for Pappas' 50-47 defeat against Democrat Rush Holt that fall.

Pappas, who quickly earned the support of influential party leaders for his new campaign, also scared off former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who had competed with Pappas in a 2000 primary that occurred when both of them were out of Congress. While Zimmer, who gave up this seat back in 1996 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, decisively won that intra-party engagement, he went on to lose a very tight contest to Holt. Zimmer, though, endorsed Joe Biden last year, so he was very unlikely to pull off another victory against Pappas.

Pappas, however, is no sure bet to return to elected office. While we don't yet have the 2020 presidential results calculated for the New Jersey legislature, Hillary Clinton carried the 16th Legislative District 55-41 four years before.

Morning Digest: How a brazen campaign finance scandal led to this Florida Republican’s downfall

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

Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming held their primaries on Tuesday. You can find current results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.

Leading Off

FL-15: Republican primary voters in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Tuesday denied renomination to freshman Rep. Ross Spano, who has been under investigation by the Justice Department since last year due to a campaign finance scandal, and instead gave the GOP nod to Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin.

With all votes apparently counted, Franklin defeated Spano 51-49. Franklin’s next opponent will  be former local TV news anchor Alan Cohn, who beat state Rep. Adam Hattersley 41-33 for the Democratic nomination.

Campaign Action

This central Florida seat, which includes the mid-sized city of Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, moved from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, and Franklin is favored to keep it in Republican hands. Still, the general election could be worth watching: In 2018, before news of Spano’s campaign finance scandal broke, he won by a modest 53-47 margin.

Spano’s defeat ends a short, but unfortunately for him quite eventful, congressional career. Spano, who was elected to the state House in 2012, had been waging a campaign for state attorney general in 2018 until Republican Rep. Dennis Ross surprised everyone by announcing his retirement. Spano switched over to the contest to succeed Ross, which looked like an easier lift, but he nonetheless faced serious intra-party opposition from former state Rep. Neil Combee.

Spano beat Combee 44-34 and went on to prevail in the general election, but he found himself in trouble before he was even sworn into Congress. That December, Spano admitted he might have broken federal election law by accepting personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then turning around and loaning his own campaign $170,000. That's a serious problem, because anyone who loans money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign still has to adhere to the same laws that limit direct contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.

The House Ethics Committee initially took up the matter but announced in late 2019 that the Justice Department was investigating Spano. The congressman variously argued that he'd misunderstood the law governing campaign loans but also insisted his campaign had disclosed the loan "before it became public knowledge" in the financial disclosure forms all federal candidates are obligated to file.

That latter claim, however, was flat-out false: As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno explained, Spano had failed to file those disclosures by the July 2018 deadline, only submitting them just before Election Day—after the paper had asked about them. Only once those reports were public did the paper learn that the money for Spano's questionable loans came from his friends.

Despite his scandal, most of the party establishment, including Sen. Marco Rubio and most of the neighboring Republican congressmen, stood by Spano. However, he had trouble bringing in more money, and Franklin used his personal wealth to decisively outspend the incumbent. The anti-tax Club for Growth dumped $575,000 into advertising attacking Franklin, but it wasn’t enough to save Spano from defeat on Tuesday.

P.S. Spano is the fifth House Republican to lose renomination this cycle, compared to three Democrats. The good news for the rest of the GOP caucus, though, is that none of them can lose their primaries … because the remaining states don’t have any Republican members. (Louisiana does host its all-party primaries in November, but none of the state’s House members are in any danger.)

Senate

AL-Sen: In what appears to be the first major outside spending here on the Democratic side, Duty and Honor has deployed $500,000 on an ad buy praising Sen. Doug Jones. The commercial extols the incumbent for working across party lines to protect Alabamians during the pandemic and "fighting to expand Medicaid to cover Alabama families who need it." The conservative organization One Nation, meanwhile, is running a spot hitting Jones for supporting abortion rights.

GA-Sen-A: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is running an ad going after a Georgia Republican senator's stock transactions … just not the senator you might expect. The commercial begins, "Jan. 24, the U.S. Senate gets a private briefing on the coronavirus. Georgia Sen. David Perdue gets busy." The narrator continues, "That same day, he buys stock in a company that sells masks and gloves. Then sells casino stocks and winds up buying and dumping up to $14.1 million dollars in stock."

Perdue, like homestate colleague Kelly Loeffler, has argued that these trades were made by advisers who acted independently. Perdue has also said that he was not part of that Jan. 24 briefing.

Meanwhile, SMP's affiliated nonprofit, Duty and Honor, is airing a spot that uses Perdue's own words to attack his handling of the pandemic. "Very, very few people have been exposed to it," the audience hears Perdue say, "The risk of this virus still remains low." The narrator continues, "No wonder Perdue voted against funding for more masks, gloves, and ventilators. And voted to cut funding at the CDC to combat pandemics."

GA-Sen-B: Georgia United Victory, which supports Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is airing another commercial attacking Republican Rep. Doug Collins, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that its total buy now stands at $6 million.

As pigs fill the screen, a truly bored-sounding narrator begins, "Another talking pig commercial? Good grief. We all know pigs are wasteful." She goes on to ask, "Is that the best comparison to Doug Collins? Oh sure. Collins loves pork for things like wine tasting and the opera." She goes on to say the congressman is too close to lobbyists and concludes, "He's laid quite a few eggs. Ever seen a pig lay an egg? Didn't think so." We really don't understand why this spot decided to go into the details of pig reproduction for no apparent reason, but ok.

IA-Sen, NC-Sen: Politico reports that Everytown for Gun Safety is launching an ad campaign this week against two Republican senators: The group will spend $2.2 million against Iowa's Joni Ernst (here and here), and $3.2 million opposing North Carolina's Thom Tillis (here and here).

Both ads argue the incumbents are too close to special interests, including the "gun lobby" and the insurance industry. The Iowa commercials also reference Ernst's infamous 2014 "make 'em squeal" spot by arguing, "She said she'd go to Washington and make them squeal. Joni Ernst broke that promise to Iowa and made the special interests her top priority." The narrator concludes that Ernst has actually left Iowans to squeal.

MA-Sen: Priorities for Progress, a group that the Boston Globe says is affiliated with the pro-charter school and anti-teachers union organization Democrats for Education Reform, has released a SurveyUSA poll that shows Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey narrowly leading Rep. Joe Kennedy 44-42 in the Democratic primary. Neither group appears to have taken sides in the Sept. 1 contest.

This is the third poll we've seen in the last month, and the others have also shown Markey in the lead. However, while the Republican firm JMC Analytics gave the incumbent a similar 44-41 edge in an early August crowdfunded survey, a YouGov poll for UMass Amherst and WCVB had Markey ahead 51-36 last week.

MI-Sen: Republican John James has publicized a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Gary Peters "just" 49-44; the survey, like most Republican polls this cycle, did not include presidential numbers.

There isn't any ambiguity about why James' team is releasing this survey, though. The memo noted that, while the Democratic group Duty and Honor has been airing commercials for Peters, there has been "no corresponding conservative ally on the air against Gary Peters," and it goes on to claim the Republican can win "[w]ith the proper resources." Indeed, as Politico recently reported, major Republican outside groups have largely bypassed this contest, and neither the NRSC or Senate Leadership Fund currently has any money reserved for the final three months of the campaign.

James is getting some air support soon, though. Roll Call reports that One Nation, a nonprofit affiliated with SLF, will launch a $4.5 million TV and radio ad campaign against Peters on Wednesday.

NC-Sen: While most Republican downballot candidates have largely avoided tying their Democratic opponents to Joe Biden, Sen. Thom Tillis tries linking Democrat Cal Cunningham to Biden in a new spot.

Polls: The progressive group MoveOn has unveiled a trio of new Senate polls from Public Policy Polling:

  • GA-Sen-A: Jon Ossoff (D): 44, David Perdue (R-inc): 44 (June: 45-44 Ossoff)
  • IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): 48, Joni Ernst (R-inc): 45 (June: 45-43 Greenfield)
  • ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): 49, Susan Collins (R-inc): 44 (July: 47-42 Gideon)

The releases did not include presidential numbers.

House

OH-01: Democrat Kate Schroder is running a TV commercial about the truly strange scandal that engulfed Republican Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign last year. The narrator accuses the incumbent of lying about Schroder to draw attention away from his own problems, declaring, "Chabot is facing a grand jury investigation for $123,000 in missing campaign money."

The ad continues, "After getting caught, Chabot blamed others. And his campaign manager went missing." The narrator concludes, "We may never learn the truth about Shady Chabot's missing money, but we do know that 24 years is enough. (Chabot was elected to represent the Cincinnati area in Congress in 1994, lost a previous version of this seat in 2008, and won it back two years later.)

As we've written before, Chabot's campaign was thrown into turmoil last summer when the FEC sent a letter asking why the congressman's first-quarter fundraising report was belatedly amended to show $124,000 in receipts that hadn't previously been accounted for. From there, a bizarre series of events unfolded.

First, Chabot's longtime consultant, Jamie Schwartz, allegedly disappeared after he shuttered his firm, called the Fountain Square Group. Then Schwartz's father, Jim Schwartz, told reporters that despite appearing as Chabot's treasurer on his FEC filings for many years, he had in fact never served in that capacity. Chabot's team was certainly bewildered, because it issued a statement saying, "As far as the campaign was aware, James Schwartz, Sr. has been the treasurer since 2011." Evidently there's a whole lot the campaign wasn't aware of.

The elder Schwartz also claimed of his son, "I couldn't tell you where he's at" because "he's doing a lot of running around right now." Well, apparently, he'd run right into the arms of the feds. In December, local news station Fox19 reported that Jamie Schwartz had turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney's office, which, Fox19 said, has been investigating the matter "for a while."

Adding to the weirdness, it turned out that Chabot had paid Schwartz's now-defunct consultancy $57,000 in July and August of 2019 for "unknown" purposes. Yes, that's literally the word Chabot's third-quarter FEC report used to describe payments to the Fountain Square Group no fewer than five times. (Remember how we were saying the campaign seems to miss quite a bit?)

We still don't know what those payments were for, or what the deal was with the original $124,000 in mystery money that triggered this whole saga. Chabot himself has refused to offer any details, insisting only that he's been the victim of an unspecified "financial crime."

There haven't been any public developments since December, though. The Cincinnati Inquirer's Jason Williams contacted Schwartz's attorney last week to ask if Schwartz had been informed of any updates, and the reporter was only told, "No, not yet." Unless something big changes in the next few months, though, expect Democrats to keep pounding Chabot over this story.

OK-05: State Sen. Stephanie Bice is going up with a negative commercial against businesswoman Terry Neese just ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in what will be a competitive contest for this Oklahoma City seat.

Bice accuses Neese of running "the same fake news smears she always sinks to." Bice continues by alluding to Neese's unsuccessful 1990 and 1994 campaigns for lieutenant governor by declaring that in her 30 years of running for office Neese has been "mastering the art of dirty politics but never beating a single Democrat." (Neese badly lost the general election in 1990 but fell short in the primary runoff four years later, so she's only had one opportunity up until now to beat a Democrat.) Bice then sums up Neese by saying, "Appointed by Clinton. Terrible on gun rights. Neese won't take on the Squad, because she can't beat Kendra Horn."

Neese outpaced Bice 36-25 in the first round of voting back in late June, and Neese' allies have a big financial advantage going into the runoff. While Bice did outspend Neese $290,000 to $210,000 from July 1 to Aug. 5 (the time the FEC designates as the pre-runoff period), the Club for Growth has deployed $535,000 on anti-Bice ads this month. So far, no major outside groups have spent to aid Bice.

SC-01: The NRCC has started airing its first independent expenditure ad of the November general election, a spot that seeks to attack freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham on the issue that powered his upset victory in 2018: offshore drilling. The ad tries to question Cunningham's commitment to opposing such drilling in a move straight from Karl Rove’s dusty playbook, but given how closely his image is tied to the cause—he defeated his Republican opponent two years ago, Katie Arrington, in large part because of her support for offshore oil extraction—it's a tough sell.

And while Nancy Mace, his Republican challenger this year, might welcome the committee's involvement, the move doesn't come from a position of strength. In fact, the NRCC's own ad seems to acknowledge this at the outset, with a narrator saying, "Your TV is full of Joe Cunningham" as three images from prior Cunningham spots pop up on the screen. It's not wrong: The congressman has been advertising on television since the first week in July, and he recently released his fifth ad.

Cunningham's been able to blanket the airwaves because of the huge financial advantage he's locked in. Mace raised a prodigious $733,000 in the second quarter of the year, but Cunningham managed to beat even that take with an $845,000 haul of his own. It's the campaigns' respective bank accounts that differ dramatically, though: Cunningham had $3.1 million in cash-on-hand as of June 30 while Mace, after a costly primary, had just $743,000.

As a result, she hasn't gone on the air yet herself, which explains why the NRCC has moved in early to fill in the gap. Interestingly, the committee didn't bother to mention that this is its first independent expenditure foray of the 2020 elections in its own press release, whereas the DCCC loudly trumpeted the opening of its own independent expenditure campaign in New York's 24th Congressional District a month ago.

TX-21: Both Democrat Wendy Davis and the far-right Club for Growth are running their first commercials here.

Davis talks about her life story, telling the audience, "[M]y parents divorced when I was 13. I got a job at 14 to help mom. And at 19, I became a mom." Davis continues by describing her experience living in a trailer park and working two jobs before community college led her to Texas Christian University and Harvard Law. She then says, "As a state senator, I put Texas over party because everyone deserves a fair shot."

The Club, which backs Republican Rep. Chip Roy, meanwhile tells the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek that it is spending $482,000 on its first ad against Davis. The group has $2.5 million reserved here to aid Roy, who ended June badly trailing the Democrat in cash-on-hand, and it says it will throw down more.

The Club's spot declares that Davis is a career politician who got "busted for using campaign funds for personal expenses," including an apartment in Austin. However, while the narrator makes it sound like Davis was caught breaking the rules, Svitek writes, "Members are allowed to use donors' dollars to pay for such accommodations—and it is not uncommon."

This topic also came up during Davis' 2014 campaign for governor. The campaign said at the time that legislative staffers also stayed at the apartment, and that Davis followed all the state's disclosure laws.

Polls:

  • AZ-06: GQR (D) for Hiral Tipirneni: Hiral Tipirneni (D): 48, David Schweikert (R-inc): 45 (50-48 Biden)
  • MT-AL: WPA Intelligence (R) for Club for Growth (pro-Rosendale): Matt Rosendale (R): 51, Kathleen Williams (D): 45
  • NJ-02: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jeff Van Drew (R-inc): 42, Amy Kennedy (D): 39
  • NY-01: Global Strategy Group (D) for Nancy Goroff: Lee Zeldin (R-inc): 47, Nancy Goroff (D): 42 (46-42 Trump)
  • WA-03: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-inc): 44, Carolyn Long (D): 40

The only other numbers we've seen from Arizona's 6th District was an early August poll from the DCCC that had Republican Rep. David Schweikert up 46-44 but found Joe Biden ahead 48-44 in this Scottsdale and North Phoenix constituency; Donald Trump carried this seat 52-42 four years ago, but like many other well-educated suburban districts, it's been moving to the left in recent years.

The Club for Growth's new Montana survey comes a few weeks after two Democratic pollsters found a closer race: In mid-July, Public Policy Polling's survey for election enthusiasts on Twitter showed a 44-44 tie, while a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had Republican Matt Rosendale ahead 49-47 a few days later. PPP and Civiqs found Donald Trump ahead 51-42 and 49-45, respectively, while the Club once again did not include presidential numbers.

U.S. Term Limits has been releasing House polls at a rapid pace over the last few weeks, and once again, they argue that Democrats would easily win if they would just highlight the Republican incumbents' opposition to term limits; as far as we know, no Democratic candidates have tested this theory out yet. These surveys also did not include presidential numbers.

The only other poll we've seen out of New York's 1st District on eastern Long Island was a July PPP internal for Democrat Nancy Goroff's allies at 314 Action Fund. That survey gave Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin a 47-40 lead, which is slightly larger than what her poll finds now, though it showed the presidential race tied 47-47. This seat has long been swing territory, though it backed Trump by a 55-42 margin in 2016.

Mayoral

Honolulu, HI Mayor: Former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who finished a close third in the Aug. 8 nonpartisan primary, announced Monday that she was endorsing independent Rick Blangiardi over fellow Democrat Keith Amemiya. Blangiardi took 26% in the first round of voting, while Amemiya beat Hanabusa 20-18 for second.

ELECTION CHANGES

Minnesota: Republicans have dropped their challenge to an agreement between Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon and voting rights advocates under which Minnesota will waive its requirement that mail voters have their ballots witnessed and will also require that officials count any ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within a week.

In dismissing their own claims, Republicans said they would "waive the right to challenge [the agreement] in any other judicial forum." That likely moots a separate federal case in which Republicans were challenging a similar agreement that a judge had refused to sign off on.

North Dakota: An organization representing county election officials in North Dakota says that local administrators are moving forward with plans to conduct the November general election in-person, rather than once again moving to an all-mail format, as they did for the state's June primary.

South Carolina: Republican Harvey Peeler, the president of South Carolina's state Senate, has called his chamber in for a special session so that lawmakers can consider measures to expand mail voting. Legislators passed a bill waiving the state's excuse requirement to vote absentee ahead of South Carolina's June primary, and Peeler says, "I am hopeful we can do it again."

However, Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas is refusing to convene a special session for his members, who are not due to return to the capitol until Sept. 15. That would give the state significantly less time to prepare for a likely influx of absentee ballot requests should the legislature once again relax the excuse requirement.

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