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.
● OH-Sen: Several Ohio Republicans publicly expressed interest on Monday in running to succeed GOP Sen. Rob Portman in the hours following his surprise retirement announcement, and a few more are now making noises about getting in. The most prominent among them is the far-right extremist Rep. Jim Jordan, who infamously delivered a speech on the floor of the House just before the Jan. 6 terrorist riot where he repeated Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 presidential race and questioned how "somehow the guy who never left his house wins the election?"
Jordan did not rule out the idea of a Senate bid when asked this week, saying, "We'll see. I'm focused on my work on the Judiciary Committee ... and this crazy impeachment trial." Back in November, Cleveland.com reported that Jordan was considering a primary bid against Gov. Mike DeWine, who infuriated Trump by recognizing Joe Biden's victory. However, at least one consultant was very skeptical Jordan would run to lead the state, and we haven't heard anything new about a potential gubernatorial campaign in the ensuing two months.
Several more of Jordan's current or former House colleagues are also talking about seeking the GOP nod for Senate. Rep. Bill Johnson said, "I am seriously considering this opportunity and over the next few weeks, I will talk to my family, friends and supporters to determine if this is the right time and the right opportunity." Fellow Rep. Brad Wenstrup also said he would talk to people about his future, though he didn't lay out a timeline for when he'd decide
Former Rep. Pat Tiberi, for his part, said Monday that "there will be a time and place to discuss his successor, but that day is not today." Tiberi considered running for the state's other Senate seat in 2017 against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, but he not only passed, he decided later that year to resign from Congress altogether to lead a business group. Tiberi, though, retains a $5 million war chest that he could use on another bid for federal office.
Another Republican who has expressed interest is state Sen. Matt Dolan, who is a co-owner of the Cleveland Indians team and whom Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias describes as "a more-moderate, business friendly Republican." Tobias also says of the potential electoral effects of Dolan's status as a team owner, “[W]hether or not that's an advantage depends on what the front office is doing, so that's open to debate right now."
Two Republicans, though, have said no to a Senate campaign: Rep. Troy Balderson and Youngstown State President Jim Tressel. Tressel, who is widely known as the championship-winning former head football coach at the Ohio State University, has been mentioned as a potential statewide candidate for years but has never gone for it, and the 68-year-old university head seemed to definitively rule out running for office this week when he said, "Too busy here at YSU to run for the Senate … it is time for the young guys to step up."
On the Democratic side, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley acknowledged to the New York Times that she was considering both a Senate run or a campaign against DeWine for governor. Whaley didn't indicate which office she'd prefer but seemed especially motivated to stop Jordan from representing Ohio in the Senate, saying, "If Jim Jordan decides to run [for Senate], it is highly likely he will win that primary. We recognize that the soul of our state is at stake, and that's a motivation to all of us."
● AZ-Sen: Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich was reportedly likely to run for Arizona's governorship, but with Gov. Doug Ducey's recent announcement that he won't try to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year, Brnovich isn't ruling out that race, either. "I'm too busy watching the Packers game, enjoying a beer and a brat with my wife's family, to think about the Senate or anything else political," said Brnovich, whose high-profile clashes with Ducey have led some Arizona politicos to speculate that the term-limited governor is backing state Treasurer Kimberly Yee as a way to block Brnovich from succeeding him.
But Yee hasn't committed to a gubernatorial bid, and in fact she's now also surfaced as a possible Senate candidate. So has Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, another would-be Republican contender for governor who promised an announcement last month but didn't follow through. Rep. David Schweikert, however, sounds unlikely. In his first public remarks on a potential promotion, the Republican congressman said he was likely to stay put, explaining, "I'm probably an election cycle away from getting at least a subcommittee in Ways and Means," the powerful House committee he currently sits on.
● GA-Sen, GA-Gov: An aide to Doug Collins confirms the former congressman is considering either a primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, or a second bid for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting former Democrat who joined the Republican Party this month, could also run for Senate. Jones made a bid for Senate once before when he was still a Democrat, losing the 2008 primary in a runoff to former state Rep. Jim Martin.
● NC-Sen: State Sen. Jeff Jackson announced his entry into the race for North Carolina's open Senate seat on Monday, making him the most prominent Democrat to join the contest to date. Jackson, an attorney and Afghanistan war veteran with the Army Reserve, considered a Senate bid last cycle but declined, claiming Chuck Schumer derided his plan to kick off his campaign with "100 town halls in 100 days." Undeterred, Jackson pledged to visit all 100 North Carolina counties in his launch video "just as soon as it's safe."
Jackson, who is white, will face off against a one-time colleague, former state Sen. Erica Smith, with whom he has some unpleasant history. Smith unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Senate last cycle and subsequently appeared to endorse Jackson's Republican challenger, Sonja Nichols, in September. Smith, who is Black, later claimed she never backed Nichols, but when asked at the time on Facebook whether she'd requested that Nichols stop touting her as an endorser, she declined to answer and retorted, "you cannot see beyond your sexist male privilege."
● NC-Sen, FL-Sen: The New York Times reports that the possibility that Lara Trump could run for Senate in North Carolina is looking "less clear" following the loss of her father-in-law, Donald Trump, in last year's election. The same piece also reports that rumors about a Senate campaign in Florida by Ivanka Trump, whose potential candidacy was based on the most gossamer of whispers, are "unlikely to develop further."
● PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has declined to rule out a bid for either Senate or governor next year, saying of his possible interest in running for higher office, "The plan right now is to do my job. Things happen." Recently, a spokesperson did not deny reports that Kenney, a Democrat, was considering both races.
● AR-Gov: To no one's surprise, Donald Trump has endorsed his former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her newly launched bid for governor of Arkansas. Trump's statement of support reads just like the cookie-cutter endorsements he'd issue from his former Twitter account, only this one came in the form of a press release from his "Save America PAC" and went on for the length of about 1.5 tweets.
Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson, says he'll announce whether he'll enter the GOP primary "in the coming weeks."
● FL-Gov: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel adds one more name to the mix of possible Democratic contenders for governor next year, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. The aside comes amid a longer interview with former Republican Rep. David Jolly, who's talked about running statewide as an independent but now sounds more inclined to seek the governorship rather than launch a bid for Senate.
● MD-Gov: Former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, who last month declined to rule out a bid for governor, has now confirmed he's considering the race. Perez was recently replaced at the DNC by former South Carolina Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, Joe Biden's pick to run the committee.
● MN-Gov: MyPillow guy Mike Lindell, who was just kicked off Twitter for promoting lunatic election conspiracy theories, is now suggesting that he won't announce a bid for governor until he gets to the bottom of his investigation, telling Axios' Torey Van Oot, "Why would anybody want to run if they had the same machines with the election fraud?" As Van Oot notes, though, this might just be Lindell's way of clearing an escape path if in fact he's not interested in running after all.
Or maybe not! In an NPR interview later the same day that Axios published its report, Lindell tried to claim that (LOL) Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had taken control of his account to post "fake" information, "acting like they were me, putting out a narrative that was completely not me." In other words, Lindell has now found the real killer, thus rehabbing his sullied reputation and once more opening the door to a gubernatorial campaign, right? Right.
● TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke said in a recent radio interview that a bid for governor next year is "something I'm gonna think about," though he added, "[W]hether I'm a candidate for governor or I support someone who's a candidate for governor, I want to make sure we have excellence in leadership." Last year, O'Rourke declined to rule out a run when asked.
● VA-Gov: Wealthy investor Pete Snyder announced he would enter the race for governor on the GOP side on Tuesday, joining several other notable candidates who are seeking the Republican nomination this year. The Washington Post also reports that the GOP's convention will take place on May 1, though Republicans still have no idea how they'll host one amid the pandemic.
● CA-22: 2020 Democratic nominee Phil Arballo launched a TV commercial Tuesday to announce a second campaign against Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who remains one of Donald Trump's most prominent toadies in Congress. Last year, Nunes won a very expensive campaign against Arballo 54-46 as Trump was carrying his Central Valley seat by a slightly smaller 52-46 margin.
This district, which is located near Fresno and Tulare, has long been reliably red turf, and any Democrat would have a very tough time unseating even a Republican as odious as Nunes. Arballo, though, told the Sacramento Bee that, while he didn't expect the state's independent redistricting commission to "dramatically change" the district lines, "we think they might be improved upon in terms of competitiveness." No one knows what the new map will look like, however, and Arballo acknowledged that he was starting his campaign now "to make sure we have the resources to roll out when the time comes."
Other Democrats might be interested in running if Nunes does become more vulnerable, but one familiar name has said no. 2018 nominee Andrew Janz, who lost to Nunes 53-47 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Fresno last year, told the paper that he was endorsing Arballo again.
● NM-01: Democratic state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero has filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid in New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, though she doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about her interest yet. Leaders from both parties will pick their nominees in the likely special election to succeed Rep. Deb Haaland, whom Joe Biden has nominated to serve as his secretary of the interior.
● OH-16, OH-13: Former Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan, who'd come up as a possible primary challenger to pro-impeachment Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, now says she'll wait until the redistricting process concludes before deciding whether she'll run. Depending on how the new map turns out, it also sounds like she might consider a rematch with Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who held her off 52-45 last fall in the 13th District.
● SC-07: Republican state Rep. William Bailey says he's formed an exploratory committee to weigh a possible primary challenge to Rep. Tom Rice, one of 10 Republicans who recently voted to impeach Donald Trump. Bailey did not offer a specific deadline for when he might make a decision. Meanwhile, another possible GOP candidate, Horry County Schools Board chair Ken Richardson, says he'll wait until his school system is "through the pandemic" before making up his mind.
● Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Former Mayor Mark Mallory announced Tuesday that he would not run to regain his old post this year. Unnamed sources also tell the Cincinnati Business Courier that another Democrat, former state party chair David Pepper, also will sit the race out.
● Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Tennessee, which once again was one of Donald Trump's strongest states. 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.
Trump carried the Volunteer State last year 61-38, which wasn't much different from his 61-35 performance in 2016, and as before, he won seven of the state's nine congressional districts. Trump scored at least 64% of the vote in each of these seats, all of which have been in Republican hands since the 2010 GOP wave. Biden, meanwhile, won both Democratic-held districts, carrying Rep. Jim Cooper's Nashville-area 5th District 60-37 and Rep. Steve Cohen's Memphis-based 9th District 79-20.
Interestingly, the GOP-controlled seat that gave Trump his smallest margin was the one that hasn't elected a Democrat since 1852, before the Republican Party was even founded, though it was still far from close: Rep. Tim Burchett's 2nd District around Knoxville supported Trump 64-34, which was just a tick down from his 65-30 performance against Hillary Clinton.
At the heart of the 2nd District is Knox County, which has in fact been represented by a member of the nativist Know Nothing Party more recently than a Democrat, with William Henry Sneed taking it during President Franklin Pierce's 1854 midterm. Sneed was replaced two years later by fellow Know Nothing Horace Maynard, who, like many anti-secession politicians in the years before and during the Civil War, identified with a number of different political labels.
Sneed's East Tennessee base remained loyal to the Union during the conflict, though he temporarily left Congress in 1863 when he was appointed state attorney general by military governor Andrew Johnson. Sneed returned in 1866 when Tennessee was readmitted to the Union after Johnson was elevated to the presidency following Abraham Lincoln's assassination, this time as a full-fledged member of the Republican Party.
After the federal government abandoned Reconstruction, however, Republicans throughout the South quickly found themselves with little influence. Knox County, though, remained a durable exception: The GOP continued to represent the area in Congress during the entire era of Democratic dominance known as the "Solid South," and it remained in power as the rest of Tennessee and neighboring states began their broader migration toward the Republican Party in the wake of Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy."
Democrats hung on in Tennessee longer than in other corners of the South, but those days are long gone. Republicans gained control of redistricting in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction, and they'll once again decide the new congressional map.