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.
● Pres-by-LD: North Carolina Republicans passed new maps for the state House and Senate in September after a state court struck down their 2017 gerrymanders, and last week, plaintiffs abandoned any further appeals and ended their lawsuit. As a result, these lines will be used next year, when all seats in both chambers will be up for election. Daily Kos Elections has calculated the 2016 presidential results for both new maps, and while they give Democrats the chance to win more seats, it's still going to be very tough for Team Blue to take a majority in either house next year.
As our new data shows, these maps retain much of the GOP's old gerrymanders, which is why Democrats should never have signed off on them. Under the 2017 maps, Donald Trump carried 75 of the 120 House districts and 32 of the 50 Senate seats while he was defeating Hillary Clinton 51-47 statewide. Under the newest maps, Trump took 72 House seats and 28 Senate districts. In other words, even though Trump won just 51% of the vote, he'd still have won 59% of all seats in the legislature.
While those are better numbers for Democrats, the newest maps still will make it very difficult for the GOP to actually lose its grip on power. One way to dig a little deeper is to sort each seat in each chamber by Trump's margin of victory over Clinton and see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because North Carolina has an even number of seats, we average the presidential margin for the middle two seats to come up with the median.
Under the old Senate map, the median seat backed Trump 55-43, which was 8 points to the right of his statewide win; under the new map, the median seat supported him 54-44, which is only a little better for Democrats and still 6 points to the right of Trump's statewide performance. It's a very similar story in the House, where the median seat went from 55-41 Trump to 55-43, or 8 points better than Trump's 2016 share of the vote.
This means that if Democrats are to take the barest of majorities, they'd need to win at least some seats that backed Trump by double digits—a very tough task even in the best of years.
The new map does, however, strengthen some Democratic incumbents while weakening a few Republicans. Last year, under the lines drawn up in 2017, Senate Democrats won three seats that had supported Trump, while Republicans carried no Clinton districts. Under the new Senate map, just one Democrat now holds a Trump seat, while there are two Republicans in Clinton turf.
In the state House, 10 Democrats won Trump seats last year while Republicans once again failed to take any Clinton districts. Under the 2019 map, there are now eight Democrats defending Trump seats and one Republican in a Clinton district.
Note that these newest maps will be used only in 2020 because the legislature will once again redraw the districts after the next census. That means that in 2022, the Tar Heel State will have new legislative maps for the fourth cycle in a row.
For the rest of our elections results by legislative district, you can find all our data from 2018, 2016, and past cycles here.
● GA-Sen-B: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Donald Trump "pressed" Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday to appoint GOP Rep. Doug Collins to the Senate. The paper writes that Trump made a similar appeal to Kemp on Nov. 8, and that this second attempt came hours after Collins said he was interested in competing in next year's special election if the governor chooses someone else.
Collins is the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and he's used his high-profile perch to denounce the impeachment inquiry against Trump as a "sham" and a "circus." These efforts have reportedly impressed Trump, and one unnamed source told the AJC that he told Kemp that Collins could be an "immediate leader" in the Senate if there's an impeachment trial there.
This week, former Rep. Jack Kingston, another Republican who applied for the Senate appointment, also told Politico he might run anyway if someone else gets chosen. However, Kingston said he was unlikely to run against Collins because their politics were "well aligned."
● ME-Sen: The Democratic media firm Amplify Media reports that GOP Sen. Susan Collins has launched a weeklong TV ad campaign for $142,000. Collins' buy comes around the same time that the Democratic group Majority Forward started running a spot hitting her for endangering Medicare. Majority Forward says their commercial is part of a "six-figure TV and digital ad campaign."
● CA-53: UC San Diego political science professor Tom Wong announced Wednesday that he would join the crowded Democratic field to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Susan Davis. Wong, who came to the United States from Hong Kong when he was two, says he would be the first formerly undocumented Asian American and Pacific Islander to serve in Congress. Wong doesn't appear to have run for office before, but he did serve on the Obama administration's White House Initiative on Asian Americans.
● GA-06: Gov. Brian Kemp has joined both of Georgia's U.S. senators in supporting former Rep. Karen Handel in next year's GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath. Two of Handel's opponents recently dropped out of the primary, and her only remaining intra-party foe is self-funding construction company owner Marjorie Greene, who has a habit of sharing far-right conspiracy theories.
● MD-07: Candidate filing closed on Wednesday for the special election to succeed the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in this safely blue Baltimore seat. The primary will be held on Feb. 4 and the general election will be April 28, which is also the date of Maryland's regularly scheduled presidential and statewide primary. The filing deadline to run for the full two-year term is before the special primary on Jan. 24.
Twenty-four Democrats ended up filing, including two candidates who announced just before the deadline. One of the new contenders is Harry Spikes, who served as a Cummings aide for 15 years. Two of the late congressman's children are supporting Spikes over their stepmother, former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.
The other new arrival is Del. Jay Jalisi, though he shouldn't count on much support from his colleagues. Jalisi received a rare and unanimous formal reprimand from his fellow delegates in March after an ethics report revealed that he'd engaged in an "ongoing pattern of bullying and abusive workplace behavior" towards his staff over the last five years.
The two most high-profile candidates at this early point in the race appear to be Cummings’ widow, the aforementioned Rockeymoore Cummings, and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume. Mfume represented an earlier version of this seat from 1987 until 1996, when he resigned to become the head of the NAACP. Mfume was last on the ballot in 2006 when he narrowly lost the primary for U.S. Senate to Ben Cardin, who went on to win the general election.
Three other state legislators are also running: state House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, state Sen. Jill Carter, and Del. Terri Hill. Branch and Carter are longtime Baltimore City elected officials, while Hill is the one notable contender who hails from Howard County. More than half of the district lives in Baltimore City, though Hill may have an opening in this very crowded race if she can do well at home and in nearby Baltimore County.
Several other Democrats are also running, and it's possible one of them could pull off a surprise in this very crowded contest. It only takes a plurality to win the Democratic nod, so the winner may end up taking just a small percentage of the overall vote. It's also possible that whoever wins the nomination in February will need to fight for it again in April as they seek a full two-year term.
● MI-03: EMILY's List has endorsed attorney Hillary Scholten in the Democratic primary to take on Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash.
● NC Redistricting: With a legal challenge to North Carolina's new congressional map still pending, the state court hearing the case has enjoined the filing period for all candidates for the U.S. House. Candidates for all other offices may file as normal during the period, which runs from Dec. 2 to Dec. 20. Once the suit is resolved, the court will establish a new filing period for House candidates.
● NY-02: This week, GOP Assemblyman Mike LiPetri announced that he was forming an exploratory committee for a possible bid for this competitive open seat in central Long Island.
LiPetri was elected to the state legislature last year when he successfully challenged Democratic incumbent Christine Pellegrino. Pellegrino had pulled off a shocking win in a 2017 special election for a Massapequa-based district that had supported Donald Trump 60-37, a victory that Newsday said made her the first Democrat to ever win the seat. However, LiPetri took the constituency back for Team Red when he unseated Pellegrino 56-44.
Meanwhile, the anti-tax Club for Growth has released a WPA Intelligence poll to the white supremacist site Breitbart that touts a different potential GOP candidate. The survey shows Lara Trump, who is Donald Trump's daughter-in-law and also works as an adviser for his re-election bid, beating former Rep. Rick Lazio 53-19 in a hypothetical primary. The poll did not test Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, who entered the race last week, or any of the other Republicans who are considering running here.
Lazio expressed interest in returning to the House last week after longtime GOP Rep. Peter King retired, but this is the first we've heard about a possible Lara Trump candidacy. She responded to the poll by telling Breitbart, "While I would never close the door on anything in the future, right now I am focused on winning a second term for President Trump," which isn't a no.
● Where Are They Now?: On Thursday, one day after she was indicted, former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh reached a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges related to her self-published children's books. Among other things, Pugh acknowledged in court that she had illegally used money from her "Healthy Holly" sales on her 2016 mayoral campaign, and that she had hidden her augmented income from the IRS. Pugh is scheduled to be sentenced in late February.
P.S.: If you're wondering about what was actually in those "Healthy Holly" books, the Washington Post's Carlos Lozada reviewed the very first in the series back in April, and let's just say neither he nor his three young children were impressed by the illustrations or the dialogue.
To take one example, a conversation between Healthy Holly's mother and Healthy Holly goes "Exercising is fun," "I will be healthy. I like having fun." Lozada's 11-year-old remarked, "The dialogue . . . it doesn't sound so real," adding, "I mean the phrase 'I like having fun.' Isn't it obvious that one likes having fun? You don't just walk up and say: 'I like having fun! I like doing things that I like!'" The illustrations, which featured smiling trash bins and tennis balls, as well as a smiling "clock [that] doesn't have that many teeth," also did not go over well with their intended audience. Thursday's developments also make it extremely unlikely that we'll get another edition in this series.