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.
● NC-09: The GOP got some good news on Tuesday when 2018 nominee Mark Harris announced that he would not seek the Republican nod in the upcoming special election for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District and that he was backing Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing. Harris’ statement only mentioned his health problems and did not note the election fraud conducted on his behalf last year, which led the bipartisan state Board of Elections last week to unanimously vote to invalidate the results of that contest and order a new election here. (The Washington Post has a great look on how this all went down.)
Still, it’s possible that the GOP could still get stuck with Harris, whom national Republicans labeled “toxic” back in December. Right before they lost their illegally gerrymandered supermajorities last year, the Republican-led state legislature passed a law mandating new primaries whenever a new election is ordered in a congressional contest.
That law is a change from prior practice, which would have required only a new general election be held between the existing nominees—something that would have left Harris as the GOP nominee. Democrat Dan McCready, who was Harris’ opponent in 2018 and is running again this year, said Friday that he and his team would decide over the next several days whether to challenge this new law.
However, at least for now, we have a wide-open GOP primary for this suburban Charlotte seat. Rushing, whom Harris endorsed Tuesday, confirmed he was running hours later. Rushing, who owns a firing range and firearms store and is quite the conspicuous dresser, has been an ardent Harris defender throughout this long odyssey. He railed back in December that the fraud investigation was "a political coup by the state Board [of Elections] and the Democrat [sic] leaders on that board."
Rushing didn’t change his tune this weekend after even Harris called for a new election, which the Board voted to do hours later. Instead, Rushing posted on Facebook that it was the Democrats who were guilty of fraud. Sadly but predictably, Rushing is hardly an outlier among North Carolina Republicans. This week, state party chair Robin Hayes, a former U.S. congressman, put out a statement addressed to “Dan McCready and his Democrat allies,” that declared, “You did not get more legal votes and there are no free lunches in politics,” and, “You will be held responsible for the extreme positions your Party has taken and your role to erase more than 283,000 legal votes by citizens of the Ninth Congressional District.”
There are plenty of other Republicans who might run here. Former state Sen. Tommy Tucker, who co-chaired the influential Senate Finance Committee until he retired last year, told the Associated Press on Tuesday he was “95 percent sure” he’d run. Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, who narrowly lost re-election to his historically Republican South Charlotte district last fall, said he’d decide next week if he’d enter the race. Union County GOP Chair Dan Barry has been mentioned as a potential candidate for a while, and he doesn’t seem to be ruling it out. Barry cryptically said this week that “[g]eneral election candidates are chosen by the voters” and, “We’re going to let the voters decide.”
However, we can cross a few names off this list. Former Rep. Robert Pittenger, who narrowly lost renomination to Harris last year, reiterated that he wouldn’t try to reclaim this seat. State Sen. Sen. Danny Britt also said he wouldn’t run and that he would back Tucker.
● AL-Sen: GOP Rep. Mo Brooks said last week that he was indeed "contemplating a Senate race," but he added, "Now, let me be real clear—the odds are that I will not run for the United States Senate, OK? It would take some kind of seismic event to get me to jump into the Senate race."
So, what exactly would be a "seismic event" to Brooks, who lost the 2017 special election primary? He went on to say that "one nationally renowned conservative group yesterday communicated with my campaign team and said, 'Look, you can count on us for $3 million in the Republican primary, if you run.'" Brooks didn't name the group and seemed skeptical that they would deliver, saying he didn't "know how much weight to give to that kind of comment," but that, "they do have a national fundraising capability, and they're well known and respected and influential."
Brooks went on to muse that, while this was "a big offer," it wasn't enough to get him to run. However, he continued by talking about "polling … that has me with a significant lead in first place over all others that are thinking about running." Polling has been scarce here so far, but Brooks declared that there is a new survey that "someone is supposed to give to me this week or next week, that they say I also have a substantial lead, which in part explains why people are trying to recruit me to run for the United States Senate."
Brooks still didn't say who these people are who are supposedly trying to recruit him, only reiterating that he's willing to reconsider his plans to run for re-election, "but it would take a lot to get me to run for the United States Senate."
● AZ-Sen: Freshman Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton has reportedly been considering a bid against appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally over the last few months, but until this weekend, he'd never said anything publicly about his plans. However, the local Phoenix CBS affiliate 3TV repeatedly asked Stanton if he was eyeing this race, and he refused to rule it out.
Reporter Dennis Welch asked Stanton, who served as mayor of Phoenix from 2012 until he resigned last May to run for the House, if he would run for the Senate. Stanton responded by saying how much he was enjoying being in the House, which Welch noted was neither a yes or a no answer to his original question about the Senate contest. Stanton then said it was "way too early to even have these conversations." Retired astronaut Mark Kelly is already seeking the Democratic nomination, while Rep. Ruben Gallego is publicly considering jumping in as well.
● KS-Sen: State Attorney General Derek Schmidt reiterated his interest on Monday in seeking the GOP nod for this open seat, but he said that, while he wouldn't "dawdle" when it came to making a decision, he had "no hard deadline" and that he wasn't "in a great rush."
● IL-16: On Tuesday, Wisconsin National Guard officials said they were looking into whether to punish Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who serves as a pilot in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, for publicly bashing Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. Kinzinger, who represents a downstate Illinois seat that backed Trump 55-38, went on Twitter and Fox and went after Evers, a Democrat, for recalling the state's 112 National Guard troops from the border with Mexico on Monday. Among other things, Kinzinger said that Evers had lacked the courage to announce the withdrawal of the troops earlier in the day.
The Associated Press reports that Wisconsin statutes "state that any commissioned officer who uses "contemptuous words against the president, the vice-president, members of congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of homeland security, or the governor or legislature of the state of Wisconsin shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.'" Kinzinger's team insisted that this doesn't apply to the congressman because he was off-duty.
● NJ-03: Former Evesham Township Mayor Randy Brown, who works as a kicking coach for the Baltimore Ravens, told the National Journal's Alex Clearfield that he is considering freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. Clearfield wrote that Brown's "basic position is that he'd consider running for what the party wants him to run for, House included."
However, if Brown did decide to go for the House, it very much does not sound like he would defer to former Rep. Tom MacArthur, since Brown pointed to him when he said he didn't want a carpetbagger to run here. MacArthur, who lived well outside this district when he first ran for it in 2014, narrowly lost re-election to Kim last year. The former congressman said in December that he wasn't ruling out a comeback bid, but he hasn't said anything since then.
Brown may very well have the connections to run a serious campaign for this competitive seat. Back in September, the Burlington County Times described Brown as "one of the most visible Republican leaders in Burlington County," which is home to more than half of this district. Brown's connections to the NFL could also give him access to major donors.
While no major Republicans have entered the race yet, Brown predicted that this would be a contested primary. National Journal mentions state Assemblyman Ryan Peters and Burlington County Republican Party Chairman Sean Earlen as possible candidates, though there's no word if either of them is interested.
However, we do have a firm no from Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly, who lost the 2008 primary for a previous version of this seat.
● TX-24: Back in December, GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant dismissed speculation he could retire, and he still sounds like he plans to run again even after spending almost two whole months in the minority. Marchant, who won re-election last year by a surprisingly tight 51-48 margin, said he had a "pretty good war chest, and I'm adding to it quickly, earlier, so that by June I will have a very good idea on the money I will have to spend." Marchant ended 2018 with $1.5 million in the bank.
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Chicago held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, and former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle advanced to the April 2 general election. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Lightfoot had 17 percent of the vote, while Preckwinkle edged former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley 16-15 for second place. The Associated Press has called both general election spots, and Daley has conceded.
Either Lightfoot or Preckwinkle, who are both Democrats, would be the first woman of color to lead Chicago. Additionally, Lightfoot would be the city’s first gay mayor. We’ll have more on this contest in the next Morning Digest.
● Kansas City, MO Mayor: The GOP firm Remington Research is out with the first poll we've seen of the April 2 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Sly James. Remington finds City Councilor Jolie Justus, a former state Senate Democratic leader, in first place with 18 percent, with attorney Steve Miller at 15. It's a four-way tie for third place between City Councilors Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed, Scott Taylor, and Scott Wagner, who each take 7 percent of the vote. The two candidates with the most votes will advance to the June 18 general election.
The local ABC affiliate KMBC notes that Miller is the only candidate who is airing commercials so far, which could help explain why this poll finds him ahead of most of the other candidates. Miller also had $230,000 left in the bank in mid-February, more than any other candidate but Lucas, who had $265,000 to spend. Justus, who would be the city's first gay mayor, was in third with $215,000 in the bank, while Taylor had $139,000 to spend. None of the other candidates had more than $100,000 on-hand.
● Tampa, FL Mayor: Tampa's March 5 nonpartisan primary is coming up quickly, and a recent survey from Bold Blue Campaigns gives Jane Castor, the city's former police chief, the lead with 39 percent of the vote. They find a tight contest for second place, with wealthy businessman David Straz edging City Councilor Mike Suarez 17-15. While Bold Blue Campaigns is a Democratic firm, Florida Politics writes that this survey was "independent." If no one takes a majority of the vote, there would be a runoff on April 23.
● Suffolk County, NY Executive: On Monday, hours before the Suffolk County Republican Party held their convention, county Legislator Robert Trotta dropped out of the race. The party soon endorsed county Comptroller John Kennedy, which wasn't much of a surprise since a number of local GOP officials, including county party chair John Jay LaValle, had previously backed him. The GOP primary to take on Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone is June 25, and a few more Republicans have shown some interest in running; the general election is Nov. 5.
● Site News: Tuesday was a big day in Daily Kos Elections history: We celebrated the 10th anniversary of the free daily newsletter you're reading right now, the Morning Digest! The Digest began life at our predecessor site, the Swing State Project, as the brainchild of David Jarman, who announced we'd "try out a new feature" that would consist of "four or five links to various items that we want to get out there but don't feel like investing a [post]'s worth of effort on."
That new feature stuck instantly, and we've never missed a day. From those humble beginnings, the Digest transformed into our flagship product, covering every key development in every key race every weekday—delivered to your inbox at 8 AM sharp.
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