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 Redistricting: On Tuesday, a three-judge panel delivered a major blow against Republican gerrymandering when it struck down North Carolina's state Senate and state House districts for violating the rights of Democratic voters. In the Senate, 21 of 50 districts must be redrawn, and 56 of 120 House districts were also invalidated.
The state court ruled that these maps, designed to entrench Republican rule, ran afoul of the state constitution's guarantee of free and fair elections. These illegal districts were so extreme that they helped Republicans to maintain their legislative majorities in 2018's elections even though Democratic candidates won more votes statewide. If fairer districts are implemented for 2020, they could put Democrats in striking distance of a majority in one or both chambers.
Importantly, because this case was litigated solely under North Carolina's state constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that the U.S. Constitution prohibits challenges to partisan gerrymandering did not present an obstacle to the plaintiffs. And for the same reason, this decision should be insulated from federal review, much like a ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year that replaced a Republican congressional gerrymander with a much fairer map.
Republican legislative leaders unexpectedly announced they will not appeal the ruling, meaning North Carolina will soon have new legislative maps. The lower court gave the GOP-run legislature until Sept. 18 to draw legal districts for use in 2020, but ever since they gained full control of state government in 2013, Republicans have demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the rule of law that should weigh heavily as the courts decide whether to grant the GOP another shot.
In handing down their ruling, the judges announced that they would immediately appoint a nonpartisan expert to assist them in reviewing any replacement maps to ensure they pass muster—or to draw maps of their own should the GOP's efforts prove unconstitutional yet again.
In fact, during the past six years, Republicans have lost nearly two dozen lawsuits due to their undemocratic attempts to seize power from the public, including repeated losses in cases concerning gerrymandering of the legislature and other offices. Unsurprisingly, the plaintiffs in this latest case had previously said they will petition the courts not to give Republican legislators a third crack at drawing the lines due to their ongoing deception, and it's possible that, on appeal, they could ask the appellate courts to require court-drawn maps.
The GOP's decision not to appeal comes in the context of North Carolina's Supreme Court having a 6-1 Democratic majority thanks to Democratic gains following the 2016 and 2018 elections, meaning they would have been very unlikely to succeed regardless. Consequently, Tuesday's decision will remain in place, and if Republicans try to draw new replacement gerrymanders, those maps would face review by the same state court system that appears very hostile to the GOP's gerrymanders.
● CO-Sen: On Tuesday, former state Sen. Mike Johnston became the first notable Democrat to drop out of the primary. Johnston, who had raised a total of $3.4 million during the first six months of 2019, acknowledged that former Gov. John Hickenlooper's decision to enter the race had harmed his chances of winning the nomination. Johnston argued, "I think his entrance required this to be a very different kind of race and required a negative race that's not one that matches my values and how I would want to lead."
● GA-Sen-A: Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a Democrat who was a prominent leader during the civil rights movement, has endorsed former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson in the Democratic primary to take on Republican Sen. David Perdue in next year's regular Senate election. Tomlinson faces 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry in the primary.
● KS-Sen: Author Sarah Smarsh, a Democrat, said back in April that she was considering running for Senate next year after having met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, but she's still not close to revealing which way she's leaning after refusing to talk about the election when asked about it in a recent interview with Suzanne Tobias at The Wichita Eagle. Smarsh said she's simply "choosing not to [discuss it] at this time" and gave no indication of when she would reveal more publicly.
● KY-Sen: After losing his primary in 2018, former state Rep. Wesley Morgan is launching a GOP primary challenge against Mitch McConnell next year. Morgan blasted his party's establishment following his 2018 loss, which he blamed on McConnell and his allies as retaliation for Morgan helping to bring down former Republican state House Speaker Jeff Hoover. Hoover had resigned his leadership position several months before last year's primary following revelations he had settled a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Morgan cited McConnell's low approval rating as a reason for running and contended that he instead would be positioned to defeat whomever Democrats nominate, an argument that isn't without merit in a state Trump won by 63-33 and is likely to easily carry in 2020. However, McConnell will certainly have all the money he needs for a strong campaign, and he easily turned back a primary challenge from now-Gov. Matt Bevin in 2014 despite a low approval rating at the time. Consequently, it's hard to see McConnell falling to Morgan, especially if Trump lends the senator his full support.
● MA-Sen: Polling on behalf of the pro-charter school group Education Reform Now Advocacy, Democratic pollster Change Research finds Rep. Joe Kennedy III leading Sen. Ed Markey by 42-25 in a hypothetical Democratic primary for Senate. The poll finds Markey's existing primary challengers, business executive Steve Pemberton and labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, respectively taking 7% and 5%.
Kennedy recently formed a new fundraising committee with the FEC while acknowledging that he was considering the race, and he'd also be able to transfer over his House campaign war chest if he does join the Senate primary.
● AK-Gov: The campaign to recall GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced last week that it had collected enough signatures to complete the first phase of their push to unseat the governor. However, as we'll discuss, they still have a long path ahead of them before they can get a recall question on the ballot.
Recall Dunleavy will turn the petitions in on Thursday, and the state Division of Elections says it usually takes about three to five weeks to verify signatures. The campaign needs 28,500 valid signatures to advance to the next stage of the recall, which represents 10% of the number of votes cast in the 2018 general election. Last week, they said they'd collected just under 37,000 and would continue gathering signatures until Sept. 3.
Assuming Recall Dunleavy turns in enough valid petitions, they'll have two more hurdles to clear before they can make the ballot. First, the Department of Law needs to rule that Dunleavy has committed specific offenses that meet the state's grounds for recall. Under Alaska law, an official can only be recalled for "(1) lack of fitness, (2) incompetence, (3) neglect of duties, or (4) corruption." This differs from the practice in other states, where only voters' signatures are needed for a recall to go forward, and can lead to legal challenges that can make it harder for a recall to proceed or block one altogether.
One such instance came about in 1992, when an attempt to recall Gov. Wally Hickel foundered after the Fairbanks Superior Court "determined that certain grounds for recall were legally sufficient and other grounds were not." Recall Dunleavy has argued that the governor has met the first three criteria for recall.
If the Recall Dunleavy campaign survives the inevitable court challenges, they'll have to collect over 71,000 signatures, which is 25% of the votes cast last year, to advance to the ballot. There is no deadline to turn these in, and the campaign said two weeks ago that they expected the recall election to happen within a year.
● LA-Gov: Republican Eddie Rispone's latest TV ad plays up his business background, touting how he has created "over 3,000 jobs." Rispone labels himself a conservative outsider and praises the private sector while bashing government.
Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham is the first candidate to run a negative ad against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, although the RGA has been going after Edwards on the airwaves for a while. Abraham's spot rips into Edwards for job losses in the petroleum-drilling sector, claiming Edwards "declared war" on the oil and gas industry. The ad cites a 2016 article in The Advocate with a headline of: "Gov John Bel Edwards: State will sue oil and gas companies directly ..."
Of course, Abraham's commercial ignores that context of these lawsuits, implying that Edwards was seeking to cripple fossil fuel jobs for no good reason. Instead, the rest of the headline was "State will sue oil and gas companies directly if parishes don't" after local governments in four conservative-leaning parishes had sued polluter companies that had caused environmental and economic damage to the state's wetlands, since Edwards wanted a unified front among the other coastal parishes, which lean strongly to the right.
● MO-Gov: State Rep. Jim Neely has joined the Republican primary, giving Gov. Mike Parson his first notable opponent in his bid for the GOP nomination for a full term after ascending to the governor's office following disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens' resignation last year. However, Neely's campaign may not end up being a major threat to Parson given how he said he wasn't running because he disapproved of anything in particular that the governor has done so far. Neely instead noted how he faces term limits for his state House seat next year but wants to remain in public service.
● NH-Gov: On Tuesday, state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes became the first notable Democrat to kick off a campaign against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. Feltes previously worked as a lawyer before getting elected to the legislature in 2014, and he's served as the upper chamber's second-ranking member since Democrats regained the majority last year. Although Feltes is the first Democrat to join the race, he may not be the last: State Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky has been raising money since earlier this summer while considering whether to run, and 2018 nominee Molly Kelly is also considering the race.
● UT-Gov: While retiring Rep. Rob Bishop hasn't ruled out seeking the GOP nod for governor next year, he doesn't sound enthusiastic about running for office again. Bishop recently attended an event focused on education put on by a conservative think tank and said, "I am going to quit and I actually want to teach again." Bishop, who is a former high school teacher, continued, "Part of me would like to go back to the high school and see if I can handle it because there's not a whole lot of 69-year-olds that start a career in public education." The congressman doesn't seem to have mentioned the gubernatorial race.
● WA-Gov: On Tuesday, former GOP Rep. Dave Reichert announced that he would not run for governor next year. Reichert's statement came days after Washington GOP Chair Caleb Heimlich said that the former congressman was thinking about running. Reichert, though, has a long history of flirting with bids for statewide office but never going through with them, and this cycle proved to be no different.
Meanwhile, real-estate developer Joshua Freed, a former mayor of the Seattle suburb of Bothell, recently filed papers for a possible GOP bid, though he says he's still deciding. Freed lost close races for the state House in 2002 and 2004.
● WV-Gov, WV-Sen: On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he would remain in the Senate rather than run for his old job as governor of West Virginia next year.
Manchin's decision, which came after months of uncertainty, is a relief for Senate Democrats, who would have had a tough time keeping his seat without him. However, Mountain State Democrats looking to take down GOP Gov. Jim Justice, who was elected as a Democrat in 2016 but switched parties at a Donald Trump rally the next year, may be a lot more disappointed. An August Research America poll for MetroNews showed Manchin defeating Justice by a wide 49-39 margin in a hypothetical matchup.
However, Team Blue already does have a noteworthy candidate challenging Justice. Stephen Smith, who previously led a group of West Virginia nonprofits that work to combat poverty, launched his campaign over the winter. Smith took in $146,000 during the second quarter of 2019, which is more than what Justice or either of the governor's two primary rivals, former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and former state Del. Mike Folk, took in during that time.
Other Democrats may also take an interest in this race now that Manchin has said no. The candidate filing deadline is in late January.
● AZ-01: 2018 House candidate Tiffany Shedd picked up an endorsement from former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl late last month, and she also wasted no time taking a swipe at former MLB player Curt Schilling, who recently revealed he is considering running here. Shedd called out Schilling for living in Massachusetts, noting that the former Boston Red Sox player has never lived in the northeastern Arizona 1st District even when he played baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are based in Phoenix.
● CO-06: This week, state Republican Party CEO Steve House announced that he would challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Crow. This suburban Denver seat backed Hillary Clinton 50-41, and Crow unseated GOP incumbent Mike Coffman last year by a wide 54-43 margin. House has no serious primary opposition, and he may not get any: While former state Rep. Phil Covarrubias said in May that he was "about a foot" away from running, he instead decided to seek a spot on the Adams County Commission.
House hasn't enjoyed many political successes in the last few years beginning with his 2014 campaign for governor, which ended when he failed to advance past the state convention. House became party chair the following year but quickly got into an ugly public confrontation with then-state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, whom he accused of trying to oust him. House remained in charge, though, and he considered another gubernatorial run in late 2016. However, House ended up deciding to both stay out of the race and step down as party chair.
A few months after leaving that post, House caused a stir when he called for donors to stop contributing to the NRSC until GOP senators made good on their promises to defund Planned Parenthood and Obamacare. House went on to head the state GOP's independent expenditure operations during the disastrous 2018 cycle. This year, after Rep. Ken Buck took over as state party chair, House became the Colorado GOP's first CEO, a volunteer post that runs much of their day-to-day operations.
● IA-03: On Tuesday, former GOP Rep. David Young picked up an endorsement from Gov. Kim Reynolds. Young only faces a few underfunded primary opponents as he seeks a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, and no notable Republicans appear interested in taking him on. While state Rep. Jon Jacobsen didn't rule out running here earlier this year, he said just before Labor Day that he'd instead decided to remain in the legislature.
● IL-15: On Friday, veteran GOP Rep. John Shimkus announced that he would not seek another term in his safely red downstate Illinois seat. The 15th Congressional District, which includes the east-central and southeastern part of the state, backed Donald Trump 71-25, his best showing in any of Illinois' 18 seats.
Shimkus, who was serving as Madison County treasurer, first ran for Congress in 1992 in what was then the 20th Congressional District, a seat in the western part of the state that included some of the St. Louis suburbs. He lost that contest by a wide 57-43 against Democratic Rep. Dick Durbin, but Shimkus got another shot in 1996 when Durbin left the House to successfully run for the Senate. Shimkus ended up beating Democratic state Rep. Jay Hoffman in a very close 50.3-49.7 race, a victory of less than 1,250 votes.
Shimkus had no trouble holding his seat the next two cycles, but redistricting made his 2002 race a bit more eventful. The state lost one of its congressional seats that year, and conservative Democratic Rep. David Phelps' old district ended up getting dismantled. After unsuccessfully suing to block the new map, Phelps decided to challenge Shimkus in the new 19th District, a seat that included about 60% of the Republican's old constituency and had backed George W. Bush 56-41 in 2000. Phelps had little money and looked doomed well before Election Day, and Shimkus defeated him 55-45.
That was the last time Shimkus failed to take more than 60% of the vote in a general election, and he never faced a serious primary opponent until state Sen. Kyle McCarter challenged him in 2016. The anti-tax Club for Growth supported McCarter's campaign to take down Shimkus, who was a close ally of the GOP House leadership, but McCarter had trouble raising money. Shimkus prevailed 60-40, and he easily won his final term in Congress two years later.
Illinois' filing deadline is in early December, but candidates will need to decide what they're doing before then so they have time to collect enough petitions to make the ballot. No notable Republicans have entered the race yet, but freshman state Rep. Mike Marron announced on Tuesday that he was forming an exploratory committee.
Inside Elections' Nathan Gonzales also reported over the weekend that state Sen. Jason Plummer was considering. Plummer was Team Red's 2010 nominee for lieutenant governor, and two years later, he sought the neighboring 12th Congressional District. Barack Obama ended up carrying this open seat by a narrow 49.7-48.1 margin that November, but Plummer lost the general election to Democrat Bill Enyart 52-43. Plummer finally rebounded in 2018 when he won the 54th State Senate seat, which is mostly located in Shimkus' district.
Politico also reports that there's "buzz" that 2018 attorney general nominee Erika Harold is being encouraged to run here, but she hasn't said anything yet. In 2014, Harold challenged freshman Rep. Rodney Davis for the GOP nod in the neighboring 13th District in a campaign that attracted national attention. Harold would have been the first black woman to serve in the GOP caucus, but she lost to Davis 55-41. (That honor went to Utah's Mia Love, who won that year but lost in 2018.)
Four years later, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner recruited Harold to run for attorney general, but she lost the general election 55-43 to Democrat Kwame Raoul. If Rauner had his way, though, Harold may have lost a different statewide race. In December of last year, the defeated Rauner publicly admitted that he'd tried to convince four different people to take his place as the GOP gubernatorial nominee, and the Chicago Tribune soon reported that Harold was one of the people who turned him down.
Meanwhile, two Republican state legislators said they would not run on Tuesday. State Sen. Chapin Rose said no about two days after he initially expressed interest, while fellow state Sen. Dale Righter also took his name out of contention.
● IN-05: Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is reportedly considering running for the GOP nomination for this open seat, and he refused to comment when asked by IndyPolitics. Brizzi had been out of office since 2011, and he previously was reprimanded by the state Supreme Court in 2017 for a conflict of interest between his real estate business and a 2009 criminal case his office prosecuted. That reprimand included a 30-day suspension of his law license for "professional misconduct" after he intervened to reduce the severity of a plea deal given to a client of his real estate partner, who was the client's criminal defense attorney at the time.
Meanwhile, state Sen. John Ruckelshaus said he won't join the Republican primary.
● KS-03: Business executive Amanda Adkins has filed with the FEC to run in the Republican primary next year, although she has yet to formally enter the race against Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids. Adkins previously served as state party chair and as campaign manager for former Gov. Sam Brownback, and the DCCC wasted no time linking Adkins to Brownback, who ended his tenure last year as one of the most unpopular governors in the country.
● MA-03: Andover Selectman Dan Koh told the Boston Globe last week that he still had not ruled out seeking a rematch against freshman Rep. Lori Trahan in the Democratic primary. Last year, Trahan won an expensive open seat race against Koh, a former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, by 145 votes. Koh was elected to the Andover Board of Selectmen a few months after that defeat.
Two months ago, Koh publicly called for Trahan to immediately join the effort to impeach Donald Trump and also said it was "too early to tell" if he'd run against her. Trahan soon announced her support for an impeachment inquiry, but that doesn't seem to have appeased Koh. When the Globe asked him last week if he was still thinking about taking on Trahan he emailed back, "Haven't ruled it out, still too early to tell."
● MA-06: State Rep. Lori Ehrlich announced late last month that she would not challenge Rep. Seth Moulton in the Democratic primary.
● MN-01: The local political tip-sheet Morning Take wrote on Tuesday that we should expect 2018 Democratic nominee Dan Feehan to announce a second bid "in the coming week to two weeks." Last year, Feehan lost an open seat race against Republican Jim Hagedorn by a narrow 50.1-49.7 spread.
● MN-07: Former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach announced over the weekend that she would challenge veteran Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, a move that gives the GOP a credible candidate for this conservative western Minnesota seat for the first time since 2014. Peterson, who is the chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, has said that he'll decide whether to seek a 16th term in January or February.
Fischbach was the president of the state Senate in late 2017 when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate. Fischbach automatically became the lieutenant governor once Smith resigned, but she argued that she could still remain in the legislature because she was only serving as Dayton's "acting lieutenant governor." Democrats filed a lawsuit in response, but Fischbach resigned from the legislature before a judge had a chance to rule.
Fischbach's time as lieutenant governor ended early this year along with Dayton's term, and for now at least, she's out of elected office. However, her husband still leads Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which the Star Tribune wrote could give her access to money from donors across the country opposed to abortion rights.
This district moved from 54-44 Romney to 62-31 Trump, making it the most conservative House seat held by any Democrat in the nation, but Peterson has rarely faced a serious foe. The GOP went years without fielding a strong candidate against him until 2014, when state Sen. Torrey Westrom decided to challenge the incumbent. This race attracted millions in outside spending from both parties, but Peterson won by a convincing 54-46 on an awful night for his party.
That wide victory seemed to have scared off other Republican candidates for the next four years, but Peterson actually came unexpectedly close to losing his next two races. In 2016, an underfunded Republican named Dave Hughes held Peterson to a 52.5-47.5 win in a contest that attracted no outside attention. Hughes ran again in 2018 and both parties once again ignored the race, but Peterson won just 52.1-47.8. Hughes is challenging him for the third time, but it's unlikely that he'll attract much influential support in the primary now that Fischbach is running.
● NC-03: A new poll from the Republican blog RRH Elections of next Tuesday's special election in the 3rd District finds Republican Greg Murphy leading Democrat Allen Thomas by 51-40. The survey's calls were made by GAJ Solutions, but RRH designed the poll and conducted demographic weighting only by gender.
While that's still a relatively comfortable margin for Murphy, it's significantly worse than Trump's 61-37 victory here, and the poll had Trump's approval narrowly above water at just 49-45. Neither national party has shown much interest in this contest, unlike the 9th District.
● NC-09: On behalf of Inside Elections, the Democratic pollster Clarity Campaign Labs and the GOP firm Harper Polling are out with a joint survey that gives Democrat Dan McCready a 49-44 lead over Republican Dan Bishop ahead of next week's special election.
The conservative blog RRH Elections also has released their own poll that gives Bishop a narrow 46-45 edge. Just like in their NC-03 survey, the calls were made by GAJ Solutions, but RRH designed the poll and conducted demographic weighting only by gender. And in a very strange finding, the poll gives McCready just a bare 46-42 lead with black voters, who make up 22% of the sample, while losing white voters only 47-44. These are the first polls we've seen here in months.
McCready has very clearly maintained his financial lead over the last several weeks, though. The Democrat outraised Bishop $1.53 million to $787,000 from July 1 to Aug. 21, and he outspent him $2.49 million to $939,000 during that time. McCready ended Aug. 21 with a $818,000 to $193,000 cash-on-hand edge.
National Republicans have been spending on ads to boost Bishop, while the DCCC is also out with a new spot here that portrays Bishop as a stooge for drug companies.
● NJ-03: GOP state Assemblyman Ryan Peters said this week that he would not challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim in this competitive seat.
● NY-19: Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who was the 2018 GOP nominee for governor, has been mentioned as a possible opponent against freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado for a while, and he once again did not rule out the idea when asked.
Molinaro instead insisted, "Right now, I am just focused on running for re-election. I really am." He then added, "Admittedly, you never know what the future brings, but I am just not focused on anything else but winning re-election." Molinaro faces Democrat Joe Ruggiero, a former executive director of the state Bridge Authority, this November. Ruggiero ran for this post in 2007 and lost 51.7-48.3.
Molinaro attracted attention on Sunday when he helicoptered into Schoharie County, a small conservative county that is entirely located in the 19th District, for the local GOP's annual fundraiser. Molinaro played down his appearance, noting he'd also spoken at another GOP gathering well outside this seat.
Schoharie County GOP chair Chris Tague also told the Poughkeepsie Journal that he Molinaro "hasn't told me himself that he's interested or he isn't." However, Tague added, "I'm sure that he may have thoughts of it. To come all the way out to Schoharie County and make arrangements to get there and back, he must think that we're pretty important people." Tague also said that he thought Molinaro would "make a great candidate, that's for sure."
This seat, which includes much of the Hudson Valley, backed Donald Trump 51-44, but Delgado unseated freshman GOP Rep. John Faso 51-46 in an expensive race two years later. That same day, Molinaro carried the 19th District against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo by a wide 53-42 margin despite his landslide statewide defeat. Molinaro also won Dutchess County 52-45, which could be a good sign for him at home ahead of his re-election campaign this fall.
● PA-08: Former GOP Rep. Lou Barletta announced this week that he would not challenge Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, though he didn't rule out running for office again in a future year.
● TX-21: GOP Rep. Chip Roy recently gave an interview to the Texas Tribune where he curiously refused to say if he would even be running for a second term. Roy instead said, "I will make my intentions known at the right time at the right place." However, Roy's campaign seemed to do that very thing last month when his spokesman responded to a question about the congressman's plans by saying, "Roger. 100% full-steam ahead."
The filing deadline is in December, so we'll have a better idea before long if Roy is getting cold feet about staying at the job he's been at since January or if he's just playing games.
● WI-07: Attorney Christine Bremer Muggli told the Wausau Daily Herald last week that she had not decided if she'd seek the Democratic nod for the upcoming special election to succeed GOP Rep. Sean Duffy.