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.
● MI Supreme Court: Democrats flipped the Michigan Supreme Court by winning both seats on the ballot. Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack was re-elected with 32%, while fellow Democrat Elizabeth Welch secured the second spot by edging out Republican Mary Kelly 20-17. Each party nominates two candidates for what is nominally a nonpartisan general election, and Democrats will now hold a 4-3 majority.
The result comes after Republicans used their 1-seat majority to thwart Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's attempts to protect Michiganders during the pandemic: Infamously, it struck down a 75-year-old law in early October because Whitmer had used it to declare a state of emergency to combat the outbreak.
The state Supreme Court, as we've written before, could also play a major role in the upcoming round of redistricting. In 2018, Michigan voters passed a ballot measure that takes the power to draw new lines out of the hands of the legislature and gives it to a new independent redistricting commission. However, the members of the commission could deadlock, which would require judges to step in and craft new boundaries. And anyone who has a grievance against the new lines could wind up suing in state court.
There's also the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative supermajority could overturn its 2015 decision that upheld a similar commission in Arizona. Should that happen, Michigan will need its own supreme court to serve as a backstop and ensure the state's next set of maps are fairly drawn.
● GA-Sen-B: Democrat Raphael Warnock is out with the first of what will be many, many, many TV commercials for the Jan. 5 runoff, and he uses it to satirize the inevitable Republican attack ads that are heading his way. "Raphael Warnock eats pizza with a fork and knife," says a narrator, "Raphael Warnock once stepped on a crack on the sidewalk. Raphael Warnock even hates puppies."
Warnock then comes in and tells the audience, "Get ready Georgia. The negative ads against us are coming." He continues by saying of the appointed Republican incumbent, "Kelly Loeffler doesn't want to talk about why she's for getting rid of healthcare in the middle of a pandemic, so she's going to try and scare you with lies about me." After Warnock concludes that he's "staying focused on what Washington could do for you," he reassures the viewer, "Oh by the way, I love puppies."
Below we’re recapping a host of lesser-known but important elections that took place Tuesday, as well as a number of races that were called after election night. Quite a few contests remain uncalled, but we’re tracking all of them on our continually updated cheat-sheet, and of course we’ll cover each of them in the Digest once they’re resolved.
● IL-17: Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chair of the DCCC, has defeated Republican challenger Esther Joy King.
● MI-11: Freshman Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens has defeated Republican challenger Eric Esshaki.
● MN-01: Freshman Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn has defeated Democratic challenger Dan Feehan in a rematch of their 2018 race.
● MN-02: Freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig has defeated Republican challenger Tyler Kistner.
● PA-10: GOP Rep. Scott Perry has defeated Democratic challenger Eugene DePasquale.
● IN-AG: Former Republican Rep. Todd Rokita held this office for Team Red by defeating Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel 59-41.
● MT-AG: Republican Austin Knudsen held this office for his party by beating Democrat Raph Graybill 58-42.
● MT Auditor: Republicans kept this office after Troy Downing defeated Democrat Shane Morigeau 55-39.
● MT-SoS: Republican Christi Jacobsen beat Democrat Bryce Bennett 60-40 in a hold for her party.
● NC-LG: Republican Mark Robinson held this seat for his party by defeating Democrat Yvonne Holley 52-48.
● OR-SoS: Democrat Shemia Fagan flipped this office by winning 51-43 against Republican Kim Thatcher.
● WA-LG: Rep. Denny Heck defeated a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Marko Liias, 47-33 to win a post that Team Blue has held since the 1996 election. Republican Joshua Freed hoped to secure a plurality of the vote by waging a write-in campaign; ultimately, 20% of the vote went to a write-in candidate.
State Supreme Courts
● KY Supreme Court: Arch-conservative Bob Conley defeated Democratic state Rep. Chris Harris 56-44 in an officially nonpartisan race that will move the Kentucky Supreme Court to the right. The ideological makeup of the membership of this officially nonpartisan body is somewhat difficult to assess, but Conley is considerably further to the right than incumbent Justice Sam Wright, who narrowly failed to advance out of the June primary.
● OH Supreme Court: Each party won one of the two officially nonpartisan races on the ballot, a result that reduces the GOP majority to 4-3. Democrat Jennifer Brunner, a former secretary of state who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 2010, ousted Republican incumbent Judi French 55-45. Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy, though, prevailed by the same margin against Democrat John O'Donnell.
● LA State House: Independent state Rep. Joe Marino only took third place in his bid for a judgeship in Jefferson Parish, so there will not be a high-stakes special election for his House seat. Republicans outnumber Democrats 68-35 in the state House, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards needs the support of either Marino or the chamber's other independent, Roy Daryl Adams, to prevent the GOP from overriding his vetoes. The entire Louisiana legislature will next be up again in 2023.
● CA Ballot: Voters supported Proposition 17, a constitutional amendment to end felony disenfranchisement for citizens on parole, by a 59-41 margin.
● MA Ballot: Voters rejected Measure 2, which would have implemented instant-runoff voting for congressional and state elections, by a 55-45 margin.
● East Baton Rouge Parish, LA Mayor-President: Democratic incumbent Sharon Weston Broome earned 48% of the vote in the all-party primary, which was just short of the majority she needed to avoid a Dec. 5 runoff. Former state Rep. Steve Carter secured the second spot by beating a fellow Republican 20-13; altogether, Broome and another Democratic candidate won a combined 55% of the vote, while 43% went to one of the four Republicans on the ballot.
● Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff: Democratic incumbent Paul Penzone won a second term as the top lawman in America's fourth-largest county by defeating Republican Jerry Sheridan 57-43.
● Oakland County, MI Executive: Appointed Democratic incumbent Dave Coulter won a full term by beating former Republican state Sen. Mike Kowall 55-44. Last year, Coulter became the first Democrat to hold this office since it was created in 1974 after the County Board of Commissioners chose him to succeed the late Republican L. Brooks Patterson; Coulter is also the first gay person to lead this large suburban Detroit county.
● San Diego County, CA Board of Supervisors: Democrats gained control of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for the first time in over 30 years thanks to Terra Lawson-Remer's 60-40 victory over Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar in District 3. Team Blue had already flipped a seat in the March primary, so the body will go from a 4-1 Republican majority to a 3-2 Democratic edge.
● El Paso, TX Mayor: Former Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser took first place in this officially nonpartisan race with 42%, while Republican incumbent Dee Margo only beat progressive attorney Veronica Carbajal 25-22 for the second runoff spot. Leeser and Margo will face off again on Dec. 12.
● Honolulu, HI Mayor: Independent Rick Blangiardi defeated Democrat Keith Amemiya 60-40 in the officially nonpartisan race to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Kirk Caldwell.
● Portland, OR Mayor: Democratic incumbent Ted Wheeler became the first mayor of Portland to win re-election in 20 years by beating urban policy consultant Sarah Iannarone 46-41 in an officially nonpartisan contest. A hefty 13% selected a write-in option, with the vast majority of this bloc likely going to Don't Shoot Portland founder Teressa Raiford.
● Adams and Broomfield Counties, CO District Attorney: Democrat Brian Mason held this post by beating Republican Tim McCormack 56-44.
● Honolulu, HI Prosecuting Attorney: Former Judge Steve Alm won this officially nonpartisan office by beating defense attorney Megan Kau 56-44. Alm, who served as U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, supported reform goals for lower-level offenses, while Kau notably responded "no" when asked if she believed that the state incarcerated too many people.
● Jefferson and Gilpin Counties, CO District Attorney: Democrat Alexis King flipped this office by defeating Matthew Durkin 55-45.
● Orleans Parish, LA District Attorney: Former Judge Keva Landrum took first place in the all-Democratic contest with 35%, while New Orleans City Councilman Jason Williams earned the second spot in the Dec. 5 runoff with 29%. (Disclaimer: Jeff Singer performed work for a consulting firm employed by Jason Williams in 2014.)
Williams has adopted more reform stances than Landrum, who served as interim DA from 2007 to 2008. Williams, though, was indicted by federal prosecutors in June for alleged tax fraud, charges he's pleaded not guilty to.