The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide continues with a trio of new states: Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Utah. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as we crunch new numbers. Just below is our analysis of the Badger State, while our look at the other two states can be found in our "Data" section further on down.
Four years after Wisconsin backed Donald Trump 47.2-46.5, the Badger State swung just enough to the left to deliver a 49.6-48.8 win for Joe Biden. In both victory and defeat, though, Trump won six of the state's eight congressional districts, while both Hillary Clinton and Biden took the remaining two seats. You can find our map here.
We'll start with a look at the 3rd District in the southwestern part of the state, where veteran Democratic Rep. Ron Kind once again won re-election even as Trump also carried his district. The GOP drew up the 3rd at the start of the decade as a safely Democratic constituency in order to protect Republicans in neighboring seats, and it performed as expected in 2012 when Barack Obama carried it 55-44.
It was a big surprise in 2016, though, when the district went for Trump 49-45, and despite Democratic hopes that it would snap back, Trump won it by a similar 51-47 margin this time. When drilling down to decimals, this was also the only congressional district in the state where Trump's margin grew, albeit by just 0.16 points.
Kind had not faced a serious Republican challenge since the 2010 GOP wave, but he had to go through an expensive fight to win his 13th term. Republican Derrick Van Orden proved to be an unexpectedly strong fundraiser, and national GOP organizations poured in $1.9 million to support the challenger. But Kind, who benefited from $580,000 in spending from Democratic outside groups, prevailed 51-49, the narrowest showing of his career.
Republicans had no trouble holding the other five Trump seats, but there was some noteworthy movement to the left in one of them. The 5th District in the Milwaukee suburbs—which includes most of well-known Waukesha County—has been some of the reddest turf in Wisconsin for generations, and Mitt Romney's 61-38 victory easily made it his best district in the state. Trump took it by a smaller 57-37 spread in 2016 even as he made major gains elsewhere in Wisconsin, though, and his margin shrunk to 57-42 this time.
This area is still very friendly to Team Red, as evidenced by state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's easy 60-40 victory in this year's open-seat race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. However, Democrats will continue to benefit in statewide elections if they can keep preventing Republicans from rolling up the massive margins that they were once accustomed to here.
There were shifts to the left in Wisconsin's six other districts as well, albeit smaller ones. The 2nd District in the Madison area, which is held by Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, moved from 66-29 Clinton to 69-29 Biden. Biden improved on Clinton's margin of victory by 1 to 2 points in the remaining constituencies.
Republicans had full control of the maps after the 2010 census, but things are more uncertain this time. Democrats prevented the GOP from obtaining enough seats in the legislature to override Gov. Tony Evers' vetoes, and it's very unlikely that the two parties will agree on a new map. However, Republicans may be able to gerrymander once again if they can convince the state Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 4-3 majority, that Evers does not have the power to block new maps.
Note: We do not include write-ins when calculating results by congressional district, so you may notice that our overall statewide toplines for Wisconsin in our spreadsheet differ slightly from official totals.
● NJ-Gov: Republican Jon Bramnick, the minority leader of the state Assembly, announced on Wednesday that he would not run for governor next year, when Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy will be up for re-election.
● VA-Gov: Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a bid to reclaim Virginia's governorship on Wednesday and become the first Democrat to ever serve two terms since the post became popularly elected 170 years ago.
McAuliffe first won office in 2013, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli 48-45 and reclaiming the governor's mansion for Democrats. His surprisingly progressive tenure coincided with the state's ongoing shift to the left, though Democrats would not reclaim the legislature until two years after McAuliffe's term ended, limiting his accomplishments.
McAuliffe was forbidden from seeking re-election by the state's 1851 constitution, though former governors are permitted to run again non-consecutively. The only governor in state history to ever serve twice was Mills Goodwin, who won in 1965 as a Democrat and then in 1973 as a Republican, amid a political transformation as dramatic as the one Virginia has gone through recently.
Whatever challenges next year's general election might pose, however, McAuliffe's biggest difficulty will simply be getting there. As the state has grown more diverse, many Black operatives have questioned why McAuliffe, who is white, is running again in the first place. The same is true of organizations devoted to electing women, which have noted that the state has never elected a woman to its top job.
Indeed, the three candidates who were already vying for the Democratic nod, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, are all Black, and the latter two are women. Evidently mindful of this, McAuliffe was accompanied by three of the state's most senior Black politicians at his kickoff: state Senate President Louise Lucas, state House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, all of whom he has named as campaign co-chairs. (Stoney, who just won re-election last month, was a potential candidate for governor himself, so this move takes him out of the running.)
Whether the embrace is returned by activists and voters is another question. In a recent Politico interview, Lucas said of McClellan and Carroll Foy, "At the appropriate time, I would say either one of them might have an opportunity"—remarks that Washington Post columnist Norman Leahy described as "a very Southern way of saying 'wait your turn.'" It's a message that few people like to hear, whether or not it's delivered with a twang.
Meanwhile, McAuliffe could yet be joined by another white candidate. Del. Lee Carter, a self-described democratic socialist, filed paperwork this week to set up a campaign committee but hasn't yet committed to a bid. Said Carter, "If I don't hear other candidates talking about big transformational change in a way that's credible and will provide a better future for the 8.5 million people who call Virginia home, I will have to go ahead and jump in."
● CA-48: Outgoing Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda, who narrowly lost re-election last month, has filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible 2022 bid. Following his 51-49 loss to Republican Michelle Steel last month, Rouda said, "While one campaign ends today, another is just beginning. I look forward to having voters compare my opponent's two years in Congress with my accomplishments on November 8, 2022." He has not yet publicly confirmed whether he'll seek a rematch, however.
● LA-02: State Sen. Jimmy Harris, one of many Democrats mentioned as a possible successor to Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is leaving Congress to take a job as a senior advisor to Joe Biden, says he won't run.
● OH-11: Joe Biden has tapped Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, meaning there would be a special election for the safely blue 11th District if she's confirmed by the Senate.
Even before the announcement, many politicians (and would-be politicians) had been mentioned as potential candidates. Cleveland.com columnist Brent Larkin named the following in a recent piece:
- former State Rep. John Barnes
- Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown
- Pastor Jawanza Colvin
- former Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson
- former state Sen. Shirley Smith
- former state Sen. Nina Turner
Larkin's colleague Jeremy Pelzer also mentions state House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and state Rep. Terrence Upchurch. Turner, a vocal Bernie Sanders surrogate, is reportedly considering the race, and she filed paperwork with the FEC on Wednesday.
The 11th District, which is 53% Black, stretches from Cleveland south to Akron, and has always supported Democrats by wide margins. Last month, it voted for Joe Biden 80-19 according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, four years after backing Hillary Clinton by a similar spread.
● AK State House: Republican state Rep. Louise Stutes announced on Tuesday that she'd remain a member of the bipartisan coalition that has run Alaska's state House for the last four years. That gives the bloc and its allies control of 20 seats, and, for the moment, means that no faction has a majority in the 40-member chamber.
The deadlock could be broken by two other Republicans who were also coalition members, state Reps. Bart LeBon and Steve Thompson. Prior to Election Day, the two had said they hoped to be part of a new GOP majority, though, and the Anchorage Daily News' James Brooks reports that both "have participated in Republican organization efforts" since the election.
But barring an unlikely defection from the coalition, there's now no way Republicans can retake power. Therefore, if LeBon and Thompson both decline to follow Stutes' lead, the House could, as it did in 2019, face a long-term stalemate with no one in charge.
● Cincinnati, OH Mayor: This week, state Sen. Cecil Thomas and City Councilman Wendell Young each entered next year's nonpartisan contest to succeed incumbent John Cranley, a fellow Democrat who will be termed out of office. Their announcements came weeks after the frontrunner, Democratic City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, was arrested by FBI agents on bribery charges.
Thomas himself acknowledged that he'd planned to back Sittenfeld rather than run himself, saying, "Unfortunately, this happened, and I was watching it very closely, seeing that, OK, now it's going to be very difficult for him to get the votes needed to win not just the election but the primary." The state senator, though, added that he'd endorse Sittenfeld if he makes it to the general election and Thomas doesn't. Sittenfeld said this week that he was temporarily stepping down from his council seat, but he's continued his mayoral bid.
Young, meanwhile, kicked off his campaign by declaring, "I think that in light of what we've seen it is time to bring back some stability to city government," but he seemed very open to deferring to Sittenfeld. Young said that he believed Sittenfeld was innocent and added that if his colleague "remains viable and he stays in it, I'll get out."
Young, though, could face questions about his own ethics if he continues his campaign. As the Cincinnati Enquirer's Sharon Coolidge writes, Sittenfeld, Young, and three other members of the nine-person City Council drew negative attention last year after the public learned that they'd violated the state's Open Meetings Act by texting one another about city business; a message from Young named his group "the new 'gang of five,' which was what the media dubbed the story. Young himself defied a judge's order by deleting texts, though he was not sanctioned for this action.
Ultimately, the city paid $101,000 to settle a lawsuit over the gang of five's texts. Coolidge adds that, while the special prosecutor for the case determined that their actions didn't "rise to the level of a misdemeanor charge of dereliction of duty," his investigation remained ongoing. Young said this week of the messages, "There is nothing more to be found. Everybody has read them. Everybody knows what's in them. The court has looked at it." He continued, "They have not done anything to any of us because we have not broken the law. What we did is accidental. We took responsibility for it."
The contest to succeed Cranley already included three other Democrats, most notably City Councilman David Mann. Another Democratic member of the body, Chris Seelbach, also said this week that he was considering entering the race as well. Seelbach was elected to the City Council in 2011, a win that made him its first LGBTQ member, and he, too, was part of the gang of five. Seelbach also promoted a 2018 city ballot measure to cap campaign contributions for local races, and it passed with 86% of the vote.
● Cleveland, OH Mayor: Democratic incumbent Frank Jackson has not yet announced if he'll seek a fifth term next year, but if he does, he could face a challenge from a prominent predecessor. Former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who served as mayor from 1977 to 1979, set up a campaign committee last week, though he said that he had not yet decided what to do.
● New York City, NY Mayor: Shaun Donovan, who served as both secretary of Housing and Urban Development and director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration, announced Tuesday that he was joining the Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Bill de Blasio. Donovan previously was head of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development when Michael Bloomberg was mayor.
Donovan is the latest candidate to enter the June Democratic primary, and the ultimate nominee is likely to be the heavy favorite in the general in this very blue city. The field already includes:
- Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
- former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia
- Financial executive Ray McGuire
- City Councilman Carlos Menchaca
- Nonprofit head Dianne Morales
- City Comptroller Scott Stringer
- former city veteran's Commissioner Loree Sutton
- former mayoral counsel Maya Wiley
The next round of campaign fundraising reports are due Jan. 15, and they'll give us a better idea of which contenders are capable of running a serious race to lead the nation's largest city.
The nominee will be decided through an instant runoff, which New York City voters approved by a three-to-one margin in a 2019 vote. Several City Council members, however, including one supporting Adams, recently filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the implementation of this new system.
Still more notable Democrats may also get in ahead of the April 26 filing deadline. Politico's Sally Goldberg reports that 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang has been making calls about a potential bid; while Yang's camp recently conducted a poll testing his viability as a third-party candidate, Goldberg writes that a "person familiar with his thinking" said he'd run as a Democrat if he got in.
Goldberg adds that former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn "is said" to be considering another run for mayor or a bid to succeed Stringer as comptroller. Quinn ran to succeed her ally Bloomberg in 2013 and spent much of the contest as the frontrunner, but she ended up taking third place in the primary with 16% of the vote. Finally, Goldberg reports that outgoing Rep. Max Rose, who lost re-election 53-47 last month, is "gearing up for his own likely entrance into the race."
● Seattle, WA Mayor: Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Monday that she would not seek a second term next year in this very blue city, and there are plenty of contenders who could compete to succeed her. The filing deadline is in late May for August's nonpartisan top-two primary, while the general election will take place in November.
Lance Randall, the director of economic development of the nonprofit SEED, was already running against Durkin, and he'll likely have company in the race before too long. The two politicians who have gotten the most attention as potential candidates so far are the two at-large city councilmembers, Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda, though neither of them has said anything publicly.
Mosqueda is a longtime labor ally, while the Seattle Times writes that González "was once endorsed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce but has veered away from that lane since then." Both councilmembers have also clashed with Durkan during her tenure.
Another prospective candidate is former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, who took fourth place in the 2017 primary with 13% of the vote and has not ruled out another try. Unnamed consultants also speculated to KING 5 that King County Executive Dow Constantine could forgo a campaign for a fourth term next year and run for mayor instead, while KIRO 7 name-drops former police chief Carmen Best.
The Seattle Times notes that this will be city's first mayoral election to feature the "Democracy Voucher" system. Each voter receives four $25 vouchers in the mail that they can use as campaign contributions for candidates for mayor, city council, or city attorney who are participating in the program.
● Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Incumbent Cyrus Vance Jr. has not yet announced if he'll seek a fourth term next year as head of one of the most prominent prosecutor's offices in America, though New York City politicos widely expect him to retire given his very weak fundraising through the first half of 2020. Nine of Vance's fellow Democrats aren't waiting for his answer, though, and they've already kicked off campaigns to replace him. The field currently consists of:
- Civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi
- Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg
- Attorney and former prosecutor Liz Crotty
- Former prosecutor Diana Florence
- Former prosecutor Lucy Lang
- Civil rights attorney Janos Marton
- Public defender Eliza Orlins
- Assemblyman Dan Quart
- Former prosecutor Tali Farhadian Weinstein
The Democratic nominee should have little trouble in the general election in this very blue borough. However, while New York City voters last year backed a referendum to institute instant-runoff voting in primaries for a number of local offices, the measure does not apply to state-level posts like this one. Instead, it will just take a simple plurality to win the nod in June.
Most of the contenders have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much needed changes to the office. The exception is Crotty, who calls herself a centrist and is the one candidate who has not refused to take donations from police unions.
There is no obvious frontrunner at this point, and criminal justice reformers have yet to coalesce around a contender. A few candidates have attracted some notable endorsements, though. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has thrown his support behind Bragg, who served as a prosecutor during Bharara's tenure.
Lang, meanwhile, recently earned the backing of several women who have publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of preying on them. Vance successfully prosecuted Weinstein for rape earlier this year, though the district attorney has been criticized for not charging the producer for sexual abuse after evidence against Weinstein emerged back in 2015.
● Mississippi: Donald Trump's 58-41 margin of victory in Mississippi was just a tick tighter than his 58-40 performance here four years ago, and he once again carried three of the state's four congressional districts. The exception, as before, was Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson's 2nd District, which is located in the Mississippi Delta and Jackson and was created to ensure that Black voters could elect their preferred candidates. Joe Biden's 64-35 performance in the 2nd exactly matched Hillary Clinton's. You can our map here.
Biden did improve on Clinton's margin in the trio of GOP-held seats, though the shifts mostly came as a result of diminished support for third-party candidates and were far too small to render any Republican incumbents remotely vulnerable. Rep. Trent Kelly's 1st District in the northern part of the state favored Trump 65-34 after supporting him 65-32 in 2016. Rep. Michael Guest's 3rd District in southwestern and eastern Mississippi, meanwhile, went for Trump 65-34, compared to 65-32 four years before.
Finally, Trump once again had his best showing in Rep. Steven Palazzo's 4th District along the Gulf Coast, where his 68-30 victory was only a little smaller than his 69-28 performance from 2016. Republicans had complete control of redistricting in 2012 for the first time since Reconstruction, and they'll again be in charge after the 2020 census.
● Utah: Donald Trump decisively carried Utah in both 2016 and 2020, though there was one key difference this time. Trump beat Hillary Clinton 46-27 four years ago, while conservative independent Evan McMullin took third place with 22%, thanks in large part to widespread distaste for Trump among Mormon voters.
Many of these voters since reconciled themselves to Trump, however, and while Utah once again saw the highest third-party vote share in the country, it only amounted to 5% overall. As a result, Trump's total shot up to 58%, but Joe Biden's 38% was in fact the highest percentage of the vote for any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson won the state in 1964.
Trump again won all four of the state's seats (you can our map here), including the 4th District, where Republican Burgess Owens ousted freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams after a very expensive race; the 4th, which includes southern Salt Lake County and rural areas to the south, went for Trump 52-43 this time after supporting him only 39-32 in 2016, with McMullin taking 22%. McAdams ran well ahead of the Democratic ticket, but Owens prevailed 48-47.
Trump took the other three seats by double digits, and Republicans had no trouble hanging on to any of them. The closest of the trio was Rep. Chris Stewart's 2nd District in Salt Lake City and southwestern Utah, which backed Trump 56-40 four years after going for him 46-32. Trump scored more than 60% of the vote in 1st and 3rd District, both seats where McMullin had edged out Clinton for second place four years ago.
Utah Republicans had full control over redistricting after the 2010 census, and they'll once again play a dominant role. While voters approved an independent redistricting commission in 2018, Republicans in the legislature passed a measure largely gutting it and allowing them to pass their own maps if they don't like what the commission proposes. Lawmakers would still be bound by a limited set of nonpartisan criteria that wasn't in place 10 years ago, but enforcement would depend on how state courts rule.