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.
● TX-03: Former Collin County Judge Keith Self announced Wednesday evening that he would challenge Rep. Van Taylor in the Republican primary for Texas' 3rd Congressional District, a suburban Dallas-Fort Worth seat the GOP legislature's new gerrymander has made safely red for the foreseeable future. Taylor has been an ardent conservative during his two terms in the House, but Self kicked off his campaign by attacking him for voting to accept Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the hours after the attack on the Capitol and for supporting the creation of the Jan. 6 commission.
Taylor back in March justified that move by saying, "The Democrats are focused on one side of Pennsylvania Avenue, but there's a lot of fault and a lot of answers we need about what [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and her team knew, when they knew it and why the Capitol was not secure." That argument didn't convince his fellow Texas Republican members, though, as only 23rd District Rep. Tony Gonzales voted with him.
Self, for his part, was elected in 2006 as Collin County judge, an executive post that's the rough equivalent of a county executive, four years after he lost the 26th Congressional District nomination contest that was eventually won by Michael Burgess. He made news early in his tenure for picking fights with other members of the local government, writing on his blog in 2008, "We are sliding toward socialism … Many in government today agree with the statement, 'From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.'"
Self faced a serious primary fight in 2010 from Plano School Board member John Muns, who tried to portray himself as the true conservative in the race. The judge, who had his own ardent right-wing support, again made headlines during that campaign when he pushed back on a Muns attack by quoting the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels saying, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." The incumbent defended his actions by insisting that, while he wasn't linking Muns to the Nazis, "I said he was using the method. There's a huge difference. This is one of those things where the PC police immediately go crazy."
Self prevailed 58-42 ahead of an easy general election win; Muns himself eventually bounced back and was elected mayor of Plano this year. Self faced no primary or general election opposition four years later, and he considered another House bid after longtime Rep. Sam Johnson announced his retirement from the 3rd District in early 2017. However, he ultimately decided not to campaign for Congress or for re-election the following year, and Taylor went on to be elected to succeed Johnson without any trouble.
Taylor and Self each have a large geographic base of support in the new 3rd District. About three-quarters of the seat's residents are already Taylor's constituents, while close to 90% of the district is located in Collin County. (The balance is in Hunt County.) However, while the former judge begins the campaign without any money, Taylor had $1.1 million on-hand at the end of September. The congressman also self-funded $3 million during his 2018 campaign, so he may be capable of throwing down more if he feels the need.
● IA Redistricting: Iowa's nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency has released a second set of congressional and legislative maps after Republican lawmakers rejected the agency's first batch of proposals earlier this month. However, as redistricting expert Michael McDonald notes, the plans may run afoul of Iowa statutes that call for "reasonably compact districts" that are "square, rectangular, or hexagonal in shape." Under state law, compactness is measured by comparing a district's length to its width (with smaller differences being more desirable) and by calculating the length of a district's perimeter (the shorter the better).
Legal infirmities aside, if Republicans spurn these latest maps, the LSA would produce a third set. However, the legislature would be free to amend those maps freely, allowing the GOP to gerrymander to whatever extent they desire. While compactness and shape requirements might hinder them, Republicans could simply repeal those laws as well.
● WI Redistricting: Republican leaders in Wisconsin's legislature released new congressional and legislative maps late on Wednesday, all of which are extreme gerrymanders that, according to the nonpartisan site PlanScore, would give the GOP three-quarters of the seats in the House and two-thirds of those in the legislature—despite the fact that Joe Biden carried the state last year. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers immediately threatened to veto the proposals unless Republicans "do better," but since there's virtually no way they will, redistricting will head to the courts.
Both sides have long anticipated this development and filed separate lawsuits earlier this year. Republicans are hoping to have the impasse resolved by the state Supreme Court, where a partisan conservative majority usually holds sway. Democrats, meanwhile, believe they can get a more favorable hearing in the federal courts and have brought suit there.
● AZ-Sen: Ordinarily, we don't cover elections that are more than two years off, but the blaze under Kyrsten Sinema right now is burning so intensely that we simply have to note that, for the first time, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego is not ruling out a primary challenge to Arizona's senior senator in 2024. A recent poll from the progressive firm Data for Progress found Gallego destroying Sinema by a monster 62-23 margin in an extremely hypothetical matchup, though of course, three years is an eternity in politics—or any walk of life, really. (What are your plans for the fall of '24?)
While there's already a crowdfunded effort to raise money for an unnamed Sinema opponent, the most effective thing progressives can do right now is to ensure that Arizona's other senator, Democrat Mark Kelly, wins re-election next year. A Kelly victory will show that the state's leftward shift was not just a brief Trump-era fluke and will ensure a much greater appetite for a campaign against Sinema from grassroots donors, liberal organizations, and potential candidates—including, perhaps, Gallego himself.
● MO-Sen: Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens has publicized an internal poll from Fabrizio Lee that shows the Republican leading two prospective Democratic opponents in hypothetical general election scenarios, a release that's likely aimed at calming national Republicans who are worried how he'd fare in a general election. Greitens outpaces former state Sen. Scott Sifton and Marine veteran Lucas Kunce by margins of 46-40 and 47-40, respectively, which is still well behind Donald Trump's 57-41 victory in the state. The memo did not mention any of Greitens' many primary foes.
● NH-Sen: The University of New Hampshire once again polls Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan against three possible Republican foes. The new numbers are below, with trendlines from July in parentheses:
- 42-45 vs. Gov. Chris Sununu (48-49)
- 44-43 vs. former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (49-45)
- 47-42 vs. retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc (51-41)
The only one who is currently running is Bolduc, who fared poorly in the 2020 primary and has raised little money for his second try. National Republicans are trying hard to recruit Sununu, who is in no hurry to announce anything.
● OH-Sen: Protect Ohio Values PAC, the super PAC funded by billionaire Peter Thiel to aid venture capitalist J.D. Vance, has dropped another survey from Fabrizio Lee that shows its candidate closing the gap against former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the Republican primary. The new poll shows Mandel leading Vance 19-16, with former state party chair Jane Timken in third with 8%; in July, the firm had Mandel ahead 21-12. Mandel last month released a WPA Intelligence poll giving him a considerably stronger 37-13 advantage.
● NE-Gov: Former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau told WOWT this week that she's considering seeking the Republican nomination in next year's open seat race, a move that would put her directly in conflict with the person who was her running mate just months ago. In a separate interview with the Omaha World Herald, she said that she expects to decide in three to five weeks.
In Nebraska candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete as a ticket in primaries, and agribusinessman Charles Herbster announced in April that his second-in-command would be none other than Thibodeau. The former state senator, though, said in July she was dropping out because of undisclosed "potential opportunities that would conflict with the campaign," adding, "At this time, I do not feel I will be able to devote the needed time to the campaign." Thibodeau now says that matter has been taken care of and she has the time to run for office now that she's sold her day care.
Thibodeau earned her seat in the legislature in 2017 when Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed her to fill a vacancy in an Omaha area constituency. Her tenure in the officially nonpartisan chamber proved short, though, as she lost the next year to Machaela Cavanaugh, who campaigned as a Democrat, 51-49.
● VA-Gov: The conservative Free to Learn Coalition says it is spending $1 million on an ad campaign attacking Democrat Terry McAuliffe over schools and linking him to what the narrator calls a “divisive activist curriculum.”
● WI-Gov: Unnamed sources tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that former Rep. Sean Duffy is now considering seeking the Republican nomination for governor following Donald Trump’s unprompted weekend not-tweet urging him to do so, though they disagree how likely it is the fledgling New Jersey resident will return to the state he just left.
One contact close to Duffy says, “He is definitely thinking about it. He’s talking with family and friends and will make a decision soon,” continuing, “He obviously has not knocked down the suggestion — he’s taking it seriously.” Another person, though, says the former congressman is not “particularly serious” about taking on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. “I think it’s mostly a case of, when something like this happens, you have to pause and stew on the idea for a little bit,” this person added.
● PA-01: Navy veteran Paul Fermo said this week that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in what is currently a swing seat centered around Bucks County in the Philadelphia suburbs. Fermo joins a primary that includes Army veteran Ashley Ehasz, who launched her own campaign last week.
● PA-18: The National Journal reports that attorney Steve Irwin, a longtime Democratic fundraiser who is a former head of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission, is considering seeking the nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Doyle and could decide next week. Irwin back in August set up an exploratory committee for a possible 2022 run for lieutenant governor.
● Boston, MA Mayor: Data for Progress finds Michelle Wu leading fellow City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George 57-32 ahead of the Nov. 2 general election. That's not quite as wide of a margin as the 32-point Wu lead that MassInc and Suffolk University each found recently, but it's still a huge deficit for Essaibi George to overcome with less than two weeks to go.
The PAC Real Progress Boston, which is funded in part by the city's police unions and New Balance chairman James Davis, is doing what it can to move the needle in Essaibi George's favor with a new ad campaign, though there is no word on the size of the buy. The TV spot stars former police commissioner William Gross, who praises Essaibi George as the type of person who isn't "afraid to roll up their sleeves" and someone who is "from Boston and more importantly she is for Boston."
That last line is reminiscent of the media firestorm Essaibi George set off last month when, after being asked whether the Chicago-raised Wu's Midwestern roots should matter in the election, responded, "It's relevant to me, and I think it's relevant to a lot of voters whether or not they're born and raised in the city." Since then, much of the coverage of this race has focused on Essaibi George's thick Boston accent: The candidate herself said this week, "This is the silliest thing ever, I am so proud to be a Boston girl," adding, "I am so proud to have this accent, I am so proud to have the experiences I had growing up in this city … It came with an accent it came with who I am, it is part of this experience, for sure."
● Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Alderman Marina Dimitrijevic, whom Wisconsin Public Radio calls one of the Common Council's "more outspoken liberal members," announced this week that she would run in the special election that would be held should Mayor Tom Bartlett be confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. The timing of that contest would depend on when the incumbent resigned, but so far, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has yet to schedule his confirmation hearing.