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.
● MA-Gov: Donald Trump on Tuesday night issued an endorsement to 2018 Senate nominee Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who is challenging Gov. Charlie Baker from the right in next year's Republican primary. Trump also used his not-Tweet to blast the "RINO" governor, who refused to support him in 2020, as "definitely not an American First or Make America Great Again kind of guy." Baker, for his part, has not yet revealed if he'll be seeking a third term, though as we'll discuss, he has ramped up his fundraising in recent weeks.
Voters in heavily Democratic Massachusetts have been very open to sending Republicans to the governor's office as long as they portray themselves as moderates, but there's little question that Diehl would be a disastrous nominee. Diehl campaigned as an ardent conservative during his bid against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a campaign he lost 60-36, and his Monday declaration that "the 2020 election was rigged" underscores that he's not moving to the center.
It's far less clear how competitive a primary would be between the Trump-backed Diehl and Baker. On the one hand, Baker's 64-36 primary win over an underfunded 2018 intra-party foe made it clear that a significant proportion of Bay State Republicans were already ready to cut him loose. And while we have yet to see any polls testing a horse race between the governor and Diehl, a March survey from Suffolk showed that Republicans only gave Baker a 53-43 approval rating even as he posted a 67-23 score with the electorate as a whole.
However, Republicans won't be the only ones who get to take part in the primary. Massachusetts allows voters who aren't registered with either major party to cast a ballot in either side's nomination contest, and independents are a huge and pro-Baker group.
In February, 57% of the state's registered voters were unenrolled with any party (Democrats represented 32% of the electorate, while Republicans were just 10%), and Suffolk gave Baker a 68-21 approval rating with independents the following month. It would be up to the governor to convince them to turn out for his primary, especially since they could choose to vote in Democratic contests instead, but they give him a potential route to renomination even if his party turns on him.
There is also an unusual state policy that could play a role in the GOP primary. Democratic and Republican candidates for statewide office need to compete at a party convention that usually takes place in the late spring, and they have to win the support of at least 15% of the delegates to advance to the primary. This rule has eliminated several candidates, some of them credible contenders, in the recent past, including in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor. It seems unlikely that Baker would fail to muster up the necessary number of delegates required, but party conventions can be unpredictable affairs.
Baker, for his part, has yet to announce if he'll even run again, though the prospect seems more likely now than it did just a few months ago. The incumbent brought in little money in early 2021, and the Boston Herald noted that the $3,400 he hauled in for May was "his second-worst fundraising performance in the last two years." Baker, though, raised $173,000 in September, a tally the Boston Globe says is his largest monthly haul in two years, and he ended last month with $667,000 on-hand.
That war chest is far smaller than the $6.5 million Baker had available at this point four years ago, but it's significantly more than what Diehl had at his disposal. The former state representative took in $12,000 for the month and had $26,000 in his war chest.
A few Democrats have announced campaigns for governor. The top fundraiser in September was political science professor Danielle Allen, who raised $113,000 and had $413,000 on-hand. State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz took in $46,000 and had $222,000 to spend, while former state Sen. Benjamin Downing raised $29,000 and had $69,000 on-hand.
One major Democrat who hasn't yet announced her 2022 plans is Attorney General Maura Healey, who has indicated she'll decide this fall whether to run for governor. Healey brought in $35,000 last month and had $3.2 million on-hand, money she could use to take on Baker or run for re-election.
● Netroots Nation: Netroots Nation is virtual again this year, and so is our elections Q&A panel! If you'll be attending Netroots Nation this year, please join the Daily Kos Elections team on Thursday at 3:45 PM ET for our annual event: We dispense with the PowerPoints and proceed directly to questions from the audience about the races and election topics they're most interested in. A recording will also be made publicly available after the conference.
This panel will be moderated by Jeff Singer and feature Matt Booker, Carolyn Fiddler, and Stephen Wolf from Daily Kos along with Sister District co-founder and Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Gaby Goldstein. We hope you'll join us for our Q&A as we take stock of 2021 and all that comes next!
● AR Redistricting: Committees in both chambers of Arkansas' Republican-run legislature have advanced a new congressional redistricting proposal that would split Pulaski County between three districts, dividing up the state's largest source of Democratic votes and weakening the electoral influence of Black voters.
Pulaski, which is home to the capital of Little Rock, is not only the biggest county in the state but also the bluest, having voted for Joe Biden by a 60-37 margin last year even as Donald Trump carried the state 62-35. It's also where you'll find the densest concentration of Black residents in Arkansas: About 38% of the county is Black, which amounts to 31% of the state's Black population overall.
Under present district lines, Pulaski is located entirely within the 2nd Congressional District, which was the site of hotly contested back-to-back elections in 2018 and 2020. Trump still won it 53-44 last year, and Republican Rep. French Hill survived both races, but his colleagues in the legislature are obviously looking to deter any future Democratic challengers by making his district several points redder. The rest of the state is extremely conservative, so in the likely event this map or one close to it becomes law, this gerrymander will allow Republicans to lock in their 4-0 congressional delegation for the coming decade.
● CO Redistricting: Colorado's legislative redistricting commission has released new maps for the state House and Senate that could wind up getting submitted to the state Supreme Court for its approval if commissioners don't back an alternative. The panel, which is made up up four Democrats, four Republicans, and four independents, plans to hold final votes by Tuesday and would need the support of eight commissioners, including two independents, to adopt new districts. If such a consensus can't be reached, the latest set of maps (known as the "third staff plans") would be adopted by default.
● HI Redistricting: Hawaii's bipartisan redistricting commission will soon vote on a new congressional map, according to Jay Fierman of the invaluable Redistrict Network, but one proposal is … exactly the same as the current map. The other isn't much different: To reduce population inequality, it moves a handful of precincts in the Honolulu area from the 2nd District to the 1st. Both plans, however, still deviate from the ideal population.
Normally, congressional districts must have identical populations to pass constitutional muster, unless a state can show that a deviation is necessary to fulfill what the Supreme Court called a "legitimate goal." Those goals can include avoiding splitting counties or keeping districts compact, though with modern technology making it so easy to draw perfectly equal districts, courts tend to view deviations skeptically. (Less so for legislative maps, though, where a variance of as much as 10% between the smallest and largest districts is usually—though not always—allowed.)
A decade ago, Hawaii's then-new districts had a deviation of about 0.1%; since then, growth patterns have left the current map with a 0.6% deviation, while the alternate proposal would reduce that to 0.34%. A challenge on the basis of this variance is possible should the commission move forward with one of these plans, though it appears no suits were filed over the existing map following its adoption in 2011.
● MT Redistricting: The bipartisan redistricting commission in Montana, which is regaining a second congressional district for the first time in 30 years, has released nine different proposals for dividing the state in two, with five authored by Democrats and four by Republicans. The commission's tiebreaking member, attorney Maylinn Smith, voted with each party to advance all nine proposals. Barring an eventual compromise between the parties, Smith, who was unanimously chosen by the state Supreme Court, will likely cast the deciding vote in terms of which map to adopt.
● NM Redistricting: Local reporter Joe Monahan says that a congressional redistricting proposal put forth by a group called the Center for Civic Policy is "believed by informed insiders to be in the running as a top pick," presumably for Democrats in the state legislature who will control the remapping process. The plan features an aggressive gerrymander that would transform the reliably conservative 2nd District, currently held by Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell, into a blue-tilting swing seat that Democrats could recapture next year. Lawmakers won't convene until late this year to take up new maps, though, so it'll be a while before we know if this particular proposal actually has any traction.
● WV Redistricting: A committee in West Virginia's state Senate has introduced several draft maps to redraw the chamber's own districts. Lawmakers previously released proposals for both Congress and the state House.
● IA-Sen: Abby Finkenauer (D): $1 million raised (in two months)
● NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D): $900,000 raised
● OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $2.5 million raised, $3.6 million cash-on-hand
● WI-Sen: Alex Lasry (D): $1 million raised (campaign did not say if any self-funded)
● CA-01: Max Steiner (D): $192,000 raised
● GA-07: Rich McCormick (R): $600,000 raised
● NH-01: Tim Baxter (R): $188,000 raised, additional $104,000 self-funded, $240,000 cash-on-hand
● NY-19: Marc Molinaro (R): $350,000 raised (in 10 days)
● TX-15: Vicente Gonzalez (D-inc): $700,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
● NC-Sen, WI-Sen: End Citizens United, a progressive group with a history of spending serious amounts of money in Democratic primaries, has endorsed two Senate candidates: Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
● WI-Sen: Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry is using his first two TV ads (here and here) to tout his ties to the NBA champions; the Democrat's campaign said the spots would run for two weeks, but they did not reveal the size of the buy.
● NY-Gov: The New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio "has begun to tell people privately that he plans to run for governor" in the Democratic primary against incumbent Kathy Hochul, though his advisor says that no decision has been made yet.
The last time a New York City mayor was elected governor (or to any higher office for that matter) was 1869, and let's just say that plenty of Empire State Democrats doubt de Blasio, who had few vocal defenders among politicos or the media even before his failed presidential bid, will be the one to break this streak. "Osama bin Laden is probably more popular in Suffolk County than Bill de Blasio," said Rich Schaffer, the county Democratic Party chair who endorsed Hochul this week, adding, "De Blasio, I would say, would have zero support if not negative out here."
● VA-Gov: Republican Glenn Youngkin's latest ad features footage of the candidates' final debate, twice repeating a clip of Democrat Terry McAuliffe saying, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." It also selectively edits another McAuliffe line in which he said, "I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions," cutting everything after "schools." The remarks have lit up conservative media, which has accused McAuliffe of attacking parents.
● OR-06: The Oregonian's Hillary Borrud reports that state Rep. Andrea Salinas, a Democrat who co-chaired the state's congressional and legislative redistricting committees, has been contacting people to say she'll be running for the new 6th Congressional District, though Salinas did not say anything publicly. This new constituency, which includes the state capital of Salem and other parts of the mid-Willamette Valley, backed Joe Biden 55-42 according to data calculated by Daily Kos Elections, and there are plenty of Democrats who could end up running here.
The only notable declared candidate so far is former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who announced back in June, well before the new boundaries were known, that she'd run for Oregon's new seat. Smith told Borrud this week that she was indeed running for the 6th District even though it doesn't include any of her old constituency. Smith said she planned to move to the district, though she added she'd hold off on buying a home until she knows the boundaries are indeed final. (Borrud writes that legislative Republicans and others have talked about filing a lawsuit, though they haven't taken action yet.)
Borrud also contacted each state legislator who represents any of the new 6th to ask if they were thinking about running here. On the Democratic side, the one person who publicly expressed interest was state Rep. Paul Evans, who added he was still "not rushing in." State Sen. Deb Patterson, meanwhile, said she was "not interested in running at this time," which isn't a no. State Reps. Teresa Alonso León, Brian Clem, and Courtney Neron did not respond for the story, while state Senate President Peter Courtney and state Rep. Sheri Schouten each took their names out of contention.
No Republicans so far have said they're looking at this race. Borrud writes that state Reps. Bill Post and Anna Scharf say "they do not plan to run for Congress," while state Sen. Kim Thatcher and state Rep. Ron Noble couldn't be reached. State Sen. Brian Boquist, a former Republican who joined the Independent Party of Oregon in January, also didn't respond.
● TX-23: 2020 candidate Raul Reyes has an event scheduled for Thursday evening, though all the Republican would say was this would be a "surprise." Reyes in August expressed interest in seeking a rematch against freshman Rep. Tony Gonzales, who beat him by 45 votes in last year's primary.
● Boston, MA Mayor: City Councilor Michelle Wu picked up the backing of Democratic Sen. Ed Markey on Wednesday, an endorsement that came four weeks ahead of the Nov. 2 nonpartisan general election. Markey joins fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Acting Mayor Kim Janey in Wu's corner.
Wu also goes into the final weeks of the campaign with a big financial lead over fellow City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. Wu outraised Essaibi George $399,000 to $260,000 in September, and she ended the month with a $368,000 to $152,000 cash-on-hand lead.