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.
● ID-Gov: Donald Trump waded into the Republican primary on Tuesday evening by endorsing far-right Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s bid to take down Idaho Gov. Brad Little. Trump did not mention Little in his not-Tweet, which he instead used to laud McGeachin as “a true supporter of MAGA since the very beginning.” Whoever wins the nomination in May should have no trouble prevailing in the 2022 general election in what has long been one of the reddest states in the nation.
While Trump has been eager to end the careers of Republican governors and members of Congress who have pushed back on his 2020 election lies, Politico’s Zach Montellaro notes that Little himself doesn’t appear to have done anything to provoke Trump’s wrath. Indeed, Montellaro notes that it was just last week that the GOP leader recognized Little at an event held at Mar-a-Lago. “We also have Gov. Brad Little, who is a terrific gentleman,” Trump said, adding, “Thank you Brad. He’s working on a project.”
There’s no word on what Trump meant by that last line, but McGeachin has made headlines multiple times for taking part in some very dangerous projects of her own. The lieutenant governor has spent the pandemic blasting Little for his efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus, which included a video where she suggested the pandemic "may or may not be occurring." She also once posted a photo taken at the state Capitol with members of the so-called Three Percenters, a faction in the extremist anti-government "militia" movement.
McGeachin has also tried to back up her talk with actual action multiple times when Little’s powers passed to her while he was out of state. In May, while the incumbent was attending a Republican National Governors event in Tennessee, McGeachin announced she was issuing an executive order forbidding schools and public buildings from requiring face masks, a directive Little repealed about 24 hours later when he was back in Idaho.
The governor himself declared that he “opposed a statewide mask mandate” but argued that the decision should be left to local governments and that McGeachin’s actions ran “contrary to a basic conservative principle – the government closest to the people governs best.”
McGeachin was far from deterred, though. Last month, she received national attention when she took advantage of another Little trip, this time to Texas, to talk to Major General Michael Garshak about sending the Idaho National Guard to the border with Mexico. Garshak responded, “I am unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona … As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency.”
McGeachin also used the occasion to issue another executive order that included a rule preventing any state agencies from requiring proof of vaccination or testing. Little responded four minutes later by saying he would be “rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return.” However, while the governor bashed his nominal number two for “political grandstanding,” her antics seem to have found a very eager audience in Trump.
McGeachin isn’t the only far-right icon aiming to take down Little, though. Anti-government militant Ammon Bundy kicked off a campaign in June, and he may have enough of a base to cost McGeachin some much-needed support.
● AK Redistricting: Alaska's redistricting commission agreed on a new state Senate map on Tuesday, with the board's three Republican appointees voting in favor and its two independent members against. The commission also recently approved a new map for the state House, though legal challenges to both plans are likely.
● FL Redistricting: A committee in Florida's Republican-controlled state Senate released four different draft maps for Congress and four for its own chamber on Wednesday, which you can find here. The congressional maps are all quite similar to one another and largely preserve the status quo, with the addition of one new district that the state earned in reapportionment. That seat would be numbered the 15th, a swingy district in east Tampa that would have narrowly gone for Joe Biden, which would also make the adjacent 14th District (held by Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor) less blue. Republican Rep. Scott Franklin, who represents the current 15th, would instead find himself in the redder 28th District.
● GA Redistricting: Georgia's Republican-run House passed the GOP's new map for the chamber on Wednesday on a largely party-line vote, with all Democrats and two Republicans voting against. The plan now goes to the Senate, which already passed its own map earlier in the week. In most states where lawmakers control the redistricting process, each chamber will generally craft a map for itself, with approval from the other house typically a formality.
● MD Redistricting: Lawmakers in Maryland's Democratic-run legislature have released four different draft maps for the House, two of which would maintain the party's 7-1 advantage in the state's congressional delegation and two of which would target the 1st District, the lone Republican seat. However, even under the most aggressive proposal, the 1st would remain very swingy.
Democratic partisans have advocated for an 8-0 plan for more than a decade—and drawn many, many hypothetical maps that would ensure all eight districts would be safely blue. HuffPost's Kevin Robillard even reported in January that one Maryland operative suggested Democrats might finally go for the jugular following Congress' vote to certify the results of the Electoral College on Jan. 6: That evening, Republican Rep. Andy Harris nearly instigated a fist-fight after Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb called out Republicans for their lies that had incited the invasion of the Capitol earlier that day.
Barring the introduction of additional maps, however, it does not appear Maryland Democrats are willing to take this step.
● ND Redistricting: North Dakota's Republican-run state legislature has passed a new legislative map, sending it to Republican Gov. Doug Burgum. Both chambers use the same districts, with each electing two representatives and one senator, though the new map adds two exceptions to that pattern: Two House districts based around Indian reservations would now be divided in half, with each half electing its own member, in order to improve Native representation.
● UT Redistricting: Both chambers in Utah's Republican-run legislature swiftly passed the GOP's new congressional map on Wednesday, which lawmakers had only introduced on Monday afternoon. The plan creates four safely Republican seats by cracking the state's lone blue bastion, Salt Lake County, four ways.
Activists with a group called Better Boundaries said ahead of the vote that they plan to put a measure on the ballot "to repeal and replace the heavily gerrymandered district maps." However, because the plan passed with a two-thirds vote in both the state Senate and House, it cannot be subject to a veto referendum, which would have blocked the map from taking effect as soon as it qualified for the ballot—had it been able to.
Organizers could instead seek to pass their own map at the ballot box, but Republican lawmakers would be able to repeal it even if it passes since voters can only initiate statutes instead of constitutional amendments, much as they did when they gutted the measure creating a new redistricting commission that Better Boundaries helped pass in 2018.
● VA Redistricting: As expected, Virginia's new bipartisan redistricting commission has missed the final deadline to produce a new congressional map, punting the task to the state Supreme Court. The commissioners previously failed to come up new legislative maps, meaning the justices will draw those as well. Many Democrats have expressed concern that the court, which has a 5-2 conservative majority, will craft districts that favor Republicans.
● AL-Sen: While Rep. Mo Brooks and his allies have released several polls showing the Trump-backed congressman with a huge Republican primary lead over former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt, Britt's side has now dropped a pair of surveys giving her the edge.
Cygnal, polling in early November on behalf of the pro-Britt Alabama Conservatives Fund, finds her outpacing Brooks 24-22, with Army veteran Mike Durant in third with 9%. Britt's campaign has also publicized a TargetPoint Consulting poll that gives her a tiny 31-30 lead against Brooks, with Durant taking a similar 12%.
● GA-Sen: If you were waiting with bated breath to find out whom Newt Gingrich, the long ago Georgia congressman, two-term House Speaker, and undoubtedly the inspiration for many terrifying costumes at 1990s-themed parties, is supporting in the Republican Senate primary, your time of trial is over: Gingrich is for NFL player Herschel Walker.
● NH-Sen: WMUR reports that wealthy businessman Bill Binnie, who took a distant third in the 2010 Senate Republican primary, is interested in another try, but there's no word from Binnie himself.
● UT-Sen: Former Rep. Ben McAdams, who is arguably the most prominent Democrat in Utah, has endorsed independent Evan McMullin's campaign against Republican Sen. Mike Lee.
● WI-Sen: When asked once again Wednesday if he'll be running for re-election, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said, "It'll all be revealed in the next few weeks."
● AR-Gov: Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lost her last notable Republican primary foe on Tuesday night when Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that she was switching to the race for lieutenant governor. The Trump-backed Sanders, who enjoyed a massive financial lead over Rutledge, earned endorsements the following day from Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton.
● PA-Gov: Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman postponed his planned "special announcement" after the Republican tested positive for COVID-19; Corman says his symptoms are mild.
● IA-01, IA-03: Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks announced Wednesday that she would run for the new 1st District, which contains the vast majority of her current 2nd District. Miller-Meeks’ home of Wapello County was moved to the 3rd District, and the congresswoman has not yet said if she’ll be moving.
● IL-03: Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, who'd been considering a bid for Illinois' redrawn 3rd Congressional District, became the first candidate to enter the Democratic primary on Wednesday. The Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Pearson adds that state Rep. Delia Ramirez and Eira Corral Sepulveda, a commissioner on Chicago's Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, are also both interested, though neither woman is quoted.
● IL-17: Two new Democrats announced campaigns for Illinois' revamped 17th Congressional District on Wednesday, former state Rep. Litesa Wallace and former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen.
Wallace was first appointed to the legislature in 2014 to fill a vacancy and won two terms in her own right before an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2018. Sorensen, meanwhile, served as chief meteorologist for WREX in Rockford for a decade, then held the same position at WQAD in Moline for many years before retiring earlier this year. They join Rock Island County Board member Angie Normoyle and Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann in the Democratic primary.
● MI-08: Former Republican Rep. Mike Bishop told The Hill this week that he was considering a comeback bid, though he added that he was waiting for the state's redistricting commission to complete its work before deciding.
Bishop lost a very expensive 2018 race to Democrat Elissa Slotkin 51-47, but a new map could forestall a rematch even if they both ran in 2022. Last month, MIRS' Kyle Melinn reported that Slotkin was likely to run for a seat based around Lansing's Ingham County, while Bishop said he would likely campaign for a district containing Macomb and Oakland counties in the Detroit suburbs.
● NC-04: This week, former Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson became the first notable Republican to announce a campaign for the new 4th District, an open seat that, according to data from Dave's Redistricting App, favored Donald Trump 53-46. Robertson was last on the ballot in 2017 when he lost his bid for a third term to Democrat Mitch Colvin by a lopsided 59-41 margin.
● NC-13: Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley has filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential bid for the new 13th District, which went for Donald Trump 60-39.
● NJ-05: Marine veteran Nick De Gregorio said Wednesday that he'd seek the Republican nod to take on Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer in what is currently a competitive North Jersey seat. De Gregorio has not run for office before, though the New Jersey Globe wrote back in June that he was being advised by prominent consultant Chris Russell and had ties to state GOP chair Bob Hugin.
● NY-24: Air Force veteran Sarah Klee Hood, who just won a seat on the DeWitt Town Board last week, kicked off a bid for New York's 24th Congressional District on Wednesday. She joins two other former members of the military, Navy veteran Francis Conole and Army veteran Steven Holden, in the Democratic primary.
● TX-15: Republican Monica De La Cruz, who is running for Texas' open 15th Congressional District, was accused of physically and verbally abusing her 14-year-old stepdaughter in documents filed last month by her husband as part of the couple's divorce proceedings. In a petition to the court, Johnny Hernandez alleged that De La Cruz had once pinched his daughter, whom he says has struggled with mental health issues, to force her to stop crying. He also says that De La Cruz threatened to divorce him "if he brought the child, who has at times been hospitalized, back to live at their home." De La Cruz, who has House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement, called the accusations "false."
● TX-35: State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, who'd recently filed paperwork for a possible bid, announced on Wednesday that he'd enter the race for Texas' open 35th Congressional District. He joins Austin City Councilman Greg Casar in the Democratic primary.
Secretaries of State
● WA-SoS: Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that he was appointing state Sen. Steve Hobbs to succeed Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a move that will make Hobbs both the first Democrat to serve as Washington's chief election official since the 1964 elections and the first person of color to hold this office. This post will next be on the ballot in November of 2022 for a special election for the final two years of Wyman's term; Wyman herself is resigning next week to join the Biden administration to oversee election security.
Hobbs, as Inslee himself noted in his statement, is a moderate. The Seattle Times writes that the state senator, who was elected in 2006, has "broken with the party over the years, and more recently, has clashed with the governor over Inslee's climate-change proposals." Hobb's elevation could allow Democrats to replace him in the upper chamber with a more progressive voice: Under state law, Democrats will submit three names to the county commission in Snohomish County, which is the only county in the 44th Legislative District, and the commissioners will pick one to be the new state senator.
Hobbs has also unsuccessfully sought a promotion three times in the last decade. In 2012, he campaigned in the top-two primary to succeed none other than Inslee in the 1st Congressional District but took a distant fifth place with 7% of the vote. Hobbs ran for lieutenant governor four years later and won fourth with 15% in a crowded race. He launched another campaign for that office in 2020 but dropped out just ahead of the filing deadline.
● Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Saraswati Singh, who works as a prosecutor in neighboring Ramsey County, this week became the fourth candidate to enter next August’s nonpartisan primary to succeed longtime incumbent Mike Freeman, who announced two months ago that he would not seek re-election. Singh joins former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty, Richfield City Council Member Simon Trautmann, and Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler in the race to succeed Freeman as the top prosecutor in Minnesota’s largest county.
● San Francisco, CA District Attorney: Local election officials announced this week that District Attorney Chesa Boudin's detractors had turned in enough valid signatures to force a recall election. The race will take place in June of next year at the same time as California's regularly-scheduled statewide primary. If a majority votes to oust Boudin, San Francisco Mayor London Breed would appoint his successor; no matter what, the next election for a four-year term will take place in 2023.
● Tarrant County, TX District Attorney: Republican incumbent Sharen Wilson said Tuesday that she would not seek re-election next year, an announcement that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy characterized as a "shock." Wilson's departure will set off an open seat race in Tarrant County, a populous and politically competitive community that's home to Fort Worth and Arlington. Joe Biden's 49.3-49.1 victory made him the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry the county since native Texan Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide, but Republicans held the Fort Worth mayor's office this year.
Two Democrats were already campaigning here before the incumbent announced her retirement: Albert Roberts, who lost to Wilson 53-47 in 2018; and former prosecutor Tiffany Burks. Any other politicians looking to succeed Wilson will only have a few weeks to decide, as the statewide candidate filing deadline is Dec. 13. Party primaries occur on March 1, with runoffs taking place in late May for any races where no one earned a majority of the vote, and the new district attorney will be elected next November.
● Former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, whose 1996 victory made him the last non-incumbent Democrat to win one of the Peach State's Senate seats until this year, died Tuesday at the age of 79. Cleland, who lost three of his limbs while serving in Vietnam, lost re-election in 2002; in that election, Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss aired an infamous commercial that featured photos of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Cleland was an Army captain during the Battle of Khe Sahn in April of 1968, days after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, when he picked up a live grenade that exploded before he could toss it to safety. The future senator, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, spent decades believing that the weapon that cost him both his legs and his right arm had been from his belt and had fallen because of his own mistake. However, David Lloyd, the Marine who was the first person to reach the wounded Cleland, told him in 1999 that an unnamed "newbie" had accidentally dropped that grenade.
Cleland, sporting a pair of prosthetic legs he would later give up in favor of a wheelchair, returned to his home state of Georgia and in 1970 won a seat in the state Senate. He sought a promotion in 1974 when he campaigned in a crowded primary for lieutenant governor with the backing of termed-out Gov. Jimmy Carter, but he narrowly failed to reach the runoff; the eventual winner was Zell Miller, who went on to become governor and later Cleland's Senate colleague.
In 1977, the new President Carter tapped Cleland to lead the U.S. Veterans Administration, which is now the cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs, but his fellow Democrat was far from done with elected office. Cleland ran for secretary of state in 1982 in a primary against David Poythress, who had been appointed to the post three years before, and narrowly beat him 52-48 in the primary runoff. Cleland won the general election that fall in a landslide in what was still a Democratic-dominated state.
Cleland considered running for governor in 1990 but didn't go forward with it after audio surfaced of what the AJC characterizes as "a phone sex tape of him and a former girlfriend." The Democrat later wrote of the incident, "It not only raised my profile in the state in a way no amount of political advertising could, it also showed that I was, despite my handicaps, a full-blooded American male." That incident also didn't stop him from easily winning two more terms as secretary of state.
Cleland in 1996 won the primary to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn without any opposition, but he was in for a very difficult general election against businessman Guy Millner, the Republican who had only narrowly lost the 1994 gubernatorial race to Miller. (Millner won the Senate nomination after a close runoff against future Sen. Johnny Isakson.) Cleland ended up prevailing 49-48 even as Bob Dole was carrying Georgia 47-46, and he quickly established himself in D.C. as a moderate who nevertheless usually voted with his party.
The senator faced a tough race in 2002 against Chambliss in a state that was rapidly moving to the right, but he still looked like the favorite for most of the race. Chambliss, though, did whatever he could to depict Cleland as "too liberal for Georgia," an effort that included commercials accusing the Democrat of supporting partial-birth abortion and needle exchanges and asking, "Why would he do that?" Cleland pushed back with ads starring the far more conservative Miller, his long ago rival-turned-fellow Senator, vouching for the incumbent.
Cleland himself voted to authorize the war in Iraq during the campaign, later saying that this was "the worst vote I cast." The senator argued, "It was obvious that if I voted against the resolution that I would be dead meat in the race, just handing them a victory," but that vote hardly deterred Chambliss' infamous ad. That spot, which began with pictures of bin Laden and Hussein, featured a narrator declaring, "As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators, Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. He says he supports President Bush at every opportunity, but that's not the truth."
That commercial set off a firestorm, with GOP Sens. John McCain and Chuck Hagel both condemning it, but Team Blue didn't get the backlash they wanted. Chambliss unseated Cleland 53-46, a result the Democrat said was "the second big grenade in my life." Cleland never sought elected office again, though he remained active in public life as a member of the 9/11 Commission, the Export-Import Bank board, and secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission.