The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● PA-Sen: Army veteran Sean Parnell has continued his run for the Republican Senate nomination in the weeks since his estranged wife testified under oath that he'd choked her and hit their children, but an unnamed source close to the campaign tells Politico that an adverse court ruling could end his bid. "His entire campaign comes down to whether he keeps custody of his kids or not," says this source, who added that the Trump-backed candidate would stay in if he prevailed in the custody battle.
Plenty of Republicans, though, want alternatives regardless of whether Parnell, who has denied the allegations, remains in the race, but there isn't an obvious savior candidate in sight at the moment. Several others are currently competing in the May primary in this closely-watched Senate race, but Politico says that each of them has drawbacks. Jeff Bartos, the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, has argued that the allegations against Parnell make him "unelectable," a line that could turn off both Donald Trump and Parnell's backers.
Former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, meanwhile, has been spending millions of her own money on ads, but Politico writes that she "has not gained much traction." A few others are also in including author Kathy Barnette, a Big Lie promoter who badly lost in the safely blue 4th Congressional District last year, but they also don't appear to have made much of an impression, either. The good news for Parnell's intra-party critics is that there's plenty of time before the March filing deadline for new candidates to enter the race.
The bad news, though, is that one of those new candidates may be Mehmet Oz, the TV personality who has a long history of dispensing what medical experts have warned is false advice. The conservative Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month that Oz was getting ready to run even though the longtime New Jersey resident has little connection to Pennsylvania, and Politico confirms that he’s been looking for a home in the Philadelphia area; Oz cast his ballot in New Jersey last year, though he registered to vote in the Keystone State two months later.
Oz, the story says, hasn’t yet committed to a Senate campaign, and several of his fellow Republicans hope he won’t. One strategist relayed, “There’s no one who thinks the solution to the Sean Parnell issue is Dr. Oz.” Other party officials, including some chairs in voter-rich counties, revealed that he hadn’t even contacted them yet, while an unnamed source close to the NRSC said they didn’t believe national Republicans had spoken to him either.
Some hostile party operatives aren’t waiting, though, to spread opposition research about Oz, including his March 2020 quote calling for the United States to follow China’s example by imposing temporary lockdowns to slow the pandemic. If he runs, his foes are also likely to remind voters that Oz called himself a “moderate Republican” back in 2007.
A few other Republicans could also get in. Politico says that former Rep. Keith Rothfus, who badly lost re-election in an incumbent vs. incumbent 2018 race against Democrat Conor Lamb (who is currently running for the Senate himself), is interested in competing in a Parnell-free primary. Rothfus merely said, “Simply put, Sean Parnell has no plans to drop out of the race for Senate,” and he didn’t respond to follow-up questions.
Hedge fund manager David McCormick also has reportedly been looking at running, though the Connecticut resident has yet to say anything publicly. Insiders don’t seem to agree what he’s up to, either: the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari tweets that “the info on him runs the spectrum from likely to enter the race soon to definitely not.” Finally, while Politico said back in March that attorney John Giordano and former Secretary of the Nav Kenneth Braithwaite were each interested, it now notes that so far, those “campaigns haven’t materialized.”
● GA Redistricting: Georgia’s Republican-run state Senate passed the GOP’s new congressional map on a party-line vote on Friday. The state House will reportedly vote on the map on Monday.
● OK Redistricting: Oklahoma’s Republican-run legislature passed new congressional and legislative maps on Friday, sending them to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. The legislative plans replace maps lawmakers approved earlier this year, prior to the release of data from the 2020 census, that were based on population estimates.
● CA-Gov: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer tells the Los Angeles Times that he’ll decide early next year if he’ll compete in the top-two primary to take on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Faulconer spent years as one of the only Republican rising stars in this dark blue state, but this September’s recall campaign against Newsom saw him plummet hard to earth. Faulconer took a distant third place with just 8% in the race to replace Newsom, a question that didn’t even end up mattering because a 62-38 majority voted against ousting the governor.
● HI-Gov: Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s allies at 314 Action Fund have released a Public Policy Polling survey that shows him dominating next August’s Democratic primary. Green outpaces businesswoman Vicky Cayetano 51-14, with former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell at 7%; Green also beats Cayetano 58-21 in a two-way race. This is the first poll we’ve seen of next year’s contest.
● MA-Gov: YouGov’s poll for UMass Amherst and WCVB again finds Republican Gov. Charlie Baker with only a modest lead in a hypothetical general election against Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey but well ahead of four other foes; just like in March, though, a huge portion of respondents are undecided in each trial heat, which makes it especially difficult to tell how much danger Baker might actually be in if he were to run for a third term.
The latest numbers are below, with the March results in parentheses:
34-28 vs. Attorney General Maura Healey (31-28)
36-11 vs. former state Sen. Ben Downing (31-12)
36-16 vs. state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (31-17)
34-12 vs. professor Danielle Allen (31-14)
37-9 vs. businessman Orlando Silva
YouGov’s prior poll did not include Silva, whose candidacy has attracted very little attention.
Neither Baker, who faces Trump-backed primary opposition from 2018 Senate nominee Geoff Diehl, nor Healey has announced if they’ll be running for governor next year. The Bay State’s candidate filing deadline isn’t until May, but as Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky notes, prospective Democratic candidates would need to make their moves a whole lot sooner than that because the process of choosing delegates to the state party convention, which plays a role in determining ballot access, starts in early February.
P.S. YouGov also tests out general election scenarios where Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito is the GOP nominee instead of Baker. Polito leads four of the five Democrats, but an outright majority of respondents are undecided in each matchup. Healey, meanwhile, leads Polito 35-19, with a 38% plurality marking themselves as unsure.
● PA-Gov: Both ABC27 and Lancaster Online report that former state House Speaker Mike Turzai has decided to enter the packed May Republican primary for governor.
Turzai spent much of 2017 deliberating about whether to run for the state’s top job only to drop out after just three months on the campaign trail. He said in 2019 that he was “very positive” about running again, but we heard nothing new from him following his decision the following year to resign from the legislature.
● IL-06: Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau has filed FEC paperwork for a potential bid for the Republican nod in a new constituency where most of the action has been on the Democratic side.
Two Democratic incumbents, Sean Casten and Marie Newman, are competing in the June primary for the new version of this 55-44 Biden constituency. According to an analysis from Daily Kos Elections utilizing data from Dave’s Redistricting App, the portion of the new 6th located in Casten’s district (also numbered the 6th) backed Biden 59-39, while the section in Newman’s existing 3rd District supported him by a much smaller 51-47 spread.
However, Newman currently represents far more of the new 6th than Casten does, and her area still contains a larger number of Democratic general election voters. The portion of the 6th held by Newman cast 78,500 votes for Biden, compared to 60,200 in her rival’s area.
● OH-13: Former Trump administration official Max Miller announced Friday evening that he would run for the new and competitive 13th District, a decision he made days after the Ohio legislature passed a gerrymander that dismantled the safely red 16th District he had been seeking. The 13th District, which is located in the Cleveland and Akron areas, backed Joe Biden 50-49 according to data from Dave’s Redistricting App.
Miller obtained Donald Trump’s endorsement earlier this year for his primary bid against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who later decided to retire. In July, Politico reported allegations that Miller last year physically attacked his then-girlfriend, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, something that Miller quickly denied. In October, Miller sued Grisham for defamation after she published an op-ed saying that an unnamed former boyfriend who also worked in the White House and had recently been endorsed by Trump had “become violent” as their relationship concluded.
● OR-06: Oregon Medical Board chair Kathleen Harder has announced that she’ll seek the Democratic nod for this new seat. Harder lost a close 2017 race for the Salem-Keizer Public Schools school board, a contest where she was attacked by the prominent anti-abortion group Oregon Right to Life. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown appointed her a few months later to the Oregon Medical Board.
Two other Democrats, state Rep. Paul Evans and former state Rep. Brian Clem, have also confirmed that they’re considering running for the 6th District. Willamette Week describes Clem as a moderate who can self-fund. He announced last month that he was resigning from the legislature to take care of his mother, but Clem says he’s giving a congressional bid “careful consideration.”
● Where Are They Now?: President Joe Biden has appointed Theresa Greenfield, the 2020 Democratic Senate nominee in Iowa, to a U.S. Department of Agriculture post as the state’s director of rural development.