The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● NM Redistricting: New Mexico's Democratic-run legislature passed a new congressional map over the weekend, making some changes to a previous iteration that lawmakers had introduced last week (and had received preliminary approval in a committee). The state House also passed a map for its own districts aimed at improving Native representation, while a Senate committee replaced a map that shared the same goal with one designed to avoid double-bunking Republican incumbents, earning the opposition of tribal leaders; its final fate is not yet clear.
The congressional map, which now goes to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, still creates three seats that Democrats can win. The final version balances out the 1st and 3rd Districts on a partisan basis compared to the initial map, making the 3rd a little bluer by having the 1st take in some more rural areas in eastern New Mexico while the 3rd sheds turf on the outskirts of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Compared to the existing map used for the previous decade, the new boundaries dramatically reconfigure each district to transform the 2nd from a solidly Republican seat into a light-blue swing district. Under the old lines, the 2nd voted 55-43 for Donald Trump in 2020 and supported him 50-40 four years earlier; with the new border, it would have backed Joe Biden 52-46, according to Dave's Redistricting App, and Hillary Clinton 48-42.
This transformation is achieved by splitting up Albuquerque, about 95% of which was in the reliably blue 1st District under the old map. Now, about a quarter of the city—including its most heavily Latino southwestern quadrant—is in the 2nd. To compensate, the revamped 1st extends further into the suburbs north of the city as well as rural areas in the middle of the state. As a result, it drops from 60-37 Biden to 56-42 Biden.
The 3rd undergoes a similar change, giving up some of those suburbs north of Albuquerque to the 1st while grabbing a swath of dark red territory in the state's southeast. Likewise, it falls from 58-40 Biden to 54-44 Biden (or about Biden +11 without rounding). Local politics might offer a keener lens, though: The 3rd now includes a large swath of the area known as "Little Texas," which is home to much of the state's oil industry. That in turn could pose new challenges for Democratic Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (for more, see our NM-02, NM-03 item below).
A majority of the voting-eligible population of the redrawn 2nd is now Latino, up from a plurality, while the 1st shifts from a white plurality to a white majority. The 3rd retains a white plurality that's just narrowly larger than the Latino voting-eligible population, though it would have one of the largest populations of eligible Native voters of any district in the country, around 18%.
● PA Redistricting: How's this for good governance? Just days after publicly introducing their own congressional redistricting proposal, a Republican-run committee in the Pennsylvania state House voted to advance two blank bills with absolutely no material content whatsoever in a party-line vote on Monday. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Stephen Caruso explains that the GOP's map was criticized by some Republican lawmakers for the ways in which it splits certain counties between districts, particularly Blair and Lebanon counties, prompting party leaders to change course … without, apparently, much of a course in mind.
What might happen next is therefore unclear. Presumably Republicans will fill in their shell legislation with some actual text, but whatever the legislature passes—barring an unlikely compromise by the two parties—will almost certainly be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
● AL-Sen: Alabama Patriots, a new super PAC set up to aid Army veteran Mike Durant in the Republican primary, is spending at least $378,000 on an opening ad buy touting Durant's service in the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia.
● IA-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Pam Jochum said last month that she would run for re-election rather than take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.
● ID-Gov: The Idaho Capital Sun's Kelcie Moseley-Morris has rounded up all the Republican candidates' fundraising totals as of Dec. 9, though none of the contenders' cash-on-hand is available. Gov. Brad Little hauled in $927,000, which puts him well ahead of all of his opponents in the May primary. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who picked up Donald Trump's endorsement last month, was well behind with $110,000 raised, with an additional $15,000 coming from transfers from her previous campaign and self-funding.
A little surprisingly, McGeachin was also outraised by Ed Humphreys, a financial adviser and party activist we hadn't previously mentioned, who took in $171,000 and self-funded another $10,000. Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw raised about $20,000, while anti-government militant Ammon Bundy took in just $10,000.
● MD-Gov: Former DNC chair Tom Perez unveiled an endorsement Monday from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is the daughter and sister of a pair of former Baltimore mayors.
● PA-Gov: The already-packed May Republican primary got even more unwieldy on Saturday when state Sen. Scott Martin announced his own campaign to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Martin, who represents a seat in Lancaster County, currently serves as chair of the Education Committee, and the Associated Press' Marc Levy writes that he's used that post to "make it easier to open charter schools and accelerate state taxpayer subsidies for private and parochial schools by hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years." Martin, though, used his kickoff to instead emphasize his previous career as a county commissioner and his time as a high school and college athlete.
The new contender has never run statewide, though Martin's base in Lancaster County, a large and very red community located just west of the Philadelphia area, could be an asset in a crowded primary that still hasn't fully taken shape. In addition to Martin, the following candidates are running in a nomination fight that currently has no obvious frontrunner:
- 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta
- Former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi
- State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman
- Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale
- GOP strategist Charlie Gerow
- Former Rep. Melissa Hart
- Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain
- Businessman Dave White
- Surgeon Nche Zama
And the field could still get larger. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has been one of the loudest proponents of the Big Lie in the state, formed an exploratory committee last month, and plenty of state politicos are acting like it's only a matter of time before he declares. Multiple media organizations also reported just before Thanksgiving that former state House Speaker Mike Turzai has decided to run, but he hasn't made his move in the ensuing weeks.
On the Democratic side, by contrast, Attorney General Josh Shapiro has no serious intra-party opposition in sight.
● CO-03: State Sen. Don Coram told the Colorado Sun on Monday that he was considering waging a Republican primary campaign against the nationally infamous Rep. Lauren Boebert.
It's incredibly hard to envision Coram, who recently said that he "feel[s] bad for the 80% in the middle because the 10% on the far left and far right get all the attention," convincing enough GOP voters to fire a far-right congresswoman who has no trouble getting attention. Coram, though, doesn't have a seat to run in following the passage of Colorado's new legislative maps, so he may just decide he has nothing to lose.
● CO-06: Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas has announced that she'll run for sheriff rather than seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Jason Crow.
● GA-13: South Fulton City Councilman Mark Baker has announced that he'll wage a primary campaign against Rep. David Scott, who has long been one of the lousiest members of the Democratic caucus, in this safely blue seat based in Atlanta's southern suburbs.
Scott was first elected in 2002 with the high-profile support of his brother-in-law, the late baseball legend Hank Aaron, and he's often angered progressives during his long tenure. Notably, Scott vocally sided with Republicans during the Obama years to undermine regulations aimed at reining in predatory payday lenders and preventing auto dealers from charging higher interest rates to people of color.
The congressman still regularly won renomination without any trouble until he unexpectedly took just 53% of the vote against three underfunded foes last year, which was almost enough to force him into a runoff.
● MD-04: Former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey has released a Public Policy Polling survey that gives him a 31-8 lead over former Del. Angela Angel in the June Democratic primary for this safely blue seat, with Del. Jazz Lewis in third with 5%. Ivey campaigned here in 2016 to succeed Donna Edwards but lost the primary to Anthony Brown, who is now leaving Congress to run for Maryland attorney general.
Maryland Matters, meanwhile, relays that Edwards herself "reportedly is mulling the race," though there's no other information. Edwards left the House in 2016 to run for the Senate, but she lost the primary 53-39 to fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen. She sought a comeback two years later when she campaigned for Prince George's County Executive but also lost the Democratic nomination 62-34 against Angela Alsobrooks.
● NM-02, NM-03: With New Mexico's traditionally conservative 2nd District about to get considerably bluer thanks to redistricting, ambitious Democrats will be eager to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell. One had in fact kicked off a bid long before passage of the state's new congressional map (see our NM Redistricting item above): Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez, who also recently announced an endorsement by freshman Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez; previously, Vasquez had earned the backing of Sen. Martin Heinrich.
But others could join. Local reporter Joe Monahan mentions Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Peña, whose turf was just drawn into the 2nd. Monahan suggests her "moderate" profile might be a good fit for the district (which would have backed Joe Biden 52-46), but those kinds of "electability" arguments often don't go far with primary voters.
Meanwhile, just as the 2nd is poised to become bluer, the 3rd is set to get redder. At 54-44 Biden, it's not the most welcoming turf for Republicans, but the introduction of a large slice of New Mexico's oil-producing region called "Little Texas" might entice Republicans—or possibly even more conservative Democrats—to take a swing at unseating Leger Fernandez, a vocal environmental advocate. One possibility, says Monahan, could be oil executive Claire Chase, who lost to Herrell 45-32 in last year's GOP primary in the 2nd but could run in the revised 3rd.
● NY-03: Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan announced Monday that he would run to succeed Rep. Tom Suozzi, a fellow Democrat who is leaving to run for governor, in a state where redistricting is far from finished.
Lafazan was elected to his current post in 2017 at the age of 23, which made him the youngest person to ever serve on the body, and he won a tight race last month to hold his seat. Lafazan spent his career as a registered independent who caucused with Team Blue, but he registered as a Democrat earlier this month. The new candidate pitched himself as a bipartisan figure, arguing, "I am running to represent all people to fulfill what was lacking on the school board and in the Legislature — I want to be the unifier."
Lafazan joins progressive activist Melanie D'Arrigo, who unsuccessfully challenged Suozzi for renomination in 2020, in the primary, and a few other Democrats are also expressing interest in getting in. Former North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who took third in the 2016 primary, told Newsday last week, "I'm looking at my options for putting a run together over the next few weeks." DNC member Robert Zimmerman also said he was considering.
● TX-15: Businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, a Democrat who co-owns the prominent Pulga los Portales flea market, announced Monday that she would run as a progressive for this open 51-48 Trump seat, a move that came on the final day of candidate filing. Hours later, Hidalgo County Health Authority Ivan Melendez said that he wouldn't seek the Democratic nomination even though he had filed FEC paperwork earlier in the month.
● TX-27: Rep. Michael Cloud picked up an endorsement over the weekend from Donald Trump in his Republican primary battle against Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback.
● TX-28: Former Ted Cruz staffer Cassy Garcia on Monday entered the Republican primary to take on conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar with an endorsement from her old boss.
● TX-30: Democratic operative Jane Hope Hamilton on Monday publicized endorsements from 33rd District Rep. Marc Veasey, who represents a neighboring Dallas-area seat, and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
● TX-35: Former San Antonio Councilwoman Rebecca Viagrán announced over the weekend that she was joining the Democratic primary for the open 35th District, which remains a preposterous gerrymander that links the Austin area with San Antonio by means of a pencil-thin corridor along Interstate 35. Viagrán left the City Council in June due to term limits and was succeeded by her sister.
● VT-AL: State Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint on Monday launched her bid to succeed Rep. Peter Welch, a fellow Democrat who is leaving behind this statewide seat in order to run for the Senate. Balint became the first gay person to lead the Vermont Senate at the start of the year, and she would again make history if she won this office.
Balint joins Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, who like her would be the first woman to ever represent Vermont in Congress, in the August primary. State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale also is considering entering the race.
● ID-AG: Republican incumbent Lawrence Wasden announced late last month that he'd seek a historic sixth term, and the Idaho Capital Sun's Kelcie Moseley-Morris reports that he quickly raised $24,000 through Dec. 9. That's still considerably less than the $175,000 that former Rep. Raúl Labrador, who is his main foe in the May primary, brought in after launching his campaign the previous week.
Another candidate, attorney Dennis Colton Boyles, has raised $35,000 so far and self-funded an additional $49,000. Boyles recently represented Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is challenging Gov. Brad Little for renomination, when the Idaho Press Club successfully sued her for not releasing public records.
● NY-AG: While several notable candidates entered the Democratic primary for attorney general during the six weeks that incumbent Tish James spent campaigning for governor, they all exited the race in the days following James' Thursday re-election announcement. One contender, former Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo, had initially said she would remain in the primary, but she joined the rest of the field in dropping out on Monday.
● Special Elections: We have two special legislative races to watch Tuesday:
CT-HD-116: Three candidates are competing to succeed former state Rep. Michael DiMassa, a Democrat who resigned in October after he was arrested for allegedly scheming to steal $636,000 in pandemic relief funds. This West Haven-based constituency supported Hillary Clinton by a solid 75-22 in 2016, but the Democratic nominee's anti-abortion views have infuriated plenty of local activists.
Team Blue's candidate is West Haven Councilwoman Treneé McGee, who has declared, "I consider myself pro-life for the whole life, from the womb to the tomb." Portia Bias, a former Democrat whom McGee defeated for re-election in 2019, is running here as an independent, though she hasn't focused on McGee's opposition to abortion rights. Bias also tried to regain her old post last month but took a distant third against McGee in the general election. The GOP, finally, is fielding Richard DePalma, who lost to DiMassa 74-26 in 2018.
Democrats control the chamber 95-54, with vacancies here and in one other Democratic-held seat.
IA-SD-01: Two candidates are running to replace Republican Zach Whiting, who resigned in October to move to Texas for a job at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in a western Iowa district that supported Donald Trump 72-27 four years after backing him 71-25. The GOP nominee is insurance agent Dave Rowley, while the Democrats are running businessman Mark Lemke. The GOP enjoys a 31-18 majority, with only this seat vacant.
● Orleans Parish, LA Sheriff: Former New Orleans Police Department Independent Monitor Susan Hutson unseated her fellow Democrat, longtime incumbent Marlin Gusman, 53-47 in a closely watched Saturday runoff, a result that makes Hutson the first Black woman elected sheriff anywhere in Louisiana. Hutson's win came a year after a fellow criminal justice reformer, Jason Williams, was elected district attorney in a city that NOLA.com notes "was once one of the most incarcerated places on the planet."
Hutson argued that Gusman has done a poor job overseeing the Orleans Justice Center, a jail that has been under a federal consent decree since 2013 for what the Justice Department called "unlawful conditions at the prison." Gusman pointed to improvements in the facility over the last few years and took credit for the prison having far fewer inmates now than when he assumed office in 2004, but his critics insisted that any progress happened in spite of him.