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.
● CO-05: State Rep. Dave Williams announced Tuesday that he would challenge Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn for renomination in Colorado's 5th Congressional District, setting up yet another primary battle for an incumbent who's faced many. Williams notably kicked off his campaign just days after the House Ethics Committee announced that it was extending its probe into Lamborn and promised to "announce its course of action" by Jan. 24.
The committee didn't divulge the subject of its investigation, but it likely has to do with allegations leveled against the congressman by a former aide named Brandon Pope. Pope has claimed that Lamborn allowed his adult son to live in a storage unit in the Capitol basement (!); directed his staff to do personal tasks for him, including helping his son with job interviews; and retaliated after Pope complained about unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. Williams seemed to allude to the investigation in his launch when he declared, "Lamborn's lack of effective leadership and compromised integrity have cost our community dearly over the last 15 years."
The Colorado Sun notes that the Williams has cultivated a hard-right reputation during his three terms in the legislature, noting that the lawmaker has backed "legislation to expand who can request an election recount, prohibit abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy[,] and allow Colorado law enforcement to arrest people living in the U.S. illegally."
Oh, that's not all: The challenger, the Sun adds, also "cosponsored unsuccessful legislation in 2020 which would have imposed prison sentences on doctors who provide gender-transition treatment to people under 18, let businesses refuse to serve LGBTQ people on the basis of religious beliefs[,] and banned same-sex marriage." Additionally, Williams was part of an unsuccessful push to do away with party primaries in 2022 and instead allow GOP leaders to hand-pick nominees.
Lamborn himself has always been an ardent conservative, but he's faced surprising struggles to win over Republicans back home in Colorado Springs for well over a decade. His past problems may have been more about personality than ideology: Back in 2006, retiring Rep. Joel Hefley accused Lamborn of running the "most sleazy, dishonest campaign I've seen in a long, long time" after Lamborn very narrowly defeated one of his former aides, and the bad blood never really went away.
Lamborn earned just 44% of the vote in his 2008 renomination contest, and while his prospects seemed to improve after he won without opposition two years later, his problems were far from over: In 2014, the incumbent beat underfunded foe Bentley Rayburn, a retired Air Force general who took third in 2006 and 2008, just 53-47.
His true near-death experience came in 2016, though, when delegates at the GOP convention in the district favored little-known legislative aide Calandra Vargas by a wide 58-35 margin. Colorado allows candidates to reach the primary ballot by collecting the requisite number of signatures and/or by taking 30% of the vote at their party gathering, but because Lamborn had decided to pursue only the second route, he came extremely close to getting eliminated from contention. The incumbent rallied to beat Vargas 68-32 in the primary a few months later, but that experience foreshadowed another tough race.
In 2018, two notable Republicans decided to take on Lamborn: state Sen. Owen Hill and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who was the GOP's 2016 nominee for Senate. Lamborn this time decided to gather petitions and skip the convention, but that decision almost blew up in his face when the state Supreme Court knocked him off the ballot after ruling he'd violated state law by hiring a circulator to collect petitions who did not meet the state's residency requirements.
The congressman successfully sued in federal court to overturn that law and decisively won the crowded primary, but his performance wasn't impressive: Lamborn this time claimed just 52%, with Glenn far back at 20%. The congressman, despite his bumpy 2018 ride, had no intra-party opposition last year, but Williams is betting that his troubles are far from over.
While Lamborn may have plenty of problems at home, at least redistricting doesn't seem to be one of them. The new map cost the 5th District some territory but didn't add any new turf, so the incumbent currently represents 100% of his revamped constituency.
P.S. As for his son haunting the subterranean depths of the Capitol grounds, Lamborn admitted in May that he'd given his kid "temporary housing as my guest because the housing market in Washington, DC, is very tight" … but he didn't specify where that temporary housing was located.
● MO Redistricting: Missouri's bipartisan redistricting commission, which voters reformed dramatically in 2018 by passing a ballot measure designed to promote partisan fairness, has released draft maps for the state Senate and House. Congressional redistricting remains under the control of the Republican-run legislature, which has yet to propose any plans.
● PA Redistricting: After Monday's unforced debacle, which saw Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania House swap in a blank bill—yes, literally blank—in place of a congressional redistricting plan that had upset some GOP lawmakers, those same leaders have now unveiled an actual map and say it will get a vote on Wednesday. This latest proposal differs in a number of ways from the GOP's initial effort, which Republicans self-servingly described as a "citizen map." That map's creator, however, was Republican Amanda Holt, who successfully challenged the state's previous legislative maps a decade ago, then served as a county commissioner in Lehigh County. Holt's plan, however, no longer seems to be on the table.
● GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue has publicized an internal poll from Fabrizio Lee that gives him a 47-44 lead over Gov. Brian Kemp in a head-to-head Republican primary matchup. The campaign did not release numbers testing the two against former state Rep. Vernon Jones and Some Dudes Kandiss Taylor and Jonathan Garcia, however, even though this trio was included in a subsequent question asking respondents what they'd do if they "knew that President Donald Trump endorsed and fully supported David Perdue for Governor." (This question results in Perdue leading Kemp 46-32.)
Kemp's allies at Georgians First Leadership Committee (more on that below), meanwhile, are already launching an early $1 million ad campaign well ahead of the May primary that uses some very familiar arguments against Perdue. "Millionaire David Perdue built a career putting himself first," explains the narrator, continuing, "Searching for cheap labor, Perdue outsourced jobs to countries like China. He made a fortune for himself, but left communities broken, families ruined." The spot goes on, "Perdue even bragged, 'Yeah, I spent most of my career doing that.'"
The former senator was on the receiving end of attacks over outsourcing both during his successful 2014 campaign against Democrat Michelle Nunn and his failed re-election effort against Jon Ossoff this year and last. Kemp's allies conclude their spot by trying to portray Perdue as opposed to Trump, who recruited him to run in the first place. "That's not America first," says the narrator, "That's David Perdue putting China and himself first."
Georgia audiences should expect to see many more commercials from Georgians First Leadership Committee in the new year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that the group was created earlier this year after Kemp signed into law a bill that lets the governor and certain other statewide candidates "create funds that don't have to adhere to contribution caps." Importantly, these committees will also be able to accept donations during the legislative session, when the governor and lawmakers are otherwise forbidden from fundraising.
This legislation won't be any help for Perdue, though, unless and until he wrests the GOP nomination from Kemp. And while Stacey Abrams is the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic standard bearer again, she also won't be able to create this kind of committee until her primary is officially over.
● NE-Gov: Former Gov. Dave Heineman said Tuesday that he would not enter next year's Republican primary for his old job.
● TX-Gov: Monday brought us our first filing deadline of the 2022 election cycle, as candidates in Texas were required to submit their names to appear on the March 1 primary ballot; runoffs will be held on May 24 for contests where no one takes a majority of the vote. We've put together a calendar of every state's filing deadlines, primaries, and (where applicable) runoffs, which you'll want to bookmark and keep handy. Very helpfully, the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek has compiled a list of candidates who've filed to run at every level of the ballot in Texas.
At the top of the ticket is the race for governor, which will see Republican incumbent Greg Abbott seek a third term. Abbott has long been one of the most conservative governors in America, but he faces two notable intra-party foes who don't think he's right-wing enough: former state party chair Allen West, a one-time tea party star who was elected to the U.S. House from Florida in 2010 only to lose two years later; and former state Sen. Don Huffines, who lost re-election in 2018. Few polls have been released here, but the numbers we've seen have all shown Abbott taking well over a majority of the vote.
The Democratic frontrunner is former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who doesn't face any serious primary opposition. O'Rourke came shockingly close to beating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, but he'll face a very tough general election in a state where Democrats haven't scored a single statewide victory since 1994.
Further below in our House section, you can find our roundup of all the notable candidates in all of Texas' key races. Tracking candidate filings, however, is a quirky enterprise, especially in the Lone Star State, so we’ve also put together a guide to the common pitfalls and key things to look out for as filing season gets underway. (Next up on the list: Kentucky, Jan. 7.)
● CA-22: Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson said Tuesday that he would support Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig rather than run himself for California's soon-to-be-vacated 22nd District.
● GA-07: Gwinnett County Board of Education member Everton Blair on Tuesday ended speculation that he could enter the Democratic primary by endorsing Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents the current 6th District but is seeking re-election in the 7th.
● GA-10: State Rep. Timothy Barr has earned an endorsement from 9th District Rep. Andrew Clyde, a far-right freshman whose home was drawn into the revamped 10th District. Clyde is seeking re-election in the 9th, however, while the 10th is open because Republican Rep. Jody Hice is running for secretary of state.
● IL-13: Former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski has earned the backing of the state SEIU in this open seat, an endorsement that came days after she picked up endorsements from the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the state AFL-CIO as she seeks the Democratic nomination.
● NJ-06: Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley said this week that she was considering seeking the Republican nomination to take on longtime Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone and would decide in the new year. The current version of this seat, which includes northern Middlesex County and the northern Jersey Shore, is reliably blue turf at 57-42 Biden, but the state's bipartisan Redistricting Commission has yet to complete its work.
● PA-16, PA-Gov: Republican Rep. Mike Kelly announced Monday that he'd seek a seventh term in what is currently a 59-40 Trump seat in the Erie area. Kelly had talked about running for governor earlier this year, and while he reportedly told his colleagues in the spring that he wouldn't campaign statewide, this is the first time he's publicly confirmed he'll stay out of that race. Kelly faces a House Ethics Committee probe over his alleged intervention on behalf of a steel company his wife had invested in.
● TX-01: We start our rundown of Texas House filings with, appropriately enough, the state’s 1st Congressional District. Nine-term Rep. Louie Gohmert is leaving behind this 72-26 Trump seat in northeast Texas in order to run for attorney general, and four of his fellow Republicans are competing to succeed him. The frontrunner appears to be Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, whose constituency is home to 30% of the district's population. Also in the running are former Gohmert staffer Aditya Atholi; businessman Joe McDaniel; and John Porro, who lives in Dallas—far from the 1st District.
● TX-03: Republican Rep. Van Taylor likely will have nothing to fear in a general election under the GOP’s new gerrymandered map, which dramatically increased Donald Trump's margin of victory in this Plano-area seat from 50-49 to 56-42. However, the incumbent does have a potentially competitive primary ahead of him. Taylor's main foe is former Collin County Judge Keith Self, who retired in 2018 as the leader of his large suburban Dallas community.
Self kicked off his campaign back in October by taking Taylor to task for voting to accept Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the hours after the attack on the Capitol, as well as for supporting the creation of the Jan. 6 commission. Both men start with large geographic bases: Taylor currently represents about three-quarters of the new 3rd District, while close to 90% of the constituency resides in Collin County (the balance is in Hunt County). Four other Republicans are also running.
● TX-04: There's little indication that freshman Republican Rep. Pat Fallon is vulnerable in a primary for this 62-36 Trump seat in east Texas, but he does face a notable intra-party opponent in the form of former News 12 anchor Dan Thomas. Thomas, who was fired in October for refusing to get vaccinated for what he claimed were health reasons, framed his campaign as an anti-corruption effort, arguing, "The reason why it doesn't change is because too many politicians up there are profiting off the very system that they claim they're gonna go up there and fix." One other Republican is also in.
Only about 55% of this seat is in Fallon's current 4th District, though this will actually be his first congressional primary. That's because party leaders awarded Fallon the GOP nod last year after incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned well after the primary to become Trump's director of national intelligence.
● TX-07: Republicans made Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher considerably safer in this Houston-based seat in order to shore up Team Red in nearby seats, ballooning Joe Biden's margin of victory from 54-45 to 64-34. Fletcher did earn a last-minute primary challenge from wealthy healthcare executive Tahir Javed, but his last effort went poorly: Javed self-funded $1.3 million in his 2018 bid for the current 29th District only to lose the primary to the eventual winner, then-state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, 63-21.
● TX-08: Veteran Rep. Kevin Brady is retiring from this 63-36 Trump seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, and at least seven fellow Republicans are competing to succeed him. The two main candidates at this point appear to be retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell and former Brady campaign manager Christian Collins. Luttrell has the backing of former Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, while Sen. Ted Cruz is supporting Collins.
● TX-12: Longtime Rep. Kay Granger got some very welcome news just as filing closed when she learned that wealthy businessman Chris Putnam, who held her to a 59-41 win in last year's Republican primary, didn't end up submitting his campaign paperwork; Putnam confirmed the next day that he'd decided not to run. Granger now faces no serious opposition in a Fort Worth-based seat that Donald Trump carried 58-40.
● TX-15: Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez decided to run for the considerably safer 34th District not long after the Republican-run legislature passed a new map that shifts the 15th from a 50-49 Biden seat into a 51-48 Trump constituency, and both parties have crowded primaries for this seat in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Republican race has been underway for some time. The GOP's top candidate appears to be 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz, who held Gonzalez to a shockingly slim 51-48 victory last time despite raising very little money. This time, though, De La Cruz has plenty of money as well as endorsements from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Ted Cruz. She attracted unwanted headlines in November, however, after the public learned that her husband had accused her of physically and verbally abusing her 14-year-old stepdaughter in documents he'd filed the previous month as part of the couple's divorce proceedings, but the story has yet to derail her campaign.
The Republican field also includes eight other contenders. Some of the more notable names include Mauro Garza, a self-funder who last year lost to Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro in the safely blue 20th District, and Wilson County Justice of the Peace Sara Canady.
At least six Democrats are running, but we may need to wait for a bit for this race to fully take shape. The roster includes nonprofit official Eliza Alvarado and businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, who announced just before filing. One important metric for evaluating these newer contenders won’t be available until Jan. 31, when federal candidates have to file their next quarterly fundraising reports.
● TX-17: While Republican Willie Blackmon, a former municipal judge in Harris County, launched a primary campaign against Rep. Pete Sessions last month, he doesn't appear to have actually filed paperwork to run. Sessions should have no trouble in either the primary or general election for this 61-38 Trump seat.
● TX-23: Republicans in the Texas legislature did whatever they could to protect GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales by extending Donald Trump's margin from 50-48 to 53-46 in this sprawling west Texas seat. Marine veteran John Lira looks like the favorite to win the Democratic nomination to face the freshman congressman, though he needs to get past social worker Priscilla Golden first.
● TX-24: Perhaps no seat better represents how aggressive the Republicans' new gerrymander is than GOP Rep. Beth Van Duyne's 24th District in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, which the GOP transformed from a 52-46 Biden constituency into a seat Trump won 55-43. The Democratic field consists of Marine veteran Derrik Gay, 2018 nominee Jan McDowell, and attorney Kathy Fragnoli, but it would take a lot to make this race competitive next year under these new boundaries.
● TX-27: Republican Rep. Michael Cloud faces a primary challenge from A.J. Louderback, who is the sheriff of tiny Jackson County, as well as five other opponents, but there's little reason to think the incumbent is in danger in this 60-37 Trump seat in the Corpus Christi area. Just in case, though, Cloud has Trump's endorsement.
● TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar, who has long been one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, faces a primary rematch against attorney Jessica Cisneros, a progressive who held him to a 52-48 victory in 2020. Educator Tannya Benavides is also in, and while she hasn't attracted much outside support, her presence could be enough to throw this race to a runoff this time.
Seven Republicans are running as well, including businessman Ed Cabrera and Cassy Garcia, a former Ted Cruz staffer who is campaigning with his support. Republican legislators actually made this Laredo-based seat a hair bluer under the new map in order to weaken Democrats in the 15th District, as Joe Biden's margin ticked up from 52-47 to 53-46.
● TX-30: Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is retiring after representing the Dallas area in Congress for 30 years, and nine Democrats are running to replace her. Johnson is backing state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, while veteran party operative Jane Hope Hamilton has endorsements from 33rd District Rep. Marc Veasey and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
The field also includes progressive activist Jessica Mason and former legislative staffer Abel Mulugheta, who both entered the race before Johnson announced her retirement; Cedar Hill Independent School District Trustee Keisha Lankford; former Dallas City Council Member Vonciel Hill; and perennial candidate Barbara Mallory Caraway, a one-time state representative who badly lost to Johnson during each of the last five cycles.
● TX-34: Incumbent Filemon Vela announced his retirement back in March and is now supporting the candidacy of 15th District Rep. Vicente González, a fellow Democrat who decided to run here after the new Republican map made his own seat more conservative. In order to weaken the 15th, though, the GOP extended Biden's margin in the Brownsville-based 34th from 52-48 all the way to 57-42, which makes the Democratic nomination especially valuable. At least six other Democrats are running, but none of them appear to have the connections needed to mount a serious campaign against González.
● TX-35: Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett decided to run for re-election in the 37th District rather than the new 35th District, which includes most of the territory he's represented for a decade, and four Democrats are running to succeed him in this 72-26 Biden seat. The GOP legislature once again connected the Austin area with San Antonio by means of a pencil-thin corridor along Interstate 35, which has set up a battle between politicians from both major population centers.
From the Austin side are City Councilman Greg Casar, who has the backing of Mayor Steve Adler, and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez. The most prominent candidate at the other end of the district, meanwhile, is former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran.
● TX-37: Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett has decided to run for re-election in this new 75-23 Biden seat rather than run again in the 35th District, which he's represented for the last 10 years. A few fellow Democrats are also running here, including Donna Imam, who lost to Republican Rep. John Carter last year in the current 31st District. Doggett's existing constituency makes up just over 10% of this new Austin-based district, but it would be a huge surprise if the veteran congressman, who has represented Texas' capitol city since 1995 under various maps, had any trouble in a primary, especially since he has the support of numerous local elected officials.
● TX-38: Army veteran Wesley Hunt impressed Republican leaders last year with his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in the 7th District, making him the heavy favorite this time to claim this new 58-40 Trump seat in the Houston suburbs. Several fellow Republicans are also running, but the only one who looks notable is Mark Ramsey, a former State Republican Executive Committee member who launched his campaign on the final day of filing.
● TX-AG: While Republican incumbent Ken Paxton faces three serious opponents in next year's primary, the scandal-ridden attorney general will be hard to stop, especially since he enjoys Donald Trump's support.
Paxton's most prominent foe is Land Commissioner George P. Bush, but Bush has his own weaknesses with the party's nativist base. Also in the running are former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert, whom then-Speaker of the House John Boehner once described as "insane," adding, "There's not a functional brain in there."
The Democratic field, meanwhile, includes former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza, who has the backing of EMILY's List; former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski; and civil rights attorney Lee Merritt.