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.
Programming Note: The final Live Digest of 2021 will be on Friday, while the year's last Morning Digest will be going out Monday. We'll be back in early January!
● NC-Sen: State Sen. Jeff Jackson announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary and endorsing former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a move that leaves Beasley as Team Blue's only major candidate in one of the party's top Senate targets in the nation.
No other Democrats have shown any obvious interest in taking on Beasley, so it would be a huge surprise if she had any trouble securing the nomination in the primary, which her former colleagues on the state's highest court moved from March to May due to ongoing litigation over the state's congressional map. Indeed, Beasley picked up an endorsement hours after Jackson's departure from Rep. Deborah Ross, who was the party's Senate nominee in 2016. Republicans, meanwhile, still have an intense and already very expensive intra-party fight ahead of them between former Gov. Pat McCrory and the Trump-backed Rep. Ted Budd.
Jackson, an Afghanistan war veteran who has been one of the party's most prominent rising stars, used his Thursday video to explain he was leaving the race because Beasley was well ahead in the polls and that a "costly and divisive primary will sink this whole." That decision still surprised plenty of observers, but the state senator explained his thinking in an interview with Axios' Michael Graff that took place before his announcement.
Jackson relayed that his advisers told him the only way to pull ahead was to attack Beasley, but he'd decided against that route "[n]ot because I have a particular problem being critical when I think it's fair, but just in her case, it would not have been honest." He continued, "She has over a decade of exemplary public service to her name. And the prospect of suggesting otherwise on television ads, was just a non-starter with me."
Jackson, who is white, also noted that plenty of activists believed it was vital to elect a Black woman like Beasley. "Those comments were fair. They were fair," he said, adding, "We've had two Black women ever, as U.S. senators. That is wrong. It is." Graff additionally noted in his story that, despite Jackson's three-month head start, Beasley had nearly caught up to Jackson in fundraising by the end of September and even enjoyed a cash-on-hand lead.
● PA Redistricting: Pennsylvania's legislative redistricting commission gave initial approval to new maps on Thursday, with all five members supporting the Senate plan while the court-appointed tiebreaker sided with the panel's two Democratic commissioners in favor of the House proposal.
The House map in particular represents a dramatic change from the past: Under the current lines, which were heavily gerrymandered to benefit Republicans, Donald Trump carried 109 districts while Joe Biden won just 94, despite the fact that Biden narrowly beat Trump in Pennsylvania last year. The new plan, by contrast, would give Biden a 102-101 edge, according to Dave's Redistricting App. Nonetheless, despite baseless Republican howls that the proposal is unfair to them, it actually still very slightly favors the GOP according to the nonpartisan site Planscore. The Senate map, meanwhile, would have given Trump a 26-24 advantage in seats, which is actually an increase from the existing map, which is evenly split.
The commission will now take public comments for 30 days, after which it will have 30 more days to make any changes in response to those comments. Following that deadline, any opponents of the map have another 30 days to challenge it before the state Supreme Court.
Speaking of the court, it's worth noting that the commission's move toward much fairer maps was no accident. It's the justices who select the tiebreaking member, which is why Democrats years ago launched an expensive and far-sighted campaign that succeeded in flipping the Supreme Court in 2015 after two decades where GOP majorities had selected the redistricting tiebreaker. That effort culminated in the court tapping former University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg, a registered Democrat who has described himself as "about as close to the middle as you probably could get."
● WY Redistricting: A committee in Wyoming's Republican-run legislature, which released proposed legislative maps this month, has adopted an "initial base plan" as it draws final districts. Wyoming "nests" two House districts within each Senate district.
● OH-Sen: Self-funding businessman Bernie Moreno, a Republican who launched a new ad buy at the start of the month for a reported $4 million, uses his new commercial to proclaim, "President Trump says the election was stolen, and he's right." The spot claims that social media hid unfavorable stories about Joe Biden while the media joined Democrats in "smearing" Trump, with the narrator expressing his disgust that "the liberal media, elites, and big tech all say we should move on." Moreno continues, "Facebook might delete this ad, but I'm paying to air it so you know the truth."
However, as the Washington Post's Dave Weigel points out, Moreno himself believed that Republicans should move on from the 2020 race 13 months before he started running this commercial. Moreno tweeted days after the election, "To my conservative friends: accept the results of 140m+ votes cast," and, "Congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris for their hard fought victory. Now is the time for unity." Naturally, he ended the time for unity by deleting those tweets.
● IA-Gov: Frank Cownie, the longtime mayor of Des Moines, didn't quite rule out seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in an interview with Axios, but he came close. Cownie said he was "not seriously thinking about" taking on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and added that he hoped others entered the primary.
● MA-Gov: Former U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling very much did not rule out seeking the Republican nomination for governor when WBUR asked him on Wednesday, saying, "I don't want to comment right now on whether I am, or am not, thinking about running for [the governor's office]." The Boston Herald reported earlier this month that Lelling was considering running to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring incumbent Charlie Baker.
● NY-Gov: The Hotel Trades Council has backed Gov. Kathy Hochul, which makes it the first major union to take sides in the June Democratic primary.
● CA-47: Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a longtime elected official in the Long Beach area, announced Thursday that he would not seek a sixth term in California's 47th Congressional District. The current incarnation of Lowenthal's constituency, which includes most of Long Beach as well as nearby communities in Los Angeles and Orange counties, is solidly blue turf at 62-35 Biden, though the state's independent redistricting commission is still completing the new map.
Speculation immediately began that Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia could run to succeed his fellow Democrat, and the mayor, who is up for re-election in 2022, did not respond to questions about his plans. Rob Pyers of the California Target Book also name-dropped state Sen. Lena Gonzalez and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (who does not appear to be related to Robert Garcia) as possibilities for Team Blue.
Lowenthal, who worked as a psychology professor at Cal State Long Beach, first got seriously involved in politics after the city earned ugly national headlines in 1989 when a police officer was filmed brutally arresting Don Jackson, a Black activist and police sergeant from a nearby community; Jackson had been working with The Today Show to expose racism in the community, and the show's producers had hidden the cameras that captured him being pushed into a glass window.
Lowenthal responded to the altercation by successfully convincing the City Council to put a measure on the ballot to create a Citizens Police Complaint Commission, but he didn't forget that his own councilman had refused to even talk to him about the effort. He responded by unseating that city councilman in 1992, and he won a 1998 race for the state Assembly 50-47 in what turned out to be the last close race of his career.
Lowenthal, who made a name for himself for working to reduce air pollution at ports, won a promotion in 2004 to the state Senate without any serious opposition. In 2008 his ex-wife, Bonnie Lowenthal, also won a seat in the Assembly, which made them the first divorced couple to serve together in the California legislature. (Their marriage ended before either of them was active in politics.)
Alan Lowenthal formed an exploratory committee for a potential 2010 run for lieutenant governor but decided not to go through with it; he got his chance to seek higher office in 2012 after the new congressional map created an open Long Beach-based seat. Lowenthal faced no serious intra-party opposition, but Republicans hoped that Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong, who campaigned as a moderate, would have an opening in a district that Barack Obama had carried 58-39 in 2008. DeLong actually outspent Lowenthal, but the Democrat decisively won 57-43 as Obama was prevailing 60-37.
Lowenthal has had no trouble winning re-election, but other members of his current and former family, who were once compared to the Kennedys, have had mixed success at the ballot box. One of his sons, Daniel Lowenthal, was elected in 2006 to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, while the other, Josh Lowenthal, lost a close 2018 race for the Assembly. Bonnie Lowenthal, meanwhile, took third in the 2014 race for mayor of Long Beach despite the congressman's endorsement, while Long Beach City Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal (Daniel Lowenthal's ex-wife), lost the concurrent race to succeed her in the Assembly.
● CO-03: To the surprise of no one, Donald Trump has endorsed far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert in next year's Republican primary.
● GA-02: Air Force veteran Chris West has announced that he'll seek the Republican nomination to take on veteran Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop, joining former Trump administration official Wayne Johnson and Dougherty County GOP chair Tracy Taylor in the primary. Republicans made this southwestern Georgia district slightly redder in redistricting: It would have gone 55-44 for Joe Biden, as opposed to 56-43 under the old lines.
● IA-01, IA-02: EMILY's List has endorsed state Rep. Christina Bohannan and state Sen. Liz Mathis, neither of whom has any serious opposition in their respective Democratic primaries. Bohannan is challenging Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in the revamped 1st District, while Mathis is taking on GOP incumbent Ashley Hinson in the redrawn 2nd District.
● IL-13: 4th District Rep. Chuy Garcia is the latest member of the state's Democratic delegation to back former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski.
● MD-01: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, whose 5th District is located just across the Chesapeake Bay, has endorsed former Del. Heather Mizeur in the June Democratic primary to face extremist GOP Rep. Andy Harris in a constituency the Democratic legislature made more competitive.
Mizeur already had the support of Sen. Chris Van Hollen as well as three other members of the state's House delegation: Reps. Anthony Brown, Kweisi Mfume, and Jamie Raskin. Additionally, former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a moderate who lost the 2008 Republican primary to Harris in a previous version of this district, is also in her corner. Mizeur, who would be the first LGBTQ person to represent Maryland in Congress, ended September with a huge financial edge over her most prominent intra-party foe, foreign policy strategist Dave Harden.
● OR-04: Andrew Kalloch, who works as a policy executive at Airbnb, has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Peter DeFazio. While Kalloch didn't quite commit to running, he told Oregon Capital Chronicle's Julia Shumway that he planned to announce sometime in the new year.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin said that she wouldn't seek the Democratic nod. Shumway also relays that fellow state Sen. James Manning has also decided against running, though there's no quote from him; the story also says that Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins previously told the Oregon Capital Chronicle she was thinking about joining the race. The only notable declared Democratic candidate so far is Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who announced shortly after DeFazio made his plans known.
● TX-30: VoteVets has endorsed progressive activist Jessica Mason, a Navy veteran who launched a bid for the Democratic nomination before Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson confirmed that she would retire.
● GA-AG, GA-SoS: The prominent progressive organization End Citizens United has endorsed state Sen. Jen Jordan, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, and state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is running for secretary of state.
● NV-LG: Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday that he was appointing former principal Lisa Cano Burkhead to succeed Kate Marshall, a fellow Democrat who resigned as lieutenant governor over the summer to join the Biden administration. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately in Nevada.