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.
● OH-Sen: Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is one of our very least-favorite Republican Senate candidates from yesteryear, on Wednesday became the first major candidate to announce a bid to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. This will be Mandel's third bid for the upper chamber following his unsuccessful 2012 run against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and his aborted 2018 rematch attempt.
Mandel was elected state treasurer during the 2010 GOP wave after waging a campaign that included blatantly Islamophobic messaging. Mandel had little interest in the job he had just won, though, and he almost immediately began plotting a run against Brown.
The Republican ran one of the most revoltingly mendacious campaigns of the cycle: In March of 2012, PolitFact published an article highlighting how "whoppers are fast becoming a calling card of his candidacy," and Mandel utterly shed himself of any semblance of honesty over the following months. This time, though, it didn't work, as Brown turned back Mandel 51-45 while Barack Obama was carrying the Buckeye State by a smaller 51-48 spread.
Mandel had the good fortune to seek and win re-election in 2014 during another Republican wave, when he performed the worst among the whole GOP ticket, but few politicos thought that he was interested in focusing on his nominal day job. Instead, he announced just a month after the 2016 election that he'd be running against Brown again two years hence, and he immediately emerged as the heavy favorite to win the nomination once more.
Mandel spent the next year running yet another despicable campaign. The treasurer, who wasted little time attacking Muslims again, also defended the men promoting "Pizzagate," the breathtakingly psychotic conspiracy theory that a Washington, D.C. pizzeria housed a child sex ring frequented by top Democrats.
In January of 2018, though, Mandel shocked the political world when he suddenly announced that he was dropping out of the race because of a health problem affecting his then-wife. (The two divorced last year.) Mandel's departure left national Republicans scrambling to find an alternative, and the man they ended up with, Rep. Jim Renacci, went on to lose to Brown that fall. Mandel was termed out as treasurer early in 2019, and Cleveland.com's Seth Richardson writes that he spent the next two years keeping "a relatively low profile, including quietly scrubbing all of his social media in 2019."
But Mandel is back now, and true to form, he's launched his latest Senate bid with a statement blaring, "It's sickening to see radical liberals and fake Republicans in Washington engage in this second assault on President Donald Trump and the millions of us who supported him." (It won't surprise you to learn that it doesn't mention the actual assault on the Capitol that led to this second impeachment.)
Mandel begins the campaign with $4.4 million on-hand from his 2018 effort that he can use for his newest campaign, but, as Richardson notes, also plenty of enemies within the party. Mandel will likely have several serious primary rivals: Jane Timken recently stepped down as state party chair ahead of a likely bid for the Senate, and a number of other Republicans are considering getting in as well.
● IL-Sen, IL-Gov: Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger did not quite rule out a statewide bid in 2022 on Tuesday, but he sounded very unlikely to go for it. "It's not my intention to run for anything statewide," the congressman said, adding, "I think there's probably less of that chatter."
Kinzinger also alluded to his vote to impeach Donald Trump last month when discussing his future. Kinzinger said that people who "speculate that I was taking the positions I was taking to set myself up to run statewide" don't know him and also "probably don't know something about politics if you think I can get through a primary pretty easily."
● NC-Sen: Former Rep. Mark Walker earned an endorsement on Wednesday from Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who is one of the most notorious Republican extremists in the freshman class. Walker is the only notable GOP politician who has announced a bid to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr so far, but a number of others are considering getting in.
● MA-Gov: Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Trump supporter who was Team Red's 2018 Senate nominee, said this week that he'd decide on a gubernatorial bid "in the next few months." Diehl had previously expressed interest in waging a primary campaign against Gov. Charlie Baker, who has not yet announced his 2022 plans.
On the Democratic side, political science professor Danielle Allen told WGBH that she expected to remain in exploratory mode at least through the spring. Allen, who would be the first Black woman elected governor of any state, formed an exploratory committee in December.
● CA-22: This week, Marine veteran Eric Garcia announced that he would run as a Democrat against Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who is one of the most notorious Trump sycophants in a caucus full of them. Garcia campaigned as an independent two years ago but took last place with just 3% in the top-two primary. Democrat Phil Arballo, who went on to lose to Nunes 54-46 as Trump was carrying this seat by a slightly smaller 52-46 margin, is also seeking a rematch.
● MD-05: Activist McKayla Wilkes announced this week that she would seek a rematch against House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who defeated her 64-27 in last year's Democratic primary. Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd is already challenging Hoyer from the left, but he and Wilkes each affirmed that only one of them will be on the 2022 ballot. "I had a conversation with him, and we do plan on consolidating at one point," Wilkes told Maryland Matters. "The main focus is to have a progressive emissary, whether that's Colin or myself."
● NC-11: 2020 Democratic nominee Moe Davis said in a recent fundraising email that he was considering seeking a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Davis raised $2.3 million last year but lost 55-42 as Donald Trump was carrying this western North Carolina seat by a similar 55-43 margin.
● NM-01: Two Democratic state legislators have introduced a bill that would require parties to select their nominees for special elections to the House using a traditional primary rather than through a party central committee meeting, but it faces a number of hurdles.
The Albuquerque Journal writes that the legislation would need the support of two-thirds of each chamber in order to go into effect in time for the likely special election to succeed Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, who is Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of the interior. One of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. Daymon Ely, is also worried that the committee hearing process is moving so slowly that his proposal could be "killed by delay."
● NY-22: In an interview that took place one day after he conceded defeat in the extremely tight November election, former Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi did not close the door on a 2022 campaign to return to the House. Brindisi told Syracuse.com, "I certainly have not ruled anything off the table yet. But right now, things are a little too raw and early for me to decide."
Brindisi and Republican Claudia Tenney, who will be sworn in on Thursday, have already faced off in two competitive elections. In 2018, Brindisi denied Tenney a second consecutive term in the House by beating her 51-49 during that year's Democratic wave. Tenney, however, came back last year and unseated Brindisi by 109 votes, though the defeated incumbent still ran well ahead of his party's ticket. According to new data from Daily Kos Elections, Donald Trump carried this seat, which includes the Binghamton and Utica areas upstate, 55-43.
● TX-24: The National Journal's Mini Racker reports that 2020 Democratic nominee Candace Valenzuela is considering seeking a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Beth Van Duyne. This historically red seat in the Dallas Fort Worth suburbs was swung hard from 51-44 Trump to 52-46 Biden but Van Duyne, like almost all Texas Republicans running in competitive House races, ran well ahead of the ticket and prevailed 49-47.
● New York City, NY Mayor: The lobbying group Fontas Advisors, which Politico says is not working with any candidate, has released what it says will be the first of a "recurring series" of polls of the June instant-runoff Democratic primary from Core Decision Analytics. 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang leads Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 28-17, while the only other candidate to hit double digits was City Comptroller Scott Stringer with 13%. The survey did not ask about respondents' second-choice preferences.
The only other poll we've seen was a mid-January survey for Yang from Slingshot Strategies that gave him a similar 25-17 edge against Adams. That poll went on to simulate the instant runoff process and found Yang defeating Adams 61-39 on the 11th and final round of voting.
There's a long while to go before the primary, though, and this week, the New York Times reported that former White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan became the first contender to launch a "television ad campaign of any significance in the contest."
The spot begins with footage of Barack Obama declaring, "Shaun's just one of those people where he sees a problem, and he will work to solve it." Donovan then appears and tells the audience, "I represent real change. But a change candidate usually has the least experience. I actually have the most." The commercial also features more pictures of the candidate with Obama and Joe Biden.
● San Antonio, TX Mayor: Former conservative City Councilman Greg Brockhouse announced over the weekend that he would seek a rematch against Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Nirenberg, a progressive independent, won a second term in 2019 by beating Brockhouse by a narrow 51-49 margin. (San Antonio is the largest city in America to elect its mayors to terms lasting for two years rather than four.)
Back in December, Brockhouse previewed his strategy to once again rally Republican voters in this Democratic-leaning city. The former city councilman said that Donald Trump's defeat meant that "[c]onservatives and faith-based people lost their champion," but insisted that anger with the new national status quo would inspire them to turn out in 2021. Brockhouse also refused to acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect and attacked Nirenberg as a "fearmonger" for his COVID-19 briefings.
Seven others have entered the race ahead of Friday's filing deadline, but there's little question that Brockhouse will once again be Nirenberg's main opponent. The officially nonpartisan primary will take place on May 1, and if no one captures a majority of the vote, a runoff would be held on a later date.
● History: Plenty of governors go on to serve in the Senate but, as we recently noted, it's much more uncommon for members of the upper chamber to try the opposite career switch, and a new report from the University of Minnesota shows just how comparatively rare these senators-turned-governors are.
As Eric Ostermeier writes, "Since 1900, just 21 sitting or former U.S. Senators have been elected governor while 153 sitting or former governors were elected or appointed to the U.S. Senate." Ostermeier adds that six additional people during this time went from the governor's office to the Senate and later back to the governorship.
As we've written before, there's likely a good reason why relatively few senators are looking to trade their Capitol Hill digs even for what's usually a much shorter commute to their statehouse. While many states have term limits that will eventually force their chief executives out of the governor's office, senators can stay in office for decades as long as voters keep re-electing them.
And while some states do allow their governors to seek term after term in office, few have ever enjoyed anything like the longevity that many senators become accustomed to. The longest serving governor in American history is Iowa Republican Terry Branstad, who totaled a little more than 22 years in office during his two stints in charge―a milestone that's less than the length of four Senate terms.
Still, some senators do like the idea of leading their state rather than continuing on as just one member of a 100-person body, and a few do end up running for governor. Ostermeier reports that four sitting senators over the last two decades have competed in a gubernatorial general election, and three prevailed: Alaska Republican Frank Murkowski and New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine won their sole terms in 2002 and 2005, respectively, while Kansas Republican Sam Brownback would be elected to lead Kansas in 2010 and 2014.
The fourth member of this group was Louisiana Republican David Vitter, who lost to Democrat John Bel Edwards in a 2015 upset. (At least one other sitting senator during this time period, Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, also ran for governor during this time, but her campaign ended in the primary.)
We may see a few current or former senators try to claim the governorship this year, though. The Omaha World-Herald recently reported that Republican Sen. Deb Fischer is considering a run to lead Nebraska, while former GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte has been mentioned as a possible successor for New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu should he run against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan―who made the jump from governor to senator in 2016 by beating Ayotte.