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.
● CO-03: On Thursday, state Sen. Kerry Donovan became the most notable Democrat to announce a bid against Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, a QAnon defender who is one of the most notorious freshmen in the 117th Congress. Donovan, who promoted her background as a rancher in her launch video, alluded to Boebert's extremism by saying, "The last thing we need are people in Congress who talk tough and stoke division and fear."
A few other Democrats have expressed interest in running, so Donovan may face a competitive nomination fight before she can take on Boebert. One of them, state Rep. Dylan Roberts, told the Colorado Sun that he was "still considering" even though he'd need to face Donovan, whom he is friends with.
The biggest obstacle, though, is that the 3rd Congressional District is very tough turf for Democrats in its current form. While Joe Biden's 55-42 statewide win was Team Blue's best showing at the top of the ticket in Colorado since LBJ's 1964 landslide win, this western Colorado seat still favored Donald Trump 52-46. Boebert herself prevailed by a similar 51-45 margin last year despite pro-Democratic ads portraying her as too partisan and going after her QAnon sympathies and many run-ins with the law.
However, no one knows what the Centennial State congressional map will look like next year. Redistricting will be handled by an independent commission for the first time, and the likelihood that the state may gain an additional House seat only makes things more unpredictable.
● IA-Sen: While Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley recently said that he'd announce in "several months" whether he'd seek an eighth term, we may get his decision a lot earlier than that. Grassley told Iowa media on Wednesday, "I don't have a timetable for that, but it's several weeks off, I would say."
● NC-Sen: Democratic state Rep. Rachel Hunt told Morning Consult this week that she was not ruling out a bid for this open Senate seat and that she could decide after the legislative session ends in early July. Hunt is the daughter of Jim Hunt, who served two stints as governor from 1977 to 1985 and from 1993 through 2001.
● OH-Sen: On Thursday, former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton publicly acknowledged that she was considering a bid for the Democratic nomination for this open seat race. Acton added that she would step down from her nonprofit post to take the time to "carefully explore" a campaign.
On the GOP side, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez said this week that it was "very, very, very unlikely" he'd enter the campaign, but he added, "I never close the door on anything." Gonzalez fell back on his background in college football and the NFL to explain:
"When coaches are having a good season, the media will ask about rumors they're taking a job with the Miami Dolphins. They'll say 'absolutely not,' and then three weeks later they take the Miami Dolphins job. That looks silly, so I'm not going to play those games. You never say no. That's my answer."
Gonzalez infuriated his party last month when he voted to impeach Donald Trump, so we may very well see him taking that Miami Dolphins job before we see him in the Senate.
● PA-Sen, PA-Gov: WHYY reports that former U.S. Attorney William McSwain, whose tenure came to an end last month, has been speaking to local GOP leaders "in preparation for a possible campaign" for higher office. There's no word yet if McSwain has a preference between running for governor or for U.S. Senate.
● CA-Gov: While tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya announced last week that he'd run to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom if a recall special election takes place this year, Palihapitiya walked all that back on Wednesday, saying, "Let's be really honest. I'm not ready to do any of that."
While Palihapitiya didn't explicitly declare that he'd stay out of the campaign, he said that he'd need to learn "what are the conflict of interest laws and what do you have to do if all of this were to come to pass, because I cannot make a credible decision unless I do that." Palihapitiya also said that he wouldn't run if it meant abandoning a battery project he's working on, adding, "It's just that simple. So I have to figure that out." Palihapitiya has not made it clear what party he'd run with, and we may now never know.
Meanwhile, former Republican Rep. Doug Ose said that he was considering competing in a recall election. Ose, who represented a seat in the Sacramento area from 1999 to 2005, was last on the ballot in 2014 when he lost the most expensive House race in the country to Democratic incumbent Ami Bera just 50.4-49.6. Ose briefly ran for governor in 2018 but abruptly dropped out after he failed to bring in much money.
It may be a while, however, before anyone knows if there will be a recall election this year or if Newsom will next face the voters when he's up for another four-year term in 2022. Politico reported Thursday that county election authorities have verified that recall organizers have turned in 600,000 valid signatures so far, which means they need to turn in about 900,000 more by the March 17 deadline.
Newsom, though, may still have an option available to stop the recall even if his detractors hit this target. Recall expert Joshua Spivak notes that, should the secretary of state determine in late April or early May that there are enough valid petitions to force a vote, there would be a 30-day window for voters to withdraw their names. In 2017, Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter managed to submit enough signature withdrawal requests to end the effort to oust him from office, and the governor could try something similar.
● IA-Gov: This week, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson didn't rule out a potential campaign for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Thompson, whose jurisdiction includes Waterloo in the northeastern corner of the state, told The Courier that he'd received some encouragement from labor leaders and local community members, but that he had not been in contact with the state party. He continued, "It's not that I'm the right person at all, but somebody from outside of the golden dome—somebody from outside of central Iowa being able to bring a new perspective, new growth, new breath to that race is probably what is enticing, not Tony Thompson."
● IL-Gov: Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts was recently reappointed finance chair of the Republican National Committee, a development that the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet writes indicates that he's "not seriously considering" a bid against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Politico reported in December that Ricketts was privately not ruling out a campaign, but he's shown no obvious interest since then.
● MN-Gov: On Thursday, Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy became the first notable Republican to announce a bid against Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. Murphy leads a tiny Twin Cities suburb with a population of only about 2,000 people, so he won't be able to count on much of a geographic base of support in what could be a crowded contest.
● SC-Gov, SC-Sen: Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said Thursday that he would not run for another term as leader of South Carolina's capital city this year, and while he still hasn't said no to seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year, he doesn't sound likely to do it.
Benjamin, who previewed his announcement by tweeting, "no...I am not announcing a run for Governor," told the AP that, while he wasn't ruling out seeking elected office again, he wanted to use his time away to focus on his family and legal career. Benjamin, though, did make it clear he wouldn't be challenging Republican Sen. Tim Scott.
● NJ-05: Wantage school board president Nicholas D'Agostino announced Wednesday that he'd seek the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer. This seat, like many neighboring areas in North Jersey, has moved to the left over the last few years: According to new data from Daily Kos Elections, this constituency swung from 49-48 Trump to 52-47 Biden.
● OH-11: Former Democratic state Rep. John Barnes said Thursday that he'd run to succeed Rep. Marcia Fudge if she's confirmed as secretary of housing and urban development. Barnes joins a primary field in this safely blue seat that includes former state Sens. Shirley Smith and Nina Turner; Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown; and ex-Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson.
Cleveland.com's Seth Richardson notes that Barnes has had an acrimonious relationship with state party leaders for years. The state party endorsed his primary foe in 2014, though Barnes held on 54-46. Barnes later that year filed a defamation lawsuit against the party for allegedly sending out mailers during the nomination fight that he claimed contained false statements against him, though a jury rejected it in 2016.
Barnes, who was termed-out of the lower chamber in 2018, decided to challenge state Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko in that year's primary, but Yuko won 59-41.
● SC-07: On Wednesday, Horry County School Board chair Ken Richardson became the first Republican to launch a primary campaign against incumbent Tom Rice, who was recently censured by the state party for his vote to impeach Donald Trump. Richardson is the former owner of a Mercedes-Benz car dealership, which, according to the Post & Courier, has made him "well known" in the Myrtle Beach area.
A number of other Republicans are considering campaigns against Rice including state Rep. William Bailey, who recently formed an exploratory committee, and state House Majority Whip Russell Fry. A runoff would take place if no candidate won a majority of the vote in the primary, so a divided field may not prove helpful to the incumbent.