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.
● MO-Sen: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Wednesday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the state's open Senate seat, a decision that came two days after disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens also entered the primary.
An unnamed source close to the attorney general told the Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry that Greitens' kickoff had no impact on the timing of Schmitt's own launch. Lowry, though, notes that, by getting in early, Schmitt may be trying to establish himself as the main intra-party adversary for Greitens, whom national Republicans reportedly fear could endanger their hold over this seat should he win the nomination.
However, while Schmitt may be hoping that his entrance could deter other Republicans from running, a former Greitens adversary is also making it clear he's thinking about diving in. On Tuesday, wealthy businessman John Brunner posted a photo of himself with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul captioned, "Does Rand Paul need another freedom fighter in the US Senate?" Brunner lost the 2012 primary for Missouri's other Senate seat to the infamous Todd Akin before he campaigned for governor in 2016. Greitens, though, defeated Brunner 35-25 after a truly ugly contest.
Schmitt, for his part, was first elected statewide that year when he decisively won the race for state treasurer, a contest that coincided with Greitens' victory in the gubernatorial contest. However, while Greitens resigned in 2018 in the face of multiple scandals, including allegations that he'd sexually assaulted a woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her into silence, Schmitt secured a more powerful post months later following that year's elections. That promotion came about when the state's new governor, Mike Parson, appointed Schmitt attorney general to succeed Josh Hawley, who had just been elected to the Senate
Schmitt before long used his new job to sue the government of China over its response to the pandemic, a move that got him plenty of press but unsurprisingly went nowhere after China refused to be served. (Chuck Hatfield, who served as chief of staff to Democrat Jay Nixon when he held that office, snarked, "You're suing the Chinese Communist party in Cape Girardeau, Missouri? What do they have a field office down there?") Schmitt also continued the state's lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act even after Missouri voters approved a referendum last August to expand Medicaid.
Schmitt had no trouble winning a full term last year, and he quickly became one of the main figures behind a lawsuit by multiple Republican attorneys general to overturn Joe Biden's victory. The U.S. Supreme Court quickly dismissed the attempt, but that hardly stopped Schmitt from using his Wednesday campaign appearance on Fox to brag, "I fought alongside President Trump in defending election integrity." At no point did Schmitt ever refer to Joe Biden as president.
P.S. One of Schmitt's allies in that suit was fellow Republican Derek Schmidt, the attorney general of neighboring Kansas. Schmidt is currently competing in the primary for governor of his state, so both Attorneys General Schmitt and Schmidt will be on the ballot around the same time next year. That could make for a confusing experience for TV viewers in media markets that cover both states, especially Kansas City, though Kansas will be the only one of those two states to host a gubernatorial race in 2022.
● AL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell said Wednesday that she would remain in the House rather than run for the Senate in this very red state.
● AZ-Sen: Extremist Rep. Andy Biggs recently told the Wall Street Journal that he would decide by the end of the month whether to seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly.
● NC-Sen: State House Speaker Tim Moore has reportedly been considering seeking the Republican nomination for next year's Senate race, but he said this week that he planned on re-election to the legislature. That declaration seems unlikely to silence chatter about Moore's 2022 plans, though, as it came in the midst of a strange story that only led to more questions about whether the speaker would be sticking around state government.
The News & Observer reports that Tom Fetzer, a powerful lobbyist who previously served as mayor of Raleigh and as state GOP chair, sent out a text over the weekend for, in his words, "putting together a fundraiser" to benefit House Majority Leader John Bell. Fetzer tried to entice would-be attendees by writing, "As Tim Moore has stated he is not seeking another term in the House, John is the odds on favorite to be Speaker in 2023."
State law, though, forbids lobbyists from hosting fundraisers or soliciting contributions while the legislature is in session, as it is scheduled to be through July. Bell said that Fetzer wasn't involved with the event, which has since been canceled, and that he hadn't heard that Moore planned to leave the legislature. "It's way too early for me to be talking about that," said Bell about his boss' future.
The paper writes that Moore, for his part, "texted an N&O reporter Tuesday to say he plans to seek a fifth term, which would be a record." However, while Fetzer says he wasn't actually involved in holding that ill-fated fundraiser ("I dictated the text into my phone and just sent," he said), the lobbyist insisted that he'd made no mistake when he said Moore was on his way out. "I do think the speaker has informed people that he does not intend to seek another term," Fetzer said, adding, "I don't know that that's a real surprise."
The story did not mention the Senate race, but N&O reporter Brian Murphy tweeted it out saying, "Lots of news in this story, but one takeaway that will lead to lots of speculation: Is NC House Speaker Moore planning a run for U.S. House or U.S. Senate?" This is the first we've heard of the possibility that Moore, who is in place to play a major role during the upcoming round of redistricting, could run for the House.
● NV-Sen: The National Journal's Madelaine Pisani takes a look at Nevada's surprisingly quiet Senate race, where no major Republicans have publicly expressed interest yet in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and she mentions a few possible contenders for Team Red
Pisani name-drops former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, though she adds that "none have made public indications they are preparing bids." Ex-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was the party's 2018 gubernatorial nominee, reportedly has been eyeing this contest, though he's said nothing about his deliberations.
● CA-Gov: Probolsky Research, a firm that has worked for Republicans in the past but says it has no client in this year's recall campaign, has released a poll that finds likely voters saying they'd vote against ousting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom by a 53-35 margin.
The recall has not yet been officially scheduled, much less declared, though, which makes it especially tricky to determine who is likely to turn out. Probolsky asks the same question among all voters and also finds a plurality opposed to recalling Newsom, but by a much-smaller 46-40 spread.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that billionaire Tom Steyer, an environmentalist who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020, recently commissioned a poll of his own testing his prospects in a hypothetical race to succeed Newsom. A spokesperson for Steyer only said to check back in "late April," which is around the time that county clerks have to validate signatures for the recall petition. However, an unnamed source close to Steyer said he'd be "very, very surprised if he is looking at the recall ballot."
● IL-Gov: Chicago Now writes that wealthy businessman Gary Rabine will announce "next Tuesday" that he'll seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
● MI-Gov: Craig Mauger of the Detroit News reports that officials from the Republican Governors Association have met with three possible candidates in next year's race to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: 2020 Senate nominee John James, conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, and businessman Kevin Rinke. Of this trio, Dixon has said she's looking at the race, while Rinke has very much not ruled it out; James, meanwhile, has been quiet about his intentions.
We'll start with James, who is the best known of the trio. James ran in 2018 against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and lost 52-46 while Whitmer was beating Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette 53-44. That showing impressed national Republicans, who recruited James to take on Michigan's other Democratic senator, Gary Peters: After a very expensive contest, Peters won 50-48 as Joe Biden was carrying the state by a slightly-larger 51-48 spread
James has spent the last several weeks attacking Whitmer in media appearances, but he hasn't said if he's thinking about challenging her. Mauger writes that some Republicans would prefer he run for the House after redistricting because they believe it would be easier than a third statewide campaign, and that James' 2022 "decision could still be months away."
Dixon was much more forthright, saying, "Michigan needs to mount a comeback with a new governor, and that might just be me." Mauger says that she recently spoke at a protest against the arrest of a restaurant owner who had defied Whitmer's COVID-19 restrictions and a court-order.
Finally, there's businessman Kevin Rinke, who also argued Tuesday that the state needed a new governor. "Who the candidate will be?" Rinke asked, before answering, "To be determined." Mauger writes that the family has owned car dealerships in the Detroit area, which gives them a recognizable name in this large section of the state.
Mauger also mentions Schuette, former Rep. Mike Bishop, and former state House Speaker Tom Leonard as possible contenders. Leonard, he writes, is "expected" to instead seek a rematch with Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, who beat him 49-46 in 2018, though Mauger says he is still "viewed as a potential gubernatorial candidate."
● NE-Gov: Republican Sen. Deb Fischer confirmed Wednesday that she was considering running in next year's open seat race for governor, though she said she was "in no hurry" to decide. That could be very unwelcome news for other Republicans looking at this race, as Fischer would be a very prominent contender who could deter others from running.
● NY-Gov: Democrat Charles Lavine, who chairs the New York Assembly's Judiciary Committee, said on Tuesday that he expects the committee's impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo will take "months, rather than weeks." Two women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, Ana Liss and Lindsey Boylan, have said they won't participate in the investigation, citing both its slow pace and criticisms about its independence. A third, Charlotte Bennett, has said she will take part, but her attorney said "questions remain" about the probe.
● GA-10: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that businessman Ames Barnett, the former mayor of the small community of Washington (pop. 4,000) is considering seeking the Republican nomination to succeed incumbent Jody Hice and "hopes to make a decision within the next week."
● NJ-02: Hector Tavarez, a former member of the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, said this week that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew. Tavarez joins civil rights attorney Tim Alexander in the primary for this South Jersey seat.
The New Jersey Globe notes that Tavarez, who is also a retired police captain, has a more conservative pitch than most Democrats. Tavarez notably said in his kickoff, "Welfare and other social programs were designed to assist American families in need for a short period of time while they got themselves up on their feet. Over the years, these programs have evolved into a way of life, generation after generation."
● NY-23: Several Republicans are showing at least some interest in running to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Reed, though many acknowledged that they'd want to wait and see what the new congressional map looks like. New York, as we've noted before, is likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for map makers to eliminate this upstate constituency.
Former state Sen. Cathy Young told WIVB reporter Chris Horvatits that she was thinking about it, while Assemblyman Joe Giglio said it was something he "might consider." In a separate interview with the Olean Times Herald, Giglio said he'd be interested if the 23rd District "still existed" after the remap.
State Sen. George Borrello, who was elected to succeed Young in a 2019 special election, also told Horvatits he wasn't ruling it out. Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel also said he was focused on his re-election bid and didn't appear to directly address a congressional bid. Assemblyman Andy Goodell, though, said he wouldn't be running himself.
On the Democratic side, 2020 state Senate candidate Leslie Danks-Burke said she was open to a House race. Meanwhile, Tracy Mitrano, who lost to Reed in 2018 and 2020, said she wouldn't wage a third congressional campaign.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Virginia:
VA-SD-38: Republican Travis Hackworth defeated Democrat Laurie Buchwald 76-24 to hold this seat for his party. Hackworth's win was similar to Donald Trump's 75-22 victory here in 2016.
This chamber is now at full strength, with Democrats maintaining their narrow 21-19 majority.
● New York City, NY Mayor: Core Decision Analytics has released its second poll of the instant-runoff Democratic primary for Fontas Advisors, a lobbying group that is not working for any candidates, and it shows 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang leading Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 16-10.
The firm has changed one important part of its methodology since its February survey, which had Yang beating Adams 28-17. The earlier poll included a brief description of each candidate while this one just lists their names, which helps explain why the proportion of undecideds skyrocketed from 19% to 50%.
Yang's campaign, meanwhile, has released another poll from Slingshot Strategies that shows him outpacing Adams 25-15, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer at 12%. This survey, which the pollster tells us was in the field March 12-18, is very similar to its January survey finding Yang up 25-17.
The crowded primary field also got a little smaller Wednesday when City Councilman Carlos Menchaca exited the contest.