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.
● AZ-SoS: Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem kicked off his campaign on Monday against Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. The term-limited Finchem played a major role in instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and was a leader in the effort to steal Arizona's Electoral College votes for Donald Trump after Trump narrowly lost the Grand Canyon State to Joe Biden last fall. Republican lawmakers have resisted widespread Democratic calls for Finchem's expulsion from the legislature over his involvement in those efforts to overturn democracy, while voters in his Tucson-area district are trying to mount a recall election against Finchem.
Hobbs, whom the Arizona Republic reports is "widely seen" as a potential candidate for governor next year and has not committed to running for a second term, narrowly flipped this office from the GOP back in 2018. Hobbs has been proactive about trying to expand access to voting and been the target of GOP legislators' attempts to limit her powers in response. If Finchem is the GOP nominee, it would mark the latest escalation of the state Republican Party's attempts to ensure Republican victories regardless of how voters vote, and a potential Finchem victory next year would have major implications for the integrity of the 2024 elections, when Arizona will likely once again be hotly contested for president and Senate.
Finchem isn't the only Republican who could challenge Hobbs, though. The Arizona Republic also relays that state Sen. T.J. Shope is reportedly considering and that state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has been one of the state's leading proponents of passing new voting restrictions, has been regularly mentioned by unnamed insiders as a possible primary candidate.
● WI-Sen, WI-Gov: Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson unveiled a poll Wednesday from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows him leading Republican Sen. Ron Johnson 48-44. The release did not mention any numbers for the other declared Democratic candidate, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, though it did include a question on the gubernatorial race: That portion of the survey finds Democratic Gov. Tony Evers beating former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who has not yet announced a bid, 48-43.
● CA-Gov: The Public Policy Institute of California has polled the potential recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom that could take place this fall, and they find voters rejecting it by a wide 56-40 margin. This survey follows on the heels of a Probolsky Research poll from several days ago that found "likely" voters saying they would reject the recall by a similar 53-35 spread, although Probolsky did find the recall failing by a much narrower 46-40 margin when they asked the same question among all voters.
● IL-Gov: Wealthy businessman Gary Rabine announced Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker. He joins state Sen. Darren Bailey and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf in the primary.
Rabine quickly made it clear he wouldn't be distancing himself from his ally Donald Trump, who lost Illinois 57-40 last year. When asked if he agreed with Trump's lies that fraud cost him reelection in 2020, Rabine merely replied, "I'm not smart enough to understand what was the end result, whether it was stolen or not, and I would never say that."
While Rabine has self-funded $250,000 so far, he said he wouldn't come anywhere close to matching the resources of Pritzker, a billionaire who poured a record-shattering $171 million of his own money into his 2018 campaign against former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, a fellow wealthy candidate who self-funded tens of millions. "I'm not going to self-fund a campaign that's going to cost more than I could ever afford," Rabine said, adding, "So I am going to fund my campaign with what's affordable in my eyes." Rabine didn't say how much that might be.
● VA-Gov: Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase used a recent interview with radio host Jeff Katz to accuse wealthy businessman Pete Snyder of trying to manipulate the May 8 nominating convention, and she also said she'd already collected enough signatures to run as an independent if the convention is "rigged." Katz then directly asked, "So if Pete Snyder gets the nomination Amanda Chase definitely runs as an independent in November. If [businessman] Glenn Youngkin or [Del.] Kirk Cox gets the nomination you'll be out campaigning on their behalf." Chase responded, "Absolutely."
Chase briefly announced an independent bid in December, but she backed down as week later.
● CA-25: Former Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith has announced she will wage a third campaign for this suburban Los Angeles County seat held by Republican Rep. Mike Garcia. Smith was the Democratic candidate here in both last year's general election and the preceding March special election, and she lost by just 333 votes last fall as Biden was carrying this district by a 54-44 margin.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned in 2019 after she was victimized by revenge porn, is "widely believed to be interested in running again, though the 33-year-old has not publicly revealed her plans." Hill previously flipped this seat in 2018 by ousting former GOP Rep. Steve Knight by a comfortable 54-46 margin but stepped down just 10 months into her term.
● GA-10: Former Republican Rep. Paul Broun, a far-right figure whom the Atlanta Journal-Constitution accurately notes "is fast becoming a perennial candidate," announced Wednesday that he would run to succeed Rep. Jody Hice—who is leaving to run for secretary of state—in Broun’s old northeast Georgia House seat.
Broun was elected to the House in a 2007 special election, and he quickly emerged as the go-to guy for far-right quips, including his infamous 2012 proclamation that "[a]ll that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." It was Broun's career that soon descended into the pit of hell, though. In 2014, Broun gave up the 10th District to run for an open Senate seat, but he finished a weak fifth in the primary with just 10% of the vote.
Two years later, Broun relocated to the adjacent 9th District and challenged incumbent Doug Collins for renomination, but the former congressman failed to raise much money and lost by a lopsided 61-22 margin. Broun tried again in the 9th last year when Collins left to mount a failed Senate bid of his own, but Broun ended up taking fourth in the primary with 13%.
● IA-02: Democrat Rita Hart withdrew her contest of last year's election in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District that had been pending before the House on Monday, blaming a "toxic campaign of political disinformation" for her decision.
Hart lost one of the closest federal elections in decades, falling just six votes short after a recount in her bid to defend a seat that had been held by Democrat Dave Loebsack since 2007. The winner, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, had run three unsuccessful campaigns against Loebsack (in 2008, 2010, and 2014) but was provisionally seated in January while the House Administration Committee took up Hart's petition.
Hart had alleged that election officials had failed to count 22 properly cast ballots but eschewed a legal challenge in the Iowa courts and instead asked the House to investigate under a 1969 law empowering it to do so. Republicans bitterly assailed her request, accusing Hart of trying to overturn the results despite the fact that a majority of the GOP caucus recently voted to reject the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
The bigger problem for Hart, however, was that multiple House Democrats, who would have been in the uncomfortable position of having to vote either to grant or reject her contest, publicly expressed discomfort about her petition, suggesting her effort might have failed had it come before the full chamber.
● OH-11: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, a Democrat whose constituency overlaps with 39% of the 11th District, has endorsed former state Sen. Nina Turner in the Democratic special election primary.
● New York City, NY Comptroller: City Councilman Brad Lander earned a high-profile endorsement this week from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ahead of the June instant-runoff Democratic primary.
● VA State House: While Virginia is poised to use its current state House districts for this November's elections thanks to the census delaying the release of the data needed to draw new districts by six months to late summer, it's still unclear what will happen with the delegates elected this fall.
The newly established bipartisan redistricting commission has set an initial timeline for drawing new maps after August, but lawmakers haven't decided whether the state House members elected in November will have to run again under newly drawn districts in 2022 and thus have to face the voters for three straight years in a row or whether the new lines won't take effect until the regular 2023 elections. Democratic Del. Marcus Simon, who is a member of the redistricting commission, said, "My feeling is no one wants to press the issue yet because no one knows who is advantaged or disadvantaged by running three years in a row."