The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● FL-20: A month after Democratic Rep. Alcee Hasting' death on April 6, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday that the special election for Florida's 20th Congressional District would not take place until Jan. 11 of next year, meaning the seat will remain without representation for 280 days. That's almost twice as long as the gap that preceded the state's two most recent special elections: In 2014, specials were held in the 13th District just 144 days after Rep. Bill Young died and in the 19th District just 148 days after Rep. Trey Radel resigned. Both were Republicans.
Local election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties initially proposed the dates that DeSantis wound up choosing, including a primary on Nov. 2. Soon after, however, they suggested the primary take place on Sept. 14 and the general on Nov. 9, with one official saying, "People would like it to be earlier."
DeSantis disregarded that advice in a move that Democrats are certain to attack as motivated by a partisan interest in depriving the party's narrow congressional majority of a key vote. (The governor's long delay in waiting to schedule the election was also hotly criticized, with one candidate, Democrat Elvin Dowling, filing a lawsuit late last week demanding a date be set.) The decision further means that the majority-Black 20th District will have no voice in the House for the better part of a year.
It's not yet clear when the filing deadline will be, but in a press conference announcing the dates, DeSantis said, "I think that puts qualifying towards the end of the first week of September."
● FL-Sen: Former prosecutor Aramis Ayala says she's considering seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Sen. Marco Rubio next year. In 2016, she became the first Black person to serve as state attorney in Florida history when she won an election to serve the 9th Judicial Circuit, which includes the city of Orlando.
Ayala declined to run for re-election last year after a legal battle with then-Gov. Rick Scott, who reassigned dozens of potential capital cases to a neighboring prosecutor after Ayala said she wouldn't seek the death penalty against any defendants. Florida's Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Scott's favor, which Ayala cited in her decision not to seek another term, saying the decision was "in direct conflict with my view and my vision for the administration of justice."
● FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist launched his long-expected campaign for governor on Tuesday, his second effort to return to the office he once held as a Republican more than a decade ago.
Crist, an attorney by trade, rose through state politics in the 1990s and early 2000s, starting in the state Senate and eventually winning election as Florida's attorney general in 2002 after a failed bid for Senate in 1998. In 2006, Crist won the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush by a comfortable 52-45 margin over Democrat Jim Davis, despite that year's blue wave, which was fueled by hostility toward the other Bush.
In office, he governed as a relative moderate, supporting some environmental protection measures, gratefully accepting funds from the 2009 stimulus bill, and restoring voting rights to citizens who'd completed felony sentences (a policy reversed under later Republican governors).
But Crist's rise was soon thwarted when he once again tried to run for the Senate—this time in an open-seat race—in the 2010 cycle. As a popular sitting governor, Crist started his campaign off strong, with the support of the NRSC and GOP luminaries like John McCain. However, his embrace of the stimulus disgusted tea party conservatives and prompted former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio to challenge Crist, who eventually found himself trailing in polls of the primary. (Longtime DKE/SSP fans may recall that it was Rubio's entry that prompted the original "cat fud" meme—much to our later chagrin.)
Rather than risk a humiliating defeat for the GOP nomination, Crist announced in April that he'd instead continue on as an independent. The switch did nothing to save his chances, though, as Rubio went on to beat him 49-30, with Democrat Kendrick Meek taking just 20%.
Two years later, Crist completed his political evolution by joining the Democratic Party, whose banner he ran under in his first attempt to reclaim the governorship in 2014. That race also ended in failure, but much more narrowly: Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who'd succeeded Crist, defeated him 48-47—a painfully close margin, especially given the GOP wave.
Crist finally made it back to public office in 2016, after court-ordered redistricting made Florida's 13th District, based in his hometown of St. Petersburg, considerably bluer. Crist unseated Republican Rep. David Jolly 52-48 and won re-election twice more afterwards.
Crist is the first major Democrat to announce a bid for governor this year, but he's unlikely to be the last, which points to the same difficult question that haunted his most recent Senate campaign: Is he what his party wants? Running once again as a relative moderate, primary voters may prefer a more progressive option. Complicating matters further is an issue he didn't face in 2010, namely the fact that he's a white male seeking the nomination of a party whose leading vote-getters in the most recent gubernatorial primary were a Black man, Andrew Gillum, and a white woman, Gwen Graham.
Crist's decision may also be motivated in part by redistricting, since Republicans are likely to try to make his congressional district redder, reversing the changes that allowed him to win it in the first place. Even though the lines won't be known for some time, the jockeying for Crist's seat has already begun, which we took a look at in the previous Digest. And in a final twist, Crist could also wind up facing off once more against Jolly, who's partly followed a similar trajectory and now says he'd like to run for governor as an independent.
● GA-Gov, GA-LG: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein reports that extremist Republican Sen. Burt Jones, who'd been considering a primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp, is now more likely to run for the number two spot instead, according to unnamed GOP operatives. That's because, as Bluestein has previously reported, Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who's openly criticized Donald Trump and his party's efforts to impose voting restrictions, is "unlikely" to seek a second term next year.
● TX-Gov, TX-LG: Deep inside a long New York Times Magazine article on the burgeoning civil war within the Texas GOP, Elaina Plott reports that state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller—who hails from the party's looniest wing—hasn't "yet made a final decision" about whether to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott in next year's primary. Miller didn't offer any kind of timetable for making an announcement, but he sounds eager, claiming he's received an "overwhelming" response at Republican events.
The Texas Tribune, meanwhile, reports that Miller "has also raised speculation that he could run against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick."
● GA-06: Republican Eric Welsh, an Army veteran and former Coca-Cola executive, launched a bid against Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath on Tuesday. In his kickoff, Welsh derided McBath, whose son, Jordan, was murdered by a gunman in 2012, as a "single-issue partisan hack" and said, "But to go there to Washington and represent but what one view, and not strongly support the Second Amendment and our right to bear arms, is unfortunate." The only other notable Republican in the race is another Army veteran, Harold Earls.
● IL-17: Politico reports that conservative activist Terry Schilling is considering a bid for Illinois' 17th Congressional District, a seat that his late father, Bobby Schilling, represented for one term before getting ousted by Democrat Cheri Bustos, who's now retiring. Schilling runs an anti-trans group called the American Principles Project and was exposed for posting homophobic tweets while running his father's unsuccessful comeback campaign last year in Iowa's 2nd District.
Among other things, Schilling wrote in 2019, "I have zero problem explaining heterosexual sex to my kids if they ask — it's how babies are made. Am I really a snowflake for not wanting to explain butt sex to my kids?" At the time, the Quad-City Times also reported that Schilling lives in northern Virginia.
● NY-01: Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who finished third in last year's Democratic primary, announced on Tuesday that she'll once again run for New York's 1st Congressional District, which is open thanks to Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin's bid for governor. Last month, 2020 nominee Nancy Goroff also said she was considering a repeat bid but would not decide "until sometime this summer."
One Goroff ally trying to coax her in, though: 314 Action, which supports electing scientists to Congress, released a survey this week from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling showing Goroff leading Fleming 37-22 in a hypothetical primary. However, Goroff's name recognition is considerably higher, and 40% of voters are undecided.
● OH-15: Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who said last month he was considering running for the Democratic nomination in the special election to replace Republican Rep. Steve Stivers after he resigns, has opted against a bid. While the special will be run under existing lines, Patterson said that he decided to stay out in part because of uncertainty surrounding redistricting, particularly since Ohio will lose a seat thanks to reapportionment.
● TX-06: Democratic voters in the upcoming special election runoff in Texas' 6th Congressional District are faced with the unappetizing choice of picking between two Republicans, so which Republican to pick? Last year's Democratic nominee, Stephen Daniel, grudgingly tweeted that he'd vote for state Rep. Jake Ellzey over conservative activist Susan Wright on account of the fact that Donald Trump endorsed Wright. Added Daniel, "Also, @SenTedCruz is against Ellzey. Good enough for me."
● GA-SoS: State Rep. Bee Nguyen kicked off a long-awaited campaign for secretary of state on Tuesday, giving Democrats their first high-profile candidate for Georgia's top elections officer in a state where Republican attacks on voting rights have garnered national attention.
As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein relates, Nguyen emerged as a top supporter of voting rights after succeeding Stacey Abrams in the legislature in 2017, leading a battle to dismantle the Georgia GOP's "exact match" voter registration law that froze more than 50,000 voter registrations ahead of the 2018 midterms because they did not perfectly match records in other databases. She's also been a vocal advocate for prosecuting Robert Long's murder of six Asian American women at Atlanta-area spas in March as a hate crime.
While Nguyen might be joined by other candidates in the Democratic primary, the bigger question is who the GOP will put forward in November, since incumbent Brad Raffensperger's been the target of a sustained assault by Donald Trump backers ever since he rejected Trump's efforts to rig last year's election. Raffensperger faces a challenge from far-right Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump's backing and voted to overturn the results of the Electoral College on the day of the fatal insurrectionist attack on Congress.
Either way, the Peach State could be in for another close race: In 2018, Raffensperger edged out Democrat John Barrow just 49.1 to 48.7 in the November general election, then won 52-48 in a December runoff.
● Where Are They Now?: Democrat Richard Cordray, who lost a competitive race for Ohio governor in 2018, has been tapped by Joe Biden to head the Education Department's Office of Federal Student Aid, which oversees the nation's $1.6 trillion in student loans. The position does not require confirmation by the Senate.
Cordray, a close ally of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, had served as state attorney general before becoming the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the creation of which Warren had spearheaded. He left that post in 2017 to run for governor, losing to Republican Mike DeWine by a 50-47 margin.
● Where Are They Now?: Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who won a shocking special election victory over Republican Roy Moore in 2017 but lost re-election last year, has joined the D.C. lobbying firm Arent Fox.