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-Gov: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced Wednesday that she would run for governor of Arizona, a move that makes her the most prominent Democrat to join the contest to succeed termed-out Republican incumbent Doug Ducey. The Republican field is also still taking shape, as former local Fox anchor Kari Lake, who has made a name for herself circulating far-right lies, launched her own bid the previous day.
We'll start with Hobbs, whose 22.214.171.124 victory in 2018 gave Team Blue control of the secretary of state's office for the first time in 24 years. Hobbs attracted national attention in 2020 for her high-profile role as this swing state's chief elections administrator, and she used her kickoff video to highlight how she'd done her job in the face of death threats.
Hobbs also drew attention to the GOP's bogus "audit" of Maricopa County's 2020 vote, saying, "We've got this state government being run by conspiracy theorists right now. They are out of touch with everyday Arizonans and that's holding us back as a state."
Hobbs' only notable intra-party opponent so far is former homeland security official Marco López, who announced back in March. The one other Democrat we've heard express interest in campaigning for governor is state Rep. Aaron Lieberman, who recently revealed he was looking at this race.
Turning our attention to the Republican field, Lake left Phoenix's Fox 10 in March after 22 years to announce her own campaign. However, she began spreading conspiracy theories and cultivating ties with the far-right well before she went off the air. As early as 2018, Lake tweeted that the "Red for Ed" movement to increase teacher pay and school funding was really a secret plan to legalize marijuana―a claim she made solely based on a photo of a satirical t-shirt.
Since then, Lake has set up accounts on sites that are popular with QAnon followers and neo-Nazis and circulated lies about the coronavirus and 2020 election. Appropriately, the self-proclaimed "symbol of truth in journalism" entered the race Tuesday accompanied by a since-deleted site image of her with Donald Trump above a caption that began, "An quo omnis feugiat eruditi, vel at vitae oratio partem," Latin-looking filler text that translates to nothing. (The following seven sentences were no more illuminating.)
The other Republicans running to succeed Ducey are state Treasurer Kimberly Yee and Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, but the Republican field may expand again before long. While we haven't heard anything from former Rep. Matt Salmon since he last expressed interest in December, the Arizona Republic relays that he's "expected to enter the race." Salmon was the Republican nominee for governor all the way back in 2002 when he lost to Democrat Janet Napolitano 46-45.
● GA-Sen: House Speaker David Ralston has finally confirmed that he's considering a bid against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, though he declined to provide any sort of timetable for making a decision. In order to run, though, Ralston would have to give up his powerful perch in the legislature, which he's held for more than a decade—a key reason he might stay put.
Ralston has also flirted with campaigns for higher office in the past, such as in 2017, when he toyed with running for governor for a little while. But the comment that perhaps best captures his attitude came in 2013, when he was asked about another potential Senate bid. Responded Ralston: "Why would I want the demotion?"
● OH-Sen: Former state GOP chair Jane Timken has released an internal poll of next year's Republican Senate primary that aims to show she's been on an upswing since entering the race in February. The survey, conducted by Moore Information on a single day late last month, finds former state Treasurer Josh Mandel leading Timken 24-19, with all other candidates (including some who aren't actually running yet) in the single digits. The memo includes previously unreleased trendlines that show Timken closing the gap each month with Mandel, whose edge in February was 20-5.
● AL-Gov: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Wednesday that she'd seek re-election next year, ending speculation that the 76-year-old incumbent might retire. It also likely ensures she'll face little if any opposition in the primary: Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, for instance, said in April that he wouldn't challenge Ivey if she were to run again.
Ivey was elevated to her current job in the spring of 2017 after then-Gov. Robert Bentley resigned in disgrace and handily won election in her own right the following year. While Alabama limits governors to two consecutive four-year terms, Ivey is eligible to run once more because she only served out part of Bentley's term.
● TX-Gov: Donald Trump has issued his standard cookie-cutter blessing to Gov. Greg Abbott, who faces a challenge in next year's GOP primary from former state Sen. Don Huffines, who's attacked the incumbent for being insufficiently extremist. Huffines responded to the development in almost perfectly meta-Trumpian fashion, insisting that he's "the clear Trump candidate in the Texas governor's race."
● FL-13: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is prevented by term limits from running for re-election this year, announced on Tuesday that he would not join the Democratic primary for Florida's open 13th Congressional District. The 58-year-old Kriseman said he does not yet have career plans after his time in office ends in January.
● NM-01: Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury defeated Republican state Sen. Mark Moores in a 60-36 landslide to hold New Mexico's 1st Congressional District in Tuesday's special election to succeed Deb Haaland, who resigned earlier this year to become U.S. secretary of the interior.
Stansbury improved on Haaland's 58-42 win last year and even ran slightly ahead of Joe Biden's 60-37 showing in this Albuquerque-based constituency, a result indicating that Republican efforts to turn the race into a referendum on crime gained little traction. Moores almost singularly focused his campaign on the rising local crime rate, a message his party hopes will resonate nationally next year. One of his TV ads even featured horror movie-style sound effects of a woman screaming as the narrator went after Stansbury on police reform.
Stansbury, though, pushed back and aired her own ads featuring law enforcement personnel vouching for her. She also emphasized her support for the Biden administration and its policies and campaigned with both first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
While Democrats will be pleased with the end result, whether the outcome portends anything for the midterms is much harder to say. At the very least, extrapolating from a single special election is a risky endeavor, and Republicans will be quick to note that GOP outside groups didn't spend any serious money on Moores' behalf.
For now, though, Stansbury's victory means Democrats will restore one more vote to their slim House majority, giving Nancy Pelosi a 220-211 advantage with four more vacancies to be filled in future special elections.
● NY-01: Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn kicked off a bid on Wednesday for New York's open 1st Congressional District, making her the second notable Democrat, along with fellow County Legislator Bridget Fleming, to enter the race. Hahn first won her current post in 2011 and says she is a descendant of Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who unwittingly lent his name to the practice of gerrymandering. She's also politically well-connected by marriage: Her husband, attorney Christopher Hahn, is a longtime Democratic operative and commentator who once served as an aide to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. So far, no major Republicans have announced campaigns to succeed GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor.
● Boston, MA Mayor: The consulting groups Poll Progressive and Emancipated Group, which say they do not have a client in this race, have conducted a survey that unexpectedly finds City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George in first place in the all-Democratic September nonpartisan primary.
Essaibi George, who is the one major contender who has spoken out against the idea of reallocating funds from the police budget to other areas, takes first with 22%, while fellow City Councilor Michelle Wu edges out acting Mayor Kim Janey 18-16 for the second general election spot. Another member of the City Council, Andrea Campbell, is far back with 6%, while state Rep. Jon Santiago and John Barros, the former head of economic development for the city, take 5% each.
These results are quite different from an April MassINC survey that had Wu leading Janey 19-18, with Essaibi George a distant third with just 6%. Poll Progressive's David Fadul said of his numbers, "We are progressives. We hope a progressive candidate prevails in the race. But we conduct the polling to find out what's actually happening."
● New York City, NY Mayor: The Republican firm Medium Buying relays that the influential healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU will spend $1 million on a cable TV buy supporting attorney Maya Wiley ahead of the June 22 Democratic primary. Medium also says the labor group has "placed broadcast TV ad spending" as well, though there's no word on the size of the buy.
● St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, who is one of the three notable Democrats running in the August nonpartisan primary, got a prominent cross-party endorsement this week from local Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Gualtieri threw his support behind Welch even though a fellow Republican, City Council member Robert Blackmon, recently entered the contest.