The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Matt Booker, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● CA-Gov: Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis has scheduled the recall election targeting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for Sept. 14, just hours after California's Department of Finance issued its cost estimate for the recall. Following the estimate's release, Secretary of State Shirley Weber certified the recall, allowing Kounalakis to set a date for it. The filing deadline for candidates is July 16. (Update: This item incorrectly put the deadline as July 17.)
Voters will be presented with two separate questions on their ballots. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled, while the second will ask them to pick among the candidates vying to replace him. However, the results of the second question will only matter if a majority vote "yes" on the first question. Polls have generally shown the recall question failing.
Newsom and his allies have also strongly discouraged big-name Democrats from running, a stark departure from the 2003 recall of then-Gov. Gray Davis. In that race, Democrats rallied around Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as their backup choice in case the recall succeeded with the awkward slogan of "no on recall, yes on Bustamante." That position became even more precarious when Bustamante started to criticize Davis in the evident hope that the recall would succeed and he'd reap the rewards. (He didn't.)
So far, Newsom's strategy has worked: Not a single notable Democrat has announced a campaign. A number of Republicans with varying degrees of prominence or past political success have, however, said they'll run, including reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, former Rep. Doug Ose, 2018 gubernatorial nominee John Cox, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. None, though, possess anything like the star power or nonpolitical branding that allowed Arnold Schwarzenegger to prevail 18 years ago. Schwarzenegger's celebrity was crucial to helping him tower over the 135-candidate ballot; should such a massive field emerge again this year, it would vex any of the Republicans running.
The second fundraising quarter of the year, covering the period of Apr. 1 through June 30, has come to an end, and federal candidates will have to file campaign finance reports with the FEC by July 15. But as per usual, campaigns with hauls they're eager to tout are leaking numbers early, which we've gathered below.
● MO-Sen: Eric Schmitt (R): $1.3 million raised
● NJ-03: Andy Kim (D-inc): $800,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
● NY-21: Matt Putorti (D): $210,000 raised (in 16 days)
● VA-02: Elaine Luria (D-inc): $720,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
● KY-Sen: Former Democratic state Rep. and 2020 Senate candidate Charles Booker kicked off a bid to take on Sen. Rand Paul in this deep red state on Thursday. Booker ran in the Democratic primary last year against Amy McGrath, a contest that saw McGrath enjoy a strong edge in fundraising and name recognition for most of its duration, so much so that she behaved as the presumptive nominee from the outset.
Late in the race, though, Booker experienced a surge in momentum due to his high-profile role in the protests that followed the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (who was killed in Booker's hometown of Louisville). He was also buoyed by endorsements from much of the Bluegrass State's Democratic establishment. In the end, though, Booker's last-minute push fell just short, as McGrath prevailed 45-43. McGrath went on to lose to Mitch McConnell 58-38.
While Booker is one of the Kentucky Democrats' brightest stars, he'll likely face a fate similar to all Democrats who've run for Senate here over the last three decades. But it's always worth having the strongest candidate possible on the ballot in case the unexpected happens—just ask Doug Jones.
● ME-Gov: Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage has filed paperwork for a long-awaited comeback bid and will apparently make an announcement on Monday, if a countdown clock on his campaign website is anything to go by. LePage would almost certainly clear the GOP field, which would in turn set up a matchup next year with Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who succeeded him following her victory in the 2018 midterms.
● NE-02: Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb says she believes that state Sen. Tony Vargas and 2020 Senate candidate Alisha Shelton are considering bids against Republican Rep. Don Bacon in the state's 2nd Congressional District. A report from April previously said that Vargas is looking at the race, but then as now, he's declined to answer questions.
Alisha Shelton, who also appears not to have discussed her interest publicly, ran in last year's Democratic Senate primary but came in third with 23%. However, Nebraska Democrats disavowed the winner, businessman Chris Janicek, after he sent sexually explicit messages about a campaign staffer to a group text that included the aide and backed Shelton to replace him. Janicek refused to budge, though, and won just 24% of the vote against Republican Sen. Ben Sasse in November.
● NJ-07: State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. will reportedly seek a rematch with Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, who defeated him last year in a tight 51-49 race. Local politicos began talking about a repeat bid for Kean almost immediately after his loss, a possibility that grew more likely in February when he announced that he would not seek re-election this fall to the Senate, where he's served for almost two decades. The New Jersey Globe says that Kean will make an announcement on July 14.
● NJ-11: Businessman Tom Toomey, who served as an RNC staffer during the 2020 elections, has kicked off a bid against Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey's 11th Congressional District. Some bigger-name Republicans, including 2020 nominee Rosemary Becchi, have reportedly been considering, but so far, none have entered the race.
● NY-11: Former Democratic Rep. Max Rose announced on Wednesday that he would be stepping down from his position on the Defense Department's COVID-19 task force, which will soon wind down and see its work absorbed into what Rose called "normal operations" at a press conference. The move would allow Rose, who briefly considered a bid for New York City mayor earlier this year, to contemplate a comeback for his old House seat, which he lost to Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis 53-47 in 2020. Though the 11th District backed Donald Trump 55-44 last year, Democrats could make it bluer in redistricting.
● OH-11: Democrat Shontel Brown is out with a new positive ad featuring South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, who endorsed Brown earlier this week. In the spot, Clyburn favorably compares Brown to Marcia Fudge and Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the last two holders of this Cleveland-based seat. The commercial also shows an image of Brown with Joe Biden, continuing a trend of Brown tying herself to the president in ads.
● PA-07: Republican businessman Kevin Dellicker, who has been considering a bid against Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, says he's "leaning towards running" and will make an announcement on July 15. Meanwhile, former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning, who lost last year's GOP primary to businesswoman Lisa Scheller by a 52-48 margin, tells PoliticsPA that "he does not have any plans to run" for office next year. Scheller, whom Wild defeated 52-48, is already running again.