The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Matt Booker, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● PA-Gov: Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain has not yet committed to seeking the Republican nomination for governor, but the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari reports that some "prominent GOP donors and operatives" are worried that his recent public confrontation with his old boss, former Attorney General Bill Barr, has unmasked him as a weak candidate. McSwain, like so many of his fellow Republicans, can trace his current headache in part to his subservience to Donald Trump and his lies about the 2020 election.
About two weeks ago, Trump released a letter McSwain wrote in June in which the former prosecutor insisted his office had "received various allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities." He continued, "As part of my responsibilities as U.S. Attorney, I wanted to be transparent with the public and, of course, investigate fully any allegations." But what received the most attention was McSwain's incendiary allegation that "Attorney General Barr, however, instructed me not to make any public statements or put out any press releases regarding possible election irregularities."
Barr did not respond kindly to McSwain's missive, telling the Inquirer, "The letter is written in a very deceptive way that is intended to convey an impression, it's a false one, that he was restrained from looking into election fraud." The ex-attorney general continued, "He wanted to not do the business of the department, which is to investigate cases, but instead go out and flap his gums about what he didn't like about the election overall."
Barr also said that he'd spoken to McSwain about his letter before going public, saying, "He told me that he had to do this because he was under pressure from Trump and for him to have a viable candidacy he couldn't have Trump attacking him."
All of this, Tamari writes, has convinced unnamed political insiders that McSwain would be a shaky nominee and that they need an alternative. To that end, these operatives have been speaking with another Chester County Republican about running, and it's a name we haven't heard from in a long time: former Rep. Jim Gerlach.
Gerlach's been down this path once before, serving four terms in a suburban Philadelphia swing seat before trying his hand at a campaign for governor in 2010. The congressman, though, dropped out months before the primary after he failed to gain traction against the primary frontrunner and eventual winner, Attorney General Tom Corbett.
Gerlach wound up running for re-election that year and won one final term before retiring in 2014, and he's since taken over as head of a chamber of commerce-like organization in the Reading area. His departure from Congress, though, was the last occasion we've had to write about his political career until now, and he's still making himself scarce, since he didn't respond to Tamari's questions about a possible second gubernatorial run.
Another Republican, Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi, is being a lot more forthcoming about his own interest, though. Ciarrocchi claims he "has heard from several people" about a potential campaign to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf and added, "I am listening." Tamari, though, relays that "many in the party doubt he can muster a serious challenge."
The GOP field currently consists of Lou Barletta, a former congressman who badly lost a 2018 bid for Senate; Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, who has an awful relationship with the state party; surgeon Nche Zama; and party strategist Charlie Gerow. On Friday, Gerow's campaign said that he was involved in a crash two days earlier that resulted in the death of a motorcyclist, saying, "He looks forward to the State Police completing their investigations and is confident that the investigation will confirm that he was not the cause of the accident."
● AZ-Gov: Rep. David Schweikert is endorsing former Rep. Matt Salmon's bid for the GOP nomination in Arizona's open governor's race next year, which will make him the second member of the state's delegation to do so after Rep. Andy Biggs. All are connected through the extremist House Freedom Caucus: Salmon was a founder, Schweikert is a member, and Biggs is the organization's current chair.
● IL-Gov: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who kicked off his re-election bid last week, is out with three new ads. The commercials, backed by a $851,000 buy, feature Pritzker narrating the experiences of four Illinois residents during the COVID-19 pandemic while also touting the progress the state has made in fighting the disease. One spot focuses on a nurse, the second on a National Guard member who was involved in the state's testing and vaccination rollouts, and the last on a couple who owns a distillery that made hand sanitizer during the height of the pandemic.
As the Chicago Tribune notes, none of these residents are from the strongly Democratic Chicago area, which suggests Priztker is attempting to expand his base of support further throughout the state.
● MN-Gov: While state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said early this month that he would take 40 days to decide whether to seek the GOP nomination, he seems to have abandoned that Moses-like timeline. The senator recently spoke to local NBC journalist Jana Shortal, who relayed that Gazelka's decision "could come in weeks or months."
● VA-Gov: The NRA, which in previous years has spent heavily on behalf of Virginia Republicans, has passed on endorsing gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin after he declined to fill out the organization's questionnaire. The omission is all the more striking given that the organization backed both of Youngkin's ticket-mates, attorney general nominee Jason Miyares and lieutenant governor candidate Winsome Sears.
As the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Mel Leonor notes, Youngkin has claimed to be a "lifetime member of the NRA," but his reticence to explain his views in detail led the group to give him a question mark in place of a letter grade when it ranked candidates ahead of the GOP's May convention. Youngkin's campaign defended itself at the time by saying, "Glenn isn't a politician and isn't spending all his time filling out surveys."
Four years ago, during Virginia's last gubernatorial race, the NRA was one of the biggest outside spenders of the contest, putting more than $1 million into ads supporting Republican Ed Gillespie's losing campaign.
● FL-26, FL-27: Democrats have yet to land any notable candidates in a pair of neighboring South Florida congressional districts they lost last year, though the two women who represented those seats could both make comebacks. Former Rep. Donna Shalala, who said in February that she's considering a rematch against Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in the 27th District, now says she "will likely have a decision firmed up in October," according to Politico's Matt Dixon.
Meanwhile, former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell hasn't ruled out a reprise with Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez in the 26th, says Dixon, though there's no quote from the congresswoman. In May, however, Florida Politics reported that Mucarsel-Powell was considering a bid in the 27th, though presumably the two one-time colleagues would not run for the same seat.
As always, redistricting is a major reason why the field has been slow to develop, particularly since Republicans are all but certain to gerrymander the Miami area to their advantage. But an additional factor may be trauma from last year's stunning losses. Says veteran Democratic operative Ben Pollara, "I do think there is to some degree just a hangover after the fucking shellacking we took here in 2020, and all the drama that came after the election."
● OH-11: Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown is out with a new ad ahead of the Aug. 3 Democratic primary that takes aim at former State Sen. Nina Turner's past critiques of prominent Democratic politicians. The spot highlights critical comments from Turner about Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the Democratic Party as a whole. The ad ends with a familiar refrain from Brown's campaign that her goal in Congress is to work with Biden.
● TX-06: Donald Trump's allies at his Make America Great Again PAC have dropped $100,000 on a last-minute ad buy in support of GOP activist Susan Wright ahead of Tuesday's all-Republican special election showdown with state Rep. Jake Ellzey. Trump himself has put out robocalls promoting Wright and announced a Monday virtual rally with her.
This late push didn't impress former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who is Texas' last governor and Ellzey's most prominent supporter. Perry said of his old boss, "Donald Trump couldn't pick Susan Wright out of a lineup. He has no idea who she is, has no idea what she believes."
Former Rep. Joe Barton was even less polite when it came to talking about Wright, who is the wife of his longtime protégé, the late Rep. Ron Wright. Barton said of Trump's endorsement, "If he had to do it over again, I don't think he would" because Susan Wright has "run a terrible campaign." (If there's one person who's an expert on things he wishes he could do over, it's probably Smokey Joe.) The 17-term congressman was far more diplomatic a week ago when he endorsed Ellzey, saying at the time that he believed either candidate would make a good representative.
It would still be a surprise if Ellzey defeated Wright, but Barton isn't wrong about her running an underwhelming campaign. The Washington Post's Dave Weigel notes that Wright even declined to talk to the fanatically pro-Trump Newsmax, while Ellzey took the time to speak to it. Ellzey has also massively outraised Wright, though her allies at the Club for Growth have come to her aid.
If Ellzey does pull off an upset on Tuesday, he may have Democrats, who don't have a candidate of their own on the ballot, to thank. Both Republicans are ardent conservatives, but Democrats may see voting against Wright as a good way to stick it to Trump; 2020 nominee Stephen Daniel made this argument in early May on Twitter when he reluctantly endorsed Ellzey, adding, "Also, @SenTedCruz is against Ellzey. Good enough for me."
● North Carolina Mayors: Friday was originally set to be the candidate filing deadline for Charlotte's 2021 race for mayor, but the City Council voted in late June to reschedule the election for the spring of next year. Mayoral contests in several other North Carolina cities, including Raleigh and Greensboro, have also been pushed back to 2022, though this fall's race in Durham is still on.
These delays came about after the state legislature passed a bill late last month that allowed dozens of local governments to postpone this fall's local elections for offices that are elected using districts in order to allow more time for redistricting thanks to the delayed release of key census data. Instead, those localities would move their elections to coincide with the March 2022 primary by extending the terms of some officials.
Cities also had the option to only delay contests for district-level council seats while still allowing races for mayor and at-large city council seats to proceed in 2021, an idea Charlotte considered before deciding to simply have one election period.
The new state law also permanently moved municipal elections in Raleigh, which is North Carolina's capital and second-largest city, to even-numbered years, though it didn't include this requirement for anywhere else. This change was sought by city leaders, though the Raleigh area's legislators complained that it was passed without any time for citizens to weigh in.
Click here for our bookmarkable calendar of all key 2021 elections and filing deadlines.
● Suffolk County, MA District Attorney: President Joe Biden announced Monday that he was nominating Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, whose jurisdiction includes Boston and three nearby communities, to serve as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. Rollins, who won her current office in 2018 as a supporter of criminal justice reform, would be the first Black woman to serve as the Bay State's top federal prosecutor if she's confirmed by the Senate, but her departure would allow Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to choose a new district attorney.
Baker has enjoyed a good relationship with many prominent Massachusetts Democrats during his time in office, but Rollins is not one of them. The district attorney and the Baker administration have clashed over criminal justice reforms since the beginning of her tenure, and Rollins' allies have worried that she could be replaced with someone far more conservative.
Rollins has publicly urged the governor to appoint her top assistant, Daniel Mulhern, in her place, but Baker is free to ignore her recommendation. No matter what happens, though, this office will be on the ballot in 2022.