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.
● NV-Sen: National Republicans got their preferred candidate for Nevada Senate race on Tuesday when former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red's 2018 nominee for governor, announced that he would take on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. Laxalt is unlikely to face any serious intra-party opposition ahead of what will be a closely-watched contest for a state that Joe Biden took 50-48 last year.
Laxalt is the grandson of the late Paul Laxalt, who served as the Silver State's governor and senator decades ago, but the younger Laxalt spent most of his life in the D.C. area before relocating to Las Vegas in the early 2010s. (Laxalt is also the son of the late New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, who was married to another woman when Laxalt was conceived and had little presence in his life.)
The Republican sought elected office for the first time in 2014 when he campaigned for attorney general, and he originally looked like a longshot against Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller, the son of former Gov. Bob Miller and a rising star in his own right; one unnamed GOP figure even snarked about his nominee, "If his name were Adam Smith, this race would be a total joke."
However, the race turned out to be anything but a total joke. The state GOP ticket, which was led by popular Gov. Brian Sandoval, was heading into its best political cycle in recent memory, while Democrats struggled to turn out their base.
Laxalt's own campaign was a trainwreck of negative headlines that literally included some of his own family members arguing he was unqualified and endorsing Miller, but even this wasn't enough to sink him in 2014. Laxalt ended up edging out Miller 46-45, a victory that made him the first modern statewide candidate to win a general election while losing populous Clark and Washoe counties. (Miller revitalized his political career in 2020 by winning a race for Clark County commissioner by 15 votes.)
Laxalt spent his time in office burnishing his extremist credentials, including his proud refusal to enforce a universal gun background check law in a state that witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history in 2017. One Republican who was not enamored with the attorney general, though, was Sandoval, who declared that year that Laxalt's plan to repeal the governor's tax on businesses would "irreversibly and permanently harm" the state's children and business climate.
Laxalt ran in 2018 to succeed the termed-out Sandoval, but while he had no trouble winning the GOP primary, the incumbent refused to back him in the general election. That gave Democratic nominee Steve Sisolak and his allies plenty of material as they ran commercials using the outgoing governor's words against Laxalt; Sandoval seemed to have no problem with this, as his office merely responded, "For Governor Sandoval, it's not about Republican or Democrat, it's about education."
And just like in 2014, members of the Laxalt family came out against their kinsman. A Reno Gazette Journal op-ed written by 12 family members castigated the attorney general, saying, "Aside from the occasional short visit, Adam never knew the state or its people. Perhaps if he had, he would stand for Nevada's values rather than for those of his out-of-state donors." They also argued, "Most concerning are the ethical shortcomings that have come to light while Adam has been attorney general, and his willingness to ignore the law for self-serving political purposes."
The 2018 cycle turned out to be an ugly year for Silver State Republicans, and Sisolak's 49-45 victory made him the state's first Democratic chief executive since Bob Miller left office in early 1999. Laxalt, now out of office, was an enthusiastic Trump surrogate in 2020, and he went on to unsuccessfully sue to overturn Biden's victory in the state.
There was early speculation that Laxalt could seek a rematch with Sisolak, but prominent Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell soon made it known they wanted him to take on Cortez Masto. Laxalt obliged them with his Tuesday kickoff, which did nothing to distance himself from his far-right image. "The radical left, rich elites, woke corporations, academia and the media—they're taking over America," Laxalt proclaimed in a Star Wars-themed video where the candidate, who miscounted the number of movies currently in the franchise, compared Republicans to the Rebel Alliance and the Democrats to the Empire.
Cortez Masto, for her part, has been preparing for what will be an expensive battle. The incumbent hauled in $2.7 million during the second quarter of 2021, and she ended June with $6.6 million in the bank.
● WI-Sen: Former nonprofit head Steven Olikara announced Tuesday that he was joining the crowded Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who has not yet announced if he'll seek re-election next year. Olikara stepped down back in April as the head of the Millennial Action Project, which the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel described as a group that "encourages bipartisan political cooperation among young leaders."
● CA-Gov: Former Rep. Doug Ose announced Tuesday that he was ending his campaign in the Sept. 14 recall election following a heart attack two days before. Ose, who is one of the many Republicans hoping to succeed Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, will remain on the ballot.
● MI-Gov: We learned this week that former Gov. John Engler was backing ex-Detroit Police Chief James Craig in the GOP primary after the Detroit Free Press reported that Engler was the treasurer of a new pro-Craig group called "We Need the Chief." Engler left office in early 2003 after three terms leading the state, and he was in the news in 2019 after he resigned as interim president of Michigan State University ahead of his likely ouster by unhappy members of the school's board.
● NJ-11: Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen announced Monday that he would seek the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill in a North Jersey seat that has swung hard to the left in recent years. Selen previously served as mayor of Chatham Township, which the New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein says made him the country's first Turkish American mayor. Selen was appointed to his current countywide post last year and turned back a Democratic foe 52-48 as Joe Biden was taking Morris County 51-47.
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen has decided against running for mayor this fall after coming "close to announcing a campaign earlier this month." The filing deadline is Friday.
● Buffalo, NY Mayor: Democratic nominee India Walton earned an endorsement last week from EMILY's List ahead of the November general election. Walton toppled four-term incumbent Byron Brown in a June primary shocker, but the mayor is hoping to keep his job by running a write-in campaign.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas announced Monday that he would not enter next year's race for mayor. Multiple sources said earlier this month that they were very skeptical that Rep. Karen Bass would run against Ridley-Thomas for the city's top job, though some doubted she'd campaign for mayor no matter what.
● Minneapolis, MN Mayor: Nonprofit director A.J. Awed filed his campaign finance reports after the Aug. 3 deadline, which is why Axios writes that it took the local media some time to learn he'd actually outraised every candidate except incumbent Jacob Frey during the first seven months of 2021. Awed took in $238,000 during this time, and he had $143,000 in the bank. He was on the ballot last year in a 12-way special election for City Council, but he lost 55-45 in the third and final round of ranked-choice tabulations.
Awed, who is a member of the city's large Somali American community, earned some attention last year when he went on MSNBC and proposed abolishing the police. However, Awed now says, in the words of Axios, that he was "speaking more broadly about abolishing racism," and that he opposes this year's ballot measure to replace the city police department with a new "Department of Public Safety."
● Seattle, WA Mayor: City Council President Lorena González picked up an endorsement from EMILY's List on Tuesday for the November general election.
● NV-LG: The Nevada Independent reported Monday that Democratic Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall would resign her post to become the White House's senior adviser to governors. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has the power to appoint her replacement for the remainder of Marshall's term, which ends in early 2023. In Nevada, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately.
Marshall herself attracted national attention in 2011 when the then-state treasurer was Team Blue's special election nominee for the 2nd Congressional District, a northern Nevada seat that became vacant after Dean Heller was appointed to the Senate. Democrats hoped that they'd have an opening in a constituency that had only narrowly supported John McCain, but Marshall struggled to gain traction at a time when Barack Obama's approval rating was at one of the lowest points of his presidency. Former state Sen. Mark Amodei ended up winning the expensive race by a lopsided 58-36 margin, and he's had no trouble keeping it since then.
Marshall went on to campaign for secretary of state in 2014, but she lost to Republican Barbara Cegavske 50-46 during another tough time for Team Blue. Marshall bounced back during the 2018 Democratic wave, though, when she flipped the open lieutenant governor's office 50-44.