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.
● Election Night: The Recall of the Wild: Tuesday brings us our biggest election night of the cycle yet as voting concludes in California in the recall campaign against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, and we'll be liveblogging the results. Our live coverage will begin at Daily Kos Elections when polls close at 11 PM ET/ 8 PM local time. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates.
Voters will be presented with two separate questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled, while the second will ask them to pick among the candidates vying to succeed him. The results of the second question will only matter if a majority vote "yes" on the first question; should this happen, the replacement candidate who wins a plurality of the vote will become the Golden State's new governor.
Polls show Newsom in strong shape to keep his job in this heavily Democratic state, though no one is taking anything for granted in this unusual mid-September election. It will likely take some time for all the mail-in ballots to be counted so the final margin may shift from what we see on election night, though we're likely to know the outcome on Tuesday unless things are unexpectedly tight.
In addition to two special legislative elections (see our Special Elections item below for more), we also have mayoral primaries in two very blue cities: Cleveland, Ohio, where polls close at 7:30 PM ET; and Boston, Massachusetts, where voting concludes half an hour later. All the candidates in each race will run on one nonpartisan ballot, and the top-two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 2 general election. We won't be liveblogging these two contests, though we'll provide updates on each later in the evening after our California coverage begins.
The race in Cleveland to succeed retiring four-term Mayor Frank Jackson features six serious candidates, and we've seen no recent polling here to indicate which of them are favored to continue on to November. The contender with the most national name recognition is former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who held this post from 1977 to 1979. Jackson, for his part, is backing City Council President Kevin Kelley, while nonprofit executive Justin Bibb has the support of former Mayor Michael White. The field also includes Councilman Basheer Jones; former Councilman Zack Reed, who lost to Jackson in 2017; and state Sen. Sandra Williams.
Finally in Boston, Acting Mayor Kim Janey is fighting to hold the job she ascended to in March when incumbent Marty Walsh resigned to become U.S. secretary of labor. Recent polls show City Councilor Michelle Wu firmly in first place, while there's a tight three-way race for the second general election spot between Janey and City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George and Andrea Campbell. Another contender, former city cabinet official John Barros, is also running, but he's lagged far behind in the polls.
Tuesday will be an eventful night, and we hope you'll join us at Daily Kos Elections and on Twitter starting at 11 PM ET!
● MO-Sen: Republican pollster Remington Research's newest survey of Missouri's GOP primary for next year's open-seat Senate contest finds, for the first time, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt taking a narrow 28-27 lead on former Gov. Eric Greitens. Remington's June poll had Greitens up 34-25, while their numbers from March had him ahead 40-39. (All of Remington's polls have been conducted for the local tipsheet Missouri Scout.)
Over the course of the race, what's changed most is the composition of the field: In March, the only notable candidates were Schmitt and Greitens, but since then, many others have joined. Remington tested three of the most prominent new additions in its latest poll, finding Rep. Vicky Hartzler at 17, Rep. Billy Long at 8, and attorney Mark McCloskey (the guy who brandished a rifle at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis last year) with just 5%.
● NC-Sen: Brunswick County Commissioner Marty Cooke, who never looked like much of a factor in the GOP primary during his brief time on the campaign trail, has dropped out and endorsed Rep. Ted Budd for North Carolina's open Senate race.
● AZ-Gov: Two former Republican governors, Jan Brewer and Fyfe Simington, have blessed Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson's bid for the job they once held. Taylor Robson faces a crowded primary for the GOP nod to succeed Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term-limited.
● NE-Gov: Second-term state Sen. Carol Blood announced a bid on Monday for governor, a post no Nebraska Democrat has won in almost three decades. Blood does, however, represent a seat in the state's officially nonpartisan legislature that's about as red as the state overall, defeating a Republican incumbent by a 52-48 margin in 2016 even as Donald Trump was beating Hillary Clinton 56-37 in the same district. She then hung on to win re-election 50.4 to 49.6 last year (we haven't yet calculated the 2020 presidential numbers by legislative district).
The last Democrat to serve as governor was Ben Nelson, at the time an insurance executive, who won the party's nomination in 1990 by just 42 votes over former congressional staffer Bill Hoppner. Nelson then unseated Republican Gov. Kay Orr in another extremely narrow race, winning 49.9 to 49.2, in part by accusing her of reneging on a pledge not to increase taxes. Remarkably, Nelson secured a second term by a giant 73-26 margin in 1994, despite the year's GOP wave. He also holds the distinction of being the last Democrat to win any statewide race in Nebraska when he easily won re-election to the Senate in 2006.
● NJ-Gov: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has released his first TV ad of his general election campaign, a positive spot in which he rattles off a long list of priorities, like ensuring strong public schools and protecting women's reproductive rights. Murphy's been on the air before, though, because he ran ads prior to the June primary even though he was unopposed in order to take advantage of spending caps imposed on candidates who accept public financing. (New Jersey imposes separate caps for the primary and the general, but the former doesn't roll over if it goes unused.)
● PA-Gov: Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, an appointee of Donald Trump, announced his entry into the busy GOP primary for Pennsylvania governor on Monday. McSwain regularly garnered attention during his time in office thanks to his frequent attacks on Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for his reformist policies, but it was a clash with a very different prosecutor earlier this year that reportedly has some Republicans fearful about McSwain's chances in a general election: former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr.
In June, McSwain sent a letter to Trump seeking his endorsement, saying that he'd been prepared to investigate "allegations of voter fraud" following the November elections but had been thwarted because Barr had "instructed me not to make any public statements or put out any press releases regarding possible election irregularities." That prompted a blunt response from Barr, who called the accusation "false" and retorted, "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."
"Some prominent GOP donors and operatives," wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari in July, saw the letter and the response it engendered as "a daft mistake that reinforced questions about [McSwain's] political acumen." The complainers, however, sounded like relative pragmatists who were frustrated that McSwain had undermined his prosecutorial law-and-order credentials—the sort that might play well with more moderate suburbanites—by going all-in on Trump's most delusional fantasies. (Instead, they talked up ex-Rep. Jim Gerlach as an alternative, but he hasn't said anything since.)
If anything, as one Republican politico noted to Tamari, McSwain's public spat with Barr might help him with primary voters, since Barr has since grown reviled in conservative circles for refusing to back up Trump's lies about widespread election fraud. And as for Trump himself, while he hasn't yet taken sides in the primary, he quite evidently appreciated McSwain's letter, since he's the one who released it to the public.
Separately, another Republican, former healthcare executive Daniel Hilferty sounds like he's taking a pass on the race, saying, "I do not have plans to run for office." Hilferty ran for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 1994 and finished seventh in the primary with just 3% of the vote. He also hosted the first fundraiser of Joe Biden's presidential campaign and ultimately donated more than $85,000 to help elect him, so his brief interest in GOP politics never made much sense.
● RI-Gov: State Treasurer Seth Magaziner announced that he'll kick off his long-awaited campaign for governor on Tuesday, joining a Democratic primary that already includes Gov. Dan McKee and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. (In mid-May, Magaziner said he'd make a decision "shortly," a good reminder that politicians use phrases like "shortly," "soon," and "in the coming weeks" differently from you and me.)
Magaziner, the son of Bill Clinton healthcare policy adviser Ira Magaziner, was first elected treasurer in an open-seat race in 2014 at the age of 31, then easily won a second term four years later. The Providence Journal's Katherine Gregg describes him as a "protégé" of former Gov. Gina Raimondo, who preceded him as treasurer. Magaziner had raised copious sums even before saying he'd join the race, building up a $1.5 million war chest as of mid-year that put him far ahead of the pack.
● CA-04: Physician and Navy veteran Kermit Jones recently kicked off a campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, who's survived two well-funded Democratic challengers in a row thanks to a district that remains stubbornly conservative. In 2018, McClintock held off national security strategist Jessica Morse 54-46, then defeated businesswoman Brynne Kennedy (who has said she won't run again) 56-44 last year.
Both Morse and Kennedy outraised McClintock, but there's been little indication that California's sprawling 4th District, which stretches from the northern Sacramento suburbs to take in a huge swath of the Sierra Nevada mountains, is growing any more fertile for Democrats. In 2016, the district backed Donald Trump 54-40 over Hillary Clinton, while four years later, it once again gave Trump 54% of the vote, with Joe Biden taking 44. (That small improvement for Biden can be attributed to the much smaller third-party vote overall in 2020, a phenomenon seen in many districts around the country.)
Jones has an impressive resume that includes service in Iraq as a flight surgeon, a year as a White House fellow during the Obama administration, and even a year practicing as a regulatory attorney (he also has a law degree). He also earned an endorsement from the influential group VoteVets when he launched his bid. However, given the district's fundamentally conservative nature, it's hard to see a path to victory for any Democrat here. Redistricting might change the calculus, but the existing 4th could remain as-is by shedding just 1% of its population, so it's very possible that map-makers will leave it largely intact.
● IL-13: Former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski has earned the endorsement of an influential Illinois congresswomen in her bid to unseat Republican Rep. Rodney Davis: retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos, who was the chair of the DCCC last cycle. Budzinski also recently won the backing of veteran Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who has represented a district in the Chicago area for more than two decades. She faces financial planner David Palmer in the Democratic primary.
● MS-04: Bank executive Clay Wagner appears to have recently launched a challenge to GOP Rep. Steven Palazzo, judging by his Facebook page, though he doesn't seem to have earned much media attention accompanying his kickoff apart from a mention on the conservative site Y'All Politics that he filed paperwork with the FEC last week. Wagner is one of several Republicans running in the primary against Palazzo, who is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes.
● NH-02: Republican state Rep. Jeffrey Greeson has filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster, but he does not yet appear to have said anything about his plans. New Hampshire Republicans have telegraphed that they intend to gerrymander the 1st Congressional District to make it more winnable for themselves, which would make the 2nd District bluer, so Kuster is not likely to be a major GOP target next year.
● NM-02: Freshman state Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, who'd recently been mentioned as a possible challenger to Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District, now confirms that she's "exploring" a campaign. Last year, Correa Hemphill unseated conservative state Sen. Gabriel Ramos in the Democratic primary, then defeated Republican Jimbo Williams by a 51-49 margin after Ramos endorsed him.
The 2nd District is generally reliably red turf, but Democrat Xochitl Torres Small was able to seize it when it came open in 2018. However, she lost to Herrell last year 54-46 as the district reverted to form and backed Donald Trump by a 55-43 margin. Democrats in the legislature could conceivably make it bluer in redistricting, but doing so might jeopardize their hold on the state’s two other districts in a down year.
Secretaries of State
● AZ-SoS: Donald Trump on Monday endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 victory, in next year's Republican primary for Arizona secretary of state. Finchem, who has called vaccines a "crime against humanity," is set to appear at a QAnon convention in October as part of an "audit superpanel."
Finchem also attended Trump's infamous Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol; while the state representative claims he was never within 500 yards of the building, the Arizona Mirror writes that "footage that surfaced months later showed him walking in front of the east steps after the pro-Trump rioters breached the barricades outside of the Capitol." Finchem himself wrote of that day's riot, "What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud."
Two other voter suppression crusaders in the legislature are also seeking the GOP nod to succeed Democratic incumbent Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor. State Rep. Shawnna Bolick championed a bill that would have allowed the state legislature to decertify the state's presidential results at any point before Inauguration Day, while state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita has sponsored some of the most aggressive new voting restrictions in Arizona. The Democratic primary pits state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding against Adrian Fontes, who narrowly lost re-election last year as Maricopa County clerk.
● Special Elections: There are two legislative special elections on tap for Tuesday:
IA-HD-37: This Republican district in the northern suburbs of Des Moines became vacant after former Rep. John Landon died in July. Landon had just won a fifth term last year, defeating Democrat Andrea Phillips 53-47. Phillips was also Team Blue’s nominee here in 2016, losing to Landon by a wider 57-42 spread: She's back as the Democratic nominee for this race, where she’ll face Republican Mike Bousselot, who recently left a position at the Iowa Department of Management.
Despite Iowa’s rightward lurch in recent years, this district has trended in Democrats’ favor. Mitt Romney carried this constituency 55-43 in 2012, which shrank to a smaller 51-42 win for Donald Trump in 2016, and an even smaller 50-48 victory for Trump last year. Additionally, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds carried it 51-48 over Democrat Fred Hubbell in 2018 as Democratic Auditor Rob Sand was narrowly winning it 49-48.
Given the competitiveness of this seat, this contest has attracted a relatively significant amount of attention for a legislative special election. Phillips has outraised Bousselot $83,000 to $40,000 over the course of the campaign, and both parties have invested heavily in the race, with Democrats putting in $350,000 and Republicans $250,000.
The outcome of this race won’t have much of an impact on the makeup of this chamber, however, as Republicans control it 58-40, with this and one other seat vacant.
TN-HD-29: This Republican district east of Chattanooga became vacant after former Rep. Mike Carter died earlier this year. Army Reserve captain DeAngelo Jelks is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman and environmental conservationist Greg Vital, a Republican. This is a strongly Republican district that Donald Trump won 66-30 in 2016; Republicans have a 72-26 supermajority in this chamber, with just this seat vacant.
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: Two recently released polls show City Council President Felicia Moore in first place ahead of the November nonpartisan primary, though they disagree how far ahead former Mayor Kasim Reed is in the battle for the second spot in a very likely runoff.
The firm 20/20 Insight went into the field in mid-August for a survey that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes was "conducted independently of any campaign" that found Moore at 21%, with Reed tied 15-15 with City Councilman Andre Dickens. Wealthy attorney Sharon Gay, who began advertising later in the month, was at 4%, while City Councilman Antonio Brown took 3%.
Moore's campaign also has publicized a late August internal from Brilliant Corners that gave her 24% of the vote, with Reed in second with 19%. Unlike the earlier survey, though, Dickens was a distant third with just 6%.