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.
● OR Redistricting: In a dramatic reversal on Monday, House Speaker Tina Kotek effectively rescinded a springtime deal she had made with Republicans to give them equal representation on the chamber's redistricting committees, instead allowing Democrats to advance their preferred maps to floor.
Kotek established a new committee to handle congressional redistricting made up of two Democrats and one Republican, but the Republican member, Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, boycotted its proceedings, letting Democrats pass their map 2-0. Kotek also added two new members, one Democrat and one Republican, to the existing committee tasked with legislative redistricting, but that Republican, Rep. Greg Smith, was described by OPB's Dirk VanderHart as "a frequent ally of the speaker's on tight votes"—and indeed he came through, as the Democrats' map passed 5-3 with his support.
Kotek's hand was forced in large part by her counterparts in the state Senate, who had not struck a similar deal with Republicans and were able to pass both maps earlier on Monday before swiftly adjourning. Were the House to approve different maps as a result of a compromise with Republicans, that would require senators to come back into session to reach a final agreement, something Senate leaders could simply refuse to do as a hardball negotiating tactic.
But we're still far from a resolution, as embittered Republicans are now threatening to stage a walkout that would deny House Democrats the two-thirds supermajority needed for a quorum, something they've done repeatedly in recent years to halt Democratic legislation from moving forward. However, while the GOP has successfully blocked bills to, say, mitigate climate change this way, there's a key difference here: If lawmakers can't pass new legislative maps, the duty would instead fall to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat.
There's no telling what kind of lines Fagan might draw, but that's precisely the point. At least with the Democrats' current proposal, Republicans know exactly what they'd be getting, which is particularly important because legislators are required to live in their districts under the state constitution. A Fagan map could cause a serious scramble if a raft of GOP lawmakers were to suddenly find themselves in new districts.
As for the congressional map, should a new one fail to pass, borders would be redrawn by the courts, which would probably result in more favorable districts for Republicans than the plan Democrats have put forth. However, any upsides are largely abstract compared to the very real consequences (for legislators) stemming from new legislative boundaries.
The showdown had appeared headed for a climax on Tuesday when matters veered off course in the most appropriate-for-these-times way possible: An unspecified individual who'd been in the capitol building on Monday was diagnosed with COVID, prompting the legislature to adjourn. An email from Kotek’s office Tuesday evening said that legislators will be back on Saturday, making for a tight timeline, as lawmakers must pass new maps for their own districts by Monday, Sept. 27 or else Fagan will take over.
● AK Redistricting: Alaska's redistricting commission has adopted six legislative redistricting plans that will form the "basis" for an upcoming set of public hearings across the state. Two of the plans were drawn up by the panel (replacing two earlier drafts) while the other four were submitted by outside groups, including one by Democrats in the state Senate. The new proposals should appear here soon.
● IN Redistricting: Indiana Republicans, who previously released draft maps for Congress and the state House, have now put forth a plan for the state Senate, which can be found here. According to a timetable set out by GOP leaders, lawmakers plan to complete the redistricting process by around Oct. 1.
● NE Redistricting: Nebraska Democrats successfully led another filibuster on Monday, this time blocking the GOP's proposed new map for the state's unicameral legislature. The 27-18 vote to cut off debate fell well short of the 33 needed, with one Republican member joining all 17 Democrats and four other Republicans not voting. On Friday, a similar coalition stopped GOP leaders from moving forward with their congressional plan, which would have made Nebraska's lone competitive House seat several points redder.
Lawmakers have so far failed to work out any compromises, leading Republican Speaker Mike Hilgers to suggest that redistricting might get punted from the current legislative special session (due to end Sept. 30) until the next regular session, which begins in January. If no deals can be reached, both maps would get redrawn by the courts, which would likely be a best-case scenario for Democrats.
● WA Redistricting: Each of the four commissioners on Washington's bipartisan redistricting commission released proposed legislative maps on Tuesday, with congressional plans due out in a week. The state uses the same maps for both chambers, with each district electing one senator and two representatives.
The commission is evenly divided between the parties, so if no compromise is reached, redistricting would fall to the courts. In the event the panel does come to an agreement (as it did a decade ago), its maps will become law, though lawmakers can amend them on a two-thirds vote. Under current statute (which could be modified), such amendments cannot adjust more than 2% of the population of any given district. Democrats currently control both the state House and Senate but lack supermajorities.
● IA-Sen: Selzer & Company's new survey for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom Iowa finds Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley with a huge 55-37 lead over former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who is the Democratic frontrunner. The incumbent has not yet announced if he'll seek re-election, though he now said this week his decision will come by Nov. 1.
● OH-Sen: Donald Trump used Monday to make it clear he opposed the fledgling Republican primary campaign of state Sen. Matt Dolan, though it's not because the legislator blamed Trump for instigating the Jan. 6 attack.
Instead, the GOP leader went after Cleveland's Major League Baseball team, which Dolan co-owns, over its recent decision to change its name. "Anybody that changes the name of the once storied Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians should not be running for the United States Senate representing the Great People of Ohio," Trump said in his statement, adding, "In any event, I know of at least one person in the race who I won't be endorsing."
● WI-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has released an internal poll from Clarity Campaign Labs that finds him tied 43-43 in a hypothetical general election with Republican incumbent Ron Johnson. The memo did not include any numbers testing other Democratic primary contenders against Johnson, who also has yet to say if he'll run again.
● AL-Gov, AL-Sen: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard acknowledged this week that she's considering dropping her Senate campaign so she could instead challenge Gov. Kay Ivey in the GOP primary, though she didn't indicate when she'd make a decision.
● MI-Gov: Strategic National, a GOP firm working for former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, has released a survey that gives Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a 47-46 edge over Craig.
● VA-Gov: We have three new Virginia polls:
KAConsulting is Kellyanne Conway's new outfit; the Presidential Coalition is a conservative group run by Citizens United president (and former Trump campaign staffer) David Bossie. VCU, meanwhile, once again offered "Neither of these" as an option, as it did last month, a problematic decision that artificially deflates the vote totals of the named candidates.
● NC-13: Law student Bo Hines has unveiled an endorsement from Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who is one of the far-right's favorite members of Congress, for next year's open seat Republican primary.
● NH-01: 2020 Republican nominee Matt Mowers’ second campaign has earned the backing of former Gov. Craig Benson, whose defeat in 2004 makes him the only Granite State governor to fail to secure a second two-year term since 1926.
● NM-02: Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez picked up a Democratic primary endorsement this week from Sen. Martin Heinrich, whom Vasquez previously worked for as a congressional aide. Vasquez is currently the only notable Democrat challenging freshman Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell.
● NY-19: Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said Tuesday that he would challenge Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, an announcement that gives national Republicans the candidate they've spent years trying to recruit. The current version of this Hudson Valley seat backed Joe Biden 50-48 four years after it supported Donald Trump 51-44, but no one knows what the new map will look like: New York's bipartisan redistricting commission recently released draft plans for Congress, but Democrats can potentially pass their own boundaries thanks to their supermajorities in the legislature.
Molinaro was the 2018 Republican nominee against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a race he lost by a brutal 60-36 margin statewide. Molinaro, though, did carry the 19th District by a wide 53-42 even as Delgado was unseating Republican Rep. John Faso, which made the county executive an attractive prospect for the NRCC.
The committee hoped that Molinaro would launch a House campaign after he was re-elected in November of 2019 as leader of Dutchess County, but it didn't have a viable backup candidate when he announced two months later that he would stay put. The nominee the GOP ended up with, Kyle Van De Water, raised very little money and attracted no serious outside support, and Delgado ultimately won by a solid 54-43. Van De Water ended his second campaign here last month and died a short time afterwards.
Delgado, for his part, will have plenty of resources to defend himself next year. The congressman raised about $700,000 during the second quarter of 2021, and he ended June with $4.46 million on-hand.
● OH-15: Democrat Allison Russo's first spot for the November general election ties Republican Mike Carey to the massive state House bribery scandal involving the nuclear power company FirstEnergy, which resulted in Republican Larry Householder's removal as state House speaker and his eventual expulsion from the chamber.
● Boston, MA Mayor: City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George earned the backing of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 on Monday, while fellow City Councilor Michelle Wu picked up the endorsement of the healthcare workers union 1199SEIU around the same time. Politico reports that 1199SEIU's PAC has $3.2 million on-hand.
● Buffalo, NY Mayor: Mayor Byron Brown announced Tuesday that he would not appeal last week's court rulings keeping him off the general election ballot and would instead focus on retaining his office as a write-in candidate. The only person who will be listed on the November ballot is activist India Walton, who defeated Brown in a June Democratic primary upset.
While Brown faces a challenging task this fall, though, the Buffalo News' Robert McCarthy notes that major labor groups are largely in his corner. The latest union to back the incumbent was the regional AFL-CIO, which supported him in the primary and reaffirmed that it was sticking with him in the general election. Walton's most prominent labor support has come from the Buffalo Teachers Federation, which endorsed her for the Democratic nomination and will almost certainly vote to back her again in mid-October.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Two prominent Los Angeles politicians announced this week that they would compete in next year's open seat race for mayor: Jessica Lall, who leads the prominent business group Central City Association, and City Councilman Kevin de León, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018.
The pair join a June nonpartisan primary field that includes City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Councilman Joe Buscaino, and real estate broker Mel Wilson. The contest to succeed termed-out Mayor Eric Garcetti may expand further before long as Rep. Karen Bass also said Tuesday that she would decide within the next week if she'd enter the race. Real estate developer Rick Caruso and former L.A. Unified schools Superintendent Austin Beutner are also thinking about getting in.
Lall, who previously served in former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's administration, currently heads an organization that Los Angeles Magazine describes as "the powerhouse advocacy and lobbying group that counts more than 300 downtown businesses, trade associations, cultural organizations, and nonprofits as members." The candidate, whose father is originally from India, would be both the first woman and first person of Asian descent elected to lead America's second-largest city.
Lall launched her campaign by pledging to focus on homelessness, with the Los Angeles Times writing she "promised to build more housing for those experiencing mental health crises, change zoning rules to allow for the construction of more affordable housing and press other cities in Los Angeles County to do more to address homelessness across the region." Los Angeles Magazine notes that "nearly everyone running for any city office next year" has also called homelessness the major issue facing Los Angeles.
De León, for his part, is a longtime labor ally whose career in elected office goes back to 2006, when he first won a seat in the state Assembly. De León went on to lead the state Senate, and he held that powerful post when he launched his 2018 campaign to unseat his fellow Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
De León attracted national attention from progressives who had long wanted to replace the moderate Feinstein, who generated unwanted attention the previous year when she urged an audience to show Donald Trump more patience, but he struggled to raise enough money to compete in this massive state. Feinstein, who had the support of prominent state and national Democrats, ended up prevailing in the general election by a 54-46 margin. De León, though, bounced back two years later when he decisively won a spot on the 15-member City Council, and he's spent his tenure focusing on building more homes to house the homeless.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: City Council President Lorena González has released a poll from GQR that shows her tied 45-45 with her predecessor, Bruce Harrell, ahead of the November general election. That's a very different result than the 42-27 Harrell lead that Elway Poll found in its recent survey for the publication Crosscut.
● Former New York Rep. Sherwood Boehlert: a moderate Republican who represented the Utica area from 1983 until his retirement in 2007, Boehlert died Monday at the age of 84. Boehlert was a proponent of environmental protection legislation who earned the nickname "The Green Hornet," and he remained an outspoken advocate on the issue after leaving Congress.
Boehlert worked as chief of staff for two local congressmen including Donald Mitchell, who defeated him in the 1972 primary for what was an open House seat. Boehlert went on to prevail in the 1979 race for Oneida County executive, and he decisively won the 1982 primary and general elections to succeed the retiring Mitchell in what was numbered the 25th District at the time.
Boehlert never came close to losing a general election during his 24 years in Congress, but he faced notable primary opposition starting in 2000, when he turned back an unheralded opponent only 57-43. The congressman's toughest race came in 2002 when he went up against former Cayuga County Legislator David Walrath in the new 24th District, a seat that had been drawn up to protect Boehlert. Walrath went after the incumbent from the right and, while he struggled to bring in money, disproportionate conservative turnout helped the challenger hold Boehlert to a 53-47 win.
Walrath sought a rematch in 2004 but this time, Boehlert turned in a 60-40 victory; the congressman went on to win what turned out to be his final general election 57-34 as George W. Bush was carrying the district by a smaller 53-47 spread. Boehlert retired during the 2006 cycle and was succeeded by Democrat Mike Arcuri.
● Canada: Canadians went back to the polls on Monday two years after delivering the center-left Liberal Party a minority government and largely decided that the status quo was just fine. The major parties received vote and seat totals very similar to those they earned in 2019, leaving Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the same position he was in before he called the election. Trudeau remains comfortably in power and well ahead of the Conservatives on seats, but he'll have to continue to rely on either the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) or the separatist Bloc Quebecois (BQ) to pass legislation through parliament.
With mail-in votes still pending (about 5% of the overall vote), the Liberals are winning 158 seats, the Conservatives 119, BQ 34, the NDP 25, and the Green Party two seats. That would be an increase of two seats for BQ and one for the Liberals and NDP each, and a loss of two Conservative seats, one Green seat, and one independent seat.
The Conservatives did well in Atlantic Canada, typically a Liberal stronghold, picking up four seats and doubling their ranks in a region where they've seen some recent success at the provincial level. They were unable, however, to break through in the populous Toronto suburbs, the main route that would have given them a real opportunity to become the largest party in parliament. And while still dominant in Alberta, the province saw the Conservatives' worst slide in the country compared to 2019, with a likely loss of three seats (two to the Liberals and one to the NDP).
In terms of overall vote percentage, the Conservatives again won more votes than the Liberals, as they did in 2019, but their vote was spread far less efficiently when translated to seats. Their current 34-32 lead is slightly larger than it was in 2019, but observers expect mail ballots to favor the Liberals and NDP, so that lead will likely narrow. The NDP increased its vote percentage by almost 2 points but were unable to translate that into significant gains in terms of seats. The Greens, who've always struggled to win seats, sank 4 percentage points from 6.5% to 2.3%.
The far-right People's Party won a significant increase in votes, up to 5.1% from the 1.6% it won in 2019 (the first time it contested an election), but like last time, it could not actually win a seat. The party did achieve one thing though: Its leader, Maxime Bernier, has now qualified for the debates at the next election.
That next election could conceivably come as late as 2025, but minority governments in Canada historically do not last the full four years. It's unlikely Canada will be back at the polls anytime soon as this election was widely criticized across the spectrum as unnecessary to call during a pandemic, though it would not be a surprise to see another election in 2023 or 2024.