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.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor, CA-37: Multiple media outlets reported Friday that Democratic Rep. Karen Bass has decided to run for mayor of Los Angeles next year, with Politico adding that one of its reporters overheard the congresswoman telling someone over the phone, "I'm going to officially announce a run for mayor." Her team has not publicly confirmed that she'll enter the open seat race to lead America's second-largest city rather than seek a seventh term in her safely blue 37th Congressional District, though Bass said Tuesday that she would decide within the next week.
Bass' entry would make her the most prominent candidate to campaign to succeed termed-out Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is President Joe Biden's nominee to become ambassador to India, in this heavily Democratic city. The California assemblywoman made history in 2008 when she became the first Black woman to lead any of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers, and she won an open seat in Congress two years later without any serious opposition. Her profile rose further in 2020 when Biden seriously considered her as his running mate, though the post ended up going to another California Democrat, Sen. Kamala Harris.
Bass has the opportunity to again make history as the first woman elected to lead Los Angeles, as well as its second African American mayor following the legendary Tom Bradley, but she would need to get past a number of opponents first. City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Councilman Joe Buscaino, and real estate broker Mel Wilson have been running for a while, while Central City Association head Jessica Lall and City Councilman Kevin de León each announced over the last week. The field could expand further, as real estate developer Rick Caruso and former L.A. Unified schools Superintendent Austin Beutner are also thinking about getting in.
All the candidates will face off in next June’s nonpartisan primary, and a general election would take place in November in the very likely event that no one took a majority of the vote in the first round. An early August survey from FM3, which was conducted on behalf of an unidentified client, showed Bass leading a hypothetical field with 22% while no other names topped 6%, but the rest of the field has time to get their names out. Indeed, Politico's Christopher Cadelago reports that Buscaino has already reserved $2 million in TV time; Cadelago also says the councilman has raised $1 million for his proposed June local ballot initiative to ban homeless encampments in public areas.
Bass' departure from the House would also set off an uncertain race to succeed her in Congress. The 37th District, which includes the neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, Crenshaw, and West Los Angeles, backed Biden 84-14. California is losing a House seat, though, and no one knows what the new map will look like once the independent redistricting commission is done with its work.
P.S. While it's rare for House members to choose not to run for re-election in order to run for mayor at home, especially since many big city mayoral races take place in odd-numbered years, it's hardly unheard of. The last person to try this was fellow California Democrat Bob Filner, who was elected mayor of San Diego in 2012. (Filner's career imploded the next year after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment.)
Three of Bass' other homestate colleagues have more recently given up their seats in order to run for a place on their county board of supervisors, with mixed results. Gloria Negrete McLeod unsuccessfully campaigned for a seat on the San Bernardino County board in 2014, but fellow Democrat Janice Hahn won a spot on its counterpart body in Los Angeles County two years later. Republican Paul Cook went on to successfully run in 2020 for this job back in San Bernardino County.
● IL Redistricting: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed Illinois' new legislative maps, which lawmakers passed at the end of last month. The maps, which will lock in continued Democratic majorities in both chambers, replace earlier plans that were based on population estimates and therefore had to be revised after firm data from the 2020 census was released in August.
Illinois is now the second state this year to pass new legislative maps after Ohio (and excluding Oklahoma, which also adopted preliminary maps but will likewise have to revisit them). Legislators have yet to make public any congressional redistricting proposals.
● ME Redistricting: Maine's bipartisan Apportionment Commission (which is really a mostly legislative panel that handles redistricting) has reached an agreement on a new congressional map that will make the state's 2nd District slightly bluer. Under the new plan (available here), the state capital of August would move from the 1st District to the 2nd, though the latter, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, would still have voted for Donald Trump, albeit by about 6 points, according to Dave's Redistricting App, rather than 7.5.
State lawmakers will convene for a special session to address redistricting starting on Wednesday. Though Democrats hold a majority in both chambers, it takes a two-thirds vote to pass any new maps, which is why the redistricting committee (which is made up of 10 legislators and five political appointees) settled on a compromise, lest the matter wind up in court. Previously, a deal was struck on a map for the state House, though the state Senate remains unsettled.
● NE Redistricting: Lawmakers in Nebraska's unicameral legislature appear to have reached a compromise over a congressional map after a Democratic-led filibuster blocked an earlier GOP-drawn proposal from advancing.
Unlike the previous version, which sought to split the Democratic bastion of Omaha between two districts, the new map keeps the city (and surrounding Douglas County) wholly within the competitive 2nd District, which Republican Rep. Don Bacon held on to by a 51-46 margin last year. However, it relies on creative gerrymandering to keep the revised district roughly in line with the seat's current political lean (it went 52-46 for Joe Biden last year). It does so by removing swingy suburbs from adjacent Sarpy County and placing those in the solidly red 1st District while adding farther-flung red areas to the 2nd.
Because the Omaha region grew faster than the rest of the state, a more logical and compact map would slim down the 2nd District by reuniting the city with the adjacent inner suburb of Bellevue in Sarpy County; such a district would have voted for Biden by about 9 points. Bellevue was in fact part of the 2nd District for many decades, until the previous Republican gerrymander excised it following the 2010 census. Instead, under this plan, Bellevue remains in the 1st District, while rural Saunders County and the most rural parts of Sarpy are grafted on to the 2nd.
The map must still pass further votes before it's finalized, and one Democratic senator who voted against it says he plans to seek further adjustments. However, given the bipartisan 36-10 majority in favor of the map during the initial vote, a renewed Democratic filibuster to compel more changes looks unlikely.
● GA-Sen: While Mitch McConnell was reportedly extremely skeptical of former NFL player Herschel Walker's viability in a general election as recently as last month, the Senate minority leader now tells Politico, "I think there's every indication he's going to be a good candidate." McConnell's Senate Leadership Fund has a history of spending vast amounts of money in GOP primaries in order to block unacceptable candidates, but that's almost certainly not going to happen here unless he sours on Walker again.
● IA-Sen: Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley, who is already the longest-serving senator in Iowa history, announced Friday that he would seek an eighth term next year. Grassley has always taken at least 60% of the vote in his previous six re-election campaigns (the smallest of those wins was his most recent campaign in 2016, when he prevailed 60-36), and he'll once again start as the clear favorite in a state that swung hard to the right during the Trump era.
Grassley currently faces intra-party opposition from Jim Carlin, a far-right state senator who said in February that he'd run no matter what the incumbent did, but the challenger has struggled to raise money or attract attention. The Democratic frontrunner, meanwhile, is former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who won a competitive House race in 2018 and narrowly lost two years later.
A recent Selzer & Company poll found Grassley ahead by a wide 55-37 margin in a general election, though Finkenauer's presence at least gives her party a serious candidate in case this race turns out to be unexpectedly competitive. Finkenauer used her July campaign kickoff to argue that Grassley has "lost touch" with both Iowa and democracy following the Jan. 6 attack, though the 32-year-old challenger refrained from focusing on the vast generation distance between her and the 88-year-old incumbent.
● OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance on Wednesday responded to a Spectrum News question asking whether women should be required to give birth even if they became pregnant because of rape or incest by saying, "It's not whether a woman should be forced to bring a child to term; it's whether a child should be allowed to live, even though the circumstances of that child's birth are somehow inconvenient or a problem to the society."
While those comments brought immediate comparisons to fellow Republican Todd Akin's infamous "legitimate rape" quote from the 2012 Missouri Senate race, Vance has yet to attract any serious intra-party outrage. Vance faces several opponents in next year's GOP primary, and almost all of them are also running as anti-abortion zealots.
● KS-Gov: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's allies at EMILY's List have released a Clarity Campaign Labs poll that gives her a 47-44 edge over Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who has the Republican primary to himself. This is the first survey we've seen of this very likely general election matchup.
● NY-Gov: The Washington Post recently asked Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi about reports that he's considering a primary campaign against New York's new governor, Kathy Hochul, and he did not rule anything out. Suozzi, who represents part of Long Island, instead merely responded, "Right now, the most important thing I can do for New Yorkers is to get SALT relief for them and their families. Everything else right now is secondary."
Suozzi sought the governorship in 2006 when he was Nassau County executive, but that campaign went horribly for him. Suozzi had the vociferous backing of Home Depot founder Ken Langone, who sought payback against then-state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for his crusade to uproot Wall Street corruption: It amounted to little, as Spitzer crushed Suozzi 82-18. Suozzi went on to lose re-election in 2009 and failed to regain the county executive four years later, but he bounced back in 2016 by winning New York's 3rd Congressional District.
● TX-Gov: While Axios reported earlier this month that former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke was "expected" to run for governor, the 2018 Senate nominee said Friday he was still considering. When the Texas Tribune asked him for a timeline, O'Rourke said, "It won't be in a week, but it'll be some time in the near future."
Meanwhile, actor Matthew McConaughey recently said that he was also still considering challenging Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, though McConaughey once again didn't indicate which party, if any, he'd run with.
● VA-Gov: Democrat Terry McAuliffe recently launched a commercial featuring a trauma surgeon taking Republican Glenn Youngkin to task for opposing vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and mask requirements in schools, and Youngkin quickly responded with an ad featuring a doctor vouching for him. Physician Peter Zedler declares that Youngkin "believes vaccines save lives and is the only candidate with a TV ad encouraging Virginians to get the COVID vaccine," though he doesn't mention the candidate's opposition to mandates.
● MI-06: Longtime Rep. Fred Upton recently told CNN that he would wait for the redistricting process to conclude before deciding whether he'd seek re-election. Donald Trump earlier this month endorsed state Rep. Steve Carra's primary bid against Upton, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment in January, but the incumbent insisted that will have nothing to do with his 2022 plans.
● NJ-11: Insider NJ reports that former Kinnelon Councilman Larry Casha has sent letters to local county GOP leaders saying that he plans to run against Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill and will announce next month. Casha briefly campaigned for this North Jersey seat last cycle but dropped out after tax attorney Rosemary Becchi reached a deal with power brokers that resulted in her running here rather than against party favorite Tom Kean Jr. in the neighboring 7th District.
● MI-AG: Former state House Speaker and 2018 nominee Tom Leonard announced Friday that he would again seek the Republican nomination for Michigan attorney general even though Donald Trump endorsed one of his intra-party foes, election conspiracy theorist Matthew DePerno, just days before. Both parties pick their nominees for both offices at party conventions rather than through traditional primaries, and the GOP's event will take place in April. State Rep. Ryan Berman is also running for the right to take on Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Nessel beat Leonard 49-46 last time, which was the Michigan GOP's best statewide showing during the 2018 blue wave. Leonard was later nominated by Trump to be U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, but the Senate never confirmed him. Leonard currently serves as the state party's finance chair, and The Detroit News writes that his "history in the party and long-term connections are among the reasons many Republicans have viewed Leonard as a strong potential candidate for the party nomination."
● Cleveland, OH Mayor: Nonprofit head Justin Bibb earned an endorsement Thursday from former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, who is the only woman to ever have been elected to lead Cleveland, in this November's race to succeed retiring incumbent Frank Jackson. Campbell won this office in 2001 but lost four years later to Jackson, who is supporting City Council President Kevin Kelley.
Bibb previously picked up the backing of Campbell's predecessor, Michael White. Ideastream Public Media notes that the only living former mayor who hasn't taken sides yet is Dennis Kucinich, who finished a close third in the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary and spoke well of Bibb in his concession speech.