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.
Programming Note: We'll be taking off Friday and Monday for Labor Day weekend, so that means no Live Digest on either of those days. (It'll return on Tuesday). For those who read us on the web or via email, there will be no Morning Digest on Monday or Tuesday, but we'll be back on the web and in your inbox on Wednesday. Enjoy the holiday!
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our calculations of the 2020 presidential results for every state Senate and state House district in Florida, a Republican-leaning swing state where the GOP has enjoyed complete control over the legislature for nearly a quarter of a century.
Democrats had high hopes of carrying the Sunshine State's electoral votes last year, but Donald Trump's margin of victory instead expanded to 51-48 from 49-48 in 2016, even as he was losing ground in other competitive states. And while there was never any serious question that Republicans would maintain their iron grip over the state capitol in Tallahassee, Trump's strength at the top of the ticket helped Republicans net one seat in the Senate seat and five in the House.
The GOP's success in Florida is vividly illustrated at the district level. In the Senate, Trump took 22 constituencies compared to 18 for Joe Biden; four years earlier, Trump carried 21 districts versus 19 for Clinton. The House was the site of the Democrats' real collapse, though: Trump carried 74 House districts to Biden's 46, a dramatic gain compared to the already sizable gap in 2016 when Trump won 66 seats and Clinton 54.
Those shifts helped keep both chambers far out of reach for Democrats, in part because Republicans performed better with crossover voters—those who backed one party at the top of the ticket but the other in down-ballot races. As a result, The GOP enjoys a 24-16 majority in the chamber, thanks to the fact that three Republicans represent Biden seats; state Sen. Annette Taddeo, meanwhile, is the one Democrat on Trump turf.
First, though, a word on the timing of elections. Normally, senators serve four-year terms, meaning only half of all seats go before voters every two years, as was the case last year. However, under a system known as "2-4-4," all 40 are up for election in 2022 due to redistricting. Half of those senators—those in odd-numbered districts—will run for terms that are just two years in length and will appear on the ballot again in 2024 for a full four-year term. The remainder will be up next in 2026. (A decade ago, it was members in the even-numbered districts who had to run for two-year terms following redistricting.)
Two of the three GOP-held Biden seats were up last year. The only one that wasn't was SD-08, a north-central Florida seat that Republican Keith Perry won 49-48 in 2018; it just barely switched sides at the presidential level, swinging from 48.2-48.0 Trump to 50-49 Biden.
As for the pair that were on the ballot last year, Republican Ileana Garcia took SD-37 in the Miami area by unseating Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez 48.53-48.51, with independent Alex Rodriguez taking 3%. Garcia's 32-vote victory was due in part to the massive shift towards Trump across South Florida, especially in heavily Latino constituencies like this one: While Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in a 60-38 landslide in 2016, Biden won by a far smaller 52-47 margin.
However, that shift was not the only factor in the incumbent's loss: Alex Rodriguez's decisive presence on the ballot was no accident, as he pleaded guilty last week to illegally accepting donations and falsifying campaign documents. Rodriguez, who admitted to being a shill candidate, also agreed to testify against former Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles, whom the state has accused of paying the independent around $45,000 to take votes away from Jose Javier Rodriguez. Garcia herself has denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy, and prosecutors have not accused her of wrongdoing.
Further to the north, Republican Jason Brodeur prevailed 50-48 to hold an open seat in SD-09, which is based in the Orlando suburbs, even as it swung from 50-46 Trump to 49.5-49.4 Biden—a 2020 margin of about 200 votes. But here again, there are questions about another independent, Jestine Iannotti, who took 2%. State authorities have also been looking into unspecified "allegations associated" with this race. Those vague allegations may have something to do with the presence of a mysterious dark money group that spent $180,000 on ads promoting Iannotti as a progressive. Unlike in SD-37, though, the Republican candidate won a majority of the vote.
The one Democratic-held Trump seat in the chamber is the Miami-area SD-40, which is located adjacent to Garcia's seat. Democrats took control here in 2017 when Taddeo pulled off an upset special election victory to replace none other than Artiles, who had resigned earlier that year after unleashing a racist tirade against fellow senators. Taddeo won a full four-year term 53-47 in 2018; two years later, however, the political character of her constituency utterly transformed, veering from 58-40 Clinton to 52-47 Trump.
In the 120-member House, election patterns are much simpler: Members always run for two-year terms, redistricting or no. Republicans represent four Biden seats while Democrats hold no districts that Trump won, but thanks to unchecked GOP gerrymandering, the map is far more lopsided than in the Senate, which leaves the GOP with an overall 78-42 majority in the chamber.
The bluest seat in GOP hands is HD-21, which includes much of Alachua County in the north-central corner of the state. The district moved left from 47.92-47.87 Clinton to 51-47 Biden, but Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons still held on 51-49. Biden's smallest margin of victory in a Democratic-held seat was in HD-59 in the Tampa area: The district swung from 48.1-47.7 Trump to 51-48 Biden, helping Democrat Andrew Learned hang on to this open seat for his party with a 51-49 win.
While Republican victories in last year's legislative elections were dismaying for Sunshine State Democrats, the GOP's domination over state government is nothing new. Democrats went into the 1990s with control of the governorship and both chambers of the legislature, but the two parties had to work out a powersharing agreement in the Senate after the 1992 elections led to a 20-20 tie.
The GOP took outright control after the 1994 wave, and the House flipped two years later. Finally, in 1998, Republican Jeb Bush took the governorship, which gave Republicans the state government "trifecta" for the first time since Reconstruction. The only time the GOP lost it during the following 23 years was a brief period in 2010, when Republican Gov. Charlie Crist became an independent during his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate; Crist, who is now a Democratic congressman, is campaigning to regain the governorship for Team Blue next year.
The GOP's complete control over the levers of state government also gives it yet another chance to cement its control of the legislature heading into 2022. The one possible obstacle is the two voter-passed "Fair Districts" amendments to the state constitution in 2010 that attempted to ban partisan gerrymandering. The state Supreme Court used those measures to curtail the GOP's congressional and Senate gerrymanders in 2015, though the House map remained untouched.
However, while liberals held a 5-2 majority on the court back then, hardline conservatives are now firmly in control thanks to new appointments by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. It's likely the new justices will look far more favorably on GOP-drawn maps this time, though to what degree is uncertain.
P.S. You can find all of our district-level data for every state nationwide at this bookmarkable permalink.
● NC-Sen: The News & Observer reports that the radical anti-tax Club for Growth is spending $3 million on an eight-week TV buy for Rep. Ted Budd far ahead of next year's open seat Republican primary. The commercial consists of footage of Donald Trump endorsing Budd and praising him "as somebody that loves the state of North Carolina."
● PA-Sen: Donald Trump waded into the crowded open seat GOP primary on Wednesday by endorsing Army veteran Sean Parnell, who lost an unexpectedly tight race last year for the 17th Congressional District.
Trump's early support for Parnell isn't a huge surprise, as he was the one who pushed the veteran, who was a frequent Fox News guest, to run for the House before he'd even announced his candidacy in 2019. And in characteristic fashion, Trump lied on Wednesday when he declared that the candidate "got robbed" in his subsequent defeat against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who is also running for the Senate.
Parnell, for his part, never conceded his race and also joined an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to invalidate 2.5 million disproportionately Democratic votes cast by mail in Pennsylvania in the hopes of throwing the state to Trump.
● CA-Gov: A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, one of the state's most respected polling outfits, shows the Sept. 14 recall of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom failing by a wide 58-39 margin, but the trendline may be the most interesting detail of all. The last time PPIC tested the race in May, the results were little different, with "no" winning 57-40.
These results suggest that Newsom's apparent summertime swoon, as depicted by other pollsters, may have been illusory. Of course, it's possible that, had PPIC gone into the field in the intervening months, it would have found a dip for Newsom—we can never know. But it's worth bearing in mind the possibility that nothing has really changed over the course of this election. (A great historical example of this, if you've never seen it before, is Barack Obama's internal polling from 2012 versus Gallup's: The former's was steady and nailed the final result, while the latter's gyrated wildly and missed the ultimate outcome by several points.)
Meanwhile, British pollster Redfield & Winton sees the recall losing by a narrower 51-43 spread, though this is their first poll of the race. Redfield doesn't appear to have asked about replacement candidates, but for what it's worth, PPIC has conservative radio host Larry Elder taking 27% and everyone else in single digits—pretty much the same as other pollsters.
● FL-Gov: RMG Research's first poll of next year's general election gives Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis identical 41-38 leads over his two declared Democratic foes, Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
The Democratic primary field may expand before too long, though, as state Sen. Annette Taddeo reiterated her interest this week when she told the Miami Herald she was considering running for something in the fall. Taddeo was Crist's running mate during his narrow 2014 defeat for this office.
● MD-Gov: Former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez earned endorsements this week from chapters of four labor groups, which Maryland Matters' Elizabeth Shwe says represent a total of 40,000 state households. Shwe also writes that up until now, the only major union to take sides in the primary was the Laborers' International Union of North America, which threw its support behind state Comptroller Peter Franchot back in February.
● MN-Gov: We haven't heard anything from Republican state Sen. Carla Nelson since she expressed interest in running for governor back in late March, and two media reports this week painted conflicting portraits of her interest in taking on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz.
The local NBC affiliate KARE 11 on Wednesday said she was "widely expected to join the race," though there's no quote from the senator. The Post-Bulletin, however, published a story that same day that featured an interview with Nelson about the race for governor but did not even mention her as a possible contender. Instead, reporter Matthew Stolle wrote, "Nelson said she has not decided who to support yet." Nelson also had some nice words about outgoing state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, who is very likely to challenge Walz himself.
Another would-be contender is healthcare executive Kendall Qualls, who lost to Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips 56-44 in the 3rd Congressional District last year. Minnesota Morning Take reports that Qualls "has a group of people urging him to run," and that he is indeed considering the idea.
Finally, while state Sen. Michelle Benson initially refused to say whether she'd remain in the primary if someone else won the state party endorsement, she later committed to ending her nascent campaign should this happen. "I respect the work of the delegates and will abide by the endorsement," said Benson, adding, "Republicans need a party ready to defend the endorsement and win in a general election."
● NJ-Gov: The far-right Club for Growth has publicized a poll from Fabrizio Lee that gives Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy just a 43-41 edge against Republican foe Jack Ciattarelli in this November's race. That's extremely different from the one other survey we've seen in the last two months, a mid-August Monmouth University that showed Murphy well ahead 52-36.
The Club has a long history of spending heavily on races it cares about, and we'll see if the group puts its money where its mouth is and invests in a contest that otherwise looks quite tough for Ciattarelli.
● NY-Gov: In response to a question about discussions about a possible gubernatorial bid, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Tish James did not directly answer, saying only that James is "fully focused on her work." In our book, we mark that sort of thing down as "not ruling it out." That may not sound like much, but it's the first time since Andrew Cuomo's resignation that James or her team have even hinted that she might challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in next year's Democratic primary. One unnamed source also told the New York Times that James, in the paper's wording, "indicated she would like to make a call some time this fall."
The same article, which canvasses possible Democratic contenders, says that Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi "is also thought to be seriously considering a run" and adds that New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has publicly said he's weighing a bid, "has told at least one person that he has already decided to run."
Finally, there's term-limited New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has fielded a poll testing his prospects and, according to an unnamed source who spoke with Politico, has told labor leaders he's considering a campaign. A de Blasio adviser, Peter Ragone, did not close the door on the possibility, saying, "I think anyone with that kind of record and commitment to public service should consider other options to contribute, whatever form that takes."
● WI-Gov: Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has a "special announcement" set for Sept. 9, a move that comes shortly after the Republican filed paperwork for her long-expected campaign against Democratic incumbent Tony Evers.
● MO-07: The Missouri Scout writes that Joelle Cannon, a former aide to retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, is "said to be making her decision soon" about whether she'd join the GOP primary for this safely red open seat.
● TN-05: Community activist Odessa Kelly earned an endorsement this week from SEIU Local 205, which she is a member of, for her campaign to unseat Rep. Jim Cooper in the Democratic primary. The union, which represents local government employees (Kelly used to work for the Nashville parks department), backed the longtime incumbent last year when he won renomination by a surprisingly modest 57-40 margin against an underfunded foe.
Kelly, though, has already brought in a noteworthy amount of money. The challenger raised just north of $300,000 during her opening quarter, and she ended June with $140,000 in the bank. But Cooper, who like Kelly has to worry about the possibility that the GOP legislature will try to gerrymander this constituency, took in a stronger $580,000 during the second quarter of 2021, and he had $785,000 on-hand.
● WA-03: Donald Trump on Wednesday backed Army veteran Joe Kent's intra-party challenge to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him in January, in next year's top-two primary for this southern Washington seat. Kent, it will not surprise you to learn, has falsely claimed Trump won the 2020 election and already had the support of some of the most prominent far-right figures in the House, Arizona's Paul Gosar and Florida's Matt Gaetz.
● Special Elections: There are two special elections on tap for Tuesday, one in Alabama and one in New Hampshire:
AL-HD-78: This Democratic district in the Montgomery area became vacant when former Rep. Kirk Hatcher was elected to the state Senate in a March special election. Political consultant Kenyatté Hassell, who served as Hatcher’s campaign manager, is the Democratic candidate and faces businesswoman Loretta Grant, a Republican. Grant previously ran for the state House in a nearby district in 2014 and for the school board in Montgomery in 2016, losing both races by wide margins.
We don’t have presidential results for this district, but it’s located in Alabama's strongly Democratic “Black Belt” and Democratic candidates for this seat have easily won races here in recent years. Republicans currently have a 76-26 veto-proof majority in this chamber, with this and two other seats vacant.
NH-HD-Hillsborough 7: One of the six seats in this multi-member district in Bedford became vacant when former Republican Rep. David Danielson died earlier this year. Former Bedford Town Councilor Catherine Rombeau is the Democrat running against former GOP state Rep. Linda Camarota.
Though four of the other five members representing this district are Republicans, this district has steadily been shifting leftward. Mitt Romney won it 62-37 in 2012, after which it moved to a smaller 51-44 victory for Donald Trump in 2016, culminating in a 51-48 win for Joe Biden last year.
Republicans control this chamber 208-186, though it's far from full strength, as the 400-member state House has six vacancies (including this one).