The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● IL-01: Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, whose victory over then-state Sen. Barack Obama in the 2000 Democratic primary makes him the only person to ever beat the future president, announced Monday evening that he would not seek a 16th term representing the 1st Congressional District. The redrawn version of this constituency, a majority Black district that includes the South Side of Chicago as well as suburban areas to the southwest, backed Joe Biden 70-28, and there's no question that the winner of the June Democratic primary will easily prevail in the general election.
And unsurprisingly, there are plenty of Windy City-based politicians who could run to succeed the longtime incumbent. Chicago Business' Greg Hinz relays that there's chatter that state Rep. Lamont Robinson will get in, while Chicago Aldermen Pat Dowell and Roderick Sawyer each tell him they're considering. Dowell is currently waging a bid for secretary of state while Sawyer is the son of the late Mayor Eugene Sawyer, who was named mayor following Harold Washington's death in 1987.
Hinz and Politico’s Shia Kapos also list the following people as interested:
- Chicago Alderman Stephanie Coleman
- State Sen. Jacqueline Collins
- State Rep. Marcus Evans
- Chicago Alderman Michelle Harris
- State Sen. Robert Peters
- State Sen. Elgie Sims
Both reporters, as well as NBC5’s Mary Ann Ahern, also mention several others as possibilities:
- Activist Ja'Mal Green
- Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller
- Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell
- Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norrington-Reaves
- Former Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers
Kapos also name-drops Rush’s son, Flynn Rush, who is currently running for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. However, while state Rep. Kam Buckner was initially talked about as a possibility, he told Hinz he wouldn’t go for it.
Illinois' candidate filing deadline isn't until March 14, but candidates realistically must start gathering signatures far sooner than that if they want to make the primary ballot. That's because petition challenges are a way of life in the state, and candidates will want to collect enough signatures to give them plenty of room for error in case some get thrown out: Indeed, as we'll explain below, Rush himself came very close to getting knocked off the ballot in 2016 after several of his petitions were ruled invalid. Contenders can start circulating their petitions on Jan. 13.
Rush himself has had a very eventful political career that began well before he won his first elected office. The future congressman, who began as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 at the age of 22. It was in that capacity that Rush recruited Fred Hampton, the party chair who was killed in a notorious police raid the next year along with fellow leader Mark Clark; Rush later recounted that the police shot down his own door that same day, "But—by the grace of God—my family and I were not home."
Rush, who ultimately went to prison for six months after being convicted on an illegal firearms charge, succeeded Hampton as the new head of the state Black Panthers, and he made a name for himself by helping to set up a clinic that screened for sickle cell anemia and a free breakfast program. He quit the party in 1974, but he continued to speak well of it: Indeed, in his Tuesday retirement speech, the congressman said, "In some sense, the spirit of the Black Panther Party still is alive and well in me. Serving the people, body and soul."
Rush unsuccessfully ran for the Chicago City Council and state legislature several times against candidates supported by the powerful Democratic machine, but he finally prevailed in 1983 by unseating an alderman backed by the party organization. Rush took office at the same time that Harold Washington was sworn in as the city's first Black mayor, and he was a Washington ally during the infamous Council Wars. After Washington died in office in 1987, though, Rush made his peace with the Democratic establishment and even became the state party's deputy chairman.
The alderman decided to run for Congress in the 1992 primary in the safely Democratic 1st District against Rep. Charles Hayes, a former ally whom Rush now argued was not providing "meaningful direction for the district." Hayes very much looked like the favorite even though he was weakened by redistricting, but the congressman earned some very bad headlines just ahead of Election Day when the public learned he had bounced over 700 checks from the House bank, which made him one of the worst offenders in what became known as the House Banking Scandal. Hayes defended himself by arguing that "everybody did it," but he ended up losing the nomination to Rush 42-39.
While the new congressman quickly became entrenched, his only attempt to seek a promotion went poorly. Rush launched a 1999 bid to unseat Mayor Richard Daley, arguing that the incumbent had focused only on the Loop—Chicago’s central business district—and a downtown filled with "flowerpots" and a "Ferris wheel" while ignoring poor neighborhoods. Daley, though, almost completely ignored his opponent while declaring that the local economy and schools were showing huge improvements under him, and he turned back Rush in a 72-28 landslide.
However, another soon-to-be very prominent Democrat was about to find out the hard way that, despite that stinging defeat, Rush wasn't anywhere near as vulnerable at home as he looked. Obama, who was a member of the state Senate at the time, wrote in his 2020 memoir A Promised Land, "I thought Rush's campaign had been uninspired … If this was how he operated in Congress, I figured I could do better." Political observers, though, warned Obama that Rush remained very popular, something the challenger's own internal numbers soon confirmed: Obama discovered that, while the congressman posted a 70% approval rating, that same survey found the future president almost completely unknown.
Rush himself worked hard to portray his opponent as an outsider, declaring, "He went to Harvard and became an educated fool. We're not impressed with these folks with these Eastern elite degrees." He added, "Barack is a person who read about the civil-rights protests and thinks he knows all about it." The congressman's son was later murdered during the campaign, an event that led Obama to pause his own efforts for a month.
While Obama raised a serious amount of money, the campaign soon turned into an experience that the future president would write was "an object lesson of what not to do." The challenger spent the winter holidays in Hawaii and stayed after his young daughter, Malia, became sick, which caused him to miss an important legislative session on gun safety measures. The state senator was soon beset by negative press, with the Chicago Tribune castigating him in an editorial that began, "What a bunch of gutless sheep."
No matter what, though, it would have been very difficult for Obama or anyone else to unseat Rush, who also enjoyed the support of President Bill Clinton. As Obama pollster Ron Lester recounted years later, "Taking on Bobby Rush among Black voters is like running into a buzz saw," explaining, "[H]is support ran deep — to the extent that a lot of people who liked Barack still wouldn't support him because they were committed to Bobby. He had built up this reserve of goodwill over 25 years in that community."
And sure enough, Rush beat Obama 61-30. The congressman would oppose his old rival during the 2004 Senate primary that ended up launching Obama's career, though Rush later backed him in the 2008 presidential nomination fight.
Rush never took less than 70% of the vote in a primary following that contest, though a big mistake almost cost him dearly in the 2016 cycle. As we wrote above, it's very common in Illinois for opponents to challenge their rivals’ petition signatures in order to knock them off the ballot, and Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins did just that when he took on the congressman. Rush wasn't prepared, though, and he only squeaked by after election authorities determined he had just 90 more valid signatures than the minimum 1,300 he needed. (Rush turned in 3,000 overall, but most were disqualified.) Once he was secure on the ballot, though, Rush rallied and beat Brookins 71-19.
● KY Redistricting: GOP leaders in Kentucky's Republican-run state House have introduced a new map for the chamber, ahead of a new legislative session that began on Tuesday. Lawmakers have yet to present proposals for the state Senate or Congress.
● MD Redistricting: A joint committee in Maryland's Democratic-run legislature has unveiled a new map for the state House and Senate (available here) that lawmakers will consider when they reconvene next week. House districts, which elect anywhere from one to three members each, are nested within Senate districts, which elect a single member.
● MO Redistricting: Republicans in Missouri's GOP-run state House have introduced a draft map that would preserve the party's 6-2 advantage in the state's congressional delegation by making Rep. Ann Wagner's 2nd District—which was the closest in the nation on the presidential level in 2020—safer for her. It would also preserve the state's two Democratic districts that are based, respectively, around St. Louis and Kansas City.
But while Republicans can easily enact whatever districts they like for Congress, the situation is very different on the legislative front. Maps for the state Senate and House are drawn up by a pair of evenly divided bipartisan commissions, and as we've often seen in other states with similar arrangements, both are headed toward deadlocks.
Facing a Dec. 23 deadline to pass a preliminary map, the Senate commission simply punted the task of redistricting to a panel of six appeals court judges that will be chosen by the state Supreme Court. The House commission, meanwhile, decided to approve a pair of maps—one drawn by each party. But if it can't come to an agreement on a single plan by Jan. 23, its duties will also fall to the appellate judges.
● NH Redistricting: GOP leaders in New Hampshire's Republican-run Senate have introduced a new map for the chamber that would increase the party's chances of retaining or expanding its current majority. Maps that would similarly gerrymander the lines for Congress and the state House were introduced last year and received approval in a House committee. Lawmakers will convene for a new legislative session on Wednesday.
● NY Redistricting: New York's bipartisan redistricting commission has deadlocked on new congressional and legislative maps, meaning that Democrats in the legislature, who enjoy supermajority control, will soon have the opportunity to pass aggressive gerrymanders of their own. Republicans and Democrats on the commission each released a set of proposed maps, but lawmakers are free to ignore them.
● TN Redistricting: A committee in Tennessee's Republican-run House voted to advance a new map for the chamber last month, ahead of a new legislative session set to begin next week. Lawmakers have yet to present proposals for the state Senate or Congress.
Welcome back to the most magical time of the season! The deadline for House and Senate candidates to file their quarterly fundraising reports (covering the period from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 of 2021) is Jan. 31, but it's common for campaigns to leak their numbers early to generate some press. (Deadlines vary by state for gubernatorial contenders and often aren't quarterly.)
- AZ-Sen: Blake Masters (R): $1.38 million raised
- AZ-Gov: Aaron Lieberman (D): $1.01 million raised (in 2021), additional $150,000 self-funded; Marco López (D): $765,000 raised (in 2021), additional $235,000 self-funded
- CA-15: David Canepa (D): $419,000 raised (in six weeks)
- CA-27: Quaye Quartey (D): $215,000 raised
- CA-41: Will Rollins (D): $310,000 raised (in two months)
- CA-42: Robert Garcia (D): $307,000 raised (in 14 days)
- CA-47: Scott Baugh (R): $519,000 raised (in 9 days)
- GA-02: Chris West (R): $100,000 raised (in two weeks)
- IL-03: Gil Villegas (D): $382,000 raised (in two months)
- IL-13: Nikki Budzinski (D): $475,000 raised
- KY-03: Morgan McGarvey (D): $775,000 raised
- MA-04: Jake Auchincloss (D-inc): $400,000 raised, $2.1 million cash-on-hand
- MI-07: Elissa Slotkin (D-inc): $950,000 raised, $4.5 million cash-on-hand; Tom Barrett (R): $310,000 raised (in six weeks)
- MO-07: Jay Wasson (R): $830,000 raised, $800,000 cash-on-hand
- NC-06: Nida Allam (D): $300,000 raised (in two months); Valerie Foushee (D): $162,000 raised (in 45 days)
- NH-01: Tim Baxter (R): $107,000 raised, additional $101,000 self-funded
- OR-04: Val Hoyle (D): $210,000 raised (in one month); Andrew Kalloch (D): $148,000 raised (in three weeks)
- SC-01: Annie Andrews (D): $500,000 raised (in two months)
- TX-28: Cassy Garcia (R): $100,000 raised (in 19 days)
● AL-Sen: Businesswoman Jessica Taylor, whose campaign for Alabama's open Senate seat never gained any traction, has dropped her bid and instead endorsed self-funding Army veteran Mike Durant for the GOP nomination.
● PA-Sen: Two notable Philadelphia unions, the Building Trades Council and the Laborers District Council, are both set to back Rep. Conor Lamb in May's Democratic Senate primary on Wednesday, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari. Lamb represents western Pennsylvania in the House, so these endorsements from the other end of the state, notes Tamari, are "a potentially significant statement of Philly support for Lamb."
● SD-Sen: John Thune, the number two-ranking Republican in the Senate, will supposedly end his dithering and finally announce whether he'll seek re-election this week, he tells CNN's Manu Raju. Or will he? When Raju asked if Thune had in fact already made up his mind, the senator responded: "Kind of."
● CA-Gov: Conservative radio host Larry Elder, who said on the day of last year's failed recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom that he's "not going to leave the stage," has announced that he's going to leave the stage. Elder said on Tuesday that he would not run for governor again this year, despite saying a month prior to the recall that he would "very likely" seek a rematch "in the unlikely event" he were to lose.
● MD-Gov: Former RNC chair Michael Steele finally announced Monday that he'd decided not to run for governor. The one-time lieutenant governor had formed an exploratory committee in July, but it would have been extremely tough to imagine Steele, who backed Joe Biden in 2020, winning a Republican primary in this day and age.
● MI-08, MI-07: Former Trump administration official Paul Junge, who lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in Michigan's old 8th District in 2020, announced on Tuesday that he'll run for Congress in Michigan's new 8th District—a race that, this time, will match him up against Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, who represents the old 5th. Junge does not live in the district but said he would move there.
Like the old 5th, the Central Michigan-based 8th is anchored by the city of Flint, but it now also incorporates the entire "Tri-Cities" region of Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland. (Under the Republican-drawn gerrymander that was just superseded, Midland was in a neighboring district that extended jagged teeth to capture parts of the Saginaw area.) Politically, the new district is slightly more favorable to the GOP: The 5th went for Joe Biden 51-47 but the 8th would have backed the president by a slimmer 50-48 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App.
As for Slotkin, she's seeking re-election in the revamped 7th, which is now a compact hub around the state capital of Lansing. Per DRA, it would have given Biden a narrow 50-49 win. Slotkin's main opposition so far looks to be GOP state Sen. Tom Barrett, who recently announced that he'd switch over to the 7th as well.
● TX-35: Austin City Councilman Greg Casar earned an endorsement this week from 29th District Rep. Sylvia Garcia in the March Democratic primary for this safely blue open seat.