The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast
● AZ-Gov: Democrats enjoyed yet another welcome burst of news Monday when media outlets called the Arizona governor's race for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who will be the first Democrat in 14 years to lead what’s become a crucial swing state. Hobbs leads her far-right opponent, former local TV anchor Kari Lake, 50.4-49.6 with 98% of the likely total vote reporting for the contest to succeed termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey. Republicans hoped that later-counted ballot would allow Lake to overcome the edge that Hobbs has enjoyed since election night, but those batches of votes weren’t quite red enough to deny Hobbs the win.
Lake, who began spreading conspiracy theories and cultivating ties with the extremist right well before she went off the air last year as a news anchor for Phoenix's Fox 10, was part of Trump’s nationwide primary slate of Big Lie spreaders, and she rode that support to beat out a Ducey-backed foe for the nomination in August. Lake quickly became a national MAGA star, and some over-eager observers speculated that she could be Trump’s running mate―or even a future presidential nominee―even though she hadn’t even won her own race yet. Lake herself even recorded videos imploring voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania to elect like-minded Trumpists, Tudor Dixon and Doug Mastriano, to lead their respective states.
What Lake didn’t do in the general election, though, was abandon her conspiracy mongering. The Republican nominee spent the week before the election making light of the assassination attempt on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying, “Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C.—apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.” Lake also continued to push the Big Lie, saying of Trump’s 2020 loss in Arizona, “We had 740,000 ballots with no chain of custody. Those ballots shouldn’t have been counted.”
Hobbs, for her part, launched her campaign last year highlighting how she performed her job as the Grand Canyon State’s chief election administrator in the face of death threats. Hobbs ran a considerably more low-key campaign than Lake, who aired several ads hitting the Democrat for refusing to debate her. Hobbs and her allies, though, stuck with their strategy of highlighting Lake’s extremism, which included an ad hitting her for appearing to flirt with secession in response to the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago.
Hobbs’ victory will make her Arizona’s first Democratic governor since early 2009, when Janet Napolitano resigned to become Barack Obama’s first secretary of homeland security. Team Blue knew that Napolitano’s departure would hand the governor’s office to Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who was next in line for the top job in a state that lacks a lieutenant governor’s post, but they hoped the GOP would hand back control the next year.
That was a huge miscalculation. Brewer was in place to sign the infamous anti-immigrant bill SB 1070 into law months before she rode the 2010 red wave to a full term, and Ducey won the following two elections. Hobbs, though, finally returns this office to Democratic control over a decade after they forfeited it.
P.S. Arizona will, starting in 2026, elect a lieutenant governor for the first time, since voters have now passed a ballot measure to establish the post by a 55-45 margin. Hobbs would be able to name her own running mate, who would assume the governorship should Hobbs win a second term but be unable to complete it, ensuring that the debacle of 2009 can never be repeated. Until then, the person next in line to succeed her will be Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes, a fellow Democrat who won the race to succeed Hobbs by defeating election denier Mark Finchem.
We’re tracking uncalled contests in on our continually updated cheat-sheet; we’ll cover each of them in the Digest once they’re resolved.
● AZ-01: Republican Rep. David Schweikert has overcome a late Democratic offensive highlighting his ethics violations and held his suburban Phoenix seat against Democrat Jevin Hodge. Schweikert leads 50.4-49.6 with 99% of the Associated Press’ estimated vote in for a constituency Biden carried 50-49.
● AZ-06: Republican Juan Ciscomani has flipped this open Tucson-based district that national Democrats triaged weeks ahead of Election Day. Ciscomani beat out Democrat Kirsten Engel 50.5-49.5 with 97% of the estimated vote in; Biden took this seat by a tiny 49.3-49.2 margin.
● CA-41: Republican Rep. Ken Calvert has won his 16th term by turning back Democrat Will Rollins in a competitive race that attracted little outside spending. Calvert leads Rollins 52-48 with 80% of the estimated vote in for a 50-49 Trump district that spans from the southern Riverside suburbs to Palm Springs. This is Calvert’s first competitive race since 2008, when he almost lost in a shocker that few saw coming.
● CA-45: Republican Michelle Steel has turned back Democrat Jay Chen after a race where national GOP groups dumped about $5 million to protect her while Team Blue largely deployed its resources elsewhere. Steel holds a 54-46 advantage with 78% of the estimated vote in for a western Orange County seat Biden took 52-46. Steel and her allies ran ad after ad accusing Chen, whose family fled China after the Communist Party took power, of having "led efforts to bring Chinese communist propaganda to schools.”
● NY-22: Republican Brandon Williams has kept this Syracuse-based open seat red by turning back Democrat Francis Conole after another pricey battle. The Republican holds a 51-49 advantage with 97% of the estimated vote counted in this 53-45 Biden seat. Williams in August overcame close to $1 million in spending by the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund, which tried to get a different Republican nominated, but CLF dutifully turned around and deployed millions in the general for its unwanted standard bearer.
● OR-06: Democrat Andrea Salinas has won this brand-new seat by defeating Republican Mike Erickson after an expensive fight. The Democrat holds a 50-48 edge with 93% of the estimated vote in for a constituency in the Salem area and southwestern Portland suburbs that Biden won 55-42. Salinas will be Oregon’s first Latina member of Congress, a distinction she’ll share with Republican Rep.-elect Lori Chavez-DeRemer of the neighboring 5th District.
Erickson last month threatened to sue to overturn the election should he lose, citing a state law that the Oregon Capitol Chronicle wrote "prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure." It's not clear whether this law has ever been successfully employed to reverse the results of an election, and Erickson's attorney cited no such examples in her letter. It also remains to be seen if Erickson will make good on his threat now that he has lost.
Erickson took issue with a Salinas commercial highlighting his 2016 arrest and conviction for drunk driving where the narrator noted that in addition to the DUI, Erickson was “charged with illegal drug possession for illegal oxycodone.” The Republican’s legal team insisted that he “has never been charged with illegal possession of drug” because his lawyer six years ago said that she'd made a "mistake" by filing a plea agreement stating that the district attorney’s office had "agreed to dismiss felony possession of controlled substance upon tender of guilty plea."
An attorney for Salinas, however, cited that very statement in support of the ad's truthfulness in a letter and argued that "a charge is a charge, whether or not the DA files it."
● IL Ballot: KSDK has called a win for Amendment 1, which would enshrine "the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively" into the state constitution. The measure leads 58-42 with 97% of the estimated vote in.
Even though Amendment 1 has enjoyed a clear lead since election night, it wasn't quite clear for days that it had won because of an unusual provision in the state constitution. Illinois' governing document reads, "A proposed amendment shall become effective as the amendment provides if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election."
● Electoral System Reform: Several states, cities, and counties voted on ballot measures on whether to reform their electoral systems, including two such local election measures in Washington state.
Seattle's two-part Proposition 1 first asked voters whether they wanted to replace the top-two primary for city offices and then whether they wanted to adopt instant-runoff voting or approval voting if voters on part one favor changing the status quo. Too many votes remain uncounted to call the result yet, but the "yes" side on the first question is narrowly ahead 50.53-49.47 as of Tuesday morning. If that lead holds and voters indicate they want change, instant-runoff voting holds a wide 76-24 lead over approval voting on the second question and would thus become the new system.
Meanwhile further south in Clark County, a swingy jurisdiction of half a million residents that contains Washington's part of the Portland, Oregon suburbs, Amendment 10 asked voters whether they wanted to adopt instant-runoff voting for county offices, but voters rejected it 58-42.
● Term Limits: Three states approved ballot measures this November that amend their constitutions to create or alter term limits for state government offices:
In Michigan, legislators are currently limited to two four-year terms in the Senate and a separate three two-year terms in the House, which are among the shortest limits of any state. But because voters passed Proposal 1 by a wide 67-33, those limits will instead be loosened to 12 years in the legislature regardless of chamber, so a lawmaker could choose to spend all 12 years in either the Senate or House to accrue further seniority and legislative experience. The measure also requires lawmakers to file financial disclosure reports regarding their personal finances and outside employment.
In North Dakota, voters by a 63-37 margin have passed Constitutional Measure 1, which creates limits of two four-year terms that will apply separately to the governor, Senate, and House starting in 2023, but terms completed prior to the effective date do not count toward the limit. Thus, two-term GOP Gov. Doug Burgum will still be allowed to seek re-election in 2024; Burgum had supported the measure while GOP legislative leaders opposed it.
Finally, voters in Oregon created a very different sort of term limit when they passed Measure 113 by a 68-32 margin. Oregon is one of just five states that requires more than a simple majority of legislators be present for the quorum needed to conduct any legislative business. After Democrats in 2018 gained the three-fifths supermajorities needed to pass bills containing tax increases, Republicans began regularly boycotting the legislature to deny Democrats the separate two-thirds supermajorities needed for a quorum, enabling the GOP to block bills on topics such as climate change, gun safety, and more.
Following Measure 113’s passage, if a legislator incurs 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session, the new amendment would limit them from seeking re-election in the subsequent election, and they would only regain the ability to run again after sitting out the next two-year term. While that isn't guaranteed to eliminate the ability of Republicans to use quorum-busting tactics to obstruct legislation if GOP lawmakers are willing to have to sit out the next two-year term, the measure's backers are hoping that it will provide a strong deterrence against doing so.
● Mayors and County Leaders: Several cities and counties voted Tuesday to pass ballot measures that permanently reschedule their local elections from odd to even-numbered years:
- San Francisco, CA: Elections for citywide offices moved from odd-numbered to presidential cycle years. (San Francisco is both a city and a county.)
- Boulder, CO: Elections for city offices moved from odd-numbered years to coincide with even-numbered year state elections beginning in 2026.
- St. Petersburg, FL: Elections for city offices moved from odd-numbered years to coincide with the presidential cycle starting in 2024.
- King County, WA: Elections for county offices moved from odd-numbered to even-numbered years starting in 2026.
The San Francisco referendum, known as Proposition H, adds an extra year to Mayor London Breed's term, but she very much opposed it. Back in July, Breed blasted the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for placing Prop. H on the ballot, claiming that "a group of democratic socialists" are seeking to "have more control and power of being able to get more of their people elected." Prop. H also lowers the number of signatures required for local ballot initiatives to 2% of registered voters.
Additionally, voters in Long Beach, California backed a pair of referendums to reschedule both its local elections and school board elections to align with state elections in even-numbered years. Another Golden State community, Modesto, passed a similar measure to move mayoral election dates to coincide with the statewide primary and general election.
Finally, the electorate in Baltimore city, Maryland approved Question K, which doesn't affect the timing of its contests but instead puts in place term limits for local elected officials. The mayor, City Council president, comptroller, and City Council members will be limited to a pair of four-year terms starting in 2024, but any service up until then isn't counted. No mayor has held office for two full terms since Kurt Schmoke completed his third and final term in 1999.
Question K received $525,000 in funding from Sinclair Broadcast Group executive chairman David Smith, who lives outside the city. Maryland Matters highlighted how WBFF-TV, which is owned by the conservative media outlet, also pushed Question K without mentioning Smith's involvement. While Mayor Brandon Scott, who was elected in 2020, decried Smith's heavy spending, Question K passed in a 72-28 landslide.
● Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Appointed Republican incumbent Rachel Mitchell has claimed victory now that Democrat Julie Gunnigle has conceded the special election for top prosecutor of America's fourth-largest county. Mitchell leads 53-47 with 1.45 million votes counted in the contest to succeed Republican Allister Adel, who resigned in March and died the next month. This seat will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.
● GA-Sen: Here's a roundup of the new ads that are being aired in what will be an ultra-expensive Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker:
- Raphael Warnock: The narrator (The Wire's John Doman, who previously voiced a spot in Missouri) argues that the senator will work across party lines and has "the competence and character to represent us."
- Herschel Walker: The spot tries to shore up Walker against the many attacks on his honesty and character with an unnamed man insisting, "The quality and the fabric of the man is top notch and his values have been formed in small-town Wrightsville, Georgia. And those are good values."
- Georgia Honor: The Senate Majority PAC affiliate launches one of those attacks on Walker's honesty and character by saying that his own campaign aides "call him a 'pathological liar' who lies about the most basic facts of his life." The narrator continues, "His own son describes Walker threatening to kill his ex-wife." AdImpact says the group is spending $4.6 million on a buy spanning Nov. 12 to Nov. 18.
- American Bridge: A Republican voter identified as Janis condemns Walker by declaring, "He lies about his businesses. He lies about the way he's treated his family. He lies about his beliefs about abortion." Janis then talks about the Daily Beast's bombshell report from last month, saying, "He encouraged his partner to have an abortion. I'll pray for Herschel Walker, but I will not vote for him."
This spot, as well as a similar one we covered in our last Digest, are part of what AdImpact reports is a $1.2 million campaign from Nov. 12 to Nov. 21.
● LA-Gov: Both of Louisiana's Republican senators, John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, are showing new interest in joining October's all-party primary to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards.
Kennedy, who was re-elected with 62% of the vote last week, not only confirmed on Monday that he was giving a new campaign “serious consideration” and would be “announcing my decision soon,” he also released an internal from Torchlight Strategies showing him well ahead of all his potential rivals. The results of the four-day survey, which began one day after Kennedy’s easy victory, are below:
Sen. John Kennedy (R): 22
State Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson (D): 18
Attorney General Jeff Landry (R): 13
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R): 7
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R): 6
Rep. Garret Graves (R): 5
Attorney Hunter Lundy (I): 2
Treasurer John Schroder (R): 1
State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R): 0
Landry and Lundy are the only two contenders who have launched campaigns so far.
In the very likely event that no one takes a majority of vote in the first round in October, the top two contenders would advance to a runoff regardless of party. Torchlight showed Kennedy besting Wilson 56-32 in a one-on-one, but his release did not include matchups against anyone else.
Kennedy's pre-general election report showed him with $13.6 million in his Senate account in mid-October, and The Advocate's Tyler Bridges writes that "he could shift to an outside super PAC for the governor's race." Bridges also says that, should Kennedy be elected governor, he'd be charged with appointing a new senator rather than Edwards.
Cassidy, for his part, recently said he'd reveal more about his plans this week. Cassidy infuriated MAGA world last year when he voted to impeach Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack, while Kennedy has remained an ardent Trump loyalist.
Just before Kennedy released this survey, Bridges wrote that he "is so formidable that political analysts believe" that Graves, Nungesser, Schroder, and Hewitt were among the Republicans waiting to see what he'd do before making up their own minds about a campaign.
Nungesser, who has looked like an all-but-certain candidate for years, said he'd be doing a poll in December to assess his chances and would announce his plans in early January. On Monday, the lieutenant governor responded to Kennedy's public flirtations by saying, "I guess we will wait and see what he does."
Schroder, though, told Bridges, "Who else runs is not really a factor in my decision to run," and he even set Jan. 12 as the date he'd make his intentions known. Hewitt, for her part, said she'd announce what she's doing "in the coming weeks and months." Another Republican, state Rep. Richard Nelson, also reiterated his interest, though he didn't lay out a timeline. "The demographic I would appeal to is in the middle, not a partisan crowd," said Nelson.
Landry, for his part, earned the backing of the state GOP's executive committee earlier this month in a vote that infuriated would-be opponents and even some State Central Committee members, and the state GOP on Monday made its endorsement official. Chairman Louis Gurvich showed zero interest to try and soothe hurt feelings, though, saying, "Many of the reports of this endorsement were fake news that were based on leaks and bad information … Others who are crying over this endorsement are just upset because they didn't have the support within our party to win the endorsement for themselves."
No notable Democrats have entered the race yet to succeed Edwards in what will be a challenging race in this red state, though a few are showing some interest. Wilson, who was the one Democrat tested in Kennedy's poll, said that Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore's victory last week gives him optimism that another Black candidate like himself could win in Louisiana.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore also publicly expressed interest over the weekend for the first time, while New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno did not address the topic when Bridges asked if she was thinking about making the race. Navy veteran Luke Mixon, who took third in Tuesday's Senate race with 13%, also did not rule out the prospect. But the man who took second place last week, Gary Chambers, made it clear he wasn't interested.
● Memphis, TN Mayor: State House Minority Leader Karen Camper announced Friday that she was joining next October's race to succeed termed-out Mayor Jim Strickland, an already packed nonpartisan race where there is no primary or runoff. Strickland himself pushed for a ballot measure this summer that would have allowed him to seek a third term, but votes rejected it 66-34 in August.
The field already includes:
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner
former TV judge Joe Brown
Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board Chair Michelle McKissack
former Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner
Downtown Memphis Commission CEO Paul Young
Strickland’s 2015 win made him the first white person to lead this majority African American community in 24 years, while all of the current contenders are Black. Last month, though, Brown, Turner, and Young each pledged to drop out if they believed their continuing presence would divide Black voters.
Both McKissack, who is a former local TV anchor, and Camper would each be the first woman elected to this office. That doesn't sit right with Brown, though, as the former host of Judge Joe Brown used last month's event to insist that women do not have a place in the contest. "Maybe when we get things cleaned up and squared away then a lady can come in here and she can have something that is decent," said Brown, who lost the 2014 race for Shelby County district attorney in a landslide after he falsely alleged that Republican incumbent Amy Weirich was gay.
Bonner, for his part, entered the race in October just months after he was re-elected with 76% of the vote, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal called him "the highest office-seeker" in the race. But both the sheriff and Turner, who leads the local NAACP branch and formerly headed the county Democratic Party, have faced unwelcome coverage about their residencies outside the city: Taylor bought a home in Memphis in early September, while Bonner says he's hired a real estate agent to find a place in the community he wants to lead.
The City Charter ostensibly has a five-year residency requirement for mayors, but it doesn't appear to have been enforced in the 2019 mayoral contest. Earlier this month, an attorney issued an opinion for the Shelby County Election Commission arguing that a mayor only needs to live in the city when they're in office, which would allow both Bonner and Taylor to compete here.