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.
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● Orange County, CA Board of Supervisors: Orange County Democrats learned Thursday that they'd won their first majority on the Board of Supervisors since 1976 in this longtime conservative bastion when Republican state Sen. Pat Bates conceded to Democratic incumbent Katrina Foley. Foley's 51-49 win for a four-year term gives Democrats a 3-2 majority on a body where they didn't have a single member just a few years ago, though party leaders aren't entirely happy with how this year's contests played out.
That's because Supervisor Doug Chaffee, who has often sided with his GOP colleagues over Foley, held on 55-45 against the candidate backed by the county Democratic Party, Buena Park Mayor Sunny Park. "He becomes almost like Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court," political science professor Jodi Balma said of Chaffee, who was already characterized as a moderate when he took office four years ago as the only Democrat on the Board. Balma added, "You're going to have two sides, and Chafee is the kingmaker of where the county goes."
Things were less acrimonious in the all-Democratic race for District 2, which is the first majority-Latino Board seat in county history and was open because Foley ran in the new District 5. Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento leads Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen 51.6-48.4 with most of the ballots counted; Sarmiento had the support of Gov. Gavin Newsom, Foley, and the county party, while Kim had the backing of prominent progressive Rep. Katie Porter, the sheriff deputies union, and GOP Supervisor Andrew Do. Do and fellow Republican, Don Wagner, both won four-year terms in 2020 and thus weren't up this time.
Foley, who flipped a GOP-held seat in a 2021 special, ran for the new District 5 to succeed termed-out Republican Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who lost the June top-two primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in the 49th Congressional District. This coastal seat, according to data from Dave's Redistricting App, backed Biden 52-46, but Foley only represented about 30% of the new district. She also very much looked like the underdog after she took just 42% of the vote in the June nonpartisan primary as Bates and two other Republicans grabbed the balance.
The Democrat, though, put together what she called "a coalition of unlikely allies," including the well funded deputies union. The Orange County Register also says Foley's supporters included "organizations representing the county's deputy sheriffs and public defenders, representatives of business and environmental groups, and health care workers' unions as well as hospital administrators." It was enough to give her party control of the local government in a large and increasingly diverse county that never voted for a Democratic presidential nominee in all the time between FDR's 1936 landslide and Hillary Clinton's 2016 countywide win.
Republicans held a monopoly on the Board of Supervisors for much of this long period, though Democrats briefly enjoyed a resurgence during the Nixon era. The change began in 1968 when Robert Battin, whom a local historian would later say "had a much more liberal agenda than anything they had ever seen in Orange County," became the first Democrat to hold a seat since the Great Depression.
Four years later, Battin's party undertook what the Los Angeles Times characterizes as "a concerted effort to break a Republican monopoly on county politics." It worked: While the Yorba Linda-born Nixon carried the county 68-27 during his 49-state landslide, two more Democrats joined Battin to take a majority in a county already known nationally as a conservative stronghold.
However, the party was soon beset by a major scandal involving Democratic power player Louis Cella, a hospital developer who was ultimately convicted of tax evasion and Medicare fraud. Several other prominent local Democrats found themselves in hot water as well including Battin, who was found guilty of using his county staff on his failed 1974 run for lieutenant governor; Battin, who spent 30 days in prison, always affirmed his innocence and called the county district attorney the "chief soldier of the Orange County Republican Mafia." Republicans retook their majority in 1976, and they wouldn't relinquish it until 2022.
Democrats still maintained a presence on the Board for another 10 years, but the GOP held all five seats after the 1986 elections. Democrats would win exactly one supervisor contest over the following three decades when Lou Correa was elected in 2004, but he left just two years later after being elected to the state Senate. Correa tried to return in a 2015 special but lost to Do by 43 votes; Correa the following year won the state's 46th Congressional District, which he still holds. Team Blue regained a spot in 2018 after Chaffee pulled off a tight victory, and he'll likely be the most powerful member of the new Democratic majority.
● GA-Sen: Republican Herschel Walker launched a transphobic ad against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock during an airing of “Sunday Night Football," the night after five patrons were murdered and many others were wounded at an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Walker’s spot features him sitting next to Riley Gaines, a collegiate swimmer who misgenders trans competitor Lia Thomas by telling the audience, “My senior year, I was forced to compete against a biological male … a man won the swimming title that belonged to a woman, and Sen. Warnock voted to let it happen.” Gaines starred in similar commercials earlier this year against Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat who overcame her state’s red hue to win re-election this month.
Walker and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund are also each airing commercials claiming that Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock serves as pastor, evicted low-income tenants from its apartments. Warnock’s campaign has said that a private company, rather than Ebenezer’s church foundation, manages the apartments, and further insists “that there have been no evictions at the property and that Reverend Warnock has nothing to do with its day-to-day operations.”
Warnock, meanwhile, is running his own commercial featuring the return of an old friend from 2020, Alvin the beagle. As the senator walks Alvin he says of his opponent, “You’d think Herschel Walker would want to explain what he’d do in the Senate if he actually wants to represent Georgia. Instead, he repeats the same lies, trying to distract from what we all know is true about him.” Warnock, just like he did two years ago, throws a small plastic baggie of unmistakable provenance into the trash after predicting that Georgians “will see his ads for what they are,” a statement his co-star barks in agreement to before licking the senator’s face.
A different Warnock ad features the Democrat talking about the importance of character and how important it is to do “the right thing simply because it’s the right thing, and doing it over and over again.” This spot doesn’t mention Walker and his many scandals.
● AZ-AG: Garrett Archer, a data analyst for local news station ABC15, reported on Monday afternoon that all ballots statewide had finally been tallied, leaving Democrat Kris Mayes with a 510-vote lead over Republican Abraham Hamadeh in the race for Arizona attorney general. With more than 2.5 million votes cast, Mayes' margin amounts to just 0.02%—well inside the 0.5% that triggers a mandatory recount.
Such a recount won't take place until after Dec. 5, when results are certified. But despite the very close race, a recount is not likely to change the final outcome since, as election law expert Quinn Yeargain points out, county officials have already conducted hand-counted audits and found only minimal discrepancies.
Arizona has only ever held one recount in a statewide general election in its history, and it was a very long time ago. In 1916, not long after Arizona entered the union, Democratic Gov. George Hunt appeared to lose his bid for a second term by just 30 votes to Republican Thomas Campbell, who went on to serve as governor for almost a full year until the state Supreme Court ruled that Hunt had in fact won by 43 votes and reinstated him. Arizona was far, far smaller, then, however, as just 56,000 votes were cast in that race.
If Mayes' victory stands up, she'll help make history in another way, too. Axios' Jeremy Duda notes that this will be the first time since 1978 that Arizona Democrats have simultaneously held the offices of governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. This year, all three positions were open, and since the governorship and the attorney general's post were held by Republicans, Democratic victories in both of those races represent red-to-blue flips.
● CA-22: Incumbent David Valadao has turned back Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas 52-48 with almost all of the vote counted; Biden took this Central Valley seat 55-42, but Team Blue often struggles with midterm turnout in this region. Valadao and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse are the only House Republicans who will be going back to Congress after voting to impeach Trump in 2021.
● CA-34: Rep. Jimmy Gomez has won a tight rematch against his fellow Democrat, David Kim, 51-49 with most of the vote counted. Gomez two years ago fended off Kim, a former prosecutor who had not generated much attention, only 53-47, and the incumbent was determined not to get surprised for 2022. While Kim once again campaigned as an ardent progressive in this safely blue seat in downtown Los Angeles, Gomez sent out mailers declaring the challenger was running "with QAnon-MAGA support."
Gomez' campaign argued this attack is fair because Kim in 2020 received the backing of Republican Joanne Wright, a QAnon conspiracy theorist who failed to advance out of that top-two primary. The congressman's team said that Wright's beliefs were already public back then, while Kim declared that Gomez was misleadingly making it sound like he's gotten support from QAnon acolytes for 2022.
● CO-03: Democrat Adam Frisch said Friday that he was conceding to far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert even though an automatic recount will still take place next month after their shockingly close contest. Frisch explained, "Colorado elections are rock solid and if historical precedent of recounts in the state holds, it is unlikely to change more than a handful of votes … So rather than continue with a narrative that the recount could alter the fact that we came up 554 votes short, we are choosing to move forward with honesty & humility."
Frisch told The Pueblo Chieftain afterwards that he wasn't ruling out seeking a rematch in 2024 after his 50.1-49.9 defeat in a western Colorado seat Trump took 53-45 two years before.
● IA Auditor: State Auditor Rob Sand will be the one Democrat left in statewide office now that Republican Todd Halbur has conceded. Sand outpaced Halbur 50.1-48.9, and while the Republican initially announced he'd seek a recount, he said Friday he "lacks the resources and manpower" to pursue it. Halbur made it very clear he blamed the state party, declaring, "This leaves me with no other option than to abandon this recount effort just as the State GOP organization has abandoned my campaign."
Sand's 2,900-vote victory leaves him as Iowa's most prominent Democratic elected official after this month's midterms. Republicans won close races against a pair of 10-term incumbents, Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, while Zach Nunn's victory against Rep. Cindy Axne means that Iowa will send an all-GOP delegation to both chambers of Congress for the first time since the 1950s.
● Alameda County, CA District Attorney: Civil rights attorney Pamela Price, a progressive who initially trailed for days after election night, has defeated prosecutor Terry Wiley 53-47 in the officially nonpartisan race to succeed Wiley's boss and ally, retiring incumbent Nancy O'Malley. Price, who ran as a criminal justice reformer, will be the first Black person to serve as top prosecutor for this large Bay Area county, which is home to Oakland and Berkeley.
● AZ-Sen: Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego said last week of a potential primary campaign against incumbent Kyrsten Sinema, "I'm answering that in 2023. We're still in 2022."
● CA-Sen: Rep. Adam Schiff has confirmed that he's interested in running for the Senate should his fellow Democrat, 89-year-old incumbent Dianne Feinstein, retire.
● ME-Sen: The Bangor Daily News says that Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, will announce sometime next month if he'll seek a third term.
● TX-Sen: Republican incumbent Ted Cruz confirmed that he'd seek a third term in 2024, though he didn't rule out campaigning for president at the same time.
Cruz would be able to simultaneously seek both posts thanks to the machinations of none other than Lyndon Johnson, who convinced the state legislature in 1959 to pass what was nicknamed the "LBJ Law" ahead of the majority leader's planned White House campaign. Johnson was indeed on the ballot the following year for Senate and on the national party ticket, though only as John F. Kennedy's running mate.
● LA-Gov: Republican Bill Cassidy said Friday that he would remain in the Senate rather than enter next year's all-party primary for governor. His colleague, Sen. John Kennedy, recently expressed interest in his own campaign, and a Cassidy-Kennedy matchup may have marked the first time in American history that two sitting U.S. senators ran against each other for governor.
Another prospective GOP candidate, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, said last week, "I think we'll probably be in a position to make a decision in January."
● MO-Gov: The GOP firm Remington Research Group has conducted a very hypothetical poll of the 2024 GOP primary for governor on behalf of the political tipsheet Missouri Scout that finds Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft beating Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe 44-10, with state Sen. Bill Eigel at 4%.
Kehoe himself announced all the way back in March of 2021 that he'd be running to succeed his boss and fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Mike Parson. Ashcroft, for his part, has been talked about for years as a likely contender, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said last week that he's "planning a run." The secretary of state is the son of John Ashcroft, a former governor and senator who was George W. Bush's first attorney general.
Eigel, for his part, said in September that he was forming an exploratory committee. The Missouri Scout's Dave Drebes identified the state senator as an "ultra-conservative" who is "not well known outside political circles."
● NC-13: Republican Bo Hines has submitted FEC paperwork for a potential 2024 bid less than two weeks after his 51-49 loss to Democrat Wiley Nickel, though these super-early filings from defeated candidates often have more to do with resolving financial matters from their last campaign than they do about the future.
Indeed, while some observers treated a similar filing from Colorado Democrat Adam Frisch's last week as a sign that he's planning a rematch against far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert, Frisch himself said he'd taken this step so that he could raise money ahead of an automatic recount. The Democrat went on to concede a short time later (see our CO-03 item), which he acknowledged makes his new campaign paperwork "moot" for now.
Hines, unlike Frisch, knew his fate on election night, and also unlike Frisch, he hasn't spoken publicly about his intentions. (Frisch, by contrast, hasn't ruled out a second go-round. You always want to hear it from the proverbial horse's mouth whenever you can.) But recounts aren't the only reasons why candidates might file again with the FEC.
Back in the spring of 2019, for instance, former Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder filed for what his team immediately confirmed would not be a rematch against the Democrat who had just defeated him a few months earlier, Rep. Sharice Davids. Instead, a consultant explained that the FEC flagged a recent refund from the landlord Yoder used for his last campaign, requiring the ex-congressman to nominally declare his candidacy for 2020 in order to properly accept that reimbursement.
Of course, Hines may be filing to run in 2024 because he actually wants to run in 2024, especially now that North Carolina Republicans have the power to re-implement the gerrymanders they've already made clear are coming. That's because, while the state Supreme Court's previous Democratic majority instituted a congressional map for just the 2022 cycle, the GOP's new 5-2 majority on the bench can greenlight whatever boundaries the Republican legislature devises for the rest of the decade. (State law does not give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper a veto in most redistricting matters.)
Still, observers need to be careful when seeing new FEC filings before concluding that someone is preparing a bid. This holds true both for defeated candidates and victorious incumbents who want the option to fundraise for the future whether or not they've decided to undergo another campaign. And as we're reminded every cycle, some politicians—including some who are not in either position—will file with the FEC only to decide later on not to run after all.
● WV-02: State Treasurer Riley Moore, who hails from one of the most prominent Republican families in the state, announced Monday that he'd run to succeed Rep. Alex Mooney, a fellow Republican who is giving up this safely red seat in order to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Moore is the grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore, while his aunt is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. The younger Moore, for his part, lost re-election to the state House in 2018 but rebounded two years later by unseating longtime Democratic Treasurer John Perdue 56-44.
Moore is the first notable Republican to kick off a bid for what, thanks to Mooney's early Senate kickoff last week, is currently the only House race in all of America where the incumbent has already said they won't be running for re-election in 2024; Illinois Rep. Chuy Garcia is campaigning in next year's race for mayor of Chicago, but he'd be able to turn around and seek another term in the House should it fail. West Virginia's 2nd District, which is based in the eastern and northern portions of the state, backed Trump 68-31.
There are numerous other Mountain State Republicans who could join in, though another statewide elected official is sending mixed signals about his interest. Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, who lost to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in 2018, quickly responded to Mooney's launch by saying he was eyeing the 2nd District in addition to a rematch with Manchin, a bid for governor, and re-election. Morrissey again said days later he was "seriously evaluating a run for the U.S. Senate and governor," but this time, he didn't mention the House as a possibility.
● VA State Senate: Virginia Democrats quickly settled on a nominee in the upcoming special election for the vacant 7th District, selecting Virginia Beach Councilman Aaron Rouse at a party gathering late last week. A second Democratic hopeful, former state Del. Cheryl Turpin, apparently failed to file proper paperwork, leaving Rouse as the party's only candidate. He'll face Republican Kevin Adams, a Navy veteran and first-time office-seeker who was likewise the only GOP contender to emerge.
The special election will take plan on Jan. 10 to fill the seat previously held by Republican Jen Kiggans, who defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in the 2nd Congressional District earlier this month. The race is being held under the old lines for the 7th District, which Biden won 54-44 but Republican Glenn Youngkin carried 52-48 in the governor's race in 2021. If Democrats prevail, they'd expand their narrow 21-19 majority in the Senate to a wider 22-18 advantage. Both Rouse and Adams have also announced plans to run again next year in the new 22nd District, the considerably bluer successor to the 7th.
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Alderman Raymond Lopez announced Monday that he was ending his campaign against Mayor Lori Lightfoot and would instead seek re-election to the Chicago City Council.