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
This is the last Morning Digest before the Daily Kos Elections crew takes off for Thanksgiving. Our next edition will hit your inboxes on Tuesday morning. Have a great holiday!
● Riverside County, CA Board of Supervisors: Democrats will take control of the Board of Supervisors for America's 10th-most populous county following Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez's victory over incumbent Jeff Hewitt, who is probably the Libertarian Party's highest-ranking elected official anywhere. This victory came the same month that Team Blue flipped the Board of Supervisors in neighboring Orange County, which is the nation's 6th largest.
Gutierrez unseated Hewitt, who served as chair of the five-person body, 54-46 in the officially nonpartisan race for a four-year term. Gutierrez's win comes just a few years after his soon-to-be colleague and fellow Democrat, V. Manuel Perez, became the first Latino to ever serve on the governing body of this majority Latino county east of Los Angeles.
The Board includes another Democrat, Chuck Washington, who is also the first African American to ever hold this post, as well as Republicans Kevin Jeffries and Karen Spiegel. Hewitt, for his part, won office in a 2018 upset against a Republican, which led the Los Angeles Times to ask, "Can this Riverside County Libertarian make a fringe party mainstream?"
The answer was no. Hewitt instead was twice accused of sexual harassment, and the county paid $50,000 to settle one of those claims. The supervisor went on to run as a replacement candidate in last year's recall campaign against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, but he ended up with only about 1% both statewide and in Riverside County.
Hewitt didn't have a good relationship with his Democratic colleagues at home, either. In January, both Perez and Washington abstained from the vote to make the Libertarian board chair, a largely ceremonial role that rotates between the five districts: KESQ said that this was the first time in two decades when the chair vote was anything other than unanimous. Washington endorsed Gutierrez the next day, which The Press-Enterprise also said was the "first time in recent memory" a supervisor supported a bid against a colleague.
Team Blue will control the Board of Supervisors two years after Joe Biden carried Riverside County 53-45, which was the party's best performance in a presidential election since LBJ's double-digit win in 1964. (The only other Democratic presidential nominees to carry the county in the entire 20th century were FDR in 1936 and Bill Clinton in 1992, though both victories were narrow.)
This sprawling Inland Empire community is still far from a Democratic stronghold, though: Riverside County narrowly voted to recall Newsom in 2021, and it supported every member of the GOP's statewide ticket this year. Indeed, the county hasn't voted for a Democrat for governor since it favored Gray Davis all the way back in 1998.
● Election season overtime is finally winding down, so Democratic operative Joe Sudbay joins David Nir on The Downballot as a guest-host this week to recap some of the last results that have just trickled in. At the top of the list is the race for Arizona attorney general, where Democrat Kris Mayes has a 510-vote lead with all ballots counted (a mandatory recount is unlikely to change the outcome). Also on the agenda is Arizona's successful Proposition 308, which will allow students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.
Over in California, Democrats just took control of the boards of supervisors in two huge counties, Riverside and Orange—in the case of the latter, for the first time since 1976. Joe and David also discuss which Democratic candidates who fell just short this year they'd like to see try again in 2024, and what the GOP's very skinny House majority means for Kevin McCarthy's prospects as speaker.
Thank you to all of our listeners who just helped us cross the 1,000-subscriber mark on Apple Podcasts! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time. New episodes every Thursday morning.
● CA-03: Republican Kevin Kiley has held this open 50-48 Trump seat for his party by defeating Democrat Kermit Jones; Kiley leads 53-47 with 81% of the Associated Press’ estimated vote in for this constituency, which stretches from the northeastern Sacramento suburbs and Lake Tahoe south to Death Valley.
● Oakland, CA Mayor: City Councilmember Sheng Thao secured victory Tuesday in this instant-runoff race after her opponent and colleague, Loren Taylor, conceded. Thao, who ran to Taylor's left, will be the first Hmong American to lead a large city.
Taylor led Thao 33-32 when it came to first-choice preferences, with former City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente well behind with 10%. However, Thao ended up with a 50.3-49.7 edge after the ninth and final round of ranked choice tabulations. Taylor, who initially led in the final round before more ballots were counted (unlike in Alaska and Maine, Oakland conducts the instant-runoff process before all the votes are in and updates as more are added), said Tuesday he wanted the city to stop using this electoral system.
Thao had endorsements from major labor groups, the Alameda County Democratic Party, and Attorney General Rob Bonta. Taylor, meanwhile, had termed-out Mayor Libby Schaaf in his corner, while Thao argued she'd represent needed change.
● GA-Sen: The AARP has released the very first poll we’ve seen of the Dec. 6 runoff, and it gives Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock a 51-47 edge over Republican Herschel Walker. The survey was conducted by the AARP’s usual bipartisan team of pollsters, the Republican firm Fabrizio Ward and the Democratic group Impact Research.
Warnock’s allies at the Senate Majority PAC’s Georgia Honor affiliate, meanwhile, are out with another ad highlighting the many domestic violence allegations leveled against Walker, including how “an ex-girlfriend says Herschel Walker used the threat of violence to force her to have an abortion.”
The spot then plays footage of that Walker accuser telling ABC, “He said … I would not be safe and that the child would not be safe … It is very menacing. It is very menacing.” The woman, identified as Jane Doe, concludes, “And I felt threatened and I thought I had no choice.” Another Georgia Honor commercial warns that the Republican would endanger a woman’s right to choose and utilizes clips of Walker saying, “There’s not a national ban on abortion right now, and I think that’s a problem,” and, “There’s no exception in my mind. No exception.”
● WV-Sen: Republican Gov. Jim Justice told the media Tuesday they'd "know real soon" if he'd challenge his one-time ally, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, an idea he says he's "very seriously considering."
● IN-Gov: The Indianapolis Star's Kaitlin Lange takes a deep dive into the potential 2024 field to succeed termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb, though one of the biggest questions looming over the race should be settled before long. Sen. Mike Braun has been talking for months about campaigning for the state's job instead of campaigning for a second term, and he's said he'll announce his plans "likely by Dec. 1."
Braun wouldn't be the first notable Republican in the governor's race, though, because Eric Doden, a former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, kicked off his campaign all the way back in May of 2021. Doden, who has been self-funding some of his effort, says he's already brought in more than $5 million.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch says she'll "have an official announcement later this month or beginning of next month," though Lange writes that unnamed GOP insiders say she's already made up her mind to run. The story adds that a person close to Attorney General Todd Rokita says he'll decide over the next few months what he'll do. Lange says that Rokita has long been talked about as a possible contender for governor or to succeed Braun in the Senate (Rokita lost the 2018 primary to Braun), though more insiders believe he'll just run for re-election.
Another Republican, former state Sen. Jim Merritt, is talking about running for governor, though he acknowledged he'd be going up against a well-funded group of foes. Merritt was the GOP nominee for mayor of Indianapolis in 2019 and lost 72-27 to Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett. Lange also mentions retiring Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who didn't respond to her questions, though she notes that "insiders say he hasn't done much recently to prepare for a campaign."
Finally, there's been chatter that former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who left office in 2013 and will step down as president of Perdue University on New Year's Day, could try to regain his old job. Two former Daniels aides formed a PAC in August to encourage him to run, and the former governor refused to rule anything out when asked. Daniels instead told Politico's Adam Wren over the summer, "I haven't said anything. I don't comment on things I haven't thought about." Wren followed up, "I'm giving you a chance to think about it right now," but Daniels merely laughed and added, "No, I don't have anything to say about it."
Democrats have considerably fewer options in this red state, though former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, a former Republican who switched parties last year, said earlier this month that she was forming an exploratory committee. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, who lost to GOP Sen. Todd Young 59-38 this month, said, "I'll be honest with you, ever since I first got involved in elected office, I've always aspired to be the governor … That doesn't mean I'm doing it, but it's something that's always interested me." McDermott is up for re-election to his current post next year, though he could run for both.
Former state Rep. Christina Hale, who lost a competitive 2020 bid to Republican Victoria Spartz in the 5th District, also didn't dismiss the idea when asked. Hale, who now serves as an official in the U.S. Small Business Administration, told Lange, "I've really enjoyed hearing from a number of people around the state asking about my plans and ideas as well as sharing some of their own, too."
● KY-Gov: Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, who leads a small community of 12,000 people in heavily conservative southern Kentucky, has announced that he'll seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear next year. Keck joins an increasingly crowded GOP primary that includes state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, state Auditor Mike Harmon, state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, and state Rep. Savannah Maddox.
● NY-12: On Monday, the Office of Congressional Ethics released a report on its investigation into Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, revealing that it is probing whether she may have improperly used her influence by having "solicited or accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance of the Met Gala," which is one of the premiere social events each year in Manhattan and draws some of the most prominent figures in fashion, film, and music.
Maloney had been dropped from the guest list in 2016 for an unknown reason and allegedly violated House ethics rules by contacting those at the Metropolitan Museum involved with the event and reminding them "how much she does for the Met" to secure federal funding, which Maloney denies. While the Met regularly invites major New York City officials to attend for free, tables reportedly can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and House rules only allow members to accept unsolicited free gifts from charitable events such as the Met, not those they solicit as Maloney allegedly did.
Of course, because Maloney lost her primary this summer to fellow Rep. Jerry Nadler after court-supervised redistricting placed them in the same district, she will leave office by Jan. 3, meaning it's very unlikely she will face any consequences for any alleged rules violations.
● WV-02: State Treasurer Riley Moore has earned the backing of the congressman he hopes to succeed, Senate candidate Alex Mooney, ahead of the 2024 Republican primary for this safely red seat.
● Lincoln, NE Mayor: Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird is one of the few prominent Democratic elected officials in Nebraska, and she'll need to turn back a well-funded GOP effort next spring to hold onto her post. All the candidates will compete in the April 4 nonpartisan primary, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the May 2 general election.
The GOP frontrunner appears to be state Sen. Suzanne Geist, who the Nebraska Examiner's Aaron Sanderford writes is an ally of outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts. Geist in September also received $250,000 from conservative donor Tom Peed, which Sanderford says is the "largest single donation in Lincoln city politics."
The other notable Republican in the race is Stan Parker, a Christian radio executive who was an offensive lineman in the mid-1980s at the University of Nebraska. Parker kicked off his campaign in October with an endorsement from his old coach Tom Osborne, a former GOP congressman from western Nebraska who lost a close 2006 primary for governor.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: State Rep. Amen Brown is not ruling out entering May's busy Democratic primary to succeed termed-out incumbent Jim Kenney, and the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that his ally, prominent developer Marty Burger, has predicted he'd have $5 million in super PAC support. Some of Brown's fellow Democrats, though, may be far from keen to see him run.
Reporter Chris Brennan wrote earlier this year that the state representative, who was first elected in 2020, has "angered progressives as a rookie by introducing legislation for new mandatory-minimum jail sentences for some gun crimes." Brown has also been sued for deed fraud, while he's maintained that he was the victim of a Craigslist scam.
Brown later faced a difficult primary fight following redistricting against Cassandra Green, who had endorsements from District Attorney Larry Krasner and City Councilmember Helen Gym, a likely candidate for mayor. A trio of voters tried to get the incumbent thrown off the ballot for failing to meet residence requirements and not disclosing mandatory information about his finances, but a court ruled that Brown could remain listed because he "merely committed a mistake resulting from the lackadaisical attitude he routinely displays toward serious matters."
Brown, who had the support of a super PAC funded by conservative mega donor Jeff Yass, ended up prevailing 40-38. The state representative now says that, while "many people have reached out to me about my political aspirations and future in government and city politics," Yass isn't one of them. Brown caused a stir later in the summer when he was photographed schmoozing with GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz at a restaurant. The Democrat insisted he didn't know Oz would be there and accused Gym, who was eating at the same establishment, of taking the photos.
● John Y. Brown: Former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown, a Democrat who was elected to his only term in 1979, died Tuesday at the age of 88, and the Louisville Courier Journal’s Andrew Wolfson gives him one of the most memorable opening sentences we’ve ever seen in a political obituary: “John Y. Brown Jr., the dashing multimillionaire who built Kentucky Fried Chicken into an international success, then won Kentucky’s governorship in a whirlwind campaign with his celebrity wife, former Miss America Phyllis George, by his side, has died.”
Brown was the son and namesake of a former state House speaker and congressman who unsuccessfully sought higher office numerous times. The younger Brown, as Wolfson explains, considered waging his own campaigns multiple times but always said no. What Brown did, though, was make the first franchise swap in professional sports history in 1978 when he traded the San Diego Clippers (now known as the Los Angeles Clippers) for the Boston Celtics.
Brown, while still on his honeymoon, decided to run for governor the next year just 10 weeks ahead of the primary with little preparation or connections, and he merely looked like an amusing sideshow against the apparent frontrunners. Brown also used his first days on the campaign trail to announce he was considering selling the Celtics, an announcement the Boston Herald American greeted with the headline, “John Y. Wants to Sell Celtics —Hooray!” (He went on to do so later in the year.)
But the wealthy Brown, who toured the commonwealth by helicopter, spent an enormous $1.5 million (roughly $6.25 million in 2022 dollars when adjusted for inflation) during his quick sprint to the nomination and beat out Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane 29-25. The Democratic nominee had an easier time against the Republican standard bearer, former Gov. Louie Nunn, who tried to frame the race as “Kentuckians against the others.” Brown, though, scored a 59-41 win over Nunn, whom the New York Times said “has a reputation for increasing taxes and was never widely regarded as a promising candidate” in what was still a heavily Democratic state.
The new governor, whose tenure coincided with a national recession, was quickly talked of as a potential 1984 presidential candidate, with the Wall Street Journal running a profile with the headline, “From Fried Chicken to the Governorship; Is White House Next?” However, his national ambitions were derailed over news about his gambling and occasionally huge losses.
Brown was additionally harmed when he was linked to two federal investigations, though while a matter involving drugs and gambling impacted his friends, he was never charged. Brown, who suffered serious health issues while in office, also was very much a hands-off leader, which allowed the legislature to exert more power over state affairs than it was accustomed to.
State law at the time prohibited governors from seeking a second consecutive term and Brown was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Martha Layne Collins, a fellow Democrat who spent 500 days as acting governor while he was out of state. Brown ran again in 1987 when he was next eligible in another crowded primary, and this time, his main adversary appeared to be Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear. This time, though, a different wealthy businessman, Wallace Wilkinson, slipped in and nudged past Brown 35-26 before winning the general election.
Brown, who never sought office again, remained angry at Beshear decades later after his old adversary was finally elected governor; Brown refused to become part of his inaugural committee, saying, “I don't respect him. I don't want to be part of it. I'm not really interested in being politically correct.” However, he relented after Beshear secured a second term four years later; Brown’s son, former state Treasurer John Y. Brown III, said that shortly before his death, Brown called Beshear “the greatest governor in (his) lifetime.”