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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● Chicago, IL Mayor: Monday was the deadline for mayoral candidates in Chicago to submit the 12,500 signatures they need to make the officially nonpartisan ballot for the Feb. 28 primary, but it will be some time before we know exactly how many of the 11 contenders will actually be able to compete next year.
That's because the period to challenge signatures began Tuesday and will last through Dec. 5, and in true Illinois tradition, many competitors and other individuals are already seizing on the chance to knock some foes, including the incumbent, off the ballot. The city Board of Elections says it hopes to have a final list of qualified candidates by the end of the year.
For now, the field consists of:
- State Rep. Kam Buckner
- Perennial candidate Frederick Collins
- Rep. Chuy García
- Activist Ja'Mal Green
- Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson
- Alderman Sophia King
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot
- Freelance counselor Johnny Logalbo
- Alderman Roderick Sawyer
- Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas
- Wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson
Almost all of the hopefuls competing in this dark blue city identify as Democrats, though Wilson took 4% of the vote against Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin as the 2020 candidate of the "Willie Wilson Party." If no one wins a majority, the top two vote-getters would advance to a second round on April 4.
But before this group can worry about February, much less April, they need to make sure they have enough valid signatures to proceed in a state where even seasoned politicians can struggle with petitioning. Perhaps most famously, Barack Obama himself won a state Senate seat in 1996 by getting all his primary foes—including incumbent Alice Palmer—thrown off the ballot for a lack of sufficient signatures.
Twenty years later Rep. Bobby Rush (coincidentally the only person to ever beat Obama in an election) made it on to the 2016 ballot once election officials determined he’d amassed just 90 signatures more than the minimum of 1,300 after a majority were disqualified, though he had no trouble winning renomination afterwards. The challenge period for the mayor’s race in 2019 also ended the candidacies of Green, Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown, and several minor contenders.
Most serious candidates will try to collect at least three times the minimum needed to give themselves a cushion, and several say they've done just that. Lightfoot, for example, turned in about 40,000 signatures on the final day of qualifying, though that wasn’t enough to deter her critics. Alderman Brian Hopkins, who is not running for mayor and hasn't endorsed anyone, says he's assembled a team to undertake a preliminary review of the incumbent's petitions.
"The fact that she filed at the last minute indicates a possible deficiency in the petitions," Hopkins asserted in comments to the Chicago Sun-Times, adding, "And there's no other reason for filing on the last day that makes sense other than she needed that extra week to pad her numbers."
However, the paper notes that it takes a great deal of time and money to sift through tens of thousands of petitions to try to spot problems, which can include signatures from people who aren't Chicago voters, voters who’ve already signed a rival candidate's papers, false names, and wrong addresses. (Obama got Palmer ejected more than a quarter century ago after his supporters noted that, among other things, she'd submitted obviously fake names like "Goo Goo" and "Pookie.")
Hopkins says he'd only start raising money for what the Sun-Times called a "full-blown petition challenge" if he finds enough problems to convince him he could succeed in knocking Lightfoot off the ballot, but he's likely the only one mulling such an effort. While Garcia bragged that his 48,000 signatures were enough to be "challenge-proof," his team predicted that Johnson's allies at the Chicago Teachers Union would try to disqualify the congressman and "as many African American candidates as possible" to make the path easier for Johnson, who is Black.
Politico's Shia Kapos also writes that this year was a particularly tough one for petitions, saying that fewer election attorneys are available to make sure everything is in order (though it’s not clear why that might be). Kapos adds, "Voters are more hesitant to sign petitions presented by people they don't know—a sign, maybe, of the post-Covid culture."
Election lawyer Burt Odelson, who is helping both Sawyer and Vallas, agreed, and he also noted that things are especially complicated with so many open-seat races taking place for the 50-member City Council. He told Kapos, "I've been doing this for 50 years, and I think this may be one of the craziest just because of the nature of the mayor's race and the nature of filling vacancies on City Council."
● GA-Sen: Republican Herschel Walker made news two weeks ago with a rambling campaign speech about vampires and werewolves, and Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock has now turned those bizarre musings into an ad.
The spot features several Georgians incredulously watching as Walker delivers a stemwinder that includes the line, “I was watching this movie I was watching this movie called ‘Fright Night,’ ‘Freak Night,’ or some kind of night, but it's about vampires. I don’t know if you know, but vampires are some cool people.” After the embarrassed viewers wonder what Walker could be talking about, he continues, “A werewolf can kill a vampire. Did you know that? I never knew that. So, I don’t want to be a vampire any more. I want to be a werewolf.”
Another Warnock commercial features a mother contrasting the two men’s character, while a Walker offering utilizes footage of Gov. Brian Kemp praising his fellow Republican; vampires and werewolves go unmentioned in both pieces.
● PA-Sen: Several Republicans, including the chair of the Allegheny County party, confirm that self-funder David McCormick is considering a 2024 bid against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey following his 950-vote primary loss to Mehmet Oz for Pennsylvania’s other Senate seat. However, they also note that McCormick could instead return to the private sector or hold out hope for a cabinet post under a Republican president in the future.
● IN-Gov, IN-Sen: While Republican Sen. Mike Braun said recently he'd likely announce by Thursday whether he’ll run for governor or seek re-election, he's since moved his timeline to "a week or two" from now.
● WV-Gov: Del. Moore Capito, who is the son of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, announced Tuesday that he was joining the 2024 GOP primary for West Virginia governor. Capito's declaration came the same day that two other prominent Mountain State Republicans with much less confusing names, Secretary of State Mac Warner and Auditor JB McCuskey, also said they were considering entering the contest to succeed termed-out GOP incumbent Jim Justice.
We'll start with Capito, who is also the grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore. In addition, he’s a cousin of state Treasurer Riley Moore, who is himself campaigning for the open 2nd Congressional District. Capito is finishing his stint as chair of the influential state House Judiciary Committee, though, unlike some of his relatives, he has not run for statewide office before. He joins a primary that already includes auto dealer Chris Miller, who is the son of Rep. Carol Miller.
Warner, for his part, confirmed his interest in seeking the governorship this week and said he'd be announcing his plans in January. Local media reported earlier this month that Warner was looking into challenging Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin instead, but the secretary of state did not mention a Senate bid as a possibility.
Warner is also part of a notable local political family, though not one that's anywhere near as influential as Capito's. His wife, Debbie Warner, was recently elected to the state House, while his brother Monty Warner badly lost the 2004 gubernatorial race to none other than Manchin. Another brother currently leads the West Virginia Economic Development Authority.
McCuskey, finally, likewise said he was looking at running for governor Tuesday, but he did not give a timeline for when he'd decide. And wouldn't you know it, his father is another former public official, though the elder McCuskey lost his campaign to remain on the state Supreme Court all the way back in 1998.
● HI-02: The Office of Congressional Ethics has released a report recommending that the House Ethics Committee probe whether Rep. Kai Kahele, who gave up his seat after one term to unsuccessfully compete in this year’s Democratic primary for governor, “misused official resources for campaign or political purposes” by posting numerous images and videos taken in House buildings on his campaign social media accounts.
The document said that Kahele, who denies the allegations, has refused to cooperate, so it “recommends that the Committee on Ethics issue a subpoena.” The committee, though, will lose its jurisdiction over the congressman once his term ends in early January.
● VA-04: Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat elected to represent Virginia’s 4th Congressional District in 2016, died Monday at the age of 61 just weeks after winning a fourth term. McEachin’s chief of staff said in her statement, “Valiantly, for years now, we have watched him fight and triumph over the secondary effects of his colorectal cancer from 2013. Tonight, he lost that battle.”
It will be up to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to schedule a special election to succeed McEachin. The 4th District, which includes the state capital of Richmond as well as eastern Southside Virginia, supported Joe Biden 67-32 in 2020, and the Democratic nominee should have no trouble holding it. It remains to be seen just how that candidate will be picked, though, as Virginia allows parties to choose nominees through three different means.
Each side could opt for a traditional primary; a convention; or a so-called firehouse primary, which is a small-scale nominating contest run by the party rather than the state. The last special congressional election that took place in the Old Dominion was the 2007 contest to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jo Ann Davis in an old version of the 1st District, where both sides decided to hold conventions; the eventual winner was Republican Rob Wittman, who still holds the seat.
Whoever eventually takes McEachin’s place in Congress will be replacing a longtime Richmond politician: McEachin won a spot in the state House of Delegates on his second try in 1995, and in 2001 he was the first African American to be nominated for state attorney general.
The Democrat, though, faced a tough opponent in Republican Jerry Kilgore, who ran ads attacking McEachin for never working as a prosecutor and branded him as “dangerous for Virginia's families.” McEachin, who didn’t have the resources to adequately respond, also struggled in the overwhelmingly white rural areas where his ticketmates, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, won significant crossover support in their respective campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor. McEachin ended up losing 60-40 even as Warner and Kaine prevailed, but he was hardly done with politics.
McEachin won back his old place in the state House in 2005 after beating his successor, Floyd Miles, by 48 votes in the primary. Two years later, he earned a promotion by denying renomination to state Sen. Benjamin Lambert, who had supported Republican Sen. George Allen over Democrat Jim Webb in 2006.
McEachin then got the chance to run for Congress in 2016 after a federal court ruled that Republicans had illegally packed too many Black voters into Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott’s 3rd District, which stretched from Scott’s Norfolk base west to Richmond, in order to strengthen GOP candidates elsewhere. The new court-approved map created a reliably blue Richmond-based 4th District, which turned into an open seat after Republican Rep. Randy Forbes decided to wage an unsuccessful campaign for the more competitive 2nd District instead.
Prominent Democratic officials quickly consolidated behind McEachin, who beat Chesapeake Councilor Ella Ward 75-25 in the primary. McEachin then went on to decisively defeat the Republican nominee, Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade, a win that made him only the third African American to ever represent Virginia in Congress after Scott and the late 19th century Republican John Mercer Langston.
McEachin, who had no trouble holding his new seat, soon went on to serve as a DCCC vice chair ahead of the successful 2018 cycle. The next year, the congressman’s wife, Colette McEachin, was elected as Richmond’s top prosecutor.
Secretaries of State
● NH-SoS: Former Democratic state Sen. Melanie Levesque, who mounted an unsuccessful comeback campaign this year after narrowly losing her bid for re-election in 2018, recently announced that she's seeking the position of secretary of state, which is currently held by Republican David Scanlan. New Hampshire citizens don't get a direct vote on the matter, however. Rather, both chambers of the legislature—24 senators and 400 members of the House—will collectively choose between Scanlan and Levesque when they convene on Dec. 7.
The split between the two parties is extremely close: At the moment, there are 215 Republicans to 208 Democrats, with one House seat vacant due to an unresolved tied election. Absences are common, and crossing the aisle is by no means unheard of: In 2018, just after Democrats retook the legislature, a number of dissidents sided with Republicans to re-elect Scanlan's predecessor, Bill Gardner, over Democrat Colin Van Ostern in a tight 209-205 vote.
As a result, a Levesque victory can't be ruled out despite the GOP's nominal edge. It's also possible that the unsettled situation in the House, where Republicans hold just a 201-198 edge with one seat unresolved, will yield a power-sharing deal, which in turn could include an agreement on a new secretary of state.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym resigned her post on Tuesday, something she was legally required to do before she could enter the May 2023 Democratic primary for mayor. The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Gym is "expected to launch her campaign for the top job on Wednesday."
● Chicago, IL City Council: Alderman Ed Burke, who has been at the center of more than his share of ugly conflicts and scandals since he arrived on the Chicago City Council all the way back in 1969, quietly ended his political career on Monday night when he did not file for re-election before the deadline passed.
The 79-year-old incumbent, who once said the only way to leave the Council was through "[t]he ballot box. The jury box. Or the pine box," was indicted all the way back in 2019 on federal corruption charges, and he's finally scheduled to stand trial in November for bribery, extortion, and racketeering. Burke's departure comes just a few months after his wife, Anne Burke, announced that she'd step down as chief justice of the state Supreme Court effective Wednesday.
Ed Burke, who began his career as a police officer, got his start in politics during the days when Mayor Richard J. Daley's Cook County Democratic Party utterly dominated the city. Party leaders chose Burke in 1968 to succeed his late father as 14th Ward committeeman, and the 24-year-old won a special election the following year to fill the elder Burke's spot on the City Council.
Burke would become the longest-serving member of the Council in history, though not entirely by choice: In 1980 he suffered what turned out to be his only defeat at the ballot box when he badly lost the Democratic nomination for county attorney to Richard M. Daley, the son of the late mayor. (Since city elections are held in odd-numbered years, Burke was able to retain his post.)
Burke went on to become a key antagonist of Chicago's first Black mayor, Harold Washington, during the infamous “Council Wars” of the 1980s that pitted Burke and most of the other white members of the body against Washington's allies. Burke later lost control of the powerful Finance Committee after Washington's side won a majority in 1987, and he initially competed in the 1989 special election that took place after Washington died in office. The alderman, though, ended up dropping out of the "Super Bowl of Chicago politics" in the face of weak polling and backed his old foe, the younger Daley. The new mayor went on to reinstall Burke as finance chair, where he'd remain for decades.
As chairman, Burke was one of the dominant figures of Chicago politics even as his longtime 14th Ward base became a majority Latino constituency. Undeterred, he faced down multiple federal probes and continued to gerrymander his ward to his liking. He also benefited from a truly massive war chest: In 2019 the alderman had $12 million spread across his campaign accounts, a haul that would stand out even in a race for statewide office.
Burke, though, was also careful to align with prominent Latino power players and make himself accessible to his constituents. "I don't see anything wrong with the old-school way of doing things," he told the New York Times ahead of his 2011 campaign, adding, "The proof is in the pudding—I don't have an opponent." Burke forged what the Chicago Tribune characterizes as an "uneasy detente" with Daley and his successor, Rahm Emanuel, whom the paper says both "came to rely on the alderman to help push his agenda by finessing the council process and cajoling or threatening colleagues to get them in line."
Burke continued to work in real estate law, helping reduce the local Trump Tower's property tax bill by $14 million. He ultimately dropped Trump as a client in 2018 months after his younger brother, state Rep. Dan Burke, lost renomination to an opponent who emphasized the family's Trump ties.
In 2019, Ed Burke was charged with allegedly using his position to try to extort business in order to benefit his law firm, and he was soon stripped of his Finance Committee chairmanship. His fall also upended that year's race to succeed Emanuel as all four of the ostensible frontrunners had connections to Burke, a development that gave underdog Lori Lightfoot the chance to argue that her opponents were "all tied to the same Chicago machine."
Lightfoot went on to prevail in a landslide a few months after Burke himself won what turned out to be his final term 54-29. The badly weakened Burke, though, lost some of his best turf following the newest round of redistricting, and his brother urged him to retire rather than risk electoral humiliation. "Do the math," Dan Burke said last year, "Seventy-eight years old. Come on. When is enough enough? ... They've had a long run. It's not insulting to say there's an end to everything." Ed Burke finally agreed Monday.
● Louisiana: Pelican State voters will go back to the polls Dec. 10 for runoffs in races where no candidate secured a majority in Nov. 8's all-party primaries, and they’ll also decide the fate of a few proposed constitutional amendments.
The most notable match in this Saturday election is probably the all-Democratic runoff for a six-year term on the Public Service Commission, a five-member body that regulates utilities. The contest for District 3, which stretches from the Baton Rouge area east to New Orleans, pits longtime incumbent and current chair Lambert Boissiere III against Davante Lewis, an activist who has argued the incumbent hasn't done enough to combat global warming.
Lewis predicted to the Washington Post that his victory would give clean energy advocates a majority on the Commission; Republicans control the body 3-2, but Lewis believes he can partner with Republican Craig Greene and Democrat Foster Campbell on some issues. Boissiere himself is defending his environmental credentials and has touted his support from Louisiana's most prominent Democrat, Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Boissiere, who was first elected in 2004, took just 43% of the vote earlier this month after an Environmental Defense Fund affiliate spent heavily to stop him from winning outright. Lewis narrowly outpaced pastor Gregory Manning 18-17 for the second spot, and he earned Manning's endorsement Monday.
Another race to watch is the runoff for mayor of Shreveport, a community in the northwest corner of the state that ousted its chief executive earlier in the month. The soon-to-be-former mayor of Louisiana's third-largest city is one-term Democrat Adrian Perkins, who won this post in 2018 by beating incumbent Ollie Tyler but likely harmed his own promising career just two years later when he badly lost a Senate bid to Republican incumbent Bill Cassidy. Republican attorney Tom Arceneaux ended up in first place on Nov. 8 with 28% as Democratic state Sen. Greg Tarver edged out independent Mario Chavez 24-18; Perkins himself also finished with 18%, which landed him in fourth.
Altogether five Democrats outpaced Arceneaux and one minor Republican 52-29 in this Democratic-leaning city, but the partisan lines aren't so clear here. Arceneaux has the backing of Perkins and the city's last two mayors, Democrats Tyler and Cedric Glover, for round two. Tarver, meanwhile, has support from Edwards, GOP state Sen. Barrow Peacock, and former Mayor Keith Hightower, a Democrat who left office in 2006.
Finally, Louisianans have a trio of proposed constitutional amendments to decide. Amendment 1 would explicitly prohibit any non-U.S. citizens from voting in state elections while Amendments 2 and 3 would require state Senate confirmation for the governor's nominees to the state civil service commission and state police commission, respectively.