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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● NH State House, NH-SoS: The new members of New Hampshire's state House convened for the first time on Wednesday and voted to hold a special election for Strafford District 8 (usually referred to locally as Rochester Ward 4), a replay of the November contest that ended in a tie between Democratic state Rep. Chuck Grassie and Republican challenger David Walker. The election hasn't been scheduled yet, but Grassie said he believes it will take place on Feb. 21. With this seat vacant, the GOP has a tiny 201-198 edge in the gigantic 400-person chamber.
The vote came about shortly after the state GOP fired off a premature tweet congratulating “Rep. David Walker,” which set off speculation that the chamber’s narrow GOP majority would instead try to seat him as the winner despite the tie. That errant tweet may, however, have been fatal to such a gambit: As a spokesperson for the state Democratic Party argued, “There’s a very real case to be made that accidentally tweeting this too early derailed the entire @NHGOP strategy to take this seat. Incredible.” Still, the special almost didn’t happen, as supporters defeated a motion to halt consideration of the resolution calling for a special election by just a 193-187 margin.
Republicans, though, had much more luck earlier in the day on other key votes, beginning with the speakership election that saw Sherman Packard win another term 205-184; a total of 10 Democrats were absent while a few others sided with the GOP. Then, by a 237-175 margin, lawmakers also chose to keep Republican Secretary of State David Scanlan in his post and turned aside former Democratic state Sen. Melanie Levesque in a vote in which the state Senate (where Republicans hold a 14-10 advantage) also got to participate.
Scanlan became New Hampshire’s chief elections official early this year when incumbent Bill Gardner, who had held the post since 1976, resigned and transferred his powers to his deputy. (Gardner was nominally a Democrat but in recent years had regularly sided with the GOP on voting matters.) Scanlan will be up for another two-year term after the 2024 elections.
The votes for both House speaker and secretary of state were conducted via secret ballot, making it difficult for Democrats to punish deserters. However, at least one Democrat, state Sen. Lou D'Alessandro, was open in his support for Scanlan, just as he was for Gardner four years ago.
● Well, that was an awesome way to finish out the 2022 election cycle! Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard revel in Raphael Warnock's runoff victory on this week's episode of The Downballot and take a deep dive into how it all came together. The Davids dig into the turnout shift between the first and second rounds of voting, what the demographic trends in the metro Atlanta area mean for Republicans, and why Democrats can trace their recent success in Georgia back to a race they lost: the famous Jon Ossoff special election in 2017.
We're also joined by one of our very favorite people, Daily Kos Elections alum Matt Booker, who shares his thoughts on the midterms and tells us about his work these days as a pollster. Matt explains some of the key ways in which private polling differs from public data; how the client surveys he was privy to did not foretell a red wave; and the mechanics of how researchers put together focus groups. Matt also reminisces about his time at "DKE University" and how his experience with us prepared him for the broader world of politics.
New episodes of The Downballot come out every Thursday morning. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.
● IN-Sen: While Howey Politics reported last week that Gov. Eric Holcomb had no interest in running for the Senate seat held by his fellow Republican and potential successor, Mike Braun, the governor himself refused to dismiss the idea when asked Wednesday. Holcomb instead said he was concentrating on the upcoming legislative session, which will last through April, adding, "There'll be time for me to think about the future in the future. But it would be next to irresponsible for me to take my eye off the job that I've got."
Holcomb actually campaigned for the Hoosier State's other Senate seat in 2015 after his boss, Dan Coats, retired, but he struggled to raise money or gain traction in the primary. Holcomb ended up dropping out in early 2016 when Gov. Mike Pence appointed him to fill the vacant lieutenant governor's post, and he later became the party's successful nominee for governor after Pence himself dropped out to serve as Donald Trump's running mate.
However, while Holcomb now isn't closing the door on seeking the job in D.C. he originally campaigned for several years ago, Howey's sources were skeptical he could even win a GOP primary now. They pointed to Holcomb's decision to veto a bill to ban trans girls from playing in girls' sports, which the legislature overrode, as well as some of the pandemic health measures he adopted in 2020. Howey also relayed that Holcomb seems to be "burnishing his credentials for a private sector or sports position once he leaves office in 2025" rather than considering another election.
● IN-Gov: Sen. Mike Braun has publicized an internal from Mark It Red that shows him beating Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch 47-10 in a potential 2024 GOP primary, with self-funding businessman Eric Doden at 5%. Doden is the only one of this trio who has announced he's campaigning in the contest to succeed termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb, though Braun has filed paperwork ahead of what Howey Politics says will be a Dec. 12 kickoff. Howey also recently relayed that Crouch will be entering the race "in mid-December."
● LA-Gov: Republican Sen. John Kennedy said Tuesday about his timeline for deciding on a bid for governor, "I'm trying to let everything settle in my gut, and it's just a hard decision. If it is after the first of the year, it won't be very far after the first of the year."
● NC-11: The House Ethics Committee has ordered outgoing Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn to pay $14,000 to charity for promoting a "Let's go, Brandon" cryptocurrency that he had a financial interest in; he was also told to pay another $1,000 in fines for not filing his required disclosure statements with the House on time. The Committee also probed allegations that Cawthorn had an “improper relationship” with a staffer, but it concluded there was no evidence of this.
The report determined that Cawthorn had not "knowingly or willfully failed to file timely disclosures," though it also admonished the congressman for improperly accepting the coin at a discounted rate. Cawthorn, who lost renomination in May to Chuck Edwards after a legion of other scandals, says he’ll make his donations to the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Shepherd Brain and Spinal Cord Center.
● WV-01: Former Del. Derrick Evans, who served 90 days in prison for his participation in the Jan. 6 riot, announced Tuesday that would form an exploratory committee for a possible Republican primary bid against Rep. Carol Miller in this safely red southern West Virginia seat.
Evans last year live-streamed himself at the Capitol yelling at police officers, "You go tell your liberal mayor to go kiss rocks!" A short time later he told his audience, "We're in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!" He resigned from the legislature days later after only about a month in office, and later told his judge that he was a "good person who was unfortunately caught up in a moment which led to me breaking the law."
However, Evans wasn't the least bit apologetic this week when he put out a video talking about his 2024 plans. He instead declared he was "held captive by the illegitimate Biden regime as a Jan. 6 political prisoner" until October, adding, "I am proud to know that the liberal mainstream media is going to label me as an ultra MAGA election denier." The former delegate did not mention Miller in his missive, though he expressed how he was "both angered and disappointed with the weak RINOs representing us in D.C."
Mayors and County Leaders
● Denver, CO Mayor: Al Gardner, who is a vice president of information technology at a healthcare provider, is the latest contender to enter the nonpartisan April primary for this open seat. Gardner, who appears to be a first-time candidate, has served on several notable boards and commissions including the Citizen Oversight Board and the Civil Service Commission, which play a role in overseeing the police and fire departments.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: The first TV ad of the May Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Jim Kenney is already here, as grocer Jeff Brown's allies at For A Better Philadelphia PAC are spending $92,000 on an inaugural cable buy. The introductory commercial deploys footage of Michelle Obama praising him before the narrator touts Brown as "a national leader for ending food deserts" who "hires people formerly incarcerated and manages a union workforce." The only prior advertising has been $70,000 in radio spots from Allan Domb, a former City Council member who has self-funded in the past.
The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that in 2015, which was the most recent open seat race, the ads only started two months before the primary day. Eight years before that, though, millionaire Tom Knox launched a serious TV buy all the way in early December: Knox went on to lose the nomination to Michael Nutter 37-25.
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