The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● NY Redistricting: Democratic leaders in the New York legislature released their long-awaited proposal to redraw the state's congressional lines on Sunday, an aggressive gerrymander that would create 22 districts won by Joe Biden and just four won by Donald Trump. Lawmakers reportedly plan to bring the map up for a vote this week.
While the plan falls short of a vision pushed by the DCCC, which advocated for a 23-3 map, it could nonetheless slice the GOP's House delegation in half, from eight to four. Because the state is losing a seat after coming up painfully short in reapportionment, Democrats would stand to pick up three seats, for a net swing of seven.
The culling begins on eastern Long Island, which is currently home to two districts that Trump carried by about 4 points each: the 1st, which Rep. Lee Zeldin is leaving to run for governor, and the 2nd, held by freshman Rep. Andrew Garbarino. The new map would instead create one blue seat by stretching the 1st from Long Island's East End all the way to Suffolk County's western border and even a bit beyond, into Nassau. As a result, it would have voted for Biden 55-44. The 2nd, meanwhile, would extend eastward along the island's more conservative South Shore, resulting in a 56-42 Trump district.
The Democrats' next target is New York City's lone Republican, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who last cycle unseated Democrat Max Rose in the 11th District. Under the old lines and the new, the seat includes all of Staten Island and a chunk of Brooklyn, but the key is which chunk. The revised 11th now jogs northward to pick up liberal neighborhoods closer to Manhattan (such as Park Slope), shedding its tendril into more conservative parts of southern Brooklyn around Bensonhurst.
Those areas are now dispersed between the 8th, 9th, and 10th Districts, each of which would have given Biden 76-77% of the vote even with these new additions. The 11th, in turn, shifts sharply, from 55-44 for Trump to 54-45 for Biden. Rose announced a bid for a rematch in December, likely anticipating that redistricting would make this seat more favorable.
Moving north of the city and deep into upstate New York we encounter the district that's the top contender for the one that got vaporized: the old 22nd, a 55-43 Trump seat represented by freshman Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney. It's gotten Benhinana'd into five different districts, with just 13% remaining in the new 22nd—by far the smallest such share anywhere in the state. A 46% plurality, as well as Tenney's home, wound up in the redrawn 19th, which would have gone 54-44 for Biden. (Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado will seek re-election there.)
Given the extensive rejiggering, in fact, the revamped 22nd is best thought of as the inheritor of the old Syracuse-based 24th, held by retiring GOP Rep. John Katko, which voted for Biden 54-44; the 22nd would be bluer still, at 58-40 Biden, by taking in the college town of Ithaca. Even the relatively pragmatic Katko would have had a hard time here, though; the extremist Tenney is a particularly poor fit and won't run there.
The three other Republican districts would be the 21st (held by Rep. Elise Stefanik), the 23rd (where Rep. Tom Reed is retiring), and the 24th (the successor of the old 27th, represented by Rep. Chris Jacobs), each of which would have handed Trump 58-59% of the vote. After the new map came out, Tenney immediately said she'd run in the revised 23rd, where she already represents about 70,000 residents, rather than throw a desperation heave at the new 22nd.
Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.
● HI Redistricting: Hawaii's bipartisan redistricting commission, which has the final say on new districts, approved new congressional and legislative maps on Friday. The congressional map makes just minor tweaks to balance out the population between the state's two seats in Congress, both of which are held by Democrats. The plan for the state House and Senate, however, make more considerable changes and are likely to be the target of lawsuits.
● AL-Sen: Republican Rep. Mo Brooks has spent months dealing with chatter that his top ally, Donald Trump, thinks he's running a bad campaign, and now even the congressman's supporters at the anti-tax Club for Growth have released a poll showing his support plunging ahead of the May primary for Alabama's open Senate seat. WPA Intelligence's survey gives Brooks only a small 35-30 lead on Army veteran Mike Durant, who has already spent heavily on TV ads; former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt is at 25%. This is the first poll we've seen all year, as well as the first survey to ever show Durant in second place—crucial, because the primary is likely to require a runoff.
While WPA's memo argues that Brooks has "room to grow" because only 42% of respondents are aware that he's Trump's preferred candidate, it skips over the fact that these numbers show a precipitous decline for the congressman over the last few months. In October, before Durant entered the race, WPA gave Brooks a dominant 55-12 advantage over Britt, who has the all-out support of retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. That older survey also showed that only 23% of respondents knew about the Trump endorsement, which indicates that Brooks is losing traction even as more primary voters are hearing his message.
So, what's going wrong for Brooks? In December, CNN highlighted his fundraising struggles, with one unnamed GOP operative saying, "Mo is famous for his frugality. He didn't really hire campaign staff and didn't want to spend money." Things have only gotten worse since then, as Brooks revealed Monday that he'd hauled in just $386,000 during the fourth quarter, considerably less than the already-underwhelming $669,000 he'd raised during the previous three months, though he still had close to $2 million to spend. Britt and her backers have also made it clear they'll attack the six-term congressman as a D.C. insider, and even one of Brooks' allies thinks the charge is legit, remarking, "I think it's pretty obvious that Mo's Achilles heel is that he's seen as a career politician, and they really have to think long and hard about fixing that."
And even though Brooks ought to be MAGA in good standing—after all, he helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol—he still managed to get booed at an August Trump rally when he told the audience that when it comes to the 2020 election, they should "put that behind you." Backstage during that same event, reported CNN, Trump had a brief but friendly conversation with Britt, whom he'd previously derided as "not in any way qualified" for the Senate.
The congressman's unwelcome reception at the rally, as well as Trump's supposedly "chance encounter" with Britt, is what "first sowed frustration" with Brooks inside Trumpworld, per CNN. Brooks responded in December by "reassessing his campaign strategy" and replacing several members of his campaign team, but the Club's new poll indicates that he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to resume his old frontrunner status.
● CT-Sen, CT-Gov: Former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides announced Sunday that she would seek the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal rather than go ahead with her long-anticipated campaign against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.
Klarides will be in for a very challenging race in a deep blue state that hasn't been represented by a Republican senator since Lowell Weicker left office after losing to Joe Lieberman in 1988. (Lieberman consolidated GOP support in 2006 to win his final term against Lamont, though the Connecticut for Lieberman senator never left the Democratic caucus.) The one upside is that Klarides will at least sidestep a tough GOP primary against businessman Bob Stefanowski, who may now be able to avoid a serious intra-party battle as he seeks a rematch against Lamont.
● MO-Sen: A new poll from Republican firm Remington Research, taken for the local political tip sheet Missouri Scout, finds disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens leading Attorney General Eric Schmitt 28-23 in the August GOP primary, with Rep. Vicky Hartzler close behind with 19%. Another congressman, Billy Long, is further back with just 8%, while attorney Mark McCloskey takes just 5%. Remington similarly had Greitens outpacing Schmitt 27-24 back in early December, with 16% going to Hartzler.
● PA-Sen: TV personality Mehmet Oz's newest TV spot against hedge fund manager David McCormick goes all-in on the anti-Chinese messaging we've seen from so many other Republican candidates over these last many years. The ad kicks off with stereotypical gong sounds as the narrator declares, "First, China sent us COVID. Then, David McCormick's hedge fund gave Chinese companies billions." Oz and McCormick are competing in a May GOP primary that AdImpact reports has already attracted a combined $15.3 million in TV spending and reservations.
● MA-Gov: Policy For Progress, which is affiliated with the pro-charter schools group Democrats for Education Reform, has released a survey of the September Democratic primary from MassInc, and it shows Attorney General Maura Healey outpacing state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz 48-12. This is the first poll we've seen of this contest.
● NE-Gov: Two Republican candidates, state Sen. Brett Lindstrom and University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, have each released new spots ahead of May's primary. Lindstrom's ad touts his time as a walk-on for the University of Nebraska football team in the early 2000s, while Pillen's commercial throws as much red meat to the conservative base as he can cram into 30 seconds. "You know what really ticks me off? Those crazy liberals in Washington who want to cancel everyone and everything," he says, adding, "If you love America, they hate you."
● RI-Gov: Multiple Republicans tell The Providence Journal's Katherine Gregg that businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who only registered to vote in Rhode Island on Jan. 18, is thinking about seeking the GOP nomination for governor, though Kalus herself didn't respond for the story. Kalus, whose company describes itself as "a medical practice focused on COVID testing, vaccination, and medical care run by physicians," previously worked for then-Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner as his director of public engagement. It's not clear exactly when she relocated to the Ocean State, though she bought a home there last May.
● TX-Gov: YouGov's new survey for the University of Houston shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke 48-43. If anything like that obtains in November, that would amount to the closest race for governor in Texas since 1990, when Ann Richards' 49-47 victory gave Democrats their last recent gubernatorial victory. But it may not be what's in store: The last public numbers we saw came from an early December Quinnipiac poll that put Abbott ahead 52-37.
The University of Texas Tyler also polled the race for the Dallas Morning News but, as has been the case all cycle, the school did not identify any candidate's party affiliation in the general election portion of the poll. As we've said before, this is information we require for a survey to be written up in the Digest because if a pollster doesn't include this in a partisan election, then they're leaving out important information and failing to accurately replicate the way voters will make their choices when they actually cast their ballots.
Both polls also took a look at the March 1 primaries and find Abbott well ahead. YouGov, which tells us it sampled 490 GOP voters, has Abbott defeating former state party chair Allen West 58-11, while UT Tyler has the governor ahead 59-6. O'Rourke, meanwhile, has no trouble securing the Democratic nod against several unheralded foes: YouGov, which sampled 616 primary voters, has the 2018 Senate nominee taking 73% of the vote, while UT Tyler puts his support at 58%.
● CA-05, CA-22 (special): In a surprise, Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig declared Monday that he was dropping out of the April special election for the old 22nd District and would instead challenge Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, a fellow Republican, in the June top-two primary for the new 5th District. Donald Trump would have carried this seat, which includes the Upper Central Valley and Sierra foothills, 55-43.
Magsig focused on the devastating 2020 Creek Fire in a statement announcing his switch, saying, "Out of the ashes, I've fought harder than ever against the legal tricks utilized by well-funded, far-flung environmental groups to turn every available law and regulation into stumbling blocks to responsibly manage our forests and, in turn, making wildfires deadlier." The supervisor didn't mention the incumbent by name, though he argued that the area needed "someone in Washington that fully embraces the word 'Representative' – not just a strong voice, but a leader who listens to the needs of their neighbors."
McClintock, whose team has finally confirmed weeks-old reports saying he'll seek re-election in the 5th, currently represents just over 40% of the new district. The congressman doesn't live in his would-be constituency, though don't expect that to bother him: In 2008, then-state Sen. McClintock won a previous incarnation of the 4th District even though his legislative seat was located more than 400 miles to the south in Ventura County. In fact, he's never even resided in the version of the 4th he's represented for over a decade. Magsig's Fresno County, by contrast, makes up 16% of the new 5th District, though fewer than 5,000 people in the district he currently represents on the Board of Supervisors live in the 5th.
● GA-06, GA-10, GA-Gov: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones' campaign for governor appears to be going nowhere, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution relays speculation that the Democrat-turned-Republican could drop out and instead run for Congress in one of two open districts, the 6th or 10th. Jones himself last week tweeted a picture of him with Donald Trump and added, "More to come."
● IL-17: While 314 Action has not yet issued an endorsement in the June Democratic primary for this open seat, it unveiled a Public Policy Polling survey on Monday showing former meteorologist Eric Sorensen leading ex-state Rep. Litesa Wallace 13-11, with no one else taking more than 3%. The group's release also praised Sorensen as "a trusted community leader in IL-17 as the district's meteorologist at WREX Rockford and WQAD Quad Cities."
● IN-09: State Sen. Erin Houchin has announced that she will resign from the legislature, effective Feb. 4, in order to focus on her bid to win the Republican nomination for this safely red open seat.
● MI-10, MI-Gov: Army veteran John James, the GOP's two-time nominee for the Senate, announced Monday that he would seek the open 10th Congressional District in the Detroit suburbs rather than run for governor. James joins an August primary that includes attorney Eric Esshaki, who lost a close 2020 battle for the old 11th District.
James, who would be the first Black Republican to represent Michigan in Congress, won Donald Trump's endorsement in his successful 2018 primary to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but the awful political climate for the GOP put him at a massive disadvantage going into Election Day. James ended up holding Stabenow to a 52-46 win, though, and everyone took him seriously when he decided to take on Democratic Sen. Gary Peters the next cycle. Peters ultimately won their very expensive matchup just 50-48 as Joe Biden was carrying the Wolverine State 51-48.
While James ran just ahead of the top of the ticket statewide, he narrowly lost within the confines of the new 10th by a 49.3-48.6 margin even as Trump would have carried the district 50-49; in 2018, Stabenow prevailed 53-46 within the new boundaries. Target Insyght also released a poll just before James launched his new campaign that showed one Democrat, Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga, leading him 48-43 in a hypothetical general election. Marlinga, who so far has not publicly expressed interest in running, enjoys a much larger 52-31 edge over Esshaki.
● OR-04: Sen. Jeff Merkley has endorsed Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle in the May Democratic primary for Oregon's open 4th District. Previously, Hoyle received the blessing of the district's outgoing congressman, Rep. Peter DeFazio.
● OR-05: Jimmy Crumpacker, a businessman who unsuccessfully competed in the 2020 Republican primary for the old 2nd District, has launched a bid against Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader. Crumpacker last cycle self-funded about $310,000, which represented about 30% of his total campaign budget, but he ended up taking fourth place with 18%.
● SC-07: Army veteran Graham Allen said Friday that he was ending his campaign to deny renomination to Rep. Tom Rice, who was one of the 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump, saying, "Other conservative candidates have emerged, including at least one with deep ties to the region who is strong enough to beat Tom Rice." The congressman, meanwhile, has launched a spot ahead of the June primary in which he tells the audience, "Through storms and floods and now pandemic, I stood shoulder to shoulder with you, and I've delivered help."
● RI-02: Communications firm head Joy Fox, who worked as a staffer for retiring Rep. Jim Langevin before serving as former Gov. Gina Raimondo's communications director, announced Monday that she was joining the Democratic primary for this open seat.
● TN-05: Businessman Baxter Lee has filed FEC paperwork to seek the Republican nod in this open and newly gerrymandered district.
● WV-02: Candidate filing closed Saturday for West Virginia's May 10 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here.
We only have one major race to watch this year in the Mountain State, but it's a big one, since West Virginia is losing one of its three congressional districts. As a result, two Republican congressmen, David McKinley and Alex Mooney, are slugging it out in the primary for the new 2nd District in the northern part of the state, with three little-known candidates also on the ballot.
While the winner should have no trouble in the general election for this 68-31 Trump constituency, getting there will be a monumental task. But at least both contenders got job no. 1 right this time: McKinley and Mooney managed to file for the correct seat even though they both mistakenly announced in October that they'd be seeking the 1st District, where fellow GOP Rep. Carol Miller has no serious opposition.
Each incumbent's early advertising has previewed the strategy they'll be using to win. Last week, Mooney went up with a spot that excoriates his opponent for "voting for the Jan. 6 anti-Trump witch hunt to attack our president and our values" and later the Biden administration's infrastructure bill. The ad then goes on to highlight the fact that Donald Trump has endorsed Mooney.
McKinley, for his part, started airing ads in early January highlighting that Mooney is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly spending campaign funds on personal expenses. That commercial also alluded to his out-of-state origins by dubbing him "Maryland Senator Alex Mooney."
Each congressman has also released one poll giving his own side the lead. A mid-December McKinley internal from Meeting Street Insights had him up 40-34, while an early January Public Opinion Strategies poll for Mooney gave him a 45-32 edge. McKinley currently represents 66% of the new 2nd District, while the remaining third are Mooney's constituents.
McKinley outraised Mooney $600,000 to $200,000 during the final quarter of 2021 and self-funded another $500,000, but Mooney's big head start allowed him to end the year with a $2.4 million to $1.6 million cash-on-hand lead.
● ND-AG: Wayne Stenehjem, a Republican whose 22-year tenure made him the longest-serving attorney general in North Dakota history, died in office Friday at the age of 68. Gov. Doug Burgum will be tasked with appointing someone to succeed Stenehjem, who had announced in December that he would not seek re-election this year.
Stenehjem was elected to the legislature in 1976, and he went on to decisively win the 2000 race of attorney general to succeed Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who left to unsuccessfully run for governor (and later of course won a term in the Senate in a huge upset). Stenehjem never had much trouble holding his post, for which elections were switched to midterms starting in 2006 as the result of a ballot measure.
However, his own 2016 bid for governor against Burgum went unexpectedly poorly. While the attorney general had the backing of the state GOP establishment, including retiring Gov. Jack Dalrymple, that wasn't such an asset at a time when the state economy was in bad shape thanks to the collapse of oil and crop prices.
The wealthy Burgum, by contrast, massively outspent Stenehjem, who reportedly did little campaigning. Burgum also likely benefited from the support from Democratic voters who were unhappy with the status quo that Stenehjem represented (North Dakota famously is the one state that doesn't have voter registration whatsoever, so there was no barrier to Democrats participating in the GOP primary). Stenehjem lost by a wide 59-39 margin, but he was still able to win his final term as attorney general two years later without a problem.
● TX-AG: We have our first two polls of Texas' March 1 Republican primary for attorney general since the field fully took shape late last year, and they both show scandal-ridden incumbent Ken Paxton below the majority he'd need to avoid a May runoff.
YouGov, surveying on behalf of the University of Houston, has the Trump-endorsed Paxton at 39%; Land Commissioner George P. Bush leads Rep. Louie Gohmert by a small 16-13 for second, while former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman is last with 8%. (The school tells us the sample size for the GOP primary portion is 490.) The University of Texas at Tyler's poll for the Dallas Morning News, meanwhile, puts Paxton's support at 33% as Bush enjoys a wider 19-8 edge over Gohmert for second, with Guzman at 7%.
Paxton, for his part, appears to see Gohmert as the candidate he needs to weaken right now. The Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek reports that the attorney general so far is only airing TV spots in Gohmert's East Texas base, and while these spots are positive, Paxton has also been deploying anti-Gohmert mail pieces and social media ads. Svitek adds that, to date, the incumbent hasn't put any money into efforts attacking Bush or Guzman.