The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Billionaire developer Rick Caruso said on Friday that he was joining this year's open seat race to succeed termed-out Mayor Eric Garcetti as leader of America's second-most populous city, an announcement that came one day before candidate filing closed. If the Senate confirms Garcetti as Joe Biden’s ambassador to India, the Los Angeles City Council would be able to choose someone to serve as mayor for the final months of his term, though it would be a huge surprise if it picked one of the candidates already running.
Caruso, who has developed some of Southern California's most prominent malls, has never run for office before, though he previously served as chair of the USC Board of Trustees and on the Los Angeles Police Commission. He also recently changed his voter registration from unaffiliated to Democratic, a move that came almost a decade after he left the GOP. He now describes himself as a "pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat."
Caruso joins a field that includes four elected officials, all of whom identify as Democrats, in the June 7 nonpartisan primary; in the very likely event that no one takes a majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters would advance to the November general election. The frontrunner at this point is arguably Rep. Karen Bass, who ended 2021 with the most money banked and has deep connections in both state and national politics, though no one has released any polls since she entered the race in September. Bass would be the first woman elected to lead Los Angeles, as well as its second African American mayor following the legendary Tom Bradley.
Another familiar name is City Councilman Kevin de León, a longtime labor ally and former state Senate leader who challenged Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein from the left in 2018 and lost 54-46 statewide. (Feinstein carried the city 59-41.) De León, whose parents emigrated from Guatemala, is also the only serious Latino candidate in a city where just under half the population is Hispanic.
City Attorney Mike Feuer is also in, but while he's the only citywide elected official in the contest, he had considerably less money than any of his rivals heading into the new year. Part of his problem may be the ongoing scandal based around allegations that his office concealed evidence in a long-running criminal investigation involving over-billing by the Department of Water and Power. The candidate, says the Los Angeles Times, has not been accused of wrongdoing by federal investigators and the story hasn't been mentioned much on the campaign trail, but it's continued to generate unwanted headlines: Just last month, one of Feuer's former top subordinates agreed to plead guilty for abetting extortion.
Finally there's City Councilman Joe Buscaino who, while also a Democrat, has tacked to the right of most of his opponents. Buscaino has made banning homeless encampments in public areas a centerpiece of his campaign and quickly sought to tie Caruso to Los Angeles County's progressive district attorney, George Gascón. Caruso in 2020 had co-hosted a fundraiser for Gascón's successful campaign to unseat incumbent Jackie Lacey, and though he went on to donate $45,000 to a pro-Lacey group, Buscaino argued voters "should be deeply concerned about Mr. Caruso's commitment to public safety."
The field also includes 22 other candidates including businessman Ramit Varma, a conservative who has self-funded $1.5 million so far, and real estate broker Mel Wilson, a former board member on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (better known as Metro) who hasn't brought in much money.
● MD Redistricting: The Maryland Court of Appeals, which is the state's highest court, has postponed the candidate filing deadline from Feb. 22 to March 22 while it adjudicates four challenges to the state's new legislative maps. The June 28 primary remains unaffected.
● MO Redistricting: Congressional redistricting has come to a standstill in Missouri after a small group of far-right hardliners in the state Senate, who want to ensure a 7-1 advantage for Republicans in the state's House delegation, staged a filibuster to block a map preferred by party leaders (and previously passed by the lower chamber) that would maintain the GOP's current 6-2 edge.
Unlike in the U.S. Senate, where members need only threaten to filibuster in order to stymie a bill, Missouri's Senate requires aggrieved lawmakers to sustain an old-school "talking filibuster." After dissenters spent 31 straight hours last week reading what the Kansas City Star characterizes as "books by conservative authors, Shakespeare passages, pop song lyrics, emails from 7-1 map supporters and stories of famous historical Missouri dogs," leaders were forced to adjourn. They've since been unable to reconvene and hold a vote on their 6-2 plan in the face of continued procedural roadblocks that the seven-member "Conservative Caucus" has put up.
Efforts to reach a compromise have so far yielded no breakthroughs, and tensions between the two sides have reached acute levels. Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden lambasted the extremists for holding up all other legislative business to "get districts that suit their ambition," while one renegade, state Sen. Bob Onder, accused Rowden of wanting "to give away one to two congressional seats to progressive Democrats and Nancy Pelosi."
Lawmakers are set to meet once again on Tuesday, but there's no sign as yet of a truce that could bring a halt to this intra-party conflict. It might even escalate: Rowden has one tool still untouched in his arsenal, the ability to cut off debate by "moving the previous question." Such a maneuver is often described as the "nuclear option" in the Missouri Senate, and during a recent colloquy, Onder insisted that Rowden would never use the procedure "against members of your own caucus." Rowden would only say in response, "I'm not sure if anything is off the table."
● WY Redistricting: A joint committee in Wyoming's Republican-run legislature voted to advance a new legislative map on Friday, which lawmakers will consider during the new session that began this week. The plan would increase the number of House seats from 60 to 62 and Senate seats from 30 to 31, which would make Wyoming the first state this cycle to change the number of members it elects to its legislature.
● AL-Sen: Katie Boyd Britt and her allies at FarmPAC have each released a poll of the May Republican primary that shows the former Business Council of Alabama head advancing to a likely June runoff. Britt's internal from Deep Root Analytics finds her in the lead with 29%, while Trump-backed Rep. Mo Brooks leads Army veteran Mike Durant 28-23 for second. FarmPAC, which is the campaign arm of the Alabama Farmers Federation, is also out with a Cherry Communications poll that puts Brooks in first with 34%, while Britt edges out Durant 29-24.
● AR-Sen: Sen. John Boozman has launched what Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin says is a $240,000 three-week ad campaign—an opening buy that comes two weeks earlier than he'd originally planned—ahead of the May Republican primary. The spot touts the incumbent as an effective Trump-endorsed conservative who is "a work horse, not a show pony." The commercial doesn't mention former football player Jake Bequette, Boozman's intra-party rival who has the support of a super PAC funded by conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, though the "show pony" line may be a dig at the challenger.
● MO-Sen: Rep. Vicky Hartzler's campaign to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt earned an endorsement over the weekend from Missouri's other Republican senator, Josh Hawley. And in case there was any question about what kind of campaign she'd run in order to win the August primary, Hartzler just went up with a spot that's only the latest instance of her pushing anti-trans ideas.
● OH-Sen: State Sen. Matt Dolan's new ad for the May Republican primary, which the National Journal's Matt Holt says is part of a $2 million TV and digital buy, has him pledging to "fight for more Border Patrol and to finish the wall."
● OK-Sen: Republican Sen. James Lankford's first commercial for the June primary consists of him talking about what a committed anti-Biden conservative he is. The incumbent faces two notable intra-party foes, pastor Jackson Lahmeyer and state Sen. Nathan Dahm, but neither of them had more than $85,000 on hand at the end of 2021; Lankford, for his part, had $2.8 million stockpiled.
● PA-Sen: Former hedge fund manager David McCormick used the Super Bowl to air a spot that prominently featured a "Let's go, Brandon" chant, though the Republican's ad seems to have been mostly aimed at generating chatter. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari says McCormick paid $70,000 to run it just once in the Pittsburgh media market, which is home to just over 20% of the state's residents, though the extremely wealthy candidate could certainly afford to blast it much further if he wants to.
● AL-Gov: The very first poll we've seen of the May Republican primary comes to us from Cherry Communications on behalf of Gov. Kay Ivey's supporters at FarmPAC, and it shows her outpacing businessman Jim James 55-11. Former U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard is just behind James with 10%, though the race for second place would only matter if Ivey failed to capture the majority of the vote she needs in order to avoid a runoff.
● HI-Gov: Two new polls show Lt. Gov. Josh Green far ahead of the rest of the field in what is currently a three-way Democratic primary. Mason-Dixon's survey for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser shows him beating former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell 58-11, while numbers from Public Policy Polling for Green's allies at 314 Action have him defeating businesswoman Vicky Cayetano 52-10. PPP also asked about a hypothetical race in which Rep. Kai Kahele is also a candidate but found Green defeating him 46-14.
● IL-Gov: Billionaire Ken Griffin has donated $20 million to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's campaign to win the June Republican primary, a move that finally confirms two months of news stories reporting that the mayor was the megadonor's chosen candidate. Griffin, who is the state's wealthiest man, has made it clear for months that he'll spend massive amounts to defeat Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, so this will likely be the first of many contributions he'll make to Irvin.
● MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson has begun what the Detroit News says is an opening $1.5 million ad buy for the August Republican primary, and his very first spot premiered during the Super Bowl.
The ad is more than a little reminiscent of Rick Snyder's "one tough nerd" Super Bowl commercial from his successful 2010 bid (probably not coincidentally, consultant John Yob worked on both campaigns): The narrator declares, "When your car door closes just right, thank Perry Johnson. When you even have a job in the American auto industry, thank Perry Johnson." The candidate himself later asks, "Can you really think of a profession more desperately in need of quality than government?"
● PA-Gov: State Sen. Scott Martin, citing continuing health issues from a leg injury, dropped out of the packed Republican primary on Friday.
● TX-Gov, TX-AG: The University of Texas has released a survey of the March 1 Republican primary from YouGov that finds Gov. Greg Abbott beating former state party chair Allen West 60-15, which is similar to what other polls have shown. The school also polled the general election but, as it has in the past, it did not identify any candidate's party affiliation in the general election portion of the poll, making the results not worth discussing.
Over in the GOP primary for attorney general, scandal-ridden incumbent Ken Paxton takes 47%, which is just below the majority he'd need to avert a May runoff. Land Commissioner George P. Bush leads former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman 21-16 for second, while Rep. Louie Gohmert is just behind with 15%. Two polls from a few weeks ago also showed Paxton in first, but he was further from winning outright: YouGov, working for the University of Houston, put his support at 39%, while UT Tyler had him taking 33%.
● WI-Gov: State Rep. Timothy Ramthun, who has spent the last year doing all he can to spread the Big Lie, announced Saturday that he was joining the August Republican primary to face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Ramthun immediately made it clear he'd use his new campaign to continue circulating his conspiracy theories, saying, "I need to exhaust all options to address the November 2020 election." He enters an intra-party race that already includes former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and 2018 Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson.
● AL-02: Was Alabama's filing deadline for House candidates Feb. 7 or Feb. 11? We'll soon find out. Wealthy trucking company owner Jeff Coleman filed paperwork Thursday for a primary rematch against Republican Rep. Barry Moore, who defeated him 60-40 in last cycle's runoff, but it remains to be seen if Coleman will be allowed a spot on the June ballot in this safely red seat.
The confusion came about after a panel of three federal judges moved the filing deadline for House hopefuls from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11 when it struck down the GOP's new congressional map for violating the Voting Rights Act last month. On Feb. 7, however, the Supreme Court stayed that ruling, allowing elections to go forward this year using the new map.
Republican Secretary of State John Merrill put out a statement the next day declaring that it would now be up to each state party as to whether to recognize Feb. 11 as the new filing deadline, though he added, "Any candidate that qualified between January 28 and February 7 (prior to the stay being granted) was qualified to be on the ballot."
Both Coleman and Jamie Aiken, who is (or was) running an underdog campaign against Rep. Gary Palmer in the 6th District, went ahead and tried to file with the state GOP on Feb. 10, but Aiken says party officials told him he was too late. State party chair John Wahl did not comment when AL.com contacted him on Sunday evening, and Coleman has requested that a federal court clarify the situation. For now, though, his name is not included on the Alabama GOP's candidate list, which shows Moore, as well as Palmer, running unopposed.
Coleman, though, didn't wait to launch what his campaign called a "significant television buy" that included a spot during the Super Bowl. The ad shows him driving a truck while a narrator argues he's a pro-Trump alternative to "namby-pamby politicians."
● AL-05: Six Republicans have filed to succeed Rep. Mo Brooks, who is leaving the House to run for the Senate, in this northern Alabama seat that would have gone for Trump 62-35. Should no one take a majority of the vote, a runoff would occur on June 21.
Only two contenders had a notable amount of money at the end of 2021: Former Department of Defense official Casey Wardynski, who previously served as Huntsville City Schools Superintendent, outraised Madison County Commission Dale Strong $139,000 to $95,000 during the fourth quarter, but Strong finished December with a $303,000 to $267,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Businessman John Roberts (who, if he's lucky, will get to be known as "no, not that John Roberts") took in a mere $16,000 and threw in another $10,000, and he had $80,000 on hand. Former state Sen. Paul Sanford, who entered the race in early November, raised $37,000 and had a similar amount to spend, while businessman Andy Blalock and Some Dude Harrison Wright each had less than $8,000. So far, no major outside groups appear to have taken sides in this contest.
● MI-12: Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey has announced that she'll take on Rep. Rashida Tlaib in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue Detroit-based seat. Winfrey previously went up against a different incumbent, the late John Conyers, in the 2016 for the old 13th District but raised very little money and lost 61-39. Her office a few months later earned awful headlines for its botched handling of the presidential election, with a post-election audit concluding that "an abundance of human errors" by election administrators contributed to the problem.
Fellow Democrat Garlin Gilchrist, who served as Detroit's technology director, challenged Winfrey in 2017 on a platform of modernizing the city's election administration and improving access to voting and lost by a narrow 51-49 margin. Gilchrist was elected lieutenant governor the next year while Tlaib was elected to succeed Conyers; Winfrey, meanwhile, won re-election last year 71-29 in a race that attracted far less attention than her previous contest.
● MN-05: Former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels says he's interested in taking on Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar but adds that he's not sure if he'd want to pursue a primary bid or campaign as an independent.
● NY-12: Attorney and hotel executive Suraj Patel has announced that he'll challenge Rep. Carolyn Maloney for the third time in the June Democratic primary for what remains a safely blue Manhattan-based seat. Patel in 2018 outspent the congresswoman but lost 60-40 after an effort that attracted some unflattering headlines. Maloney enjoyed the financial edge for their rematch two years later, but she won by a much closer 43-39 spread.
This time, though, Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has some notable advantages she didn't have previously. Perhaps most importantly, the new congressional district has lost parts of Brooklyn and Queens, areas Patel won last time. Instead, the reconfigured 12th now includes part of the Upper West Side, a wealthy area that has much in common with the congresswoman's longtime base on the Upper East Side.
And while Patel was Maloney's only intra-party foe in 2018 and her only well-funded opponent in 2020, this time there's also nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid, who ended 2021 with $380,000 to spend. The congresswoman has also worked to replenish her war chest after two expensive bouts, and she had $1.07 million on hand.
● NY-18: Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt has publicized an internal from BK Strategies that shows him edging out incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney, who heads the DCCC, by a 38-37 margin—a result that obviously includes a large pile of undecideds. Maloney won very competitive races to claim his first two terms in 2012 and 2014, but he's convincingly won re-election ever since. The new Democratic-drawn map also moved this Hudson Valley-based constituency a few points to the left: While the old 18th supported Joe Biden 52-47, the redrawn version would have backed him 53-45.
● PA-18: Edgewood Borough Council member Bhavini Patel has joined the May Democratic primary for this open and safely blue seat. Patel, who founded a tech startup, is 28, and her victory would make her one of the youngest members of Congress.
● RI-02: WPRI reports that U.S. Department of Commerce official Sarah Morgenthau is considering entering the September Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Langevin. Morgenthau, who was a prominent fundraiser for Joe Biden's campaign, also comes from a legendary political family: Her grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Jr., was FDR's secretary of the treasury, while her uncle, Robert Morgenthau, served decades as Manhattan's district attorney. Her late mother, Ruth Morgenthau, was also the Democratic nominee for a previous version of the 2nd District in 1988, but she badly lost to Republican incumbent Claudine Schneider.
● VA-02: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last week endorsed state Sen. Jen Kiggans' bid to take on Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria. McCarthy's decision was hardly a surprise, though, as his allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund backed Kiggans last month. The move comes just days after former Rep. Scott Taylor expressed interest in a possible comeback.
● WV-02: Republican Rep. Alex Mooney's latest commercial in his May incumbent vs. incumbent primary accuses David McKinley of "[l]ying on TV, claiming he's on Trump's side." The ad goes on to tell viewers that Mooney is Trump's man (he does indeed have Trump's endorsement), while McKinley "votes for the Biden/Pelosi agenda and the Jan. 6 witch hunt."
● Massachusetts: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker just signed a new budget bill that includes a provision setting Massachusetts' primary for Sept. 6. Under state law, primaries are to take place seven weeks prior to the general election, but that late date has long conflicted with a federal law requiring ballots be sent out to overseas voters 45 days before Election Day. As a result, state lawmakers inevitably move their primary up every two years, but for whatever reason, they haven't simply made the change permanent. Bookmark our 2022 calendar to stay on top of all primaries and filing deadlines.