The good news for Timken, though, is that Trump, according to Isenstadt, doesn't seem to like anyone running in the Ohio Senate race. The story even says that Trump, who "has expressed concern to allies about the quality of the pro-Trump candidates," has speculated that another candidate could enter the race, something Isenstadt notes can't actually happen because the filing deadline passed on Feb. 2. The candidate Trump hates the most is state Sen. Matt Dolan, who co-owns Cleveland's Major League Baseball franchise: The GOP leader last year promised to never back Dolan because of the team's plans to change its name, and Isenstadt now characterizes Trump as utterly intent on stopping him.
Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel has avoided any public abuse, but a recent Daily Beast story says that Trump privately "has for months told people close to him that he thinks Mandel is a charisma-free weirdo and dork" and that he's "even spent an inordinate amount of time gossiping with a large array of advisers and close associates about unconfirmed details of Mandel's sex life." (Thankfully, there are no details.) There's no word yet what Trump has against the remaining notable Republicans in the running, businessman Mike Gibbons and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, though Vance's intra-party enemies have spent a great effort hitting him over his old anti-MAGA proclamations.
● On this week's episode of The Downballot, our new podcast devoted to races from Senate to city council, co-hosts David Beard and David Nir take a deep dive into redistricting with Daily Kos Elections contributing editor David Jarman. Jarman walks us through the major changes that new congressional maps have wrought in some of the biggest states, including New York, Texas, and Michigan, with a stop to gawk at the infighting that's derailing Republicans in Florida and Missouri.
We also discuss why, in the light of new rulings striking down GOP gerrymanders in North Carolina and Ohio, state supreme court races are so important. Plus, how would you react if your former congressman sent you an email that began, "I don't know what I'm doing"? You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.
● AK Redistricting: A state court judge struck down parts of Alaska's new legislative maps, finding that the state's five-member Redistricting Board had violated transparency rules, failed to "make a good-faith effort to accommodate public testimony," and improperly paired two "geographically and demographically distinct" House districts to make up a Senate district. The ruling will likely be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, which faces an April 1 deadline to issue a final decision.
● NC Redistricting: After a confusing 24 hours, the North Carolina Senate said it planned to introduce a new congressional map on Wednesday night, just ahead of the Friday deadline the legislature the Supreme Court set for lawmakers to draw new boundaries.
Things started Tuesday evening when Republicans in the state House released their congressional map, while the GOP-run state Senate dropped a different proposal the next morning. State House Speaker Tim Moore said Wednesday afternoon that his chamber would vote on the Senate's version on Thursday, which seemed to indicate that the Senate’s lines were the ones they’d settled on. Hours later, though, senators announced that they’d pulled their version and would release revised lines later in the day, to be formally introduced Thursday.
On the legislative front, the House said it would vote Wednesday night to pass a new map of its own chamber that Moore and Democratic leader Robert Reives said was “the result of several days of good faith discussions.” The Senate had yet to take action on a map for itself, but an effort to reach a compromise broke down, with Democratic Minority Leader Dan Blue charging that the "process has not been collaborative."
● RI Redistricting: Lawmakers in Rhode Island's Democratic-run state House and Senate approved new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, sending them to Democratic Gov. Dan McKee. Legislators made only small changes to the border between the state's two congressional districts, but they did seek to protect a number of conservative Democrats from progressive opponents by drawing those challengers out of the districts they were seeking. In another case, they sought to shore up Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a reactionary who has stymied many progressive priorities, against another bid from nurse Lenny Cioe, who held him to a 55-45 win in the 2020 primary, by stripping out turf where Cioe did well.
● FL-Sen: Mason-Dixon's first poll of this contest finds Republican incumbent Marco Rubio leading Democratic Rep. Val Demings 49-42, which is very similar to the 49-41 edge Suffolk University gave him late last month. The congresswoman, though, has more than enough money to put up a serious fight: Demings outraised Rubio $7.1 million to $5.2 million during the fourth quarter, while the senator ended December with a modest $10.6 million to $8.2 million cash-on-hand advantage.
● NV-Sen: The Club for Growth is airing a spot in the Reno media market, which is home to about a quarter of the state's residents, reminding viewers that former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate; there is no word on the size of the buy.
Laxalt is the clear favorite to win the June Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, but he faces a surprisingly well-funded intra-party opponent in the form of Army veteran Sam Brown. Laxalt outraised Brown just $1.3 million to $1 million during the fourth quarter, but he still had a considerably larger $1.7 million to $732,000 cash-on-hand advantage. Cortez Masto herself brought in $3.3 million and had $10.5 million to spend.
● IL-Gov: State Sen. Darren Bailey has received a $1 million contribution from conservative mega donor Richard Uihlein ahead of the June Republican primary.
● MA-Gov: Political scientist Danielle Allen announced Tuesday that she was dropping out of the September Democratic primary to succeed retiring Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. Allen used her departure to call out the state's "too onerous" ballot access rules, which require statewide candidates to receive the support of at least 15% of delegates at their party's convention in order to even advance to the primary. She also acknowledged to Politico that she didn't believe she'd take enough support at this spring's party gathering.
The Democratic primary is now a duel between state Attorney General Maura Healey and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz. Chang-Díaz and Allen both were campaigning to Healey's left so the state senator may benefit from the smaller field, though she'd still need a lot more to go right in order to defeat the well-established and well-funded Healey.
● NH-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman tells the Portsmouth Herald that if he decides to challenge Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, his announcement would likely come early next month.
● FL-27: While Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson didn't quite rule out a bid for the U.S. House over the summer, the Democrat said this week that he'd instead run for a seat in the state Senate.
● ID-02: Attorney Bryan Smith last October announced that he'd seek a rematch in the May Republican primary against Rep. Mike Simpson, who defeated him 62-38 in 2014, and self-funding has helped him remain financially competitive with the longtime incumbent. Simpson outraised Smith $268,000 to $196,000 among donors, though the challenger threw down an additional $172,000, and he ended 2021 with a $517,000 to $289,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Smith last time argued that Simpson, who has represented this safely red seat since 1999, was too close to then-Speaker John Boehner and the party establishment, and he enjoyed the backing of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Simpson responded by attacking his opponent's career as a greedy trial lawyer, and while Smith ran commercials defending himself, the Club sensed where things were going and canceled its planned ad buy.
Smith once again is trying to portray the congressman as insufficiently conservative, saying, "I met a man the other day who didn't know me, but he did know that Mike Simpson declared Donald Trump unfit for the office in 2016." This time, though, Smith is also attacking Simpson's support for breaching the four dams along the lower Snake River, an idea that proponents argue is necessary to save the local salmon population. The challenger, by contrast, insists, "The farmers aren't buying it. Ranchers aren't buying it. The ratepayers who get their electricity aren't buying it and the grain growers aren't buying it." So far, no major outside groups have gotten involved in the rematch.
● IL-01: The newest candidate in the June Democratic primary for this open seat is Charise Williams, who previously served as chief of staff for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. Williams, who also is a former official at the Chicago Federation of Labor, ran in 2018 for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners but lost the primary 33-22.
● IL-03: State Rep. Delia Ramirez has earned an endorsement in the June Democratic primary from 4th District Rep. Chuy Garcia, who currently represents 43% of the new and open 3rd.
● IL-06: Republican Gary Grasso, the mayor of the small community of Burr Ridge (pop. 11,000), announced in late December that he would run here, and he recently picked up endorsements from state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin. Most of the focus on this race has been on the June Democratic primary showdown between Reps. Marie Newman and Sean Casten.
● MD-04: Former Rep. Donna Edwards has earned the backing of her longtime allies at EMILY's List in the June Democratic primary.
● MT-01: Federal investigators on Wednesday released a 32-page report concluding that former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke violated federal ethics rules while in office by taking part in talks with developers, including the multi-national energy giant Halliburton, about a project involving land owned by his foundation and then lying about his involvement in the negotiations. The document says, "We referred this matter to the DOJ [Department of Justice]. The DOJ declined criminal prosecution in the summer of 2021. We are providing this report to the current Secretary of the Interior for any action deemed appropriate."
Zinke, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate in the June Republican primary for western Montana's brand-new 1st District, dismissed the news by accusing the Biden administration of having "published false information, and was shared with the press as a political hit job."
Zinke and his wife, Lola, in 2007 together established a group called the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation, which the AP says was formed "to build a community sledding hill," that owned land in his hometown of Whitefish. A decade later, the organization was negotiating with developers, including Halliburton, about using its property for a parking lot for a commercial project that would have included "a hotel, microbrewery, restaurant, and other businesses." Zinke officially resigned as the foundation's president in March of 2017, the month he joined Trump's cabinet, and said that his wife would now be in charge of the project. However, Inspector General Mark Greenblatt, who is a Trump appointee, wrote that the secretary had by no means stopped participating.
Greenblatt instead says that Zinke communicated with the developers 64 times between August and July of the following year and "negotiated with them on behalf of the foundation by discussing the use of foundation property for the project, specific design aspects of the project, and the development of a microbrewery." His team also found just one instance of Lola Zinke talking to the developers, which was when she ended the parking lot deal.
Additionally, says the report, the secretary "misused his official position" when he "had his staff arrange an office and dinner meeting with the developers" and that "his staff exchanged an email in which they stated that they would print the materials for him." Investigators also concluded that Zinke had lied when he claimed that his involvement with his old group was "minimal and limited to helping his wife with the Foundation's taxes." Greenblatt, however, did not find that Zinke had broken federal conflict-of-interest laws or that he'd tried to use his post to financially benefit either himself or Halliburton.
Zinke resigned from the cabinet in November of 2018, reportedly due to pressure from the White House, in the face of 18 federal investigations. Most of these inquiries ended after investigators concluded he hadn’t committed wrongdoing or because Interior Department staffers didn't cooperate. A probe that hasn't come to a definitive conclusion, though, is an inquiry into whether Zinke lied to investigators about why he denied two tribes permission to operate a casino in Connecticut; the Washington Post says this matter "which was referred to the Justice Department for potential criminal charges, is still pending."
● NC-??: The Club for Growth said Wednesday that it would support Republican Bo Hines, who is a former football player at North Carolina State University, in whatever congressional district he ends up running in. Hines had announced a bid for the 7th District, which would have included areas between Greensboro and Raleigh, before the state Supreme Court struck down the GOP-drawn gerrymander, and he now says he's waiting for a new map before deciding where to campaign.
● NJ-07: Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is out with a GQR internal that shows him deadlocked 46-46 in his likely general election rematch against Republican Tom Kean Jr. The memo argued that the race remains close "even though the district is rated lean Republican and arguably we are at a low point in the national Democratic brand."
● NY-04: Former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen tells Newsday that she's thinking of running to succeed her fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice. Gillen in 2017 made history when she became the first Democrat elected to lead Hempstead, a huge community with a population approaching 800,000, in more than a century, but she narrowly lost re-election two years later.
The paper also reports that three Democratic members of the Nassau County Legislature are also thinking about getting in: Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, who lost the 2014 primary to Rice; Siela Bynoe, who considered challenging the congresswoman in 2020 but didn't end up running; and Carrié Solages. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, though, took his name out of contention on Wednesday when he announced that he would not seek re-election or run for any other office in 2022. Newsday also says that another Democrat, former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, has decided not to campaign for Congress.
● NY-11: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday evening that he would stay out of the Democratic primary to take on Republican incumbent Nicole Malliotakis, whom he defeated in his 2017 re-election campaign.
● NY-16: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has endorsed freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who faces a potentially competitive June Democratic primary.
● RI-02: State Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee says she expects to decide in the first week of March whether she'll enter the Democratic primary for this open seat.
● VA-07: Stafford County Board of Supervisor Chair Crystal Vanuch has joined the June Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in this redrawn seat.
● TX-AG: Incumbent Ken Paxton is going up with a negative TV ad for the first time two weeks ahead of the March 1 Republican primary, with the Texas Tribune reporting that he's airing a spot directed against Rep. Louie Gohmert in his 1st Congressional District in East Texas. Paxton so far hasn't put the same effort into attacking his other two intra-party foes, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.
The commercial argues that Gohmert has skipped numerous votes, though still showed up "to vote himself a pay raise." The spot then tries to portray the congressman, who has long been one of the far-right's champions in the House, as insufficiently conservative: "He showed up to add almost $1 trillion to our national debt," says the narrator, "and Louie Gohmert spent billions on wasteful earmarks and Obama's liberal agenda."
● CA State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Former Rep. George Radanovich, a California Republican who represented the Central Valley in the U.S. House from 1995 to 2011, announced Tuesday that he would launch a comeback by competing in the June top-two primary for the state's 4th Senate District. This seat, according to Dave's Redistricting App, would have favored Donald Trump 51-46.
Radanovich was elected to Congress on his second try during the 1994 Republican wave by decisively unseating six-term Democratic Rep. Dick Lehman in what was numbered the 19th District, and he never had trouble keeping it: One of the many Democrats he defeated was engineer T.J. Cox, who badly lost in 2006 but went on to win his sole term in 2018.
Radanovich announced his retirement in December of 2009 as his wife battled ovarian cancer, and she died a few weeks later. The former congressman showed some interest in 2013 in taking on Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown but didn't go for it, and until now, Radanovich showed no obvious interest in running again.
● Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Milwaukee held its nonpartisan primary Tuesday for the special election to succeed longtime Mayor Tom Barrett, who resigned late last year to become ambassador to Luxembourg, and acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson and former Alderman Bob Donovan advanced to the April 5 general election. Johnson, who would be the first African American elected to lead the city, took 42%, while Donavan led state Sen. Lena Taylor 22-13 for second. The winner will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.
Donovan is the rare conservative politician in this blue municipality, and he learned the hard way six years ago just how tough a citywide race is. The alderman challenged Barrett in 2016 and looked viable for a time after he held the incumbent to a 45-34 lead in the nonpartisan preliminary election. But Donovan had trouble gaining traction in the general election against the well-funded Barrett, especially after the mayor highlighted Donovan's past legal issues, and he went down in a 70-30 landslide.
● Hennepin County, MN Prosecutor: Martha Holton Dimick, who recently retired as a county judge, announced Wednesday that she was joining the open seat race for Hennepin County prosecutor. "As much as I valued my time on the bench, the murder of George Floyd and dramatic increase in violence in my North Minneapolis community changed my perspective," she said, adding, "We need a leader who is willing to put community safety over politics when prosecuting criminals, and hold police accountable when they use excessive force and violate public trust."
● Suffolk County, MA District Attorney: Incumbent Kevin Hayden, whom Republican Gov. Charlie Baker appointed to this post last month after Rachael Rollins left to become Massachusetts' U.S. attorney, announced Wednesday that he'd compete in the September Democratic primary for a full four-year term in this overwhelmingly blue county. Hayden faces an intra-party challenge from Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who has pledged to keep in place many of the reforms instituted by Rollins. The Boston Globe said that Hayden, by contrast, "seems poised to strike a middle ground between a traditional prosecutor and a 'progressive' such as Rollins."
● Where Are They Now?: The Georgia Board of Regents on Tuesday unanimously voted to name former Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican who served from 2003 to 2011 and later became Donald Trump's secretary of agriculture, as the sole finalist to become chancellor of the University System of Georgia. The body will hold a final vote in two weeks, but while Perdue's critics, including the American Association of University Professors, have denounced him as unqualified, there's no question that it will formally name him to the post.