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.
● MI-03: Attorney Hillary Scholten announced Tuesday that she would seek a rematch against Republican Rep. Peter Meijer in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, a Grand Rapids-based constituency that the state's new map transformed from a 51-47 Trump seat to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45. Meijer ran just ahead of the top of the ticket in his first bid for Congress in 2020 and beat Scholten 53-47 in a very expensive open seat race in this historically Republican area, but he has more immediate problems ahead of him before he can fully focus on another bout.
The incumbent was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, which is why Trump is backing conservative commentator John Gibbs' bid to deny Meijer renomination in the August primary. Gibbs, though, didn't do a particularly good job winning over furious MAGA donors during his opening quarter: Meijer outraised him $455,000 to $50,000, with Gibbs self-funding an additional $55,000. As a result, the congressman ended 2021 with a massive $1.2 million to $85,000 cash-on-hand lead. (A few other candidates are also competing in the GOP primary, but none of them had more than $3,000 to spend.)
Despite his huge financial advantage, however, Meijer will still need to watch his back in August. He currently represents just half of the revamped 3rd District, meaning there are many new voters he'll have to introduce himself to. Trump and his allies can also make plenty of trouble for Meijer over the next six months even if Gibbs' fundraising woes continue.
Scholten, for her part, is Team Blue's first notable candidate in a region that, in more than a century, has only once sent a Democrat to the House. The story of that upset begins in 1948, when a Navy veteran named Gerald Ford decisively unseated Rep. Bartel Jonkman, an ally of the powerful political boss Frank McKay, in the GOP primary for what was numbered the 5th District at the time. Ford, who eventually rose to House minority leader, never fell below 60% of the vote in any of his general election campaigns. When Richard Nixon tapped him to replace the disgraced Spiro Agnew as vice president in 1973, Republicans there anticipated they'd have no trouble holding his seat.
The unfolding Watergate scandal, though, gave Democrats the chance to pull off an upset of the ages early the next year. The party nominated Richard Vander Veen, who had badly lost to Ford in 1958, while the GOP opted for state Senate Majority Leader Robert Vander Laan. Vander Veen, though, gained traction by focusing his campaign on the beleaguered Nixon, reminding voters that Ford would take over if Nixon left the White House. In one memorable newspaper ad, Vander Veen castigated Nixon while tying himself to Ford, arguing, "Our President must stand beyond the shadow of doubt. Our President must be Gerald Ford."
Ford himself put in just one appearance for Vander Laan in a campaign that almost every observer still expected him to win, even if only by a small margin. Vander Veen, however, pulled off a 51-44 victory in what is still remembered as one of the biggest special election upsets in American history. Ford did become president months later after Nixon resigned, but thanks to the Watergate wave, Vander Veen won a full term 53-43 in November.
His tenure would be short, however. In 1976, as Ford was carrying Michigan during his unsuccessful re-election campaign against Jimmy Carter, Republican Harold Sawyer unseated Vander Veen 53-46. Ever since then, the GOP has continued to win each incarnation of whichever congressional district has been centered around Ground Rapids. The region momentarily slipped from the GOP's grasp in 2019 when five-term Rep. Justin Amash left the GOP to become an independent (and later a Libertarian), but he ultimately retired the next year. Meijer's win over Scholten kept Team Red's long winning streak going, but a combination of redistricting, the area's ongoing shift to the left, and intra-GOP troubles could give Scholten the chance to score a historic win this fall.
● LA Redistricting: Lawmakers in Louisiana's Republican-run state Senate have introduced several different congressional redistricting proposals as well as one plan for the upper chamber ahead of a special legislative session that was set to begin on Tuesday evening. The plans will be made available here. No maps have yet been released for the state House.
● NY Redistricting: New York's Democratic-run state legislature introduced new draft maps for both the state Senate and Assembly late on Monday, a day after releasing their proposal for the state's congressional districts. Lawmakers will reportedly take up the new maps this week.
● AZ-Sen: The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights takes a look at the August GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, and it shows Attorney General Mark Brnovich leading retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire 25-11. OH's last poll, conducted in November, had Brnovich up by a similar 27-12 spread. The new survey also includes a scenario where Gov. Doug Ducey runs, which finds him beating Brnovich by a 35-13 margin.
● FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Suffolk University is out with its first poll of Florida's Senate and gubernatorial races, and it finds both Republicans starting out with the lead. Sen. Marco Rubio defeats Democratic Rep. Val Demings 49-41, which is similar to the 51-44 advantage St. Pete Polls found in late November. (Believe it or not, no one has released numbers during the intervening period.)
In the contest for governor, incumbent Ron DeSantis outpaces Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 49-43 and 51-40, respectively. St. Pete Polls' last survey had DeSantis beating the pair 51-45 and 51-42; neither poll tested the third notable Democrat in the race, state Sen. Annette Taddeo.
● NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján's office put out a statement Tuesday revealing that the senator had "suffered a stroke" on Thursday and "subsequently underwent decompressive surgery to ease swelling." It continued, "He is currently being cared for at UNM Hospital, resting comfortably, and expected to make a full recovery."
● PA-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized a new poll from Data for Progress that shows him outpacing Rep. Conor Lamb 46-16 in the May Democratic primary, with state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta at 12%. Our last look at this contest came in the form of a mid-December GQR survey for Kenyatta that had him trailing Fetterman 44-20, though the poll argued the state representative would pick up more support after voters learned more about each candidate.
● GA-Gov: Donald Trump stars in a rare direct-to-camera appeal for former Sen. David Perdue, who is spending $150,000 on this opening spot for the May Republican primary, and it's just pretty much the TV version of one of his not-tweets.
Trump immediately spews as much vitriol as he can at the man Perdue is trying to unseat as well as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee by claiming, "The Democrats walked over Brian Kemp. He was afraid of Stacey 'The Hoax' Abrams. Brian Kemp let us down. We can't let it happen again." He goes on to say, "David Perdue is an outstanding man. He's tough. He's smart. He has my complete and total endorsement."
● MI-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hauled in $2.5 million from Oct. 21 through Dec. 31 and had $9.9 million to spend at the close of 2021, which left her with a far larger war chest than any of her Republican foes.
The governor also transferred $3.5 million to the state Democratic Party, money she was able to raise without any contribution limits thanks to multiple Republican efforts to recall her from office. Because those recalls all failed to qualify for the ballot, Whitmer was required to disgorge those additional funds, though the party can use that money to boost her re-election campaign. (A GOP suit challenging Michigan's rule allowing recall targets to raise unlimited sums was recently rejected.)
Things didn't go nearly as well for former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who looked like the Republican frontrunner when he announced his campaign back in July. Craig raised $600,000 but spent $700,000, and he had $845,000 on-hand. Wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, by contrast, raised a mere $5,000 from donors but self-funded $2 million, and his $1.5 million war chest was the largest of anyone running in the August GOP primary.
Two other Republicans, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, took in $250,000 and $150,000, respectively, while Soldano led Dixon in cash-on-hand $315,000 to $96,000. A fifth GOP candidate, businessman Perry Johnson, entered the race last week after the new fundraising period began, but he's pledged to self-fund $2.5 million.
● MN-Gov: Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek declared Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. He joins an intra-party battle that includes state Sen. Michelle Benson, former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, former state Sen. Scott Jensen, dermatologist Neil Shah, and healthcare executive Kendall Qualls, who was the GOP's 2020 nominee for the 3rd Congressional District.
Minnesota Morning Take reports that Stanek, just like all the other notable GOP candidates, will, in local parlance, "abide" by the endorsement process at the Republican convention in May. That means that none intend to continue on to the party's August primary if someone else wins the support of 60% of delegates required to earn the official Republican stamp of approval. Stanek launched his campaign hours before the start of precinct caucuses, which are the first step towards selecting convention delegates, so it may be too late for any other Republicans to get in if they want a shot at the endorsement.
Stanek, who previously served in the Minneapolis Police Department, is a longtime politician who got his start in the state House in 1995 and resigned from the chamber in 2003 when Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed him state public safety commissioner. Stanek quit his new post the next year after acknowledging he'd used racial slurs during a 1989 deposition that took place after he was accused of police brutality (Minnesota Public Radio reported in 2004 that this was "one of three police brutality lawsuits brought against him"), but the scandal did not spell the end of his political career.
Stanek made a comeback by pulling off a landslide win in the officially nonpartisan 2006 race for sheriff of deep-blue Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis), and he had no trouble holding it in the following two elections. The sheriff's base in the state's most populous county made him an appealing candidate for governor in 2018, but Stanek opted to seek a fourth term instead. His luck finally ran out in that Democratic wave year, though, and he lost a very tight race for re-election.
● OH-Gov: Former state Rep. Ron Hood, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod in last year's special election for Ohio's 15th Congressional District, has now set his sights on the Buckeye State's gubernatorial race. Hood, described by cleveland.com as "among the most conservative lawmakers" in the legislature, joins former Rep. Jim Renacci in challenging Gov. Mike DeWine, potentially splitting the anti-incumbent vote in the race for the Republican nomination. He didn't make much of an impact running for Congress, though, finishing third with 13% in the primary.
Financially, though, DeWine doesn't have too much to worry about. New fundraising reports, covering the second half of 2021, show the governor raised $3.3 million and had $9.2 million in the bank. Renacci, meanwhile, brought in just $149,000 from donors, though he self-funded an additional $4.8 million and had $4.1 million left to spend.
On the Democratic side, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley outraised former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley $1.3 million to $1 million, but the two campaigns had comparable sums on hand: $1.8 million for Whaley and $1.9 million for Cranley.
● RI-Gov: The declared candidates in Rhode Island's race for governor—all of whom, so far, are Democrats—just filed fundraising reports covering the final quarter of last year, showing Gov. Dan McKee with a narrow cash lead. McKee brought in $176,000 and finished with $844,000 banked. Figures for his three main opponents are below:
- former CVS executive Helena Foulkes: $971,000 raised, $100,000 self-funded, $831,000 cash-on-hand
- Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea: $162,000 raised, $770,000 cash-on-hand
- former Secretary of State Matt Brown: $63,000 raised, $38,000 cash-on-hand
● CO-07: State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who earned the backing of retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter last week, now has endorsements from Colorado's other three Democratic U.S. House members: Reps. Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse, and Jason Crow.
● GA-07: Rep. Lucy McBath's allies at Protect our Future, a new super PAC funded in part by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, have released a Data for Progress survey of the May Democratic primary that shows her with a 40-31 edge over fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux, with state Rep. Donna McLeod a distant third at 6%. The only other poll we've seen here was a mid-December McBath internal from 20/20 Insight that gave her a far larger 40-19 advantage over Bourdeaux.
This may end up being the most expensive incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary of the cycle, especially if it goes to a runoff. McBath outraised Bourdeaux $735,000 to $430,000 during the fourth quarter, but both had sizable campaign accounts at the end of 2021: $2.5 million for McBath and $2 million for Bourdeaux. McLeod did not have a fundraising report available on the FEC site as of Tuesday evening.
● IN-09: State Rep. J. Michael Davisson declared Tuesday that he was joining the May Republican primary for this very red open seat. Davisson, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, was appointed to the legislature last fall to succeed his late father, and this appears to be his first run for office. Indiana's filing deadline is on Feb. 4, so the field will take final shape before long.
● MI-04: State Rep. Steve Carra has decided to test how "Complete and Total" Donald Trump's endorsement really is by announcing a campaign for Michigan's new 4th District, a move that sets him up for a very different primary than the one he originally got into. Carra picked up Trump's support back in September when he was waging an intra-party campaign in the old 6th District against Rep. Fred Upton, who'd voted for impeachment months before. Upton still hasn't confirmed if he'll run in the new 4th, but fellow GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga very much has. Carra unsurprisingly focused on Upton in his relaunch, though he argued, "It doesn't matter whether there's one or two status quo Republicans in the race."
The state representative, for his part, says he grew up in the southwest Michigan district, which would have backed Trump 51-47, though his legislative district is entirely located in the new 5th District. (Republican Rep. Tim Walberg is campaigning there, and he's unlikely to face any serious intra-party opposition.) Carra himself has spent his first year in the GOP-dominated state House pushing bills that have gone nowhere, including a resolution demanding that the U.S. House "adopt a resolution disavowing the January 2021 impeachment of President Donald J. Trump or expel [California] U.S. Representative Maxine Waters for continuing to incite violence."
Upton, meanwhile, seems content to keep everyone guessing about whether he'll actually be on the ballot this year. The congressman initially said he'd decide whether to run once more in January, but the month ended without any resolution. Upton told a local radio station on Jan. 25 that he was looking to see if the new map survives a court challenge, but he also said to expect a decision "in the coming days."
If Upton does run, he'd begin with a modest edge over his fellow incumbent in the cash race. Upton took in $720,000 during the final quarter of 2021 compared to $395,000 for Huizenga and ended the year with a $1.5 million to $1.1 million cash-on-hand lead. Carra, meanwhile, raised $130,000 and had $205,000 available.
● MI-11: Rep. Haley Stevens has released an internal poll from Impact Research that gives her a 42-35 lead over fellow incumbent Andy Levin in their August Democratic primary, the first numbers we've seen of the race. Stevens raised $625,000 in the fourth quarter compared to $335,000 for Levin (who self-funded another $30,000), and she went into the new year with nearly $2 million on-hand compared to $1.1 million for her opponent.
● MS-04: State Sen. Chris McDaniel told the conservative site Y'All Politics on Monday that he still hasn't ruled out a primary challenge to Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, who is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. The two-time U.S. Senate candidate argued, "My polling numbers are stronger than they've ever been, so I'm keeping all of my options open at this time."
Several other notable Republicans, including state Sen. Brice Wiggins, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell, and banker Clay Wagner, are already taking on Palazzo in the June 7 contest, where it takes a majority of the vote to avert a runoff that would be held three weeks later. The candidate filing deadline is March 1.
● RI-02: Former state Sen. James Sheehan said Tuesday that he'd stay out of the Democratic primary for this open seat.
● SC-07: Donald Trump on Tuesday threw his backing behind state Rep. Russell Fry's intra-party challenge to Rep. Tom Rice, who voted for impeachment after the Jan. 6 attack, in the crowded June Republican primary. The congressman responded, "I'm glad he's chosen someone. All the pleading to Mar-a-Lago was getting a little embarrassing." Rice continued, "I'm all about Trump's policy. But absolute pledge of loyalty, to a man that is willing to sack the Capitol to keep his hold on power is more than I can stomach."
● TX-26: There's little indication that 10-term Rep. Michael Burgess, who is perhaps one of the most obscure members of Congress, is in any danger in his March 1 Republican primary for this safely red seat in Fort Worth's northern exurbs, but the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek notes that he does face an opponent with the ability to self-fund. Businesswoman Raven Harrison loaned herself $210,000, which represented every penny she brought in during the fourth quarter, and she ended 2021 with $127,000 on-hand. Burgess, meanwhile, took in just $150,000, and he finished the quarter with $290,000 available.
● TX-35: Former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran has picked up the support of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is retiring this year after more than two decades in charge of this populous county, ahead of the March 1 Democratic primary. ("County judges" in Texas are not judicial officials but rather are equivalent to county executives in other states.)