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.
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● NC Redistricting: A three-judge panel has until Feb. 23 to decide whether the new North Carolina congressional and legislative boundaries passed late on Thursday meet the standards the state Supreme Court set when it rejected the GOP's original plans as "unlawful partisan gerrymanders" and ordered new ones, and as we'll discuss in this guide to the new(est) congressional map, it remains something of a Republican-friendly gerrymander while still creating several potential battlegrounds. Candidate filing for the May primary is scheduled to begin Feb. 24 and end March 4, though court action could again disrupt this timeline.
Democrats currently control only five of the state's 13 congressional districts, and even with the state gaining a 14th seat, a bad midterm could leave Team Blue with fewer members than they have now. However, this map has a surprisingly high number of competitive seats: In an especially good Democratic year, this could potentially turn into a map where each party holds seven districts—or, if absolutely every card gets played right, an outright eight-to-six Democratic majority.
Based on Dave's Redistricting App data for the newly passed map, Democrats start with three very safe Democratic seats: Deborah Ross' 2nd District in Raleigh; the open 4th in Durham and Chapel Hill, where David Price is not seeking re-election; and Alma Adams' 12th in Charlotte. McClatchy’s Danielle Battaglia, who is tracking candidate announcements under this map, reports that singer Clay Aiken and Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam have confirmed that they’ll continue their campaigns to seek the Democratic nod in the new 4th. Allam had $245,000 in the bank in December, while Aiken got into the race last month.
There is also the light-blue 1st in eastern North Carolina where Rep. G.K. Butterfield is retiring, which joins towns like Greenville, Rocky Mount, and Wilson and would have favored Biden 53-46; this district has the highest African American percentage in the state, though it still has a 49-42 white plurality. The GOP originally tried to make this seat much more vulnerable to a pickup: Biden won the old 1st 54-45, while the now-defunct GOP map (which renumbered this the 2nd District) dropped his margin to 51-48. Battaglia writes that on the Democratic side, former state Sen. Erica Smith says she’s still in to succeed Butterfield: Smith, who had been running for the U.S. Senate until the fall, had $97,000 to spend at the end of the last quarter.
Finally, there is one other district that Biden would have carried, but only just. The new 7th, which he would have won 49.4-49.0, joins together the odd combination of coastal college town/resort town Wilmington and inland military outpost Fayetteville. Republican Rep. David Rouzer represents just over half this new seat, but since he's never had to win in turf this blue, it's possible he'll instead barge into the adjacent 13th in Raleigh's southern suburbs. The 13th has no incumbent running there, though unfortunately for Rouzer, it's still potentially competitive at 50-48 Trump; Rouzer finished the last quarter with $1.4 million in the bank.
The 7th District Democratic field includes Steve Miller, who lost a 2020 bid for the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners; he ended 2021 with $163,000 on hand, almost all of it self-funded. Over in the 13th, Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel, who had been campaigning to succeed Price, announced Friday he’d run here if this map is implemented for 2022. Nickel, who has been self-funding a portion of his campaign, had $379,000 available at the close of December.
For the GOP, two people who had kicked off campaigns last year for the now-defunct 4th District, party activist DeVan Barbour and Army veteran Alan Swain, each say they’ll also run for the new 13th. Swain, who badly lost a 2020 bid against Ross in the old 2nd, ended 2021 with $263,000 on hand after self-funding $250,000, while Barbour had $154,000 to spend.
That leaves one other member of the Democratic caucus: Rep. Kathy Manning, who will most likely run in the new 6th District, which covers Greensboro but also rural areas to its south, and would have gone for Trump by a tiny 49.4-49.2. Manning, for her part, said Friday she'd wait for the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the map before making any decisions, and she had $956,000 amassed through December to defend herself.
Two Republicans have announced bids for the new 6th: former Rep. Renee Ellmers and former North Carolina State University football player Bo Hines, who has the backing of the Club for Growth. Hines, who began running for a seat in Congress in January of last year and has self-funded a majority of his campaign, had $397,000 available, while Ellmers had just $9,000 to spend after a few weeks in the race for the struck-down 4th.
The final competitive district is the new 14th, which includes Gastonia and Charlotte's western suburbs and would have supported Trump 49.4-49.1. There's no Republican incumbent, and state House Speaker Tim Moore would likely run here if he seeks a promotion to Congress in 2022; Moore says he won’t make any decisions until the courts rule on the legality of the new map.
The other remaining Republicans all keep their dark-red districts: Greg Murphy in the 3rd; Virginia Foxx in the 5th; Richard Hudson in the 8th; Dan Bishop in the 9th; Patrick McHenry in the 10th; and Madison Cawthorn in the 11th. The unaccounted-for Republican member is Senate candidate Ted Budd, who would have been double-bunked with Hudson had he instead run for re-election.
● FL Redistricting: A state House committee voted along party lines to advance a GOP-drawn congressional map that would create 18 districts that would have gone for Donald Trump and just 10 that would have voted for Joe Biden. The state Senate last month passed its own version that has a closer 16-12 split in favor of Trump.
● LA Redistricting: On Friday, Louisiana’s Republican-run legislature finished passing new congressional, state Senate, and state House maps and submitted them to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. The governor has not yet announced if he’ll sign or veto the proposals, though he put out a statement saying, “I remain adamant that the maps should reflect the growth of the African American population in our state over the last 10 years, allowing for minority groups to have an opportunity at electing candidates of their own choosing, and I do have concerns that several of the maps do not fulfill that moral and legal requirement.”
The biggest question is what will happen with the new congressional map, which maintains the status quo of a single majority Black and heavily Democratic district and five predominantly white and safely red constituencies; African Americans make up about a third of the state’s population, but the GOP leadership ignored calls to create a second majority Black seat.
The redistricting bill passed the Senate 27-10, which is one more than the 26 needed to muster a two-thirds supermajority to override an Edwards’ veto, but it cleared the House only 64-31—six votes below the 70 needed for an override in the 105-seat chamber. Five Democrats and four Republicans didn’t vote (one safely blue Democratic-held seat is also vacant), so if all the absent members sided with their party’s leadership, the GOP would still need to switch two votes in order to implement the map over Edwards’ objections.
Altogether three Republicans—Gabe Firment, Beryl Amedee, and Caucus Chairman Blake Miguez—voted no along with Roy Adams, who is one the chamber’s three independents, while Francis Thompson was the lone Democrat to support the map. The three GOP naysayers, though, weren’t motivated by disgust with partisan or racial gerrymandering: Firment angrily protested that his constituents in Grant Parish would be divided between two seats, while Amedee and Miguez were likewise unhappy that St. Mary and St. Martin parishes would each be split. Thompson, for his part, explained he was crossing party lines because he feared a second Black majority seat would endanger his constituent, 5th District GOP Rep. Julia Letlow.
Republicans, if an override vote is needed, would unquestionably apply a great deal of pressure on their three dissenting members, but one of them sounds like he’ll need a lot of persuasion. Firment, who complained that he felt the Grant Parish split was devised “in the dark of night” without his input, told The Advocate that he hoped Edwards issued a veto and that he’d “seriously consider” voting to sustain it. State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, who co-authored the map, said that any veto overrides would likely be attempted during the regular legislative session, which is scheduled to start March 14.
The legislative maps, likewise, would help the GOP keep its majorities in what has become a very red state when elections take place in 2023. The House overwhelmingly passed boundaries for its own chamber 82-21, with 12 Democrats in the affirmative; the Senate concurred 25-11, one short of the necessary 26 to override, but with one GOP member absent. (One Republican member voted no because, you guessed it, he was unhappy with how his parish was split.) The Senate’s lines, likewise, cleared the upper chamber 27-12 and the House 65-31, with four absent members of each party; five House Republicans rejected the Senate lines, with one member complaining that his hometown was shifted out of a seat he’s also been thinking of running for.
P.S. Each chamber had previously passed competing congressional boundaries before reaching a compromise, but in an unusual move, the legislature approved two bills with identical maps on Friday. Senate President Page Cortez says this was done because both the final bill’s Senate and House authors’ “wanted credit” for the final product, and that Edwards didn’t object to the “twin bills” arrangement.
● NJ Redistricting: The New Jersey Legislative Apportionment Commission voted 9-2 on Friday to implement a new legislative map to first be used in the 2023 elections, with one Democrat and one Republican (former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., who is currently running for Congress) in opposition.
This is the first time in decades that both parties have settled on a compromise legislative map rather than task the tiebreaking member to choose between competing Democratic- or Republican-drawn boundaries: Monmouth University's Patrick Murray tweets that the last time the tie breaker wasn't needed was in 1971 back when most state senators were still elected to countywide constituencies, a system that was completely abandoned two years later.
● RI Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Dan McKee has signed the new congressional and legislative lines, which make minimal changes to the U.S. House map.
As we've noted before, though, lawmakers 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.
● AZ-Sen: Gov. Doug Ducey is still keeping everyone guessing about whether or not he'll launch a bid ahead of the April filing deadline, and Politico reports, "Three people familiar with Ducey's thinking said he is unlikely to enter the crowded Republican Senate primary, but has still not completely ruled it out."
● OH-Sen: Former state party chair Jane Timken's new ad features her standing with photos of four of her opponents in the May Republican primary, all of whom are men (only state Sen. Matt Dolan isn't included), and saying, "We all know guys who overcompensate for their inadequacies, and that description fits the guys in the Senate race to a T." She then shows a photo of her grinning next to Donald Trump and proclaiming "Well, I'm different. I'm the MAGA conservative with a backbone." Her team tells Fox the spot is part of a six-figure buy.
● AK-Gov: While a media report over the summer said that state Sen. Natasha von Imhof was considering an intra-party challenge to Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy, she said Tuesday that she wouldn't run for anything, including re-election, in 2022.
● NY-Gov: Gov. Kathy Hochul won 86% of the weighted vote at Thursday's state Democratic convention, which both got her the party endorsement and prevented any of her opponents from taking the 25% needed to earn an automatic place on the June primary ballot. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams took 12.5% even though Politico reports that he was "actively working" to get the requisite quarter of the vote, while Rep. Tom Suozzi did not submit his name for consideration; both of Hochul's opponents can still qualify for the ballot as long as they turn in 15,000 valid signatures by the April 7 filing deadline. The governor also picked up an endorsement from Hillary Clinton at that same event.
● OH-Gov: The Ohio Republican Party's state central committee voted 36-26 on Friday to endorse Gov. Mike DeWine in the May primary, which cleveland.com says will make him the only candidate with "access to the state party's voter data, campaign services, field staff support, and bulk-mail permit, among other perks."
● PA-Gov, PA-06: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari tweets that "a number of prominent Republicans are encouraging" Guy Ciarrocchi, who is the former president of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, to drop out of the GOP primary for governor in favor of taking on Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan. Tamari adds, "It's unclear how seriously Ciarrocchi is considering any move to a House campaign."
● TX-Gov: Climate Nexus, in partnership with climate change communication departments at Yale and George Mason University, has conducted a Texas survey that includes a general election question, and it finds Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 45-40. The horserace numbers came after a series of questions about energy and last year's devastating power outage.
● WI-Gov: Republican Tommy Thompson says he'll decide by the end of April whether he'll run against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to reclaim the office he gave up over 20 years ago.
● IL-15: The Illinois Farm Bureau has endorsed Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in this sprawling rural seat even though fellow Rep. Mary Miller, his opponent in the June incumbent vs. incumbent primary, is a farmer.
● MI-10: Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga said Thursday that he would step down from the bench in a few weeks as he considers a bid for the Democratic nomination in this open seat. A recent poll from local firm Target-Insyght gave Marlinga a 48-45 lead over Army veteran John James, who was the GOP's two-time Senate candidate, in a hypothetical general election, little changed from the 46-43 edge it found last month.
● MN-01: Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who was elected in 2018 to represent Minnesota's 1st Congressional District in the southern part of the state, died Friday at the age of 59 after a two-year battle with kidney cancer.
Secretary of State Steve Simon says that state law requires a special election primary take place on May 24 with the general election on Aug. 9, which is the same day as the regular statewide primary; the special election will be held under the congressional lines that have been in place for a decade. Simon adds that candidate filing must also conclude no later than March 15. Hagedorn's constituency used to be very competitive territory in presidential elections, but Donald Trump carried it 54-44 in 2020 as Hagedorn was winning re-election by a considerably smaller 49-46 spread.
Hagedorn was the son of Tom Hagedorn, who was elected to the House himself in 1974 and lost in 1982, and he got his start in 1984 working as a congressional aide for another Minnesota Republican, Arlan Stangeland. Hagedorn, after stints in the Treasury Department and Bureau of Engraving and Printing, decided to run for Congress himself for the first time in the 2010 cycle against Democratic Rep. Tim Walz. He ended his campaign before the primary, though, when he failed to secure the party endorsement at the GOP District Convention, which marked the end of the first of what would be three unsuccessful bids for the House.
Hagedorn tried again in 2014, and while he again dropped out after losing the endorsement, this time he got back in and went on to defeat businessman Aaron Miller 54-46 in the primary. However, while this 50-48 Obama district looked competitive on paper, especially as Team Blue's fortunes continued to suffer nationwide, national Republicans showed little interest in aiding the underfunded Hagedorn against the formidable Walz. It didn't help the challenger when his old offensive writings began to circulate (in one 2002 post, he labeled Washington Sens. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell "undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes"), and he soon lost 54-46.
Hagedorn launched another campaign the next cycle, but major donors and outside groups once again believed that Walz was secure. But this area, which is home to a large working class white electorate, proved to be very amenable to Trump, and his coattails were almost enough to put Hagedorn over the top: Trump carried the 1st 53-38, and Walz only won 50.3-49.7. Hagedorn quickly announced his fourth bid, and his prospects improved after Walz decided to launch what turned out to be a successful campaign for governor rather than seek re-election. Plenty of vocal Republicans were still unhappy with their two-time House nominee, but he defeated state Sen. Carla Nelson first at the party convention and then 60-32 in the primary.
Hagedorn's general election opponent for 2018 was Army veteran Dan Feehan, and this time, both parties quickly identified this as a major battleground. The Republican's allies ran one of the most xenophobic campaigns of the cycle against the Democrat, and the NRCC ran anti-Semitic ad after anti-Semitic ad tying Feehan, who is not Jewish, to philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros. Hagedorn had to run in a hostile national political climate, but this time, the district's move to the right was enough to give him a 50.1-49.7 victory.
Feehan sought a rematch for 2020, and Democrats were encouraged by polls showing Biden in position to return this district to the blue corner and by bad headlines for the new congressman. The Minnesota Reformer first reported that Hagedorn used $110,000 in taxpayer money to pay a company owned by one of his staffers to print constituent mailers, and that his office had also given $340,000 to another firm called Abernathy West for a similar job. And weeks before Election Day, Politico ran the bizarre story detailing how Hagedorn hadn't paid rent on a mysterious office whose owner said didn't actually exist.
However, while Hagedorn did run behind the top of the ticket, Trump's 54-44 win here was enough to get the incumbent to a 49-46 victory. The House Ethics Committee announced last year that it was probing Hagedorn, and the investigation appeared to be related to the stories that broke during his last campaign. No serious Democrats, though, had shown any public interest in taking on the congressman this cycle.
● TX-08: The Congressional Leadership Fund is spending what Fox says is $600,000 on its first-ever TV ad campaign in a Republican primary in support of Navy SEAL veteran Morgan Luttrell. The narrator says the candidate "[f]ought bravely in two [wars]; nine combat deployments. Make that 10 after we send Morgan Luttrell to Congress." (Yes, the GOP leadership's super PAC is really likening serving in Congress to serving in war.) The commercial, which goes on to praise Luttrell as a pro-Trump conservative who will "crush the woke mob," does not mention political operative Christian Collins, his main intra-party rival in the March 1 contest.
● TX-08: Army veteran Ruben Ramirez has earned an endorsement from Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who represents over two-thirds of this new constituency but is running in the neighboring 34th District, in the March 1 Democratic primary. Ramirez campaigned for the old 15th District when it was last open in 2016 but took only 6% of the vote in the primary that was ultimately won by Gonzalez.
● WY-AL: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has joined Donald Trump in backing attorney Harriet Hageman's August primary challenge to Rep. Liz Cheney, who began the 117th Congress as the third-ranking Republican in the leadership but was ousted months after she voted for impeachment. It's extremely rare for a party leader to side against one of their own incumbents, and CNN says McCarthy reached this point after he convinced the nihilistic Freedom Caucus, whose support he'd need to become speaker, that it would be better to concentrate on denying Cheney renomination rather than ejecting her from the Republican conference.
If Cheney loses this summer, though, it won't be because of a lack of money. The incumbent raised $2 million in the final three months of 2021—a quarterly haul that few other members have ever hit anywhere—while Hageman brought in $443,000. Cheney also ended last year with a lopsided $4.7 million to $381,000 cash-on-hand advantage.