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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● PA Redistricting: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted a new congressional map on Wednesday, choosing a plan put forth by a group of voters supported by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Four Democratic justices voted in favor of the map while one Democrat joined the court's two Republicans in opposition. In so doing, the court rejected the recommendation of a Republican trial court judge who had advised picking the map passed by GOP lawmakers but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. The court also reinstated the candidate filing deadline, which had temporarily been stayed, for March 15.
Like the map it replaces—which the Supreme Court itself drew in 2018 after striking down the previous map as an unconstitutional Republican gerrymander—the new plan features nine districts that Joe Biden would have won, six of them convincingly, three of them narrowly. And with the state losing a seat thanks to reapportionment, the number of seats Trump would have carried falls from nine to eight, with the axe falling on the dark red but underpopulated 12th District in the north-central part of the state.
The unlucky Republican holding that seat is the obscure Fred Keller, elected in a 2019 special election. His turf is now divvied up among three other districts, with a 45% plurality winding up in the new 15th, 38% in the 9th, and the balance in the 13th. Keller responded by saying he’d seek re-election in the safely red 9th, which would pit him against fellow Republican Rep. Dan Meuser. Meuser would start off with a considerable geographic advantage, since he represents 66% of the redrawn 9th while Keller represents just 34%.
Meanwhile, the one Democrat who's probably unhappy with the new map is Rep. Susan Wild, in the perpetually swingy 7th District in the Allentown area. Her district swaps some territory with the Scranton-centric 8th District to its north, with the 8th picking up more of light-blue Monroe County but the 7th taking on the small but much redder Carbon County.
The overall effect is that Wild's district gets a little redder, going from 52-47 Biden under the old lines to 50-49 on the new map, but that could end up being the difference in a close race in a tough midterm. The 8th, the lone Trump-won district held by a Democrat, Matt Cartwright, improved in a corresponding way, shifting from 52-47 Trump to a narrower 51-48 Trump edge.
There's also a lone Republican in a Biden district, Brian Fitzpatrick in the 1st District in suburban Philadelphia. His seat, however, barely changed at all, staying at 52-47 Biden. The only other Republican who is likely to face trouble in the coming years is Scott Perry in the Harrisburg-area 10th, though he too experienced little change in his district, which goes from 51-48 Trump to 51-47.
The remaining swingy district is the 17th in Pittsburgh's suburbs, which Democrat Conor Lamb is vacating to run for Senate. While many Democrats worried the district would end up much redder, the new map manages to improve it slightly, taking it from 51-48 Biden to 52-46. Surprisingly, it does so without taking a bite out of Pittsburgh proper. Instead, it reaches over to Pittsburgh's east to pick up some suburbs with large Black populations. This shifts the former 18th District (now numbered the 12th) a bit to the right, but this Pittsburgh-based seat—which is also open, because of Mike Doyle's retirement—remains safely blue.
● The 2022 election season officially gets underway on Tuesday with Texas' primaries, so we're previewing all of the key races with Daily Kos Elections editor Jeff Singer on this week's episode of The Downballot. The roster includes progressive Jessica Cisneros' second attempt at booting conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cueller in the 28th District, plus the absolutely gonzo GOP primary targeting still-under-indictment Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Co-host David Beard also recounts how North Carolina's powerful Republican House speaker got screwed by Madison Cawthorn, then tried to screw Cawthorn back, only for them to both get screwed when the courts rejected the GOP's congressional map a second time. David Nir, meanwhile, says good riddance to Nick Kristof and wonders, "What happens if you held a special election and nobody came?" You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.
● NC Redistricting: The replacement congressional map approved last week by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature ended up having a very short and unhappy life: On Wednesday, a three-judge panel struck down the map as, once more, an impermissible partisan gerrymander. Instead, the court substituted yet another new map, this time drawn by a trio of special masters. However, it's not the last word, as the state Supreme Court will still need to sign off.
Should it stand, though, the special masters' map, remarkably, is something we haven’t seen in North Carolina in a long time: a generally fair and balanced plan that’s closely divided in a manner similar to statewide presidential numbers. It has seven districts that Joe Biden would have won (though one of them just barely) and seven that Donald Trump would have carried in 2020. That’s an improvement from the GOP map that just got set aside, which featured just five Biden districts.
The new map retains the 2nd, 4th, and 12th as safely Democratic districts. It also restores Kathy Manning’s 6th District in the Greensboro area to blue status: It would have voted 56-43 for Biden but would have gone narrowly for Trump under the prior map. However, the map stands pat on the 1st District in eastern North Carolina where Democratic G.K. Butterfield is retiring, keeping the seat at 53-46 Biden.
In addition, the new map bumps up the Democratic vote share in the 13th and 14th districts, both of which were narrowly Trump-won under last week’s map. The 13th in Raleigh’s southern suburbs remains a very swingy district, now at 50-48 Biden. The newly formed 14th, meanwhile, now takes an even bigger bite out of Charlotte, and clocks in at 57-41 Biden, which makes it very unlikely that a serious Republican candidate (such as state House speaker Tim Moore, who’d expressed interest in running for the previous version of the 14th) emerges here.
The one disadvantage for Democrats is that the 7th district in the Wilmington area, which the new map turned into a district that Biden won by a fraction of a point, is back to being a red district at 56-43 Trump.
The court also approved new legislative maps passed by the legislature, though these too face further review by the Supreme Court.
● AZ-Sen: In his first TV ad of the cycle, Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly tells the audience about his family's financial struggles when he was growing up and declares, "I know that Arizona families are working hard to get by right now, and that's why I won't give up on getting our economy back on track and lowering every day costs."
● PA-Sen: Politico reports that businessman Jeff Bartos' allies at Jobs for Our Future are spending $2 million on a 10-week ad campaign promoting him and going after two of his opponents in the May Republican primary, former hedge fund manager David McCormick and TV personality Mehmet Oz. The ad shows animations of the pair "parachuting into Pennsylvania" before arguing that Bartos, who was the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, is the "one real conservative in this race who actually lives here."
● WI-Sen: Republican incumbent Ron Johnson continues to pander to the state's conservative base in a new ad where he proclaims, "Instead of being impartial, media outlets have become advocates for the Democrat [sic] Party."
● GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue is spending at least $600,000 on his new ad campaign for the May Republican primary, but he had to quickly edit his spot after Gov. Brian Kemp's team pointed out that it featured a photo of the challenger shaking hands with Grady Sanford, a former Forsyth County chief deputy who was charged with child pornography. Perdue's consultant said that the image came from an event that took place well over a year before Sanford was arrested and called what happened a "b-roll mistake."
● HI-Gov: Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi this week became the first notable Republican to enter the race to lead this very blue state. Tsuneyoshi was elected to the nine-member body in 2018, and she's made a name for herself as a critic of the long-controversial multi-billion dollar Honolulu Rail Transit Project.
● RI-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association has endorsed incumbent Dan McKee in the September primary.
● CA-13: Phil Arballo, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee in the old 22nd District, has earned the endorsement of SEIU California in the June top-two primary.
● MI-04: Longtime incumbent Fred Upton is spending $213,000 on his opening TV ad campaign well ahead of the August Republican primary, but his team says he still hasn't committed to running again. The congressman, though, doesn't sound like he plans to go anywhere voluntarily, telling viewers, "If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy. But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I'm asking for your support."
Upton, who voted for impeachment, already faced a Trump-backed challenge from state Rep. Steve Carra in the old 6th District before the new maps were finished, and both Carra and Rep. Bill Huizenga have since announced that they'll campaign for the new 4th. Trump hasn't said if his support for Carra applies to this transformed race, however; Huizenga recently acknowledged to Politico that this is a confusing situation and that "I'm aware that there are people within the organization that are looking at it and are trying to figure that one out."
● MI-13: Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Portia Roberson, who leads a nonprofit, announced this week that she was joining the Democratic primary for this safely blue Detroit-based seat. Roberson previously served in the Detroit city government and in the Obama-era Department of Justice, and this appears to be her first run for office.
● MN-01: State Republican Party chair David Hahn has announced that there will not be an endorsement convention ahead of the special May primary to succeed the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn, saying, "As part of reorganizing our party units due to redistricting following the U.S. Census, last week I dissolved all of our legislative and congressional district party units to prepare for reapportionment. These party units currently have no authority to conduct business and will need to be reconstituted in order to do so."
Hahn, though, added that a convention will take place in April for the new two-year term in the redrawn 1st District. This constituency didn't change much following redistricting, so presumably all the major candidates running for the full term will also compete in the special.
● NJ-02: 2020 Democratic nominee Amy Kennedy has endorsed civil rights lawyer Tim Alexander, a move that takes her out of contention for a rematch against Republican incumbent Jeff Van Drew. The congressman ended December with a massive $966,000 to $17,000 cash-on-hand lead in a coastal South Jersey seat where redistricting increased Donald Trump's margin from 51-48 to 52-47.
● NY-01: Nick LaLota, who serves as the Suffolk County Legislature's chief of staff, entered the Republican primary last week for this open seat and immediately earned the unanimous endorsement of the county GOP's executive committee; the local Conservative Party also says it plans to back him. Democrats transformed this eastern Long Island district from a 51-47 Trump constituency to one that would have favored Biden 55-44.
LaLota served as the GOP's county elections commissioner last cycle when he tried to challenge vulnerable Democratic state Sen. John Brooks, but things went horribly wrong for him and his party. A judge disqualified LaLota, who was the one Republican to file, by ruling that his position as an elections commissioner created a conflict of interest for the candidate, and Brooks won without opposition after the state's highest court ruled that the GOP couldn't nominate someone else. LaLota gave up his post on the elections board earlier this year to become chief of staff to the new head of the county legislature.
● NY-16: Yonkers Public Works Commissioner Tom Meier tells Jewish Insider that he'd decided to back Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi's planned Democratic primary bid against freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman rather than run himself. The congressman, for his part, earned an endorsement this week from the Working Families Party, which supported him in his successful 2020 intra-party bid against longtime incumbent Eliot Engel.
● OH-11: Rep. Shontel Brown on Tuesday received the support of Cleveland's new mayor, Justin Bibb, in her Democratic primary rematch against former state Sen. Nina Turner.
● PA-07: Republican state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie declared Tuesday, one day before the new congressional map was released, that he'd decided to remain in the legislature. Mackenzie filed with the FEC back in November for a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, but as we like to remind readers, setting up a fundraising committee and actually announcing a campaign are not the same thing.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's contests:
CT HD-71: Republican Bill Pizzuto decisively held this seat for his party by beating Democrat John Egan 74-26: Donald Trump won 55-41 here in 2016, and our preliminary data show him carrying the district 52-47 in 2020. The chamber now will now have a 96-54 Democratic majority, with one Democratic-held seat vacant.
KY HD-42: Over in Kentucky there was no question that Democrat Keturah Herron would hold HD-42, a Louisville seat that was the bluest district in the state in 2016, but she will make state history as the first LGBTQ person elected to the legislature while out. The only other LGBTQ member was Democratic state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, who came out as gay in a 2003 speech; Scorsone won re-election the next year without opposition and resigned in 2008 when then-Gov. Steve Beshear appointed him to the judgeship he continues to hold. Herron herself prevailed Tuesday 94-6 to take a seat in a chamber the GOP controls 75-25.