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-17: Tuesday's filing deadline in Pennsylvania finally brought clarity to both parties' May 17 primaries to succeed Democratic Senate candidate Conor Lamb in the 17th District, a constituency in Pittsburgh's western and northern suburbs that Joe Biden would have carried 52-46. Lamb captured a far more conservative version of this seat in a 2018 special election, and he benefited when the state Supreme Court implemented a new map that cycle to replace the earlier GOP gerrymander.
Altogether two Democrats and three Republicans are competing ahead of what will likely be a fiercely contested general election. This race was slow to develop in part because politicos suspected that Lamb's existing seat could be eliminated, or at least radically transformed, when redistricting was complete, but the state Supreme Court last month chose a map that made only small changes to the 17th.
The Democratic side is a duel between Navy veteran Chris Deluzio, who works as policy director at the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, and Sean Meloy, a party operative and official at the LGBTQ Victory Fund who would be the first gay person to represent the state in Congress. Both candidates began running last year well before anyone knew what this seat would look like, and Deluzio finished 2021 with a $166,000 to $113,000 cash-on-hand lead. Meloy on Wednesday, though, unveiled an endorsement from 18th District Rep. Mike Doyle, who is retiring after 28 years representing the city of Pittsburgh.
The Republican contest, meanwhile, is a battle between Jason Killmeyer, a national security analyst who often appears in conservative media; former Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer; and business owner Kathleen Coder. Another Republican, businesswoman Tricia Staible, had announced in October but didn't end up filing, while Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco ended his campaign just prior to the deadline after only a week in the race. None of the three Republicans who ultimately filed were campaigning before 2021.
Both Shaffer and Coder have run for office before, though their last bids did not go well. In 2018, Shaffer unseated state Sen. Randy Vulakovich in the GOP primary but cost his party dearly when he narrowly lost the general election to Democrat Lindsey Williams. Coder, for her part, unsuccessfully challenged Democratic state Rep. Robert Matzie in 2012 and lost 56-44. She then campaigned for lieutenant governor in 2018, but Jeff Bartos lapped her 47-22 in the primary.
Further down below we'll be taking a look at Pennsylvania's other notable statewide and U.S. House races now that filing has closed. Note that Tuesday's deadline did not apply to candidates for the legislature because of litigation over the new maps. On Wednesday, though, the state Supreme Court affirmed that those boundaries were constitutional and set the legislative filing deadline for March 28.
● On this week's episode of The Downballot, we're joined by Daniel Nichanian, editor-in-chief of Bolts Magazine, a new digital magazine devoted to elections that impact voting rights and criminal justice. We discuss far-right efforts to take over local election boards—and the progressives who are using those offices to expand voting rights. We further tackle the huge changes we've seen in recent years in races for district attorney, as well an upcoming recall election of a high-profile progressive reformer in San Francisco.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also analyze how the war in Ukraine is playing out in U.S. elections, the status of redistricting in the five laggard states that have yet to adopt new congressional maps, and a lawsuit challenging whether Oklahoma can hold a special election for the Senate this year. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.
● MD Redistricting: The Maryland Court of Appeals, which is the state's highest court, has postponed the state's primary from June 28 to July 19 as it adjudicates a series of challenges to the new congressional and legislative maps passed by the Democratic-run legislature. The court also moved the candidate filing deadline a second time, from March 22 to April 15; the original deadline of Feb. 22 was extended last month. You can find Daily Kos Elections' complete calendar of 2022 primaries and filing deadlines right here.
● AL-Sen: Rep. Mo Brooks has spent the last several months having to deal with stories about how Donald Trump thinks he's running a poor campaign, but even he may not have been prepared for Trump to publicly muse about yanking his precious endorsement ahead of the May primary. But the GOP master has indeed told David Drucker of the conservative Washington Examiner, "Mo Brooks is disappointing ... I'm determining right now, has Mo Brooks—has he changed?"
Trump's biggest beef with Brooks seems to be over his comments at an August rally where the congressman was booed after telling the audience, "There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Look forward. Look forward."
Brooks himself had helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, but Trump doesn't seem to care much anymore. "I'm disappointed that he gave an inarticulate answer, and I'll have to find out what he means," Trump told Drucker, adding, "If it meant what he sounded like, I would have no problem changing [my endorsement] because when you endorse somebody, you endorse somebody based on principle. If he changed that principle, I would have no problem doing that." Of course, this being Trump, it's very possible he's just looking for an excuse to abandon Brooks before he can embarrass him by losing the primary.
● Colorado: Wednesday was the deadline to file signatures to appear on Colorado's June 28 primary ballot, but it will be a while before we have a full list of contenders. That's because the state allows candidates to reach the ballot either by turning in petitions or by competing at their party conventions, a process we explain here. The secretary of state also needs to verify any petition signatures, which can often take some time. Both major parties' state conventions, also known as party assemblies, are currently scheduled for April 9, while congressional district conventions could take place on other dates.
● NC-Sen: Former Gov. Pat McCrory last week went up with a commercial portraying Rep. Ted Budd, his main rival in the May Republican primary, as a Putin apologist, and the congressman's allies at the Club for Growth are now airing a response spot.
The spot features the clip from McCrory's ad of Budd describing the Russian despot as "a very intelligent actor," before the narrator jumps in and says the former governor "cut the tape." The audience is then treated to Budd continuing, "[a]lthough I'd say he's been quite erratic in his approach," before they hear him express his support for Ukraine and say that "Putin is evil … he's an international thug." The narrator concludes, "Dirty tricks, lying liberal: Pat McCrory should be ashamed."
● OK-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Kevin Hern has confirmed that he'll seek a third term in his safely red 1st District rather than enter the special election for the Senate. Hern originally had looked like a very likely candidate to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe, and an unnamed source even told Read Oklahoma that they "expected" him to announce a bid around March 1. However, the congressman later acknowledged that he was reluctant to give up his coveted spot on the House Ways and Means Committee to run.
● PA-Sen: The latest weird development in the seven-way Republican primary to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey came Tuesday night shortly when Politics PA's Steve Ulrich wrote that TV personality Mehmet Oz said he'd "forego certain security clearances that are provided to all U.S. Senators to keep his dual citizenship with Turkey." Oz's campaign manager responded by denying that the candidate ever said this, but the next day, the candidate declared that he'd renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected, saying, "My dual citizenship has become a distraction in this campaign."
Ulrich explains that there's no rule against dual nationals serving in Congress (famously, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014 after more than a year in office), and senators don't actually have security clearances: Roll Call wrote last year that "members of Congress are by tradition deemed inherently trustworthy by dint of the offices they hold," though they can be punished by their chamber if they divulge classified information.
But Oz, writes Ulrich, "explained that he keeps his Turkish citizenship to care for his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. When queried what he would do if this would disqualify him from security clearances, Oz agreed that he would forego them in this situation." The only direct quote from the candidate is him explaining, "I can love my country and love my mom." The following day, Oz said he'd give up his Turkish citizenship if he won, and he used the occasion to blast David McCormick, the former head of the hedge fund giant Bridgewater and his main primary rival. “The bigoted attacks my opponent Dave McCormick has made against me as the child of immigrants are reminiscent of slurs made in the past about Catholics and Jews,” said Oz.
All of this comes as Oz and McCormick continue to spend massive amounts promoting themselves and attacking one another, but they’re not alone. Jeff Bartos, who was Team Red's nominee for lieutenant governor, has, along with his allies, been running his own commercials attacking Oz and McCormick (who until recently lived in Connecticut and New Jersey, respectively) as outsiders.
The field also includes author Kathy Barnette, an election denier who badly lost to Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean last cycle in the 4th District; former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands; attorney George Bochetto; and attorney Sean Gale, whose brother, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, is also running for governor. A recent poll for Fox News had McCormick leading Oz 24-15, with Bartos and Barnette at 9% each.
Five Democrats are also competing for what is arguably the party's best pickup opportunity in the chamber. The three main contenders are Lt. John Fetterman, who has enjoyed a huge edge in every survey we've seen; Rep. Conor Lamb, who won a closely watched 2018 special election for a red seat in western Pennsylvania; and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who would be the first Black gay senator in the nation. Fetterman and Lamb have been airing TV ads while Kenyatta, who struggled with fundraising last year, has yet to join them.
● WI-Sen: Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry's campaign says he's launched a new 7-figure ad campaign ahead of the August Democratic primary, and his spot is the first we've seen that makes use of NRSC chair Rick Scott's instantly infamous 11-point plan to "rescue America." The narrator says of Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, "Now, he's supporting the Republican plan that phases out Social Security and Medicare, and increases taxes on middle class families." The second half of the spot declares that Lasry wants the very opposite of that.
● AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey has released not one but two different polls showing her with a huge lead over businessman Tim James ahead of the May Republican primary. The Tarrance Group puts her advantage at 61-13, while 1892 Polling gives her an almost identical 60-13 edge.
● ME-Gov: Filing closes Tuesday for Maine's June 14 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here. Instant-runoff voting will be used in the primaries for all offices, but it will only be employed for the general election in federal races.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills faces former Gov. Paul LePage, an extremist Republican who once proclaimed himself "Donald Trump before Donald Trump," in what will be a closely watched general election, and neither of them has any intra-party opposition whatsoever. However, the deadline for independents to file isn't until June 1, so it remains to be seen if they'll have the ballot to themselves. We have not seen any polls here all year.
● NY-Gov: Apparently, Hell is Andrew Cuomo perpetually mulling a comeback. CNBC's Brian Schwartz reports that the disgraced former governor, who has spent over $2 million on ads trying to rehabilitate his image, is considering launching a late Democratic primary bid against his successor, Kathy Hochul; the April 7 filing deadline draws mercifully closer.
● PA-Gov: Attorney General Josh Shapiro has no intra-party opposition at all in his quest to succeed his fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Tom Wolf, while no fewer than 10 Republicans have filed.
A recent poll for Fox found the GOP primary very wide open with former Rep. Lou Barletta, who badly lost the 2018 Senate race to Democratic incumbent Bob Casey, posting a tiny 19-18 edge over state Sen. Doug Mastriano, an ardent election denier who was filmed on Jan. 6 apparently passing breached barricades at the Capitol. Not far behind with 14% was self-funding businessman Dave White, who lost re-election to the Delaware County Council in 2017, while former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain and state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman took 11% and 6%, respectively.
Also in the mix are Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale; longtime party strategist Charlie Gerow; attorney Jason Richey; physician Nche Zama; and former Rep. Melissa Hart, who lost re-election in western Pennsylvania all the way back in 2006.
P.S. A Shapiro victory in November would mark the first time that either party has won a third consecutive term in the governor's office in a very long time. In 1954, when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, Democrat George Leader won an open seat race ending 16 years of Republican rule that spanned five governorships. For the next several decades each party controlled the post for two terms only to lose it to the other side for eight years; this streak finally came to an end in 2014 when Wolf decisively denied a second term to the horrifically unpopular Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
According to the University of Minnesota, Shapiro would also be the first Keystone State Democrat to score a third consecutive gubernatorial win for the party since 1847, when James Polk was president and the state's terms lasted for just three years: Eric Ostermeier wrote that Team Blue's particular "Three-Peat" drought has lasted in Pennsylvania "more than 100 years longer than [in] any other state."
● CO-07: EMILY's List has endorsed state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who doesn't have any serious intra-party opposition in sight in the June Democratic primary.
● FL-20: While former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief said in December that she was "more than likely" to seek a Democratic primary rematch against Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who won a very tight nomination fight the previous month, Politico's Matt Dixon now reports that Sharief could launch a primary challenge to state Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book.
● ME-02: Rep. Jared Golden faces a rematch against Republican Bruce Poliquin, whom the Democrat narrowly unseated during the 2018 blue wave (Poliquin still refuses to acknowledge his defeat in that ranked-choice general election), in a northern Maine seat that Trump would have carried 52-45. The only other Republican in the primary is Liz Caruso, a longtime opponent of the Central Maine Power hydropower corridor project, but she had a mere $16,000 to spend at the end of last year; another Republican, state Rep. Mike Perkins, decided to drop out and run for the state Senate instead.
● MN-01: Filing also closed Tuesday for the special election to succeed Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died last month, in southern Minnesota's 1st District, and a total of 10 Republicans, eight Democrats, and two third-party candidates (Haroun McClellan of the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party and Richard Reisdorf of the similarly named Legal Marijuana Now Party) are in.
The special primary will take place May 24 using the district lines that have been in place for a decade, while the general election will be Aug. 9. The filing deadline for the new two-year term will be May 31, while the statewide primary will also be on Aug. 9. Trump carried the existing 1st 54-44, while he would have taken the new version of the seat by a similar 53-44 spread.
The Republican who has attracted the most outside attention so far is Hagedorn's widow, former state party chair Jennifer Carnahan, though she has more than her share of detractors. A wide array of figures called on Carnahan to resign as GOP chair last August after Tony Lazzaro, a close friend and party donor, was arrested on sex-trafficking charges. While she proclaimed her ignorance of the allegations, a group of former staffers quickly came forward to charge that Carnahan had "presided over a toxic workplace culture and unchecked sexual harassment”; a day later, under severe pressure, she resigned—after casting the deciding vote to give herself a $38,000 severance check. Carnahan herself was later heard saying of her husband, "I don't care. Jim, he's going to die of cancer in two years."
The only two sitting elected officials on the GOP side, meanwhile, are state Reps. Jeremy Munson and Nels Pierson. Munson in 2019 was one of a group of hard-right Republicans who formed a new caucus called "New Republicans" out of their unhappiness with the party's leadership, and he's since made a name for himself by trying to undermine Democratic Gov. Tim Walz's public health policies; Munson has only gotten worse as the pandemic continued, and his website now calls for jailing Anthony Fauci. By contrast, Pierson has called for a "collaborative way to pass the priorities of southern Minnesota."
Another contender to watch is former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad, who left the state House in 2009. There's also former Freeborn County party chair Matt Benda; sales executive Ken Navitsky, who previously played football as a kicker for Minnesota State University in Mankato; Marine veteran Kevin Kocina; and biofuels plant general manager J.R. Ewing. The GOP will not hold an endorsement convention for the special election, though this sort of gathering will take place next month for the contest for the regular two-year term.
On the Democratic side, the two most prominent contenders look like Jeff Ettinger, the former CEO of the food processing giant Hormel, and Richard Painter, who served as the White House's ethics lawyer under George W. Bush. Painter previously ran for the Senate in 2018 shortly after leaving the GOP and lost the primary to appointed incumbent Tina Smith 76-14.
● NY-03: DNC member Robert Zimmerman has earned endorsements from Democratic Party chairs from two of the five counties that form the new 3rd District: Richard Schaffer, whose Suffolk County makes up about 30% of the seat, and 5th District Rep. Gregory Meeks, whose Queens County is home to another 10% of the constituency. (Meeks took over as party chair after fellow Rep. Joe Crowley stepped aside several months after his 2018 primary defeat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.)
● OH-13: Donald Trump has endorsed attorney Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, who is running for the open 13th District that was created by the second congressional map drawn up by the GOP-dominated redistricting commission. Gilbert entered the race to take on 9th district Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur last year before the state Supreme Court threw out that first map; the state's highest court has yet to say if these newest boundaries can be used.
● PA-01: Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is defending a 52-47 Biden seat dominated by Bucks County in the Philly suburbs against Army veteran Ashley Ehasz, who was the one Democrat to file. Ehasz got some good news earlier in the week when her one intra-party foe, Navy veteran Paul Fermo, dropped out, but she'll be in for a difficult race against an incumbent who has always run well ahead of the top of the ticket.
● PA-06: Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan very much looks like the favorite to hold a 57-42 Biden seat centered around Chester County west of Philadelphia, but the GOP is hoping to gain ground in suburban areas like this that swung hard to the left during the Trump era. Four Republicans have filed, and the most notable looks like Guy Ciarrocchi, a former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry president who took his long-ass title out of the governor race to run here. Also in the mix is Regina Mauro, who lost a close race last year for Chester County comptroller.
● PA-07: Democratic Rep. Susan Wild faces a rematch against 2020 Republican nominee Lisa Scheller, a former Lehigh County commissioner and wealthy businessman who held her to a surprisingly small 52-48 victory as Biden was taking the old 7th by a similar 52-47 margin. National Republicans quickly consolidated around Scheller's second bid, and they got welcome news last month when the new map dropped Biden's margin in this Lehigh Valley seat to just 50-49. Scheller's only intra-party foe is technology consulting company owner Kevin Dellicker, who hasn't made much of an impression so far.
● PA-08: Rep. Matt Cartwright, who was the one Democrat in the state's delegation to prevail last cycle in a Trump seat, faces a second bout against Republican Jim Bognet. The incumbent held off Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, 52-48 as Trump was winning the old 8th 52-47; the new version of this seat in the Scranton area is a little less red at 51-48 Trump. The only other Republican is Mike Marsicano, a former Hazleton mayor and ex-Democrat who took a distant fourth in Team Red's 2020 primary.
● PA-10: Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who heads the far-right Freedom Caucus, faces two Democrats in a Harrisburg-based seat that would have favored Trump 51-47. Carlisle School Board member Rick Coplen launched his bid about two weeks ago, while Harrisburg City Council member Shamaine Daniels entered the race last week. Daniels, who is originally from Venezuela, would be the first Latina to represent Pennsylvania in Congress.
● PA-12: Five Democrats are competing to succeed Rep. Mike Doyle, who is retiring after 14 terms representing Pittsburgh, in a seat that would have gone for Biden 59-39.
The only elected official in the contest is state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive who would be the first Black woman to represent the Keystone State in Congress and who also has endorsements from Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and the influential SEIU Pennsylvania State Council. Another well-connected contender is attorney Steve Irwin, a former Pennsylvania Securities Commission head who ended 2021 with the most cash-on-hand.
There's also law professor Jerry Dickinson, who challenged Doyle in the 2020 primary and lost 67-33. Doyle, like Lee, is a Black progressive, and it's possible the two will be competing for the same groups of voters. Two other Democrats are in as well, but they haven't generated much attention yet. The winner will take on Mike Doyle―that is, the Republican president of the Plum Borough Council who shares a name with the departing Democratic incumbent.