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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● AK-AL: Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who serves as Alaska’s top election official, announced Tuesday that the special primary to succeed the late Rep. Don Young as the state’s lone House member will take place on June 11. The contest, which will be conducted entirely by mail, will be the first election in American history to use the state’s new top-four primary rules. Under this system, the four candidates who take the most votes in June, regardless of party, will face off in an instant-runoff general election on Aug. 16. The filing deadline is April 1, so Young’s many would-be successors have just a short amount of time to decide whether to run.
To complicate matters, Aug. 16 is the same day as the regularly scheduled statewide primary election, which, until Young’s death, was to have been the first time that Alaska employed a top-four primary. (Unlike in the special primary, voters will be able to vote in person that day.) Another instant-runoff race will take place in November, this time for a full two-year term in the next Congress. The filing deadline for the regular election is June 1, so anyone who wants to replace Young for longer than just a few months would need to file before they learn how they did in the first round of the special election.
This will be the very first congressional race in the state without an incumbent running since Young himself first was elected in a 1973 special election, and it could bring out some notable names. Two were already running: Businessman Nick Begich III, who is the rare Republican member of one of the Last Frontier’s most prominent Democratic families, and Democrat Chris Constant, a member of the Anchorage Assembly, had both entered the race against Young before his death on Friday, and they've since confirmed they’ll now campaign in both the special and regular contests.
The Anchorage Daily News also writes that, according to an unnamed source, Al Gross, an independent who was the 2020 Democratic nominee for the Senate, “said he intends to enter the race,” though all Gross himself would say publicly was that he would “be in touch.” Last cycle, Gross lost a very expensive campaign to Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan 54-41 as Trump was taking the state by a slightly smaller 53-43 spread. Last fall, he lost a low-profile bid to serve on the hospital board in his hometown of Petersburg.
During his Senate bid, Gross had planned to be listed on the ballot as both a Democrat and an independent, but the director of the Alaska Division of Elections made a last-minute decision that ensured he’d only be identified as a Democrat. That won’t be an issue under the new top-four rules, though, as candidates have the option to identify themselves with a party label or be listed as "undeclared" or "nonpartisan.” Gross would also begin with a financial head-start, as he still has $200,000 in leftover cash from his Senate war chest that he could use for a House campaign.
As for potential candidates on the Republican side, former Gov. Sarah Palin said Monday of Young, “If I were asked to serve in the House and take his place, I would be humbled and honored and I would in a heartbeat, I would.” Palin, though, has flirted with running for office in Alaska several times since her abrupt resignation in 2009 halfway through her one term as governor, but she has yet to ever go for it.
Most recently, last summer, she said of the prospect of taking on GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, “If God wants me to do it I will,” which was the first and last time we heard about that idea. Around the same time, the ADN sought to figure out what Palin had been up to lately but was rebuffed by the ex-governor and everyone in her circle. The paper described her as "nearly invisible within the state" and "almost entirely absent from Alaska politics" since her failed turn as John McCain's running mate. (These days, she’s been busy appealing her loss in her defamation lawsuit against the New York Times.)
Two Republicans who had been co-chairing Young’s re-election campaign, meanwhile, aren’t ruling out the idea. Former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, who would be the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress, told the ADN, “Any discussions formally about who succeeds Don Young is premature at this point, and opportunistic.” State Sen. Josh Revak likewise said, “This is very new, and my focus is on his wishes and the wishes of his family, in terms of his legacy and in terms of honoring him. We’ll think about other stuff later.” The Anchorage Press also mentions state Sens. Mia Costello and Lora Reinbold, as well as state Rep. Sara Rasmussen, as possibilities, though it notes that “so far, none has uttered a peep publicly.”
Finally, Meda DeWitt, an Alaska Native traditional healer who was one of the leaders in the now-defunct effort to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said a House bid is “not off the table," adding, “It's a long time coming, having representation that is equitable.” She did not say what party banner she might run under, if any, though she supported Gross’ bid against Sullivan and has expressed her disgust with Trump.
● AL-Sen, AL-Gov: The Republican firm Cygnal takes a look at the May GOP primaries on behalf of Alabama Daily News and Gray Television, and it gives Rep. Mo Brooks' struggling Senate campaign some truly dire news. Army veteran Mike Durant takes the lead with 35%, while former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt leads Brooks 28-16 for the second spot in an all-but-assured June runoff; last August, before Durant joined the race, the firm showed Brooks crushing Britt 41-17.
The firm also tested a trio of hypothetical runoff scenarios, which are just as ugly for Brooks even if he should somehow squeeze back into second place in the primary:
- Durant: 57, Brooks: 23
- Britt: 51, Brooks: 28
- Durant: 47, Britt: 35
Over in the GOP contest for governor, Cygnal shows incumbent Kay Ivey at 46%, a few points short of the majority she'd need to win outright, while businessman Tim James edges out former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard 12-10 for second. Ivey's campaign recently released a pair of surveys that each found her taking about 60% of the vote.
● AZ-Sen: Blake Masters' allies at Saving Arizona PAC have publicized a Fabrizio Lee & Associates poll that gives the former Thiel Capital chief operating officer a small 16% plurality in the August Republican primary, while state Attorney General Mark Brnovich and wealthy businessman Jim Lamon are just behind with 14% each; 52% of respondents are undecided.
● GA-Gov: The RGA has launched a $350,000 ad buy that portrays Democrat Stacey Abrams as someone devoted to traveling the world in order to boost herself, while it praises Republican Gov. Brian Kemp as a "leader here at home working hard, solving problems, getting results." The spot does not mention former Sen. David Perdue, Kemp's main opponent in the May primary.
● OR-Gov: Former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who resigned early in his fourth term in 2015, has endorsed state Treasurer Tobias Read in the May Democratic primary.
Oregon Public Broadcasting's Dirk VanderHart notes that Reed's intra-party rival, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek, was one of the legislative leaders who pressured Kitzhaber to quit seven years ago after he was accused of being complicit in allowing his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, to use her access to the governor for financial gain; federal prosecutors ultimately announced, however, that they wouldn't charge either Kitzhaber or Hayes with any wrongdoing. Kitzhaber has reemerged in recent years as a vocal health policy advocate, and Willamette Week's Nigel Jaquiss says he "retains a core following among many Democrats."
● RI-Gov: Businesswoman Ashley Kalus on Tuesday announced that she would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Dan McKee, a move that at last gives Team Red a notable contender in this year’s race for governor. The newly minted candidate, who runs a company that describes itself as "a medical practice focused on COVID testing, vaccination, and medical care run by physicians," also said she’d engage in some self-funding, explaining, "I am going to raise money and I'm also going to put my own money into the campaign, and I'll do whatever it takes to be competitive."
Kalus has touted herself as a "political outsider," though that's only really true as far as Rhode Island politics is concerned: She worked on Republican Bruce Rauner's successful 2014 campaign for governor of Illinois and went on to serve as his director of public engagement. She later relocated to Florida, where she cast a ballot in 2020.
It's not clear when exactly Kalus moved to Rhode Island, though she bought a $770,000 home there last May and registered to vote in January. Kalus, though, tried to argue in her announcement that her love for the Ocean State goes back further, saying, "My husband, Jeff, and I originally hoped to start our life and family together in Providence, but the financial crisis hit and opportunity disappeared. With a quarter of a million dollars in student loan debt, we had to leave for better opportunities." Kalus, who described herself as "pro-life," also was asked Tuesday which Republican office-holder she likes the most and selected Florida's far-right governor, Ron DeSantis.
● FL-24: Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson announced Tuesday that she would challenge six-term Rep. Frederica Wilson in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat in northern Miami. The Miami-Herald writes that Edmonson, who served on the Commission for 14 years until she was termed-out in 2020, was once a "frequent ally" of Wilson, but she's very much soured on the congresswoman.
Edmonson, who acknowledged that she and Wilson "agree on most issues," faulted the incumbent for continuing to make use of House proxy vote rules implemented earlier during the pandemic that allow members to cast votes without being physically present. "It is disappointing and regrettable that our very own Congressional District 24 congresswoman has become an absent member of Congress," said Edmonson, who also cited work by the conservative Ripon Society to argue, "She is the number one proxy vote."
Oddly, while the paper reports that "an organizer of the announcement said Monday to expect endorsements at the event," no such endorsements were forthcoming at Edmonson’s kickoff the following day.
● NY-04: Former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen has publicized an endorsement from former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who represented previous versions of this seat from 1997 to 2015, for the June Democratic primary.
● OR-05: Attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who is challenging moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader from the left in the May 17 Democratic primary, has released a survey from Patinkin Research Strategies that shows the incumbent edging her out just 37-34. This poll, which sampled 406 primary voters from Jan. 31 through Feb. 4, is the first we've seen of this contest.
● PA-12: EMILY's List has backed state Rep. Summer Lee in the May Democratic primary for this reliably blue open seat.
● RI-02: Former state Democratic Party chair Ed Pacheco announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the crowded September primary for this open seat after deciding that "it would be extraordinarily difficult to raise the money in this election cycle."
● WV-02: The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which does not appear to have taken sides in the May Republican primary, has unveiled a survey from the GOP firm North Star Opinion Research that gives Rep. David McKinley a 38-33 edge over fellow incumbent Alex Mooney. The only two polls we've seen this year have both been from Mooney's side, and unlike North Star, they've found him beating McKinley: A January Mooney internal showed him ahead 45-32, while his allies at the Club for Growth dropped numbers the following month giving their man a similar 43-28 advantage.
● Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: A special election will take place this November following Republican Allister Adel's announcement on Monday that she’d resign as Maricopa County attorney, but her would-be successors only have until the April 4 filing deadline to turn in the signatures they need to make the August primary ballot.
Democratic contenders need to turn in 4,300 valid petitions while Republicans, who enjoy a voter registration advantage in America's fourth-largest county, need to submit 4,500. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will also be tasked with picking an interim county prosecutor, who by law must share Adel's party affiliation, but it remains to be seen whether the board selects a caretaker or someone who might compete in the special.
One candidate from each party has already announced that they've begun to collect signatures. The Democrat is defense attorney Julie Gunnigle, who lost the 2020 race to Adel 51-49, while Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel, is running for the GOP. This post will be on the ballot again in 2024 for a full four-year term.