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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● LA-Gov, LA-Sen: The Republican firm JMC Analytics has released the very first poll we've seen of the October 2023 all-party primary to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, a survey they say was "commissioned by private subscribers." However, as we'll discuss, the field for next year's race is still in the earliest stages of formation, and some of the candidates tested are far more likely to run than others.
First, the results. Note that in the almost certain event that no one takes a majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters would advance to a November runoff:
Sen. John Kennedy (R): 22
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome (D): 14
Attorney General Jeff Landry (R): 11
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R): 10
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R): 7
State Sen. Gary Smith (D): 4
State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R): 2
State Treasurer John Schroder (R): 1
The only one of these people who is already running in this conservative state is Schroder, the last-place finisher. Louisiana politicos, though, have long anticipated that both the hardline Landry and Nungesser, who has been willing to work with Edwards at times, will get in.
The Advocate's Tyler Bridges also reported over the weekend that both of the state's GOP senators are eyeing the contest even as they've barely discussed the idea publicly. Cassidy in January merely said of a bid for governor, "Other people are saying that; I'm not the one saying it," but prominent donor Richard Lipsey indicated he's far more interested than he's let on. "He is considering it, but I don't know if he's decided," Lipsey said, while Bridges writes that political watchers anticipate he'll decide after the midterms.
Cassidy's standing with the base took a massive plunge last year when he voted to convict Donald Trump, a move that earned him a censure from the state party. Lipsey confidently predicted that Cassidy would win the governor's race because "[t]here's nobody else out there at the moment who would draw from the middle and some from the right and left," but JMC finds he's instead united the state against him. The firm gives the senator an underwater 36-49 favorable rating, with Republicans giving him the thumbs down by a 36-52 margin; Democrats view him better, but he still sports a negative 39-48 score with the opposite party.
Kennedy, meanwhile, has attracted far less attention as a possible gubernatorial candidate, but Bridges says the junior senator hasn't closed the door on the idea. "No one knows what my brother will do," said political consultant George Kennedy, though he added, "If I had to guess, I'd say no." John Kennedy spent much of 2018 signaling that he'd challenge Edwards the next year, but he ended up startling observers by sitting the race out.
Kennedy, unlike Cassidy, has remained an ardent Trumpist, and he was one of six senators to vote against recognizing Joe Biden's victory in Arizona in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack. That doesn't appear to be hurting his quest for a second term this year, though: JMC finds him easily beating activist Gary Chambers, a Democrat who took third in last year's special election for the 2nd Congressional District, 53-14.
Several other Republicans could enter the 2023 race to replace Edwards as well. LA Politics' Jeremy Alford wrote in January that Hewitt, who also passed on a 2019 bid, has "kept her politics quiet and her fundraising aggressive." Fellow state Sen. Rick Ward and state Rep. Richard Nelson, who were not tested by JMC, each expressed interest last year, while Rep. Garret Graves didn't rule anything out earlier this month.
Democrats, meanwhile, have a far smaller bench in Louisiana, and Bridges didn't even name any prospective candidates in his recent look at the contest. Broome, the East Baton Rouge leader who took second in JMC's poll, herself has shown no obvious interest.
Alford wrote over a year ago that supporters of Smith, who serves as a state senator, were encouraging him to get in. In October, though, he earned negative headlines when The Advocate reported that his family company received lucrative hurricane cleanup contracts, but that neither Smith nor any of his relatives had filed the necessary ethics disclosures.
● AK Redistricting: The Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday that members of the state's Republican-dominated redistricting board created an illegal partisan gerrymander by pairing a swingy House district in the Anchorage area with a solidly red one—separated by a mountain range—in order to create a Senate district that would be favorable to the GOP. The justices also struck down part of a different House district in the Mat-Su Valley for being insufficiently compact.
The decision in part upholds a ruling last month by a lower court that found the Senate pairing unconstitutional, though the Supreme Court overturned other aspects of the trial judge's earlier determinations. The justices returned the case to the lower court "for action consistent with this order," which likely means that the redistricting board will be directed to adjust the maps for both chambers to bring them into legal compliance.
● DE Redistricting: Delaware's Democratic-run legislature has almost unanimously passed updated maps for both chambers that make small technical adjustments to the new districts previously adopted by the state in November. The tweaks were recommended by state election officials and are "intended to minimize the need for new election districts and increase elections' efficiency," according to Glenn Rolfe at Bay to Bay News. The revised maps now go to Democratic Gov. John Carney.
● MD Redistricting: Following a state court ruling on Friday that struck down Maryland's new congressional map, Democrats in the legislature introduced a remedial plan and say they will put it before Republican Gov. Larry Hogan by Wednesday. Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh, whose office defended the original map, still has yet to say whether he will appeal the decision.
● MS Redistricting: A joint committee in Mississippi's Republican-run legislature, which was the last in the nation to begin work on legislative redistricting, advanced new maps for the state House and Senate on Sunday. The maps must still be approved by both chambers before they can go to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.
● WY Redistricting: Republican Gov. Mark Gordon has allowed Wyoming's new legislative maps to become law without his signature, saying in a statement that the final version of those plans "apparently establishes some districts that appear to exceed presumptively acceptable deviation limits." Because of those population deviations, the maps could be subject to a lawsuit on the grounds that they violate the principle of "one person, one vote."
● AK-Sen: Democratic state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson announced Friday that she was dropping out of the August top-four primary and would instead seek re-election. Her departure leaves two Republicans, incumbent Lisa Murkowski and former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, as the only notable contenders.
● GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Senate Majority PAC has booked $13 million for fall TV time to help re-elect Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, which makes this the first major general election reservation we've seen in any federal race this cycle from an outside group.
● MO-Sen: The GOP firm Remington Research Group has once again surveyed the August Republican primary for the local tip sheet Missouri Scout, and it finds Attorney General Eric Schmitt sporting a small lead for the first time since last September. Schmitt edges out former Gov. Eric Greitens 24-21, with Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long at 19% and 9%, respectively; one month ago, Remington had Greitens beating Schmitt 25-22, with Hartzler taking a similar 18% share. One day before this new poll went into the field, Greitens' ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, accused him of physically abusing both her and their children in 2018.
● NC-Sen: North Carolina Values Coalition, which has not endorsed anyone in the May Republican primary, has released a survey from Vitale and Associates giving Rep. Ted Budd a 32-29 lead over former Gov. Pat McCrory. That's quite a bit better for Budd than his recent internal from Meeting Street Research, which showed McCrory ahead 31-25.
● OH-Sen: Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel's newest ad for the truly ugly Republican primary stars a Gold Star mother named Sheila Nowacki saying of one of his opponents, "Mike Gibbons has the nerve to say military service doesn't count as real work. Marines like Josh Mandel, like my son Andy, risked their lives for our country." She continues, "Their work is so much more important than Gibbons just making millions for himself. Josh Mandel came home from Iraq. My son didn't." Mandel's camp says it's putting $750,000 behind the spot.
Nowacki's charge is based on comments Gibbons made about a week before at a debate that devolved into an almost-physical confrontation between himself and Mandel. The former treasurer accused Gibbons of "making millions" off stock in a Chinese firm, while the wealthy businessman responded he "personally didn't buy the stock." After Mandel continued pressing, Gibbons responded that his foe "may not understand this" because "you've never been in the private sector in your entire life."
Mandel rose to face him and, with the two candidates barely separated, said, "Two tours in Iraq, don't tell me I haven't worked." Things only got worse from there, with each man telling the other to "back off" because he's "dealing with the wrong guy." Before the two went back to their seats one of them called the other a "pussy," though it's not clear which said it.
Former state party chair Jane Timken, meanwhile, is emphasizing her support for transphobia in her newest ad, something that other Republicans across the country have already worked into their own spots. Timken declares that "the Biden Democrats want to force our daughters to compete against men in the pool and on the court. It's outrageous."
● AL-Gov: Incumbent Kay Ivey's latest spot for the May GOP primary features two men at a shooting range having a totally normal-sounding conversation about how conservative their governor is. One cast member declares that "Kay kicks so much liberal butt, I bet her leg's tired" just before he notices that Ivey herself has put several holes in her target. "No step too high for a high-stepper," the governor says, a phrase even her two costars admit they don't understand.
● NE-Gov: The Omaha World-Herald's Sara Gentzler has the details on three polls of the May Republican primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts, a contest we previously hadn't seen any numbers for. Each of them shows Trump-backed agribusinessman Charles Herbster leading Ricketts' choice, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, with state Sen. Brett Lindstrom in third, but they disagree how close things are.
The oldest survey is a mid-February poll from the GOP firm Data Targeting for Neilan Strategy Group, which tells Gentzler it's working for an unidentified group that's not affiliated with any campaign; the poll has Herbster edging out Pillen just 27-26, with Lindstrom taking 21%. Lindstrom, meanwhile, is out with an early March internal from 3D Strategic Research that shows Herbster ahead of Pillen by a larger 30-23, with himself at 20%.
Finally, Herbster's team has released a poll from around that same time from Kellyanne Conway's KAC Consulting that puts his advantage at 27-18 as Lindstrom takes 17%. However, while this is Herbster's best result, it has one massive warning sign for him: Don Walton writes in the Lincoln Journal Star that an unreleased December poll from KAC had Herbster taking 53%, a huge decline Walton attributes to the other two candidates starting their own ad campaigns in the intervening time.
● NY-Gov: Siena's latest poll of the June Democratic primary shows Gov. Kathy Hochul defeating New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in a 52-12 landslide. The firm gives Hochul a considerably smaller 38-30 in a hypothetical nomination contest against Andrew Cuomo; while the disgraced former governor has not ruled out a late bid, he has yet to start collecting the 15,000 signatures he'd need to turn in by April 7 in order to make the primary ballot.
● AK-AL: Al Gross, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, announced Monday that he would run as a "non-partisan" candidate in both the special election and regular contest to succeed the late GOP Rep. Don Young. Gross brought in a mammoth $18.6 million for that campaign and self-funded another $732,000, but he lost 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.
Several other Alaska politicians also say that they're considering jumping into the special election top-four primary ahead of Friday's deadline. Two prospective Republican contenders are former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney and former state Sen. John Coghill, while far-right state Rep. David Eastman didn't respond when the Anchorage Daily News asked him about his interest. Democratic state Rep. Chris Tuck is also publicly thinking about joining the race as is independent Jeff Lowenfels, a former oil executive who has published a gardening column in the ADN for more than 45 years (now that's a career combination you don't see often).
Andrew Halcro, a former Republican state representative who ran for governor as an independent in 2006, also says he's thinking about running, but only in the special election. "I'm a safe choice to hold the fort down for five months," said Halcro, who also took a close third in the 2015 nonpartisan primary for mayor of Anchorage.
● CA-47: The Club for Growth has endorsed former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh, who is the frontrunner to take on Democratic incumbent Katie Porter.
● FL-20: Former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness announced Saturday that he would seek a Democratic primary rematch against Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who defeated him by all of 5 votes in last year's special election. Redistricting still isn't finished in Florida, but there's no question that this South Florida seat will remain safely blue turf.
Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness last time were two of the 11 candidates competing to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, and Cherfilus-McCormick ended up prevailing 23.76-23.75. Holness responded to that narrow loss by filing a bonkers lawsuit to overturn the results, alleging that Cherfilus-McCormick tried to bribe voters ... by proposing $1,000 monthly payments to most adults as a universal basic income.
Holness will be going up against an incumbent this time, but he still has some notable institutional support in the August primary. The former commissioner has the backing of two prominent Broward County law enforcement officials, State Attorney Harold Pryor and Sheriff Gregory Tony, as well as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. Holness kicked off his second campaign by criticizing "some candidates and incumbents overpromising and under-delivering," though he didn't say more about why Cherfilus-McCormick should be fired.
● GA-07: Protect Our Future PAC is rolling out its second spot in its $2 million buy supporting Rep. Lucy McBath in the May Democratic primary, which touts her support for protecting Medicare and Social Security.
● MI-13: Hedge fund manager John Conyers III, who twice failed to make the ballot in the 2018 race to succeed his father and namesake, announced Monday that he would campaign in the crowded August Democratic primary for the open and safely blue 13th District.
Conyers emerged on the political scene in late 2017 when his father, 27-term Rep. John Conyers, resigned after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. The incumbent used his departure announcement to endorse his son, who was 27 years old at the time and had never run for office before, but the younger Conyers failed to turn in enough valid signatures to make the primary ballot.
Conyers tried to run in the general election without a party label, but his campaign came to an unceremonious end when local officials told him that state law prohibits an individual from filing as an independent in the same calendar year that they filed to run in a primary for the same office.
● MN-08: Democratic state Rep. Jen Schultz announced Monday that she would take on Republican Rep. Pete Stauber in the 8th District in northeastern Minnesota, which would have supported Trump 55-43.
● OK-02: State Rep. Avery Frix announced Friday that he was joining the crowded June Republican primary for this open seat in eastern Oklahoma.
● OR-05: The first major outside buy of the May Democratic primary comes from Center Forward, which is funded by the pharmaceutical industry, in support of moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader. The commercial declares that the incumbent sports a "100% rating from Planned Parenthood for supporting reproductive freedom and paid family leave," and similarly backs environmental legislation. The group is spending at least $355,000 on TV as well as another $270,000 on digital advertising.
● RI-02: Michael Neary, a Democrat who previously served as a campaign staffer for Republican John Kasich, was arrested over the weekend back in Ohio and subsequently charged, in the words of WPRI, "with menacing by stalking, possession of marijuana and marijuana drug paraphernalia." The court records for Neary, who pleaded not guilty and posted bail, lists his home as Columbus, Ohio.
● WV-02: Rep. David McKinley's new ad for the May GOP primary tries to portray Trump-backed Rep. Alex Mooney as actually "bad for the Trump agenda" because he "voted against Trump's plan to stop deadly Fentanyl coming from China."
● Where Are They Now?: Eliot Cutler, an independent who ran serious campaigns for governor in Maine in both 2010 and 2014, was arrested Friday for possession of child pornography and spent the evening in prison before paying the $50,000 bail the following day. Cutler lost the 2010 open seat race 38-36 to Republican Paul LePage, with Democrat Libby Mitchell taking third with 19%. Four years later, Cutler resisted calls from Democrats to drop out to avoid splitting the anti-LePage vote; the Republican ended up beating Democrat Michael Michaud 48-43, with Cutler earning 8%.