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.
Check out our podcast, The Downballot!
● NH-Sen: Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan's campaign announced Friday that it had booked $13 million in TV and radio ads for the fall, which makes this the first reservation we've seen this cycle from a federal candidate for the November general election. Early as it may seem, though, campaigns and outside groups have an incentive to book well ahead of time so they can lock in cheaper ad rates before high demand brings prices up.
That's especially true in the Granite State, where about 85% of residents live within the Boston media market. (Another 10% reside in the Burlington market, while the balance are in Portland.) Both New Hampshire and Massachusetts will likely feature multiple expensive races—especially the Bay State's race for governor—in addition to Hassan's Senate contest, so candidates and allied organizations in both states will want to reserve ad time well before prices soar. That's not a luxury everyone has, though: While Hassan doesn't need to worry about securing renomination, her various Republican foes have to focus on winning their Sept. 13 primary―which is one of the last in the nation―before they can run ads for the general election.
That doesn't mean Hassan will have the airwaves to herself until then, of course, since GOP super PACs will almost certainly book millions in ad time devoted to attacking the incumbent. But luckily for the senator, super PAC money doesn't go nearly as far as campaign cash. That's because FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio. That's something to bear in mind when comparing ad spending in dollar figures. For a true apples-to-apples comparison, media professionals rely on metrics like the total number of ads bought, gross ratings points, and share of voice.
● WI Redistricting: Wisconsin Republicans have filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that new legislative maps chosen last week by the state Supreme Court feature an illegal racial gerrymander. The new plan increases the number of majority Black districts in the Milwaukee area from six to seven, which the GOP claims violates the constitution. The appeal does not concern the new congressional map.
● WY Redistricting: Wyoming's Republican-run state Senate has passed a new legislative map, but it differs considerably from a plan approved last month by the state House, even though it, too, is dominated by the GOP. Most visibly, the Senate approach maintains the current number of districts for both chambers—60 for the lower and 30 for the upper—while the House map seeks to increase the total to 62 and 31.
In addition, the population deviation between the smallest and largest district in the Senate plan is more than 11%, which is larger than the 10% threshold that federal courts have generally permitted in legislative redistricting. As a result, some lawmakers are worried that, should the map pass, the state would be exposed to legal challenges. (The 10% deviation is not a hard-and-fast rule, however, as some maps have survived legal scrutiny with larger deviations and others have failed with smaller ones.)
Legislators from both houses will now convene a conference committee in an effort to hammer out a compromise. If a deal cannot be struck, though, Wyoming could wind up with a court-drawn map.
● OH-Sen: We still have nearly two months to go before the May 3 Republican primary, though you wouldn't know that based on the barrage of new ads dropping every week. The latest offering from businessman Mike Gibbons' $10 million buy castigates former state party chair Jane Timken and venture capitalist J.D. Vance for being insufficiently pro-Trump. The narrator exclaims that Timken "said she didn't know if she would have voted to impeach Trump," while the ad uses footage of Vance himself saying, "I'm a Never Trump guy, I never liked him." The second half of the spot argues, "Trump and Gibbons are businessmen with a backbone."
Meanwhile, Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC funded by Peter Thiel, are running two new commercials focused on immigration (here and here) as part of their ongoing effort to rehabilitate the candidate's image before it's too late. Neither spot mentions any of his many intra-party rivals by name, though the second shows pictures of Gibbons, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and the late John McCain as the narrator complains, "Elites and establishment politicians have failed us."
Finally, Mandel is airing his own piece that … focuses on his record as state treasurer? We can't believe it either, but Mandel, who famously showed little interest in the job except as a stepping stone for the Senate, tells the audience that he pissed off politicians by pushing for "transparency," adding, "I'm a United States Marine: Think I cared?"
● OK-Sen-B: Republican Alex Gray, who served as a Trump staffer on the White House National Security Council, has filed with the FEC for a potential Senate bid.
● PA-Sen: The latest commercial in the Republican primary ad war between TV personality Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormick comes from Oz, who tells a crowd that his rival is "part of the swamp that labeled President Trump as 'Hollywood.'" As footage plays of Oz welcoming Trump to his program, the candidate says that, while he's the victim of the same sort of attack, "I used my show to tell people the truth."
On the Democratic side, Conor Lamb has earned an endorsement from fellow Rep. Matt Cartwright.
● UT-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Utah's June 28 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. Filing alone, however, isn’t sufficient to make it on the ballot: candidates must also either turn in the requisite number of signatures by April 9 or win enough support at their state party convention on April 23, though they can also try both methods. If no one wins at least 60% of the support of the convention delegates, then the two contenders with the most votes advance to the primary.
Because Republicans gerrymandered the competitive 4th Congressional District, the only major race in the state this year is the Senate contest, where Republican incumbent Mike Lee, who has unsuccessfully pushed for a constitutional amendment to limit senators to two terms in office, is seeking a third.
Six fellow Republicans have filed to take him on, and the two who have attracted the most attention are nanotechnology firm executive Ally Isom and former state Rep. Becky Edwards. Isom and Edwards, who like Lee are pursuing both routes to the ballot, are hoping to rally the state's vocal contingent of anti-Trump Republicans against the incumbent, but they face a very difficult battle. A recent primary poll from the Republican firm OH Predictive Insights showed Lee defeating Edwards in a 51-5 landslide, and it doesn't help that both challengers are aiming for the same group of voters.
The general election is potentially more interesting, though Lee is still the heavy favorite in this very red state. Lee's most notable opponent is independent Evan McMullin, who took 21% of the vote in Utah when he ran for president in 2016 as an anti-Trump Republican and has support from some prominent Democrats: Former Rep. Ben McAdams endorsed McMullin last year, while Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who was Team Blue's 2018 nominee for the other Senate seat, just backed him on Monday. OH Predictive Insights recently found Lee beating McMullin 34-24 while Kael Weston, who is the only Democrat in the race, took 12%. Three other third-party candidates have also filed.
● AZ-Gov: A consulting firm run by businessman Marco López received $35,000 in payments from former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's successful 2012 campaign that allegedly originated with a multimillion-dollar bribe from a Brazilian construction firm, according to documents obtained by a Mexican news organization and reported by the newsletter Arizona Agenda. That firm, Odebrecht, admitted in 2016 to running a nearly $800 million bribery scheme across Latin America, which included, says a former top Peña Nieto staffer named Emilio Lozoya, a $3 million payoff to the campaign "in exchange for an agreement for future inflated public works contracts," per the tipsheet.
Lozoya, who has been cooperating with Mexican authorities, further says that payments to López and other consultants were concealed by having the consultants make out invoices for work on made-up mining ventures in South America; one document Lozoya provided to investigators shows an invoice from López's firm (known both as Intermestic Partners and International Strategic Solutions) seeking remuneration for something called the "Colombia Project." The $35,000 López received came from a Swiss bank account held by Latin America Asia Capital Holdings, a shell company run by Lozoya out of the British Virgin Islands, documents show.
López, who is seeking the Democratic nod for governor, declined to answer questions put to him by the Arizona Agenda, including what exactly the Colombia Project was, and whether he knew that Odebrecht's bribe money was the source of the funds used to pay his company, as Lozoya has alleged. López did, however, deny all wrongdoing to the Arizona Republic, and he has not been charged with any crimes.
Separately, on the Republican side, former TV anchor and current far-right conspiracy theorist Kari Lake has picked up the backing of Rep. Paul Gosar, who has a long, ugly, and ongoing history of ties to prominent white supremacists.
● IA-Gov: Selzer & Company's first general election survey, which was taken on behalf of the Des Moines Register and Mediacom Iowa, gives Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds a 51-43 advantage over Democrat Deidre DeJear, who was Team Blue's 2018 secretary of state nominee. That's considerably closer than the 55-38 Reynolds lead that the GOP firm Cygnal found in a poll released late last month for the conservative group Iowans for Tax Relief.
● MD-Gov: Former nonprofit head Wes Moore earned an endorsement over the weekend from Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who leads a populous and very blue community in the D.C. suburbs, ahead of the June Democratic primary.
● PA-Gov: Bill McSwain is running a joint TV ad for the GOP primary with the well-funded Commonwealth Leaders Fund that shows him enthusiastically standing with Donald Trump and exclaiming, "As President Trump's U.S. attorney, I took down corrupt public officials." Well, the version running on Fox does: As the Philadelphia Inquirer points out, the one airing on broadcast TV notably lacks that Trump photo.
● FL-15: Republican state Rep. Jackie Toledo announced Monday that she'd run for Congress in the 15th District which, under the maps passed last week by the GOP legislature, would be an open seat in the Tampa area. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, though, has pledged to veto those new lines.
Toledo has a history of running ahead of the top of the ticket. In 2016, she won her first term 57-43 as Donald Trump was taking her constituency by a narrow 48-47, and she held on 52-48 during the 2018 blue wave. In 2020, the state representative prevailed 54-46 even as Joe Biden was carrying her seat by a very tight 49.44-49.36 margin.
● MI-10: Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga announced Monday that he was joining the August Democratic primary for the new 10th District, an open seat in the Detroit suburbs that Donald Trump narrowly carried. Just before his launch, the local pollster Target Insyght released numbers showing him outpacing Sterling Heights Councilman Henry Yanez 38-18 in the primary, with attorney Huwaida Arraf and Warren City Councilwoman Angela Rogensues at 3% and 2%, respectively. The winner will almost certainly take on two-time Republican Senate nominee John James, who faces no serious primary opposition.
Marlinga has had a long career in Macomb County politics going back to 1984, when he was elected to the first of what would be five terms as county prosecutor, but he's experienced some major setbacks over the decades. Marlinga competed in the 1994 primary for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat but took last place in the six-way primary with just 8% of the vote, though he convincingly won re-election two years later. He was still serving as prosecutor in 2002 when he challenged Republican Rep. Candice Miller in an earlier and more conservative version of the 10th District, a campaign the Democrat lost 63-36.
Two years later, Marlinga was indicted for allegedly helping a convicted rapist earn a new trial in exchange for contributions for that congressional campaign, and he stepped down as county prosecutor afterwards. A jury, though, acquitted him in 2006, and Marlinga sought to return to public office soon after. After narrowly losing a 2010 primary for the state Senate, Marlinga was decisively elected to a local judgeship in 2012.
● MI-11: Rep. Andy Levin has released a Lake Research Partners internal that shows him deadlocked 36-36 with fellow incumbent Haley Stevens in the August Democratic primary. We've seen two other surveys here: In late January, a Stevens poll from Impact Research had her winning 42-35, while the local firm Target Insyght released numbers soon after that found a 41-41 tie.
● MN-01: Former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad announced Monday that he would compete in the May special primary to succeed his fellow Republican, the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn. Finstad was elected to the state House in 2002 and retired six years later, but he re-entered public life in 2017 when Donald Trump appointed him state director for USDA rural development.
The only other notable Republican who has announced so far is state Rep. Jeremy Munson, but that will likely change ahead of the March 15 filing deadline. Former Freeborn County party chair Matt Benda has set up a fundraising committee, while Morning Take reports that state Rep. Nels Pierson is considering getting in as well.
● NY-04: Newsday writes that Keith Corbett, a Democrat who serves as mayor of the small village of Malverne, is "expected" to announce a bid this week to succeed retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice, but his deliberations have been overshadowed by a powerful and controversial ally.
Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and Nassau County parties, has been praising Corbett to the paper as someone with a history of performing well in red turf. But Jacobs didn't mention the mayor on Friday when he emailed party donors and told them that they should "HOLD OFF on making ANY contributions to ANY of the candidates until we have had an opportunity to discuss the complexities of the race." The chairman, who didn't identify any current or potential contender by name, said that, while several "candidates currently indicating a desire to run are my friends," he believed that "[n]ot every one of the contenders right now" could win. Rice, who has not taken sides in the June primary, responded by tweeting, "No wonder Democrats in Nassau county lose with this kind of leadership."
● NY-16: Pastor Michael Gerald, who serves as a deputy commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Correction, announced this week that he would challenge freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary. Gerald, in an interview with Jewish Insider, explained his decision by saying, "Rather than the congressman focusing his attention on solving the issues of our district, he would rather turn his attention to making a national name for himself." Bowman also faces intra-party opposition from Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi.
● Ohio: Even though Ohio's latest Republican-drawn congressional map is still the target of an ongoing legal challenge, officials are nonetheless proceeding as though they'll be using the new districts in the state's May 3 primary. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose recently instructed local election administrators to reprogram their systems to use the new lines, and House candidates were required to file the necessary paperwork, including petitions, as of last Friday.
It's very likely to be wishful thinking, though. The GOP's new map is almost as skewed as the plan that the state Supreme Court struck down as an illegal partisan gerrymander in January, so there's a strong chance the most recent districts will once again be invalidated. That would send candidates—and election officials—back to square one, so we're going to hold off on our usual filing roundup until we have greater clarity.
Note that filing in statewide races concluded a month ago, while the legislative situation is even hairier. Republicans have already had two sets of maps shot down, and the same fate probably awaits their third attempt—which could also result in mapmakers getting held in contempt because they blew past a court-imposed deadline to submit their latest plan.
● SC-01: Former state Rep. Katie Arrington has publicized a Remington Research Group survey that shows her trailing freshman Rep. Nancy Mace 50-35 in the June Republican primary. Arrington, unsurprisingly, is releasing these unfavorable numbers so she can emphasize the subsequent informed ballot section of the poll that finds her completely turning things around and winning 51-33 once respondents are given a positive description of her, including that she's Donald Trump's endorsed candidate. This is the first survey we've seen of this contest.
On the Democratic side, Dorchester County Democratic Party chair Tim Lewis announced Monday that he was exiting the race. Team Blue's frontrunner remains physician Annie Andrews, who is competing in a coastal South Carolina seat where GOP mapmakers extended Trump's margin from 52-46 to 54-45.
● VT-AL: Lt. Gov. Molly Gray last week earned an endorsement from former Gov. Howard Dean, who left office in 2003 but went on to run for president in 2004 and later served as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
● WV-02: Rep. Alex Mooney is running yet another commercial slamming fellow incumbent David McKinley as a "RINO" ahead of their May primary battle. "McKinley calls himself a Trump conservative, but he's weak on the border," says the narrator, "backing amnesty for illegal immigrants." After reminding the audience yet again that Mooney is Trump's preferred candidate, the commercial says his mother is "a Cuban refugee" and his father is "a veteran who battled communism."
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Rep. Karen Bass has picked up the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi ahead of the June nonpartisan primary.