But in an opinion castigated as "bizarre" and "shocking" by legal experts, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Evers maps last month because the Wisconsin court had failed to conduct a full-blown analysis as to whether the Voting Rights Act required the drawing of a seventh majority-Black Assembly district in the Milwaukee area. That ruling prompted Wisconsin Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who originally joined with the court's three liberals to pick Evers' proposals, to switch sides and pick GOP lawmakers' maps—the same maps that Evers had vetoed, prompting the impasse that led to the courts taking over the redistricting process in the first place.
Hagedorn explained his change of heart in a brief concurrence, saying that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling would have required an intensive factual analysis under the VRA for which there was insufficient time remaining this year. As a result, he wrote, the only "race-neutral" plan available to the court was the one submitted by Republican legislators, which reduces the number of Black seats from six to five.
In a detailed dissent joined by her two fellow liberals, Justice Jill Karofsky excoriated the majority, pointing out that the removal of a Black-majority seat in Milwaukee was "an equally suspect, if not more egregious, sign of race-based line drawing." She insisted instead that the court should further develop the evidentiary record, despite Hagedorn's protests, and pointed out that a bare majority of the court was, in effect, overriding Evers' veto on its own—an act that otherwise requires a supermajority of the legislature.
This may not be the end, however. Both Hagedorn and, in particular, Karofsky indicated that the Republican map the court wound up picking could itself be vulnerable to further litigation on similar grounds—namely, that it fails to comply with the Voting Rights Act's mandate to ensure sufficient representation for Black voters. But given the overt partisanship on display in both high courts—the one in Washington and the one in Wisconsin—such claims might nevertheless fail to gain traction.
● KS Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has signed the new maps for the state House and Senate passed late last month by Kansas' Republican-held legislature, though they must first undergo a mandatory review by the state Supreme Court. The exact deadline for the court to act is not yet set: The legislation enacting the new districts must first be published in the state's official newspaper, the Kansas Register, at which point Attorney General Derek Schmidt has 15 days to ask the Supreme Court to review the maps. Once he does, the justices have 30 days to issue a ruling.
● CA-Sen: Businessman Dan O'Dowd is running for Senate in California, but he's apparently not looking to unseat incumbent Alex Padilla. Instead, Politico reports, he wants to put the hurt on Elon Musk … who, you may have noticed, is not on this year's ballot, in the Golden State or any other.
O'Dowd, who filed to run as a Democrat, has reportedly booked $650,000 worth of TV time to air ads attacking Musk, whose software for "self-driving" Tesla vehicles O'Dowd has blasted as dangerously unsafe. It also so happens O'Dowd runs a company called Green Hills Software, which he says has made him a billionaire, that competes in this space. (The spots aren't available yet, but Politico's Christopher Cadelago says they're being made by high-profile Democratic ad-maker Mark Putnam.)
As Cadelago notes, O'Dowd is entitled to much cheaper ad rates as a Senate hopeful than he would be as a private individual, under an FCC rule that guarantees candidates what's known as the "lowest unit rate." The ins and outs of that rule are complex, but it can yield huge savings, which is why super PACs, for instance, can pay twice as much or more than campaigns.
But if O'Dowd really is a billionaire, this penny-pinching seems like a rather minor consideration. However, as Cadelago suggests, there may be another advantage at play: The Federal Trade Commission's "truth-in-advertising" rules don't apply to political ads, which might allow O'Dowd to level charges against Musk that might otherwise run afoul of the FTC. In addition, as we point out whenever third-party advertisements get yanked for inaccuracies, stations are obligated to air candidate ads no matter their content. As long as O'Dowd is willing to stomach a Musk lawsuit, then, he can blanket the airwaves with whatever accusations he likes.
Of course, some unnamed Democrats are fretting that O'Dowd could in fact secure the second slot in June' top-two primary and join Padilla on the general election ballot in an all-Democratic matchup—something that happened in California in both 2016 and 2018. O'Dowd has tried something like this before, though, and was quite unsuccessful: In 1994, back when California still used traditional primaries, he tried to prevent Sen. Dianne Feinstein from winning renomination but finished third with just 12% of the vote.
● NV-Sen: Republican firm OH Predictive Insights has conducted a poll on behalf of the nonpartisan Nevada Independent that finds Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto holding modest leads against both of her prospective Republican opponents. Cortez Masto bests former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who has the support of Donald Trump and national Republicans, by 42-34, and she edges out Army veteran Sam Brown by 43-35. OH Predictive Insights' previous poll from late January had Cortez Masto defeating Laxalt by a similar 44-35; their prior release didn't include Brown.
These latest results are notably better for the incumbent than a recent Suffolk University poll that showed her trailing Laxalt by 43-40 and beating Brown by only 40-39, but OH Predictive Insights indicated that one key reason for the difference was that their survey sampled all registered voters. By contrast, Suffolk had polled those whom they viewed as likely voters, implying that they thought turnout would favor Republicans this fall.
● OH-Sen: Late on Friday afternoon, Donald Trump endorsed venture capitalist J.D. Vance with just weeks to go until the May 3 Republican primary, frustrating many Republicans in Ohio who had scrambled to dissuade him after it was first reported that Trump could throw his backing to Vance and raising eyebrows among many observers questioning the logic of Trump's pick.
Before reinventing himself as the most sycophantic of Trump supporters and as someone who delights in trolling liberals on Twitter by making outrageous statements in order to generate a backlash that he can ride to greater media attention and visibility among conservatives, Vance was unambiguous about his disgust for Trump in the 2016 election cycle. He once labeled himself a "never Trump guy," and in a number of since-deleted tweets, Vance among other things called Trump "reprehensible" and stated he was voting for conservative independent Evan McMullin that year.
Vance's total about-face on Trump may have won him the race to the bottom for Trump's endorsement between himself and primary rivals such as former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who similarly stokes liberal backlash on Twitter, but it remains to be seen whether it will successfully win him the nomination. Indeed, most polls have found Vance lagging behind in third or fourth place in a crowded field where Mandel and businessman Mike Gibbons have frequently led. However, those same polls have also found a significant share of voters still undecided, and Vance may be counting on Trump's endorsement to persuade those GOP voters still up for grabs.
To that effect, Vance has already put half a million behind a TV ad that showcases Trump's endorsement and vows that Vance will "continue Trump's fight" on immigration, abortion, and opposing Joe Biden.
● PA-Sen: Former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick's latest Republican primary ad features shots of the candidate riding in a long convoy of motorcycles while he promises via a voiceover to take on the left and "keep America great."
● Senate: The Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, which is the main super PAC on the Republican side in Senate races, has reserved a whopping $141 million in TV ads from Sept. 6 through Election Day across seven states:
- Alaska: $7.4 million
- Arizona: $14 million
- Georgia: $37 million
- Nevada: $15 million
- North Carolina: $27 million
- Pennsylvania: $24 million (begins Sept. 13)
- Wisconsin: $15 million
Republicans currently hold Alaska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while Democrats are defending Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. Reporting earlier this month indicated that Senate Majority PAC, which is SLF's counterpart on the Democratic side, had reserved $108 million across five of these same states with the exception of Alaska and North Carolina.
Notably absent from either party's reservations was Democratic-held New Hampshire, which is the only remaining state up this fall where Joe Biden won by just single digits.
● MN-Gov: First quarter fundraising reports are available for all candidates in Minnesota's election for governor, and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz led the pack with $1 million raised and $4.1 million cash-on-hand. Walz's numbers were far ahead of his potential GOP rivals below, though the governor doesn't have any notable primary challengers:
- Former state Sen. Scott Jensen: $256,000 raised, $774,000 cash-on-hand
- Former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka: $99,000 raised, $406,000 cash-on-hand
- Healthcare executive Kendall Qualls: $467,000 raised, $168,000 cash-on-hand
- Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek: $149,000 raised, $40,000 cash-on-hand
- State Sen. Michelle Benson: $53,000 raised, $38,000 cash-on-hand
- Dermatologist Neil Shah: $75,000 raised, $22,000 cash-on-hand
● NE-Gov: In the wake of last Thursday's story from the Nebraska Examiner where several women accused businessman Charles Herbster of sexual assault, state Sen. Brett Lindstrom has unveiled a poll of the May 10 Republican primary from 3D Strategic Research to argue that Herbster's advantage in the polls was eroding even before the publication of last week's bombshell news. The survey, which was conducted from April 10-12, finds Lindstrom tied 27-27 with University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen while Herbster, who has Trump's endorsement, is close behind in third at 23% and state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau is far back at 6%.
Lindstrom had previously released another poll from the same firm taken in early March that had Herbster ahead of Pillen by 30-23 and Lindstrom back in third with 20%, and the few other publicly available polls to date had also found Herbster in the lead, all of which were also conducted before the accusations against Herbster became public.
● WI-Gov: Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, who was elected to four terms between 1987 and 2001, says he has decided not to run for his old job again. The 80-year-old was last on the ballot in 2012 when he was the GOP's unsuccessful nominee against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
● OH-11: Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, which is backing Rep. Shontel Brown ahead of her rematch with former state Sen. Nina Turner in the May 3 Democratic primary, is running a new ad that praises Brown for standing with Joe Biden and voting for his infrastructure spending law last year.