The former congressman soon sought a more powerful post when he decided to go up against Wasden. While the attorney general had won renomination without opposition in 2018, he infuriated the far-right when he refused to join 17 other GOP attorneys general in trying to overturn Biden's victory by arguing that he shouldn't be getting involved in other state's elections. Wasden also made enemies closer to home by getting into fights with the hardline Republicans in charge of the state legislature by issuing opinions calling some of their legislation unconstitutional.
Labrador and his allies, including the Club for Growth, argued that he'd be a far more loyal Republican than Wasden: Among other things, Labrador said that he would have joined the suit to reverse Biden's win. Primary voters responded to his pitch on Tuesday by firing their state's longest-serving attorney general.
● Okay, wow, we have a lot of primaries to talk about on this week's episode of The Downballot, which is why we asked political strategist and fellow elections nerd Joe Sudbay to join us to recap it all. There's Madison Cawthorn losing in North Carolina, of course, as well as the GOP nominating QAnon ally Doug Mastriano for governor and the still-undecided Republican battle for Senate in Pennsylvania, plus a fantastic win for an Oregon progressive who'd be the state's first Hispanic member of Congress—which was also a humiliating loss for a crypto-backed super PAC that spent massively on another candidate.
On top of that, we lay into DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney for his inexplicable, selfish decision to run in a new district where three-quarters of the residents are already represented by a progressive Black freshman, Mondaire Jones. And much, much more! Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.
● AK Redistricting: A state court judge has once again ruled that Alaska's Republican-dominated redistricting board engaged in illegal partisan gerrymandering by pairing House districts to form Senate districts in such a way as to give the GOP an improper advantage. This time, however, Judge Thomas Matthews did not give the panel another opportunity to correct the problem but instead ordered it to adopt an alternate plan on an interim basis for the 2022 elections.
Republicans on the board had initially paired 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. After the state courts struck down that configuration, the board's majority adopted a similar approach, combining a different pair of House seats divided by "several hundred miles of uninhabited state park, including the Chugach Mountains" so that two deeply conservative House districts that belong together could instead each dominate a separate Senate district.
Matthews determined that Republicans yet again impermissibly sought to boost their own fortunes and had engaged in intentional discrimination in doing so. Republicans immediately said they'd appeal to the state Supreme Court, but Matthews' ruling could have a major impact if it's upheld. With just 20 members, Alaska's state Senate is the smallest legislative chamber in the nation, so even one seat switching from the Republicans to the Democrats would represent a considerable shift. While Democrats would likely remain in the minority, the party has in the recent past governed the Senate through bipartisan coalitions with Republican pragmatists, an arrangement that persists today in the House.
● KS Redistricting: The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a lower court ruling that had struck down the state's congressional map as an illegal partisan and racial gerrymander last month. The justices did not provide an explanation for their decision or even a breakdown of the vote, saying in a terse ruling only that a "full opinion" was "forthcoming." As a consequence, the GOP's map, which targets Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids by splitting up the Kansas City area and making her 3rd District redder, will take effect.
Separately, the Supreme Court upheld the state's new legislative maps, which are subject to a mandatory review by the court.
● CA-Sen, CA-Gov: Tech company CEO Dan O'Dowd attracted some attention last month when he launched a self-funded ad campaign full of commercials attacking billionaire Elon Musk (who is not a candidate for Senate), but SurveyUSA finds that very few voters are interested in supporting O'Dowd’s long-shot bid against his fellow Democrat, Sen. Alex Padilla. The poll, conducted on behalf of KGTV-TV San Diego and the San Diego Union-Tribune, shows the incumbent with a 36-9 lead over Republican James Bradley, who badly lost as the 2020 nominee in the old 33rd District against Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu; O'Dowd, by contrast, nabs a mere 1%.
The concurrent special election for the final two months of Kamala Harris' Senate term is little different, with Padilla up 40-11 over his nearest GOP foe, attorney Mark Meuser, whom Padilla trounced in a landslide for secretary of state in 2018. O'Dowd does better in the smaller field, though he’s still barely a presence with just 6% of the vote.
SurveyUSA also inspects the governor's race and shows Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom taking 40% as state Sen. Brian Dahle, who has the state GOP's backing, and businessman Ronald Anderson tie for second place at 7% each. This is one of the first polls we've seen of any of these races since the ballot was finalized in March.
● MO-Sen: Two new polls agree that disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens is a serious contender in the August Republican primary, but they diverge on whether he has a notable lead or is in third place. In the former camp is SurveyUSA’s poll for Gray Television that shows Greitens with a 26-17 lead over state Attorney General Eric Schmitt as Rep. Vicky Hartzler takes 11%; fellow Rep. Billy Long earns just 7%, and 28% of voters remain undecided.
However, Missouri Scout has also released a primary survey from GOP firm Remington Research Group, whose parent company also works for Schmitt, that finds Schmitt beating Hartzler 29-23 while Greitens is close behind at 21%. The handful of polls taken so far this year have disagreed over which candidate has the advantage, variously finding leads for Schmitt and Greitens while Hartzler often remains close behind.
On the Democratic side, SurveyUSA shows a large 63% majority of voters have yet to make up their minds, while Marine veteran Lucas Kunce holds just a 10-8 edge over wealthy philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine. Looking forward to hypothetical general election matchups, the poll finds Schmitt and Hartzler leading either Democrat by anywhere from 45-31 to 44-33. By contrast, Greitens fails to crack double digits and holds just a 43-37 edge over Busch Valentine and a similar 42-36 lead over Kunce.
● NC-Sen: The conservative Carolina Partnership for Reform has unveiled a Meeting Street Insights poll done just before the primary that finds Republican Rep. Ted Budd leading 46-45 against former Democratic state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who each won their respective primaries on Tuesday. There have been few general election polls by reliable firms here this year, but these numbers are very similar to a Global Strategy Group internal that Beasley released earlier this month showing a 45-45 tie and a late-March survey by GOP pollster Cygnal that showed Budd up 45-43.
● NH-Sen: The NRSC has launched a new ad as part of its opening seven-figure buy that goes after Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan for voting against natural gas drilling and for raising gas taxes when she served as governor, blaming her for rising energy prices.
● WI-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has debuted his first TV ad, which is part of what the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel characterizes as a "multi-million dollar" campaign, months after his rivals began airing their own spots ahead of the August Democratic primary. The commercial features Barnes shopping for groceries as he asserts that most senators "couldn't tell you the cost of a gallon of milk" or "how much beef has gone up this year," while Barnes stresses his middle-class background and argues he isn't like most senators or "any of the other millionaires running for Senate" in a subtle dig against his wealthy primary opponents.
● MD-Gov: Former nonprofit head Wes Moore has unveiled a Garin-Hart-Yang Research internal of the July Democratic primary that shows the race is still wide open with 42% undecided and Moore trailing state Comptroller Peter Franchot by a modest 19-13 while former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker takes 11% and no other candidate breaks double digits. These results are similar to the few other polls we've seen here this year, each of which showed Franchot with a small lead while the biggest chunk of the electorate was still undecided.
● MI-Gov: The Detroit Regional Chamber has released a poll from the Glengariff Group of the August GOP primary that sees former Detroit Police Chief James Craig leading chiropractor Garrett Soldano 23-8; businessman Kevin Rinke earns 6%, fellow businessman Perry Johnson and Jan. 6 insurrectionist Ryan Kelley are tied at 5%, and 45% of Republican voters are undecided.
● NV-Gov: GOP firm OH Predictive Insights has once more surveyed the June 14 Republican primary on behalf of the nonpartisan Nevada Independent, and their latest poll finds Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo ahead by 35-15 against attorney Joe Gilbert. Former Sen. Dean Heller is mired in third with 11%, though that’s still slightly better than North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee’s 9% showing. The pollster's previous offering back in January had found Lombardo ahead with a 28-9 edge over Heller.
● RI-Gov: A new Fleming & Associates poll of the September Democratic primary for Roger Williams University and WPRI finds Gov. Dan McKee with just a 25-23 advantage over Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, while former Secretary of State Matt Brown is further behind with 7% and former CVS executive Helena Foulkes takes 6%. The only other numbers we’ve seen this year came from an April Lake Research Partners internal for Gorbea that found her up 30-24 over McKee, who ascended to the governor's office last year after his predecessor Gina Raimondo joined Biden's cabinet as commerce secretary.
● HI-02: Despite previously filing with the FEC for a bid, Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters has announced that he won't run to succeed fellow Democrat Kai Kahele after all. Currently, the Democratic field consists of former state Sen. Jill Tokuda and state Rep. Patrick Branco, and the June 7 deadline for candidates to file is fast approaching.
● IL-01: Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell has unveiled an endorsement for the crowded June 28 Democratic primary from SEIU Local 73, a union Politico describes as “powerful.” Dowell's campaign says the group represents "more than 5,600 frontline, essential workers in the district."
● MD-04: Former Rep. Donna Edwards has disclosed a Lake Research Partners internal ahead of the July Democratic primary that shows her holding a wide 45-24 advantage over former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey in her bid to take back her former House seat, while former Del. Angela Angel barely registers with 4%. This is the first poll we've seen here in this dark-blue district.
● Special Elections: Here's our recap of Tuesday's contest in Pennsylvania:
PA SD-05: Democrat Jimmy Dillion kept this Northeast Philadelphia seat blue by defeating Republican Sam Oropeza 55-45, a margin comparable to Joe Biden's 54-45 performance in 2020. The GOP coalition (which includes independent John Yudichak) will hold a 29-21 edge in the upper chamber when Dillion takes office, with no other seats vacant.
● Louisville, KY Mayor: Developer Craig Greenberg defeated activist Shameka Parrish-Wright 41-22 in the party primary to succeed incumbent Greg Fischer, a fellow Democrat who is termed-out after three terms. Greenberg will be the heavy favorite in November against the Republican nominee, Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf, in a city that supported Joe Biden 59-39. (While it may seem strange for a mayor of one community to be running for mayor of another city, it's possible because the merger agreement allowed Jefferson County's existing suburbs to remain intact and keep their local governments.)
This race attracted national attention in February for unwelcome reasons when Greenberg was shot at in his campaign headquarters, though neither the candidate nor anyone else was injured. Quintez Brown, a 21-year-old candidate for the Metro Council, was arrested minutes later and charged with attempted murder.
● ID-Gov: Gov. Brad Little turned back a Republican primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a Trump-endorsed candidate who is also an ally of far-right conspiracist groups, 53-32, and he should have no trouble in the general election.
● OR-Gov: Former state House Speaker Tina Kotek defeated state Treasurer Tobias Read 58-33 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Kate Brown; Kotek would be the first lesbian elected governor anywhere in the country, though Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey would also have that distinction if she won this year.
For the Republican nomination, former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan beat former state Rep. Bob Tiernan, who self-funded much of his campaign, 23-19, while Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam was a distant third with 10%. While ballots are still being tabulated, Tiernan conceded to Drazan on Wednesday afternoon, and the AP called the race hours later. Kotek and Drazan will be in for an expensive general election campaign that also features former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who's been a strong fundraiser.
● ID-02: Twelve-term Rep. Mike Simpson, just like Springfield's most famous residents, has been renewed again despite grumbling from longtime fans. The Republican incumbent won renomination against Bryan Smith 55-33 in this safely red constituency in eastern Idaho; Simpson defeated Smith 62-38 in 2014, and he didn't face any serious intra-party opposition in between those two contests.
● KY-03: State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey defeated state Rep. Attica Scott 63-37 in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. John Yarmuth, who has spent a decade as Kentucky's only Democratic member of Congress. McGarvey had Yarmuth's endorsement as well as a massive fundraising lead over Scott, and he also received almost $1 million in support from Protect Our Future PAC. McGarvey should have little trouble in the general election for a Louisville seat that Biden would have carried 60-38.
● NC-01: State Sen. Don Davis beat his former colleague, Erica Smith, 63-31 for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring Rep. G.K. Butterfield. Davis had the backing of the outgoing congressman, and he also benefited from heavy spending from United Democracy Project, a super PAC funded by the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC.
Republicans are hoping that Butterfield's departure will give them a bigger opening in a northeastern North Carolina seat that Biden would have taken 53-45, but the national GOP is now stuck with a nominee they very much didn't want to have again. That nominee is accountant Sandy Smith, an election denier who defeated Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson 31-27.
Smith lost the 2020 general election to Butterfield 54-46 in a race that attracted little attention at the time, and powerful Republicans didn't show any obvious reticence about having her as their standard bearer again until last week. But everything changed when the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC close to party leadership, launched a $590,000 ad campaign that attacked Smith's ethics. That failed offensive came about after Roberson published opposition research that, among other things, described how two of Smith's former husbands accused her of domestic violence, though this material didn't make it into CLF's commercials.
P.S. This is the second time we know of where CLF has taken direct action to try to stop someone from winning the GOP nod. Last cycle, the group used $910,000 to finance a new super PAC called Illinois Conservatives PAC that ran ads attacking state Sen. Jim Oberweis in the primary to take on Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood in Illinois' 14th Congressional District. (Unlike in this week's race, CLF's involvement wasn't public knowledge until after the primary was over.) Oberweis, though, won the nod despite that intervention only to lose to Underwood in the fall.
● NC-04: State Sen. Valerie Foushee outpaced Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam 46-37 in the Democratic primary to succeed longtime Rep. David Price in this dark blue constituency. Foushee, who would be the first Black person to represent the college town of Chapel Hill in Congress, benefited from almost $3.5 million in outside support mostly from AIPAC and Protect Our Future, which was close to ten times the amount that Allam's allies spent.
● NC-13: State Sen. Wiley Nickel defeated former state Sen. Sam Searcy 52-23 to capture the Democratic nomination for the 13th Congressional District, a new seat in Raleigh's southern suburbs that Biden would have won 50-48.
On the GOP side, law student Bo Hines, who had Trump's support, won the eight-way contest by turning back party activist DeVan Barbour 32-23. Plenty of vocal local Republicans grumbled about Hines, a 26-year-old former North Carolina State University football player who has minimal ties to the area, but the Club for Growth and nihilistic House Freedom Caucus spent heavily to introduce him to the base.
P.S. Tuesday's Republican primary marked the third electoral failure for former Rep. Renee Ellmers, who took fifth place with just 9%. She still has a ways to go, however, before she starts to emulate the late Clyde Holloway, a Louisiana Republican who served in the House for just six years and waged five unsuccessful campaigns to return.
● OR-04: State Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle decisively beat activist Doyle Canning 65-16 in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring incumbent Peter DeFazio, who supported Hoyle. The labor commissioner will face 2020 Republican nominee Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard veteran whose 52-46 loss last cycle represented the closest re-election contest of DeFazio's career. Democratic mapmakers extended Biden's margin of victory in this constituency along the state's south coast from 51-47 to 55-42.
● PA-07: While Lisa Scheller seemed to be on a glide path towards a rematch against Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, the 2020 Republican nominee is locked in an unexpectedly tight primary that remains uncalled. With 67,000 votes tabulated, Scheller leads technology consulting company owner Kevin Dellicker 51-49, a margin of 1,757 ballots. No matter how things turn out, though, Wild will likely be in for a challenging contest in a redrawn Lehigh Valley seat where Biden's margin slipped from 52-47 to just 50-49.
● PA-12: The Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Doyle remains close and uncalled. With 112,000 ballots counted, state Rep. Summer Lee holds a 41.7-41.3 edge over former Pennsylvania Securities Commission head Steve Irwin, a margin of 446 votes, in a Pittsburgh seat that Biden would have won 59-39. We almost certainly won't have a resolution here until early next week because of a technical problem in Allegheny County, which makes up most of this seat (the balance is in Westmoreland County) and where Lee is ahead 44-40.
Local election officials said Wednesday that memory sticks were inadvertently locked in the scanners in 30 precincts, and that "[i]t takes six days for us to get equipment out and six days to get it back." The county also says that the current tabulation includes "[a]ll mail-in and absentee ballots," which went heavily for Irvin. The eventual nominee will take on Mike Doyle―that is, the Republican president of the Plum Borough Council who shares a name with the departing Democratic incumbent.
Lee, a progressive who would be the first Black woman to represent the Keystone State in Congress, had the support of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and the influential SEIU Pennsylvania State Council. In Irwin's corner, meanwhile, was Doyle (the Democratic one) and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. This was a very expensive contest, with pro-Irwin groups spending $3.1 million compared to $1.7 million on Lee's side: Most of the pro-Irwin spending came from AIPAC, while Lee's main allies were the Working Families Party and Justice Democrats.
● PA-17: Navy veteran Chris Deluzio defeated party operative Sean Meloy 64-36 in the Democratic primary to replace Rep. Conor Lamb, who left this competitive constituency behind to wage an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Senate nomination. Former Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer also pulled off a decisive win on the Republican side by beating national security analyst Jason Killmeyer 59-24. Biden would have carried this suburban Pittsburgh seat 52-46.