The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● North Carolina: In a remarkable decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on Friday that because the state legislature was unconstitutionally gerrymandered, Republican lawmakers may have lacked the power to approve amendments to the state constitution and put them before voters.
The ruling, which the court's 4-3 Democratic majority issued along party lines, stopped short of granting the plaintiffs' requests to strike down two amendments Republicans passed in 2018—one to require photo voter ID and another to cap any state income tax at 7%. The justices instead returned the case to the trial court for further findings, though its framing of the dispute indicates that there's a strong likelihood the state courts will ultimately invalidate the amendments.
At the heart of this case is the fact that a large number of legislative districts had already been struck down in 2017 after federal courts found they illegally discriminated against Black voters. However, Republicans who had been elected under the unconstitutional maps used their supermajorities to place their amendments on the ballot the following year, when they were ultimately approved by voters.
The plaintiffs, who are backed by the NAACP, made the unusual—but not unprecedented—argument that the GOP's widespread illegal gerrymandering rendered the legislature a "usurper" that legally lacked the power to amend North Carolina's foundational governing document because it had "lost its claim to popular sovereignty." A lower court agreed in 2019 by striking down the two amendments, but a 2-1 Republican majority on the state Court of Appeals reversed that ruling along party lines in 2020, leading the plaintiffs to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The majority was sympathetic to the plaintiffs' claims, ruling that the state constitution "impose[d] limits" on an improperly constituted legislature to initiate the constitutional amendment process. However, it sent the case back to the trial court, ordering the judge to determine whether the GOP owed its supermajorities to the gerrymandered maps and whether the amendments discriminate against the same type of voters who had been discriminated against by the original gerrymandering in the first place. It's likely that the lower court will find that the answer to these questions is "yes" and once again strike down the amendments.
The dissent cast furious aspersions on the motives of the majority, and Republicans reacted with predictable anger. State House Speaker Tim Moore decried the ruling as a "judicial coup" and vowed to keep fighting the decision, which could mean potentially appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
They will also have the chance to undo this ruling by means of the ballot box. In November, two Democratic seats on the state Supreme Court are up: Democratic Justice Sam Ervin IV faces Republican attorney Trey Allen, while Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman is attempting to hold on to an open Democratic seat against a fellow Court of Appeals Judge, Republican Richard Dietz. If Republicans win either seat, they would regain the court majority that they lost in 2016, paving the way for a string of reversals not only in this case but in many others.
● NV-Sen: In what's certain to be a recurring theme in Republican ads this year, the far-right Club for Growth is putting $2 million behind a spot attacking Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto over the newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act. The ad features ominous footage of an army of G-men in black suits—strongly reminiscent of the "agents" from The Matrix films—while the narrator warns of "87,000 new IRS agents" coming for the middle class.
Republican officeholders and media figures have widely tried conjuring up the boogeyman of jackbooted IRS thugs coming to oppress middle class taxpayers since the law's passage. But even Trump-appointed IRS Director Charles Rettig has stated that the agency would not crack down on those making less than $400,000, explaining that the beefed up enforcement of tax evasion would only target corporations and the richest 1-2% of households.
The IRS will reportedly also use the new funds, which comes after a decade of Republican-backed budget cuts left the agency with nearly 20% less funding than in 2010, to replace many of the nearly 50,000 of its employees who could retire over the next five years. Many of the thousands of newly created IRS jobs beyond those positions would be in customer service and information technology—hardly the tens of thousands of armed enforcement agents that Republicans are whipping up paranoia over.
● Polls: A fair bit of statewide polling came down the pike on Friday. Be sure to check out the gubernatorial numbers below as well.
● Polls: We also have polls for half a dozen different governor's races, too.
● MI-08: The Kevin McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund has launched a new ad attacking Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee over what it calls wasteful stimulus spending, skewering him for voting to give "millions" to golf courses, ski slopes, and "terrorists" like the Boston Marathon bomber.
However, that last claim conflates the millions of dollars loaned to a wide range of businesses to help the economy recover from the pandemic with the $1,400 checks that were sent to individual Americans, including convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev is serving a life sentence, and a federal judge earlier this year had already ordered that his check be turned over to help pay the victims of his crimes.
● NH-01: Former Trump staffer Karoline Leavitt has responded to two recent polls that had her down big in next month's GOP primary with a Remington Research Group survey that has her tied at 21 apiece with 2020 nominee Matt Mowers, who is also a former Trump White House aide. A poll for the Congressional Leadership Fund had put Mowers up 37-13, while another for the conservative news site NH Journal had found him ahead by a somewhat smaller 31-16 margin. However, a survey from Saint Anselm College showed Mowers leading only 25-21.
● NY-02: The DCCC has shared an internal poll conducted in late July by GQR that finds Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino with just a 49-48 lead on Democrat Jackie Gordon in New York's 2nd Congressional District. This is the first data either side has released on the race for this Long Island-based district on south shore of Suffolk County, which would have voted just 50-49 for Donald Trump under the new lines.
● PA-17: Hotline has gotten its hands on a month-old Lake Research internal for Democratic attorney Chris Deluzio that shows him just barely edging out his Republican opponent, businessman Jeremy Shaffer, by a 43-42 margin. A couple of polls from the springtime, including one from the DCCC and another from U.S. Term Limits, also found a similarly tight race. Pennsylvania's 17th, located in the Pittsburgh suburbs, would have voted 52-46 for Joe Biden, which is an improvement for Democrats compared to Biden's 51-48 margin under the old lines.
● Polls: Here's another big poll dump from U.S. Term Limits, whom we can at least credit for having a name that spells out exactly what the group stands for (even if their quest is quixotic and their goal wrong-headed). All are from the Republican pollster RMG Research, which botched Democrats' names in two of their surveys: In Pennsylvania's 7th, they misspelled Susan Wild's name as "Wilde," while in North Carolina's 13th, they called Wiley Nickel "Wally."
- AZ-04: Greg Stanton (D-inc): 46, Kelly Cooper (R): 39
- NC-13: Bo Hines (R): 44, Wiley Nickel (D): 39
- MD-06: Neil Parrott (R): 45, David Trone (D-inc): 43
- NV-04: Steven Horsford (D-inc): 43, Sam Peters (R): 43
- PA-01: Brian Fitzpatrick (R-inc): 42, Ashley Ehasz (D): 35
- PA-07: Lisa Scheller (R): 47, Susan Wild (D-inc): 43
- TX-15: Monica De La Cruz (R): 44, Michelle Vallejo (D): 40
- WA-08: Kim Schrier (D-inc): 47, Matt Larkin (R): 43
In each case, the sponsor says that Republicans have signed their pledge to support term limits and Democrats have not, except in Pennsylvania's 1st and Texas' 15th, where it says the reverse is the case.
● GA Public Service Commission: On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a stay issued by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and thus reinstated a lower court ruling that had struck down Georgia's statewide election method for selecting members of the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, for illegally discriminating against Black voters. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office subsequently indicated that they wouldn't keep pursuing a stay on different grounds while their appeal on the underlying merits remains ongoing, at least as it pertains to the 2022 elections.
Consequently, elections for two of the board's five seats, all of which are held by Republicans, are once again no longer on the ballot this fall. Lawmakers will be required to devise a district-based election system next year if the ruling remains in effect. Should the ruling survive further appeal, a new district-based system could ensure at least one or two of the seats enables Black voters to elect their chosen candidates, but it could also open the door to Republican gerrymandering.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.