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.
● House: With this decade's congressional redistricting cycle wrapped up, it's time to revisit a popular Daily Kos Elections project: actually trying to describe where each district is. We've now completed that effort thanks to a major crowdsourcing assist from loyal readers like you, so you can bookmark our complete set of descriptions for all 435 districts right here.
While many countries, including our neighbor to the north, give names to their election districts that reflect their geographic location, in the Unites States, we simply take a state's name and slap on a number, like "California's 11th Congressional District." It's concise, but it doesn't tell you anything about where in California you'll actually find the 11th District.
That turns out to be a straightforward one: This is Nancy Pelosi's seat, and she represents almost the entire city of San Francisco. Virginia's 8th, for instance, is "Inner D.C. suburbs," while Georgia's 1st is "Coastal Georgia." Many other districts, though, are quite a bit more difficult to pin down, especially since our aim with this resource is to provide useful short description of each district that would help a layperson mentally visualize where it is—without having to break out a map.
Take Pennsylvania's 9th, a dark-red district in the state's rural hinterlands. It doesn't contain any major or even medium-sized cities that non-locals are likely to know much about; its population centers are Williamsport (known for the Little League World Series), Pottsville (known for the Yuengling brewery), and Lebanon (known for bologna), none of which have more than 30,000 residents. The 9th even falls through the cracks if you try to use compass directions to describe it: It's too far west to be described as northeastern Pennsylvania, which in any case is a term that's usually associated with Scranton, and it's too far east to be north-central Pennsylvania.
For this district, we settled on "Northern Tier and part of Coal Country." We generally try to avoid localisms, but these regional names are at least somewhat helpful for intuiting where the district falls on the map. (The "Northern Tier" is the row of counties along the state's northern edge, mirroring New York's "Southern Tier" just across the border.)
Of course, there isn't one correct answer for any district, so consider our list of names as just a starting point. And if you prefer a more quantitative approach, we've also included the three largest "places" (as defined by the Census Bureau) in each district on our spreadsheet. We mentioned those three places for Pennsylvania's 9th just above, to take one example, but they combine for less than 9% of the district's population. In fact, fully half of all residents in the 9th live in locations that aren't part of any census-identified "place," showing just how rural this district is.
For a detailed walkthrough of our methodology and data, please check out David Jarman's new post, and be sure to bookmark our spreadsheet that houses all of this new information in one place. And if you have suggested refinements to our geographic descriptions, please let us know!
● Primary Night: Kleefisch Out of Water: The primary season continues Tuesday as voters go to the polls in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin; we also have a special election on the tap in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District to succeed Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February. As always, we've put together our guide for the big contests to watch.
The main event will be the Republican primary for governor of Wisconsin between former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who was Scott Walker's running mate in each of his campaigns and has his backing for the top job, and Trump-backed rich guy Tim Michels. The winner will take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in what will be one of the marquee races of 2022.
But there's much more to watch on Tuesday. Over in southwestern Wisconsin's 3rd District, four fellow Democrats are competing to succeed retiring Rep. Ron Kind in a constituency that trended hard to the right in the Trump era. Meanwhile in neighboring Minnesota, Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar are going up against well-funded intra-party opponents in safely blue Twin Cities seats.
There's also the contest in Minnesota's 1st where Republican Brad Finstad both needs to win his special general election and prevail against a familiar primary opponent. Finally in Vermont, we have an expensive Democratic primary between Lt. Gov. Molly Gray and state Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, who would each end the Green Mountain State's status as the only state in America that has not elected a woman to Congress You can find out more about each of these races, as well as even more, in our guide.
Our live coverage will begin at 9 PM ET when polls close in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which are home to the bulk of Tuesday's big races. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates, and you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.
● FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Two liberal organizations, Progress Florida and Florida Watch, have released an internal from Clarity Campaigns that shows Sunshine State Democrats in much better shape this year than the myriad of pessimistic stories would suggest. The survey has GOP Sen. Marco Rubio deadlocked 45-45 with Democratic Rep. Val Demings, while Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis leads Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 47-44 and 49-43, respectively. Surprisingly, we've seen very few polls all year from either race.
● OH-Sen: Democrat Tim Ryan has unveiled a late July poll from Impact Research that shows him outpacing Republican J.D. Vance 48-45, which is almost identical to his 48-46 edge one month before.
During the intervening time a pro-Ryan group and the conservative John Bolton super PAC each dropped their own surveys finding Ryan up 46-41 and 44-38, respectively, while Vance's side hasn't responded with better numbers. Vance himself told Fox Friday, "I think the polls frankly are a big joke especially this far out." National Republicans aren't laughing, though, as they recently spent millions on TV ads in a contest where they likely never planned to spend anything at all.
● CT-Gov: While both Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski have access to huge amounts of money ahead of their rematch, The Connecticut Mirror reports that both the DGA and RGA have been airing commercials here. The DGA-backed Stronger CT has spent $1.4 million since mid-July, while its counterparts at Advancing Connecticut reported a $920,000 buy against Lamont on Friday; another conservative group called CT Truth PAC has also spent $1.6 million to date. Lamont defeated Stefanowski 49-46 in 2018, and both men have once again self-funded the vast majority of their campaigns.
● GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams' leadership committee is airing a commercial faulting GOP Gov. Brian Kemp for the recent cancellation of Atlanta's Music Midtown festival, a development that reportedly came about because organizers were worried that state laws would prevent them from banning weapons. The spot consists of footage of TV reports about the news: One anchor declares, "Gov. Kemp signed a bill eliminating the state's gun permit requirement," while another reporter explains, "A major blow to the city's economy … the festival brings in around $50 million."
The ad then shows a clip of Kemp being asked, "Any regrets about Music Midtown leaving in response to a gun law," to which the governor replies, "You would have to talk to them." It closes out with a journalist warning that this could put more events "in jeopardy."
● KY-Gov: State Rep. Savannah Maddox earned an endorsement over the weekend from Rep. Thomas Massie, which makes him the first member of the state's delegation to take sides in the 2023 Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Maddox and Massie are close allies, and the duo this year backed three successful primary challenges against Maddox's colleagues.
Meanwhile, one of Maddox's prospective intra-party foes sounds more likely to run for lieutenant governor rather than make a bid for the top job. State Sen. Max Wise responded to rumors that he could campaign on former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft's ticket by saying, "Kelly Craft will be a very credible candidate in an already crowded Republican primary. I am honored to even be mentioned as a running mate with her." Craft herself has not yet entered the race, but she's insisted that she's still very interested even though her former boss, Donald Trump, endorsed Attorney General Daniel Cameron back in June.
● AK-AL: If you're looking for a quick dose of late aughts nostalgia you're in luck, because businessman Nick Begich III has launched a spot that attacks fellow Republican Sarah Palin's record as governor and takes her to task for abruptly resigning back in 2009. (No, we can't believe that happened 13 years ago either.) This ad, which appears to be the first negative commercial ahead of next Tuesday's instant-runoff special election, opens with a small business owner named Athena Fulton telling the audience, "I get it. Sarah Palin is famous. But come on, U.S. Congress?"
Fulton continues, "As governor, Palin drove oil investment out of Alaska. Created our bloated state budget, quit and left Alaska to be a celebrity who didn't want to be stuck in Wasilla." That last bit is accompanied by photos of Palin's 2020 appearance on The Masked Singer where the one-time vice-presidential nominee performed "Baby Got Back" disguised as a pink and blue bear.
Fulton goes on to talk up Begich as someone who "shows up" unlike Palin, who she says is in New York City. (Pace Picante voice: "New York City?!?!?!") The ad, which does not feature Begich clad in any multi-colored Ursidae costumes, concludes with Fulton declaring, "I'm voting for smart, not Sarah." The third candidate, former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola, goes unmentioned.
Begich's offensive came around the same time that the Anchorage Daily News' Iris Samuels reported just how Palin has been "notably difficult to track down" during her comeback campaign. The former governor, the story says, has made only a few public appearances in the state and has ducked several candidate events, including an Anchorage Republican Women's forum earlier in the year: The organizers responded by setting aside an empty chair with her name attached and including the word "no."
Palin has been visible in the final days of the campaign … just not in Alaska. While she did appear at one candidate event last week, she skipped Wednesday's debate to instead hold a Minneapolis fundraiser with far-right pillow salesman Mike Lindell. Palin then appeared the following day at CPAC's Dallas confab, where she bashed the state's new voter-approved ranked choice law as "elements of a perfect bad storm."
● LA-03: Rep. Clay Higgins has received Donald Trump's endorsement for his November all-party primary against a fellow Republican, prosecutor Holden Hoggatt.
● NY-03: The crypto-aligned Protect Our Future PAC has deployed nearly $500,000 on TV and digital ads for Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, which makes this the first major outside buy ahead of the Aug. 23 Democratic primary.
● HMP: The House Majority PAC has announced a second round of fall TV ad reservations totaling $20 million across 23 media markets. All but four of these reservations are in markets where at least one of the four major outside spenders in House races (the DCCC, HMP, the NRCC, and the Congressional Leadership Fund) have already booked time.
The four brand-new markets include Champaign, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri, which would cover Illinois' 13th District, a Democratic pickup target. On the list as well is Chicago, which could include Illinois' 6th, 11th, and 14th Districts as well as Indiana's 1st, all of which are held by Democrats. The final new market is Syracuse, New York, which could be used for the 22nd District, another opportunity for a Democratic flip, and possibly the 19th, which Democrats are defending. You can find our complete summary of all reservation by the big four House groups right here.
● MI-AG: Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel's office on Friday asked the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that Republican rival Matt DePerno was part of a scheme to illegally acquire and tamper with voting machines early last year. DePerno, the attorney general's team asserts, "gained unauthorized access and compromised tabulators" and used the information in his failed lawsuit challenging Trump's defeat. Under state law, it is a five-year felony to "obtain undue possession of a voting machine used in an election."
The petition says that Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson asked the attorney general's office and Michigan State Police to "investigate third party access to vote tabulator" back in February, but that DePerno’s name wasn’t connected to the probe at the time. However, it adds that Nessel's office needs to step aside in order to avoid a conflict of interest now that her opponent is involved. DePerno's campaign responded by saying he "categorically denies" the allegations and calling them a "liberal fever dream of lies."
It may be some time before this matter proceeds. Bridge Michigan's Jonathan Oosting tweets, "Selecting a special prosecutor in vote machine tampering case could take weeks, if not months, according to prosecuting attorneys association." He added, "It's possible voters will have to cast ballots not knowing if DePerno will be charged."
● Montgomery County, MD Executive: Montgomery County used the weekend to finish tabulating ballots from the July 19 Democratic primary, and incumbent Marc Elrich holds a 42-vote lead over wealthy businessman David Blair―a margin of 39.20-39.17. Blair, who lost their 2018 contest by 77 votes, quickly said he would request a recount.
Bethesda Magazine writes that county election officials say they're "aiming" to certify the results by Friday, and that Blair would have three days afterwards to formally ask for a recount; Blair got a partial recount four years ago, but it netted him just two votes. The Democratic nominee will once again be the favorite in the November general election in this very blue county in the D.C. suburbs.