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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● WI-Gov: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week that Republican Tim Michels and his wife have donated $250,000 since 2020 to anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ groups, including two that use location tracking to dissuade people from having abortions, and Democrats are highlighting these revelations in a new commercial. "They call it an ankle bracelet," opens the narrator for a DGA affiliate called Alliance for Common Sense, "It's a way for police to track dangerous criminals."
She continues, "Tim Michels has the same idea, only his is about tracking women. Michels' family foundation funded an organization that tracks women when they get near abortion clinics using data from their cell phone." The narrator adds, "Which means Michels doesn't just want to criminalize abortion even in cases of rape or incest—he wants to treat women like they're the criminals."
As the Wisconsin Examiner recently explained, Michels' family foundation, which he runs along with his wife, contributed $20,000 to the Veritas Society. The group's website reads, "Utilizing our advanced Veritas Society digital technology, otherwise known as 'Polygonning' we identify and capture the cell phone ID's of women that are coming and going from Planned Parenthood and similar locations. We then reach these women on apps, social feeds and websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat with pro-life content and messaging."
The Veritas Society was far from the only hard-right recipient of Michels' money, though. The Journal Sentinel reported that Michels' foundation donated $50,000 to a Wisconsin church whose pastor said it was "awful" for trans children to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Another $10,000 went to Christ Fellowship, a Miami mega church whose long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetotic surfaced in 2015 when one of its parishioners, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, launched his failed presidential bid.
Michels responded to the story last week by telling a conservative radio host, "I believe people should just, just be ready to get out on the streets with pitchforks and torches with how low the liberal media has become." He also posted on his campaign site, "I will never, ever apologize for giving to charitable causes, or for being a Christian … However, the Journal Sentinel should be ashamed of their anti-religious bigotry."
● UT-Sen: Independent Evan McMullin has publicized an internal from the Democratic firm Impact Research that shows him leading Republican incumbent Mike Lee 47-46, which makes this the first survey we've seen here since mid-July. (This item originally said Lee led in the poll.) A Lee internal from that time showed the senator ahead by a wide 49-35, while a Dan Jones & Associates poll for the Deseret News and University of Utah put the Republican's edge at 41-36.
● CO-Gov: While Colorado's Senate race has received plenty of attention in recent weeks, Republican Heidi Ganahl isn't getting much donor love in her uphill battle to unseat Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. The incumbent, who is once again self-funding his campaign, ended August with $3.3 million on hand compared to only $188,000 for Ganahl.
● IL-Gov: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker goes after Republican Darren Bailey for saying that abortion is worse than the Holocaust with an ad starring a Holocaust survivor named Sam Harris. Harris tells the audience that of his "big, big family," just "two sisters and I were saved." He goes on to say of Bailey, "I think that, someone who makes a statement like this, if he only knew what I went through in the Holocaust. And he's comparing anything to the Holocaust just disturbed me immensely." Harris concludes, "I think he is very, very dangerous for our state."
Bailey's comments come from 2017 when he declared, "The attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn't even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion." The nominee has refused to apologize and insisted last month, "The Jewish community themselves have told me that I'm right." The Anti-Defamation League's Midwest chapter very much did not agree, saying, "The (comments) are deeply offensive, and do an incredible disservice to the millions of Jews and other victims killed by the Nazis."
● KS-Gov: Former Republican Gov. Bill Graves, who served from 1995 through 2003, has crossed party lines and endorsed Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly four years after he backed her 2018 bid. Kelly's GOP rival is Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who previously worked as the Graves administration's legal counsel
● SC-Gov: Democrat Joe Cunningham is out with a survey from Impact Research that shows Republican Gov. Henry McMaster up 49-42, with another 4% going to Libertarian Morgan Bruce; the memo argues that, once respondents are given "balanced positive information about each candidate," Cunningham's deficit drops to 3 points. The release came days after the Democratic firm Blueprint Polling, which did not have a client, found McMaster ahead 50-39.
● OR-06: Democrat Andrea Salinas has released a mid-August GBAO poll that gives her a 48-45 advantage over Republican Mike Erickson. The survey was publicized just after the Republican firm Clout Research dropped its own poll conducted around that same time giving Erickson a 43-34 lead. According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, Biden would have carried this newly created seat, which is based in the Salem area and southwestern Portland suburbs, 55-42.
Attorneys General and Secretaries of State
● MN-AG, MN-SoS: KSTP-TV's new poll from SurveyUSA finds Attorney General Keith Ellison fending off Republican Jim Schultz 46-40 as his fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Steve Simon, edges out Republican Kim Crockett 42-38; this sample gives Democratic Gov. Tim Walz a 51-33 advantage over Republican Scott Jensen. The poll was conducted shortly after CNN reported that Crockett last year called the 2020 election "the big rig" and "our 9/11."
● MI Ballot: The Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify a proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine a right to abortion and other reproductive health services for the November ballot; the justices also issued the same directive in a separate case concerning a voting rights expansion amendment. The decisions came one day ahead of the deadline to finalize the fall ballot.
Last week, the two Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers both voted against their Democratic counterparts to deny certification of both amendments, which created a deadlock that kept the initiatives off the ballot until the court intervened. GOP canvassers justified their decision to block approval of the abortion measure by claiming that missing spaces on some of the lines of the amendment text presented to those voters rendered it invalid. They also said the voting rights initiative couldn't advance on the grounds that it failed to tell petition signers what sections of the constitution it would amend.
All four Democratic members of the seven-member Supreme Court, as well as Republican Elizabeth Clement, very much disagreed, though. Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said of the abortion rights amendment, "The challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full text portion of the proposal." A recent poll from EPIC-MRA found that Michigan voters favored this amendment by a gigantic 67-24 margin, but Michigan Right to Life has reserved $16 million in TV ad time to try to defeat it.
● Chicago, IL Mayor: While Rep. Chuy Garcia just weeks ago sounded unenthusiastic about challenging his fellow Democrat, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in next year's nonpartisan race, he said Wednesday that his odds of entering the contest were now "50-50."
Garcia, who lost the 2015 mayoral contest to incumbent Rahm Emanuel three years before he was elected to the House, revealed he was talking about a possible second bid with the influential Chicago Teachers Union. The congressman, though, added, "My great desire to be a member of Congress when immigration reform finally becomes a reality makes it so difficult." Candidates have until Nov. 28 to collect signatures in order to make the ballot, and while Garcia said that this "would not be a concern" for him, he acknowledged he needed to make up his mind "soon."
Former Gov. Pat Quinn also reiterated this week that he was still considering what to do, though his volunteers are already gathering petitions in case he runs: Mayoral candidates need to turn in 12,500 valid signatures, though most serious contenders will try to collect at least three times this amount to give themselves a cushion in a city where petition challenges are a way of life. Several notable candidates are already competing in the February nonpartisan primary, and a runoff would take place in April if no one won a majority of the vote.
Chicago, though, isn't the only major American city where local politicians are already announcing 2023 bids for mayor, and below we'll be taking a look at notable developments in some of next year's contests.
● Denver, CO Mayor: This week, two local elected officials announced bids to succeed termed-out Mayor Michael Hancock, who was elected in 2011 to lead this solidly blue city. One new contender is Debbie Ortega, who won a spot on the City Council all the way back in 1987 and has held an at-large seat since 2011. She was joined days later by state Rep. Leslie Herod, whose 2016 victory made her the first gay Black woman to serve in the legislature.
The nonpartisan primary already included former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough, who served as now-Sen. John Hickenlooper's chief of staff when he was mayor in the 2000s. Ortega, Herod, and Brough would each be the first woman to lead Colorado's capital city, though plenty of others could still join the April contest.
● Houston, TX Mayor: While voters won't go to the polls until November of next year in the nonpartisan race to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, state Sen. John Whitmire launched his campaign in the fall of 2021. Whitmire was joined in the early months of this year by two fellow Democrats: former Harris County District Clerk Chris Hollins and former City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who took fifth in the 2020 primary for U.S. Senate.
● Jacksonville, FL Mayor: Jacksonville is the largest city in the country with a Republican mayor, but Florida Democrats have an opening in what's already a packed March nonpartisan primary to replace termed-out incumbent Lenny Curry.
Two notable Democrats are already in, and they would each be the first woman mayor. Former local TV anchor Donna Deegan launched her bid in November of 2021 a year after she failed to unseat GOP Rep. John Rutherford in the reliably red 4th District, and she was joined in June by state Sen. Audrey Gibson.
The GOP field expanded last week when Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis, who is a former city councilman, jumped in, and his allied campaign committee has already brought in over $4 million since it began fundraising in January of 2021. Two sitting city councilmembers, LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber and Al Ferraro, were already in.
Republicans seized control of city hall for the first time in a century when Mayor Ed Austin switched parties while in office in 1993, and they've only lost one mayoral election since then. That defeat came in 2011 when Democrat Alvin Brown scored a major upset in an open seat contest, a win that also made him Jax's first Black chief executive. Curry, though, retook this post four years later by narrowly unseating Brown 51-49.
There are more recent signs, though, that the River City is open to electing another Democratic mayor. Duval County, which has been consolidated with Jacksonville since 1968, supported both Sen. Bill Nelson and gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum in 2018 even as they were narrowly losing statewide. Two years later, Joe Biden's 51-47 victory here made him the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry Duval County since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
● Memphis, TN Mayor: While incumbent Jim Strickland said he'd run for re-election if voters approved a ballot measure that would have allowed mayors to serve three terms, that 66-34 defeat last month means that he'll be termed-out in 2023. Weeks later, Downtown Memphis Commission CEO Paul Young and former Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner became the first two major candidates to launch bids to lead this solidly blue city.
Memphis requires all the candidates to run on one nonpartisan ballot without any sort of primary or runoff: Indeed, Strickland himself prevailed in 2015 by unseating incumbent A C Wharton 41-22, which made him the first white person to lead this majority Black community in 24 years.
So far, attempts to change the city's election system have all failed. Voters backed a 2018 referendum to introduce an instant-runoff system, but state election officials soon ruled that it could not be implemented; this February, the GOP-dominated state legislature made sure it couldn't come into force by banning ranked choice voting in Tennessee. And while local activists proposed another ballot measure that would require a runoff for a later date in races where no one earned a majority, the City Council last week voted against placing it on the November ballot.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Political observers have spent years speculating over who will compete in the all-important May Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Jim Kenney, and three city council members announced this week that, per city law, they were resigning in order to run: Derek Green, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, and Cherelle Parker. A fourth member, Allan Domb, also stepped down last month to prepare for a potential bid, but he has not committed to anything yet.
Quiñones-Sánchez or Parker would be the first woman to lead the city; Quiñones-Sánchez would also be Philadelphia's first Latina mayor, while Parker would be the first Black woman to hold this post. It takes just a plurality to win the Democratic nod in a city that hasn't had a Republican chief executive since 1952.