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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● CA-Sen: California Rep. Adam Schiff, who became a national favorite among Democrats for his battles against the Trump administration, announced Thursday that he was running in next year's top-two primary for the Senate seat held by Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat who has not confirmed she'll retire in 2024.
Schiff, who previously said he'd only run if Feinstein didn't, told KQED, "I wouldn't be doing this without her blessing." All the candidates will compete on the same ballot in the top-two primary, which is set for March 2024; the two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election.
Schiff joins a competitive contest that already includes Rep. Katie Porter, who has her own following among Democrats across the country. Another prominent progressive, Rep. Barbara Lee, has not yet revealed her own plans, though media outlets say she told the Congressional Black Caucus she would run earlier this month. Allies of the 76-year-old Lee reportedly have told donors that she'd serve just one term in the upper chamber. A fourth Democratic congressman, Ro Khanna, is also interested, though he's said he'll take Lee's decision into account.
Other Golden State Democrats could take a look at this race as well, though anyone who wants to win in this expensive and populous state can't afford to procrastinate. Indeed, while Feinstein herself had made it clear she's in no hurry to announce a decision, Schiff's decision shows that few politicos expect the 89-year-old incumbent to run again. Feinstein herself said days ago she'd make her decision in the "next couple months," though she told Raw Story Wednesday, "I need a little bit of time, so it's not this year." However, California's candidate filing deadline is scheduled for December of this year.
Schiff, for his part, was elected to a House seat around Pasadena back in 2000 by unseating two-term Republican Rep. James Rogan, and he wasn't a particularly recognizable member of Congress during his first 16 years in D.C. His profile started to dramatically rise in 2017 when as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, he was one of the most prominent figures to accuse Donald Trump's campaign of colluding with Russia.
Schiff went on to chair the committee after his party flipped the House in 2018, and he was the lead impeachment manager during Trump's first impeachment: On Tuesday, just two days before the Democrat launched his Senate bid, Speaker Kevin McCarthy ejected Schiff and fellow California Rep. Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee, a move Schiff characterized as "trying to remove me from the intel committee for holding his boss at Mar-a-Lago accountable."
Schiff's national name recognition helped him accumulate a massive $20.6 million war chest through late November, money he can use on his Senate bid. Porter herself had a smaller though still substantial $7.7 million available weeks after winning a close reelection fight. Both members will certainly bring in far more as they seek to represent America's most populous state.
● FL-Sen: Sen. Rick Scott confirmed Thursday that he'd seek re-election months after his chaotic tenure as NRSC chair badly wounded his 2024 presidential hopes, but Florida Politics writes that he could indeed face a notable Republican primary foe. A.G. Gancarski writes that Keith Gross, who unnamed sources describe as a "very wealthy businessman, worth millions," is considering taking on the senator. There's no word from Gross, who recently formed a conservative 501(c)(4), about his interest in what would be a challenging battle against the uber-rich incumbent.
● KY-Gov: Mason-Dixon is out with the first poll anyone has released of this November's general election for governor of Kentucky, and it shows Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear leading all his potential opponents in this dark red state. The survey, which was done for several state media organizations, also finds Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, with an early lead ahead of the May GOP primary.
We'll start with how Beshear fares against Cameron and three other potential Republican foes among registered voters:
49-40 vs. Attorney General Daniel Cameron
52-35 vs. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles
53-33 vs. Auditor Mike Harmon
57-32 vs. former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft
The survey did not include general election matchups testing two other notable GOP contenders, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck or suspended attorney Eric Deters.
Democrats need just about everything to go right to win statewide in Kentucky, but Mason-Dixon finds that Beshear starts out the campaign with strong numbers: The governor posts a 61-29 approval rating, while respondents say they view him favorably by a similar 52-23 margin. Cameron, by contrast, has a 30-18 favorable image, while few people have much of an opinion about any of the other Republicans.
We always caution that you should never let one poll determine your outlook of a race, and that's especially true when it's a survey taken nearly a year before Election Day. Indeed, Mason-Dixon back in December of 2018 showed Beshear, who was attorney general at the time, posting a 48-40 advantage over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin among registered voters, which is almost identical to how it shows him doing against Cameron now. By October of 2019, though, the firm, which had by now switched to surveying likely voters, had the race deadlocked 46-46: Beshear ended up unseating Bevin by a tight 49.2-48.8.
Mason-Dixon also gives us an early look at GOP nomination fight and has Cameron beating Craft 39-13 as Quarles takes third with 8%. The only other primary poll we've seen this year was a Cameron internal from Meeting Street that gave him an identical 39% as Craft and Quarles took 8% each. Craft, for her part, has spent $1.1 million on ads while none of her opponents have taken to the airwaves yet, but if she has polls showing that early offensive boosting her image, she has yet to release them.
● MS-Gov: Secretary of State Michael Watson announced Wednesday that he would seek re-election rather than challenge Gov. Tate Reeves in this year's Republican primary. Mississippi's Feb. 1 filing deadline is coming up fast, and it remains to be seen if the governor will face any serious intra-party opposition.
● NC-Gov: The Republican firm Differentiator Data, surveying for the right-wing groups NC Values Coalition and NC Faith & Freedom Coalition, finds a 42-42 deadlock in a hypothetical general election between Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Stein launched his campaign for governor last week, while North Carolina politicos have long anticipated that Robinson will also run.
● AZ-03: Inside Elections' Erin Covey relays that former state Sen. Martin Quezada, who was the 2022 Democratic nominee for state treasurer, is "reportedly considering" a bid to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego in this safely blue seat. There's no word from Quezada, whom Gov. Katie Hobbs appointed this week to lead the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Covey also mentions two other Democrats, Phoenix City Council Member Betty Guardado and state Rep. Analise Ortiz, as possible contenders.
● CA-30: Several Democrats began preparing potential bids to succeed Rep. Adam Schiff even before he announced his Senate bid Thursday, and there could be a crowded contest to replace him in California's 30th District, which includes part of Los Angeles as well as all of Burbank and Glendale. This constituency, which is home to landmarks such as Griffith Park, the Hollywood Sign, and Universal Studios, backed Joe Biden by a 72-20 margin, so there's a very good chance that two strong Democrats could advance out of the top-two primary.
One announced candidate is tech businessman Joshua Bocanegra, who does not appear to have run for office before; Bocanegra tweeted over the weekend that he'd considered his own Senate bid, but "I realized that my district is where I can have the most impact."
Another declared contender is Maebe A. Girl, a member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council who attracted national attention in 2022 when she tried to become the first trans member of Congress. Girl, a drag performer who uses she/they pronouns, became the first nonbinary congressional candidate to ever compete in a general two years after falling short, but Schiff prevailed 71-29.
Two elected officials also set up campaign committees with the FEC about two weeks ahead of Schiff's launch: Nick Melvoin, who is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman. Actor Ben Savage, the "Boy Meets World" star who lost a race for West Hollywood City Council last year, filed with the FEC last week too.
Politico reported two weeks ago that state Sen. Anthony Portantino is “widely expected” to get in as well, and he filed new FEC paperwork Thursday. Portantino launched a campaign for Congress back in 2011 against Republican incumbent David Dreier, but neither man ended up running for office the next year after redistricting completely scrambled the map; Portantino, though, still has $180,000 on-hand from that effort. Former Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who ran for mayor last year but dropped out before the nonpartisan primary, also told Politico this month he was “very seriously” considering.
● IN-03: Former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, an Indiana Republican who was a tea party favorite during his tenure from 2010 to 2017, told WANE 15 Tuesday that he was considering running to reclaim his old safely red seat next year. The story says Stutzman is "expected to make his decision within the next several weeks" as he mulls whether to campaign to replace Rep. Jim Banks, a fellow hardliner who is leaving the Fort Wayne-based 3rd District behind to run for the Senate.
Stutzman, who made national news during the 2013 government shutdown by saying, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is," left the House behind three years later to campaign for Indiana's other Senate seat. But that bid ended in a decisive 67-33 primary defeat against eventual winner Todd Young, a colleague who was far closer to the party leadership, while Banks went on to take the 3rd District in the fall.
Stutzman hasn't run for office since then, though his wife, Christy Stutzman, was elected to the state House in 2018. The couple went on to purchase a tourist attraction previously called Amish Acres, and the state representatives announced after the 2020 elections she was resigning to focus on the business they'd renamed The Barns. (The Barns, which is home to several eateries, festivals, and "relaxing tours of Amish life," is located in the 2nd District under both the current and previous congressional maps.)
Both Stutzmans were talked about last year as potential candidates to replace 2nd District Rep. Jackie Walorski, a fellow Republican who had died in a traffic collision, and Christy Stutzman ultimately put her name forward. Because the primary had already taken place months ago, party leaders were tasked with choosing their new nominee for that reliably red seat, and they passed over Stutzman and other candidates in favor of businessman Rudy Yakym.
● PA Ballot, PA State House: The Pennsylvania state House on Tuesday adjourned without voting to place any of the GOP's proposed constitutional amendments on this May's primary ballot, and the chamber isn't set to reconvene until well after Friday's deadline to act. It's still possible for these measures, as well as an amendment to help survivors or childhood sexual abuse, to go before voters this November or next year, though Democrats would be in a stronger position to block the conservative proposals as long as they win a trio of special elections for Democratic-leaning seats on Feb. 7.
State law requires both chambers to pass a potential constitutional amendment during two successive sessions of the legislature with an election in between before it can get on the ballot, and the governor does not get a veto. Earlier this month former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called a special session weeks before his term expired on Jan. 17 to take up an amendment that would give childhood abuse survivors a two-year window to sue over claims that had otherwise expired; this measure was supposed to be on the 2021 ballot, but a clerical error by the Department of State derailed everything and forced the process to start again.
The Republican-controlled state Senate, though, went on to pass a single bill containing this amendment as well as two far more partisan proposals. One would require voter ID, while CNHI says the other would have removed "the governor's veto from the legislative process to disapprove of executive agency regulations." This bill did not include another measure that passed in the last session that would have amended the state's governing document to say, "This constitution does not grant the right to taxpayer-funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion."
State House Speaker Mark Rozzi, a Democrat who vowed to serve as an independent after he was elected to his post with the support of every Democrat and some Republicans, had pledged that his chamber wouldn't consider any other matters until the abuse claims amendment passed. Rozzi, who himself is a childhood abuse survivor, ultimately recessed the chamber after determining that this wouldn't happen.
GOP leaders recently circulated a petition to call members back so they could vote on the amendments, but it failed after state Rep. Tom Mehaffie refused to join the 100 Republicans in backing it; it's not clear, though, if the petition would have had the force of law even if Mehaffie hadn't objected.
All of this comes at a time when the closely divided state House hasn't been able to agree on operating rules that, among other things, would determine how many members from each party would sit on committees. Democrats, including Rozzi, flipped the chamber last year by winning a 102-101 majority, but three of those Democratic seats are presently vacant and won't be filled until the Feb. 7 elections. Republicans currently hold a 101-98 edge; the final seat is held by Rozzi, who remains a registered Democrat even though he said he would become an independent and who Spotlight PA says has remained close to the party.
● WI Supreme Court: Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz recently announced that she'd spent $700,000 on TV ads during the final three weeks leading up to the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary, which is considerably more than any of her rivals hauled in during the second half of 2022, and her first two spots tout her support for abortion rights. Protasiewicz tells the audience in one ad, "I'll protect public safety. I believe in a woman's freedom to make her own decision on abortion." The other features women warning, "Extremists want to ban abortion. Even in cases of rape and health of the mother."
Protasiewicz appears to be the only one of the four candidates who is on TV, though conservative Dan Kelly is getting some help on the radio from Fair Courts America, a group funded by megadonors Dick and Liz Uihlein. The PAC, which pledged in November to spend millions to aid the former justice, said Thursday it was launching a $240,000 buy and that "[a]dditional ads will be rolled out soon." The field also includes progressive Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell and another conservative, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Rep. Chuy Garcia has publicized an endorsement from colleague Jan Schakowsky, whose 9th District based in the northern part of the city includes about 10% of Chicago's residents.
● Denver, CO Mayor: Searchlight Research, polling on behalf of City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega, is out with the first survey we've seen of the crammed April nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Michael Hancock, and it unsurprisingly finds that 47% of respondents are undecided. Ortega, who like almost all of the major candidates identifies as a Democrat, leads the actual contenders with 16%, while state Rep. Leslie Herod and criminal justice activist Lisa Calderón are deadlocked 8-8 for the second spot in the all-but-certain June general election.
● Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: Republican state House members announced Thursday that they'd appeal a December Commonwealth Court decision that said they'd failed to demonstrate any of the legally required standards for "misbehavior in office" in their articles of impeachment against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. The state Senate responded to that ruling by indefinitely postponing Krasner's planned Jan. 18 trial.