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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● Bucks County, PA Commission: Pennsylvania Democrats in 2019 took control of the three-member Board of Commissioners in suburban Philadelphia's populous and competitive Bucks County for the first time since 1983, and Republicans are determined to flip it back this November.
County commission races operate under different rules in much of Pennsylvania, including here, than they do pretty much anywhere else. All three seats are elected countywide, and voters can select up to two candidates. However, each party can only nominate two candidates in the May primary, so the board will wind up with a 2-1 split no matter what: The question is which party will get the vital second seat they need to control the body.
Democrats managed to end the GOP’s decades-long winning streak in a very close 2019 contest. Incumbent Diane Ellis-Marseglia, who was the party’s only commissioner, took first with 27%, while Republican state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo secured second with 25%. The battle for that crucial third-place spot ended with Democrat Bob Harvie, who was the chair of the Falls Township Board of Supervisors, edging out Republican incumbent Robert Loughery 24.2-24.0—a 665 vote margin that decided control of the government in this county of close to 650,000 people.
All three commissioners are running again, while two Republicans are also competing in the primary: Andy Warren, who served on the Commission from 1980 to 1995 and has since run for several offices as both a Democrat and a Republican, and County Controller Pamela Van Blunk, who won her post in 2021 after defeating Warren for the nomination. The field could expand further as LevittownNow.com reports that other Republicans are eyeing the contest ahead of the March 7 filing deadline.
Bucks County has been in the blue column in every presidential election from 1992 on, though some of those wins, such as Hillary Clinton’s 48.4-47.6 score in 2016, were very tight. The backlash against Donald Trump did help local Democrats take four of Bucks' five so-called "row offices," which are the countywide offices other than commissioner, in 2017, which marked the first time that the party had won a single one of those posts in over 30 years.
However, while Joe Biden carried the county 52-47, Blunk and the rest of the 2021 GOP ticket went on to sweep all five row offices. In 2022, now-Sen. John Fetterman took Bucks County 52-45 as fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro pulled off a crushing 59-39 win during his gubernatorial landslide, victories that Key Stone State Democrats hope will foreshadow more successes here this fall and into 2024.
● CA-Sen: While Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein recently told Raw Story she'd wait until 2024 to decide if she'd retire, her office now says the senator was actually "speaking about the timing of the election, not her announcement," and that "she still intends to announce her decision in the coming months." California politicos, though, had long assumed she'd call it a career even before Rep. Adam Schiff announced his campaign to succeed her Thursday after previously saying he'd only run if she didn't: Schiff explained, "I wouldn't be doing this without her blessing."
● NY-Sen: The Times Union's Joshua Solomon writes that unnamed sources close to Republican Lee Zeldin say that "there are discussions ongoing within the party about a potential Senate run" against Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, a story that comes days after the New York Times said that the former congressman's associates "discounted the chances he would run." Zeldin, who was the 2022 nominee for governor, is also getting talked about as a potential candidate this year for Suffolk County executive, though he's also yet to say if he's interested.
● LA-Gov: While Democratic state Sen. Gary Smith hasn't been discussed much in recent months as a possible candidate for governor, he said Thursday that he's still considering running.
● CA-30: Assemblywoman Laura Friedman announced Friday that she would run to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Adam Schiff, in what's shaping up to be a crowded top-two primary for this safely blue constituency.
Friedman was an executive in the 1990s at the now-defunct film and TV production company Rysher Entertainment (among other things, she was an executive producer of 1996's Foxfire co-starring an up-and-coming Angelina Jolie) about a decade before she was elected to the Glendale City Council in 2009. Friedman won a promotion to the state Assembly in 2016, and the redrawn constituency she won last year is home to 38% of the 30th's denizens.
● NY-03: Politico reports that, while several of former Rep. Tom Suozzi's old Democratic colleagues have tried to convince him to run to retake this seat, he "has mostly been noncommittal." Some of those people think that he would be more likely to run in a special election should talking bobblehead inspiration George Santos leave early, though Suozzi himself didn't comment. Meanwhile, an unnamed source says that 2022 nominee Robert Zimmerman is indeed considering another try.
Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who lost last year's primary to Zimmerman, recently formed a new FEC committee for his own potential second bid, though he's once again saying that he's only focused on winning re-election this year. Politico also mentions another Democrat, former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, as a possibility along with Manhattan Republican Party chair Andrea Catsimatidis, though neither of them have said anything. (While this Long Island seat contains a small bit of Queens, it doesn't even border Manhattan.)
Mayors and County Leaders
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Victory Research, a Republican firm that often releases polls of Illinois contests, takes a look at the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary and finds five different candidates within striking distance of advancing to the likely April 4 general election.
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas takes first with 20%, while Mayor Lori Lightfoot edges out Rep. Chuy Garcia 19-17 for second. Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson, who have struggled in the few polls we've seen this year, take 16% and 12%, respectively.
● Denver, CO Mayor: Denver election authorities have certified 17 candidates for the April 4 nonpartisan primary to succeed Democratic Mayor Michael Hancock, who is termed out after 12 years in office, a Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning argues that nine of them “could conceivably land” in the June 6 general election to lead this dark blue city. (It takes a majority of the vote to win outright, something that’s unlikely to happen in a field this large.) The contenders Luning identifies as viable are:
Rougeot, who ended 2022 with the largest war chest thanks to self-funding, is the only Republican in this bunch, as well as the one contender who isn’t participating in the city’s public financing program. Herod, for her part, recently earned an endorsement from Wellington Webb, whose 1991 win made him the Mile High City’s first Black mayor.
● Lincoln, NE Mayor: The Lincoln police union on Thursday endorsed Republican state Sen. Suzanne Geist's campaign this spring to unseat Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, who is one of the few prominent Nebraska Democrats in elected office. Gaylor Baird, Geist, and another Republican, Christian radio executive Stan Parker, are all campaigning in the April nonpartisan primary, and the top-two vote-getters will advance to the May general election.