The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
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● SC-01: Former state Rep. Katie Arrington tells The Hill that she's considering seeking a GOP primary rematch against South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, who shocked her colleagues last week when she voted to terminate Kevin McCarthy's speakership. Things could become still more volatile in the Palmetto State, though, because the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday for a lawsuit that seeks to strike down Mace's 1st District as a racial gerrymander.
We'll start with Arrington, who told reporter Caroline Vakil that "all options are on the table" for another campaign against an incumbent who is no stranger to making enemies within her own party. Mace, who unseated Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham in 2020, broke with Donald Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, "I hold him accountable for the events that transpired." Although the congresswoman, who was an early 2016 Trump supporter, never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with him, her party's master endorsed Arrington as part of an effort to purge critics.
But while Arrington did all she could to try to frame the primary as a battle between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces, Mace used her superior financial resources to advance a different narrative. The congresswoman reminded voters that Arrington had denied renomination in 2018 to another Trump critic, then-Rep. Mark Sanford, only to suffer an upset loss against Cunningham. The GOP legislature had already done what it could to make sure that no Republican could lose this coastal South Carolina seat by passing a map that extended Trump's 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but Mace still argued that Arrington could once again cost the party the general election.
The incumbent prevailed 53-45 before easily winning the general election, but Mace wasn't done refashioning her public image. This summer she became a prominent Trump defender on cable news, and Politico reported he passed on his compliments to the congresswoman he'd previously castigated as a "grandstanding loser." But Mace's biggest moment in the spotlight came last week when she joined Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, whom she'd called "a fraud" earlier this year, and six other Republicans to oust McCarthy.
Observers, including Arrington, were quick to highlight how McCarthy's allies had deployed millions to help Mace in 2020, and the former speaker's backers were also quick to blast the congresswoman's perceived disloyalty. Mace, for her part, argued McCarthy had broken his word to her by refusing to advance her priorities, including a balanced budget amendment and a bill to test more rape kits, and she predicted his backers would seek revenge. "I do need help, because they are coming after me," she said last week to Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist whom she'd voted to hold in contempt of Congress in 2021.
However, not everyone agrees that Mace will need much help to win renomination in 2024. "When you look at the voting base there, they're not your typical party-line Republican," longtime GOP strategist Dave Wilson told Vakil of the local GOP primary electorate. "They're a little bit more independent in the way that they think." Arrington, though, dismissed Mace's actions as a "political stunt" and predicted that if she doesn't run, "[T]here will be many others." South Carolina requires a primary runoff if no one secures a majority in the first round.
Complicating things further is that no one knows yet just what Mace's district will even look like next year. In January, a federal court ruled that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Black voters when they redrew Mace's 1st District by packing too many African Americans into the neighboring 6th District. However, it's up to the nation's highest court to decide if the legislature needs to rework the 1st or if the current boundaries will stand.
Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the current map, though, Republicans may still be able to keep their hold on six of the state's seven congressional districts. As we explained in January, the lower court's ruling hinged on the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause rather than the Voting Rights Act; while the latter can require states to draw districts that empower Black voters to elect their chosen candidates, the former has been interpreted to mandate only that map-makers don't let race predominate over other factors without a compelling justification when crafting lines.
For now at least, Mace is behaving like she has more to worry about on her right flank than from Democrats. The congresswoman announced Sunday that she was joining Trump in endorsing Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, an election conspiracy theorist, for speaker. CBS' Margaret Brennan followed up by asking Mace about the accusations from several former Ohio State University wrestlers alleging that Jordan, who was an assistant coach in the 1980s and 90s, knew their team doctor was sexually assaulting them but didn't intervene. "I'm not familiar or aware with that," said Mace. "He's not indicted on anything that I'm aware of. I don't know anything and can't speak to that."
● WI Redistricting: On Friday, the new progressive majority on Wisconsin's Supreme Court ruled 4-3 along ideological lines to hear a lawsuit that's challenging the GOP's legislative gerrymanders, setting oral arguments for Nov. 21.
The court's ruling limited its review to only the claims over non-contiguous districts and whether the maps’ adoption by the court's previous conservative majority violated the separation of powers, setting aside the plaintiffs' partisan gerrymandering claim for now because resolving it would require extensive fact-finding. A trial to conduct that fact-finding could have delayed new maps until after the 2024 elections, and the court noted it would become unnecessary if it strikes down the maps over contiguity or the separation of powers anyway.
Earlier on Friday, progressive Justice Janet Protasiewicz rejected the GOP's calls for her to recuse herself because of how she had called the maps "rigged" during her election campaign earlier this year and received campaign funding from the state Democratic Party. Protasiewicz's recusal decision cited a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling where that court's conservative majority overturned a Minnesota law that had barred judicial candidates from declaring their views on legal and political issues, and she noted that the Wisconsin Democratic Party was not involved with the redistricting case.
Nonetheless, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos responded on Monday by claiming precedent by the federal high court "compels her recusal, and the United States Supreme Court will have the last word here," implying the GOP could appeal her recusal decision to the federal court. Vos and his party have repeatedly threatened to impeach Protasiewicz if she didn't recuse in this case, though he notably did not mention that in Monday's statement.
● WA-Gov, WA-03, WA Public Lands Commissioner: The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner reports that former GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler told the conservative group Future 42 on Monday that she'll run for state public lands commissioner rather than for governor or for her old 3rd District. This post, which oversees the Washington Department of Natural Resources, is currently held by Democrat Hilary Franz, who is campaigning for governor next year.
The former congresswoman, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump after Jan. 6, lost her seat last year after she came in third against far-right foe Joe Kent in the top-two primary; Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez went on to flip the seat that November. While Politico reported the next month that Herrera Beutler was interested in another House bid, she announced in late January that she'd signed on to become a strategic advisor for the Children's Hospital Association―a decision that some observers believed meant she wouldn't be running for any office in 2024.
Those assumptions were premature, and The Dispatch reported just a month later that Herrera Beutler was thinking about running for governor. However, while she didn't rule out the idea shortly after Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee announced his retirement in May, she never again showed any obvious sign of interest after her former House colleague, Dave Reichert, became the GOP frontrunner in July. We hadn't previously heard Herrera Beutler mentioned for a different statewide office until Brunner reported Monday that she would campaign for public lands commission.
Five Democrats are currently running to replace Franz: state Sens. Rebecca Saldaña and Kevin Van De Wege; former state Sen. Mona Das; King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove; and DNR manager Patrick DePoe. The only Republican who declared before Herrera Beutler was Sue Kuehl Pederson, who lost to Franz 57-43 in 2020.
● CO-04: Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams on Wednesday told conservative radio host Dan Caplis that he was interested in waging a primary bid against Rep. Ken Buck in an interview that took place the day after Buck became one of the eight Republicans to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker. Another local GOP elected official, state Rep. Richard Holtorf, formed an exploratory committee last month after the congressman trashed his party's drive to impeach Joe Biden. Buck, for his part, has not committed to running again.
● NY-03: Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi announced Tuesday morning that he was entering the race to retake the seat still held by indicted GOP Rep. George Santos, and the new contender dispelled any talk that he'd only run if there were a special election by declaring he was filing "to run for Congress in November of 2024." We'll have more on this kickoff in our next Digest.
● PA Supreme Court: The Associated Press writes that Republican Carolyn Carluccio outspent Democrat Dan McCaffery $2.8 million to $900,000 through Sept. 18, though outside groups have also been aiding him in this statewide race. However, it's not quite clear how much other organizations have been spending on the Democrat's behalf: The AP says that Planned Parenthood and Pennsylvanians for Judicial Fairness have deployed "hundreds of thousands more, with more spending coming," while the ACLU and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee have promised to deploy resources here.
McCaffery ended Sept. 18 with a $1.2 million to $600,000 edge in cash on hand, though Carluccio likely has access to far more money. The story says that she received a total of $2.1 million through that date in donations from Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a group funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass. McCaffery, for his part, has benefited from large contributions from unions and trial lawyer organizations.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Allegheny County, PA Executive: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Republican Joe Rockey continues to enjoy a huge advertising edge over Democrat Sara Innamorato as he tries to score an upset win next month in this 59-39 Biden county. Rockey has deployed $700,000 on TV ads through Friday promoting him as a moderate and pledging to oppose county tax reassessments. His allies at Save Allegheny County, meanwhile, have thrown down another $480,000; the group has gotten about a quarter of its budget from Commonwealth Leaders Fund, which is largely funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass.
Innamorato herself spent $140,000 on the general election, while super PACs have not aired their own ads to aid her. Her opening commercial debuted Oct. 1 and begins by touting her as a candidate who "shares our values" on public safety and reproductive rights. The narrator then goes after Rockey as someone who "bankrolled Trump, supporting extremists, backed Republicans repealing reproductive rights, and said he won't stand up for the right to choose."
● Ted Schwinden: Former Montana Gov. Ted Schwinden, a Democrat who served from 1981 to 1989, died Saturday at the age of 98. Schwinden famously kept his number listed in a public phonebook even after he became the state's chief executive and answered callers himself; radio hosts throughout the country also would call him at home without warning and speak to the governor on the air. Schwinden's openness and directness won him many fans: A Republican rancher supposedly said, "I don't agree with Ted, but I trust the son of a bitch!"
Schwinden was elected lieutenant governor on a 1976 ticket led by Tom Judge, which marked the first time that both posts were elected together rather than separately. Schwinden decided to challenge Judge for renomination four years later, though, arguing the two-term governor had "run out of steam." (Montana voters wouldn't approve term limits until 1992.) The challenger won 51-42 and went on to defeat Jack Ramírez, the GOP's leader in the state House, 55-45 even as Ronald Reagan was carrying the state 57-32.
Schwinden, who famously turned down a chance to watch the Super Bowl with Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie because it would have conflicted with his planned talk to a Montana high school class, proved to be popular in office and won reelection 70-26 during Reagan's 1984 landslide. Schwinden kept his two-term pledge and retired in 1988, and Republican Stan Stephens' victory over Judge that year ended 20 years of Democratic governors.
Schwinden never again sought office and later moved to Arizona, though he remained a useful sounding board for at least one prominent Montana Democrat. Brian Schweitzer recounted that he spoke to the former governor ahead of his ultimately successful 2004 bid to become the state's first Democratic leader since Schwinden himself left office: "The best advice he gave me was be good with money," Schweitzer told the Billings Gazette. "A Dem that is good with money is unassailable, so that's where I always was."