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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● AZ-Sen: Arizona election denier Kari Lake announced her Senate bid on Tuesday with an endorsement from Donald Trump, though even her intraparty skeptics already acknowledged before this week that she’ll have little trouble securing the Republican nomination. However, there’s considerably less consensus on how she’d do in a general election against Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, who faces no serious primary opposition, especially since Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema remains uncommitted about seeking reelection.
Two polls were released ahead of Lake's campaign rally, and they presented very different takes of this still-developing race. Gallego's campaign first publicized a Public Policy Polling internal that showed him leading the Republican 41-36, with Sinema taking 15%. PPP also found Sinema drawing equal support from both major party opponents, as it has the congressman beating Lake 48-43 in a two-way matchup.
The Republican group National Research Inc., though, argues that Democrats should hope the incumbent sits the contest out. The firm showed Lake leading Gallego 37-33, with Sinema at 19%; when respondents were just asked about the two frontrunners, however, the race became a 44-44 deadlock. The pollster tells us this survey was "conducted for a private client with no ties to either campaign."
The GOP primary already includes Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, a former Lake ally who launched his bid back in April. (NBC reported in December of last year that Lake was encouraging him to run before she started eyeing this race herself.) The sheriff, though, has struggled to raise money, and he was overshadowed by Lake months before she even launched her campaign against him. Still, Lamb insisted to local NBC reporter Brahm Resnik on Tuesday, "I don't scare easily and I've looked a lot tougher people in the eyes than what I'm running against."
Blake Masters, who waged a disastrous 2022 campaign for Arizona's other Senate seat last year against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, has been talking about another run, but the Wall Street Journal reported late last month that Trump convinced him to pause his planned entry; Masters, though, has yet to say if he's decided not to run. PPP tested both Lamb and Masters in three-way matchups and found them each performing worse than Lake: Gallego led the sheriff 40-31 and Masters 41-31, with Sinema respectively taking 16% and 17%. National Research, by contrast, did not release any numbers testing this pair of Republicans.
Well before her 2022 campaign for governor, Lake herself became a household name in the Grand Canyon State as an anchor at Phoenix's Fox 10, and she was still at that job when she began setting up accounts on sites popular with QAnon followers and neo-Nazis and circulated lies about COVID and the 2020 election. Lake went on to run to succeed termed-out GOP incumbent Doug Ducey and, with Trump's endorsement, she narrowly beat Ducey's chosen successor in the primary.
What followed was an expensive and nasty race between Lake and her Democratic foe, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Lake and her allies adopted the playbook Republicans used nationwide and portrayed Hobbs as weak on public safety, while Lake also attacked the secretary of state for refusing to debate her. Hobbs and her allies, though, stuck with their strategy of highlighting Lake's extremism, which included an ad hitting her for appearing to flirt with secession in response to the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago. They also made use of clips of the Republican saying, "I don't think abortion should be legal" and calling for the FBI to be disbanded.
Lake became a national MAGA star ahead of what her party expected would be a red wave year, and some over-eager observers speculated that she could be Trump's running mate―or even a future presidential nominee. What she didn't do, though, was try to appeal to voters who were sick of the Trump-era GOP. In addition to throwing out more lies about the 2020 election, Lake spent the week before the election making light of the assassination attempt on Nancy Pelosi, saying, "Nancy Pelosi, well, she's got protection when she's in D.C.—apparently her house doesn't have a lot of protection."
Hobbs won 50.2-49.5, and Lake characteristically spread more conspiracy theories about her defeat before proclaiming herself "the duly elected governor" in January. Lake spent the following months filing more lawsuits to overturn her defeat and throwing out more attacks on election officials; a fellow Republican, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, filed a defamation lawsuit against her in June, alleging that Lake's actions had led to "violent vitriol and other dire consequences." She also spent the time since her defeat going on a nationwide tour to promote her memoir and functioning as a Trump surrogate.
However, while Lake has spent the last several months preparing a Senate bid, it's not clear just how much time she's actually spent in the state she wants to represent. People Magazine reported in June that she had in fact "spent a significant portion of her time" in Florida at Trump's Mar-a-Lago lair. "Kari Lake is there all the time," volunteered one unnamed source. "There's a suite there that she practically lives in." Her team called this account "ridiculous," a denial they leveled weeks after Lake urged her social media followers to read a thread that claimed the state of California, which backed Biden 63-34, had actually gone for Trump "BIG."
● NC Redistricting, NC-06: State Senate leader Phil Berger said Tuesday that Republicans would likely unveil their new gerrymanders next week and that he anticipates legislators will vote on them the following week. Under North Carolina law, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper does not have the power to veto the maps.
Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning, though, isn't waiting to learn whether she'll be targeted, as she announced Monday that she would run for a third term. High Point Mayor Jay Wagner also declared that same day he'd seek the GOP nod for what's now the 6th District, telling WXII, "Whichever district the city of High Point is in, wherever we end up landing, I'm committed to running in that district. I really don't know if I'll end up running against Rep. Manning, or it might be someone else, it might be an open district."
- MT-Sen: Jon Tester (D-inc): $5 million raised, $13 million cash on hand; Tim Sheehy (R): $2.2 million raised, additional $600,000 self-funded
- VA-Sen: Hung Cao (R): $730,000 raised
- IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $740,000 raised, $1.3 million cash on hand
- MN-02: Angie Craig (D-inc): $664,000 raised, $1.5 million cash on hand
- MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
- NE-02: Tony Vargas (D): $870,000 raised
- NY-03: Zak Malamed (D): $302,000 raised, $524,000 cash on hand
- PA-01: Ashley Ehasz (D): $216,000 raised
- VA-07: Derrick Anderson (R): $150,000 raised (in two weeks)
● CA-Sen: After months of flirtation, former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey declared Tuesday that he'd run as a Republican in this solidly blue state. Garvey, a 10-time All-Star who played first base for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in a 19-season career that ended in 1987, is the most prominent Republican to launch a bid for the seat held by appointed Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler.
The one survey we've seen that included Garvey, though, found he's hardly a sure bet to advance out of the March top-two primary. UC Berkeley's late August poll, which was conducted about a month before Sen. Dianne Feinstein died, showed Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter securing the first two spots with 20% and 17% each; Garvey, perennial GOP candidate James Bradley, and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee were locked in a three-way tie with 7% each. Butler, who has not yet said if she'll seek a full term, was not tested.
● AL-02: Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson on Thursday became the first noteworthy Democrat to launch a bid for the new 2nd District, though none of Tyson's Birmingham base is located in this constituency. Tyson, however, told AL.com she'd be an advocate for the Black Belt, a region that includes Montgomery and nearby rural areas.
● CA-27: Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commissioner Franky Carrillo announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the top-two primary and endorsing his fellow Democrat, former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. Whitesides, who has the backing of several House members and prominent labor unions, now has no notable intraparty opposition in his bid to take on GOP Rep. Mike Garcia.
● NJ-07: The New Jersey Globe reported Monday that Roselle Park Mayor Joe Signorello would drop out of the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr.
● NY-03: The Justice Department issued a superseding incitement against Republican Rep. George Santos on Tuesday for, in the words of U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, allegedly "stealing people's identities and making charges on his own donors' credit cards without their authorization, lying to the FEC and, by extension, the public about the financial state of his campaign."
Peace continued, "Santos falsely inflated the campaign's reported receipts with non-existent loans and contributions that were either fabricated or stolen." The 23-count superseding indictment came days after Santos' former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to helping her boss fake $53,200 in donations and a $500,000 loan so his campaign would look stronger financially than it really was in order to impress national Republicans.
The charges were filed hours after former Rep. Tom Suozzi joined the Democratic contest to take on his scandal-ridden predecessor in New York's 3rd District. Suozzi, who has a long electoral history in Long Island, dispelled speculation that he'd only run if there was a special election by saying he was filing "to run for Congress in November of 2024."
However, it still remains to be seen whether primary voters will be the ones deciding Suozzi's future. Santos' resignation or expulsion would set off a special election for the 3rd, and it would then be up to each party's local leaders to pick their nominees. Complicating things further is the possibility that the state's court-imposed congressional map could change depending on the result of a pending lawsuit.
Suozzi, a moderate who left the House last cycle to wage a failed primary bid against Gov. Kathy Hochul, joins a busy field of Democrats, and one of them made it clear just how unhappy she is about his latest comeback attempt. "After almost a year of this district having embarrassing representation, Tom Suozzi thinks voters on Long Island have forgotten that he abandoned us to George Santos," said former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, who lost the 2016 primary to Suozzi under the previous lines.
Kaplan, notes Gothamist, also referenced a 2006 Suozzi plan to reduce abortions by promoting policies like birth control, adoption, and abstinence, a plan that NARAL Pro-Choice New York slammed at the time. Suozzi identified himself as a supporter of abortion rights back then and has continued to identify this way, but Kaplan made it clear she sees his record differently. "The Democratic Party is a pro-choice party," she said in her statement, "and unlike Tom Suozzi, I will always stand up for a woman's right to choose—period."
The field also includes Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who took third place in last year's primary despite an endorsement from Suozzi; Gramercy Surgery Center CEO Austin Cheng; and nonprofit founder Zak Malamed. Several Republicans are also challenging Santos for renomination, though it's anyone's guess if the scandal-drenched incumbent will even be in office by the time primary voters would render their judgment.
Joe Biden would have carried this seat, which includes northern Nassau County and a portion of Queens, 54-45, but this area lurched hard to the right after that campaign. Republican Lee Zeldin beat Hochul here 56-44, according to numbers from Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, and Santos won 54-46 weeks before his false life story began to unravel.
Suozzi's attempt to return to the House marks the newest chapter in a career that has seen some big successes and dire lows. In 2001, he made history when he became the first Democrat to win the Nassau County executive's office in more than 30 years, a victory that marked the end of the old and once-all powerful local Republican machine.
But while Suozzi won reelection four years later, what followed was a disastrous decade that saw him lose the 2006 primary for governor to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in an 82-18 wipeout; his 2009 reelection campaign to Republican Ed Mangano in a 386-vote shocker; and his 2013 rematch with Mangano in a 59-41 landslide. (We took a closer look at all three of those races in our 2021 writeup.)
Suozzi's career looked over after that third defeat, but he unexpectedly got the chance for one more comeback in 2016 when Democratic Rep. Steve Israel decided to retire. The former executive took part in a crowded Democratic primary and beat Israel's endorsed candidate, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern, 35-22 despite being decisively outspent. (The aforementioned Kaplan was in fourth with 16%.) Suozzi went on to win a competitive general election against Republican state Sen. Jack Martins 53-47 as Hillary Clinton was carrying his seat by a similar 52-46 spread, and this time, he had no trouble winning reelection.
Suozzi had little trouble holding his new post, and he even beat the little-known Santos 56-43 in 2020, but he wasn't content to stay put. He responded to disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2021 resignation, and Hochul's subsequent elevation, by mulling a second campaign for the top job. Suozzi, after briefly considering becoming a New York City deputy mayor rather than running for office, ended up challenging Hochul with a call to cut taxes, hire more police officers, and modify the state's landmark 2019 bail reform law.
Suozzi's second statewide effort, however, went about as well as the first. Hochul beat Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate challenging her from the left, 67-19, while Suozzi secured just 13%. Santos would go on to flip his seat months later, and he took office despite the many scandals surrounding him: Suozzi used his last day in office to publish a New York Times op-ed titled, "A Con Man Is Succeeding Me in Congress Today."
● NY-18: Alison Esposito, a former NYPD officer who was the GOP's 2022 nominee for lieutenant governor, on Tuesday launched her campaign against Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan in this competitive upper Hudson Valley seat. The Congressional Leadership Fund was one of the Republican entities that eagerly awaited her entry; its president responded to the end of Kevin McCarthy's speakership last week by touting her as one of the "star Republican candidates" that would help the party move forward. The new candidate currently faces no serious intraparty opposition.
Esposito grew up in this constituency before embarking on a 25-year career with the NYPD in Brooklyn well to the south, and she sought elected office for the first time last year when she became Lee Zeldin's running mate. Esposito, who departed the force during that campaign, would have been the first gay person elected statewide had she and Zeldin prevailed, but they lost to the Democratic team of Gov. Kathy Hochul and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado 53-47.
However, while Joe Biden took this seat 53-46 in 2020, Bloomberg's Greg Giroux says that Zeldin and Esposito carried it 51-49 two years later. Ryan, though, won his first full term 51-49 after an expensive general election in what proved to be a difficult year for his party. The Times Union writes that Esposito was still registered to vote in New York City as recently as late May, which was when media outlets first revealed her interest in campaigning in the Hudson Valley. Politico's Jeff Coltin says that voting records show that Esposito registered back in the 18th on Oct. 4.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Houston, TX Mayor: The University of Houston's new poll once again finds state Sen. John Whitmire and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee easily advancing past the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary and Whitmire decisively ahead in a Dec. 9 runoff. We haven't seen any surveys since the winter of the race to replace termed-out Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The school shows Whitmire and Jackson Lee, who are also both Democrats, respectively securing 34% and 31% in the first round: two other contenders, self-funder Gilbert Garcia and former GOP City Councilman Jack Christie, are tied for third with just 4% each. UH also finds respondents backing Whitmire 50-36 over Jackson Lee, which is comparable to his 51-33 edge in the school's late July poll.