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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● CA-Sen: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Sunday evening that he was appointing EMILY's List head Laphonza Butler to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died Friday at the age of 90.
The governor's team also said that it's up to Butler, who will become the first LGBTQ+ person of color to represent any state in the Senate, if she wants to run for a full six-year term next year. Butler, who will become only the third Black woman to ever serve in the upper chamber once she's sworn in this week, has not revealed her 2024 plans, and the Democrat has only a little more than two months to do so ahead of the Dec. 8 filing deadline.
The three main contenders running in the March 5 top-two primary to replace Feinstein, who announced her retirement in February, are a trio of Democratic House members: Katie Porter; Adam Schiff; and Barbara Lee, whose allies unsuccessfully tried to convince Newsom to pick her. The field also includes another Democrat, wealthy tech executive Lexi Reese, as well as several underfunded Republicans.
Butler would face a challenging campaign if she were to compete against the candidates who have spent months raising money and organizing their efforts in America's largest state, but she does have some connections that could help her put up a fight. Butler is a former head of SEIU Local 2015, the long-term care workers union that the Los Angeles Times says is the state's largest. She also served as Airbnb's director of public policy and campaigns, on the University of California's Board of Regents, and as an adviser for Kamala Harris' unsuccessful 2020 presidential bid.
Butler most recently spent the last two years leading EMILY's List, the powerhouse progressive organization that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women. She moved to the East Coast for this role and registered to vote in Maryland, though Newsom's team says the “longtime California resident and homeowner" will re-register in the Golden State before taking office.
Newsom pledged in 2021 that he'd appoint a Black woman as senator if he were ever tasked with filling this post, a promise that came months after he chose a Latino man, Alex Padilla, to replace Vice President-elect Harris in California's other Senate seat. He reiterated that pledge to NBC less than three weeks before Feinstein died and added that he'd make an "[i]nterim appointment" so he wouldn't "tip the balance" of the primary.
That was unwelcome news to Lee, who is the only Black woman who has launched a serious campaign for this seat but trails Schiff and Porter in recent polls. However, while her allies urged the governor to appoint her following Feinstein's death, he opted for Butler instead: Lee responded to the news by tweeting her congratulations and adding, "I am singularly focused on winning my campaign for Senate."
Porter and especially Schiff have also enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage over Lee, and Politico notes that the latter's edge could grow far wider now that there won't just be one Senate race on the 2024 ballot. That's because a special election will take place for the final months of Feinstein's term, and it's likely both rounds will take place concurrent with the regularly scheduled races for the full term. Indeed, this is what happened in 2022 when Padilla successfully ran both to complete Harris' term and secure another six years in office.
This means that, because the special is technically a separate contest, individual donors are now free to give twice as much as the federal maximum of $6,600 per candidate. Politico says that 495 people already had maxed out to Schiff as of June 30 compared to 47 for Porter, and it estimates that he'd outraise her $3.2 million to $310,000 if the same people also hit the limit for the special; numbers for Lee, who is largely reliant on small donors, were not included. (New quarterly reports are due Oct. 15).
Butler, as well as the three House members, each used Friday to express their appreciation for Feinstein, who is both the longest-serving woman in Senate history and the person who represented California in the upper chamber longer than anyone else. Feinstein herself rose to prominence well before her 1992 election when she became mayor of San Francisco following the 1978 assassination of both incumbent George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk. We take a look at Feinstein's long career in electoral politics in our obituary:
- San Francisco's first woman mayor. Feinstein argued that "as a lame duck, I couldn’t hold the city together," but she faced a tough fight to keep her job—as well as a recall drive from "Marxist, Leninist, Maoist, Castroist" detractors.
- A close loss in a purple state. Feinstein, who once said she wanted to be “the first female chief executive of this country,” sought the governorship in 1990, but her upset primary win left her drained ahead of a challenging general election against Republican Sen. Pete Wilson.
- The Year of the Woman. The former mayor won the 1992 special election to replace Wilson the same night that fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer was winning California's other Senate seat, but Feinstein had to go through an even tougher battle two years later against a self-funding Republican foe.
Check out our obituary for much more on Feinstein, of whom gay activist James Haas once said, "I honestly think she couldn’t care less what we do in bed. It’s just that she wants everybody in bed by 11 p.m."
● NJ-Sen: Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill confirmed to Punchbowl News Friday that she wouldn't wage a primary campaign against indicted Sen. Bob Menendez.
● DE-Gov: Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long announced Thursday that she was auditing her previous campaign finance reports because there "may have been reporting issues that require attention," and the Democrat said the next day she'd "delayed fundraising activities at this time." The Delaware News Journal's Meredith Newman writes that the developments came after Hall-Long postponed two planned fundraisers, including one with termed-out Gov. John Carney. The lieutenant governor faces New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer in next year's primary.
Newman notes that state records say that Hall-Long's husband served as treasurer from January through May, though her campaign says that Dana Long does not work for her current effort. Long attracted attention in 2014, when Hall-Long was in a competitive reelection fight for the state Senate, after he was filmed stealing Republican yard signs. He also was accused of using his post as a housing inspector for the New Castle County government that year to illegally obtain low-income residents' contact information for electoral purposes; Hall-Long called the allegations "completely untrue" after the story broke during her successful 2016 bid for her current post.
● AL-01: While 1st District Rep. Jerry Carl declared Monday that he'd run for reelection in a redrawn 1st, fellow GOP incumbent and would-be primary foe Barry Moore isn't committing to anything yet. "We're seriously praying about it, and we'll make a decision once we get a map," Moore, who represents the current 2nd District, told a conservative radio host Thursday.
Moore said in a separate interview with Punchbowl News that he was, in the words of reporter Mica Soellner, "leaning toward running for reelection." All three of the maps advanced by the court-appointed special master would leave Carl representing considerably more of the 1st than Moore. Moore, though, may be able to count on one well-funded ally in a faceoff: The Club for Growth spent over $700,000 on ads to help him win his 2020 primary, while it deployed $1.4 million that cycle in an unsuccessful drive to help one of Carl's intra-party foes.
Both Republicans were elected that year in safely red seats, and each voted against recognizing Joe Biden's win in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack. But Moore, who belongs to the nihilistic Freedom Caucus, went even further that weekend by tweeting of the death of rioter Ashli Babbitt, "[I]t was a Black police officer who shot the white female veteran." The New York Times later reported that Kevin McCarthy responded to that post by telling his leadership team that he wished social media companies would ban some of his own members the way they had banned Donald Trump.
● NY-03: Gramercy Surgery Center CEO Austin Cheng on Wednesday became the latest Democrat to announce a bid against scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos, and he launched his campaign by saying he'd already raised $100,000 and self-funded $500,000 more. Cheng would be the first Asian American to represent Nassau County in Congress.
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● Alameda County, CA District Attorney: The campaign to recall District Attorney Pamela Price, who was elected last year by campaigning as a criminal justice reformer, said Thursday that election officials had given it the green light to collect petitions. Recall expert Joshua Spivak says that Save Alameda for Everyone needs to turn in about 73,200 valid signatures―a figure that represents 15% of the number of votes cast here in the 2022 race for governor―by early March in order to require a vote. County Counsel Donna Ziegler says that no recall vote has taken place in Alameda County in at least 30 years "if ever."
Price's detractors have argued she's done a poor job combatting violent crime in this East Bay county. They've additionally faulted the incumbent for hiring her boyfriend, Antwon Cloird, for a job that wasn't publicly advertised; the man Cloird's company listed as its business agent also told the media he'd never even heard of his firm.
Price, for her part, has pushed back by touting her successes in office, including "embracing high-tech tools to deliver fair justice faster for victims" and putting together "the most diverse class of victim-witness advocates ever." Price, who also accused Republicans of funding the effort to beat her in this dark blue county, further told KPIX in July, "I was elected because the people in this community didn't feel safe, unfortunately. We know that crime under my predecessor was pretty much exploding."