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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● AL-01, AL-02: Rep. Barry Moore announced Monday that he'd take on fellow incumbent Jerry Carl in the March Republican primary for Alabama's revamped 1st District, a declaration that comes almost a month after a federal court approved a new map that makes Moore's old 2nd District all but unwinnable for his party. The 1st remains centered around the Mobile area but lost nearly all of the city itself and now includes the rural Wiregrass region in the state's southeastern corner.
Moore, who unlike Carl belongs to the far-right House Freedom Caucus, used a new interview with the conservative site 1819 News to try to position himself as the ideologically purer choice. After noting that redistricting made Carl's already safely red 1st District even more Republican, Moore argued, "Me being a House Freedom Caucus guy, I realized at that point the district really needs a true, true conservative to represent it."
But Carl, who is much closer to his party's leadership, was not content to let this narrative take hold. "Bring it on," he said in a statement. "I have a proven track record of putting Alabama first every day and delivering conservative results for Alabama's First Congressional District." Carl finished September with a $870,000 to $650,000 advantage in cash on hand. He also represents 59% of the population of the redrawn district to Moore's 41%. (Each incumbent's section of the new 2nd is comparably conservative, with both having given about 75% of the vote to Donald Trump, and the two regions saw similar turnout.)
It's possible, though, that the Club for Growth could come to Moore's aid. The hard-line anti-tax group spent over $700,000 on ads to boost him in his first successful campaign for Congress in 2020, when he came from behind to handily win the GOP primary runoff after Rep. Martha Roby retired. (Moore himself challenged Roby for renomination two years before, but he ended up taking third place in that primary.)
The Club also sought to influence that year's race in the 1st District, which was also open thanks to Rep. Bradley Byrne's unsuccessful Senate bid, and spent $1.4 million in an attempt to thwart Carl. But Carl managed to squeeze past state Sen. Bill Hightower 52-48. The Club didn't commit to anything on Monday, however, merely telling AL.com that its "endorsement process is confidential and we have nothing to announce at this time."
Moore, who previously served in the state House, also used his announcement to remind 1819 News that Monday marked nine years since a jury found him not guilty of perjury in connection with a corruption investigation targeting Mike Hubbard, who had been speaker of the state House. "I became a conservative who was attacked by the swamp itself, but it was the Montgomery swamp at that time," he said of that trial. "That was the thing that changed the trajectory of my life that we felt we were called into this fight."
Both Carl and Moore voted against recognizing Joe Biden's win in the hours after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, but Moore went even further in promoting extremism that weekend. "[I]t was a Black police officer who shot the white female veteran," Moore tweeted of rioter Ashli Babbit, who was fatally shot attempting to breach a hallway adjacent to the House chamber. Moore went on to propose legislation this year to designate the AR-15 the "National Gun of America" and later spoke at a CPAC Hungary event headlined by autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
● NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe reports that state First Lady Tammy Murphy plans to file FEC paperwork this week for a potential Democratic primary bid against indicted incumbent Bob Menendez and that her announcement "could come sometime in the next few weeks." The contest already includes Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who launched his bid the day after federal prosecutors indicted Menendez on corruption charges.
● AL-02: State Sen. Kirk Hatcher and state Rep. Napoleon Bracy on Monday became the first notable Democrats to announce that they would run for the redrawn 2nd District, which will be open because GOP Rep. Barry Moore is campaigning for the 1st. (See our AL-01, AL-02 item above.) Hatcher also told AL.com that he anticipated that Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed would support him rather than run himself, something that the Alabama Reporter’s Josh Moon also reported would happen earlier Monday.
Hatcher hails from Montgomery, while Bracy represents the Mobile suburb of Prichard. Hatcher argued to Moon, "It’s been 40 or 41 years since the whole of Montgomery has been represented in Congress by someone who lives in Montgomery." He also criticized several prospective candidates who hail from north of the 2nd, declaring, "I know them and I think they’re fine people. But we would not go into Birmingham or to Huntsville. We have people who can represent this area."
Bracy, whose community is in the new 2nd, didn't emphasize geography in his declaration, though he told AL.com, "This district is made up of so many cities, communities, and neighborhoods just like the one I grew up in—places hurting with high poverty and crime rates, unemployment that just don’t have a lot of opportunities, some of it is because they’ve been overlooked."
● CA-20: Businessman David Giglio, a Republican who took fourth in last year's top-two primary for the neighboring 13th District, announced Monday that he'd wage an intraparty bid against Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The incumbent said he planned to seek reelection to this safely red seat days after his speakership came to an involuntary end, though Politico notes that there's still plenty of talk he could retire or resign.
Giglio last cycle raised $500,000 and self-funded another $340,000 for his quest for the open 13th, though he ended up taking back $130,000 of his loan. But Giglio didn't come close to displacing John Duarte as the main GOP candidate: Duarte took 34% to Democrat Adam Gray's 31%, while Democrat Phil Arballo edged out Giglio 17-15 for the honor of taking third. Duarte went on to narrowly defeat Gray, who along with Arballo is seeking a rematch this cycle.
Giglio, however, is focusing on his new rival's failure rather than his own. "Kevin McCarthy was removed as Speaker by 8 courageous members of his own party for failing to keep his promises and capitulating to Joe Biden and the radical Democrats," Giglio declared in a statement. "Kevin McCarthy must be defeated."
● IL-17: Farmer Scott Crowl, who previously led an affiliate of the labor group AFSCME, declared last week that he would seek the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen. Crowl entered the contest weeks after retired local judge Joe McGraw launched his own campaign for a north-central Illinois constituency that favored Joe Biden 53-45.
The Pentagraph previously wrote that McGraw has the NRCC's support, while Crowl says he's campaigning "against the establishment." He told the Quad Cities Times, "If the establishment was so good at picking candidates I wouldn’t be running today."
● MO-01, MO-Sen: St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced Monday that he would challenge Rep. Cori Bush in the Democratic primary rather than continue his longshot campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. Missouri's 1st District, which includes St. Louis and its northern suburbs, supported Joe Biden 78-20, so whoever wins the Democratic nod next August should have no trouble in the general election.
Bush won a major upset in 2020 when she defeated 20-year incumbent Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary and swiftly became one of the House's most visible progressives. Now, however, her outspoken views on police funding and Israel are helping to fuel Bell's bid.
The congresswoman has spent her two terms in office as an ardent critic of Israel's government. Following Hamas' deadly invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, Bush released a statement that sparked criticism from both fellow members of Congress and Jewish organizations.
"As part of achieving a just and lasting peace," she said the day of the attack, "we must do our part to stop this violence and trauma by ending U.S. government support for Israeli military occupation and apartheid."
Bell joined Bush's critics in his Monday kickoff. "We can’t give aid and comfort to terrorists, and Hamas is a terrorist organization," he said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Bell also highlighted Bush's calls for defunding the police, arguing the cause was both wrong and helped the Republicans flip the House last year.
Bush's team, meanwhile, responded to Bell's entry with a statement emphasizing her progressive views and questioning her opponent's decision. "It is disheartening that Prosecuting Attorney Bell has decided to abandon his US Senate campaign to become Missouri's first Black Senator after less than five months, and has instead decided to target Missouri's first Black Congresswoman," she said in a statement.
While both candidates hold prominent positions in local politics, both of them will be starting this matchup with little money. Bush finished September with just $20,000 in the bank, a smaller war chest than any House incumbent seeking reelection.
Bell, though, did not inspire many donors during his Senate campaign. The prosecutor, who was overshadowed in the primary by Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, took in just $280,000 during his two quarters in the race. He ended last month with $90,000 banked, funds that he can use for his new bid.
● OR-03: Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer told Willamette Week on Monday that he would not seek reelection to the seat he first won in a 1996 special election, saying, “I’m not certain that two more years in Congress in this climate is the best way to deal with things I care about.” Oregon’s 3rd District, which is based in the eastern Portland area, favored Joe Biden 73-25, and whoever takes a plurality in the May 21 Democratic primary should have no trouble in the general election.
We’ll have more in our next Digest about the race to succeed Blumenauer, who told The Oregonian, “There are literally a dozen people salivating at the prospect of getting in this race,” as well as the congressman’s long career.
● TX-32: State Rep. Rhetta Bowers announced Monday that she was exiting the Democratic primary and would instead seek reelection to the legislature after all. Bowers launched a campaign in mid-September to replace Democratic Senate candidate Colin Allred months after she said she'd run for reelection rather than seek a promotion, but she raised a mere $25,000 during what remained of the quarter.
● House: Politico writes that the Congressional Leadership Fund and Club for Growth will stick with the January agreement they made to persuade far-right members to support Kevin McCarthy even though Mike Johnson now sits in the chair. The terms were as follows: CLF said it "will not spend in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts" or fund any other groups that would, while the Club agreed to endorse McCarthy's speakership bid.
● TX-AG: A judge on Monday scheduled Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton's trial for April 15, which will be close to nine years after he was charged with securities fraud.
Paxton has been reelected twice while under indictment, and while he was suspended from office in May when the state House impeached him in a different matter, the upper chamber acquitted him last month. Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer unsubtly highlighted how Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick received $3 million from a pro-Paxton organization before presiding over his trial, declaring, "Unlike the impeachment, this is going to be a fair trial. This judge is not corrupt. This judge is not on the take."
If Paxton is forced from office this time, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott would nominate a successor; this person would require the support of two-thirds of the Senate in order to be confirmed.
● OH Ballot: Public Policy Polling's new survey of next week's election for former Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper finds a strong 55-38 majority in favor of Issue 1, which is described to respondents as a state constitutional amendment "which would protect reproductive freedom and an individual right to one's own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion."
Pepper writes that this summary "approximates the first sentences voters will read on the ballot but doesn't get into all the details that appear later." Those details include ballot summary language written by the GOP-led Ohio Ballot Board that, among other things, substitutes the words "unborn child" in place of "fetus." Pepper argues, "I believe that all the attack ads and disinformation have made this narrower in reality" than what the toplines show even though the numbers demonstrate that "Ohio remains a pro-choice state."
The only other poll we've seen this month was conducted by Baldwin Wallace University and SurveyUSA in mid-October, and it also found a 58-34 majority in favor of Issue 1. The description provided in that poll said that the proposed amendment "would protect the right to reproductive freedom, including "access to contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion," as well as "allow the state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability, unless 'it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient's life or health.'"
PPP also shows voters backing Issue 2, a statutory measure to legalize recreational marijuana, 59-39, which is comparable to the 57-35 edge BWU and SurveyUSA found. PPP additionally quizzed voters about the proposed 2024 amendment to "create an independent commission, made up of Ohio citizens and not politicians, to draw fair congressional and state legislative district lines," and respondents say they'd support it 57-15.