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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● NM Redistricting: A state trial court upheld New Mexico's congressional map on Friday. It ruled that while Democratic lawmakers did gerrymander the map to gain an advantage in the 2nd District, the partisan effect was not egregious enough to make it unconstitutional because it did not effectively predetermine the outcome in the district, prompting Republicans to say they would appeal to the state Supreme Court. You can compare the new map that Democrats enacted in 2021 with the court-drawn map that was used last decade on this graphic. (Click here for an interactive version of the new map).
The lower court's ruling follows a unanimous decision earlier this year by the state Supreme Court, which is entirely Democratic, that found that the state constitution does allow litigants to raise claims of impermissible partisan gerrymandering. The justices had directed the lower court judge to assess the map according to a three-part test from liberal Justice Elena Kagan's dissent to a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision that barred federal courts from adjudicating claims of partisan gerrymandering. Kagan's test involved partisan intent, partisan effect, and whether mapmakers had a "legitimate, non-partisan justification."
The state Supreme Court's ruling was fairly deferential, further stating that "a reasonable degree of partisan gerrymandering" is "permissible" but warning that it cannot be "egregious in intent and effect." The lower court judge, who won his initial election as a Republican in 2014, found that the map had clear signs of Democratic partisan intent and rejected Democrats' nonpartisan justifications as unsupported by evidence. However, the map did not violate the "effect" component because the 2nd lacked an enduring impact that guaranteed Democratic victory.
The new map dramatically reconfigured the rural 2nd District in the southern part of the state so that it gained a heavily Democratic portion of the Albuquerque area and shed heavily Republican parts of southern New Mexico, which became split among all three districts. As a result, the 2nd was transformed from a solidly Republican seat that Donald Trump had carried 55-43 in 2020 into a light-blue swing district that Joe Biden would have won 52-46—a key reason why Democrat Gabe Vasquez was able to oust freshman GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell last year.
However, that race was extremely close, with Vasquez prevailing by less than a percentage point, 50.3 to 49.6. In fact, Herrell kicked off a bid for a rematch earlier this year, suggesting she does not believe Vasquez is entrenched in his seat. Furthermore, Republicans still found success elsewhere on the ballot last year: Despite losing statewide by 52-46, Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti narrowly won the 2nd by a 48.7 to 48.4 margin, according to analyst Drew Savicki.
While Republicans plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court, it seems doubtful that they will have a better chance of success there given that the high court had already laid out the test that the lower court used to adjudicate the new map's validity.
● CA-Sen: The California Democratic Party announced Wednesday it was postponing the deadline to apply for the party's Senate endorsement from Oct. 13 to Oct. 27 due to the death of incumbent Dianne Feinstein and the subsequent appointment of Sen. Laphonza Butler. The move only applies to this race.
The decision gives Butler, who says she's undecided about whether to run for a full term, two extra weeks to decide if she wants to compete at the November convention. Candidates who win the party's backing are listed by name in a special section of the voter guide that each county sends to all voters, which can give them a boost among uncommitted Democratic voters in the March top-two primary.
Meanwhile on the GOP side, CNN reports that former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey will announce he's running in the coming week.
● PA-Sen: The Messenger's Matt Holt writes that flight data indicates that Republican Dave McCormick flew back to Connecticut just one day after he announced his bid for the Pennsylvania Senate seat held by Democratic incumbent Bob Casey.
McCormick's campaign didn't comment and instead highlighted a recent ABC27 interview where the candidate said he spent the majority of his time in the Keystone State during his failed 2022 primary bid for Pennsylvania's other Senate seat. McCormick declined during that talk with host James Crummel to provide a direct answer to Crummel's question, "How many days in the past year have you lived here in Pennsylvania?"
● AZ-01: Former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods has publicized endorsements from the National Education Association and the Arizona Education Association for next year's Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. David Schweikert.
● CA-20: Politico reported Friday that Rep. Kevin McCarthy is considering resigning from Congress sometime after a new speaker is chosen, but the congressman quickly told KGET 17 News' Eytan Wallace that he instead plans to run for reelection. "Of course, things could change," Wallace cautioned, "BUT the above tweet is where McCarthy says he stands right now." The deadline to run for a new term in this dark red Central Valley seat is Dec. 8, and McCarthy's caucus probably will have consolidated around a new chief by then.
● NY-03: Nancy Marks, who served as still-Rep. George Santos' treasurer, pleaded guilty Thursday to fraud as part of what prosecutors say was a scheme to fool national Republicans into thinking Santos' fundraising was much stronger than it actually was. Federal authorities allege that Marks and Santos conspired in January of 2022 to fake $53,200 in donations so he could claim he'd reached the $250,000 minimum needed to qualify for what Business Insider believes was the NRCC's Young Guns program. (The NRCC included Santos the next month.)
Prosecutors also argue that Marks helped Santos falsify a $500,000 campaign loan when he didn't have enough money to do this much self-funding. "I knew that the loan had not been made," Marks said in court. Santos, who has not yet been charged with faking donations or campaign loans, is due to next appear in court on Oct. 27.
● VA-10: Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall on Tuesday publicly addressed her interest in running to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton by saying that she "would never rule out or rule in a decision" to run for the Democratic nomination "without first praying and … speaking with her family." The statement added, "Those conversations have not yet happened."
Randall herself told the Loudoun Times that her "only focus" is her Nov. 7 reelection campaign as the top elected official in Loudoun County, which is home to over half of the 10th District's denizens. Randall's 2015 win made her the first Black woman to chair a board of supervisors anywhere in the state, and she'd also be the first African American to represent Northern Virginia in Congress.
● PA-AG: Republican state Rep. Craig Williams has been trying to build internal party support for an undeclared 2024 bid for Pennsylvania attorney general, but he got some unwelcome news when a powerful national party group trashed him as dishonest and "very moderate, unprincipled and opportunistic."
Things began late last month when, in the leadup to the state GOP's Sept. 30 gathering, the state representative emailed committee members, "I am confident after discussing my qualifications this week with the Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA) that as our Attorney General nominee, I would earn a top investment to pickup an office Republicans have not won since 2008." He went on to argue that his background as a Marine and electoral success in a suburban Philadelphia seat that backed Joe Biden made him a strong contender.
RAGA executive director Peter Bisbee, though, quickly responded by emailing those same party officials that Williams had supplied "a misleading and inaccurate representation of my organization's assessment" of the would-be candidate. "When he came to visit us, I found him taking selfies in our office behind our logos and was puzzled by this behavior," Bisbee wrote in a missive shared by Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso. "To win the AG's race we need a serious prosecutor who is tough on crime, not someone trying to deceive people and eyeing their next political move."
Williams in turn hit back by telling committee members, "Tell me someone else will get the endorsement and that's fine. But don't dare call a U.S. Marine unprincipled." He also castigated RAGA as the type of political insiders who "continue to lose elections." None of these back-and-fourth attacks mentioned the only declared GOP contender, York County District Attorney David Sunday, but Williams argued to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Brennan that RAGA was behaving in an "over the top" way in order to help him. Sunday's team, however, told the paper they hadn't spoken to RAGA about his foe.
The attorney general's office is held by Michelle Henry, a Democrat who has said she won't seek a full term next year after she was appointed to succeed her old boss, now-Gov. Josh Shapiro. Four notable Democrats have already launched campaigns: former public defender Keir Bradford-Grey, former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, former Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan, and state Rep. Jared Solomon.
P.S. The Keystone State allows candidates to run for multiple offices at once, so Williams would have the option to both campaign for attorney general and defend his 53-46 Biden state House seat in the Philadelphia suburbs. Williams last year won a second term 52-48 even as Democrats were taking a 102-101 majority in the lower chamber.
● OH Ballot: AdImpact reports that anti-abortion groups have spent or reserved $6.9 million in ad time ahead of the Nov. 7 election, compared to $5.3 million from groups looking to pass the reproductive rights amendment Issue 1.