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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● NC-06: Bo Hines, who was the 2022 GOP nominee for the swingy 13th District in the Raleigh suburbs, has announced he'll run in the new 6th District currently held by Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning—a seat located multiple districts to the west of the one he sought to represent last year.
Hines ran for Congress last year while he was still in law school, and he won the crowded primary with 32% of the vote, just above the 30% needed to avoid a runoff. But while his endorsement from Donald Trump and emulation of far-right Rep. Madison Cawthorn may have helped him win the nomination, he lost the general election to Democrat Wiley Nickel by a 52-48 margin in a district Joe Biden had won just 50-48.
However, Republicans recently enacted a new gerrymander that completely transformed the 6th District, which had been based in Greensboro and voted 56-43 for Biden. The new version removed most of Greensboro and replaced it with conservative rural areas, yielding a new district that would have voted 57-41 for Trump. Whoever wins the GOP primary, which already includes former 6th District Rep. Mark Walker and High Point Mayor Jay Wagner, will be heavily favored next fall.
Once again, though, Hines' ties to the district he wants to represent are all but non-existent. The new candidate says he lives in Charlotte, which is not located in either the old 13th or the new 6th, and he's still registered to vote in a suburb of Raleigh.
However, he's no stranger to district-hopping across the Tar Heel State. Early in 2021, Hines launched a challenge to Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx in the old 5th District, which was then based in the western Piedmont region and extended to the Tennessee border. But after GOP Rep. Ted Budd announced a bid for Senate, Hines switched to what was then numbered the 13th District, a conservative seat based in the central Piedmont.
He changed gears yet again when Republicans passed a new map following the release of 2020 census data, jumping into a redrawn 7th District, which was largely the successor to Budd's old seat but stretched further east toward the Raleigh area. But a state court blocked that new map, calling it an "unlawful partisan gerrymander." That led Republicans to pass yet another proposal that inspired Hines to bounce over to the newest incarnation of the 6th District, which was similar to the previous 7th but included more of Greensboro.
The GOP's second map, however, was likewise barred as an illegal gerrymander by the court, which instituted its own remedial plan. Hines made one last journey, trekking to the Raleigh area to run in the revised 13th District, where he finally met his fate against Nickel.
● OH Redistricting, OH Ballot: Republican state Attorney General Dave Yost has once again approved the summary language for a proposed 2024 ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission after supporters recently had to restart the process to correct a typo.
● MI-Sen: Rep. Elissa Slotkin has publicized a Democratic primary endorsement from colleague Hillary Scholten, who represents the Grand Rapids area.
● OH-Sen: Wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno's new TV ad spends nearly a full 30 seconds doing everything it can to tie the candidate to Donald Trump, even twice playing the same clip of a low-energy Trump saying, "We love Ohio and we love Bernie Moreno." The only time the spot deviates from this message is when it touts an endorsement from "Ohio's America first senator, J.D. Vance" while showing footage of Vance shaking hands with … Donald Trump. Per cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias, Moreno's campaign says it's spending $2 million to air the ad.
● UT-Sen: GOP Rep. John Curtis told the Salt Lake Tribune that he was once again considering running for the Senate. His new deliberations come the same week that an unknown group called Conservative Values for Utah began spending $89,000 on a TV ad campaign calling for him to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Mitt Romney.
While Curtis announced last month that he'd remain in the House, he now says, "The drumbeat from Utahns around the state asking me to reconsider my decision last month to stay out of the Senate race has been constant and consistent. These voices, getting louder and more organized, are increasingly difficult to ignore."
● WV-Sen: Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced he would not seek reelection on Thursday, a development that almost assuredly will hand his seat to Republicans next year. But even had he run again, Manchin might well have lost. While few politicians have defied political gravity as long as he has, almost every poll this year had shown him losing to the likely GOP nominee, Gov. Jim Justice.
On the occasion of Manchin's retirement, Jeff Singer takes an in-depth look back at his career in office, which started with a successful bid for the state House of Delegates in 1982. That chamber perfectly encapsulates the arc of West Virginia politics over the past 40 years: When Manchin joined the state House, Democrats held 89 of its 100 seats. Today, they have just 11. But while the state transformed, Manchin's key to success was to remain the same. Read more about his unusual path through public life in Singer's retrospective.
● IN-Gov: Republican Sen. Mike Braun has other members of the GOP field on the airwaves with a new TV ad touting his credentials as a businessman and his conservative values. The spot also features on-screen text noting that he has Donald Trump's backing, but interestingly, it doesn't include any Trump imagery or even audio touting the endorsement. According to the Indiana Capital Chronicle, the Braun campaign says it's putting $1.5 million behind the buy. Indiana's primary is on May 7.
● NJ-Gov: Republican state Sen. Jon Bramnick, who just won reelection by a 55-45 margin on Tuesday, tells Politico's Matt Friedman that he's "very likely" to run for governor in 2025, when Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy will be term-limited.
Bramnick also used the interview to take some shots at another potential candidate, far-right radio host Bill Spadea. "Most New Jerseyans don't want hateful rhetoric from a know-it-all radio talking head who has never had to make a decision as an elected official," said Bramnick, following a rough night for Jersey Republicans that saw them make no headway in the state Senate and lose five seats in the Assembly, despite talk that they might actually flip one chamber if not both.
● VA-Gov: Politico's Zach Montellaro reports that Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney intends to launch a campaign for the 2025 governor's race "by the end of the year," per an unnamed source. The only other notable Democrat reportedly planning a bid to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who in August promised to answer questions about her future after Virginia's Nov. 7 elections.
● AL-02: State Rep. Juandalynn Givan announced Thursday she'd join the Democratic primary for this redrawn seat one day ahead of the filing deadline. Givan's Birmingham base is located far outside the boundaries of the 2nd, but she argued, "There is a need for new, fresh progressive leadership in Alabama."
● AR-03: Republican state Sen. Clint Penzo has filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible primary challenge to Rep. Steve Womack, a few days after reportedly expressing interest in a bid. Arkansas' filing deadline is Tuesday, so we'll know Penzo's decision soon.
● AZ-01, IA-01: EMILY's List has endorsed both former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods in Arizona's 1st District and former state Rep. Christina Bohannan in Iowa's 1st. Galán-Woods is one of several Democrats competing in a busy primary to take on GOP Rep. David Schweikert, while Bohannan currently faces no serious intraparty opposition in her rematch with Republican incumbent Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
● FL-27: Miami-Dade County School Board member Lucia Baez-Geller became the first notable Democrat to challenge sophomore GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar when she launched her campaign on Thursday. Salazar unseated one-term Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala 51-47 in a 2020 rematch, then easily defeated Democrat Annette Taddeo 57-43 two years later after Republicans made her seat redder in redistricting.
The district remains swingy on the presidential level, with Donald Trump carrying it by just a 49.9 to 49.6 margin, but Gov. Ron DeSantis won it 58-41 last year, according to one analysis. Baez-Geller is the child of immigrants from Colombia and Cuba, while Salazar was also born to Cuban immigrants.
● IA-03: Former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Lanon Baccam on Thursday became the first notable Iowa Democrat to launch a bid against Republican Rep. Zach Nunn, who holds a swingy seat that Democrats want to retake. Baccam, who is the son of members of the Tai Dam ethnic minority who fled Laos as refugees following the communist takeover in 1975, would be the first person of color to represent the state in Congress.
But he has a challenging race ahead of him before he can make history. The 3rd District, which is based in Des Moines and southwestern Iowa favored Donald Trump by a tiny 49.3-48.9 margin in 2020. Nunn ousted Rep. Cindy Axne, who was the Hawkeye State's only remaining Democratic member of Congress, by a comparably tight 50.3-49.6 spread two years later.
Baccam announced his effort with endorsements from state Auditor Rob Sand, who is the party's only remaining statewide elected official, and former Gov. Tom Vilsack, Joe Biden's secretary of agriculture. The new candidate used his launch video to describe his decision to enlist in the Iowa National Guard at age 17, for which he needed permission from his parents. "After 9/11, my National Guard unit was activated and deployed to Afghanistan," Baccam tells the audience. "As a combat engineer, I was on the frontlines detonating unexploded ordinances and weapons caches. I was proud of my service and grateful to make it home."
Nunn, who served in the Air Force, finished September with $1.4 million in the bank, and he'll have access to plenty more to defend this seat. If Baccam can prove himself, though, Iowa's 3rd could once again be a top battleground. As the new challenger pointed out in his kickoff video, "The last race was decided by just a few votes per precinct."
● MI-13: Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who is one of the more prominent Democrats in Michigan, announced Thursday that she was backing former Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency director Adam Hollier's primary bid against Rep. Shri Thanedar. Benson, who is a 13th District resident, did not mention Thanedar, who beat Hollier 28-24 last year. She instead praised the challenger's prior service in the Army, the state Senate, and at the state Veterans Affairs Agency.
● MN-03: Democratic state Sen. Kelly Morrison announced Thursday that she would run for this suburban Twin Cities seat, a development that could mean she doesn't expect Rep. Dean Phillips to seek reelection in what's become a reliably blue seat.
Morrison and Phillips are close friends, and the longshot presidential candidate responded to her announcement with a tweet declaring, "I'm thrilled @Morrison4MN is entering the MN-03 primary because healthy democracies promote competition, don't limit it, and voters appoint their Representatives, not a person or political party." Morrison, for her part, responded to the Star Tribune's question of what she'd do if Phillips ran again by saying, "I'm not really thinking about hypotheticals right now."
Morrison, who has continued her work as an OB-GYN during her service in the legislature, entered the Democratic primary with the support of former Gov. Mark Dayton. She launched her campaign about a month after DNC member Ron Harris, who has made it clear he'll run no matter what Phillips does.
● NJ-07: Summit City Council President Greg Vartan, who is a Democrat, has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign against GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr.
● NY-16: Westchester County Executive George Latimer has pushed back his timeline to December for when he'll decide whether to launch a primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, saying, "Obviously, I'm actively thinking about it." Both News 12 and Jewish Insider had reported earlier this week that Latimer would run.
● NY-17: Former Trump administration official William Maloney, who has also worked on Steve Bannon's radio show, tells Politico that he's considering a primary challenge from the right against freshman GOP Rep. Mike Lawler, who is already likely to be a top Democratic target next year in what is currently a 54-44 Biden district.
● NY-26: Multiple outlets confirm WBEN’s report that Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins will resign from the House to lead Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, with a source saying it’s a "done deal." Politico separately says Higgins’ departure announcement will take place as soon as next week, and that he’ll step down in January. We'll have more about the race to replace Higgins in this 61-37 Biden seat, as well as his long career, after he confirms he's departing.
● OH-02: Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who earned his ticket to Congress by unseating the notorious Jean Schmidt in the 2012 GOP primary, announced his retirement on Thursday night. If he hadn't waited until after 7 PM and been the fourth departure of the day, we'd have included a full write-up in this issue of the Digest, so you'll have to wait until the next edition of our newsletter to learn more about his career.
● OR-06: Republican political consultant Reagan Knopp recently said he has been "told" that 2022 GOP nominee Mike Erickson is going to seek a rematch after narrowly losing to Democratic Rep. Andrea Salinas last year. A different consultant who has worked for Erickson previously told the Capital Chronicle in August that Erickson would supposedly announce within a month. However, it's been two months since that deadline passed, and Erickson still has yet to clarify his plans for 2024.
● PA-08: Wealthy businessman Rob Bresnahan has become the first notable Republican to launch a campaign against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in this 51-48 Trump district in the Scranton area, and an unnamed GOP operative told Politics PA that the national party is "excited" about having him in the race. Bresnahan is the CEO of a local construction company, and Politico previously reported that he was capable of self-funding.
● UT-02: Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe began running her first TV ad last week ahead of the Nov. 21 special election for this gerrymandered 57-40 Trump district, which includes part of the Salt Lake City area and southwestern Utah. Riebe highlights how she's been a teacher for over two decades and decries how politicians are "fanning the flames of the culture wars" and "meddling in our local schools." She advocates for banning donations from special interests and argues that members shouldn't get paid if they don't pass a budget.
● VA-10: Fresh off of Tuesday's Democratic legislative victories, state Sen. Jennifer Boysko has announced she'll run next year to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in this suburban Northern Virginia seat. Boysko has served in the legislature since flipping a GOP-held state House seat in 2015, and she succeeded Wexton herself in the state Senate by winning a 2019 special election after Wexton was elected to Congress in 2018. However, none of Boysko's Senate district overlaps with the 10th District, although it does directly border it in Fairfax County.
Meanwhile, Hotline reported that Del. Michelle Maldonado is planning to join the Democratic primary, too, though there's no quote from her. Maldonado just won her second term 56-43 on Tuesday, and her Manassas-based state House district is entirely contained within the 10th.
Already running in the primary is Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, a former state House speaker who chose not to run for reelection this year. Like Boysko’s seat, the constituency Filler-Corn is retiring from is entirely located in the 11th Congressional District.
● WA-06: Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer unexpectedly announced Thursday that he wouldn't seek a seventh term representing Washington's 6th Congressional District. This constituency, which is based in the Olympic Peninsula and Tacoma, supported Joe Biden 57-40, and Democrats are favored to keep it. It's possible, though, that the party will need to be on guard going into the August top-two primary to make sure a pair of Republicans don't advance to the general election.
Both Inside Elections' Erin Covey and the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner quickly relayed speculation that one prominent Democrat, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, could end her campaign for governor and instead run to replace Kilmer.
Democratic state Sen. Emily Randall, meanwhile, confirmed she was considering her own bid. Randall's 2018 election made her one of the first two lesbians to serve in the state Senate, and she'd be the state's first LGBTQ+ member of Congress.
Covey also mentioned the following fellow Democrats as possible contenders:
- State House Speaker Laurie Jinkins
- Pierce County Councilmember Ryan Mello
- Kitsap County Commissioner Christine Rolfes
- Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards
On the GOP side, state Sen. Drew MacEwen wrote on social media he'll decide "very soon."
Kilmer won elected office for the first time in 2004 when he unseated Republican state Rep. Lois McMahan 50-48 in a tight race for the state House. This would turn out to be the only close contest of his career. Kilmer won a promotion to the state Senate two years later 60-40, and he turned in a similar performance in the 2010 red wave in what Roll Call described as the most conservative Democratic-held seat in the chamber.
Kilmer got the opportunity to run for Congress in 2012 when longtime Rep. Norm Dicks retired. Several Democrats initially showed interest in running, but Kilmer, who called the incumbent a mentor, quickly became the favorite and scared off any serious opposition. Kilmer won the general election 59-41 as Barack Obama was carrying the district 56-41, and he easily held it for the rest of his career. The congressman became a leader in the moderate New Democrat Coalition, though he compiled a mainstream record and never attracted a serious challenge from the left.
Kilmer's ascent, however, did result in some problems for his party back in the state Senate. Democrats appointed Nathan Schlicher to succeed him, but Schlicher faced an uphill 2013 special election to keep the seat against Republican state Rep. Jan Angel. Angel won 52-48, an outcome that made it more difficult for Democrats to retake the chamber from a coalition of Republicans and two renegade conservative Democrats. That state of affairs would continue until Democrat Manka Dhingra flipped a crucial seat elsewhere in the state in a 2017 special, while Randall would replace the retiring Angel the following year.
● PA State House: Democratic state Rep. John Galloway won his uncontested race for a judgeship in Bucks County on Tuesday, but he hasn't said if he'll resign before his term begins in January. Whenever Galloway does leave, though, Democrats will once again have a crucial special election ahead in a chamber they currently control 102-101. Galloway's seat in the Philadelphia suburbs favored Joe Biden 55-44.
Democrats will still control the chamber once it becomes tied, however, thanks to a rule they adopted in March. The majority is now defined as the party that "won the greater number of elections for the 203 seats in the House of Representatives" in the most recent general election, and should a vacancy open up, "the political party that won that seat at the last election shall remain the party that won that seat until any subsequent special election is held to fill that seat." Control would still shift, though, if the other side flipped enough seats before the next general election.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Jersey City, NJ Mayor: Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, a Democrat who became the first openly gay governor in American history in 2004 as he was announcing his resignation, confirmed Thursday that he'd run for mayor of Jersey City in 2025. McGreevey has the backing of influential local Democrats in the nonpartisan race to replace Steven Fulop, who is leaving to wage his own 2025 campaign for McGreevey's old job.
McGreevey addressed his political fall two decades ago in a kickoff video that begins with footage of his historic press conference. The governor stepped down over his affair with a Homeland Security aide named Golan Cipel, whom the administration hired even though he didn't have the requisite qualifications and had failed to secure federal security clearance. Cipel's legal team threatened to sue McGreevey for sexual harassment shortly before the governor stepped down, alleging that he made "repeated sexual advances," though such a suit was never filed.
"I am a gay American," McGreevey proclaimed in 2004 as he stood alongside his then-wife, "I engaged in an adult consensual affair. It was wrong, it was foolish, it was inexcusable." "I'm imperfect," the present-day McGreevey tells the audience, "and I'll always be imperfect … But I would not have traded anything that I've experienced." The candidate's daughter goes on to tout how he went into the prison ministry, and a former incarcerated person praises McGreevey's nonprofit work focusing on reentry. The video does not mention Cipel's allegations against McGreevey, who himself has claimed that Cipel was extorting him.
McGreevey isn't the only candidate who wants to lead his state's second-largest city. City Council President Joyce Watterman tells Politico's Ry Rivard she's in, while the New Jersey Globe says that Hudson County Commissioner Bill O'Dea will announce his own campaign on Nov. 18. Rivard adds that City Council Member James Solomon is also considering a bid.
McGreevey himself has a bad relationship with the man they're all hoping to succeed. McGreevey and Fulop were once close allies, but McGreevey alleged that their subsequent falling out was the reason that the Jersey City Employment and Training Program's board fired him as director in 2019; the city in turn said the decision was made "because they felt there were financial improprieties" under McGreevey. However, Rivard notes that Fulop may not want to alienate any potential statewide backers by getting involved in the mayor’s race.
This piece has been updated to clarify the geographic descriptions of the congressional districts Bo Hines ran in.