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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• SC-04: Republican Rep. William Timmons, who is in his third term representing South Carolina's conservative 4th District, has earned a primary challenge from state Rep. Adam Morgan, who chairs his own chamber's far-right Freedom Caucus.
Morgan avoided leveling criticisms of the incumbent in his launch, but his most prominent endorser didn't hesitate. Ultra-conservative Rep. Ralph Norman, who represents the neighboring 5th District and is one of the most implacable extremists in Congress, castigated Timmons for "protecting former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy," according to the Greenville News' Devyani Chhetri. (Timmons voted to keep McCarthy as speaker in the historic early October vote that ousted him from the job, but Norman did as well.)
Timmons himself fired back at his new opponent in unusually harsh terms. While incumbents often act as though challengers are beneath their notice, Timmons eschewed that approach. "Adam's greatest 'legislative accomplishments' are filing a lawsuit and abandoning the Republican Party to form a third-party caucus that shrank in size under his 'leadership,'" he said in a statement.
Last year, Morgan led several rebel lawmakers in creating the state House's Freedom Caucus, a breakaway group modeled after its congressional counterpart that has accused GOP leaders of failing to pursue a sufficiently conservative agenda. Their accomplishments on the legislative front have been minimal, however, with one establishment Republican dismissing the faction as little more than "a headache on social media."
Chhetri explains that this local version of the Freedom Caucus was the "brain-child" of Mark Meadows, Donald Trump's former chief of staff who was indicted by Georgia prosecutors for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. But before he served Trump, Meadows was a founder of the congressional Freedom Caucus (of which Norman is also a member). Chhetri adds that Morgan's bloc has been funded in part by a nonprofit run by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, another hard-liner who was notorious for feuding with colleagues.
But while Morgan may not have much to show for his efforts to usher in a conservative utopia, Timmons could nonetheless be vulnerable. Last year, he won his primary with just 53% of the vote while three little-known candidates split the remainder. Shortly after that election, he appeared on several radio shows to address rumors that he'd used the powers of his office to conceal an extra-marital affair. While he denied that he'd abused his position, he didn't deny being unfaithful to his wife, who filed for divorce shortly after he won reelection that fall.
With a much higher-profile opponent this time, the outcome could be very different, especially in a one-on-one race. But even if other critics also jump in, Timmons cannot escape with only a plurality of the vote, since South Carolina requires runoffs if no one wins a majority in the primary.
● ND Redistricting: A federal court has struck down the legislative maps that North Dakota Republicans enacted after the 2020 census, ruling that GOP mapmakers violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Native Americans.
In North Dakota, legislative districts have traditionally elected one state senator and two state representatives, but following the most recent census, lawmakers split the 4th and 9th districts into two state House "subdistricts" to ostensibly comply with the VRA. However, said the court, the timing of the state's elections rendered the 9th noncompliant.
While the district has a 54% Native majority and went 51-47 for Joe Biden in 2020, its legislative elections are only held in midterm years, when Native turnout is often particularly low compared to that of white voters. (Lawmakers in both chambers serve staggered four-year terms.)
As a result, Republican Kent Weston won the 9th by a 54-46 margin last year, defeating longtime Democratic state Sen. Richard Marcellais. That left the Senate without any Native American members for the first time since 1991.
The House subdistricts were also flawed in another way, the court held. Rather than divide the 9th District in such a way that Native voters would be able to elect their preferred candidates in both subdistricts, Republicans instead deliberately packed Native Americans into just one of them.
That left District 9A with an 80% Native population while 9B was just 32% Native. The former consequently supported Biden 73-26 and elected a Democrat to the legislature, while the latter went for Donald Trump 61-37 and sent a Republican to the statehouse.
The court set a Dec. 22 deadline for North Dakota's Republican-dominated state government to pass a new map to remedy the violation and ordered that new elections be held in November 2024, when Native turnout should be higher. However, it's possible that a GOP appeal could drag out a resolution until after 2024.
● MI-Sen: Actor Hill Harper, who recently filed financial reports saying he has no bank accounts and earned no income during the last two years, now tells the Detroit News' Melissa Nann Burke that he'll submit revised statements. But, adds Burke (who broke the original story), Harper says he may not do so until the end of February, because of "the upcoming holiday season." Harper, who has self-funded a large portion of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Senate, still has offered no explanation for the apparent omissions.
● NJ-Sen: Local Democratic leaders in New Jersey's two largest counties, Bergen and Middlesex, have given their support to former financier Tammy Murphy in next year's Senate primary, joining two other counties, Camden and Hudson, that previously backed her. As a result, Murphy will enjoy favorable placement on the ballot in counties responsible for a third of Joe Biden's total vote in the 2020 general election. Murphy's chief rival for the nomination, Rep. Andy Kim, has yet to win any such "county lines."
Murphy also won an endorsement from Rep. Josh Gottheimer, which makes him the first person in the state's House delegation to weigh in on the race. Gottheimer, a prodigious fundraiser, is considering a bid to succeed Murphy's husband, Gov. Phil Murphy, in 2025.
● WA-Gov: A new survey from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, taken for the Northwest Progressive Institute, finds former Republican Rep. Dave Reichert and Democratic state Attorney General Bob Ferguson advancing to next year's general election, where Reichert would have a narrow edge. It's the first publicly released poll since Reichert joined the governor's race in Washington, which is an open-seat contest because Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is retiring after three terms.
In the Aug. 6 top-two primary, PPP shows Reichert and Ferguson tied at 31 apiece; another Republican, far-right Army veteran Semi Bird, is far back at 10%, while state Sen. Mark Mullet, a centrist Democrat, brings up the rear with 5%. In a head-to-head matchup, Reichert leads Ferguson 46-44.
● IA-01: Local Christian activist David Pautsch has launched a primary challenge against Republican Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks, reports the Quad-City Times' Sarah Watson, complaining that the congresswoman "doesn't have a passion for the relevance of God in our community." Pautsch specifically criticized Miller-Meeks for her vote for the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government and the states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. He also attacked her for voting against Jim Jordan's speakership twice after supporting him on the initial ballot.
Far-right religious figures like Pausch often wage campaigns against GOP incumbents fueled by similar grievances, but it can often be hard to tell whether they have any juice. It's possible, though, that Pausch does have some: Watson says he's the founder of the Quad Cities Prayer Breakfast, an annual event that drew prominent Arizona election denier Kari Lake to its most recent gathering a few months ago.
Last year, Miller-Meeks defeated Democrat Christina Bohannon by a 53-47 margin in Iowa's 1st Congressional District, a swingy seat that Donald Trump carried 51-48. Bohannon kicked off a rematch in mid-August and raised a hefty $657,000 in the third quarter despite campaigning for just half that period. Miller-Meeks brought in $464,000 during that timeframe and ended September with $1.4 million in the bank versus $637,000 for Bohannon.
● MI-08: Former Trump immigration official Paul Junge, who lost to retiring Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee 53-43 last year, said he'd wage another campaign for Michigan's now-open 8th District on Friday. We'll have more on this announcement, as well as the developing field for both parties, in the next Digest.
● OH-02: Republican Charles Tassell, the chair of the Clermont County GOP, really meant it when he said he'd decide "as soon as possible": Just three days after he said as much to The Hotline's James Downs, he announced a bid for Ohio's open 2nd Congressional District. Clermont, in the Cincinnati suburbs, is by far the largest of the 16 counties that make up the district, with more than a quarter of its population, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.
● PA-03: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Brennan flags that Democratic state Rep. Chris Rabb created a campaign committee with the FEC more than a month ago that would set up a potential primary with Rep. Dwight Evans, though Rabb "declined to comment" about his intentions. Brennan adds that "[r]umors have been swirling" that Evans might not seek reelection, but the congressman, who was first elected in 2016, says he will indeed run again for Pennsylvania's deep blue 3rd District.
There's also some history between the two pols. Last year, Brennan notes, Rabb was drawn into the same House district as fellow state Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, a former aide to Evans who succeeded her old boss when he won his seat in Congress. While Fitzgerald had the support of Evans and many other local elected officials, Rabb, who portrayed himself as an outsider and railed against "machine" politics, won by a 63-37 margin.
● VA-07: Former National Security Council official Eugene Vindman says he's already raised over $800,000 in his first 24 hours after joining the Democratic primary for this open seat. Vindman, who is a retired Army colonel, also won an endorsement from VoteVets.
Vindman furthermore has the support of California Rep. Adam Schiff, an exceptional fundraiser himself, who is running for Senate this cycle and has been using his donor list to solicit donations for Vindman. Both Democrats gained national attention for their role in Trump's first impeachment: Vindman helped blow the whistle on Trump's attempt to extort the Ukrainian government into undermining Biden's presidential campaign, while Schiff led the House's effort to impeach Trump over it in 2019.