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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● Voting Rights: States and local governments across the country are holding elections on Tuesday that could impact the right to vote, with Democrats eager to expand voting access and Republicans looking to make it more difficult.
- Control of state government is at stake. Competitive elections for Kentucky's governorship and the Virginia legislature will impact laws and policies that directly affect access to the ballot box. Democrats in both states have expanded the franchise to more eligible voters, but Republican wins could undo much of those gains.
- A major swing state's election rules are in play. Pennsylvania will vote for a new Supreme Court justice, along with many local offices that will determine which party administers elections. With the 2024 election once again likely to be close in Pennsylvania, voting access policies could play a key role in the outcome.
- Voting reforms are on the ballot. Maine voters will decide on several election-related ballot measures, one of which aims to close a loophole in federal law that let a foreign-owned utility company spend millions in a failed attempt to defeat a ballot measure just a few years ago.
Check out our complete guide to all of the major elections on Tuesday that could lead to new restrictions on voting rights if Republicans win—or new protections if Democrats prevail.
● Babka: Good news, everyone: It's babka season! Our good friends at the incomparable Green's Bakery are once again sponsoring our annual election prediction contest, where we ask you to guess the outcomes of a bunch of key races taking place Tuesday across the country. The top four winners will all receive lavish gift baskets from Green's, including their world-famous babka. Click here for the complete rules, and enter your guesses here!
Need a little help before you submit your predictions? We've got you covered with our hour-by-hour guide to election night. Jeff Singer runs through all of the notable races, including every election we're asking about in our contest. Entries must be submitted by 5 PM ET on Tuesday, so get busy guessing!
● CA-Sen: A new poll from UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times finds Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff advancing out of the March top-two primary for California's open Senate seat, but almost a third of voters are still undecided. Porter holds a skinny 17-16 edge on Schiff, while former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey, the most notable Republican tested, takes 10%, and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee is in fourth with 9%. Four other candidates were also included, but none get more than 7% of the vote. 30% of respondents haven't made up their minds yet, so the race remains fluid, though Porter and in particular Schiff have dominated the field in fundraising.
● MT-Sen: National Journal's Hotline relays that the hard-line anti-tax Club for Growth has finally confirmed that it isn't committed to backing far-right Rep. Matt Rosendale if he runs for Senate again next year. Club president David McIntosh had initially said in February that his group would eagerly support Rosendale if he joined the Republican primary, but McIntosh began baking away from that position in July after wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy joined the race.
Hotline's Kirk Bado further reported via unnamed GOP strategists that some Republicans have grown skittish about Rosendale because of weak fundraising and the high turnover rate among his congressional staff. Rosendale only raised $335,000 in the third quarter while Sheehy raised $2 million from donors and self-funded an additional $653,000.
Although Rosendale began October with a $1.7 million to $1.1 million advantage in cash on hand after Sheehy spent a substantial $1.7 million, the latter should have little trouble replenishing his coffers. Indeed, a new analysis from Business Insider finds that Sheehy would be one of the wealthiest members of Congress if he were elected, with a net worth between $74 million and $260 million.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who narrowly defeated Rosendale in 2018, dominated over his prospective GOP rivals by raising $4.9 million last quarter and beginning October with $13 million in the bank. Consequently, it isn't hard to see why some national Republicans would be concerned about Rosendale's fundraising and prefer an alternative candidate who could amply self-fund if needed.
Rosendale's fundraising struggles could also be related to why he still hasn't formally jumped into the race despite reportedly telling allies that he would run at least as early as April. After pushing back his previous timeline for choosing whether to run for Senate or seek reelection, Rosendale recently said he may not decide until the March 11 filing deadline.
● NV-Sen: The NRSC has publicized a new survey it commissioned from the Tarrance Group finding Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen with a 45-40 lead over its endorsed candidate, Army veteran Sam Brown. No numbers pitting Rosen against any of the other GOP candidates were released.
● AZ-08: State House Speaker Ben Toma finally announced Thursday evening that he would run to replace retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko, a fellow Republican who had already endorsed him the previous week. Lesko made sure to emphasize that, unlike at least two of his intraparty rivals, "Ben Toma lives in our district."
In 1987 at nine years old, Toma immigrated to the U.S. from Romania as his family fled the latter’s communist regime. The Romanian embassy said in January that he's the highest-ranking Romanian American elected official in the country. Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts recently described the speaker as a conservative who nonetheless is "not a creature of the MAGA movement."
● CO-04: State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg tells The Fort Morgan Times that he hopes to decide "by Thanksgiving" if he'll compete in the June GOP primary to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Ken Buck.
● MO-01: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that state Sen. Brian Williams is indeed considering opposing Rep. Cori Bush in the August Democratic primary but is "assessing the situation to see where organized labor and pro-Israel political committees stand in the race against Bush." St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell is already challenging Bush for renomination
● NC-14: State House Speaker Tim Moore's team announced Thursday that he was running for the 14th District that Moore and his GOP colleagues turned reliably red through their new gerrymander. Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson responded to the new map by running for attorney general, which makes this an open seat.
But self-funder Pat Harrigan, a firearms manufacturer who lost to Jackson 58-42 last year, quickly left no doubt that the speaker was in for a nasty March primary. "Let's be clear," Harrigan said in a statement, "Tim Moore carries a legacy of corruption, from being bought and paid for by the casino and gambling bosses, to taxpayer-funded sexual escapades." Harrigan ended September with $745,000 in the bank, money he'll almost certainly use to broadcast these attacks far and wide.
Back in June, a former Apex Town Council member named Scott Riley sued Moore for allegedly destroying his marriage. The speaker, who is divorced, acknowledged that he had an "on-again, off-again, very casual, nothing-consistent type of relationship" from 2019 until last year with the plaintiff's estranged wife, state government employee Jamie Liles Lassiter. However, he told the News & Observer that he "fully understood that she was separated."
Both Moore and Liles Lassiter, however, denied the allegations in the lawsuit insinuating that the speaker traded political influence for sexual favors. She also said that "the only person who has ever abused me or threatened my career was my soon to be ex-husband." Riley weeks later withdrew the suit because, according to his lawyer, the matter "has been resolved," but neither side provided any additional information.
Harrigan, though, is very much hoping that the matter isn't resolved for voters, and he's also signaling he'll make Moore's ties to the gambling industry an issue. Moore used to serve as an attorney for developers looking to build a resort casino with The Catawba Nation, and he previously recused himself from votes involving gambling. That changed in May, though, when the Legislative Ethics Committee ruled that he no longer had any conflict of interest.
● TX-12: State House Republican Caucus Chair Craig Goldman declared Friday that he'd run to succeed Rep. Kay Granger, a fellow Republican who is retiring from this 58-40 Trump seat. Goldman would be the second Jewish person to represent Texas in Congress after Martin Frost, a Democrat who lost to Republican colleague Pete Sessions in 2004 after the GOP gerrymandered his Dallas-area seat.
Goldman is the first major contender to enter the March primary for this Fort Worth-based seat since Granger announced her retirement on Wednesday, though businessman John O'Shea has been running for months with Attorney General Ken Paxton's support. However, former Fort Worth Council Member Brian Byrd tells the Fort Worth Report he's thinking about running to replace Goldman in the legislature rather than running against him for Congress.
Goldman, who is a real estate investor, was first elected to the legislature in 2012, and he currently represents almost a quarter of Granger's 12th District. Goldman this year rose to become GOP caucus chair, which makes him the rough equivalent of the chamber's majority leader. Goldman joined most of his caucus in May in voting to impeach Paxton for corruption, but the state Senate later acquitted the attorney general.
● VA-05: Politico's Olivia Beavers reports that Del. John McGuire, who is unopposed in Tuesday's race for a state Senate seat, already plans to seek another promotion by challenging far-right Rep. Bob Good for the GOP nod. There's no word from McGuire, but Beavers wrote Friday that her sources anticipate he'll launch "in the coming weeks." Donald Trump carried the 5th District, which includes Charlottesville and western Southside Virginia, 53-45.
The Old Dominion allows parties to decide if they want to pick their nominees through a traditional party primary, a convention, or a party-run "firehouse primary," and it remains to be seen what method the GOP will utilize next year. Good, though, predicted to Beavers, "I think Virginia is moving to all primaries."
Good himself first won the GOP nod when he successfully challenged one-term Rep. Denver Riggleman, who'd riled the party base after he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers, at the convention. McGuire, who is a Navy SEAL veteran, also ran for Congress that year in the old 7th District, but his own convention didn't go so well: Fellow Del. Nick Freitas beat McGuire 56-44 on the third ballot months before losing the general election to Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger.
McGuire initially launched another bid for the 7th, but he dropped out last year after court-imposed redistricting scrambled the map. Good, for his part, easily won a second term, and he's spent much of it alienating some of his party's most powerful leaders. The congressman voted against Kevin McCarthy in each round of the marathon January speakership election before finally flipping to "present" for the last ballot, and he was one of the eight Republicans who deposed the speaker last month. Good also endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Donald Trump in May.
Beavers writes that, while there's no indication that McGuire is working with Trump and McCarthy's camps, both men may see him as a vehicle to take down a disloyal congressman whose colleagues have nicknamed him "Bob Bad." (Original, we know). McCarthy, who still retains well-funded allies, responded to Politico's questions about whether he'd intervene in the nomination fight by saying, "I don't know. I have to study all these. Prior to being the speaker, I couldn't get engaged in races. But I'm a free agent now."
Good ended September with only $170,000 in the bank, but he may get some serious outside help. The Club for Growth, which is currently on the outs with Trump, declared in July it would aid the Republicans who'd voted against McCarthy at the start of the year.
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● Allegheny County, PA District Attorney & Executive: SURVIVOR PAC, a group that describes its goal as "advocating for survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes," has publicized a survey from Embold Research that shows tight races for both district attorney and county executive. The Republican nominee for the former office, incumbent Stephen Zappala, posts a tiny 46-45 edge over Democrat Matt Dugan, while respondents favor Democrat Sara Innamorato 47-44 for executive over Republican Joe Rockey.
This poll from Embold, which is the "nonpartisan unit" of the Democratic firm Change Research, is the first complete survey we've seen ahead of Tuesday. SURVIVOR PAC, which characterizes its goal as "advocating for survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes," does not appear to have backed anyone for either of these offices.
Joe Biden won by 59-39 in this longtime blue bastion, which is home to Pittsburgh and many of its suburbs, but both contests present unusual challenges for the president's party. Zappala, who is despised by criminal justice reformers, was elected as a Democrat six times, and he says he still identifies as one even though he won May's GOP primary through a write-in effort. Dugan, who decisively wrested the Democratic nomination from Zappala that same evening, has enjoyed a modest spending advantage for their rematch: AdImpact relayed Tuesday that Dugan's side held a $705,000 to $552,000 advantage in advertising.
That same data showed Rockey and his allies dwarfing Innamorato $2 million to $473,000, and he's made use of his resource advantage to argue he's a moderate running against an extremist. Innamorato has used her more limited cash to tie Rockey to unpopular national Republicans and tout herself as the candidate who "shares our values" on public safety and reproductive rights.
Innamorato is also turning to one of her party's biggest stars in a closing ad starring Gov. Josh Shapiro, who carried Allegheny County 69-30 last year. "As county executive, she'll oversee the board of elections, protecting us from extremists," Shapiro tells the audience, adding, "And Sara's the only candidate I trust to defend a woman's right to choose."
The winner will indeed have a good deal of power over how Pennsylvania's second-largest county conducts elections. As Bolts Magazine's Daniel Nichanian writes, the county executive essentially decides partisan control over a three-person board of elections whose other members are the two at-large county council members, fake Trump elector Sam DeMarco and Democrat Bethany Hallam. Both parties may only nominate one candidate for an at-large seat, and DeMarco and Hallam have the ballot to themselves.
● Snohomish County, WA Sheriff: Bolts Magazine's Jessica Pishko takes a look at Tuesday's general election between Sheriff Adam Fortney, who established a hardline conservative image early in his tenure, and Susanna Johnson, who left the sheriff's office shortly after Fortney took over almost four years ago. The race is officially nonpartisan, but the county GOP is for Fortney while Johnson has the support of several Democratic groups. Joe Biden carried Snohomish County, which is located north of Seattle, 59-38.
Fortney responded to the pandemic by refusing to enforce Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's public health rules. He's also rehired deputies accused of wrongdoing, including one fired for an unjustified killing. Johnson, who would be the first woman to hold this post, tells Pishko the return of these deputies inspired her to run, arguing it's led to constituents becoming "terrified of the cops."
Five former sheriffs are backing Johnson, writing in the Everett Herland, "Snohomish County needs a sheriff who is willing to tackle difficult problems, not with partisan rallies, self-serving videos and inflammatory social media posts, but with action."