The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast
● WI-Sen: We're less than a year out from the 2024 elections, and Wisconsin Republicans still don't have a credible candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. But soon the GOP might have the exact opposite problem.
- Why have one rich guy when you can have two? D.C. Republicans have been wooing wealthy businessman Eric Hovde for months, but now another wealthy businessman, Scott Mayer, says he's still interested in running—and isn't interested in deferring to Hovde.
- Hoo boy that's a late primary. Wisconsin voters won't get to pick nominees until Aug. 13, the latest date in the country among states hosting ostensibly top-tier Senate contests next year. A Hovde-Mayer smackdown would give Baldwin ample opportunity to pad her war chest while her would-be rivals beat each other up.
- Living in the Wild, Wild West. The NRSC may crave Hovde, but his ties to Wisconsin have grown weak since his last unsuccessful Senate bid in 2012. He bought a $7 million luxury home in California a few years back and has even starred in ads for his California-based bank—that were filmed in California.
Read more about the mess the GOP is in—and get a load of Hovde cosplaying an Old West gunman—in Jeff Singer's new piece.
● NY-Sen & New York City, NY Mayor: Bloomberg reports that disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still considering challenging Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, though he didn't comment for the story and hasn't made any obvious moves to prepare a comeback. The deadline to appear on the June primary ballot will pass around late March, though the exact date isn't set yet.
There's been more chatter in recent weeks about the possibility of Cuomo running for mayor of New York City in 2025, especially after the FBI seized incumbent Eric Adams' phone as part of a corruption investigation. However, two unnamed sources relay to Bloomberg that Cuomo told them he'd only be interested if Adams didn't seek reelection.
● VA-Gov: Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney filed paperwork this week to prepare for his long-anticipated 2025 run for governor; Politico previously reported that he'll announce his bid for the Democratic nod before the end of the year.
● CA-16: Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has filed FEC paperwork for a campaign to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo, though he told the San Jose Mercury News he was still considering whether to run ahead of the Dec. 13 deadline. Politico does report, however, that Assemblyman Marc Berman won't run for Congress, though we hadn't previously heard his name mentioned.
● CA-20: Axios reports that Rep. Kevin McCarthy told donors he wants to "get the hell out" out of Congress, a story that once again renewed speculation that the former speaker could resign. Unnamed McCarthy staffers told CNN two weeks ago that their boss will not quit before his term is up, but the congressman is openly musing about not seeking reelection ahead of California's Dec. 8 filing deadline. "I have another week or so to decide because if I decide to run again," he told the New York Times on Wednesday. "I have to know in my heart I'm giving 110%."
● CA-45: Attorney Derek Tran has publicized a Tulchin Research internal showing him narrowly leading all his fellow Democrats in the March top-two primary to take on Republican Rep. Michelle Steel:
- Rep. Michelle Steel (R-inc): 39
- Attorney Derek Tran (D): 11
- Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Nguyen-Penaloza (D): 10
- Attorney Cheyenne Hunt (D): 6
- Attorney Aditya Pai (D): 2
- Undecided: 32
The memo goes on to say that Tran pulls ahead of his intraparty foes after respondents hear positive information about all the candidates.
● FL-11: U.S. Term Limits has released a survey from RMG Research that finds Rep. Daniel Webster leading far-right foe Anthony Sabatini just 35-29 in the August GOP primary for this safely red seat. (The poll sampled 300 people, which is the exact minimum we require for inclusion in the Digest.) The group's executive director made it clear exactly who he's rooting for, writing, "Sabatini has been an outspoken advocate for term limits. Most voters find that more appealing than someone who has clung to power since the Carter Administration."
Webster, who joined the state legislature in 1980 before winning a promotion to Congress in 2010, only won renomination last year 51-44 against far-right troll Laura Loomer. Then-state Rep. Sabatini lost his own primary that same night 38-24 against Cory Mills in the neighboring 7th District, and the Washington Post later reported that Kevin McCarthy's allies aided the super PAC that attacked Sabatini. (One person named Sabatini as one of the candidates who "would have been legislative terrorists whose goal was fame.")
Sabatini launched a new effort to beat Webster in April, while Loomer said in July she was still considering whether to also try again. Webster finished September with a $430,000 to $170,000 cash on hand advantage against his intraparty foe.
● LA Redistricting: A federal district court has extended the deadline to Jan. 30 for the Republican-dominated legislature to draw a new congressional map that adds a second majority-Black district, which follows a recent ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that determined on a preliminary basis that the GOP's gerrymander likely violated the Voting Rights Act.
However, a trial over the map would begin on Feb. 5. if Republicans refuse to draw a VRA-compliant map, which is likely since they're arguing that this part of the VRA is unconstitutional in a separate case involving their legislative maps.
● MD-03: State Sen. Clarence Lam announced Thursday that he was joining the May primary for this reliably blue seat, a declaration that makes him the fifth Democratic legislator to launch a bid to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes. Lam, who works as a preventive medicine specialist, is the son of immigrants from Taiwan and Hong Kong, and he'd be the first Asian American to represent Maryland in Congress.
Lam joins a nomination contest that already included fellow state Sen. Sarah Elfreth and Dels. Vanessa Atterbeary, Terri Hill, and Mike Rogers. Lam and Hill may end up competing for a similar geographic base of support: Each of Maryland's 47 state Senate seats gets three state delegates, and two-thirds of Lam's constituents are also served by Hill.
● MN-05: Rep. Ilhan Omar blasted her top foe in next year's Democratic primary for comments she characterized as "reminiscent of the worst kinds of lies and misogyny that we are hearing from people like Donald Trump," but her opponent is not backing down.
Omar was reacting to remarks that former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels made in a recent interview about the race in which he said, "You're not cute enough, you don't dress well enough, nothing about you is attractive enough to overcome that deficit." Samuels insisted in response that he was not referencing the congresswoman and declined to apologize.
The blowup began when Samuels appeared on a local radio show hosted by Becky Scherr, a former official with the state Republican Party. (The relevant portion begins at the 22-minute mark.) "I know you've been critical of Congresswoman Omar's lack of townhalls, constituent services," Scheer inquired. "Speak a little bit to why you believe that's so important and how you would make changes if you're elected."
Samuels responded by saying that he originally ran for the City Council because he felt his community was being "neglected" by elected officials, arguing that he worked to make sure people knew how to contact him on the council and how to complain if he failed to respond to their inquiries. He continued:
To see government not be responsive like that, to the people that pay them, it is offensive to me. And to not be responsive and available to those people, to meet with them and find out what their concerns are and to answer their tough questions? To not get back to people on the phone? Who do you think you are? And who do you think you're working for? You're not cute enough, you don't dress well enough, nothing about you is attractive enough to overcome that deficit.
Scheer responded favorably, saying she was "[b]lown away by that answer," but Omar had a very different reaction. The congresswoman tweeted, "Like Trump, instead of engaging in an adult debate, @DonSamuelsMN relies on lies and sexism. We need civility now more than ever and Don's behavior should be alarming to anyone who agrees." Omar's team also praised her work in the district, with one advisor saying that she'd "held multiple town halls every quarter this year."
Samuels defended himself by tweeting, "This is an attempt to mischaracterize a response about politicians who talk the talk versus walk the walk." He added, "In listening to my full answer, it's abundantly clear that I'm talking broadly about politicians who value their own celebrity over the needs of their constituents. We shouldn't be surprised Rep. Ilhan Omar saw herself in my response."
This isn't the first time that Samuels has drawn the wrong kind of attention to himself for his words. Last year, a critic took to social media to attack the former council member for a 2020 incident in which a 6-year-old drowned on an outing that was chaperoned by Samuels and his wife. "If you can't trust him to babysit, how can you trust him with an entire district?" asked the user. The tweet attracted little notice until Samuels himself replied five days later, "Can't swim but can govern."
The candidate deleted his blithe response two hours later and wrote, "I deleted a tweet because it I became defensive about a remark from my opponent's staffer about the most devastating day in our lives." He continued, "Twitter isn't the medium for that conversation & I capably showed why. I'm sorry."
● TN-05: WTVF's Phil Williams reports that, while Republican Andy Ogles loaned his campaign $320,000 in his successful 2022 effort to win this gerrymandered seat, the freshman congressman doesn't even report having a savings account.
"I think the biggest question is, where did this money come from," Campaign Legal Center legal counsel Danielle Caputo told Williams. "How was he able to loan it because currently his financial disclosure reports are not showing that sort of wealth that he could easily lend that money." Caputo continued, "So it definitely begs the question of, is there something that's just missing from the financial disclosure report? Is there something that we'll see later, maybe he just forgot to include it?"
This is not the first time this year that Williams, a prominent Tennessee investigative reporter whom comedian John Oliver nicknamed "Nashville's nosiest bitch," has turned his attention on the congressman. In February, Williams first reported that Ogles appears to have fabricated large portions of his life story. The reporter declared that the Republican "has claimed to be 'an economist, a nationally recognized expert in tax policy and health care, a trained police officer, even an expert in international sex crimes'—none of which appears to be true."
Williams said the following month that Ogles raised close to $25,000 in 2014 for a children's burial garden that was never constructed, but the Tennessee congressman won't say what the funds were actually used for. Ogles, however, still has no serious primary or general election opposition in a Middle Tennessee district that Donald Trump took 54-43.
● VA-07: Outgoing Del. Elizabeth Guzman declared Thursday that she was joining the busy contest to succeed Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a fellow Democrat who is retiring to focus on her 2025 bid for governor. Guzman, who is an immigrant from Peru, would be the first Latino to represent Virginia in Congress should she win this competitive Northern Virginia constituency.
Guzman won her seat in the legislature in 2017 when she ousted GOP Del. Scott Lingamfelter 54-44, and Nancy Pelosi picked her months later to deliver the party's Spanish-language response to Donald Trump's State of the Union. The delegate went on to secure a second term 53-47 in 2019, but Guzman's subsequent efforts to win higher office haven't gone well.
The delegate entered the 2021 race for lieutenant governor and initially announced that she wouldn't take advantage of a state law that would allow her to simultaneously run for the legislature. Guzman, though, switched course first by declaring that she'd run for both posts and then by ending her statewide effort. She went on to earn renomination 54-36 and won the general election 52-48 on a tough night for her party.
Guzman decided to challenge state Sen. Jeremy McPike for renomination this year after the state's new legislative maps placed her in the same state House district as one of her colleagues, and what followed was an expensive and unpredictable primary between two candidates who each campaigned as ardent liberals. McPike ultimately held on 50.2-49.8―a margin of 50 votes―and Guzman's fellow Democrats commended her for not seeking a recount.
McPike, who easily won reelection on Nov. 7, decided this week not to enter the race to replace Spanberger, but several other Democrats are already running for this 53-46 Biden constituency. The field includes Prince William County Supervisor Margaret Franklin; Del. Michelle Maldonado; and former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman, one of the whistleblowers who attracted national attention in the leadup to Donald Trump's first impeachment.
Virginia allows parties to select nominees through a convention, a party-run "firehouse primary," or a traditional June 18 state-run primary, but it would be a surprise if Democrats didn't go for the latter option.
Mayors and County Leaders
● San Francisco, CA Mayor: Former Supervisor Mark Farrell, who served as interim mayor for six months in 2018, this week did not rule out challenging incumbent London Breed in next year's instant-runoff election. Farrell told the San Francisco Chronicle, "San Francisco cannot afford to continue down the path we have been on and we all deserve better from City Hall. Any decision I make about the future will not be taken lightly." Both Farrell and Breed hail from the moderate faction in city politics.