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-10: One of the most prominent Republicans in the House jolted the political world when he announced his retirement on Tuesday, but there had already been signs that North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry was ready to move on after a long career in Congress that began when he was just 29 years old.
Jeff Singer highlights those tea leaves as he takes stock of McHenry's political life, dating back to his decision to transfer to a new college in a different congressional district where a septuagenarian Republican incumbent was likely to soon call it quits. The bet paid off: McHenry, a self-styled "hellraiser," won the GOP nomination when the seat came open by just 85 votes and never faced a tough election again.
But as the years went by, McHenry softened his old image even as more and more members of the Republican caucus increasingly embraced it for themselves. That transformation brought matters to a head recently when McHenry served as temporary speaker following Kevin McCarthy's ouster—but made it extremely clear that he did not want the post permanently.
Read all about McHenry's career—including the time he cosplayed as Abe Lincoln to protest Bill Clinton—and get the scoop on the race to succeed him in Singer's new rundown.
● CA-Sen, CA-12: Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee filed paperwork Tuesday to run for the Senate, a move that should end whatever remaining chatter there was about her dropping out and running for reelection to the House. Politico reported just before Thanksgiving that unnamed Democrats speculated she could switch races, but Lee's team immediately pushed back on the notion.
● UT-Sen: Former state House Speaker Brad Wilson has launched his opening media buy well ahead of the June GOP primary, and Politico reports that he's spending $300,000 for TV and digital ads. His inaugural spot touts Wilson as someone who "delivered the biggest tax cut Utah's ever seen" and "enacted constitutional carry."
● DE-Gov: National Wildlife Federation head Collin O'Mara, a Democrat who previously served as secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control from 2009 to 2014, announced this week that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential bid for governor. O'Mara tells Delaware Public Media he plans to decide by early 2024 if he'll enter the September primary to replace termed-out Democratic Gov. John Carney.
● CA-16: Assemblyman Evan Low declared Tuesday that he was entering the March top-two primary for the safely blue Silicon Valley seat held by his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo. Low joins Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and several other Democratic candidates, while Palo Alto City Council member Julie Lythcott-Haims recently told paloaltoonline.com that she's considering running as well.
Low, who would be both the Bay Area's first Chinese American and LGBTQ+ House member, launched his campaign with an endorsement from 17th District Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents a neighboring seat. Most of Low's current constituents are also represented in D.C. by Khanna rather than Eshoo, though the assemblyman served many of his would-be constituents in the recent past.
Low was elected at the age of 23 to the city council in Campbell, which is located in Eshoo's current seat, and he attracted national attention three years later when he became both the youngest gay mayor and youngest Asian American mayor in the country. Low went on to win an Assembly seat in 2014 that, like Eshoo's 16th District, included Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and a portion of San Jose: According to data from the last census, 41% of Eshoo's current constituents live in turf represented by Low from 2014 through 2022.
However, Low last cycle moved to Sunnyvale, which is in Khanna's district, after redistricting scrambled the legislative map. Low had no trouble winning on new turf, but he now represents a mere 5% of the 16th Congressional District in the legislature.
● CO-04: George Brauchler, who was the GOP's 2018 nominee for attorney general, tells the Colorado Sun he's decided not to enter the June primary to replace retiring Republican incumbent Ken Buck.
● Illinois: Candidate filing closed Monday for Illinois' March 19 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Each member of the state's 17-person U.S. House delegation is seeking reelection.
Not everyone who filed may make the ballot, though, because it's common for candidates in the Prairie State to challenge their opponents' petitions to try to get them disqualified. Indeed, Barack Obama himself won his state Senate seat in 1996 by getting all his Democratic primary foes—including incumbent Alice Palmer—thrown off the ballot for a lack of sufficient signatures.
● IL-04: Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia is seeking a fourth term after placing fourth in the February nonpartisan primary for mayor of Chicago, and his only primary foe is Chicago Alderman Raymond Lopez. Lopez, who the Chicago Sun-Times called "one of the police union's staunchest City Council supporters," launched his effort in October, though the paper noted at the time he has a history of "anemic fundraising." No Republicans filed to run in this dark blue seat, which is based in southwestern Chicago and parts of inner western suburbs.
● IL-07: Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, who turned 82 this year, disappointed his would-be successors in May by declaring that he'd seek a 15th term rather than retire, and five opponents are challenging his for renomination. This constituency, which includes Chicago's West Side and downtown, overwhelmingly favored Joe Biden 86-13.
Davis' most familiar opponent is Kina Collins, a gun safety activist who is waging her third campaign here. Collins lost their 2020 primary 60-14 in a race where the presence of two other challengers made it difficult for anyone to emerge as his main opponent, but she held him to a 52-46 victory in their expensive 2022 rematch. Despite that close call, though, Collins finished September with a mere $7,000 in the bank.
Another notable contender is Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, but she's been the subject of some unfavorable headlines. Last month, the city's Board of Ethics found "probable cause" that she committed ethics violations by firing two aides who accused her of abusing her powers. Conyears-Ervin did end the third quarter with a small $234,000 to $229,000 edge in cash on hand against Davis, however.
The field also includes Nikhil Bhatia, a teacher who holds an elected post as a member of the Local School Council for the Galileo Scholastic Academy, and Kouri Marshall, a former aide to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, but neither had much money available at the close of the last quarter. Attorney Rhonda Sherrod, who only opened a fundraising account last week, rounds out the primary field.
● IL-11: Democratic Rep. Bill Foster's only primary foe is civil rights attorney Qasim Rashid, who unsuccessfully ran for the Virginia state Senate in 2019 and for a U.S. House seat in the Old Dominion the next year. (Rashid, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs before moving to Virginia for law school, says he returned to Illinois last year.) This seat, which contains the southwestern outer suburbs of Chicago and collar county exurbs, backed Joe Biden 57-41.
Foster won renomination in 2020 in the last version of this seat by a relatively modest 59-41 against Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, but he had no primary opposition last year. Foster ended September with a huge $1.3 million to $114,000 cash on hand advantage over Rashid, who launched his newest effort in July by criticizing the incumbent for accepting contributions from pharmaceutical and fossil fuel companies.
● IL-12: Rep. Mike Bost faces a high-profile Republican primary threat from former state Sen. Darren Bailey, who was the party's 2022 nominee against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, in a dark red seat that covers southern Illinois and the southeastern St. Louis exurbs.
Both men have far-right records, and Bost even said of his challenger, "You're running against someone that honest-to-goodness has the same views." Each Republican has also been working to gain an endorsement from Donald Trump, who has backed each of them in the past. It was the incumbent, however, who ended September with a giant $1.2 million $108,000 cash on hand lead.
● IL-17: Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen is arguably the only U.S. representative in the state who has anything to worry about in the general election, and two Republicans are campaigning to unseat the freshman. Joe Biden carried this western Illinois constituency 53-45.
Former state Circuit Judge Joe McGraw launched his effort in mid-October, and The Pentagraph wrote that the NRCC was backing his campaign. Farmer Scott Crowl, who previously led an affiliate of the labor group AFSCME, joined the contest a short time later. Sorensen ended September with $1.3 million banked, while we'll need to wait until the new year to see each Republican's opening fundraising totals.
● MD-03: Del. Mark Chang on Tuesday entered the May Democratic primary for the reliably blue seat held by retiring Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes. Chang, who is the son of immigrants from South Korea, would be Maryland's first Asian American member of Congress.
Chang is the sixth sitting state legislator to join this primary, and Maryland Matters notes that he represents the same legislative district as one of his rivals, fellow Del. Mike Rogers. The field also includes state Sen. Clarence Lam, who would also be the state's first Asian American representative; state Sen. Sarah Elfreth; and Dels. Vanessa Atterbeary and Terri Hill.
● MI-08: Mitchell Rivard said Tuesday that he'd decided to stay out of the Democratic primary to succeed the man he serves as chief of staff to, retiring Rep. Dan Kildee.
● NJ-07: Working Families Party state director Sue Altman has earned the endorsement of 32BJ SEIU, which the New Jersey Globe describes as a "major property services union," in the June Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Altman picked up the backing of 32BJ SEIU's leader earlier in the year, but the Globe predicts that its formal support "could bring serious institutional heft to support Altman" in her bid.
● NY-03: After schlepping to the governor's mansion on Monday night to grovel before Gov. Kathy Hochul in a secret meeting, former Rep. Tom Suozzi is now set to become the Democratic Party's pick for the upcoming special election to replace George Santos, according to a new report by the New York Times' Nicholas Fandos. Shortly after that story ran, Hochul issued a proclamation scheduling the election to fill New York's vacant 3rd Congressional District for Feb. 13.
In that after-hours get-together, Hochul laid out a series of demands to Suozzi, two unnamed sources told Fandos, including that he "agree to run as a full-throated defender of abortion rights" and "would not run ads damaging their party's brand." Suozzi had been hammered for his wobbly stance on abortion by his top Democratic rival, former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, including his past funding for abstinence education programs and his opposition to allowing Medicaid to pay for abortions.
He also earned Hochul's ire last year when he sought to deny her the chance to run for a full term by running a reactionary campaign for the Democratic nomination in which he assailed her for allegedly failing to address crime and fostering a "culture of corruption" in Albany. Suozzi's stillborn insurgency netted him just 13% of the vote in the primary, good enough for a distant third-place finish. But Hochul and her supporters blamed his attacks for giving ammunition to Republican Lee Zeldin, who amplified them in the general election and forced Hochul to sweat out a relatively narrow 53-47 win.
Now, though, Hochul appears ready to move on. "The governor will allow his nomination to move forward," a spokesperson said in a statement following her meeting with Suozzi. Local Democrats previously said they would formally announce their choice this week.
Republicans, meanwhile, still have yet to choose their nominee, but Fandos reports that a pair of "front-runners had emerged": businessman Mike Sapraicone, a retired New York Police Department detective, and Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip, a former paratrooper with the Israel Defense Forces who was born in Ethiopia. Republicans have also said they expect to unveil their pick this week.
Whatever happens in February, both parties will hold primaries for a full two-year term on June 25, with a candidate filing deadline likely in late March.
● NY-17: Former Trump administration official Bill Maloney on Monday evening told Jewish Insider that he's decided not to challenge freshman Rep. Mike Lawler in the June Republican primary. Maloney made his plans known less than a week after former Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones' only serious intra-party foe, local school board trustee Liz Whitmer Gereghty, ended her own campaign.
● OH-02: Larry Kidd, who chairs the nonprofit OneOhio Recovery Foundation, has joined the March GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Brad Wenstrup in this dark red seat. Kidd is a former Jackson County Republican Party vice chair, and the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that OneOhio is "in charge of the $440 million Ohio received in settlement money from lawsuits against opioid manufacturers."
● OH-06: The Vindicator's David Skolnick writes that state Rep. Ron Ferguson and former state Rep. Christina Hagan are both considering running to succeed outgoing GOP Rep. Bill Johnson, though there's no word from either Republican. Hagan ran for two different U.S. House districts under the last map: She lost the 2018 primary for the now-defunct 16th to Anthony Gonzalez, while she unsuccessfully challenged Democratic incumbent Tim Ryan for the old 13th two years later.
State Sen. Michael Rulli recently filed FEC paperwork for this safely red seat, and he tells Skolnick he's working to set a date for his kickoff. The candidate filing deadline is Dec. 20.
● OR-03: State Rep. Maxine Dexter announced Tuesday that she was entering the May primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Earl Bluemenauer, in this safely blue seat. Dexter joins former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales in the contest.
Dexter, who works as a pulmonologist, represents a legislative seat that's almost entirely located in Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici's neighboring 1st District, and the new candidate also lives outside the 3rd. However, she told Willamette Week she only moved because her daughter's school was undergoing renovations and the family needed to be near her new school. "My heart and community are in Oregon's 3rd District," she argued. "It's where I raised my kids when they were younger—it's where they danced, played little league and sang in choir. It's where a majority of my patients live."
● TX-07: The Houston Landing's Paul Cobler reported Monday evening that a former staffer for Democrat Pervez Agwan named Maha Chishtey is suing him for allegedly trying to kiss her in mid-October. "Agwan used his position of authority over Chishtey to exploit and coerce her to go along with his sexual indulgences and kept her from escaping his office when she refused to comply," the suit says.
Agwan, a renewable energy developer who is challenging Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in the March primary, responded by calling Chishtey's allegations "unequivocally false" and insinuating that the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC is involved in the lawsuit. When Cobler asked for evidence to back up his claim, Agwan instead sent articles about his criticism of Israel's government, adding, "[W]e are the only pro-Palestine congressional campaign in the state." Cobler writes, "Agwan later reiterated that his campaign believes the lawsuit is a 'smear and hit job' without providing additional information."
Chishtey's attorney denied that AIPAC is involved in the suit. The organization did not respond to Cobler's requests for comment and does not appear to have said anything publicly about the matter.
● TX-12: Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday endorsed state House Republican Caucus Chair Craig Goldman for the March primary to replace retiring GOP Rep. Kay Granger. Candidate filing closes Dec. 11, and Goldman's only notable intraparty opponent is still businessman John O'Shea, who has the backing of Attorney General Ken Paxton.
● VA State House: Democrat Kimberly Pope Adams formally requested a recount on Tuesday after final results showed her trailing her Republican opponent, Del. Kim Taylor, by 78 votes, a margin of 0.27%. Because the difference between the two candidates is less than 0.5%, the state will pay for the recount. It's not yet known when the review will begin, but in 2017, the first in a series of four recounts concluded by Dec. 14. This year, only the Adams-Taylor race is likely to go to overtime, though candidates have 10 days from Monday's certification to request a recount.