The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● San Antonio, TX Ballot: San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia announced Wednesday that progressive activists had submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures to place a wide-ranging charter reform amendment on the city's May 6 ballot. The multi-pronged measure would forbid the police from enforcing laws that criminalize either abortion or "low-level marijuana possession." Cops would also be barred from employing choke-holds and no-knock warrants, as well as being directed to "using citations instead of arrests for low-level nonviolent crimes," while an appointed justice director would ensure all of these policies are implemented.
Segovia, however, has warned that Texas law would prevent the bulk of the amendment from going into effect, except for the creation of a justice director and some smaller items. The measure's proponents, who call their proposal the San Antonio Justice Charter, naturally see things differently, and they argue that a "yes" vote would still result in real changes. "The simple truth is that these policies will save lives by limiting unnecessary interactions with police that can lead to serious injury or even death―as we have seen recently with the shooting of Erik Cantu and death of Tyre Nichols," said Ananda Tomas, the head of the progressive group ACT 4 SA.
Tomas said she also believes that the Justice Charter will have an impact despite the fact that the city council previously directed the police not to use public resources to investigate abortions last year, and department policy already bans both chokeholds and no-knock warrants. She told Axios last month that a victory at the ballot box would make it more difficult for elected officials to later reverse these policies and additionally emphasized that San Antonio would be the first city in the state to vote on decriminalizing abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Another progressive organizer, Mike Siegel, who was the Democratic nominee against Republican Rep. Michael McCaul in both 2018 and 2020, also insisted that Republican state officials wouldn't be the obstacle that Segovia thinks they'll be. "The state government does not provide special money to enforce marijuana laws or to enforce abortion laws, and every city makes decisions on how to allocate scarce resources," Siegel told the San Antonio Express News.
Siegel noted that even though Austin voted last year to decriminalize possession of marijuana last May, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has yet to file a suit to block the law. "We know that Ken Paxton loves to sue Austin, loves to make an example of Austin elected officials and has not done so," said Siegel, who is himself a former assistant Austin city attorney. Segovia agrees that Paxton isn't going to sue San Antonio, but only because the city wouldn't allow the Justice Charter to go into force.
The measure's foes, though, are not assuming that it's automatically doomed. The San Antonio police union, which narrowly beat back a 2021 amendment that would have repealed its right to engage in collective bargaining, insists this new referendum is an extension of that fight. "It's dictating what officers can and cannot do," said union president Danny Diaz, who also said that it wasn't up to cities to make laws regarding abortion and marijuana. Diaz's group had $300,000 on hand on Jan. 25, and local observers anticipate an expensive contest.
The amendment will be on the same ballot as the city's regularly scheduled contests for mayor and the 10-person city council. Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who usually backs Democrats even though he identifies as an independent, doesn't have any serious opposition in sight in his campaign for a fourth and final two-year term, but both progressives and conservatives are hoping the Justice Charter battle will give their side a lift in important races for the city council. State law also forbids cities from changing their charters more than once every two years, and Segovia says that this rule would apply even if the Justice Charter won but could not be enforced.
● IN-Sen: While Republican Rep. Greg Pence retracted his support for colleague Jim Banks last month over what his allies told Politico was “unwarranted attacks” against former Gov. Mitch Daniels from both Donald Trump Jr. and the Club for Growth,” Pence is now emulating George Costanza and endorsing Banks again like nothing ever happened. Pence, who is the older brother of Mike Pence, made his new announcement about a week after Daniels decided not to run for Senate after all.
● MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson said a few weeks ago that he was considering seeking the Republican nod for Senate or president, and he made it clear Thursday he was moving towards door number two. Johnson, whose primary bid for governor ended last year after he fell victim to a fraudulent petition signature scandal, announced he'd formed a White House campaign committee with a "formal announcement for President of the United States in the months ahead." Johnson also is spending $190,000 on Super Bowl ads in Iowa, a state where it's usually harder to get ejected from the ballot.
● PA-Sen: Democratic Sen. John Fetterman checked into the hospital Wednesday for observation after he felt lightheaded, and he remained there Thursday for another overnight stay. His office released a statement Thursday saying, “[T]he results of the MRI, along with the results of all of the other tests the doctors ran, rule out a new stroke.” They added, “He is being monitored with an EEG for signs of seizure - so far there are no signs of seizure, but he is still being monitored.”
● IN-03: Howey Politics mentions state Sen. Liz Brown and farmer Kip Tom, who each lost the 2016 Republican primary to now-Rep. Jim Banks, as possible candidates to succeed their former rival now that he's running for Senate. The story also name-drops Matt Kelty and Tim Smith, who each badly lost the race for mayor of Fort Wayne to Democrat Tom Henry in 2007 and 2019, respectively.
But former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, who lost a 2002 primary for an old version of this seat to incumbent Mark Souder, says it's "unlikely" he'll try again 22 years later.
● IN-05: Hamilton County GOP chair Mario Massillamany tells Howey Politics he's considering running to succeed retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz, and Brian Howey reports that several other Republicans are thinking about seeking this gerrymandered constituency:
- State Sen. Sen. Scott Baldwin
- former state Sen. Mike Delph
- State Rep. Chuck Goodrich
- Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen
- State Rep. Chris Jeter
Baldwin made news in 2021 when his name appeared on the insurrectionist Oath Keeper's list of annual members. The legislator said in response that he'd donated $30 in 2010, saying "the organization described it to me as a 2nd Amendment rights group," and that he'd not "had any interaction or communication since."
Baldwin generated national attention months later when he suggested that schools should offer "impartial" lessons on fascism and Nazism. He soon said, "Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting."
Howey also mentions 2020 primary losers Micah Beckwith and Beth Henderson as possible candidates along with Boone County Council President Elise Nieshalla. There's no word, though, if any of them are interested.
● MN-02: Democratic Rep. Angie Craig's office said Thursday that she was attacked that morning in her apartment elevator where she "suffered bruising, but is otherwise physically okay." The U.S. Capitol Police said later that they were investigating the incident, but "there is no indication that the congresswoman was targeted because of her position."
Craig told the police she'd thrown hot coffee to fend off her assailant, who had been "acting erratic as if he was under the influence of an unknown substance." The D.C. Police Department announced that evening that they'd apprehended a suspect.
● WI Supreme Court: EMILY's List made its first-ever judicial endorsement on Thursday when it backed Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz in what's become a very expensive Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary. The offensive comes as WisPolitics reports that a pair of conservative groups, the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, have spent a combined $770,000 on a commercial portraying Protasiewicz as weak on crime.
The Brennan Center for Justice, meanwhile, says that Conservative Action for America is deploying $150,000 to promote Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, though we do not yet have a copy of the spot. Former state Justice Daniel Kelly, who is the other conservative on the ballot, is in turn getting $1.7 million in aid on TV and radio from Fair Courts America, which is about twice what it previously reported spending. Neither Kelly nor the final candidate, liberal Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, have aired ads themselves, and Mitchell hasn't gotten any serious outside help on the airwaves yet.
● PA State House: State House Speaker Mark Rozzi said Wednesday he'd "reassess" whether he'd try to continue to lead the chamber after his colleagues pass measures to help survivors of sexual abuse. The speaker, who remains a Democrat despite initially saying he'd serve as an independent, announced that his colleagues will convene Feb. 21-23 to work on this issue right after Democrats won the trio of Tuesday special elections that ensured they'd control the state House.
"Being the speaker of the House means nothing," Rozzi, who is himself an abuse survivor, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The only thing that's important to me is getting this legislation for the retroactive two-year window. So when I look back on my career, if I don't get this done, it has been a failure to me." Rozzi also said of House Majority Leader Joanna McClinton, who would be the first woman to serve as speaker, "Joanna McClinton is a great leader, and she has done amazingly great things for the Democratic Party."
Mayors and County Leaders
● Lafayette Parish, LA Mayor-President: Republican Monique Blanco Boulet, the Acadiana Planning Commission CEO who is the daughter of Louisiana's late Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, announced Thursday that she'd wage an intra-party challenge against Lafayette Parish Mayor-President Josh Guillory in this October's all-party primary. LAPolitics' Jeremy Alford reacted to the news by predicting that this would be one of the most competitive races in the whole state. A third Republican candidate, attorney Jan Swift, is also running in a contest where it takes a majority to avert a November runoff.
Boulet herself is a former registered Democrat, but she changed her party affiliation in September about three years after her mother died. That party switch may have been necessary to have a shot in this contest to lead Acadiana's largest community, a longtime Republican stronghold that Donald Trump took 65-35. Blanco, who is the only woman to ever lead the Pelican State, narrowly lost Lafayette Parish to Republican Bobby Jindal even as she was sweeping nearby rural areas in 2003, and fellow Democrat John Bel Edwards didn't win it in either of his victorious bids for governor.
● Where Are They Now?: One of 2022's most toxic Republican nominees for governor has hired a fellow electoral disaster to become his new chief of staff: Politico's Holly Otterbein reports that Doug Mastriano, who remains a member of the Pennsylvania state Senate, has brought on Dan Cox, who gave up his seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in order to try to become his own state's chief executive.