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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● TN-05: WTVF's Phil Williams reported Thursday evening that Tennessee Rep. Andy Ogles appears to have fabricated large portions of his life, with Williams writing that the freshman 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. Ogles won his first term last year in a newly gerrymandered Middle Tennessee district, and he went on to oppose Kevin McCarthy for speaker on 11 straight ballots before finally falling into line.
During last year's primary, Ogles presented himself "as a former member of law enforcement" in a debate, saying he'd "worked in international sex crimes, specifically child trafficking." He also made similar claims during the campaign and in his first weeks in office.
But Williams explains that the only law enforcement background Ogles had was his brief service as a volunteer reserve deputy in the Williamson County Sheriff's Office starting in 2009―a gig that ended just two years later after he failed to meet the minimum requirements for participation, or even attend meetings. A spokesperson for the sheriff added, "There is nothing in Mr. Ogles' training or personnel file that indicates he had any involvement in 'international sex trafficking' in his capacity as a reserve deputy."
Williams also found that, while the congressman has claimed to have "oversee[n] operations and investments in 12 countries" as the chief operating officer of a group that works to stop human trafficking, his tax returns show he was paid all of $4,000 for part-time work. There's also no evidence that Ogles ever received an education in economics or worked as an economist. However, unlike fellow first-term Republican fabricators George Santos and Anna Paulina Luna, it appears that Ogles has not claimed to be Jewish.
Williams wasn't the first Tennessee journalist to question Ogles. In late January, the Tennessee Lookout's Sam Stockard reported that Ogles claimed to be a graduate of Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management when records show he actually went through the school's executive education program. Those two programs may sound similar but they're nothing alike. "Participants in the short-term, non-degree programs typically receive a certificate, according to a Vanderbilt spokesman," wrote Stockard. "In other words, he probably attended a few hours of lectures and got a piece of paper."
State Sen. Heidi Campbell, the Democrat Ogles defeated 56-42 last year, also says she had some idea about her opponent's other alleged lies, specifically his supposed law enforcement background, but none of these stories surfaced during the primary, where Ogles defeated former state House Speaker Beth Harwell 35-25, nor in the general.
Ogles' campaign finances are also a shambles. The month after his win, the Federal Election Commission threatened to audit the incoming congressman over his fundraising reports; among other things, he failed to properly identify donors and recorded accepting multiple contributions over the legal $2,900 limit. Williams further reported last month that Ogles has also failed to file the personal financial disclosures that all federal candidates are required to submit.
Campbell now argues that she might have won had her opponent's alleged fabrications emerged during the campaign, though Tennessee Republicans last year did everything they could to make sure that any Republican would win the 5th District. While Nashville's Davidson County had been contained in a single congressional district since the 1950s, the GOP's new gerrymander divided it between three different constituencies and immediately transformed the 5th District from safely blue to solidly red.
Veteran Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper decided to retire right after his seat morphed from a 60-37 Biden district to one Trump carried 54-43, and Ogles went on to beat Campbell in a race that almost everyone agreed would be an easy GOP pickup. Ogles' victory, as well as the successful re-election campaigns of fellow Republican Reps. John Rose and Mark Green, ensured that Nashville would be represented by Republicans for the first time since Horace Harrison left office in 1875 after losing his bid for another term.
● CA-Sen: Rep. Adam Schiff continues to scoop up endorsements from fellow members of California's congressional delegation, making him the only House Democrat running for Senate to earn support from his in-state colleagues so far. The latest to join Schiff's team are Rep. Doris Matsui, who represents part of the Sacramento suburbs, and Rep. Mark Takano, whose district is based around the Southern California city of Riverside. Schiff previously earned the backing of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and 14 other California members of Congress. Rep. Katie Porter is also running for this seat, while Rep. Barbara Lee is likely to join the race soon.
● MI-Sen: Actor Hill Harper, best known for his work on the TV show "The Good Doctor," has been reaching out to Michigan Democrats about a possible bid for the state's open Senate seat, according to CNN. Harper was buddies with Barack Obama when the two attended Harvard Law School and has said that he and the former president are still close.
● UT-Sen: Mitt Romney hasn't yet made up his mind about whether he'll seek a second term next year—and apparently hasn't made up his mind about when he'll make up his mind either. The Associated Press reported on Friday morning that Romney "doesn't expect" to make a decision "until the start of summer," but that very afternoon, CNN said that Romney would decide "by mid-April." Neither outlet directly quoted the senator in their articles, so perhaps someone out there is just confused about when summer begins. (It's Wednesday, June 21, in the northern hemisphere, in case you were unsure.)
For what it's worth, Romney does seem like he's gearing up for another campaign: "I'm doing what I would do if I'm running with staffing and resources, so it's not like I have to make a formal announcement," he told the AP. If he does, though, he's guaranteed to earn a primary challenge. One new name who confirms he's thinking about his own bid is former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who resigned from office in 2017 to take a job as a Fox News talking head and had previously been mentioned as a possible candidate. Like Romney, Chaffetz sounds as though he's in no hurry to make up his mind, telling the AP, "It's something I don't think I need to decide right now and consequently I haven't."
Last year, another Republican, state Attorney General Sean Reyes, declined to rule out running through a spokesperson. GOP Rep. Chris Stewart has also been named as a potential entrant. No Democrat has won a Senate race in Utah since Frank Moss secured a third term in 1970, though last year, Sen. Mike Lee turned in the weakest performance by a Beehive State Republican in a Senate contest since the 1974 Watergate wave, turning back conservative independent Evan McMullin by a 53-43 margin.
● WA-08: Banker Carmen Goers, whose bid for the legislature last year crashed and burned despite extensive support from GOP heavyweights, just launched a campaign against Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier for Washington's competitive 8th Congressional District. Goers had the backing of state House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox and other party leaders when she ran for an open seat in the state House in 2022, but she finished dead last in the top-two primary with just 14% of the vote—and to add insult to injury, Republicans were locked out of the general election because a pair of Democrats emerged as the lead vote-getters.
Schrier herself fended off a challenge from Republican Matt Larkin, winning a second term 53-46 in race that saw heavy outside spending on both sides. Joe Biden would have carried this district, which includes the eastern Seattle suburbs and part of central Washington, by a relatively close 52-45 margin, so it'll likely remain a GOP target.
● TX-AG: We learned Thursday night that the federal corruption probe into Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton remains active after state prosecutors said in a statement that Justice Department officials in D.C. would take over the investigation from San Antonio's U.S. attorney. The state prosecutors who revealed this are involved in the unrelated securities fraud case against Paxton, who is still awaiting trial after being indicted in 2015.
Paxton recently reached a tentative settlement in a separate whistleblower lawsuit that four of his former aides brought against him, but state House Speaker Dade Phelan said Wednesday it was up to Paxton to convince the legislature to approve the requisite $3.3 million taxpayer-funded payment to the plaintiffs. These former Paxton employees group told federal investigators in 2020 that their boss had used his office to aid a wealthy ally named Nate Paul in exchange for favors, including an expensive home renovation.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Victory Research, a GOP pollster that Politico says isn't working for any candidates, has conducted a new survey of Chicago's Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary. The results are below, with the firm's late January numbers in parentheses:
former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas: 23 (20)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: 17 (19)
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson: 16 (16)
Rep. Chuy Garcia: 14 (17)
Wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson: 12 (12)
None of the other four candidates broke 4%, while 13% of respondents are undecided.
The firm also tests out 10 different hypothetical matchups for the April 4 general election, any of which might be possible given the closeness of the race:
- Vallas: 44, Garcia: 39
- Vallas: 46, Johnson: 33
- Vallas: 49, Lightfoot: 30
- Vallas: 50, Wilson: 37
- Garcia: 42, Johnson: 39
- Garcia: 39, Lightfoot: 34
- Garcia: 40, Wilson: 29
- Johnson: 37, Lightfoot: 32
- Johnson: 35, Wilson: 29
- Wilson: 40: Lightfoot: 37
While these numbers show Lightfoot faring far worse against Vallas than against anyone else, she's made it clear she wants him as her general election foe. We got a reminder of why on Thursday when the news broke that Vallas' allies at the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police plan to host Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at their meeting eight days prior to Election Day. Vallas responded by saying he was "disappointed" the FOP had invited a Republican with a "record of trying to erase the LGBTQ community, banning books on Black history and much more."
Lightfoot, meanwhile, is doing what she can to stop Johnson with a new ad utilizing footage of Johnson talking about "our effort and our move to redirect and defund the amount of money that is spent in policing."
● Erie County, NY Executive: Democratic incumbent Mark Poloncarz announced Wednesday that he would seek an unprecedented fourth term as leader of Buffalo's Erie County, but he'll need to get past at least one prominent challenger first. Former Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray, who came unexpectedly close to flipping the now-defunct 27th Congressional District in 2018 then again in a 2020 special election, said at the start of the month he'd take on Poloncarz in the June primary, while a few local politicians have expressed interest in seeking the GOP nod.
● Nashville, TN Mayor: Democratic state Sen. Jeff Yarbro declared Friday that he was joining this August's nonpartisan primary to succeed retiring Mayor John Cooper, and Axios says he has $146,000 in his legislative campaign account that he can use for the effort. Yarbro has long been one of the more prominent Democrats in a state where the party has only a small bench.