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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● OH-Sen: NBC's Henry Gomez reports that David McIntosh, the head of the well-funded Club for Growth, used a private donor gathering earlier this month both to urge hardline Rep. Warren Davidson to act on his interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and to promise the Club's backing if he does. That's not likely to be welcome news for the Senate GOP leadership, though, as Axios wrote a little while ago that party officials are "concerned" about a Davidson bid.
Davidson emerged on the political scene in dramatic fashion back in 2016 when the first-time candidate, thanks in large part to $1 million in Club support, won the primary to succeed none other than former Speaker John Boehner. Davidson immediately joined the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, the group that played a key role in getting Boehner to quit in the first place, and he's spent his time in the House racking up a far-right record.
The congressman joined a majority of his party in voting to overturn Biden's win in the hours following the Jan. 6 attack, though he was one of only 21 House Republicans a few months to vote against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the US Capitol Police force. Davidson the following year defended a state law banning abortion after only about six weeks without exception for rape or incest after CNN asked him, "[W]hat happens when a 12 year-old girl falls pregnant after being raped? Are you ok with her being forced to carry that fetus to term?" He responded, "Let's say someone was raped, you don't know you were raped for two months?"
If recent history is any guide, though, Davidson's supporters and detractors may need to wait a while to see if he'll challenge Brown. The Republican in February of 2021 first expressed interest in a primary bid against Gov. Mike DeWine for his "overbearing" approach to fighting the pandemic and soon set a September deadline for deciding. Davidson finally said in December that he'd remain in the House rather than go up against DeWine.
The only notable candidate running against Brown right now is state Sen. Matt Dolan, a self-funder who took third in last year's primary to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. He may have company before long, though, as wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno, who dropped out of that contest last time, is now openly mulling a campaign.
Moreno, who is the father-in-law of freshman Rep. Max Miller, has already castigated Dolan, who last time was the one candidate to condemn the Big Lie, as someone who is "running in the wrong primary." Moreno is also betting that Donald Trump, who reportedly convinced him to drop out last time to block Dolan, remains just as relevant as ever in GOP politics. Gomez reported that Moreno, has been working on cultivating ties with the man he called a "maniac" before the 2016 election. Miller, notably, is a former Trump aide who married Moreno's daughter last year at Trump's Bedminster lair.
Buckeye State politicos have also long expected Secretary of State Frank LaRose to run for Senate as well, though LaRose has yet to say when he expects to decide. LaRose recently was part of a CPAC panel titled, "They Stole It From Us Legally," though he insists that he doesn't actually believe in the Big Lie.
● NH-Gov: Following Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig's announcement on Thursday that she wouldn't seek a fourth term as mayor of New Hampshire's largest city this fall, the Concord Monitor reported that unnamed sources close to the Democrat say she's seriously considering a run for governor next year. For her part, Craig had refused to rule out such a bid when asked on Thursday.
● UT-Gov, UT-Sen: Republican incumbent Spencer Cox has unsurprisingly confirmed that he'll seek re-election to a second term next year, and he also said it would be his last leading this very red state. Meanwhile, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz told KSL NewsRadio that he's considering challenging Cox in the GOP primary in addition to potentially taking on Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who has kept everyone guessing about whether he'll seek a second term in the Senate.
● WA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee still hasn't revealed if he'll seek a historic fourth term in 2024, but if he did, MyNorthwest's Frank Sumrall notes that he'd be the first governor to run for a fourth time since Republican Arthur Langlie in 1952. The circumstances back then were very different, though, as Langlie lost his first re-election bid in 1944 but went on to win the following two contests. Rather than run for what would have been a fourth non-consecutive term in 1956, however, Langlie unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Warren Magnuson.
The Northwest Progressive Institute, meanwhile, has released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that tests out a very hypothetical top-two primary scenario that does not include Inslee. The survey shows Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, who was the one Republican included, taking 35%, with Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson at 21%. Two other Democrats, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, are far behind with 7%; Constantine announced the day after this poll debuted that he wouldn't run.
NPI explains it included Dammeier because he's "the most credible Republican candidate our team could think of" and is termed-out of his current job next year.
● MN-02: Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who was the Republican nominee here the last two cycles, told Axios that he isn't ruling out a third bid next year and would assess things with his team in the next month. No notable Republican has yet joined the race against Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, but former Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy had previously filed paperwork to run, and he told Axios that he's still considering and would make a decision "in the coming days."
● RI-01: A spokesperson for former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who narrowly lost last year's Democratic primary for governor, says she's expected to announce her decision early this coming week on whether she'll run in the upcoming special election to succeed Democratic Rep. David Cicilline once the latter resigns on June 1.
However, both state House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and former state Sen. Cynthia Mendes announced Friday that they wouldn't run. Several other Democrats had previously said they're considering, and Shekarchi's decision in particular could pave the way for others to jump in and join Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who so far is the only notable Democrat running.
Secretaries of State
● WI-SoS: Democrat Doug La Follette ended an era in Wisconsin politics on Friday when he resigned as secretary of state after close to five decades in office, a period where his never-powerful post was made weaker and weaker over time. Gov. Tony Evers quickly announced that he was appointing former state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who dropped out of the 2022 Senate race shortly before the Democratic primary, to an office that operates with just a $250,000 annual budget and does not oversee elections (which are handled by a bipartisan commission).
La Follette is a member of a prominent Badger State political family that included his great-great uncle “Fighting Bob” La Follette, the legendary progressive Republican senator who ran for president as an independent in 1924; the senator’s son and namesake, Sen. Robert La Follette Jr., also made his mark in American politics before losing his 1946 GOP primary to none other than Joe McCarthy.
Doug La Follette, for his part, outpaced those two relatives in sheer political longevity, but he never managed to rise above secretary of state despite many attempts. The Democrat lost a 1970 primary for southeastern Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District by 20 votes to eventual winner Les Aspin, who would resign in 1993 to become Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense, before prevailing in a state Senate race two years later. La Follette won the secretary of state’s office in 1974 but gave it up in 1978 to run for lieutenant governor: He earned the Democratic nod, but the ticket led by Gov. Martin Schreiber lost 54-45 to the Republican team of Lee Dreyfus and Russell Olson.
La Follette took a distant third in the 1981 nonpartisan race for superintendent of public instruction, but he decisively regained the secretary of state’s office the next year. (Incumbent Vel Philips, who was the first African American elected statewide, took a weak third in the primary after critics accused her of doing little in office.)
La Follette would repeatedly run for other jobs in years when he wasn’t up for re-election, but he lost primaries for U.S. Senate in 1988, the 1st Congressional District in 1996, and governor in the 2012 recall. Despite these setbacks, though, La Follette was always able to hold on as secretary of state even in terrible cycles such as 2010 and 2014, two GOP wave years where he was the one Democrat to win statewide.
During these decades the secretary of state’s office, which was never especially influential, became even less so. In 1986, the legislature stripped it of its oversight power over lobbyists and its ability to probe ethics violations, and later sessions saw more cuts. The AP wrote last year that the job’s “only responsibilities are issuing travel documents and serving on a timber board.”
La Follette, who is 82, decided to run one more time in 2022, saying he wanted to stop GOP plans to put this office in charge of elections if they won. The incumbent prevailed 48.3-48.0 over Republican Amy Loudenbeck before announcing his departure Friday. “After many years of frustration, I've decided I don't want to spend the next three and a half years trying to run an office without adequate resources and staffing levels,” La Follette declared, adding, “After decades of public service, I must now focus on my personal needs.”
● LA State House: Republicans in the Louisiana state House got the two-thirds supermajority they need to override Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' vetoes on Thursday evening when state Rep. Francis Thompson, who is the longest serving legislator in state history, announced that he was switching parties after almost 50 years in office as a Democrat. The GOP has had a supermajority in the upper chamber since the 2019 elections.
While the 81-year-old Thompson, who represents what's become a dark red northeast Louisiana constituency, spent most of his tenure allying with whatever governor happened to be in office at the time, he's been anything but a loyal Edwards backer. Thompson in 2021 supported legislation banning trans girls and women from participating in sports consistent with their identity, and he went on to back the GOP's congressional gerrymander the following year. Edwards was able to uphold his veto on the former bill, but Thompson and his Republican allies managed to get their way on redistricting in what marked only the third known successful veto override in state history.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson on Friday picked up the backing of Rep. Chuy Garcia, a fellow progressive who took fourth place in last month's nonpartisan primary, ahead of the April 4 general election. Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, meanwhile, got a notable endorsement of his own from the Chicago Laborers' District Council, which the Chicago Tribune says has been "generous with financial support for their favored candidates."
Garcia, who is one of Chicago's most prominent Latino politicians, performed well in several predominantly Latino neighborhoods even as he was only taking 14% citywide, and Johnson is hoping that the congressman will help him make key inroads in these communities. The Chicago Sun-Times, though, notes that Vallas did "surprisingly well among Hispanics" in the first round and won some majority Latino wards.
Meanwhile, the progressive pollster IZQ Strategies finds Johnson edging out Vallas 46-44 in its first general election survey. The firm, which is led by a Johnson supporter, says it sponsored this poll itself and raised money through crowdfunding. There's been no agreement on the state of the race among the handful of surveys we've seen: A recent Johnson internal from Lake Research Partners also put him ahead 45-40, while releases from 1983 Labs and the GOP firm Victory Research had Vallas up by margins of 44-32 and 45-39, respectively.
● Denver, CO Mayor: Kwame Spearman, who is the CEO of the Tattered Cover bookstore, announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the April 4 nonpartisan primary and endorsing former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough. Spearman's departure means that a mere 16 candidates are left in the running to succeed termed-out Mayor Michael Hancock.
● Lincoln, NE Mayor: Democratic incumbent Leirion Gaylor Baird has earned an endorsement from the Lincoln Fire Fighters Association, which the Nebraska Examiner says is one of the city's most notable labor groups because it "offer[s] a steady stream of volunteers to go door-to-door for a favored candidate," ahead of the April 4 nonpartisan primary.
Gaylor Baird faces state Sen. Suzanne Geist and Christian radio executive Stan Parker, both of whom are Republicans, in a contest where the top two finishers will advance to the May 2 general election. Geist, who has the backing of Gov. Jim Pillen and the local police union, appears to be better positioned than Parker to move forward.