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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● PA-Sen: Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a QAnon ally who was one of the very worst Republican nominees last year in a cycle chock full of them, tells Politico's Holly Otterbein that he's considering challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2024. Mastriano, who was anything but humbled by his blowout 56-42 loss to now-Gov. Josh Shapiro, says that he's "praying" about whether to run but added that God would make the ultimate decision.
Republican Senate leaders, who want self-funding rich guy Dave McCormick to go up against Casey, are undoubtedly also praying—that Mastriano will sit this race out. NRSC chief Steve Daines was quick to express his blunt disdain. "We need somebody who can win a primary and a general election," the Montana senator said. "His last race demonstrated he can't win a general."
Democrats, of course, would like it just fine if the state senator is divinely inspired to try again. Mastriano, though, is far from the only far-right loser from 2022 who could wage another bid for statewide office. Indeed, at least five GOP candidates who ran failed midterm campaigns have come up as potential '24 contenders:
The rolling disaster may even extend to the House level, as Ohio Republican J.R. Majewski is mulling another try against Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
But Mastriano, whose many sins include paying the white supremacist social network Gab $5,000 for "campaign consulting," still stands out in this sordid crowd. Most of his fellow Republicans gave up on him long before Election Day, with one would-be ally saying, "I've not seen anything that is even a semblance of a campaign."
Mastriano unsurprisingly sees things very differently. He referenced the total number of votes he earned last year when he told Otterbein, "What do you do with a movement of 2.2 million? We're keeping it alive." (Shapiro secured over 3 million votes.) He added, "We've seen people in the past, other Republican gubernatorial candidates, they rise and they disappear when they lose. Why?" He answered, "You have people that love you and support you," a group we're positive does not include the Republicans who are actually trying to flip the Senate.
● LA-Gov: Rep. Garret Graves finally confirmed Tuesday that he wouldn't run in this October's all-party primary to succeed Louisiana's termed-out governor, Democrat John Bel Edwards, but another Republican acknowledged he was considering joining what's still a fluid race. Stephen Waguespack, who serves as president and CEO of the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said later in the day that he "hope[s] to have a decision pretty soon."
The Louisiana Illuminator's Julie O'Donoghue reported the previous evening, though, that Waguespack told his board members he'd already made that decision and would announce his campaign Thursday. Graves, who is close to Waguespack, didn't mention him in his statement, but he hinted his campaign was coming by writing that "in the coming days, the field will brighten." Another Republican, state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, also said last week he'd consider a run if Graves passed.
Waguespack, writes O'Donoghue, could appeal to the same set of GOP donors who'd originally wanted Graves to run in order to stop Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry. The far-right Landry is the frontrunner, but O'Donoghue says the "Anybody but Jeff" group badly wants an alternative to a person they view as "too much of a hothead and too concerned about partisan issues to be an effective governor."
The GOP side also includes Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson, but none of them have emerged yet as Landry's main intra-party rival. Indeed, O'Donoghue says that all four announced Republicans last week appeared at a LABI event hosted by Waguespack himself, but "some politically-active business folks came away disheartened by the performances." The LABI head, by contrast, didn't show any obvious interest in joining the race until this week.
Waguespack would bring plenty of connections to the race from his decade leading the state's U.S. Chamber of Commerce chapter, which could help him quickly raise the type of money he'd need to go up against the well-funded Landry. However, O'Donoghue notes that the attorney general already has the support of some major LABI donors including Eddie Rispone, who narrowly lost the 2019 race to Edwards. Rispone, though, said Tuesday he wanted to speak to both men, declaring, "They both have their strong suits" and "I just hope they go at it from a policy standpoint."
Waguespack, who does not appear to have sought office before, also has one big connection that could be a serious liability if he ran. He previously served as chief of staff to then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Republican rising star who left office seven years ago with disastrous approval numbers, and Waguespack's foes would likely tie him to the huge Jindal-era budget cuts.
Former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, by contrast, earned an endorsement from Edwards Tuesday, a move aimed at ensuring that he remains the only major Democrat in the contest. The field also includes independent Hunter Lundy, a self-funding attorney who is a member of the governing board of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a Christian nationalist group.
● CA-30: Actor Ben Savage, who is best known as the lead on "Boy Meets World," announced Monday that he was joining the busy top-two primary field to replace Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leaving this safely blue seat behind to run for the Senate.
Savage, who like Schiff and all the major candidates is a Democrat, ran for the West Hollywood City Council last year in a race where he needed to take one of the top three spots to earn a seat, but he finished seventh. Savage soon began raising money for a House campaign in January, but he only confirmed he was in this week.
● NY-03: Democrat Jon Kaiman announced this week that he would try to regain his old post as North Hempstead town supervisor this year rather than challenge serial liar George Santos in 2024. Kaiman will instead take on Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, who caucuses with the GOP even though she remains a registered Democrat, to lead a Long Island community of 237,000 people.
● WI Supreme Court: AdImpact reports that the conservative Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has thrown down $3.2 million for its opening buy ahead of the April 4 general election, while the GOP firm Medium Buying says its allies at Fair Courts America are deploying another $550,000. Progressive Janet Protasiewicz, per Medium, has also reserved an additional $460,000, while rival Dan Kelly still has yet to make any general election investments.
Despite these new right-wing bookings, though, AdImpact relays that Protasiewicz's side still maintains a 63-37 advantage in terms of dollars spent on the airwaves. Protasiewicz has spent or booked $7 million, while her backers at A Better Wisconsin Together are responsible for another $1.1 million. (Smaller progressive groups appear to account for another $200,000.) By contrast, those two conservative groups are responsible for $4.9 million.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Chicago, IL Mayor: The pollster 1983 Labs is out with the first numbers we've seen from anyone since last week's nonpartisan primary, and it shows former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas beating Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson 44-32 in the April 4 general election. The firm, which says is not affiliated with any candidate, found Vallas up 44-31 days before the primary in what was at the time a hypothetical matchup.
Johnson, meanwhile, this week publicized an endorsement from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is also chair of the county Democratic Party. Preckwinkle lost the 2019 race for mayor in a 74-26 romp to Lori Lightfoot, but she bounced back last year by convincingly winning both the Democratic primary and general election for her current post. Lightfoot, by contrast, took third last week against Vallas and Johnson.
Vallas, for his part, is airing a commercial starring former Secretary of State Jesse White, who is arguably his most prominent African American supporter. (Vallas is white while Johnson is Black.) White, who retired this year after a 24-year career in statewide office, tells the audience, "Paul has the know-how and experience to fix what's broken. He'll focus on crime and the safety of every neighborhood."
● Nashville, TN Mayor: Odessa Kelly, who was the 2022 Democratic nominee against Republican Rep. Mark Green, tells Axios she won't run in this year's race for mayor of Nashville.
● LA Treasurer: Former Rep. John Fleming, a conservative hardliner who served four terms in the House before waging a failed 2016 Senate bid, announced Tuesday that he would try to revive his electoral career this fall by seeking the Louisiana state treasurer post that GOP incumbent John Schroder is giving up to run for governor.
Fleming, who was first elected to represent the Shreveport area in 2008, was a favorite of anti-establishment groups like the radical anti-tax Club for Growth during his time in Congress. He's also long been an ardent opponent of abortion rights, so much so that in 2012, he shared an article from The Onion on Facebook titled "Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex." The congressman was very much not aware that this was satire, though, as he added the message, "More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale." Fleming soon deleted the post, though not fast enough to avoid widespread mockery.
Fleming ran statewide in 2016 by running for an open Senate seat, but he always struggled to stand out in an all-party primary dominated by the eventual winner, Republican Treasurer John Kennedy. Fleming ended up taking fifth place with just 11%, but he got to stay in D.C. after he was appointed to various posts in the Trump administration. He originally planned to try to regain elected office this year by running for lieutenant governor, but those plans changed after Republican incumbent Billy Nungesser unexpectedly announced he'd seek re-election rather than campaign for governor.
Fleming joins an October all-party primary that includes GOP state Rep. Scott McKnight and Democrat Dustin Granger, a financial planner who unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate in a 2021 special election. Others may also get in ahead of the August filing deadline; if no one wins a majority then the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party, would advance to the November runoff. Republicans have held this post since Kennedy switched parties in 2007 ahead of a failed bid against Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.