The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from Daniel Donner, David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert and David Beard.
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● Ballot Measures: Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont resoundingly approved amendments to their state constitutions last year that now guarantee the right to an abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, but many more states can—and should—follow suit.
Two states, New York and Maryland, in fact have already placed similar amendments on the ballot, but another 21 could do the same thing, as illustrated in the map at the top of this post (click here for a larger version). Together, these 26 states would cover 58% of the nation’s population—a critical step in the battle to restore abortion rights for the entire nation.
Amendments like these can take one of two paths to the ballot. In every state, lawmakers can vote to approve amendments, which then require voters to weigh in before they’re adopted (except in Delaware, where only legislative approval is necessary). That’s how both California and Vermont began the process of passing their new abortion protections. Most Democratic-run legislatures can readily do the same thing, though not all, because some states require supermajorities that Democrats currently lack—and we can be certain Republican legislators won’t help out.
But there’s also another way: In 18 states, voters themselves can place amendments on the ballot by gathering a sufficient number of signatures, the method used by Michigan activists in 2022. Citizen-initiated amendments like these are often even more important, because they can safeguard abortion rights in purple states where they’re under threat and even in red states where Republicans have banned the procedure.
Advocates in Ohio, for instance, have already begun collecting signatures to send an amendment before voters this fall, and there’s good reason to think they’ll be successful. Polling shows that majorities favor abortion access in almost every state, and last year, voters in three conservative states—Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana—all rejected ballot measures that would have curtailed reproductive rights.
Whichever method they use, the vast majority of these states could adopt abortion rights amendments by 2024, though a handful (potentially including Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Nevada) require such measures to be passed twice, so the soonest they could complete the process would be 2026. Either way, with Republicans working furiously to restrict abortion wherever and however they can, the time to act is now.
- NV-Sen: Jacky Rosen (D-inc): $2.4 million raised, $6 million cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: NBC reports that Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, who has been one of the state's most prominent far-right politicians, will announce this coming week that he'll seek the Republican nod for the seat held by independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Plenty of other Republicans are waiting to see if Kari Lake, who still pretends she won last year's race for governor, will run, but Lamb evidently doesn't plan to defer to his onetime ally.
Sinema herself hasn't revealed her 2024 plans yet, but the Wall Street Journal also published a story Friday detailing how she recently held a staff retreat to plan a potential re-election campaign, which included a slideshow detailing key dates ahead. FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich points out, though, "This feels a little more like 'taking the steps you need to take to run' rather than 'definitely running.'"
● WI-Sen: Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she'll announce this coming week if she'll seek a third term, though there's been no indication she's looking to retire.
● LA-Gov: Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports that Republican state Treasurer John Schroder has spent $290,000 on TV ads from mid-March through mid-April at a time when he has the broadcast TV airwaves to himself. The few polls we've seen have shown Schroder taking 3% at best well ahead of the October all-party primary, though no one has released any surveys in the month since the current field took shape.
● CA-27: Inside Elections reports that Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commissioner Franky Carrillo, a Democrat who filed FEC paperwork in early March, will kick off his bid against Republican Rep. Mike Garcia later this month. Carrillo was featured in the Netflix series "The Innocence Files" detailing how he spent 22 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.
● RI-01: State Sen. Ana Quezada has filed FEC paperwork for the seat held by her fellow Democrat, outgoing Rep. David Cicilline.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Jacksonville, FL Mayor: Republican Daniel Davis has launched a new commercial ahead of the May 16 general election for mayor of Jacksonville, explicitly attacking his Democratic foe, Donna Deegan, for attending Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.
The ad shows footage of reporters talking about the violence that took place after the protests, which police said were not linked to the BLM march, intercut with three uses of a clip where Deegan says, "I went to every one of those Black Lives Matter protests." The spot concludes with video of the Democrat calling for a "civilian review board that helps to hold our police officers accountable" before it flashes to another clip of a police car being attacked.
Deegan responded by pointing out that two of Davis' top supporters, termed-out Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff T.K. Waters, attended a BLM march that same year, something Davis unsurprisingly did not mention in his ad. She also affirmed her support for the police and said of Davis' messaging, "Frankly, it seems racially insensitive to me the way that was handled, and I just don't know how that makes us a stronger community to try and divide on those things." Deegan has aired only positive commercials throughout her campaign, and she says she plans to continue that strategy.
Deegan outpaced Davis 39-25 in last month's contest to lead Florida's largest city, with the GOP candidates collectively leading Deegan and another Democrat, state Sen. Audrey Gibson, 51-48. (The balance went to an independent.) So far, none of the defeated candidates have endorsed anyone for the second round, and Gibson said last month that she wouldn't be supporting Deegan.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Former City Council member Maria Quiñones Sánchez revealed Sunday that she was suspending her campaign to win the May 16 Democratic primary, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The obnoxious, obscene amount of money that is shaping the race just got away from us.” Quiñones Sánchez, who was the only Latino in the contest, added that she made her decision after seeing how much her opponents and their super PAC allies had raised and spent, saying, “I’m very concerned about the money in the race.”
Quiñones Sánchez’s departure took place days after fellow former City Council member Cherelle Parker on Wednesday secured the backing of the deep-pocketed International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, which remains one of the city's most powerful unions even after longtime leader John Dougherty's 2021 departure following his conviction for federal bribery charges. Local 98 finished late March with a massive $13.8 million on hand, and it has a history of spending big for its favorite candidates.
These developments come as two wealthy candidates continue to enjoy a huge advertising edge ahead of the busy and unpredictable primary, where it takes just a plurality to win the all-important nomination in this dark blue city. The Inquirer says that former Council member Allan Domb, a self-funding real estate magnate nicknamed the "Condo King," has deployed $5.6 million on ads through April 4. Grocer Jeff Brown has spent $1.6 million while For A Better Philadelphia, an allied super PAC that has not disclosed its donors, has thrown down another $1.1 million.
Former city Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, for her part, so far has outspent Parker's campaign $456,000 to $274,000 on the air. Parker's supporters at Philadelphians For Our Future, which is primarily funded by unions like the Laborers District Council, has deployed an additional $460,000 for her, though, in the leadup to the primary.
Another former councilmember, Helen Gym, has benefited from $583,000 from the American Federation of Teachers affiliate Fighting Together for Philadelphia, while her own campaign just begun a $128,000 opening ad campaign. Gym's inaugural ad features her pledging to issue "a state of emergency on crime, fix the 911 system, and put mental health first responders on the street." Derek Green and Quiñones Sánchez, who are also former council members, have deployed just $82,000 and $43,000, respectively, while state Rep. Amen Brown barely registers at $13,000.
Brown (who is not related to Jeff Brown) launched his campaign last year in an actual smoke-filled room in New York City accompanied by prominent developer Marty Burger, who has reportedly predicted the state representative would have $5 million in super PAC support, but not a dollar has been spent on his behalf. "I can't talk about it," Burger told the Inquirer at the end of March, "But you'll see something happen." We're still waiting both to see if something will happen and for Brown to file the campaign fundraising reports that were due Tuesday.
The other notable contenders all met this deadline, though, so we know that Domb goes into the final weeks with a $1.7 million to $1.4 million cash-on-hand edge over Gym. Rhynhart and Parker had $854,000 to $607,000, respectively, compared to $409,000 for Brown; the grocer, though, has self-funded $1 million so far, so like Domb, he may be capable of throwing down more of his own money over the next few weeks. Green, finally, had $304,000 in the bank, which was a little less than the $321,000 that Quiñones Sánchez reported just before she suspended her bid.
We've seen all of one poll here, a mid-March FM3 survey for Jeff Brown's allies that showed him in front with 24%: Gym and Domb took 15% each to Rhynhart's 12%, with Parker and Quinones-Sanchez at 7% apiece and no one else breaking 2%.
● Wichita, KS Mayor: Former TV reporter Lily Wu announced April 2 that she was joining the August 1 nonpartisan primary to take on Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, a Democrat who won the 2019 contest to lead Kansas' largest city after a truly wild race. Wu, who switched her party affiliation from Republican to Libertarian last year, would be Wichita's first Asian American mayor as well as the second woman elected to this post. (The first was Elma Broadfoot, who won a single two-year term in 1993, though three others served back when the City Council picked the mayor.)
Wu joins a field that includes a pair of Republicans, City Council member Bryan Frye, former Council member Jared Cerullo, as well as Celeste Racette, a Democrat turned independent who leads a group advocating for the historic performance venue Century II. Another Republican, Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Pete Meitzner, had expressed interest in running as well, though he ultimately deferred to Wu. The new contender launched her bid at an event attended by the heads of prominent groups like the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, though it's not clear yet if they'll endorse her.
Whipple himself, meanwhile, has not yet announced his re-election bid ahead of the June 1 filing deadline. The two candidates who take the most votes in August will advance to the Nov. 7 general election.
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● Allegheny County, PA District Attorney: Pennsylvania Justice & Public Safety PAC, which is affiliated with a national organization largely funded by philanthropist George Soros, has gone on the offensive against Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala with a spot accusing him of having "betrayed our values" over his two decades in office. Zappala is trying to fend off an intra-party challenge from the left from county Chief Public Defender Matt Dugan, whom the PAC supports in the May 16 Democratic primary.
This ad, which WESA's Chris Potter writes appears to be the first negative one of the contest, lays out a litany of allegations against Zappala, including how a "judge accused Zappala's office of giving sweetheart deals to white defendants." Potter says that a judge in 2010 rejected a plea deal that the district attorney's office made with a man accused of fighting with police, saying it was "a ridiculous plea that only goes to white boys." (Potter adds that the judge later recused himself from the case.)
The narrator also declares that Zappala "even jailed a woman who had a miscarriage," with the accompanying on-screen text reading, "The woman's lawyer called it 'The most abusive prosecution I've ever witnessed.'" WESA explains that one of his prosecutors in 2007 charged a woman who, following a miscarriage, put the fetus in the freezer, a story that resurfaced during the 2016 attorney general primary as Zappala competed against now-Gov. Josh Shapiro.
Zappala seven years ago responded to Shapiro's commercial about the story by saying the charges were filed, with the support of the woman's family, to ensure she received mental health treatment. "I've got nothing to hide about my position on a woman's right to choose," said Zappala, who did not prosecute the woman in question. Her attorney, though, declared that the district attorney was behind "the most abusive prosecution I've ever witnessed." Shapiro won that race 47-37, though Zappala scored 73% in Allegheny County.
The only poll we've seen was a February GQR internal for Dugan, which Potter says his campaign recently showed donors, that found Zappala initially leading 56-26 before respondents learned more about each contender. The memo argues that Dugan can win once he gets his message out because "Democratic primary voters find Zappala's preferential treatment for white defendants and fierce defense of police brutality most offensive," and this PAC appears to listening as it tries to help the public defender pull off an upset next month.