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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● VA State Senate: One of the most important elections of 2023 will take place in Virginia, where the Democrats' narrow majority in the state Senate is currently the only thing standing in the way of total Republican control of the state government.
- “Fighting Joe’s” primary fight. The first test for progressives comes on June 20 as former Del. Lashrecse Aird looks to deny renomination to conservative state Sen. Joe Morrissey, who has confounded observers for years by surviving numerous serious scandals. Much of the focus in the Democratic primary this time is on Morrissey’s anti-abortion views, and several of his colleagues are backing the challenger.
- A tough new map. Two incumbent senators, Republican Siobhan Dunnavant and Democrat Monty Mason, are defending transformed constituencies that became significantly more difficult for each of them. Both parties are also working hard to win a pair of open seats that backed Joe Biden before flipping to Republican Glenn Youngkin in the 2021 governor's race.
- How "Trump in heels" could cost the GOP a seat. Far-right state Sen. Amanda Chase faces a competitive primary battle against two foes, including a former colleague who argues she’d jeopardize the party’s prospects in the fall despite her district's conservative lean.
Read our complete guide to the races that will determine the future of the Old Dominion, including the fate of abortion rights.
● NY Redistricting: New York's bipartisan redistricting commission reached a consensus for the first time ever on Thursday and voted to adopt a new Assembly map, sending the plan to the Democratic-controlled legislature for its approval. A two-thirds supermajority in each chamber is necessary to pass the map into law because one party controls both chambers, though it's very unclear what would happen if legislators don't sign off.
That scenario probably won't come to pass, though, since the proposed new districts are very similar to those drawn by Democratic lawmakers after commissioners deadlocked last year. That map, however, was struck down by the courts, which determined that the legislature lacked the power to draw a new one, but it was used temporarily in 2022 since the challenge came too close to the election to implement an alternative.
Following the ruling last year invalidating the map, the courts ordered the commission to devise a new set of districts to propose to lawmakers. Just hours after the commission greenlighted the new map, the state's highest court turned back a further appeal challenging the commission process as untimely.
● WI-Sen: Businessman Scott Mayer on Wednesday told NBC that he hopes to decide by Labor Day if he'll enter the Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, though he didn't sound especially excited about the idea. "If there's some quality candidates stepping up, then I would feel like I wouldn't have to do it," he said, adding, "If no one else comes up to the plate, then I might do it."
Mayer also disclosed that he'd "probably" back abortion access during the first trimester, a stance that is not shared with most GOP primary voters. While the would-be candidate identified himself as "absolutely pro-life," he continued by saying that "70% of people want some access to abortion." Mayer argued, "Even if my views are different, if I'm truly representing the people, I'd want to do what 70% of the people want."
● SD Ballot: Activists looking to introduce the top-two primary to South Dakota got the green light to gather signatures this week to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2024 ballot. The campaign has until May of next year to turn in just over 35,000 signatures, which represents 10% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
The proposal would impact future races for governor, Congress, state legislature, and county elections. Republicans, unsurprisingly, are ardently against changing the rules in a state they've long dominated, with the state party chair declaring, "We are 110% opposed to the idea."
Mayors and County Leaders
● Allegheny County, PA Executive: State Rep. Sara Innamorato has secured an endorsement from EMILY's List ahead of the May 16 Democratic primary.
● Richard Riordan: Richard Riordan, who was the last Republican mayor of Los Angeles in a tenure that lasted from 1993 to 2001, died Wednesday at age 92. Riordan ran for governor the year after leaving office but lost the nomination to conservative Bill Simon after Democratic Gov. Gray Davis meddled in the GOP contest in order to block the former mayor.
Riordan, who was a wealthy businessman, sought elected office for the first time in 1993 when he ran to replace retiring Mayor Tom Bradley, a five-term Democrat who was the first African American to lead the city. Riordan initially looked like a longshot in the Democratic-leaning city, but he saw an opportunity in a contest that took place a year after the L.A. riots and at a time when crime was high. The Republican, who self-funded $6 million, pitched himself as someone “tough enough to turn L.A. around,” and he secured first in the nonpartisan primary with 33%.
What followed was an ugly battle against Democratic City Councilman Michael Woo, who was the first Asian American member of the body. Woo tried to portray Riordan as too conservative to run the city, while the Republican continued to stress crime. Gary South, who was communications director for Woo, also wrote in 2022 that his boss was on the receiving end of a racist campaign that included a TV ad that “pushed in to focus on one of his eyes, so that the last thing the viewers saw was a giant picture of one of his eyes staring at them.” The Republican won 54-46, and he had no trouble claiming a second term four years later.
Riordan, who had successfully championed term limits, ran for governor in 2002 following encouragement from the Bush White House, though Time Magazine would write that he “never seemed especially enthused” about the idea. Davis, though, was even less enthused about the idea of facing an opponent who had cultivated a moderate image, and he spent $10 million ($17 million in today’s money) on a campaign to damage his image with GOP primary voters. The governor used his ads to portray Riordan as a flip-flopper on abortion and capital punishment, while other Republicans griped that the former mayor just ran a complacent effort.
“We're not going to let Gray Davis hijack the Republican primary,” declared Riordan ahead of his 49-31 defeat. Davis held off Simon 47-42, but he soon was the target of a serious recall effort financed by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa. Riordan briefly considered running in the 2003 campaign but deferred to his victorious neighbor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.