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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● NC-Gov: North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson announced Saturday that he would seek the Republican nomination for governor next year, a declaration that came a month after he told a church service that “God formed” him to fight against LGBTQ rights. His entry, however, had been anticipated for years, so much so that Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein preemptively attacked his likely opponent during his own campaign kickoff in January, warning in a video, “Robinson wants to tell you who you can marry, when you’ll be pregnant, and who you should hate.”
But while Stein has no intra-party opposition in his quest to succeed termed-out Gov. Roy Cooper, a fellow Democrat, Robinson will have some company in his primary. State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced a bid last month, while an advisor for former Rep. Mark Walker tells the News & Observer that he’ll also join the race in May. Folwell, who has trailed Robinson by 50 points or more in the few polls we’ve seen, acknowledged he’s the “underdog” while still arguing, “What I am going to talk about is how do we talk about problems without attacking people.” Walker also seems undeterred, despite his own weak third-place finish in last year’s Senate primary.
Robinson, who would be the Tar Heel State’s first Black chief executive, was a political unknown until 2018, when he became a conservative celebrity after giving a speech protesting the cancellation of a gun show in Greensboro. The former furniture factory worker went on to take the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in his first bid for office two years later. He beat state Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley 52-48 in the general election despite standing by his past litany of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and transphobic screeds.
Robinson went on to make news over the following years with more bigoted comments. His most infamous remarks may have been those he offered in a 2021 address to a Baptist church. “There is no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality—any of that filth," he said. "And yes, I called it filth.” Robinson refused to apologize and has continued to spout hateful rhetoric in the years since. “We are called to be led by men,” he told congregants at another church just last year. “God sent women out … when they had to do their thing, but when it was time to face down Goliath, [He] sent David. Not Davita, David.”
The Republican frontrunner showed absolutely no interest in changing in the lead-up to his new campaign, declaring in January that “abortion is not compatible with this nation, the same way slavery was not compatible with this nation.” This statement came just months after Robinson confirmed that his wife had an abortion in 1989, just prior to their marriage, saying, “It's because of this experience and our spiritual journey that we are so adamantly pro-life.”
● PA-Sen: State Sen. Doug Mastriano, to the frustration of numerous fellow Republicans, said Friday he was "still working on an announcement or two in the near future and we have some exciting news that we're looking forward to sharing with you guys, hopefully soon." Mastriano, who has a long track record of citing dubious or even outright fake surveys, declared the previous day he'd already reached a decision and that "[t]he polls do have me walking away with it, hands-down."
● NH-Gov: A consultant for former state Senate President Chuck Morse relays to the Boston Globe's Steven Porter that his client would "absolutely" run for governor should his fellow Republican, incumbent Chris Sununu, not pursue another term. Morse campaigned last year to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan only to narrowly lose the primary to retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who proved to be just as terrible a nominee as D.C. Republicans feared he'd be. But Morse's successor as state Senate leader, Jeb Bradley, says he'll stay put himself rather than run statewide.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Chris Pappas didn't dismiss a gubernatorial bid for himself last month, though he didn't sound excited about the idea. "It's my intention to run for re-election, to the job that I currently hold, in 2024," said Pappas, who holds a competitive House seat. Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, meanwhile, said in March she was concentrating on her duties, though she's reportedly been considering seeking the top job.
● IL-12: Darren Bailey, the far-right former state senator who was the GOP’s nominee for governor of Illinois last year, told Donald Trump on Wednesday that he’s interested in waging a primary challenge against Rep. Mike Bost, according to Politico's Shia Kapos.
We don’t know how Trump, who won Bost’s 12th Congressional District by a giant 71-28 margin, reacted to Bailey's feelers, but we do know that a battle between these two prominent hardliners in downstate Illinois would attract plenty of attention. There’s also no word on why exactly Bailey, who once filed a bill to kick Chicago out of Illinois, is thinking about going up against Bost, an ardent Trumpist who voted to overturn Joe Biden’s win hours after the Jan. 6 attack.
However, this isn’t the first sign of tension between the two. In October, a flyer appeared from people claiming to be Bost supporters alleging that Bailey knew he couldn’t unseat Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “So the plan is for Bailey to campaign as much as possible in Mike Bost's district and secure as many supporters and votes as possible so he can challenge Mike Bost in 2024,” the leaflet alleged. It went on to urge the reader, “Keep Bailey's vote totals down in Mike's district.”
Bost’s side responded at the time by denying it had anything to do with the message and pointing out that the congressman was backing Bailey’s bid for governor, but The Pantagraph reported that “this is not the first time the scenario described in the flyer has been discussed in Republican circles.” Bailey, predictably, lost to Pritzker in a 55-42 drubbing, but it didn’t even take a full day for the Chicago Tribune to relay that Bost’s allies “have privately expressed concerns Bailey is eyeing a primary challenge.” (According to an estimate from OurCampaigns, Bailey ran slightly ahead of Trump in the 12th District, carrying it 73-25 last year while Bost was winning his own race 75-25.)
Trump has lent his support to both men in the past, so there's no telling whether he'd take sides this time. He endorsed Bailey just ahead of last year's primary, much to the delight of Democrats, who spent a fortune to help him win the nod in the ultimately correct belief he'd prove a weak opponent for Pritzker. Trump also headlined a rally for Bost in 2018, when the congressman was in the midst of a tough reelection battle. (Democrats later redrew the 12th District to make it much redder by packing in as many Republican voters as possible.)
Bost raised $410,000 during the first quarter of 2023, which was almost three times what he brought in at this point in the previous cycle, in what Kapos interprets as a sign he’s getting ready for a potential challenge from Bailey. The incumbent also finished March with $670,000 in the bank, while the former state senator would need to start from scratch if he were to run.
● IN-05: Howey Politics relays that state Rep. Chuck Goodrich plans to announce on May 5 that he'll run to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz. Goodrich set up a campaign committee last month, and he quickly seeded it with $1 million of his own money.
● NY-17: Tom Bartley reported Thursday for tapinto.net that local school board trustee Liz Whitmer Gereghty, who is the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, told a local political group the previous weekend that she'd be seeking the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Mike Lawler. Gereghty does not appear to have publicized an announcement, though Politico previously wrote that she was tentatively planning to jump in this month.
● RI-01: Navy veteran Walter Berbrick, who recently stepped down as a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, on Friday became the 15th Democrat to launch a bid for this seat. "The most urgent threat that we face as a country isn't from abroad. It's from within," he said Friday, continuing, "Our country is so deeply divided along party lines ... It's breaking up families and friendships and communities. It's putting our country at risk."
● WA-03: Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen has filed FEC paperwork to run as a Republican against freshman Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in next year's top-two primary.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Jacksonville, FL Mayor: Democrat Donna Deegan has responded to Republican Daniel Davis' ads portraying her as weak on public safety with a spot dismissing the attacks as part of a "desperate attempt to hold on to power," though she doesn't mention Davis by name. "Let's break the fever of divisive politics," she says continuing, "come together and heal over a positive vision."
Another Deegan commercial for the May 16 nonpartisan general uses the same approach, with the candidate saying, "I support our police and have a plan to keep our neighborhoods safe and healthy. And I'm the only candidate who has never and will never support the corrupt JEA deal."