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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● MO Ballot: Missouri Republicans unexpectedly failed to pass an amendent aimed at thwarting citizen-backed initiatives to roll back the state’s near-total ban on abortion ahead of a Friday deadline to conclude legislative business for the year. However, the GOP proposal, which would have made future amendments harder to enact by raising the required level of voter support from the current simple majority to a 57% supermajority, could still be revived next year.
While the House had approved the amendment, the Senate crumpled into paralysis after a handful of far-right renegades held up legislative business in order to promote their own pet issues. Republicans have long held supermajorities in both chambers, but internal party divisions have often run deep: A similar split last year nearly threw the once-a-decade redistricting process to the courts despite the GOP’s hammerlock on state government.
This time, the final day of the legislative session saw action grind to a halt thanks to a late afternoon filibuster by Republican Sen. Bill Eigel, who accused his colleagues of having failed, like Anakin Skywalker when he turned to the Dark Side, their “Darth Vader moment” by refusing to take up his bill to cut property taxes. (“You’ve seen the movie, right? Episode III.”) Noting that Eigel is preparing a bid for higher office next year, one frustrated fellow Republican retorted, “We’re not all running for governor, so we are trying to do things in an orderly fashion.”
The Senate ultimately didn’t to do anything at all in any fashion, orderly or otherwise, in its waning hours, causing multiple Republican priorities to wither, including bills to legalize sports betting and limit foreign ownership of agricultural land. But the collapse of the amendment to increase the threshold to pass initiatives was the most significant immediate outcome.
Had it been adopted, the amendment would have gone to voters for their approval, with only majority support needed for it to pass. The legislation defining the proposal would also have given Republican Gov. Mike Parson the power to hold a special election on the amendment at any point, which would have allowed him the opportunity to pick a date when turnout would likely have favored the GOP (such as the state’s presidential primary in March). In such a scenario, had voters greenlit the amendment, the new supermajority requirement would have come into effect before an abortion rights amendment could appear on the ballot.
A new group called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom is currently attempting to qualify 11 different initiatives that would, in varying ways, amend the constitution to restore access to abortion. It appears that organizers intend to settle on a single version at some point in the future, which would then go before voters in November of next year if backers can obtain the required 172,000 signatures. Because of the failure of the GOP’s amendment, any abortion amendment would—for the moment—need just a simple majority to pass.
But the Republican plan is not dead yet, and party leaders aren’t concealing their intentions. Chastising the upper chamber for its inaction on Friday, House Speaker Dean Plocher had a warning for his colleagues. “I think the Senate should be held accountable for allowing abortion to return to Missouri,” he said, should the Republican amendment fail to pass. Minority Leader Crystal Quade responded that Plocher had said “the quiet part out loud.”
With the abortion initiatives still very much alive and the GOP no less eager to derail them, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Republicans are “all but certain to take another shot next year” when the legislature convenes again in January. “The fact that we didn’t pass it this year puts more pressure on us next year, no doubt,” said Caleb Rowden, the president pro tem of the Senate. But given the longstanding fissures within Republican ranks, they may have no greater success next time.
P.S. Why 57%? Republicans offered no clear explanation as to why they chose such an unusual figure. The state constitution specifies that certain bond measures require fourth-sevenths support, or just over 57.14%, so there’s some precedent in state law for a number in this realm, but Rowden would only say, “[T]hat’s just the number we settled on.”
● MI-Sen: Former state Rep. Leslie Love said Thursday she would seek the Democratic nomination for Senate, a move that came as she resigned as a state natural resources commissioner. Love, who would be Michigan's first Black senator, begins as the primary underdog against Rep. Elissa Slotkin, and she also acknowledged last month that unnamed African American leaders were looking to recruit actor Hill Harper rather than her.
"Not to take anything away from him, but he has never lived in Michigan and has no experience at all in politics or government," Love told the Toledo Blade of Harper, who reportedly planned to announce a bid in April but still hasn't. State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, who is also Black, has expressed interest in running as well.
● WA-Gov: Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson transferred $1.2 million in leftover cash from his old campaign to his exploratory committee for governor ahead of a Thursday vote by the state's Public Disclosure Commission to put in place new guidance for these sorts of "surplus" funds. State law bars individuals from contributing more than $2,400 to a candidate per election, and the PDC determined that any donations moved from a surplus fund to a new campaign count toward that limit.
While the Seattle Times notes that the PDC's "guidance doesn't have the force of law," Ferguson, who has an additional $1.6 million in his surplus account, said he "look[s] forward to following the new rules going forward." It remains to be seen, though, if the decision applies to the transfers the attorney general made before Thursday: Ferguson's campaign said it doesn't, but the PDC said it would decide later if this is the case. What is clear is that he starts out with a fundraising head start over the only notable declared contender. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz had only $27,000 in her own surplus fund when the Democrat joined the top-two primary on Wednesday.
● NY-03: Rep. George Santos on Thursday confessed to theft in Brazil as part of a deal to avoid prosecution, a move that came one day after the Republican pleaded not guilty in the United States to 13 federal charges. Santos, whom Brazilian prosecutors have accused of using a stolen checkbook to buy shoes and other items in 2008 when he was 19, was ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and another $2,800 to the store owner within 30 days.
The congressman's attorney said following the agreement, "My client is no longer facing any charges in Brazil." The victim wasn't happy with Santos' punishment, though, saying, "He got off super cheap."
● NY-17, Where Are They Now?: President Joe Biden on Friday officially nominated former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to become ambassador to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a move that likely ends any chatter about the former DCCC head seeking a rematch with Republican Rep. Mike Lawler this cycle. The OECD post is currently held by Jack Markell, a former Delaware governor whom Biden has now picked to become ambassador to Italy; both nominations require Senate confirmation.
● RI-01: Former Providence City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune took her name out of contention for the upcoming Democratic special election primary by taking a new job as executive director of City Year Providence. LaFortune is to start about a week before Rep. David Cicilline officially resigns from the House to lead a different nonprofit, the Rhode Island Foundation.
● TN-05: Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed serial fabricator Andy Ogles for a second term in this gerrymandered constituency, though no notable Republicans have shown any obvious interest in challenging him for renomination. Trump's support for "a fantastic Representative for the incredible people of Tennessee's 5th Congressional District" came the same day that the Nashville Scene reported that Ogles' only district office is locked and there's no indication it's ever accessible to the public.
● TX-15: Businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, who was the Democratic nominee last year against now-Rep. Monica de la Cruz in this 51-48 Trump seat, says she has an "exciting announcement coming up," and she implies it will happen Tuesday. De la Cruz won this Rio Grande Valley constituency 53-45 after a contest where the two biggest GOP House outside groups deployed $2.3 million while their Democratic counterparts spent almost nothing.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Montgomery County, PA Commission: Five Democrats and three Republicans are competing Tuesday in a pair of competitive party primaries for the three-member Board of Commissioners for Montgomery County, a populous community in suburban Philadelphia. All three Commission seats are elected countywide, but each party may only nominate two candidates: There's little question, though, that the two Democrats who take the most votes this spring will go on to win seats on the Commission for what's become a heavily blue community.
Appointed Democratic Commissioner Jamila Winder, who is the first Black woman to serve on the body, has formed a ticket with Whitpain Township Supervisor Kimberly Koch and urged voters to select both of them. (The other Democratic incumbent, Ken Lawrence, is retiring.) Winder and Koch, whose joint win would make them the first team of women to run the county, each has endorsements from the local Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, and prominent local party donors.
Only Winder has the backing of the county Democratic Party, though, and the Philadelphia Inquirer says that critics argue that, by forming this alliance with Koch, she "undermine[d] the party's decision not to endorse for the second seat." That move came in February when the party leadership originally planned to support both Winder and state Rep. Tim Briggs only for party delegates to vote to issue no endorsement for anyone but Winder following a contentious convention. Briggs ultimately decided to stay out of the race, though the whole matter remains a source of intra-party contention.
The candidate with the most money by far is attorney Neil Makhija, whose backers helped stop that Briggs endorsement from happening and whose $840,000 haul through May 1 was more than what his four opponents took in combined. Makhija, who has endorsements from Sen. John Fetterman and former Gov. Ed Rendell, would be Pennsylvania's first Asian American county commissioner.
Makhija's detractors have highlighted how Makhija only relocated from Philadelphia a few years ago, a decision the move says he and his wife made when they decided "this is where we're going to raise our family." The other two Democratic contenders are Montgomery Township Supervisor Tanya Bamford and Prothonotary Noah Marlier, a countywide elected official who is in charge of administering civil court documents.
Incumbent Joe Gale, who is the only Republican member of the Commission, is also running again, but his party rebuked him in March by endorsing the other two GOP candidates, former school board member Tom DiBello and Upper Dublin Township Commissioner Liz Ferry.
Gale, who took all of 2% in last year's primary for governor, said he was "banned from attending" the gathering where the party made its decision. He argued he was being punished because the leadership doesn't want him to "share my opinion that endorsements do little more than serve the selfish interests of party bosses who desire to control handpicked candidates and influence the outcome of primary elections."