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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● Jacksonville, FL Mayor: Florida Democrats scored a huge pickup on Tuesday when former TV anchor Donna Deegan won the officially nonpartisan race for mayor of Jacksonville by defeating her Republican foe, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce head Daniel Davis, 52-48. Deegan's win in the race to succeed termed-out GOP Mayor Lenny Curry will make her the first woman to lead the state’s most populous city and just the second Democrat to hold this office since the early 1990s.
Deegan overcame a serious financial advantage enjoyed by Davis, who aired ads attacking her for attending Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020, to give her party a much-needed victory months after its statewide drubbing. She also ends Jacksonville’s status as the largest city in America with a Republican mayor, a title that now goes to Fort Worth, Texas, where incumbent Mattie Price easily won a second term earlier this month.
Jacksonville, which was consolidated with the rest of Duval County in 1968, was for decades a conservative stronghold in both state and local politics. Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory began a Republican winning streak that would continue well into the 21st century, while Mayor Ed Austin’s 1993 party switch gave the GOP control of city hall for the first time in a century.
Democrats finally took back the mayor’s office in 2011 when Alvin Brown narrowly beat a hardline GOP foe who had alienated business interests, a win that also made him the city’s first Black leader. His tenure, though, didn't usher in a new progressive era in Jacksonville as the mayor distanced himself from state and national Democrats and further alienated the party base by refusing to back a human rights ordinance aimed at protecting the city’s large LGBTQ community. Curry, a former state GOP chair, unseated Brown 51-49 in 2015, and Democrats didn’t even put up a candidate to oppose him four years later.
Despite recent history, though, Democrats still had reasons for optimism about Duval County’s long-term direction. Both Sen. Bill Nelson and gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum took the city in 2018 despite narrowly losing statewide, while Joe Biden's subsequent 51-47 victory made him the party’s first presidential nominee to carry Duval County since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Things were much bleaker in 2022 as both Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis carried Duval by wide margins, though local Democrats at least had the comfort of knowing that Jacksonville was still voting to the left of the state as a whole.
Deegan’s win on Tuesday at last gave her party some indisputably good news, but Democrats still have much work to do in the future in order to turn Duval County into a blue bastion. Republican T.K. Waters secured reelection this year without opposition as sheriff, which also puts him in charge of the city’s police, while the GOP continues to maintain a considerable advantage on the 19-person City Council. Still, Democrats are hoping that Deegan’s triumph will mark a new beginning in north Florida.
● KY-Gov (R): Attorney General Daniel Cameron prevailed in Tuesday’s nasty and expensive Republican primary for governor by defeating Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles 48-22, with self-funder Kelly Craft taking just 17%. Cameron will now try to unseat incumbent Andy Beshear, who is the only Democrat left holding statewide office, in what will be a closely watched general election showdown in November.
Beshear has posted strong approval numbers throughout his tenure, and he’ll once again need to win extensive crossover support in a state Donald Trump carried in a 62-36 landslide. The only poll we’ve seen testing a general election battle between the governor and Cameron came in January when Mason-Dixon showed Beshear ahead 49-40 as other Republicans performed even worse. And because the Democrat didn’t have to worry about winning renomination, he was able to stockpile a hefty $6.1 million war chest through mid-May that he can use to defend himself this fall.
Cameron, by contrast, had to get through a financially draining intra-party battle against Craft that leaves him without much starting cash. The former ambassador to the United Nations, with the help of a super PAC funded by her husband, spent the past two months airing ads labeling Cameron a “soft establishment teddy bear” and portraying him as hostile to the state’s coal industry. Craft also launched commercials trying to link Cameron to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who also happens to be Black.
But the attorney general and his allies pushed back by highlighting Trump’s endorsement of his campaign and portraying his opponent as an “ultra-rich” liar. Quarles tried to pitch himself as an alternative for the voters who had soured on Cameron and Craft, but this was only enough to earn him a distant second place.
While Cameron was focused on fending off Craft, whose side spent more than twice as much money for TV and radio ads, the GOP began previewing its attacks on Beshear. The attorney general used his primary ads to insist the Democrat had “ignored the Constitution and shut churches down," though of course he didn’t mention that these shutdowns were part of the public health measures Beshear took early in the pandemic. The Republican Governor’s Association last month also demonstrated it would weaponize transphobia with its own spot targeting Beshear for vetoing a bill that bans gender-affirming care for young trans people, something the GOP-dominated legislature quickly overrode.
● KY-SoS (R): Incumbent Michael Adams turned back a challenge from Big Lie spreader Steve Knipper by a 64-26 margin, though Knipper naturally used election night to spread more conspiracy theories about his own defeat. Adams will be favored in the fall against state Rep. Buddy Wheatley, who had no Democratic primary opposition.
● PA Supreme Court (D & R): Democrat Dan McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, who each had their respective state party’s endorsement, will compete in the November statewide election for the state Supreme Court seat that’s been vacant since Democrat Max Baer died last September. McCaffery outpaced Debbie Kunselman, a fellow member of the Superior Court, 60-40.
Carluccio, who is the Montgomery County president judge, pulled off a smaller 54-46 win over Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, who unsuccessfully ran for a different Supreme Court seat in 2021 by pitching herself as "the ONLY Judge in America to order the 2020 Presidential Election results not be certified." National Republicans worked to make sure Carluccio was their nominee by deploying $500,000 to support her, while McCullough received financial support from far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the party’s disastrous 2022 nominee for governor.
While control of the seven-member body, which retains a 4-2 Democratic majority, isn’t at risk in November, the stakes are high going into the 2024 presidential election. Democrats felt Baer’s absence keenly last year when one Democratic justice, Kevin Dougherty, sided with his two Republican colleagues on an important preelection case regarding mail ballots. A win for Carluccio would make it easier for a similar thing to happen again and put Republicans one step closer to reclaiming a majority in 2025.
● PA State House: Democrats will keep their one-seat majority in the state House following Heather Boyd’s 60-39 victory over Republican Katie Ford in the special election for the 163rd District in the Philadelphia suburbs. That win, along with Republican Michael Stender’s 61-36 victory in the 108th in the rural central part of the state, leaves the 203-member chamber with a full complement of 202 Democrats and 201 Republicans.
While neither party doubted that Stender would prevail in his 65-33 Trump seat, Democrats spent at least $1 million to ensure that Boyd won in Delaware County. While this 62-37 Biden constituency looked safe on paper, the local Democratic brand had taken a hit due to a series of scandals in recent years, culminating with the resignation of state Rep. Mike Zabel in March after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. Democrats argued that a Ford victory would threaten abortion rights, messaging that included TV ads starring Gov. Josh Shapiro and an endorsement a day before the election from President Joe Biden.
Republicans, who hoped to link Zabel to Boyd, spent less than Democrats (albeit still in the six figures); Ford reacted to her defeat on election night by responding to a reporter’s request for a comment by texting back, “You can lose my number asshole.”
● Allegheny County, PA Executive (D): State Rep. Sara Innamorato, who had the backing of prominent local and national progressives, defeated county Treasurer John Weinstein 38-30 to win the nomination to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out incumbent Rich Fitzgerald, as leader of a populous county that includes Pittsburgh and several of its suburbs. Innamorato will be favored in November against Joe Rockey, who had no Republican opposition, in a county that backed Biden 59-39; Innamorato would be the first woman to hold this office.
● Colorado Springs, CO Mayor: Independent Yemi Mobolade will become the first non-Republican mayor of this longtime conservative bastion since the city began electing its leaders 45 years ago following his wide 57-43 victory over GOP City Councilor Wayne Williams in the nonpartisan general election. Mobolade, who is originally from Nigeria, also will make history as the city's first elected Black mayor.
Mobolade pitched himself as a moderate who can appeal to voters across party lines, and he secured a prominent endorsement late in the campaign from conservative Sallie Clark, a former Trump administration official who took a close third in the April nonpartisan primary. Williams, who had the support of termed-out Mayor John Suthers, used his financial edge to label his opponent a “liberal,” but it proved far from enough.
● Montgomery County, PA Board of Commissioners (D & R): Appointed incumbent Jamila Winder and attorney Neil Makhija each secured the Democratic nomination for a spot on the three-member Board of Commissioners, which all but guarantees them both victory in November. Winder took first with 33% while Makhija defeated her ally, Whitpain Township Supervisor Kimberly Koch, 23-19 for second. Winder’s appointment earlier this year made her the first Black woman to serve on the body, while Makhija would be Pennsylvania's first Asian American county commissioner.
Republicans meanwhile chose former school board member Tom DiBello and Upper Dublin Township Commissioner Liz Ferry while throwing far-right incumbent Joe Gale overboard. DiBello led with 38% as Ferry scored a 35-26 victory over Gale, who has a terrible relationship with his party’s leaders. All three commission posts are elected countywide, and since each party may only nominate two candidates, either DiBello or Ferry is almost sure to win a seat in this dark blue suburban Philadelphia community.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor (D): Former City Council member Cherelle Parker pulled off an unexpectedly wide 33-23 victory over former city Controller Rebecca Rhynhart in a Democratic primary where no one seemed to have an obvious advantage heading into election day. Parker, who would be the first Black woman to lead a city that has also never elected a woman as mayor, should have no trouble in November against Republican David Oh in the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Jim Kenney.
● Allegheny County, PA District Attorney (D): Allegheny County Chief Public Defender Matt Dugan scored a 56-44 primary win over Stephen Zappala, a 25-year-incumbent who is despised by criminal justice reformers, but the district attorney said he’d likely be running in the fall general election as a Republican. “I apologize to my friends and supporters that we didn't have a stronger showing this evening,” Zappala said on election night, adding, “But I'll tell you what I think—if we stick around until November, we can kick some ass and take some names.”
Zappala can almost certainly continue his campaign because Republicans encouraged their voters to write down his name in a primary where they had no candidates, and no rival effort ever emerged. Close to 12,000 write-in votes were cast, and while election officials still need to tabulate the results, Zappala needs just 500 of them to be for him in order to win the GOP nod with a plurality.
● Northampton County, PA District Attorney (D): Former local Judge Stephen Baratta defeated incumbent Terry Houck 54-46 in the Democratic primary, and Houck immediately told his supporters he’d be running as a Republican in the general election.
Houck openly encouraged GOP voters to write down his name in a primary where, just like in Allegheny County, they had no options on their own ballot, and over 2,100 write-ins were cast. Election authorities still need to assign these ballots to a candidate, but it’s likely that Houck cleared the 250-vote minimum. Biden carried this county in the Lehigh Valley just 50-49 four years after Donald Trump took it 50-46.
● AK Redistricting: Alaska's bipartisan Redistricting Board voted unanimously on Monday to permanently adopt the interim state Senate map that a judge implemented ahead of last year's elections. That interim map was imposed after two plans passed by the panel's Republican majority were rejected by the courts as illegal partisan gerrymanders. Last month, the state Supreme Court gave the board a third chance at drawing a final map but told commissioners they would have to demonstrate "good cause" as to why the interim districts shouldn't be used for the rest of the decade, an option the board declined.
● MD-Sen: Telecom executive Juan Dominguez has formed an exploratory committee for a potential run for the Democratic nomination, and he tells Maryland Matters he'll decide in the late summer. The story notes that Dominguez, whose prior experience in elected office was on a municipal council in New Jersey in the 1990s, has also donated to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans. Dominguez himself says he'd bring a "business approach" and "a bipartisan approach" to office.
● CA-41: Former federal prosecutor Will Rollins announced Tuesday that he would seek a rematch against Republican Rep. Ken Calvert in a California House seat that Donald Trump only narrowly carried, a kickoff that comes months after Rollins held the 16-term incumbent to a surprisingly tight 52-48 victory. Rollins launched his second bid with endorsements from Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and all three major Democratic Senate contenders—Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff—as well as former Sen. Barbara Boxer, who lives in the district.
Rollins isn't the only Democrat competing in next year's top-two primary for the 41st Congressional District, which is entirely situated in Riverside County east of Los Angeles, but he looks like the early frontrunner. Lake Elsinore City Councilman Tim Sheridan, who badly lost to Calvert in 2014 and 2016 in the old and reliably red 42nd District, began a third campaign in late March, but he didn't report raising any money before the quarter ended 12 days later. San Jacinto City Councilman Brian Hawkins, who ran as a "pro-life" Republican last year against Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz in the neighboring 25th District, also recently announced he'd switched parties to run in the 41st.
Calvert was first elected to Congress in 1992 by narrowly beating Democrat Mark Takano, who years later would become his colleague by flipping another Riverside County seat in 2012, and his only other close call over the ensuing decades came during the 2008 blue wave. But things got dicier for Calvert last cycle when his suburban Riverside seat became significantly bluer in redistricting thanks to the addition of the gay mecca of Palm Springs: While Donald Trump won the old version 53-45, he carried the new iteration by just a 50-49 spread.
Rollins spent the 2022 campaign arguing that Calvert's longtime opposition to LGBTQ rights and allegiance to Trump made him an unacceptable representative, and he raised a hefty $3.7 million to make his case. Neither national party, however, prioritized the contest at a time when California Democrats were largely on the defensive, and none of the four largest House independent expenditure groups directed resources here. It was therefore a surprise to just about everyone that it took almost a week to learn that Calvert had secured his 16th term.
Rollins, who attended freshman orientation during the days when the verdict was in doubt, came close despite the fact that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was losing the district 55-45 to Republican Brian Dahle, and he's betting the political climate will be different this time. "The first and foremost urgent threat that I see in this coming election is again to democracy and the rule of law," Rollins said as he launched his renewed effort. "If Trump is the nominee, and we've got a House of Representatives that is unwilling to certify the results of a democratic election, everything America stands for collapses."
● CA-45: Board of Equalization member Mike Schaefer, an 86-year-old Democrat who would be the oldest House freshman in history, filed FEC paperwork this week for a potential campaign against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, but his personal history may make him a nonstarter. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it in a jaw-dropping paragraph during his reelection campaign last year:
He was accused — and eventually acquitted — in a 1970 Yellow Cab bribery scandal in San Diego, when he served on the City Council. He was convicted of misdemeanor spousal abuse and jailed in 1993, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, and was ordered by a jury in 1986 to pay $1.83 million to former tenants in Los Angeles who sued because they said their apartments, rented from Schaefer, were overrun with rats, cockroaches, sewage and street gangs, according to the Los Angeles Times. And in 2013, a Nevada court ordered him to stay at least 100 feet away from actor and comedian Brad Garrett, who played a cop and brother in "Everybody Loves Raymond," after he allegedly stalked the actor following a dispute over a complimentary ticket to a Las Vegas show.
Schaefer's team responded by insisting people should focus on his performance in office instead of his "colorful past," and voters supported him 59-41 over a fellow Democrat.
● CA-47: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has endorsed former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh in his bid for California's open 47th Congressional District. McCarthy's involvement comes a month after businessman Max Ukropina became the second notable Republican to enter the race.
Last year, Baugh, who served in the state Assembly in the 1990s, lost by a 52-48 margin to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who is now running for Senate. Baugh also unsuccessfully ran for the predecessor version of this district in 2018 when it was still represented by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. In the top-two primary where Rohrabacher easily took first place, Baugh nearly shut Democrats out of the general election when he finished in fourth just behind the party’s two leading contenders; Democrat Harley Rouda went on to unseat Rohrabacher that fall.
● MI-10: 2022 Democratic nominee Carl Marlinga filed paperwork this week for a potential second bout with freshman Republican Rep. John James, but he tells the Detroit Free Press he hasn't actually decided to run yet. Marlinga says he did this because he's raised more than $5,000 during the year, which is the maximum amount that a possible candidate can raise or spend before they're required to register with the FEC.
● NY-22: Clem Harris, a Utica University history professor who previously served as a high-level aide for then-Gov. David Patterson, told syracuse.com Tuesday he planned to launch a bid against Republican Rep. Brandon Williams within 10 days. Harris would face DeWitt Town Board member Sarah Klee Hood in the Democratic primary for a constituency in the Syracuse and Utica areas that Joe Biden took 53-45.
● TX-15: Businesswoman Michelle Vallejo announced Tuesday she'd be seeking a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Monica de la Cruz, a move that makes her the first notable Democrat to launch a campaign for this 51-48 Trump seat in the Rio Grande Valley. De la Cruz won this 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.
● TX-34: Pastor Luis Cabrera tells the Texas Tribune he's getting ready to challenge Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez in the event that his fellow Republican, former Rep. Mayra Flores, doesn't run. Cabrera added that he'd support Flores should she seek to avenge her 53-44 defeat in last year's incumbent vs. incumbent battle.
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● St. Louis, MO Circuit Attorney: Democratic incumbent Kim Gardner resigned Tuesday two weeks ahead of her previously announced June 1 departure date, though she didn't explain why she was moving up her timeline. GOP Gov. Mike Parson will be tasked with appointing a replacement to serve until after next year's regularly scheduled election, and he says his choice will be announced Friday. The governor is free to select a fellow Republican, though that person would almost certainly have no chance at winning in this loyally blue city.