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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● NH State House: As Democrats across the country enjoyed a string of electoral successes on Tuesday night, they were joined by their compatriots in New Hampshire, who saw one of their own, former Nashua Alderman Marc Plamondon, romp in the special election in the closely divided state House. Plamondon's margin stands out not just because he far outperformed other Democratic candidates in his district, but because it's yet one more sign that Democrats are well-positioned to flip a Republican-held House seat in an upcoming special—a turn of events that would yield an exact tie in the 400-member chamber.
While the Hillsborough County district Plamondon successfully defended is safely blue, his 72-28 win amounts to a 43-point margin of victory. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, by contrast, both carried the same turf by 27 points, meaning Plamondon ran 16 points ahead of them. In New Hampshire's gigantic House, districts are very small, and so total turnout was as well—just around 200 votes—so it's wise not to read too much into a single data point. But fortunately, we have more.
Most notably, Democratic state Rep. Chuck Grassie prevailed in a do-over race in February after his November election ended in an exact tie. In that heavily scrutinized and very expensive rematch in Strafford County, Grassie won by 12 points—a huge improvement, needless to say, over his previous deadlock, but also over Biden's 7-point margin. And we've seen that pattern repeated in special elections nationwide this year: In aggregate, Democrats are running almost 7 points ahead of the 2020 presidential results in 18 total specials so far.
That brings us to the forthcoming special election in Rockingham County, which is nestled along New Hampshire's coast, right between Strafford and Hillsborough counties. Republican state Rep. Benjamin Bartlett resigned from the county's 1st District last month, and an election to fill his vacant seat is likely to take place in August or September.
That district (which locals often refer to by the two towns it encompasses, Northwood and Nottingham) is very swingy. Donald Trump carried it by less than a point in 2020, 49.1 to 48.7, and the trends appear to be favorable, since his margin in 2016 was more than 8 points. And according to one analyst, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan actually won it by 2 points last year while Democrats fell just 10 votes shy of securing one of the district's three seats. (Only one seat will be up in the expected special.)
Given the prevailing winds, Democrats have good reason to think they'll be able to pick up Bartlett's seat. If they can do so (and also win another special in a solidly blue seat in Grafton County), then on paper, the New Hampshire House would have exactly 200 members of each party. It would represent an extraordinary development, given that Republicans gerrymandered the current map to their advantage following the 2020 census. But what would happen next?
It's not clear that formal control of the chamber would change, particularly because a handful of Democrats voted to elect Republican Sherman Packard as speaker by secret ballot following the November midterms. But on any given day in the New Hampshire House, there are always absences, so what matters is who shows up. And Democrats have at times this year enjoyed superior numbers on the floor, allowing them to block GOP bills or advance measures of their own.
It's also not impossible that the unprecedented nature of a tied House could prompt a reckoning that could lead to a power-sharing agreement. But what matters most is preparing for the future. There will assuredly be more special elections at some point, which means that Democrats could take a bona fide majority before long. Even if not, though, they'll want to position themselves for victory in 2024, when the entire legislature once again goes before voters. The more seats they hold now, the likelier they are to meet with success next year.
● Hell yeah! Democrats and progressives simply crushed it from coast to coast on Tuesday night, so co-hosts David Nir and David Beard are devoting this week's entire episode of "The Downballot" to reveling in all the highlights. At the very top of the list is Jacksonville, where Democrats won the mayor's race for just the second time in three decades—and gave the Florida Democratic Party a much-needed shot in the arm. Republicans also lost the mayor's office in the longtime conservative bastion of Colorado Springs for the first time since the city began holding direct elections for the job 45 years ago.
But it doesn't stop there. Democrats held a critical seat in a special election for the Pennsylvania state House to preserve their one-seat majority in the chamber. The party's left flank also had a strong showing in Pittsburgh's Allegheny County, nominating an outspoken progressive for county executive and defeating an anti-reform incumbent for district attorney. New Hampshire Democrats, meanwhile, romped in a special election for their own state House, a positive sign for their chances of taking it back in 2024—if not sooner.
Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.
● MI-Sen: While actor Hill Harper did not announce a bid for the Democratic nod in April as an unnamed source predicted, his political advisor tells the Detroit News that Harper remains interested in running. Harper’s team didn’t say when he planned to make up his mind, though the paper writes he’s “widely expected to announce this spring or summer.”
On the GOP side, Rep. Bill Huizenga tells The Dispatch he's "hoping to have a decision probably this quarter," though he noted the state presents a "tough environment" for his party.
● NV-Sen: The Nevada Independent, citing an unnamed consultant close to Army veteran Sam Brown, reports that NRSC chair Steve Daines is trying to recruit him to take on Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen next year. The only notable announced contender is 2022 secretary of state nominee Jim Marchant, an election conspiracy theorist the GOP establishment very much does not want as its standard bearer.
Brown, whose great uncle is Cincinnati Bengals' owner Mike Brown, last year ran an unexpectedly strong campaign for Nevada's other Senate seat, though he ultimately lost the primary to Adam Laxalt 56-34. The defeated candidate soon showed interest in running against Rosen, though he's yet to publicly commit to a bid.
● CA-41: 2022 nominee Will Rollins has rolled out endorsements from 30 of California's 40 Democratic House members as he seeks a rematch against Republican Rep. Ken Calvert.
● NY-03: Local TV reporter Darius Radzius this week filed FEC paperwork for a potential bid for the Democratic nod in the constituency held by still-Rep. George Santos.
● TX-32: Trauma surgeon Brian H. Williams, who attracted national attention in 2016 when he treated Dallas police officers wounded by a sniper, on Wednesday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate contender Colin Allred. Republicans made this northern Dallas district safely blue in order to protect their members elsewhere in the area, and plenty of other Democrats will likely consider bids for this racially diverse constituency.
Williams became a prominent figure seven years ago after he cared for several of the injured officers in an attack that resulted in five police deaths, and he said days later, "I want the Dallas police officers to see me, a Black man." He continued, "I support you. I will defend you. I will care for you. That doesn't mean I do not fear you." Williams went on to chair the local board charged with overseeing the Dallas Police Department, and he later became a gun safety activist and advisor for Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
● CA State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Former Rep. Laura Richardson, who lost re-election to fellow Democratic incumbent Janice Hahn in 2012 months after receiving a reprimand from the House, this week launched a comeback campaign for the state Senate. Richardson will compete in the 2024 top-two primary to succeed termed-out state Sen. Steven Bradford for the dark blue 35th Senate District in Los Angeles County.
Richardson was a member of the state Assembly in 2007 when she won the special election to succeed the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald in what was then numbered the 37th Congressional District, and she was secure until redistricting led to her 2012 faceoff with Hahn in the new 44th. Richardson spent that campaign dealing with ugly news reports alleging she'd mistreated her staff, with one disabled veteran writing in her resignation letter that she'd "rather be at war in Afghanistan" than continue to work in the congresswoman's office.
The House reprimanded Richardson in August of that year after the ethics committee determined she'd pressured her congressional staff to do campaign work and demonstrated a "pattern of omission and deception" regarding its probe. She went on to lose re-election to Hahn in a 60-40 landslide months later, and she appears to have kept a low profile since then.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Denver, CO Mayor: Former state Sen. Mike Johnston this week earned a high-profile, albeit reluctant, endorsement from Lisa Calderón, a progressive who finished a close third in last month's nonpartisan primary. Johnston took 24% as former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough edged out Calderón 20-18 for the second spot in the June 6 general election, and both finalists hoped to win her backing.
Calderón acknowledged she wasn't excited to be choosing between two "centrist" options who are "close to monied interests," but she still declared, "I hope progressives will understand that this is a harm-reduction strategy." She explained that, while Johnston expressed openness to public safety reform, "Kelly equivocated and has the endorsement of the police union that actually has been very antagonistic to the Latino community."
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● Jefferson County, KY Commonwealth's Attorney: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday that he was appointing former state cabinet official Gerina Whethers to become the new prosecutor for Kentucky's largest county, which is consolidated with Louisville, and she'll be the first Black woman to hold this post. Whethers will succeed Tom Wine, who died in office earlier this month, and will serve the remainder of the six-year term that ends in January of 2025.