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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● PA-Sen: Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano unexpectedly announced Thursday evening that he’d stay out of the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, a move that will come as a huge relief to national Republicans. The QAnon ally last year suffered a blowout 56-42 loss to now-Gov. Josh Shapiro after waging an underfunded and chaotic campaign, and Senate Republicans made it quite clear that they dreaded the idea of having him as their nominee.
The person that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies actually want to take on Casey is wealthy businessman Dave McCormick, and he’ll likely also be happy that Mastriano is giving the race a pass. Several unnamed sources told Bloomberg's Jonathan Tamari earlier in the week that McCormick was afraid that a primary could be an expensive endeavor that could leave him weakened ahead of the general election. Some McCormick allies saw things otherwise and argued that a win over a far-right figure like Mastriano would help him appear less extreme by comparison, but they won’t get to test that hypothesis now.
Mastriano, for his part, had previously insisted he'd already reached a decision about his plans, and he sounded likely to run into this week. “Of any of the detractors, none have had the cojones to look me in the eye and have a conversation,” he told reports on Monday. He added of the intra-party criticism, “It’s irrelevant to me. It’s the tree falling in the forest, nobody hears it.” Despite GOP fears to the contrary, though, it’s Mastriano that no one will be hearing from in next year’s Senate race.
● AZ-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson said Thursday that she wouldn't join the Republican primary for the seat held by independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a move that makes it all the more likely that the party will nominate a far-right figure. Robson last year ran for governor with the support of termed-out incumbent Doug Ducey only to narrowly lose the primary to election denier Kari Lake, who is likely to run for the Senate later this year. The race already includes Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, who has also been an ardent ally of fringe causes.
● CA-Sen: UC Berkeley's new survey for the Los Angeles Times offers us our first independent poll of the top-two primary since the current field took shape:
- 2022 attorney general candidate Eric Early (R): 18
- Rep. Katie Porter (D): 17
- Rep. Adam Schiff (D): 14
- Someone Else: 10
- Rep. Barbara Lee (D): 9
Lee's campaign earlier this week released its own internal showing these four contenders performing in the same order, though it did not include an option to back an unnamed alternative. Californians who truly desire "someone else" will undoubtedly have plenty of options to choose from next year, as the uncompetitive 2022 Senate race featured 23 candidates on the ballot.
● TX-Sen: The Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation has conducted a survey using YouGov for several media clients that shows GOP Sen. Ted Cruz beating Democratic Rep. Colin Allred 47-40, which is similar to the 42-37 margin that UT Tyler found earlier this week. Neither of these polls included a matchup pitting Cruz against state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who reportedly is preparing to join the Democratic primary after the legislative session ends Monday.
● WI-Sen: A spokesperson for GOP Rep. Bryan Steil this week unequivocally told The Badger Project, "He is not running for the Senate."
● NC-Gov: The GOP firm Cygnal's survey for the conservative John Locke Foundation finds GOP Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson edging out Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein 42-41 in a likely general election, which is comparable to what other firms have shown. The sample has Stein leading two other Republicans, former Rep. Mark Walker and Treasurer Dale Folwell, 39-37 and 39-34, respectively.
● AZ-03: Ylenia Aguilar, who is a member of both the board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District and her school district, announced Thursday she was joining the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat around Phoenix. Aguilar, who highlighted how she "grew up undocumented," last year won a race for the five-member body that runs the 336-mile Central Arizona Project Canal, which serves 80% of the state's residents.
● DE-AL: Inside Elections mentions state Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend as a potential candidate to replace Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester in the event that she runs for the Senate. Both Democrats sought Delaware's lone House seat in 2016 the last time it was open, with Blunt Rochester beating Townsend 44-25.
● NJ-07: Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak tells Politico's Daniel Han that he's "seriously thinking about" seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Tom Kean Jr. in what appears to be his first comments about this race since February. Han writes that a decision from Lesniak, who lives just outside this constituency in Democratic Rep. Donald Payne's 8th District, would be "after the 2023 November [state] election at the latest."
The former legislator, who would be 78 on Election Day, acknowledged, "It's not exactly like I've had Democratic leadership in the state knocking on my door to run," though he thinks he'd have two prominent national figures in his corner if he did. Lesniak tells Han that his first campaign event "would be to have Bill and Hillary Clinton have a fundraiser with me." The former president wrote the introduction to Lesniak's 2022 memoir, which he immediately noted when Han asked if he was certain he'd be able to get the duo.
● VA State Senate: Myrna Morrissey, the estranged wife of Democratic state Sen. Joe Morrissey, filed divorce proceedings Tuesday alleging that her husband had physically and emotionally abused her, including choking her while she was pregnant.
In 2015, the senator spent three months in jail after pleading guilty to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor on account of his relationship with Myrna Morrissey, whom he'd met two years earlier when she was 17 and had hired as an assistant at his law office.
The couple, who were married in 2016, had always maintained that they never engaged in a sexual activity until Myrna Morrissey legally became an adult, but in her divorce filings, she reversed her previous claims and now says the two commenced a "sexual relationship" when she was still 17. She also accuses Morrissey of fathering twins with another woman during one of the several affairs she says he had during their marriage.
The lawmaker responded by telling the Washington Post, "It breaks my heart that she would make these absolutely false allegations." Morrissey, a conservative Democrat who has confounded observers and opponents for years by surviving numerous serious scandals, faces a serious primary challenge on June 20 from former Del. Lashrecse Aird. Aird and her allies have emphasized Morrissey's opposition to abortion rights in their quest to beat him in the 13th Senate District, a constituency in the Richmond area that favored Joe Biden 62-37.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Sacramento, CA Mayor: Democratic Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced Thursday that he would not seek a third term next year as head of California's capital city, though he made it clear he wasn't looking to leave Golden State politics yet. Steinberg, who previously led the state Senate, said he'd be interested in running for attorney general in 2026 should incumbent Rob Bonta seek the governorship.
The nonpartisan primary to succeed Steinberg in this loyally blue city will coincide with the March presidential primary, and a November general election would take place unless one person won a majority in the first round. Physician Flojaune Cofer, who would be the first Black woman to lead Sacramento, and prosecutor Maggy Krell each launched their campaigns before the incumbent made his plans known, while Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty announced right after Steinberg confirmed his departure. (McCarty's Twitter profile begins, "* NOT Kevin McCartHy, Seriously!")