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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● NV-Sen: Jim Marchant, the Big Lie spreader who narrowly lost last year’s race for Nevada secretary of state, on Tuesday became the first notable Republican to launch a bid against Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen. Marchant quickly showed that he was planning to run the same type of race as last time with a kickoff featuring fellow far-right figures like Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Michael Flynn and where the candidate proclaimed, “We have to encourage principled, ‘America first’ MAGA candidates to run for office.”
But while Gosar and Flynn may be eager to have Marchant back on the ballot, the Republicans who are searching for a candidate who can actually beat Rosen aren’t likely to be so happy. The Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston relays that party insiders want Army veteran Sam Brown, who ran an unexpectedly strong 2022 primary campaign for the state’s other Senate seat, to try again, and added, “If Marchant is the nominee, and that would not surprise me, this race is over. Period.”
Marchant first won a seat in the state legislature in 2016 only to narrowly lose reelection two years later, and he proceeded to go up against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in 2020. The Republican responded to his incontrovertible 51-46 defeat by baselessly claiming he was the "victim of election fraud" and unsuccessfully suing to overturn the results, but he didn’t stop there. Marchant, who has repeatedly addressed QAnon gatherings, assembled a 2022 “America First” slate of conspiracy theorist candidates running to control their state’s elections.
One prominent member of that slate was Marchant himself, who insisted during his campaign for secretary of state that anyone who won an election in Nevada since 2006 was “installed by the deep-state cabal.” It’s not clear what the former assemblyman attributed his 2016 victory to, though he explained the endless string of courtroom losses Trump allies were dealt when they sought to undo the 2020 election by insisting, “A lot of judges were bought off too—they are part of this cabal."
Marchant didn’t restrict his conspiracy mongering to domestic events, though, as he let loose an antisemitic rant against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the early weeks of the Russian invasion. "We need to support the people in Ukraine that are not the Bidens, the Clintons, the cabal," said Marchant, continuing, "They have patriots like us … that have been oppressed by the cabal, the central bankers for centuries. And that's who we need to support people that were oppressed by the Soros cabal."
None of this was at all a disqualifier for GOP voters, of course, who proceeded to hand Marchant a 38-20 primary victory over developer Jesse Haw. National Democrats, though, very much recognized the threat Marchant posed and they directed millions to aid opponent Cisco Aguilar in the general election. There was no accompanying Republican spending spree, which likely made all the difference in a year where Aguilar prevailed by a tight 49-47 margin.
Marchant uncharacteristically went quiet for some time afterward, though it didn’t last. He instead used his first post-Election Day tweet in March to respond to Trump’s looming indictment by saying he’d founded his Big Lie slate “to counter & reverse this Soros takeover strategy which has now led to the attempt to indict & arrest the rightful President of the United States.”
● MD-Sen: Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando on Tuesday became the first notable candidate to enter what's sure to be an expensive Democratic primary to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Cardin. Jawando, whose father is originally from Nigeria, would be the first Black person to represent Maryland in the Senate.
Jawando served in the Obama administration before campaigning in the 2016 cycle to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who gave up his 8th District to wage a successful bid for the state's other Senate seat. Jawando, though, was overshadowed in a truly expensive primary that included state Sen. Jamie Raskin, self-funder David Trone, and former hotel executive Kathleen Matthews, and he ended up taking fifth with just 5%. (Raskin, who won that race, and Trone, who prevailed in another seat two years later, are also eyeing Senate bids.)
But Jawando had a far better 2018 when he took second in the 14-way Democratic primary for one of the four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council in a contest where the top four vote-getters advanced to the general election. He and his ticketmates decisively won in November in Maryland's most populous county, and Jawando secured a second term last year.
● NY-Sen: While former Rep. Lee Zeldin didn't dismiss the idea he could challenge Democratic Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand in an interview with Capital Tonight, the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee didn't sound excited about the prospect. "I'm not giving it any thought," Zeldin said before admitting it would be tough for him to win in a presidential year. "As far as analyzing the Senate race in 2024, we'll see how everything shapes up in the coming months," he added.
● KY-Gov: Self-funder Kelly Craft's latest ad attacking Attorney General Daniel Cameron ahead of the May 16 GOP primary also functions as a broadside against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who played a key role in making her ambassador to the United Nations. Craft frames the contest as a choice between "[c]areer politicians, who would rather follow than lead," a statement that's accompanied by a picture of a smiling Cameron and McConnell. She goes on to extol herself as a "proven leader" and "an outsider not owned by the establishment." McConnell, for his part, has not publicly taken sides in this contest.
● MS-Gov: Democrat Brandon Presley has publicized an internal from Impact Research showing him trailing Republican incumbent Tate Reeves only 47-44, which the memo says is an improvement from his 49-42 deficit in an unreleased December poll. Presley showcased these numbers days after a Siena College survey for Mississippi Today found things moving in the opposite direction: The school's April numbers put the governor ahead 49-38, a big improvement from his 43-39 edge in January.
● NC-Gov: SurveyUSA takes a look at next year's Republican primaries on behalf of the conservative John Locke Foundation and gives Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson a huge 43-9 edge over former Rep. Mark Walker in the race for governor, with Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and Treasurer Dale Folwell clocking in at 8% and 4%, respectively. Robinson and Folwell are the only ones who have announced bids yet, though Walker's team says he'll join this month. Troxler, for his part, hasn't shown any obvious interest in competing here.
● WA-Gov: Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Tuesday that he'd formed an exploratory committee for a likely 2024 campaign to succeed Gov. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat who announced his own retirement the previous day, though the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner notes that Evergreen State law doesn't actually distinguish between these sorts of entities and full-fledged campaigns. Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, another Democrat who has long expressed interest in running for the top job, also said that day she'd have her own "[b]ig announcement coming soon."
State Sen. Mark Mullet also expressed interest in joining the top-two primary to succeed the governor who almost managed to topple the moderate Democrat in a truly expensive 2020 contest. Inslee that year cited the incumbent's opposition to his climate bills as the reason he was backing an intra-party challenge from Ingrid Anderson, while the challenger also hit Mullet for opposing taxes for capital gains and on banks. Labor groups, including the statewide teachers union, supported Anderson in this suburban Seattle constituency, while the Washington Realtors and business groups sided with Mullet in a campaign that saw a hefty $3 million in outside spending.
The state senator ultimately held on by 57 votes in a contest that took six weeks and a hand recount to settle. "It was a shot across the bow what they did in my race last year," Mullet later said of the effort, adding, "Even though I won, they sent a very powerful message to other people not willing to vote for their policies that they will be willing to take them out." He told Axios Tuesday that he was considering a bid to replace Inslee because he believed "people want an alternative" to Ferguson, though there's no word what Mullet thinks of Franz.
Washington's top-two primary system could allow the state senator to advance to an all-Democratic general election with Ferguson, though a notable Republican candidate could make that much less likely. The only declared GOP contender so far is Richland school board member Misipati Bird, who launched in November and has raised $50,000 so far. Physician Raul Garcia is also mulling a bid after running in 2020, but that race did not go well for him. Garcia entered that contest late and picked up endorsements from several prominent Republicans from yesteryear who said they wanted a moderate option, and all he got for his trouble was 5% in the top-two primary.
Two more prominent Republicans also played down their interest. "I still have no plans to run in 2024," said Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, while former state House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox told Axios it was "very unlikely" he'd campaign here.
● NC-AG, NC-08: Far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, who crafted North Carolina's transphobic 2016 "bathroom bill" while in the state Senate, is considering leaving Congress to run for attorney general, according to a new report from Axios' Lucille Sherman. Bishop, who has spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, didn't publicly confirm his interest in a 2024 run for a post that Republicans last held in 1975, but Sherman says his deliberations have "frozen the field of potential challengers."
A few fellow Republicans, though, publicly confirmed Bishop was thinking about making this race. A strategist for Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, an unrepentant bigot who is the primary frontrunner to succeed Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, says his boss would back the congressman, while the well-funded Club for Growth also said it wanted him to run.
Former U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray, meanwhile, tells Sherman he halted his own planned campaign launch for attorney general after speaking to Bishop and coming away with the impression he'd be seeking the job himself. An unnamed source also adds that longtime state Senate leader Phil Berger would chair a Bishop campaign to replace Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, who is leaving to run for governor.
Bishop himself indirectly helped cost the GOP the governorship in 2016 after incumbent Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, which required anyone using bathrooms at schools or public facilities to use the restroom associated with the sex on their birth certificate regardless of their gender identity. That legislation caused a national backlash that led a number of major corporations to cancel planned expansions in the state, and voters responded by narrowly booting McCrory in favor of then-Attorney General Cooper.
Bishop's career, though, very much survived even after Cooper signed a law rolling back HB 2. The state senator unexpectedly got the chance to run for Congress in what was then numbered the 9th District in 2019 after the results of the previous year's election were voided because of Republican election fraud. He decisively won the primary and went on to narrowly defeat 2018 Democratic nominee Dan McCready 51-49 after an expensive campaign for a gerrymandered constituency that Trump had taken 54-43 in 2016.
But despite that underwhelming victory, as well as a new court-supervised map that made the 9th District a shade bluer, Bishop turned in an easy 2020 win in a contest that national Democrats didn't target. His constituency was soon renumbered the 8th District under the 2022 map and became safely red turf, and Bishop had no trouble holding it. The congressman used the first days of the new Congress to cast 11 straight votes against making Kevin McCarthy speaker, but he eventually flipped; McCarthy afterward placed Bishop on the Orwellian-named "Weaponization of the Federal Government" subcommittee.
Bishop's House seat will almost certainly remain reliably red no matter if he stays or goes, especially now that the GOP-dominated state Supreme Court has given the state legislature the green light to draw a new gerrymander for 2024. Political observers have speculated that this decision could motivate Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson to run for attorney general should he be left with a hostile seat, though he hasn't said anything about a potential bid to replace Stein.
P.S. Republicans last took the attorney general's office in 1974 when GOP Gov. James Holshouser appointed James Carson to fill a vacancy, though Carson lost the ensuing special election a few months later to Democrat Refus Edmisten. The last time Republican to actually win an election for this post, however, was Zeb Walser all the way back in 1896.
Secretaries of State
● OR-SoS: Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said Tuesday that she would resign on May 8, a rapid fall that came just days after the Democrat acknowledged she'd been doing paid consulting work for a cannabis company at a time when her office was finishing an audit into how the state regulates such businesses. Deputy Secretary Cheryl Myers will take over for Fagan until Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek appoints a successor to a post that will next be on the ballot for a full four-year term in 2024, and state law requires her to pick a Democrat.
Until last week, Fagan looked like a likely future contender for higher office. In 2020 she flipped the secretary of state's office back to her party by defeating her fellow state senator, Republican Kim Thatcher, 50-43, a victory that made her first in line to become governor in the event of a vacancy. (Oregon is one of five states that lacks a lieutenant governor, though Arizona will start electing one in 2026.)
But her situation began to deteriorate Thursday when the Willamette Week reported Fagan spent the last two months consulting for an affiliate of a cannabis company owned by two of her major donors, revelations that came the day before her office released a report arguing the state needed looser regulations for the industry. While auditors have insisted that Fagan had no role in their conclusions, it didn't help that state and federal revenue collectors have filed a total of $7 million in liens against those owners and their businesses while vendors have also sued them.
Kotek responded to the news by asking state officials to investigate the matter, while Fagan's chief of staff soon announced she'd be quitting. Fagan said Monday she'd left that $10,000 a month gig, which paid significantly more than her $77,000 salary as secretary of state, and argued she'd followed state ethics rules, though she acknowledged she'd shown "poor judgment." She also said she'd recused herself from the audit days before signing on as a consultant, though the report was almost complete by then.
None of this was enough to stop Fagan's former allies from arguing she needed to resign, with the head of the powerful SEIU Local 503 saying her problems were distracting from the legislature's work. Kotek and the legislature's top four Democrats responded to her Tuesday departure by saying her move was necessary to restore trust in state government.
● Denver, CO Mayor: Denver's police union has endorsed former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough ahead of her June 6 nonpartisan general election against her fellow Democrat, former state Sen. Mike Johnston. Denverite says that the two contenders have similar public safety platforms, with each calling for bringing on more first responders and diverting people to treatment instead of jail. The head of the Denver Police Protective Association, though, argued that Brough's time as now-Sen. John Hickenlooper's chief of staff during his time as mayor was a big plus for his group.
Johnston led Brough 24-20 in the April 4 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Michael Hancock, and each of them recently earned an endorsement from a defeated former rival. Johnston has in his corner state Rep. Leslie Herod, who took fifth with 11%. Pulling for Brough, meanwhile, is state Sen. Chris Hansen, whose 5% share was good enough for sixth. Two trailblazing former mayors have also come down on opposite sides: Federico Peña, who is Denver's only Latino leader to date, is for Johnston, while Brough has the backing of the city's first Black mayor, Wellington Webb.
● Memphis, TN Mayor: Pastor Keith Norman, who is an executive at Baptist Memorial Health Care and former head of the local branches of the Democratic Party and NAACP, says he'd consider running for mayor this year if both Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and Memphis NAACP President Van Turner were ejected from the ballot due to residency issues.
The Shelby County Election Commission says it would enforce a law prohibiting anyone from serving as mayor who hasn't lived in the city at least five years before the October election, a provision that would exclude Bonner and Turner. The two candidates, though, are arguing that this rule stopped being in effect more than two decades ago, and a judge has scheduled a May 18 hearing on the matter.
● Nashville, TN Mayor: Davidson County Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite on Monday became the latest Democrat to enter the August nonpartisan primary for mayor, and she launched her bid with an endorsement from Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk. Wilhoite, who would be the first Black person to lead Nashville, joins a packed field that may still change ahead of the May 18 filing deadline.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Former City Council member Cherelle Parker on Monday secured endorsements from two unions within AFSCME District Council 33 even though the larger organization remains committed to businessman Jeff Brown in the May 16 Democratic primary, but its leaders made it clear why they were going ahead with what the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sean Walsh called a "highly unusual" move.
The head of the union that represents sanitation workers took issue with Brown's slogan, "Pick up the damn trash," and he sported a shirt bearing the words "we do pick up the trash." The head of DC 33, though, said last week that the organization was sticking with Brown despite his recent travails, declaring, "If the ship fucking sinks with Jeff Brown on it, then goddammit, grab two life jackets."
Parker later in the week also secured an endorsement from Maria Quiñones Sánchez, a former City Council colleague who was the only Latino in the primary before she dropped out of last month.
● Where Are They Now?: Former Florida Rep. Ross Spano signed a conciliation agreement with the FEC last month where the one-term Republican agreed to pay a $30,000 fine over the brazen 2018 campaign finance violations that helped cost him renomination two years later.
Spano during that first bid for the old 15th District in Central Florida had accepted personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then turned around and loaning his own campaign $170,000, information that only belatedly appeared on his financial disclosure forms three days before the general election. That was a big problem, though, because anyone who loans money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign still has to adhere to the same laws that limit direct contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.
Things only intensified in late 2019 when the House Ethics Committee said it was deferring its own probe because the Justice Department was investigating Spano, and Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin went on to narrowly defeat him 51-49 ahead of his own 2020 general election win. There have been no public developments about the DOJ's investigation since Spano left the House: Kristen Carlson, who was his 2018 Democratic rival, tells The Ledger she's also heard nothing about the status of the criminal complaint she'd filed against him.