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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● MD-Sen: Rep. David Trone, the Total Wine & More co-founder who has self-funded more than any House candidate in American history, announced Thursday that he was joining next year's Democratic primary to succeed Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. While Trone griped during his competitive 2022 battle that members of his party "have absolutely gone too far to the left," he launched his statewide bid by describing himself as a pragmatic liberal. "All of us Democrats will be running as super progressive," he told The Washington Post. "The difference is going to be who can get stuff done, and who can keep this seat Democrat?"
Trone, who emphasized the opioid crisis in his launch video, joins a nomination contest in a dark blue state that already includes Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando and will almost certainly grow before long: Time Magazine's Eric Cortellessa reported Thursday that insiders expect Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks to announce "in the coming days." Either Jawando and Alsobrooks would be the Old Line State's first Black senator, while Alsobrooks would additionally be the second woman to hold this position after the trailblazing Barbara Mikulski.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, who recently finished a successful treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma, meanwhile says he'll spend May considering his plans. Cortellessa adds that Jawando has privately told people that should Raskin seek a promotion, he'd campaign to replace him in the 8th Congressional District rather than compete against him. (Raskin beat both Trone and Jawando in the 2016 primary for the last version of the 8th.) Other Democrats could also run for the Senate, including Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who hasn't said anything yet about a timeline for deciding.
Anyone who does end up facing Trone will be going up against a congressman who has access to a vast amount of money. The congressman only said he'd deploy "a lot" of his personal wealth when asked, though Cortellessa relays that Trone informed his allies he'd throw down as much as $50 million.
The candidate himself argued that his ability to self-fund should be a plus to voters, saying, "I've committed not to take money from PACs, not to take money from lobbyists." He also declared that his resources would give him the ability to respond in a general election if former Gov. Larry Hogan runs. While the Republican said this week he has "no interest" in being in the Senate, the congressman told the Post he wasn’t convinced Hogan wouldn’t jump in later.
Trone, who co-founded and still co-owns Total Wine & More along with his brother, first sought office in 2016 when he campaigned to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who was waging his own successful bid for Mikulski's open Senate seat, for the Montgomery County-based 8th District. Trone poured $13.4 million of his own money into that bid, which, even adjusting for inflation, was the most any House candidate had ever self-funded, but it still wasn't enough. Raskin, a state senator who had extensive labor support and a following with local progressives, was badly outspent but still had enough to get his message out, and he prevailed 34-27.
Trone the following year initially said he was "focused very heavily" on a campaign for county executive, but he unexpectedly got the chance to seek the neighboring 6th District when three-term Rep. John Delaney retired to focus on a presidential bid. Trone in 2018 threw down $11.4 million to secure the Democratic nod in another heavily blue district, and this time that investment resulted in a 40-31 victory over Del. Aruna Miller. (Miller was elected lieutenant governor last year.)
The Democratic nominee, after contributing $4.5 million for the general election, once again set the record for most self-funding ever in a House campaign, and he easily won with 59%. The incumbent also put down $3 million in 2020 and took an identical 59% against state Sen. Neil Parrott. The congressman, however, had a far tougher 2022 rematch with Pattott after the new map dropped Joe Biden's margin of victory from 61-38 to only 54-44.
Trone this time deployed close to $10 million of his money, which OpenSecrets says once again made him the top House self-funder of the year. That contest hardly stretched his resources, though, as Trone and his brother also sent a total of $10.7 million to promote a ballot initiative in Colorado that would have eventually allowed liquor retailers to operate an unlimited number of locations in the state. Trone ultimately won reelection 55-45 even as voters in the Centennial State overwhelmingly rejected the measure he was funding.
P.S. While Trone has repeatedly poured in more of his own cash than any other House candidate ever, he has a ways to go before he matches the $64 million that Florida Republican Rick Scott set in his victorious 2018 Senate bid. And even Trone isn't going to come close to hitting the $1 billion that Michael Bloomberg expended in his failed 2020 presidential race.
● Austin & San Antonio, TX Ballots: Two of Texas' largest cities, Austin and San Antonio, go to the polls Saturday to decide on ballot initiatives related to police oversight, and there's plenty of drama in both contests. Voters in the capital city will be presented with two competing questions that are both called the "Austin Police Oversight Act," one supported by the local Democratic party and the other backed by the police union. In San Antonio, meanwhile, city officials have warned that state law would prevent most of the proposed charter reform amendment from going into effect.
We'll start in Austin, where both Proposition A and Proposition B are yes or no questions that ask voters if they want to strengthen "the City's system of independent and transparent civilian police oversight." There's one key difference: Only the text of Prop. A says it "will deter police misconduct and brutality." Prop. A, which was drawn up by the nonprofit Equity Action, qualified for the ballot back in September, and it has support from the Travis County Democratic Party and local NAACP. The Austin Police Association's allies at Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability responded by launching a successful petition drive for Prop. B, which Spectrum News says would keep the status quo intact.
"The only reason that you come behind a ballot measure that's already on the ballot and give it the same name and the same description is to try to intentionally confuse people," Equity Action's Chris Harris told KVUE. He argues that only Prop. A would make personal files accessible to the public and prevent officers from filing formal complaints against the Office of Police Oversight and the Civilian Review Panel. "I would say one other really important distinction between the two ballot measures is anonymous complaints―the ability for people to submit a complaint or a compliment of a police officer without having to reveal their identity," Harris added.
And while both measures would let the OPO file police disciplinary recommendations to the chief, only Prop. A would require the chief to provide a written explanation should they reject them. Equity Action, reports Community Impact, took in $380,000 from Jan. 1 through March 27, compared with less than $4,000 Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability. But the pro-Prop. B group outspent its rivals $240,000 to $70,000 during this period, while Equity Action had a $410,000 to $240,000 cash-on-hand edge for the final weeks.
Both groups are urging a no vote on the opposing proposal, with Harris warning, "It's almost certain that Prop A that strengthens police oversight will not be able to be implemented in full because something that also passed says the exact opposite." Community Impact writes that in this event the city would add each to Austin's code as "separate chapters covering police oversight." It's possible that a "yes" vote for just Prop. A wouldn't get its proponents all they want because of state law and negotiations with the police union.
The battle in San Antonio is over a different proposal called Proposition A, a wide-ranging charter reform amendment that proponents call the San Antonio Justice Charter. The multipronged measure would forbid the police from enforcing laws that criminalize either abortion or "low-level marijuana possession." Cops would also be barred from employing choke-holds and no-knock warrants, as well as being directed to "using citations instead of arrests for low-level nonviolent crimes," while an appointed justice director would ensure all of these policies are implemented.
The city attorney warned in February that Texas law would prevent the bulk of the amendment from going into effect, except for the creation of a justice director and some smaller items. The measure's proponents naturally see things differently, and they argue that a "yes" vote would still result in real changes. The local police union very much agrees that this is a threat, and KSAT says anti-Justice Charter groups outspent proponents by a 9-1 margin through April 26. Mayor Ron Nirenberg, a liberal independent who has an uncompetitive reelection contest on Saturday, is also urging a "no" vote.
● AZ-Sen: Politico's Holly Otterbein relayed Wednesday that a Republican strategist close to Kari Lake believes the 2022 gubernatorial nominee will announce a Senate bid in the early fall. The news came one day before the state Supreme Court sanctioned Lake's attorney for making "unequivocally false" claims about her defeat last year. The once and likely future candidate herself is scheduled to attend CPAC Hungary, which is being headlined by autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, along with far-right Rep. Paul Gosar.
● MI-Sen: Former Rep. Mike Rogers didn't quite rule out a bid for Senate when the Detroit News' Nolan Finley asked if he'd consider switching from what can charitably be called a longshot White House bid. "Never say never," Rogers said, adding he believes that the Democratic frontrunner, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, could be defeated "[w]ith the right candidate."
● NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich announced Thursday that he'll seek a third term, and no serious Republicans have shown any obvious interest in taking him on in the general election.
● IN-Gov: Jennifer McCormick, a former Indiana Republican who soured on her party during her tenure as the state's last elected schools chief, announced Thursday that she'd seek the governorship next year as a Democrat.
McCormick, who would be the first woman to lead the state, currently has no intra-party opposition in sight, but she faces a challenging task prevailing in a state that Donald Trump took 57-41 and where Republicans have had a lock on the governor's office since the 2004 elections. Republicans, meanwhile, have a three-way primary between Sen. Mike Braun, wealthy businessman Eric Doden, and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who also would be Indiana's first woman governor. Also in the running is Libertarian Donald Rainwater, who took 11% in the 2020 race after appealing to conservatives furious at Holcomb's statewide mask mandate.
McCormick was elected state superintendent as a Republican in 2016 by unseating Democrat Glenda Ritz, who was the last Democrat to win a state-level office, but she immediately began feuding with Holcomb and the rest of her party over her desire to increase scrutiny over charter schools. Things only got worse as McCormick's tenure continued, and she decided in 2018 not to seek re-election two years down the line. (Republicans initially passed a law to make her post an appointed office starting in 2024, but they moved up the timeline after her retirement announcement.)
McCormick burned what few bridges remained with GOP leaders in 2020 when she endorsed several Democratic contenders, including Holcomb foe Woody Myers. Myers even announced that he'd keep her on as superintendent, something McCormick said she'd accept because of her "outrage" over the state's "woefully underfunded" education system, but Holcomb's landslide win made the point moot.
McCormick went on to join the Democratic Party the next year, and she formed an exploratory committee last December for a campaign to replace Holcomb. She launched her campaign Thursday with a video blasting Republicans for pushing an ultra-conservative agenda, including a near-total abortion ban, as schools and the economy suffer.
● KY-Gov: Bluegrass Freedom Action, which backs Attorney General Daniel Cameron in the May 16 GOP primary, has launched an ad declaring that former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft "praised" Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear's "COVID lockdowns." The spot goes on to show footage of Cameron and Donald Trump at a rally before playing a clip of Trump on a plane reiterating, "Daniel has my complete and total endorsement."
The attorney general, whom Craft's side has labeled a "soft establishment teddy bear," is airing a commercial touting his conservative credentials that features his son holding … a teddy bear.
● NH-Gov: Former state Senate President Chuck Morse told Good Morning NH this week he'd run for governor in the event that his fellow Republican, incumbent Chris Sununu, doesn't seek re-election next year. (The relevant portion of the interview begins at the 4:08 mark.) Morse campaigned statewide for U.S. Senate last year but lost the expensive primary 37-36 to Big Lie spreader Don Bolduc.
● CA-12: EMILY's List on Thursday endorsed BART board member Lateefah Simon in next year's top-two primary for this dark blue East Bay seat.
● MD-06: Democratic Del. Joe Vogel confirmed his interest in running to succeed Rep. David Trone hours before the incumbent launched his Senate bid, and Vogel set up an FEC committee on Thursday. Vogel, who is 26, would be one of the youngest members of Congress.
Plenty of other Democrats will also likely eye this seat in Western Maryland and northwestern D.C. exurbs, which supported Joe Biden 54-44. Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz mentions state Sen. Brian Feldman, Del. Lesley Lopez, former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, and U.S. Commerce Department official April McClain-Delaney as possibilities; the latter is the wife of former Rep. John Delaney, who won a previous version of this seat in 2012 and gave it up six years later to run for president.
For the GOP, Kurtz name-drops House Minority Leader Jason Buckel and 2022 gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox. Cox, according to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, lost this constituency 53-44 to Democrat Wes Moore. The former delegate then signed on in February as chief of staff for Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who remains in office following his own disastrous campaign to lead his state.
● NV-03: Conservative columnist Drew Johnson announced Thursday that he would seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, a campaign that comes months after he lost an officially nonpartisan race for the Clark County Commission to Democratic incumbent Justin Jones 50.2-49.8. Johnson and his wife, notes Roll Call, started a tradition of chucking plastic flamingos onto the rink to celebrate home game victories for the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights. Joe Biden carried this constituency in the southern Las Vegas area 52-46.
● TX-32: Trauma surgeon Brian H. Williams, who attracted national attention in 2016 when he treated Dallas police officers wounded in an ambush, confirmed Thursday that he would decide "soon" if he'll run to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Colin Allred. The Dallas News also lists Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua, who is up for re-election on Saturday, as a possible Democratic contender along with state Reps. Ana-Maria Ramos and Rhetta Andrews Bowers.
The article also name-drops state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, though she said in February she wanted to stay in the legislature. State Sen. Nathan Johnson, however, told the paper this week he was a no.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Former City Council member Allan Domb this week picked up the backing of Bill Green, who was elected to his single term as mayor in 1979, ahead of the May 16 Democratic primary. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that this is one of the first prominent endorsement that Domb, who has self-funded more than $7 million, has received in the entire race.