The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
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● WI-Sen: Senate Republicans looking to recruit Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher received disappointing news Friday morning when the congressman announced that he'd run for reelection rather than challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Both local and national Republicans—including NRSC chair Steve Daines—had spent months trying to convince Gallagher to seek a promotion, and the NRSC even tried to entice the Marine veteran with a recent internal poll showing him trailing the incumbent by a narrow 47-46 margin.
Several other Badger State Republicans could still get in, though, including one far-right figure that the NRSC almost certainly doesn't want as their standard-bearer. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke celebrated Gallagher's decision by crowing about a survey the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had released the previous day that showed him far ahead of his would-be rival in a hypothetical GOP primary. "This poll has to give the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee sleepless nights when somebody outside their establishment circle wipes away these other GOP potential primary candidates," tweeted Clarke. "None of them energizes or excites the base voter like I do."
Rep. Tom Tiffany, meanwhile, recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he'd decide whether or not to run "probably end of July, August, something like that." A spokesperson was a little more definitive with the timeline, informing Axios that the congressman "plans to make a decision in August." However, while Tiffany and Gallagher represent neighboring northern Wisconsin districts, they cut very different profiles.
Tiffany responded to Joe Biden's 2020 victory by joining a failed lawsuit that would have let Wisconsin's GOP-controlled legislature ignore voters and instead award the state's electoral votes to Donald Trump. He then joined the majority of his caucus in voting to overturn Biden's win hours after the Jan. 6 attack. True to form, he responded to Trump's federal indictment Thursday by calling it part of the "politically motivated attacks against conservatives." Politico, by contrast, wrote earlier this month that one of the reasons Gallagher was such a prized recruit was that he'd voted the other way on Jan. 6 and has continued to criticize Trump.
The race could also prove newly tempting for other Republicans now that they know they won't have to face Gallagher. Wealthy businessman Eric Hovde, who lost a close primary for this seat in 2012, said last month he'd decide on another try by December, while another rich businessman, Scott Mayer, has pledged to make up his mind by Labor Day. The Journal Sentinel also reported in March that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who lost last year's primary for governor, wasn't ruling out a Senate bid, though we haven't heard anything about her interest since then. Finally, the Dispatch, a conservative site, wrote in May that businessman Kevin Nicholson, who failed to win the 2018 nod to take on Baldwin, was also considering another try.
● KY-Gov: The DGA affiliate Defending Bluegrass Values is continuing to air ads linking Attorney General Daniel Cameron to the pardon scandal that overshadowed fellow Republican Matt Bevin's final days as governor. The narrator declares that, while Cameron "promised to investigate" the matter, he "used taxpayer money to hire Bevin's top aides instead, surrounding himself with the same people who helped push Bevin's pardons."
● WA-Gov: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, working on behalf of the Northwest Progressive Institute, has released the first survey we've seen of next year's top-two primary since Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee announced his retirement:
- Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D): 25
- Physician Raul Garcia (R): 17
- Richland school board member Semi Bird (R): 10
- Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz (D): 9
- State Sen. Mark Mullet (D): 7
- Not sure: 33
Ferguson, who formed an exploratory committee shortly after Inslee confirmed his departure, is the only one of these contenders who hasn't officially announced he's in, though Washington doesn't actually distinguish between these sorts of entities and full-fledged campaigns.
● MD-06: An adviser for Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez told Jewish Insider last month that she's considering joining the Democratic primary and would decide in "a few months." Martinez, who was elected to the city council in 2020, became this northwestern Maryland community's first Black mayor in February after her colleagues appointed her to fill the vacant post. (Hat-tip Primary School.)
● OR-05: Oregon Metro President Lynn Peterson on Thursday became the first notable Democrat to launch a bid to unseat freshman GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer in a constituency that, at 53-44 Biden, will likely be a major battleground this cycle. Peterson entered the race with endorsements from former Gov. Barbara Roberts, who was elected to her only term in 1990, and former 4th District Rep. Peter DeFazio, who represented about 20% of this seat until he left office in January.
Peterson, as we recently wrote, leads a unique regional entity that serves 1.7 million residents across portions of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties, and she's expanded its influence during her tenure by funding local governments within its jurisdiction. The metro president won her second four-year term in 2022 by prevailing 53-32 in an officially nonpartisan primary.
Peterson may have to get past serious intra-party opposition before she can focus on flipping this seat, which is based in Portland's southern suburbs and central Oregon, as two former Chavez-DeRemer foes recently told Willamette Week that they're thinking of also running here. The potential field includes state Rep. Janelle Bynum, who won her post by beating none other than Chavez-DeRemer in an open seat race in 2016 and fending her off two years later, and 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod Skinner, whom Chavez-DeRemer beat 51-49. (The original version of this item incorrectly said that Bynum unseated Chavez-DeRemer in 2016.)
● UT-02: RNC member Bruce Hough, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, and former state Rep. Becky Edwards have all announced that they'll compete in the Sept. 5 primary to replace their fellow Republican, outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart. The Salt Lake Tribune also reports that academic Henry Eyring, who is the grandson and namesake of a high official in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will run ahead of Wednesday's filing deadline, though there's no quote from him. State Sen. Dan McCay and Salt Lake County Councilmember Aimee Winder Newton, however, have both taken their names out of contention.
Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot either by collecting signatures or competing at the convention, and Hough has opted to try both methods. (Under the state's special election law only one person can advance out of the convention instead of the maximum of two that are normally allowed.) Edwards, by contrast, will only pursue the signature route, while Hughes is restricting his efforts to the convention.
Hughes, who was an early Donald Trump supporter in 2016, did this very thing when he ran for governor four years later, and his second-place convention finish against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox was strong enough to keep his campaign going. Primary voters, though, didn't like him as much as delegates did: Cox won the nod by edging out former Gov. Jon Huntsman 36-35, while Hughes was a distant third with 21%.
Edwards, by contrast, was part of a group encouraging fellow Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020. She campaigned statewide herself in 2022 when she tried to deny renomination to far-right Sen. Mike Lee, but her poor convention performance foreshadowed her 62-30 primary defeat.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Manchester, NH Mayor: Outgoing Mayor Joyce Craig on Thursday endorsed Kevin Cavanaugh, who is one of the three Democratic aldermen competing in this fall's nonpartisan race, to succeed her as leader of New Hampshire's largest city. The party's other two contenders are June Trisciani and Will Stewart, while the only Republican in the running is former congressional staffer Jay Ruais. Everyone who files ahead of next month's deadline will face off on Sept. 19, and the two candidates with the most votes will advance to the Nov. 7 general election.
Cavanaugh, who was first elected to Manchester's legislative body in 2015, attracted national attention in 2017 when he decisively prevailed in a special election for a state Senate seat that Hillary Clinton had taken by just 100 votes: State law allowed him to serve in the legislature and remain an alderman, and the Democrat has continued to represent one of the city's 12 wards.
Cavanaugh did leave the state Senate last year to challenge Republican Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas―a former mayor who lost reelection to Craig in 2017. Gatsas held on 52-48, though Cavanaugh carried Manchester by that same margin. The same evening Trisciani, who holds an at-large seat, lost the race to succeed Cavanaugh in the state Senate 53-47 to Republican Keith Murphy. Stewart, for his part, also holds a ward-level seat.