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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● VA State Senate: Former Del. Lashrecse Aird won Tuesday's Democratic primary for a seat in the Virginia state Senate by defeating scandal-plagued incumbent Joe Morrissey, a self-described "unapologetically pro-life" lawmaker who has long been one of the most conservative Democrats in the legislature, in a 69-31 landslide.
Morrissey’s defeat in the reliably blue 13th District outside of Richmond comes months ahead of a Nov. 7 general election where all 40 seats in the upper chamber are on the ballot for four-year terms. Democrats are looking to defend their 22-18 majority under a brand-new map, and they'll be relieved that they'll no longer need to worry about the ever-present possibility that Morrissey could provide a crucial vote for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda.
For decades, Morrissey confounded observers by surviving an endless series of scandals that most recently included allegations by his estranged wife that he'd abused her and had sex with her when she was still a minor. The senator, though, became the pivotal vote in the chamber following the 2021 elections, when Youngkin flipped the governorship and Republicans took back control of the House of Delegates. (Aird that year narrowly lost her campaign for reelection to Republican Kim Taylor.)
The Senate was not on the ballot that year, but Democrats held just a 21-19 edge at the time. Had Morrissey ever chosen to side with Republicans on any given vote—as he sometimes threatened to do—Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears’ would have been able to break ties in the GOP's favor.
Democrats' greatest fear was that Morrissey would break ranks on abortion, especially after he cosponsored a proposal to largely ban abortion after 20 weeks and said he was open to backing Youngkin’s own anti-abortion bills. But Democrats got a reprieve in January when Aaron Rouse flipped a GOP-held district in a special election in the Virginia Beach area that focused heavily on abortion.
Virginia Democrats, though, recognized that it would take the loss of just one seat in November to restore Morrissey to his previous position in the cat-bird seat, and they worked overtime to avoid that scenario. Aird, who declared she was “100% pro-choice,” earned endorsements from U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, multiple members of the House, and all six women in the party’s Senate caucus, as well as from abortion rights heavyweights like Planned Parenthood.
Morrissey pushed back by insisting he probably would have opposed Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban, though he simultaneously mocked Aird’s focus on the issue. He also tried to attack Aird for the support she received from Clean Virginia, an environmental group founded by hedge fund CEO Michael Bills. "My opponent is a one-trick pony: ‘Let me just talk about abortion; let me borrow a half-million dollars from my billionaire friend in Charlottesville; let me flood the airwaves with that and let me try to steal a state Senate seat," he told the Associated Press.
Morrissey, for his part, received large contributions from Dominion Energy, the mammoth energy producer that Clean Virginia argues has far too much influence in state politics. But not only did Aird decisively outraise Morrissey, the incumbent also faced the challenge of introducing himself to many voters he’d never represented before. This was the first election to take place using a revamped Senate map drawn by the state Supreme Court, and Morrissey only represented about 45% of the residents of the new 13th District.
Aird’s win makes her the heavy favorite this fall in a district that, according to data from Dave’s Redistricting App, supported Joe Biden 62-37 in 2020 and Democrat Terry McAuliffe 57-42 in the 2021 election for governor, even as he was losing statewide to Youngkin. But the battle for both legislative chambers is only getting started, and because Earle-Sears won’t have to face the voters again until 2025, Senate Democrats can only afford to lose one seat if they're to retain control.
● VA State Senate: Tuesday’s primaries also determined the general election matchups for some competitive Senate seats. (A few of the other big November races to watch, as we wrote back in April in our look at the Senate battle field, did not have contested primaries for either party.) In the Republican contest for southside Virginia’s 17th District, Del. Emily Brewer defeated former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler 59-41. Brewer, who won the nod with support from the governor, will face Democratic Del. Clint Jenkins for a seat that favored Biden 53-46 before supporting Youngkin 52-47.
In the Democratic primary for the Loudoun County-based 31st District, former local prosecutor Russet Perry beat Leesburg Town Council member Zach Cummings 67-33. She’ll be in for an expensive general election contest against businessman Juan Pablo Segura, the son of billionaire Enrique Segura, for a constituency that backed Biden and Youngkin by margins of 56-42 and 50-49, respectively.
Both parties also resolved contested nomination battles in the 27th District, which includes parts of Stafford and Spotsylvania counties and the city of Fredericksburg. Marine veteran Joel Griffin won the Democratic primary 60-40 over attorney Ben Litchfield.
GOP Del. Tara Durant likewise scored a 57-43 victory over Matt Strickland, who furiously castigated Youngkin last winter after state troopers raided his bar for defying COVID restrictions during the worst days of the pandemic. (Not surprisingly, the governor supported Durant.) This district went for Youngkin 54-45 the year after the president won by a smaller 52-46, and complicating matters for Democrats is the candidacy of Stafford County Supervisor Monica Gary, an independent who calls herself an abortion rights supporter.
One potential Democratic target likely fell off the list Tuesday, though, thanks to former Sen. Glen Sturtevant’s tiny 39-38 GOP primary win over far-right Sen. Amanda Chase. Sturtevant argued that the incumbent could have jeopardized the party’s hold on the 12th District, a suburban Richmond constituency that favored Trump 52-46 and Youngkin 57-42. That seat may have been too red for even the self-described "Trump in heels," to lose, though her colleagues will still be relieved to no longer deal with a member who spent years picking fights with just about everyone.
At least three more senators, all of whom are Democrats in safely blue seats, lost renomination Tuesday in addition to Morrissey and Chase. The expensive incumbent vs. incumbent battle for the 18th District in Hampton Roads ended in a 53-47 victory for Louise Lucas over Lionell Spruill. Lucas, who has served in the upper chamber since 1992, pointed to her huge advantage in seniority and insisted that Spruill is too conservative and too close to Republicans.
Over in Northern Virginia’s 36th District, Fairfax County School Board member Stella Pekarsky defeated Sen. George Barker 52-48 after arguing he was “inconsistent” on matters like gun safety. Barker, who co-chairs the powerful Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee, defended his record and influence, but he struggled in a redrawn seat where only 6% of the residents are his current constituents. Clean Virginia and its allies made large donations to Pekarsky, while Dominion was for Barker.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the night took place next door in the 37th where financial consultant Saddam Azlan Salim overcame a huge fundraising disadvantage to beat incumbent Chap Petersen 54-46. Salim argued that voters wanted to replace the incumbent with “somebody who’s progressive,” telling FFXnow that “when it comes to affordable housing, when it comes to the environment, when it comes to reproductive rights … and they’re not getting that from their current senator.”
Petersen, who said he doesn’t “get caught up in ideology,” outraised Salim $1.1 million to $190,000 through June 8: One of the senator’s top contributors even was Clean Virginia, though Dominion also made a smaller donation to him. Petersen, who represented about 45% of this revamped seat, formed an informal alliance with defense attorney Ed Nuttall, who was waging a primary bid against progressive Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, and Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid. However, while the senator ran ads imploring primary voters to back all three, only Kincaid prevailed.
Sen. Jeremy McPike’s fate, meanwhile, is still undecided in another blue Northern Virginia seat, the 29th District. The incumbent holds a bare 50.2-49.8 edge―a margin of 46 votes―over Del. Elizabeth Guzman with all precincts reporting Wednesday morning. The Virginia Public Access Project says, “Absentee votes, provisional ballots, and the localities canvass of the votes will need to happen before a winner is certified.” Both candidates campaigned as ardent liberals, and Clean Virginia donated to each.
The progressive organization very much was on the winning side in the Democratic primary for the open 33rd District, though, as Jennifer Carroll Foy beat fellow former Del. Hala Ayala 63-37 in another safely blue Northern Virginia seat. Carroll Foy, who unsuccessfully sought the 2021 nomination for governor, benefited from large contributions from Clean Virginia; Dominion, meanwhile, supported Ayala, who was the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor two years ago.
Dominion, however, did prevail in a few expensive proxy battles against Clean Virginia and its allies. Sen. Creigh Deeds, who was the 2009 Democratic nominee for governor, turned back Del. Sally Hudson 51-49 in the 11th around Charlottesville. Fellow Democratic incumbent Dave Marsden also avoided the fate that befell at least two other Northern Virginia senators by defeating activist Heidi Drauschak 63-37 in the 35th.
● Virginia: A trio of reform-minded Democratic commonwealth's attorneys won renomination in populous Northern Virginia communities, and all three prosecutors are favored in the fall. Fairfax County’s Steve Descano turned back defense attorney Ed Nuttall 55-45 in the largest county in the state. Loudoun County’s Buta Biberaj likewise held off former public defender Elizabeth Lancaster 56-44, while Arlington County’s Parisa Dehghani-Tafti scored a similar 57-43 victory over former subordinate Josh Katcher.
● OH Redistricting: A leading Ohio Republican says the state may once again use the congressional map that the state Supreme Court struck down last year as an illegal partisan gerrymander, in continued defiance of the court's order last July to redraw it.
According to the Ohio Capital Journal, Senate President Matt Huffman cited the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to say whether it will take up a Republican appeal of the case as the reason for lawmakers' ongoing delay. The ACLU of Ohio, a redistricting litigant, blasted that argument last year when it was advanced by House Speaker Bob Cupp, saying there was "no legitimate way" for Republicans to ignore the state Supreme Court's deadline.
Huffman also says he expects the state's GOP-dominated redistricting commission to draw new legislative maps by September. Last year, a federal court allowed elections for the state Senate and state House to go forward using districts that the state Supreme Court had similarly ruled were illegal gerrymanders, but the federal court specified those lines could only be used for 2022.
● MS-Sen: Far-right state Rep. Dan Eubanks tells Mississippi Today that he'll wage a longshot bid to deny renomination to Republican incumbent Roger Wicker, a development that comes two months after the challenger set up a fundraising committee. Eubanks, who said in 2020 his family would not be getting vaccinated for COVID, introduced a pair of bills the next year to criminalize abortion and to prevent employers from requiring COVID vaccines.
● OH-Sen: State Sen. Matt Dolan has launched the very first TV commercials of next year's GOP Senate primary, and the wealthy candidate’s team tells Fox it's putting seven figures behind the opening TV and digital campaign. The Cleveland Guardians part-owner attacks Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown on border security and ignores Dolan's only serious intra-party opponent, fellow self-funder Bernie Moreno.
● WI-Sen: Rep. Tom Tiffany over the weekend told reporters at the state GOP convention that he'd decide in the next month and a half if he'd challenge Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, while wealthy businessman Eric Hovde said he might make his own choice by early September. Hovde, who narrowly lost the 2012 primary for this seat, previously indicated he'd make up his mind as late as December.
● KY-Gov: The RGA's Kentucky Values affiliate is continuing to weaponize transphobia with its newest spot against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, a strategy it began two months ago shortly after the GOP-dominated legislature overrode his veto on a bill that bans gender-affirming care for young trans people. The new ad also attacks the governor for commuting the sentences of about 1,700 inmates early in the pandemic.
● NH-Gov: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu told WEEI on Friday, "I don't think I'm going to run again," adding, "Could I win again? Of course. But it's [public] service and someone else needs to kind of take the mantle." The governor also reiterated he'd "make a firm decision this summer."
● CA-12: VoteVets has thrown its support behind businessman Tim Sanchez, who served with the Navy in Afghanistan, in the top-two primary for this dark blue East Bay seat.
● CA-47: Democratic state Sen. Dave Min has publicized an internal from Public Policy Polling showing him trailing 2022 GOP nominee Scott Baugh 39-37 in a hypothetical general election, though the memo says that Min pulls ahead after respondents hear about each of their biographies. (The initial horserace numbers were provided to us by Min's team.)
The release also declares that, when the sample is asked about the state senator's recent DUI, "Only 19% of likely voters found this to be a very convincing line of attack, while 47% found this not at all convincing." The memo does not mention Democratic activist Joanna Weiss or any of the other candidates competing in the top-two primary.
● CO-08: Former state GOP chair Dick Wadhams writes in his column for Colorado Politics that Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine is thinking about making a second bid for the competitive seat now held by freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo, though there's no word from Saine about her plans. National Democrats last year ran ads aimed at boosting the far-right Saine in her primary against state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, but Saine ended up finishing in third place with only 21% of the vote. Kirkmeyer, who went on to lose to Caraveo 48.4-47.7, recently told The Colorado Sun she'd decide by July 4 if she'd seek a rematch.
● IL-12: 2022 gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey this week confirmed he was considering waging a GOP primary bid against incumbent Mike Bost almost two months after Politico first reported his interest, telling the conservative site The Center Square, "If we decide to run, we'll probably make an official announcement pretty soon." The former state senator, though, wouldn't say whether or not he'd be using his July 4 event at his farm to make such a declaration.
● MD-06: Former Republican Del. Brenda Thiam has filed FEC paperwork for a potential bid to succeed Democratic Senate candidate David Trone in this 54-44 Biden constituency. Thiam became the first Black Republican woman to ever serve in the legislature after she was appointed to a vacant seat in 2020, but Democrat Brooke Grossman unseated her 54-46 two years later.
● MI-07: Senate candidate Elissa Slotkin over the weekend endorsed former state Sen. Curtis Hertel to succeed her in this swing seat even though he hasn't yet announced if he'll seek the Democratic nod. Hertel currently serves as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's legislative director, and the Detroit News reported a few weeks ago that he could jump in as soon as next month.
● NJ-07, NJ-Sen: Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello tells the New Jersey Globe that he'll decide "this week" if he'll abandon his longshot Democratic primary bid against Sen. Robert Menendez and instead challenge freshman GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Signorello's entire 14,000-person community is located in Democratic Rep. Donald Payne's 10th District, but Signorello says he lives "five minutes away" from Kean's constituency. Working Families Party state director Sue Altman currently is the only major candidate seeking the Democratic nod for the 7th.
● TX-15: 2022 Democratic nominee Michelle Vallejo this week publicized endorsements from two of Texas' 13 Democratic House members, 16th District Rep. Veronica Escobar and 29th District Rep. Sylvia Garcia. Vallejo is currently the only major candidate challenging freshman GOP Rep. Monica de la Cruz, who won their first bout 53-45 last fall.
● TX-18 & Houston, TX Mayor: Former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards announced Monday that she was dropping out of the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary for mayor and would instead seek the safely blue 18th Congressional District held by her now-former opponent, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. It remains to be seen if Edwards would be competing for an open seat, though, because we don't yet know if Jackson Lee would have time to turn around and seek reelection should she lose the race to succeed termed-out Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Edwards, who endorsed Jackson Lee's mayoral campaign, also doesn't appear to have said if she'd defer to the congresswoman should she run for reelection after all, while Jackson Lee herself hasn't revealed what she'd do if she fails to become mayor. Edwards, who took fifth place in the 2020 primary to face GOP Sen. John Cornyn, for now is the only major candidate to announce a campaign to replace Jackson Lee.
Part of the reason for all of this uncertainty is that a runoff date hasn't been picked for any city contests where no one earns the majority of the vote needed to win outright. The Houston Chronicle said in 2019 that state law "requires a 30-day gap between general elections and most runoff races," but in 2015 and 2019 the second round of voting took place 39 days after the first. If that schedule were used this year, the runoff would be Dec. 16― five days after the state's Dec. 11 filing deadline to appear on the March 2024 ballot for federal and state offices.
● TX-32: State Rep. Julie Johnson on Tuesday announced that she'd enter the Democratic primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Colin Allred, in a diverse northern Dallas seat that Joe Biden took 66-33. Johnson, whose 2018 win over Republican incumbent Matt Rinaldi made her the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, would again make history as the first openly gay person to represent the state in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.)
Johnson, who kicked off her campaign with an endorsement from the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Dallas Morning News of her ideology, "There's aspects of my voting record that are very moderate. And I'm very issue-based." She added, "I don't categorize myself as either progressive or moderate. I'm a Democrat and I fight for democratic values." Johnson joins a primary that includes trauma surgeon Brian H. Williams and civil rights attorney Justin Moore, and it could attract more names. Reporter Gromer Jeffers writes that unnamed operatives are hoping to recruit Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia, though there's no word on his interest.