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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● DE-Sen: Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester launched her long-anticipated campaign for Delaware's open Senate seat on Wednesday, and a win would make her both the first woman and first African American to ever represent the First State in the upper chamber. Blunt Rochester would also be only the third Black woman to ever serve in the Senate. The only two people to previously achieve this distinction are Illinois' Carol Moseley Braun, who was elected to her only term in 1992, and now-Vice President Kamala Harris, who won an open-seat race in California in 2016.
No Black women have held a Senate seat since Harris resigned following the 2020 elections, but several other prominent Democrats are hoping to change that next year, including California's Barbara Lee, Maryland's Angela Alsobrooks, and both Pamela Pugh and Leslie Love in Michigan. A victory for Blunt Rochester would also make history in another way: She'd be the very first Black Democratic member of the House to ever make the leap to the Senate, a feat that Lee and Texas Rep. Colin Allred are also hoping to accomplish.
At the moment, Blunt Rochester is the best-positioned to do so of the three. Unlike Lee and Allred, she has no serious opposition in sight in either the primary or general election, and that doesn't look likely to change. The congresswoman, who is the only House member in reliably blue Delaware, has the backing of retiring Sen. Tom Carper, whom she once interned for. Blunt Rochester also revealed to NBC10 that Joe Biden told her he'd be casting his ballot for her, though the president has not publicly endorsed her.
Blunt Rochester had served in Carper's cabinet when he was governor in the 1990s and later went on to run the Delaware branch of the Urban League, a storied civil rights organization. She got her chance to return to politics in 2016 when Rep. John Carney left to successfully run for governor. Notably, her decisive wins in that year's primary and general elections ended Delaware's status as one of the three states that had yet to send a woman to either chamber of Congress, an unwelcome distinction it had shared with Mississippi and Vermont. (Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to Mississippi's open Senate seat and won a special election in 2018, while Vermont Democrat Becca Balint won last year's contest for the House.)
P.S. Blunt Rochester is the 10th House member to announce that she'll run for the Senate rather than seek reelection to her current post, a group that includes seven other Democrats and two Republicans. The only member of the lower chamber so far who is retiring rather than campaigning for higher office is Indiana Republican Victoria Spartz, though Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline resigned last month and Utah Republican Chris Stewart will also leave office in September. There's no question, however, that other House members will join Spartz in calling it a career as the cycle continues.
● Joining us on "The Downballot" this week is North Carolina Rep. Wiley Nickel, the first member of Congress to appear on the show! Nickel gives us the blow-by-blow of his unlikely victory that saw him flip an extremely competitive seat from red to blue last year, including how he adjusted when a new map gave him a very different district and why highlighting the extremism of his MAGA-flavored opponent was key to his success. A true election nerd, Nickel tells us which precincts he was tracking on election night that let him know he was going to win—and which fellow House freshman is the one you want to rock out with at a concert.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap Tuesday's awesome primary results in Virginia that spelled the end of the execrable Joe Morrissey's career in the state Senate. What's more, thanks to losses by several other conservative Democratic incumbents, the Democratic caucus will grow more progressive overall next year. But it's not all good news: The Davids tear apart a pair of awful GOP bills just signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott aimed at giving Republicans control of elections in the state's largest county—which just so happens to be trending to the left.
Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.
● Voting Rights: Texas Republicans just enacted a pair of laws designed to target left-leaning Harris County—and Harris County alone—with measures that include enabling the GOP secretary of state to take control of running its elections and use that power to restrict access to voting in a county that's home to one in six Texans.
- A one-time GOP stronghold that's flipped to Democrats. Thanks to a racially diverse and well-educated electorate, Harris County, the largest in the state, has zoomed leftward during the Donald Trump era. Democrats took control of the county's government in 2018, giving them an important base of power and a potential springboard for higher office.
- A low, vague threshold for a state takeover. One of the new laws empowers the secretary of state to take control of local election administration if she has "good cause to believe" recurring problems exist with running elections or voter registration—but "good cause to believe" doesn't require hard proof.
- Texas Republicans have undermined Harris County's voters for years. These laws aren't isolated: GOP lawmakers in previous years have passed legislation banning measures county Democrats had implemented to expand and protect voting access. Now, following their losses last year, Republicans are complaining about … a supposed lack of access to voting.
Read more about how these laws threaten voting rights and the integrity of elections in Texas' largest blue county.
● MT-Sen: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Rep. Matt Rosendale with a wide 64-10 lead in a hypothetical GOP primary against Tim Sheehy, a wealthy businessman and Navy SEAL veteran whom the party establishment is hoping to recruit. PPP, which did not have a client for this survey, found Sheehy with a 10-14 favorable rating, which the pollster said gives him “only a nominally greater profile than a name out of the phone book.” (This item has been updated to reflect that PPP did not have a client.) Rosendale, who represented the entire state in D.C. for a term before Montana gained a second House seat for the 2022 elections, by contrast posts a 67-10 score.
Neither man has announced a bid against Tester yet, though the National Journal recently reported that Sheehy is “expected to jump in around the second quarter FEC filing deadline on July 15.” Sheehy has not run for office before, but party leaders like Montana’s junior senator, NRSC head Steve Daines, hope his personal resources would help him get his name out.
The far-right Club for Growth is likewise hoping to land Rosendale, but while Politico said back in April the congressman was telling people he planned to run, we’ve heard nothing new over the ensuing two months. Tester defeated Rosendale in 2018, and the party establishment reportedly doesn’t want to give him a second chance.
● LA-Gov: The Democratic pollster The Kitchens Group and the data firm Vantage Data House have released a survey to NOLA.com showing Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and former state Transportation Shawn Wilson, who is currently the only notable Democrat in the contest, far ahead in the October all-party primary.
This poll, which Kitchens says Vantage funded in order to get its name out, puts Landry and Wilson at 31% and 21%, respectively, with no one else breaking 6%. Reporter Tyler Bridges notes that this survey was in the field about two weeks after allies of Landry and former state Chamber of Commerce head Stephen Waguespack, began airing ads attacking the other Republican.
● CA-30: Assemblywoman Laura Friedman this week picked up an endorsement from EMILY’s List for the busy top-two primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Adam Schiff.
● NC-??: State House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican who reportedly plans to draw a new congressional district for himself, is now embroiled in a lawsuit by a former Apex Town Council member named Scott Riley Lassiter alleging that the speaker helped destroy his marriage. Moore acknowledged this week that he had an “on-again, off-again, very casual, nothing-consistent type of relationship” from 2019 until last year with the plaintiff’s estranged wife, state government employee Jamie Liles Lassiter, but he tells the News & Observer that he “fully understood that she was separated.”
Both Moore and Liles Lassiter, however, denied the allegations in the lawsuit insinuating that the speaker traded political influence for sexual favors. She also said that “the only person who has ever abused me or threatened my career was my soon to be ex-husband.”
● NV-01: 2022 Republican nominee Mark Robertson declared this week that he’d seek a rematch against Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in this constituency in the eastern Las Vegas area. Robertson, who is a retired Army colonel, is the first notable Republican to announce, though restaurateur Flemming Larsen filed FEC paperwork all the way back in February.
Robertson challenged the incumbent last cycle after legislative Democrats dropped Joe Biden’s margin of victory from 61-36 to 53-45 in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, and the four largest House outside groups ended up spending a combined $15.4 million here. Titus, who publicly blasted the redistricting plan, prevailed 52-46 as her fellow Democratic Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford each won 52-48.
● NY-04: Newsday reports that state Sen. Kevin Thomas is considering entering the Democratic primary to face freshman GOP Rep. Anthony D'Esposito. Thomas earned his current office in 2018 by unseating Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon 51-49, a win that made the Democrat the first Indian American to serve in the state Senate.
● NY-17: Former Bedford Supervisor MaryAnn Carr tells The Examiner News that she'll join the Democratic primary to take on freshman Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, though her last campaign did not go well. Carr's colleagues on the Town Board in early 2021 chose her to fill the vacant post as leader of this community of 17,000, but she lost the primary for a full term later that year to Councilwoman Ellen Calves 67-33.
● OR-05: State Rep. Janelle Bynum announced Wednesday that she'd seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer in Oregon's 5th Congressional District, a constituency Chavez-DeRemer narrowly flipped two years after it supported Joe Biden 53-44. Bynum, who would be the state's first Black member of Congress, entered the primary with endorsements from Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Andrea Salinas, who respectively represent the neighboring 1st and 6th Districts.
This constituency, which is based in Portland's southern suburbs and central Oregon, will likely be a top Democratic target, but Chavez-DeRemer's 51-49 victory over Jamie McLeod Skinner in 2022 demonstrated that it's not reliably blue turf despite the presidential toplines. According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, Republican Christine Drazan carried this district even as she was losing last year's hotly contested race for governor to Democrat Tina Kotek: Drazan outpaced the now-governor 47-43, with another 9% going to conservative Democrat-turned-independent Betsy Johnson.
Bynum herself has experience defeating her would-be opponent, though on a smaller scale. The Democrat won her spot in the state House in 2016 by beating none other than Chavez-DeRemer 51-49 in an open-seat race, a victory that took place as Hillary Clinton was carrying the same district 51-42. The defeated Republican came back for a rematch two years later, but Bynum fended her off 54-46 during that blue wave year. More recently, Bynum pulled off a convincing 55-45 victory over GOP challenger Kori Haynes following an expensive campaign in 2022.
Bynum has a competitive nomination fight ahead of her before she can focus on what would be her third general election battle with Chavez-DeRemer. Oregon Metro Council President Lynn Peterson launched her own campaign earlier this month, while McLeod Skinner, who would be the state's first LGBTQ+ member of Congress, has also expressed interest in trying again.
● RI-01: EMILY's List has endorsed Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos ahead of the packed September special Democratic primary.
● UT-02: Outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart on Tuesday endorsed his office's counsel, Celeste Maloy, days ahead of a Saturday GOP convention that she very much needs to win. That's because Maloy is one of the eight Republicans who are depending on party delegates to place them on the September primary ballot: Under the state's special election law only one person can advance out of the event instead of the maximum of two that are normally allowed, so at least seven of them will see their campaigns come to an end over the weekend.
The other five other Republicans are both collecting signatures and competing at the convention in order to make the ballot, though they may still struggle to turn in the requisite 7,000 signatures by July 5 that they'd need to move forward after a convention loss.
● PA-AG: Keir Bradford-Grey, who previously served separate stints as the top public defender in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, announced Wednesday that she would seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat. The Associated Press notes that Bradford-Grey, who would be the first Black person to hold this post, would also be "the first attorney general whose legal experience was primarily as a public defender."
Bradford-Grey joins a 2024 primary that already includes former state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Joe Kahn, who most recently served as Bucks County solicitor. No notable Republicans are in yet, though York County District Attorney Dave Sunday's team says he's thinking about it.
● Prince William County, VA Supervisor Chair: Communications specialist Deshundra Jefferson scored an unexpected win in Tuesday's Democratic primary when the first-time candidate beat incumbent Ann Wheeler 52-48. Jefferson would be the first Black person to chair the Board of Supervisors should she beat Republican Supervisor Jeanine Lawson in the Nov. 7 general for a Northern Virginia county that favored Joe Biden 63-36.
Wheeler four years ago became the first Democrat to win this post since the GOP's 1999 victory, and she enjoyed a huge $330,000 to $70,000 fundraising advantage through June 8. Jefferson, though, went after Wheeler's support for a planned data center, with the challenger telling the Washington Post, "I do welcome data centers, but they need to be in the appropriate places. They do not belong near homes or schools, and we're not taxing them appropriately."