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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● UT-02: The number of Republicans campaigning to succeed outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart in the gerrymandered 2nd District dramatically shrank from 13 to just five Saturday after the congressman’s former chief legal counsel and chosen successor, Celeste Maloy, turned in an unexpected victory at that day’s party convention. Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot either by competing at party gatherings or turning in signatures, and Maloy earned her spot in the Sept. 5 special primary by beating the apparent frontrunner, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, in the fifth and final round of voting.
While candidates have the option to try both routes, Maloy and Hughes were both depending on the 740 delegates gathered in a Delta High School to keep their campaigns going. Maloy’s 52-48 upset victory means that Hughes’ campaign is over, and it also marked the end of the line for state party activist Kathleen Anderson; businessman Quin Denning; academic Henry Eyring; state party official Jordan Hess; Leeds Mayor Bill Hoster; and perennial candidate Ty Jensen. Another contender, former congressional staffer Scott Reber, had previously planned to collect petitions in case he lost the convention, but he instead dropped out Saturday and endorsed Maloy.
It still remains to be seen if Maloy will have any intra-party opposition for a 57-40 Trump seat in southwestern Utah that also includes central and western Salt Lake City. The candidates who are trying to collect 7,000 petitions ahead of the July 5 deadline are former state Rep. Becky Edwards; Navy veteran Scott Hatfield; RNC member Bruce Hough; and Some Dude Remy Bubba Kush. (All of them competed at the convention as well aside from Kush, whom party leaders say they disqualified for failing to submit necessary forms and not responding when they tried to get in touch.) The rest of the field, aside from Reber, previously turned in paperwork saying they’d only try to reach the ballot by competing at the convention, so it’s too late for them to switch course and collect signatures.
The petition process can cause headaches even for well-funded candidates, and the tight time frame poses more logistical challenges for this quartet. Edwards, who lost last year’s primary to Sen. Mike Lee 62-30, may again be a tough sell for the base should she qualify, as she was part of a group encouraging fellow Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020. The former state representative said at a recent debate, “I have been extremely disappointed with the Biden administration and regret that.”
Until voting began Saturday, it looked like Hughes was the candidate best-positioned to replace Stewart. The former speaker, who was an early Trump supporter in 2016, took a strong second with convention delegates when he ran for governor in 2020, which was enough to get him on that year’s primary ballot. (The state normally allows a maximum of two candidates to advance out of the convention, but special election law only lets one person do this.) Hughes ended up finishing a distant third against now-Gov. Spencer Cox, but he still appeared to be the best-known candidate running to succeed Stewart.
The congressman, though, had other ideas. Stewart, who will "irrevocably resign" effective the evening of Sept. 15 because of his wife’s health, endorsed Maloy Tuesday. The development helped her stand out ahead of the crowded convention, while Maloy herself also emphasized that she’d be the first member of Congress from southern Utah. Hughes, by contrast, lives outside this constituency, something Maloy unsubtly highlighted at a debate when she declared, “Surely there’s enough homegrown talent that we don’t have to look outside the district to find somebody to represent us.”
Stewart himself had won the GOP nod at a chaotic 2012 convention where, after one little-known contender accused the other candidates of being part of an “Anybody-But-Chris” group determined to make sure he was defeated, Stewart’s supporters shouted, “The prophecy has been fulfilled! The prophecy has been fulfilled!” Saturday’s gathering was a far more staid affair, though. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Bryan Schott writes that there was a small issue over the fact that Stewart’s booth would be located behind the stage, which Maloy’s opponents argued could boost her, but critics were appeased after organizers agreed to place a curtain to block his signs.
Hughes began with a 29-24 edge over Maloy as Hess took third with 20%, but one of the frontrunner’s allies confessed to Schott that “[i]t wasn't near what he needed.” The former speaker still maintained his lead for the following three ballots as trailing candidates were disqualified: Round four concluded with him outpacing Maloy 41-33, with Hess and Eyring getting eliminated after respectively taking 21% and 5%. Hess used his departure speech to endorse Maloy, proclaiming he “supports someone who lives in CD2” and “[m]ore importantly it’s time for southern Utah to have someone in Congress.” His decision may have made all the difference, as Maloy soon beat Hughes by 21 votes.
Democrats will hold their own convention Wednesday, and none of the three candidates―state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, businessman Guy Warner, and perennial candidate Archie Williams―are gathering signatures in case they come up short. The general election will take place Nov. 21.
● FL-Sen: Former Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat who is well into the perennial candidate stage of his career, filed FEC paperwork Thursday for a potential bid against Republican Sen. Rick Scott. Grayson last cycle campaigned for the open 10th Congressional District, but the man who was once one of the most well-known members of the lower chamber struggled to get attention in a primary dominated by gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost and state Sen. Randolph Bracy. Frost went on to beat Bracy 35-25, with Grayson a distant third with 15%.
Scott, for his part, was the subject of a Thursday New York Times report saying he was interested in running for president after all, though the senator quickly responded by telling NBC, "No, I'm running for the Senate." Scott's fellow Republicans were quick to express skepticism that he was serious about a White House bid, and Politico relayed rumors this was simply "a subtle dig" aimed at Gov. Ron DeSantis' prospects. If Scott did defy his doubters and tried to become commander in chief, though, he'd still have the option to do what colleague Marco Rubio did in 2016 and file for reelection after the conclusion of the presidential primaries.
● MT-Sen: Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, reports Politico, is telling his colleagues he plans to seek a rematch with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, something he very much did not deny when the site asked him. The 2018 nominee instead touted a recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that showed him beating the man the NRSC actually wants to be its standard bearer, wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, 64-10 in a hypothetical primary.
Rosendale argued this contest will be determined "by the people across Montana, not Mitch McConnell," adding, "This week, PPP released a poll that reflects Montanans took a major step towards that decision." However, Politico notes that it still remains to be seen when that decision would be made. Sheehy, for his part, also hasn't publicly committed to running, though the National Journal recently reported that he is "expected to jump in around the second quarter FEC filing deadline on July 15."
● MD-05: Longtime Rep. Steny Hoyer has kept everyone guessing about his reelection plans ever since he stepped down as the number-two Democrat in the House following the 2022 elections, but the 84-year-old incumbent indicated Thursday that he wants to stick around a bit longer. "Don't write any obituaries," he told fellow Democrats who gathered for an event honoring him. Hoyer went on to joke, "I was listening to this program going on and said, 'Isn't it a shame Steny died?'"
● TX-31: Army veteran Mack Latimer, who recently stepped down as chair of the Bell County GOP, announced Thursday that he'd challenge veteran Rep. John Carter for renomination. Carter's team quickly confirmed to the Texas Tribune that the congressman was "absolutely" seeking a 12th term in this gerrymandered 59-39 Trump seat based in the northern Austin exurbs.
Carter has been an ardent conservative during his more than 20 years in office, and he joined the majority of his colleagues by voting to overturn Joe Biden's win hours after the Jan. 6 riot. But Latimer, whose county forms about a quarter of this seat, sees things very differently. "Real Texas Conservatives never back down from a fight; they dig their heels in and stand by their convictions," he said in his launch statement, adding, "With over two decades in Congress and little to show for it, our current Congressman's inaction has demonstrated that he is not up for the challenge, nor ready for the fight ahead."
● VA State Senate: Del. Elizabeth Guzman on Saturday conceded the June 20 Democratic primary to state Sen. Jeremy McPike, who narrowly secured renomination in Northern Virginia’s dark blue 29th District. McPike leads 50.2-49.8―a margin of 53 votes―with almost all ballots counted; Stafford County officials will finish their work Monday, but there don’t appear to be enough untabulated ballots to change the outcome. Guzman had the option to ask for a state-funded recount, but she chose not to.
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● Jackson County, MO Prosecutor: Democratic incumbent Jean Peters Baker announced Thursday that she would not seek reelection next year as the top prosecutor for Jackson County, which is home to about 60% of Kansas City and many of its suburbs. Whoever wins the 2024 Democratic primary will be favored to prevail in a county that Joe Biden carried 60-38.
The Kansas City Star writes that Baker, a former state representative who was appointed in 2011 after predecessor Jim Kanatzar assumed a state judgeship, has held this post longer than anyone "in modern history." Her successors won't be able to match her in longevity, though, because of a 2018 county charter amendment limiting prosecutors to three four-year terms.