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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● MT-Sen: Republican leaders got the recruit they wanted for Montana's Senate race on Tuesday when Navy SEAL veteran Tim Sheehy, an aerospace company CEO who reportedly plans to self-fund, announced that he'd seek to take on Democratic incumbent Jon Tester. Sheehy may need to use some of his wealth to win a primary first, though, as Politico reported just days ago that Rep. Matt Rosendale has been telling his colleagues he plans to run as well.
Rosendale, who lost the 2018 contest to Tester 50-47, responded to Tuesday's news by tweeting, "Congratulations to Mitch McConnell and the party bosses on getting their chosen candidate. Now Washington has two candidates - Tim Sheehy and Jon Tester - who will protect the DC cartel." The congressman, who led Sheehy 64-10 in a recent in-house survey conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, is an ally of the far-right Club for Growth, and the well-funded organization in February pledged to support him if he ran for Senate again. The previous month, Rosendale had refused to support Kevin McCarthy on any of the 15 ballots needed to elect a new House speaker, a move the Club expressed appreciation for.
But party leaders don't have fond memories of Rosendale's failed bid to unseat Tester and have been eager for an alternative. NRSC chair Steve Daines celebrated Sheehy's launch by declaring, "I could not be happier that he has decided to enter," though Montana's junior senator stopped short of officially endorsing the fledgling candidate.
While GOP strategists have been talking up Sheehy for months, several stories have already previewed some of the attacks Tester's side may level at him―including a few liabilities similar to those that helped sink Rosendale's 2018 effort. To begin with, HuffPost's Chris D'Angelo noted late last month that Sheehy is a Minnesota native who only moved to the state in 2014. Tester used every chance he got during his last campaign to remind voters that Rosendale was a Maryland native who'd only relocated 16 years prior. The state Democratic Party crowed, "Jon Tester has farm equipment that's been in Montana longer than Tim Sheehy" in response to his kickoff.
D'Angelo's report also highlighted the fact that Sheehy has variously listed his occupation as "cowboy" or "rancher" on donation forms yet owns "thousands of acres of land and multimillion-dollar properties on Flathead Lake and in the lavish resort community of Big Sky." Rosendale likewise described himself as a "rancher," but Talking Points Memo reported during his first Senate bid that he didn't own any cattle or actually ranch his property. Tester, who is a third-generation farmer who still works his land, blasted Rosendale as a phony, while a Democratic group dubbed the Republican "all hat, no cattle."
Those aren't the only ways that Sheehy, contrary to Axios' characterization of him in March, may not be recruit "straight out of central casting." That item described him as an appealing candidate for Republicans in part because he "doesn't have a history of controversial statements or unpopular votes," but that was a month before he responded to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that, at least temporarily, protected access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
Sheehy told a conservative radio host, "It's really frustrating how, you know, we have one party in this country that seems to be bent on murdering our unborn children and taking that, taking that tack, you know, in a very militant way." Rosendale, HuffPost noted, has a similar stance: He's not only cosponsored a bill to ban abortion but has also tried to outlaw birth control.
Those anti-choice positions could be a liability for either Republican in a general election, even in a state that Donald Trump took 57-41. Last fall, a referendum that would have required doctors to take extraordinary measures "to preserve the life of a born-alive infant"—even those with no chance of living—or face up to 20 years in prison failed 53-47. The Democratic firm Civiqs also finds that 52% of the state's voters agree abortion should be legal in all or most cases while 44% believe the opposite; a separate February survey from the progressive pollster Middle Fork Strategies showed an even wider divide, with a strong 60-37 majority saying the procedure should remain legal.
Sheehy was also the subject of a Daily Beast story earlier this month that detailed a 2019 incident in which the small plane he was in crashed into a Florida home and injured a 17-year-old on the ground named Carmelle Ngalamulume. (Click the link for some astonishing photos.) Sheehy, says reporter Ursula Perano, was taking flight lessons when the instructor, James Wagner, lost control of the craft; Wagner died in the accident, while Sheehy suffered only minor injuries.
Federal authorities blamed the incident on Wagner's decisions and "a total loss of left engine power for reasons that could not be determined," but Ngalamulume's family has sued Sheehy, arguing that he was responsible for "carelessly and negligently flying, inspecting, maintaining and/or operating" the aircraft. An unnamed person close to the NRSC insisted to Perano, "This lawsuit does not raise any concerns whatsoever with regard to the NRSC's support for Tim Sheehy."
● Bronx & Queens, NY District Attorneys: Tuesday’s Democratic primaries ended in landslide wins for the district attorneys seeking reelection in dark blue boroughs. The Bronx’s Darcel Clark defeated civil rights attorney Tess Cohen, who was running to her left, 73-27. Queens’ Melinda Katz likewise scored a 71-14 victory over former local judge George Grasso, who positioned himself to her right; another 14% went to Devian Daniels, a defense attorney who doesn’t appear to have waged an organized campaign.
● Redistricting: In a landmark decision Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a radical legal theory advanced by North Carolina Republicans that sought to remove limits set by state constitutions on state legislatures when lawmakers enact bills and set policies governing federal elections. Had the court's right-wing supermajority accepted this argument, it would have enabled a new wave of GOP congressional gerrymandering and voter suppression measures in key states ahead of the 2024 elections.
Debating the meaning of the word "legislature." The Constitution says that each state's legislature has the power to set federal election laws unless Congress overrides them. Republicans claimed this means only the literal legislature, but a mountain of historical evidence showed that the framers meant all state institutions with the power to shape laws, including state courts.
Making legislatures supreme above their own state constitutions. Republicans wanted to bar state courts like North Carolina's from striking down gerrymandered maps under their state constitutions. But taken to its logical extreme, this legal theory could have also removed governors' veto power and voters' ability to use ballot initiatives to enact fairer election laws.
A potential "time bomb" for future election disputes remains. Despite rejecting the GOP's claims, the court reserved the power to intervene in unspecified future instances should it conclude that a state court has deviated too far from established state law. Experts, however, are divided on just how much of a new threat this possibility poses.
Read more about how this case would have upended the very foundation of our democracy and turbocharged Republican efforts to undermine the integrity of the 2024 elections.
● NE-Sen-B: A spokesperson for wealthy agribusinessman Charles Herbster tells the Nebraska Examiner that his boss is still considering waging a GOP primary bid against the appointed incumbent, Sen. Pete Ricketts. Herbster last year lost a close and ugly 2022 nomination contest to replace Ricketts as governor to Jim Pillen, who benefited from heavy spending by the outgoing chief executive.
● TX-Sen: Democratic state Rep. Carl Sherman on Tuesday did not rule out a campaign against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, writing instead, "[O]ur priority must remain putting the best candidate forward to elect a U.S. Senator that ALL Texans can be proud of … I have nothing to announce at this time." The only notable Democrat who has entered the race so far is Rep. Colin Allred, who like Sherman would be the state's first Black senator.
● AZ-06: EMILY's List has backed 2022 Democratic nominee Kirsten Engel as she seeks a rematch against freshman Republican incumbent Juan Ciscomani. Engel's only notable intra-party foe so far is businessman Jack O'Donnell, a former Trump casino executive who has spent decades denouncing his former boss.
● CA-12: Alameda Vice Mayor Tony Daysog declared Sunday that he'd compete in the top-two primary to replace his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Barbara Lee, an announcement that comes more than three months after he filed with the FEC. Daysog, who used to maintain a website called moderatedemocrats.com, waged a 2014 campaign under the old map to succeed retiring incumbent George Miller in the 11th District, but he took a mere 3% against now-Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.
● MD-06: Former GOP Del. Neil Parrott has formed an exploratory committee for what would be a third bid for the seat that his old foe, Democratic Rep. David Trone, is giving up to run for the Senate. Parrott, who says he's "talking and praying about whether to run" again, lost the 2022 campaign 55-45.
● TX-32: VoteVets has backed Brian Williams, a trauma surgeon who previously served in the Air Force, in the busy Democratic primary to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred.
● OH Ballot: The campaign to defeat the Republican-backed constitutional amendment to require 60% voter approval to pass future amendments is up with the first TV ad of the Aug. 8 special election, and cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias says it's part of a weeklong $1.1 million TV and radio buy.
The inaugural spot dramatically depicts a pair of scissors embossed with the words "Issue 1" slicing apart the state constitution as the narrator warns it would "end majority rule in Ohio, undermining the sacred principle of one person, one vote." (Not coincidentally, the commercial is being aired by a group called One Person One Vote.) The ad continues by declaring that a win for Issue 1 would give "corrupt politicians and special interests more control." Tobias notes that opponents of a comparable 2022 proposal in Arkansas deployed similar messaging in their winning effort, though those ads showed arson consuming the state's governing document.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Nashville, TN Mayor: The local Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed former economic development chief Matt Wiltshire ahead of the packed Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary.
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● Allegheny County, PA District Attorney: Incumbent Stephen Zappala on Monday officially accepted the Republican nomination, which he won through write-in votes last month even as he was losing the Democratic primary 56-44 to county Chief Public Defender Matt Dugan. Zappala, who has long had a terrible relationship with criminal justice reformers, secured over 9,700 write-in votes in a contest where no Republicans were on the ballot, which was far more than the 500 he needed.
Dugan, who will resign his post July 7 to focus on the November general election, told WESA in response, "We're not at all surprised by this. A lot of their messaging in the primary involved Republican talking points." Joe Biden carried this populous county, which is home to Pittsburgh and several nearby communities, 59-39, but Zappala's allies are hoping the 25-year Democratic incumbent can win enough crossover support to prevail this time.
● Toronto, Canada: On Monday, Toronto held a special election to replace former conservative Mayor John Tory after he had resigned over a scandal, and progressive Olivia Chow won 37-32 in a crowded race against a centrist rival who was largely supported by conservatives. Chow's victory will make her Toronto's first mayor of color, and it ends 13 years of conservative rule in this city of 2.8 million people, which is Canada's largest and equivalent in size to Chicago.