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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● NY-22: Utica University history professor Clemmie Harris on Friday joined the Democratic primary to face freshman Rep. Brandon Williams in New York's 22nd Congressional District, an upstate constituency that's one of the bluest seats in the country held by a Republican. The only other declared candidate is Dewitt Town Councilor Sarah Klee Hood, but Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports that state Sen. John Mannion has been assembling a team for his own potential bid.
Harris, a former Army drill sergeant and state trooper, would be the first Black person to represent Syracuse in the House. He served as a top aide to then-Gov. David Patterson before he began his career in academia, but he was linked to a scandal involving a colleague named David Johnson that helped end the already unpopular governor's hopes of winning a full term in 2010. The previous year, Johnson allegedly tried to choke his then-girlfriend Sherr-Una Booker; after she fled to an unnamed friend's apartment, he quickly contacted Harris. Harris, according to a subsequent report, tried to get that friend to convince Booker not to press charges in order to avoid embarrassing Patterson.
After reports broke detailing efforts by Paterson and his administration to keep the alleged assault out of the public eye―efforts Booker said included harassment by the State Police―the governor quickly ended his reelection campaign. A state investigation ultimately concluded that Patterson and his team, including Harris, had acted inappropriately but hadn't broken the law. "Even if Harris believed the incident was not more than a serious argument," former Chief Judge Judith Kaye wrote, "Harris's conduct – seeking to steer a domestic violence complainant away from the protections available to her by law – was inappropriate, especially for a public official with a law enforcement background as a former member of the State Police."
Harris, who is the founding head of Utica University's Africana Studies program, used his kickoff video to emphasize his work in the Patterson administration during the challenging years of the Great Recession and called himself "one of the nicest former drill sergeants you'll ever meet." When syracuse.com asked him last month about the investigation as he was preparing to launch his campaign, he insisted, "I fundamentally believe my actions were not inappropriate."
Mannion, meanwhile, was elected to the legislature on his second try in 2020, a win that made him the first Democrat to represent this area in the state Senate in 50 years. He faced another tough task during the difficult 2022 cycle but ultimately won reelection by just 10 votes.
It may be some time before Mannion makes up his mind, though, as Inside Elections writes that he likely won't decide until he knows whether or not the state's highest court will order a new congressional map, a possibility we discussed previously. (Inside Elections' report includes a detailed look at dozens of other House races, along with information about many potential candidates. We definitely recommend a read.)
● MD-Sen: Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, who previously said he was "taking the month of May" to weigh a possible bid for Maryland's open Senate seat, told CNN over the weekend that he still had not made up his mind but hopes to do so "before the fourth of July." A trio of high-profile Democrats are already seeking the nomination: Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Rep. David Trone, and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando.
● UT-Sen: The Utah State Fraternal Order of Police, which is the largest police union in the state, has endorsed Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs' primary bid against GOP incumbent Mitt Romney. Stags is so far the only notable candidate who has launched a challenge to the senator, who is continuing to keep everyone guessing about his reelection plans.
● LA-Gov: A super PAC supporting Attorney General Jeff Landry has launched a negative advertising blitz hitting Stephen Waguespack, an offensive that comes days after Waguespack's allies made Landry their target in the first attack ads of the race. While Waguespack, a former head of the local Chamber of Commerce, took all of 2% of the vote in the October all-party primary in an April internal poll for the pro-Landry Club for Growth, this new offensive indicates that some of the attorney general's backers see the well-funded Waguespack as a threat.
The opening spot from Protect Louisiana's Children informs viewers that Waguespack (who, like Landry, is a Republican) once served as chief of staff to former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time GOP rising star who left office in 2016 with disastrous approval numbers after presiding over years of massive budget cuts. "Under Waguespack, 13,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared," declares the narrator. "Essential state programs faced severe cuts. And one in five Louisianans was left in poverty." The spot, though, also makes sure to link Waguespack to Democrats by accusing him of backing the Biden administration's infrastructure bill.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise last week responded to the opening anti-Landry salvo by calling for Waguespack to "denounce" the message and warning that "Republicans attacking other Republicans is the only way we can lose this November's election," but his team offered up a very different reaction to Protect Louisiana's Children's efforts.
“Scalise made it clear that anyone who takes the first negative shot at another Republican should expect ‘defensive retaliation’ in response and should not be surprised when the reaction they provoked happens,” the head of the congressman’s political efforts told The Advocate. “Most importantly, Scalise has maintained that this kind of infighting in an open primary is what cost Republicans the governor's mansion in the 2015 and 2019 elections.”
● NH-Gov: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu announced on Monday that he would not wage a longshot bid for the White House, but he's going to keep us guessing as to whether he'll seek a record fifth two-year term as New Hampshire's chief executive next year.
In a Washington Post op-ed that accompanied a simultaneous interview on CNN, Sununu wrote, "I believe I can have more influence on the future of the Republican Party and the 2024 nominating process not as a candidate but as the governor of the first-in-the-nation primary state," though he did not specify whether he hopes to remain governor past next year. Later that same day, he would only say to WMUR's Adam Sexton that another gubernatorial bid was still "on the table"—the same stance he's taken all year.
Last month, Sununu told Puck's Tara Palmeri there was, in her words, "a 50 percent chance" that he'd run for reelection—but in the same interview, he also said there was a "61 percent chance" (his phrasing) he'd run for president, so any bookies making odds will want to keep both those claims in mind.
The betting pool among New Hampshire Democrats, at least, is currently pointing to a Sununu retirement. Just last week, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington became the first prominent Democrat to announce a bid of her own, and another major name, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, has been exploring a bid and will reportedly join the race soon. While it's certainly possible that Warmington and Craig are prepared to take on Sununu, they'd have a considerably easier time of it if the popular incumbent isn't on the ballot, so there's a good chance they're planning on that eventuality.
● AZ-03: Sen. Mark Kelly has endorsed former state Sen. Raquel Terán in the Democratic primary for Arizona's open 3rd Congressional District, a safely blue seat centered on Phoenix. 12News reporter Brahm Resnik notes that Terán chaired the state Democratic Party during Kelly's successful reelection bid last year, while Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, an Arizona-based reporter for the Washington Post, describes Terán as a "a near-constant presence for Kelly" in the Phoenix area during both of his Senate campaigns. Kelly's involvement marks the first major endorsement in the race, and given his unusual stature, he could help Terán stand out in what has become a crowded field of hopefuls looking to succeed Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is seeking to join Kelly in the Senate.
● CO-08: The Colorado Sun's Jesse Paul surveys the many Republicans who could take on freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo in this 51-46 Biden constituency, a list that includes two defeated candidates from last cycle.
State Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, who lost to Caraveo 48.4-47.7 says she's interested in another try and plans to decide by July 4. Paul also confirms Politico's recent report saying that Joe O'Dea, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year, is thinking about entering this race, though he writes that O'Dea "hasn't taken any steps toward launching a campaign."
Bennet, according to data calculated by Daily Kos Elections, beat O'Dea 50-46 in the 8th, but the Republican didn't actually get to cast a vote for himself in the district. That's because the Sun says he lives in Democrat Jason Crow's 6th District, which doesn't even border Caraveo's constituency.
Weld County Commissioner Scott James, meanwhile, acknowledged he was also thinking about entering the GOP primary, a development that came days after Inside Elections first reported that a James adviser said he was thinking about running. Finally, state Rep. Gabe Evans, Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno, and former state Rep. Dan Woog each expressed interest as well.
● RI-01: East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva on Monday said he wouldn't compete in the extremely packed September Democratic primary for the special election for Rhode Island's vacant 1st Congressional District.
● TX-32: The Dallas News' Gromer Jeffers reports that two state representatives, Rhetta Andrews Bowers and Julie Johnson, are each "preparing to launch campaigns" to succeed fellow Democrat Colin Allred in the safely blue 32nd District in northern Dallas. Bowers sounds all but certain to get in, saying, "It's an honor to be thought of, and even more an honor to have so much early support, even before I announce." Johnson, for her part, told the paper she is still "discussing the race" but "expect[s] to make an announcement in the coming days."
The field already includes trauma surgeon Brian H. Williams and civil rights attorney Justin Moore, but more could join before too long. Jeffers relays that Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua is considering and adds that some unnamed Democrats are hoping to recruit Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia; there's no word from either elected official about their interest, though. Jeffers also reports that Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and state Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos are "not interested" in the race, though neither are directly quoted on the matter.