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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● AL Redistricting: Thursday's stunning Supreme Court decision that will require Alabama to redraw its congressional map will not only allow Black voters to elect their candidate of choice in a second district, it's likely to have a far-reaching impact on similar cases across the country. As a result, we may soon see Louisiana and Georgia, and possibly even other states such as Texas, reconfigure their maps to remedy violations of the Voting Rights Act. Such changes would both empower voters of color and potentially swing enough seats toward Democrats to affect the balance of power in the closely divided House of Representatives.
And we already have a good sense of what these new districts might look like. In order to prove their claims under the relevant provision of the VRA (known as Section 2), plaintiffs in Alabama and elsewhere must draw illustrative maps demonstrating that the minority group in question is both large enough and sufficiently geographically compact such that its members can form a majority in a reasonably drawn district.
The Alabama challengers, a group of voters backed by the state NAACP, hired two experts to do just that. Together, they drew 11 hypothetical maps of the state's seven congressional districts showing that a second Black-majority district could easily be crafted. Four of those maps, created by Tufts professor Moon Duchin, are shown in this illustration. (You can also find interactive versions here.)
The plaintiffs' general approach would decouple the cities of Birmingham and Montgomery, two locales with large Black populations that Republicans deliberately merged into the current 7th District in order to reduce Black voting strength elsewhere—the very type of discrimination that the VRA was designed to thwart. At the same time, Republicans carved up the Black Belt, a rural region home to many African Americans, between three districts, using a portion of it to link Birmingham and Montgomery.
Instead, the plaintiffs' maps have Birmingham and Montgomery each anchor their own districts while dividing the Black Belt between the two. (In the maps above, the Birmingham district is shown in gray and retains the number 7, while the Montgomery district is in green and would be numbered the 2nd.) In every version, both would be home to a Black majority, and both would very likely elect Black voters' preferred candidates to Congress—almost certainly Black Democrats, like the current representative for the 7th District, Terri Sewell.
It will still be some time before we have a new map officially in place, though, and we can't predict its precise contours, though there’s a good chance it will resemble one of the plaintiffs' offerings. We also can’t say for sure who will even get to draw it. Last year, when the three-judge district court panel that heard the Alabama case struck down the GOP's map, it gave lawmakers the opportunity to come up with a new one. But perhaps expecting the Supreme Court would step in, Republicans refused to take action, prompting the court to hire outside experts to do the job.
They never got the chance, since the Supreme Court put the case on pause later that same day, just before the lower court's deadline for legislators to submit a new map. While the majority didn't issue a written opinion, a concurrence by Brett Kavanaugh argued that the Alabama ruling could not be implemented because it had been issued too close to the election. (That preliminary decision was one reason among many why the Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday came as such a shock, especially since Kavanaugh supported it.)
It's not clear now whether the district court will give Republicans a second shot, or whether they'll turn back to their experts. There's a further wrinkle as well: While Supreme Court jurisprudence requires anyone bringing a Section 2 claim to show they could draw a district where the affected minority constitutes a majority of voters, any actual remedial map doesn't have to feature a strict majority. It's enough, rather, that members of this minority can still elect the candidate they prefer, which in practice means being able to count on "crossover" support from white voters.
In Alabama, though, there's precious little crossover voting to be found, as white voters almost always back Republicans while African Americans overwhelmingly support Democrats. The district court recognized this issue, citing "the ample evidence of intensely racially polarized voting" presented to it. But the judges still held out the possibility that the Black population could fall slightly under the 50% mark, ruling that "any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it." That will give mapmakers some added flexibility.
Ultimately, the final product will dramatically reshape Alabama's political landscape, ensuring that the number of Black representatives it sends to Congress reflects the proportion of Black people who live in the state. (At 27%, that's almost exactly two-sevenths.) It will also alter its partisan balance, turning a delegation that's included six Republicans and just one Democrat since the 2010 elections into one with a 5-2 split.
And beyond Alabama's borders, similar litigation could bring about similar transformations that could affect several more districts—enough, potentially, to erase the GOP's five-seat advantage in the House.
● OH-Sen: Leadership for Ohio Fund, a super PAC supporting Secretary of State Frank LaRose's likely Senate campaign, has unveiled an internal from Causeway Solutions that shows him beating state Sen. Matt Dolan 24-11 in the Republican primary, with wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno at 6%. The Louisiana-based pollster, which shares its name with a pair of 24-mile bridges crossing Lake Pontchartrain, is a GOP firm that we've only encountered a handful of times over the years, though it has the honor of releasing the first survey we've seen of this contest.
● WI-Sen: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling finds former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who was a far-right favorite early in the Trump era, ahead 40-20 in a hypothetical Republican primary against the man the NRSC actually wants to run, Rep. Mike Gallagher; another 10% of the sample favors Rep. Tom Tiffany, with 3% opting for wealthy businessman Eric Hovde. PPP, which did not identify a client for this survey, also has Clarke beating Gallagher 45-26 in a head-to-head contest.
No notable Republicans have announced bids against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin yet. A spokesperson for Clarke didn't rule out a possible Senate campaign in March, but we haven't heard anything new in the ensuing three months. Tiffany, meanwhile, has said that, while he plans to decide this summer, he'd prefer it if Gallagher runs instead.
● KY-Gov: Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear is up with two more positive commercials touting his work on tornado recovery and economic development as his side continues to dominate the airwaves at this early point in the general election. The GOP firm Medium Buying reported Tuesday that the governor and his allies have spent $2.1 million on TV and radio compared to $380,000 from the RGA. GOP foe Daniel Cameron also has been off the air since his primary win three weeks ago.
● MD-06: Montgomery County Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles tells Maryland Matters she's considering joining the Democratic primary for this open seat, and the story says she'll make her decision "over the next several weeks." Sayles, who would be the first Black woman to represent this constituency, last year won one of the four at-large seats in a county that forms about a third of this district.
● TX-32: Democratic state Rep. Rhetta Andrews Bowers unexpectedly announced Thursday that she'd seek reelection to the legislature despite sounding ready to run to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred days ago, though she may have given herself a small opening to change her mind. The Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers writes, "When asked if she still planned to run in the Democratic primary to replace Allred, Bowers texted, 'Not at this time.'" Texas' candidate filing deadline, which is always one of the earliest in the nation, is in mid-December.
● UT-02 & Salt Lake City, UT Mayor: Republican Rep. Chris Stewart on Wednesday officially informed Gov. Spencer Cox that he would "irrevocably resign" effective the evening of Sept. 15. Later that same day, Cox announced that he would delay the state's regularly scheduled municipal elections so that a special election for Stewart's 2nd Congressional District can be held this year rather than next.
Cox's proclamation sets the primary for Sept. 5―a full 10 days before Stewart is to leave office―and the general election for Nov. 21. The primaries and general elections for municipal races will also take place on those same days, several weeks later than the respective Aug. 15 and Nov. 7 dates they'd originally been set for.
The largest contest impacted by the change is the nonpartisan race for mayor of Salt Lake City, where Democratic incumbent Erin Mendenhall's main foe is former Mayor Rocky Anderson of the left-wing Justice Party. (About two-thirds of the city is located in the 2nd District, with the balance in the 1st.) All of these dates are contingent on the approval of the GOP-dominated legislature in a special session next Wednesday, but there's no indication that Cox's plan won't pass.
Anyone who wants to run to replace Stewart needs to file by June 14, though not everyone who submits their name might end up on the ballot. Contenders have two routes to compete in the primary. The first option is to turn in 7,000 valid signatures by July 5, an expensive and time-consuming task that often causes headaches even for well-funded candidates. The other alternative is to win their party's convention, an event that also must take place by July 5. Under the state's special election law, though, only one person can advance out of the convention instead of the maximum of two that are normally allowed.
All of this means that, while numerous Republicans may file to campaign for this gerrymandered 57-40 Trump seat, only a few might still be in the running after Independence Day. In the 2017 special election to succeed Republican Jason Chaffetz in the old 3rd District, for instance, former state Rep. Chris Herrod's convention victory ended the campaigns of nine different rivals.
Herrod ultimately only faced two opponents in the primary, each of whom had gathered signatures: Provo Mayor John Curtis, who also competed at the convention, and consultant Tanner Ainge, who skipped the gathering. Herrod's dominant showing among GOP delegates ultimately didn't matter, though: He lost the primary 43-33 to Curtis, who still holds the seat today.
Even before Cox had set the schedule for the special, a few Republicans had already started to prepare bids. Former state Rep. Becky Edwards, who badly lost the 2022 Senate primary to incumbent Mike Lee, set up a fundraising committee with the FEC earlier this week, and former state House Speaker Greg Hughes followed suit Thursday. RNC committeeman Bruce Hough has also submitted paperwork, while state party official Jordan Hess tells KSLN he "intends to file."
P.S. Cox was able to schedule the special election for a not-yet vacant seat thanks to a state law that permits him to do so if a member of the House "submits an irrevocable letter of resignation." Oklahoma has a similar provision on the books, which allowed state officials to hold a 2022 special election for the final four years of GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe's term even though his own resignation wasn't set to take effect until early January of this year.
Attorney Stephen Jones challenged the Oklahoma law allowing a special to be scheduled prior to an actual vacancy, arguing that there was nothing to prevent Inhofe from backtracking, but a federal court ultimately rejected his claims. The judge who heard the matter acknowledged that it was possible for an Oklahoma senator to rescind a supposedly "irrevocable" letter of resignation, noting that "it may well be that there is no other authority which might limit a senator's ability to revoke an 'irrevocable' resignation" aside from the Senate itself.
But even though such a revocation could nullify an entire special election, the court dismissed such fears, concluding that "the possibility that the statutory process might be abused in certain circumstances does not make it unconstitutional." Jones appealed after the general election, which saw Rep. Markwayne Mullin hold the seat for the GOP, but he was again rejected.
● VA State Senate: Former Del. Lashrecse Aird this week earned endorsements from the two most prominent Democrats in the state, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, for her June 20 primary challenge against conservative state Sen. Joe Morrissey. Also in her corner is Rep. Jennifer McClellan, whose 4th Congressional District covers all of the 13th State Senate District that Aird and Morrissey are competing for, as well as Reps. Bobby Scott and Abigail Spanberger. McClellan herself defeated the scandal-ridden Morrissey 85-14 in December's special party-run "firehouse primary" for Congress.