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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● OH Ballot: A newly released poll from Suffolk University, conducted for USA Today, shows wide support for a ballot measure that would amend the Ohio constitution to broadly guarantee reproductive freedom, including the right to an abortion, with 58% of respondents saying they'd favor such an amendment while just 32% are opposed. Like other abortion-related measures, the amendment garners considerable backing from Republicans, 32% of whom support it.
Abortion rights advocates submitted more than 710,000 signatures earlier this month to place their measure on the November ballot, well above the 413,000 required by law. Local election officials are currently reviewing those signatures, and Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose must announce whether the amendment has qualified on Tuesday.
LaRose has emerged as the most prominent opponent of the amendment, chiefly through his support of a separate amendment voters will weigh in on in just two weeks. That measure, known as Issue 1, would increase the threshold for passage for all future amendments from a simple majority to 60%, a move LaRose has openly stated is designed to thwart backers of abortion rights.
To date, foes of Issue 1 have outspent supporters by a wide margin, but the official group backing the amendment is finally launching its first TV ads of the race. Per cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias, Protect Our Constitution will spend $1 million over the next week on a spot that makes a questionable comparison between the process for amending the federal Constitution and that for the state constitution.
"Our founders developed the best governing document in human history: the U.S. Constitution" begins the narrator. "They knew to carefully set the minimum threshold for changes at 66%. But in Ohio, our constitution allows special interests to amend it with just a 50% vote. That's way too easy."
The two procedures, however, bear little resemblance: The former requires a two-thirds vote (which rounds to 67%, not 66) in both chambers of Congress while the latter needs a majority vote of the state's entire citizenry. In addition, federal amendments must also be ratified by three-quarters of the states. As state law expert Quinn Yeargain observes, no state has ever utilized a system for amending its own constitution similar to the one set out by the federal Constitution.
The ad also elides the fact that just placing an amendment on the ballot is a difficult undertaking in Ohio. As noted above, it takes more than 400,000 valid signatures to do so, which is the fourth-highest threshold in raw numbers among states that permit voters to initiate constitutional amendments, according to Ballotpedia. The spot concludes by urging voters to "set the bar at 60%"—just above the 58% level of support for the reproductive rights amendment that Suffolk found.
Issue 1, however, is faring poorly: A portion of the same Suffolk poll released late last week showed it failing by a 59-26 margin. Backers have not yet released any contrary data.
● MD-Sen: Del. Jon Cardin, who is a nephew of retiring Sen. Ben Cardin, said he might consider entering the already crowded Democratic primary to succeed his uncle if it gets even more crowded, suggesting a "window" could open "if multiple candidates get in the race." The contest already includes Rep. David Trone, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, while a few other names are also lurking as potential contenders. Cardin ran for state attorney general in 2014 but lost the primary 50-30 to state Sen. Brian Frosh.
● NH-Gov: Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte launched her expected bid for New Hampshire's open governorship on Monday, warning that the state is "one election away from becoming Massachusetts." (The Bay State outranks its neighbor to the north in median income, educational attainment, health care, and, as Massholes will gleefully point out, professional sports championships.) She joins a Republican primary that already includes former state Senate President Chuck Morse and is likely to grow further.
Ayotte's political career began in earnest in 2004 when Republican Gov. Craig Benson appointed her state attorney general, a post she retained for years even after Democrat John Lynch defeated Benson that fall. She then ran to succeed Sen. Judd Gregg in 2010, defeating tea partier Ovide Lamontagne by a narrow 38-37 margin in the GOP primary but then crushing Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes 60-37 in the general election.
However, six years later, Ayotte lost an exceptionally close battle against Lynch's successor as governor, Maggie Hassan, who prevailed by just 1,017 votes, or 0.14%. (That slender victory is the third-smallest among sitting U.S. senators, behind just Democrat Maria Cantwell's 2000 win in Washington and Republican Rick Scott's 2018 win in Florida, though Hassan won reelection last year in a 53-44 blowout.) Since then, Ayotte had been repeatedly mentioned as a possible candidate for both Senate and governor, though she waited until this cycle to go for it.
Two prominent Democrats are also in the race, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington. Most others, though, have taken themselves out of the running.
● WV-Gov: State Auditor JB McCuskey dropped out of the crowded GOP primary for West Virginia's open governorship on Monday and announced that he would instead run to succeed one of his now-former opponents, Patrick Morrisey, as attorney general. But the race for that post already features two Republican state senators, Mike Stuart and Ryan Weld, who greeted McCuskey's entry with hostility. Weld charged that McCuskey was "scrambling" because his gubernatorial bid had "failed to gain any traction whatsoever," while Stuart lambasted him as a "moderate" and declared himself to be "the only America First pro-Trump candidate."
● CA-22: Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado will reportedly enter the race for California's 22nd Congressional District, according to unnamed sources who spoke with the San Joaquin Valley Sun's Reid Stone. The news comes as a surprise for multiple reasons. Chief among them, former Assemblyman Rudy Salas announced his own bid a week ago, following his 52-48 loss to GOP Rep. David Valadao last year. Salas had dominated the conversation to such an extent that Hurtado's name had not previously come up as a possibility. Inside Elections even reported last month that one nameless "Salas skeptic" had concluded, "There is no one else."
Evidently, there may be. Last year, Hurtado briefly considered a bid against Republican Rep. Devin Nunes but decided not to when Nunes bailed after redistricting dismantled his district. She then went on to survive her bid for reelection by an ultra-skinny 13 votes. Because California's Senate districts are so enormous—there are only 40 senators compared to 52 members in its U.S. House delegation—Hurtado already represents 96% of the 22nd District, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. It's not clear how she might differentiate herself from Salas, though, as both have cultivated reputations as moderates.
● DE-AL: Eugene Young, the director of Delaware's State Housing Authority, kicked off his campaign for his state's lone congressional district on Monday, becoming the third prominent Democrat to enter the race. Young joins state Sen. Sarah McBride and state Treasurer Colleen Davis in the battle for this seat, which is open because Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester is running for Senate.
Young rose to prominence in 2016 when he ran for mayor of Wilmington, Delaware's largest city, losing the Democratic primary by just 234 votes to businessman Mike Purzycki, who is now in his second term. Gov. John Carney then nominated Young to join his cabinet running the state housing agency in 2021. Young would be the second Black person to represent Delaware in Congress after Blunt Rochester.
● IL-11: Civil rights attorney Qasim Rashid launched a campaign against Democratic Rep. Bill Foster earlier this month, criticizing the incumbent for accepting contributions from corporate PACs, including from pharmaceutical and fossil fuel companies. Rashid originally hails from Illinois but only recently moved back to the state after twice seeking office in Virginia, losing races for the state Senate in 2019 and the U.S. House a year later. In that second contest, Rashid managed to raise $1.6 million despite getting blown out 58-42 by GOP Rep. Rob Wittman in the conservative 1st District.
Foster is a mainstream Democrat who has served the Chicago suburbs in two separate stints: He first won the historically conservative 14th District in a 2008 special election after House Speaker Denny Hastert resigned but lost to Republican Randy Hultgren in the 2010 GOP wave. Foster quickly returned to Congress, however, by easily defeating Rep. Judy Biggert after Democrats redrew the 11th District to make it much bluer. He's generally enjoyed comfortable reelections ever since, though in 2020, he turned aside another primary challenge from the left from Will County Board member Rachel Ventura by a 59-41 margin, a fairly modest showing for an incumbent.
● MD-06: Former Chevy Chase Vice Mayor Joel Rubin, who previously served in the State Department under Obama, has joined the busy Democratic primary for Maryland's open 6th Congressional District. The town Rubin serves, however, is a suburb on the Washington, D.C., border that is both geographically and culturally distant from the House seat he'd like to represent. Rubin previously ran for the old 8th District in 2016 but took just 1% in what was another crowded Democratic primary for an open seat.
Meanwhile, it appears that former Republican Del. Dan Cox, who lost last year's contest for governor in a 66-34 blowout, won't be joining the race. Earlier this month, Cox disavowed any knowledge of paperwork that had been filed with the FEC to create a campaign committee under his name, but the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger has now obtained text messages and emails indicating that Cox's own consultant, Rory McShane, had in fact acted on his behalf. The day after the FEC filing was reported, though, McShane texted the campaign's accountant to say, "Need you to terminate Dan Cox's committee, he's decided he's not running." Cox still has yet to comment himself, though.
● NY-04: News 12 Westchester's Tara Rosenblum reports that Democratic state Sen. Kevin Thomas "has decided to run" against freshman GOP Rep. Anthony D'Esposito according to unnamed sources, but there's still no direct word from the would-be candidate. Last week, Thomas filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible bid. Thomas currently represents more than a third of the 4th Congressional District, according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections, though the House map could get redrawn due to a pending lawsuit.
● OH-09: Former state Rep. Craig Riedel, who is once again hoping to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, has earned an endorsement from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Riedel, who also has the backing of far-right Rep. Jim Jordan, raised $538,000 in the second quarter of the year, more than 10 times as much as any of his opponents in the GOP primary. However, Riedel was also the top Republican fundraiser when he sought this seat last year yet still lost the primary in an upset to Qanon supporter J.R. Majewski.
● RI-01: Two Democrats are going on the airwaves ahead of the Sept. 19 special election primary in Rhode Island's vacant 1st Congressional District. Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos' first ad focuses on her emigration from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. and her humble upbringing before the candidate herself speaks. "The American dream is real," Matos says, "but we have to work hard to protect it from MAGA Republicans who would destroy everything we value." WPRI's Ted Nesi says that Matos has reserved $280,000 in TV time through Labor Day, which includes $100,000 for the next two weeks.
Former Biden administration official Gabe Amo is also going up on television with his first ad. The spot features similar themes, with Amo calling himself a "poor kid from Pawtucket" who made it to the White House and "helped communities shattered by senseless gun violence, stood up to MAGA Republicans to protect Medicare and Social Security, and fought for reproductive freedom." Amo has booked $215,000 for TV ads through early September, per Nesi.
This post has been updated to include a link to Gabe Amo’s first television ad. This post has also been corrected to accurately state Rory McShane’s role in Dan Cox’s political operations.