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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● IN-Gov: Former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers announced Thursday that he was joining the race to succeed his old boss and fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb, and the first-time candidate's presence will likely make what's already a pricey May primary even more expensive. And while Sen. Mike Braun had long looked like the favorite to win the nomination, Chambers' decision to run could also be a sign that the senator's status is not secure.
Chambers spent nearly four decades running the Buckingham Companies, a prominent Indianapolis-based commercial real estate firm that he founded, before becoming both state commerce secretary and head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation in 2021. Howey Politics wrote last month that Chambers, who at the time was about to step down from Holcomb's cabinet, would "likely" self-fund a campaign, though it's not clear how much money he's willing and able to throw down.
Some of the cash that Chambers long ago parted ways with, though, could give him trouble as he tries to win over conservatives. Journalist Adam Wren reported in March that Chambers has donated a total of $20,000 to state and federal Democrats, including a committee to support Barack Obama's 2008 presidential bid and to then-Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2015. (Braun unseated Donnelly three years later.) His most recent contribution to a Democrat came in 2020, when he gave $250 to aid a state lawmaker.
Wren also noted at the time that some of Buckingham's priorities could further leave Chambers vulnerable to attack on his right flank. "[W]e aim to fully integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices that are aligned with our business strategy and stakeholder interests," according to a company statement. "Our ESG strategy is informed by industry best practices and intended to reduce our carbon footprint, preserve communities, increase value, and reduce risk."
Needless to say, these are not popular positions in the GOP: Earlier this year, Braun enlisted his entire caucus in support of a resolution bashing the Biden administration over these corporate governance practices. The senator, however, might be the wrong person to make Chambers' past donations an issue: CNN reported in 2018 that Braun had a long history of voting in Democratic primaries that continued through 2008, something he claims he did because he lived in a blue county and wanted to have a say in local politics.
The senator announced in December that he'd run for governor rather than seek a second term, and he released an internal poll around that time showing him beating Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch in a 47-10 landslide, with self-funding businessman Eric Doden at 5%. (Only Doden had announced when that survey was conducted, while Braun and Crouch entered a short time later.) No one, though, has released any reliable numbers since then of what's now a much more crowded race.
The field grew last month when former Attorney General Curtis Hill, a one-time rising star who lost renomination in 2020 after multiple women accused him of sexual assault, launched a comeback effort. Hill echoed Donald Trump's own protestations of innocence by claiming to the Indiana Capitol Chronicle that, as soon as he was elected in 2016, "there was a target because I was a proven, conservative leader but also someone that would stand up to the status quo." Doden, who also ran the state's Economic Development Corporation under then-Gov. Mike Pence, meanwhile beat everyone else to TV this month when he launched a $2 million media buy.
Whoever wins the GOP nod will likely face former state education superintendent Jennifer McCormick, a former Republican who so far has the Democratic primary to herself. McCormick, who like Crouch would be the first woman to lead the state, has gone after her old party for pushing an ultra-conservative agenda, including a near-total abortion ban, while arguing that schools and the economy have suffered. Democrats will face a tough task next year, though, as they last won Indiana's governorship in 2000, when incumbent Frank O'Bannon secured reelection.
● LA-Gov: Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry this week earned the support of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, which backed termed-out Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards during both of his successful bids. In Louisiana, sheriffs tend to be very influential figures: When he turned down a gubernatorial bid, the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee famously asked, "Why would I want to be governor when I can be king?"
● MO-Gov: While state Sen. Bill Eigel's site is still emboldened with the words "exploratory," the Republican hardliner has otherwise abandoned the pretense that he's anything other than a declared candidate to replace termed-out incumbent Mike Parson.
"When I'm the governor of this state, I'm going to bring the Republican Party together by calling on Republicans to do Republican things," Eigel said Thursday at the Missouri State Fair as he bashed his nominal boss, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden. Eigel earlier in the month also responded in the affirmative when This Week in Missouri Politics host Scott Faughn said, "You're running against [Secretary of State] Jay Ashcroft" for the GOP nod. (Faughn presented this as a basic statement of fact rather than as a question.)
Eigel, who formed his exploratory committee last year, pissed off Rowden and plenty of other colleagues in May as they were trying to use the final hours of the legislative session to place an amendment on the ballot that aimed to thwart citizen-backed initiatives to roll back the state's near-total ban on abortion. Eigel was one of the far-right renegades who instead used that precious time to hold up legislative business in order to promote their own pet issues, and he memorably used his filibuster to protest that the chamber refused to take up his bill to cut property taxes.
"Perhaps the Darth Vader moment we face today is for this chamber because we have spent an entire session, with few exceptions, passing bills that will not change the trajectory of this state," Eigel told the floor as he accused his fellow senators of having failed like Anakin Skywalker did when he turned to the Dark Side. "You've seen the movie, right? Episode III." ("[W]e're not Darth Vader," protested Senate Majority Leader Cindy O'Laughlin.) But even the Force is insignificant next to the power of the clock: The session ended with the Senate failing to advance several priorities, including the plan to require amendments earn the support of at least 57% of voters.
Eigel, characteristically, is continuing to argue that Rowden is the one at fault for the failure of what conservatives have dubbed "initiative petition reform." He responded last week to the defeat of Issue 1 in Ohio, which would have required a 60% supermajority to approve future amendments, by tweeting out a St. Louis Post Dispatch article where Rowden expressed pessimism that Missouri voters would sign off on a similar proposal. "@calebrowden says NO to IP reform in MO," Eigel wrote, adding that "Senate leadership" was why it failed to move forward in his state. "IP reform should be the first thing we vote on this coming session."
Eigel is competing against Ashcroft and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe in the primary to lead this dark red state, and the few polls we've seen have shown the legislator running a distant third. The most recent numbers came from the GOP firm Remington Research's early July survey for the political tip-sheet Missouri Scout: They showed Ashcroft beating Kehoe 34-14, with Eigel at just 4%.
Eigel and his PAC also finished June behind in the money race, though he at least has the resources to get his name out. Kehoe's side enjoyed a $4.1 million to $1.9 million cash on hand advantage over Ashcroft's forces, while Eigel's backers had $1.1 million available. State House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, who currently is the only notable Democrat in the running, launched her campaign the following month.
Parson himself hasn't publicly backed any of his would-be successors, though he very much sounds like he prefers Kehoe. The incumbent appointed his fellow Mike to his old job as lieutenant governor in 2018 after Parson replaced scandal-ridden Gov. Eric Greitens, and Parson used his Thursday appearance at the state fair to praise his second-in-command.
● IN-05: Howey Politics reports that Max Engling, who has worked as an aide for Speaker Kevin McCarthy since 2019, plans to enter the GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz. Engling, an Indiana native whom The Hill named to its 2012 "50 Most Beautiful list," has yet to confirm this, though Howey adds that he recently had a going away party in D.C.
Meanwhile, Howey also says that former state Sen. Mike Delph, who became Spartz' chief legal counsel this year, is also mulling a campaign to succeed his boss. The article adds that the departing congresswoman plans to use at least some of her $390,000 war chest to aid Delph, who badly lost reelection in 2018 to Democrat J.D. Ford, in a quest for this gerrymandered seat.
We should hold off on buying any "Mike Delph for Congress" beer koozies, though, because he has a long history of talking about running for higher office but not actually doing it. The conservative hardliner talked about running for the U.S. Senate in 2012, 2016, and 2018 only to defer to someone else each time. And while Howey wrote in October of 2019 that he was "expected" to launch a bid for the old 5th after that year's elections, he also sat that contest out.
● OH-09: 2022 GOP nominee J.R. Majewski threatened to reenter the race Thursday more than two months after he ended his rematch campaign against Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur, a development that would delight Democrats who would like another chance to beat one of the most disastrous candidates of last cycle.
Majewski railed against the party establishment for throwing its backing behind former state Rep. Craig Riedel, whom Majewski defeated 36-31 in last year's primary. "Endorsing a guy who lost the primary last cycle, even after attacking a solid fellow Republican, is a stupid move that takes away the votes of every Republican in the District," Majewski tweeted. "Just goes to show everyone how much they care about the voter. They're about to piss me off to the point that I get back into the race and show them their stupidity."
● VA-07, VA-Gov: Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger has yet to confirm Politico's late July report saying she's decided not to seek reelection this cycle in order to prepare a 2025 bid for governor, and it sounds like we'll need to wait until after this year's legislative races for any declaration. "Right now, I am focused on being a congresswoman for the 7th District and visiting my incredibly interesting constituents all over," she told The Daily Progress when reporter Luke Fountain asked about her plans. When Fountain inquired if she'll have a different answer after Nov. 7, though, she responded, "Yes. I'll talk to you then."
● OH Ballot: Ohio election authorities confirmed Wednesday that the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana had turned in enough signatures to place a statutory initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot. Organizers last month initially fell 679 petitions short of hitting the 124,046 minimum, but state law gave them a 10-day period to turn in more.
"[T]his is going to be easy," said a spokesperson in a statement, and they soon proved that by submitting just over 4,400 additional valid signatures. Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe "the use of cannabis should be legal," but opponents, including the state branches of the Association of Chiefs of Police and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, are determined to beat the measure.