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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● Warren County, IA Auditor: A conservative Iowa county ousted the Republican official in charge of administering its elections in a special election landslide on Tuesday night after social media posts surfaced in which Auditor David Whipple had spread election conspiracy theories.
The development stands out because Warren County, which is located just south of Des Moines, had once been competitive turf but voted for Donald Trump by a 57-41 margin in 2020. Nevertheless, Whipple, who'd been appointed to his post earlier this year, was defeated in a 67-33 drubbing by Democrat Kimberly Sheets, whom he'd previously suspended from her job as deputy auditor.
Sheets had applied to be appointed to replace the previous auditor, Traci VanderLinden after she announced in May that she'd resign for personal reasons. But while VanderLinden, the last Democrat left in countywide office, recommended that the county's Board of Supervisors pick Sheets, the all-GOP body instead unanimously went for Whipple, a construction professional with no government experience. One of the three supervisors, admitting that she was friends with Whipple and his wife, acknowledged that it "look[ed] weird" to choose him, but she argued he was a "detail-oriented person, especially in elections."
Things only got weirder from there. Whipple's critics soon uncovered Facebook posts from just after the 2020 election, including one in which he wrote of the president, "Joe admits MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD during brain fart." Whipple also shared a QAnon video days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and followed up with one promoting a Sept. 11 conspiracy theory. Kedron Bardwell, a professor at local Simpson College, publicized Whipple's posts, though he concluded that Republican leaders weren't bothered by them. "I think it's highly likely that [the county supervisors] didn't see them as problematic because in large part they agree," he told the BBC.
Democrats, of course, disagreed, and they had a small window of opportunity to do something about it. While Whipple ordinarily would not have gone before voters until November of 2024—and had the chance to oversee next year's elections—Iowa law gives voters 14 days to sign petitions to force a special election for any appointed county officials. Whipple's foes quickly worked to collect the roughly 2,400 signatures they needed, a figure that represents 10% of the votes cast in the most recent election for governor in Warren County.
On the same day the campaign turned in approximately 3,000 petitions in June, Whipple announced that he was putting Sheets on leave. The auditor claimed he wanted to avoid putting staffers in an awkward position since Sheets was already being talked about as a potential opponent, though Sheets sharply objected. "I can still do my job with no problem," she told Iowa Starting Line. "I just wasn't given that opportunity."
During her campaign, Sheets zeroed in on Whipple's social media posts. "You need somebody in that office that can curb that misinformation, that can tell them exactly where they can go vote, if this rumor is true, if this is what really happened," she told voters.
Whipple distanced himself from his election-denying posts on the trail, even telling the BBC that he acknowledged Joe Biden had won and that what he'd written was "ridiculous." But he soon reverted to his old ways when he fired off a Facebook missive days before the election in response to Sheets' call for Simpson College students to vote.
"Several have notified me that Kim is soliciting votes from New college students to decide your election outcomes in Warren county," he posted. "While it may be legal, it isn't always right." Sheets responded by telling students, "You're part of our community and deserve to have a say in its leadership."
Sheets ended up pulling off a giant win in a county that had swung hard to the right over the last decade and now rarely supports Democrats. Whipple reacted to his loss by telling Starting Line he didn't know much about local government before his appointment yet didn't rule out another bid for office.
The new auditor, meanwhile, declared on election night, "When the county supervisors tried to take away the voice of the people, the people of Warren County stood up for our democracy and said with one voice: We trust competence over conspiracies."
● The far-right justices on Wisconsin's Supreme Court just can't handle the fact that liberals now have the majority for the first time in 15 years, so they're in the throes of an ongoing meltdown—and their tears are delicious. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," co-hosts David Nir and David Beard drink up all the schadenfreude they can handle as they puncture conservative claims that their progressive colleagues are "partisan hacks" (try looking in the mirror) or are breaking the law (try reading the state constitution). Elections do indeed have consequences!
The Davids also explain why the upcoming resignation of a Democratic justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court is actually good news … for Democrats. They then dive into an exciting new effort by reproductive rights activists in Colorado to place a measure on the ballot that would repeal the state's ban on public funding for abortions. And finally, they recap a very enjoyable special election that just saw a conservative Iowa county oust its election administrator for being an election conspiracy theorist.
Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.
● MI-Sen: Multiple media outlets report that former Rep. Mike Rogers' fellow Republicans anticipate he'll announce a Senate bid soon with encouragement from the NRSC, with The Messenger's Matt Holt writing Tuesday that one source expects his kickoff to take place "in the coming days." Holt adds that Rogers, who retired from the House in 2015, remains registered to vote in Florida.
● MS-Gov: Democrat Brandon Presley has publicized an internal from Impact Research conducted Aug. 6 to Aug. 9 that shows him deadlocked 46-46 against Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, which is a slight improvement from the governor's 47-44 edge in Impact's April survey. The only poll we've seen in the intervening time was an OnMessage Inc. survey for Reeves from early July that showed the Republican up 49-32.
● NC-Gov: Termed-out Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that he was endorsing Attorney General Josh Stein to succeed him, a declaration that came a month after Punchbowl News reported that the incumbent told a gathering of the Democratic Governors Association that one of his priorities is electing Stein. Cooper's public support for the attorney general may be part of an attempt to deter outgoing state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan from launching his own campaign for the Democratic nod.
● CA-47: Democratic state Sen. Dave Min pleaded no contest Tuesday after being charged with drunk driving in May, and Politico says he was "sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation." Min has Senate candidate Katie Porter's endorsement in next year's top-two primary to succeed her in this competitive Orange County constituency.
● FL-28 & Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: Spanish-language radio host Roberto Rodriguez Tejera reports that GOP Rep. Carlos Giménez has told him that he's interested in running to reclaim his old job as mayor of Miami-Dade County next year by taking on Democratic incumbent Daniella Levine Cava. That decision would result in an open seat race for Florida's 28th District, which backed Donald Trump 53-47 under the gerrymandered map the legislature approved last cycle; the county as a whole, by contrast, favored Joe Biden 53-46.
● NC-13: Republican state Rep. Erin Paré announced Wednesday that she would challenge Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel in a suburban Raleigh district that she and her colleagues will have the chance to gerrymander this year. The state representative says she'll be self-funding $400,000 for her new effort.
Paré this year sponsored the infamous law barring trans women and girls from playing in the school sport that corresponds with their gender identity, and she launched her new campaign by branding herself "a conservative leader willing to stand up to the woke mob on behalf of conservatives in this region."
● NV-03: GOP Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama has picked up an endorsement from Gov. Joe Lombardo, a declaration that comes a little more than a week after Kasama launched her campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Susie Lee.
● NY-22: Democratic state Sen. John Mannion has publicized endorsement from several labor groups, including the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and AFSCME. Mannion, who previously earned the backing of the New York State United Teachers, is one of several Democrats who are competing to take on GOP Rep. Brandon Williams.
● WI-03: Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he's decided to run for reelection to the legislature rather than seek a rematch against freshman GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden, who beat him 52-48 last year. Former CIA officer Deb McGrath, who took third against Pfaff in the 2022 primary, also informed the paper she wouldn't run this cycle for this 51-47 Trump constituency.
The only notable Democrat who has announced so far is businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, whom Pfaff defeated 39-31 for the nomination last time. Both state Rep. Katrina Shankland and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson, though, reiterated their interest in taking on Van Orden this week; the Journal Sentinel also says that Missy Hughes, who serves in Gov. Tony Evers' cabinet, still hasn't ruled it out even though "multiple Democrats in the state have expressed doubts over whether she will run in 2024."
● CO Ballot: Abortion rights advocates announced this week that they're launching an effort to place a proposed amendment on the 2024 general election ballot that would overturn a 1984 amendment that bans public funding for the procedure. The coalition behind this plan says they're also looking to enshrine abortion rights into the state's governing document, though they haven't decided yet if they'll try to do all of this with one initiative next year or with two. Any constitutional amendments would need to win at least 55% of the vote to pass.
Prosecutors and Sheriffs
● Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: Two new candidates announced this week that they'll challenge incumbent George Gascón in next March's nonpartisan primary to serve as the top prosecutor for America's most populous county: county prosecutor Eric Siddall, who just stepped down as an official at the local Association of Deputy District Attorneys, and county Judge Craig Mitchell. The Los Angeles Times also reports that federal prosecutor Jeff Chemerinsky, who is the son of prominent legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, is considering running as well.
The incumbent already faced opposition from Nathan Hochman, who was the GOP's 2022 nominee for attorney general but now identifies as an independent, as well as a trio of Gascón deputies: Jonathan Hatami, John McKinney, and Maria Ramirez. Unless one contender wins a majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
Correction: The winner of Tuesday's special election in Warren County, Iowa, was Kimberly Sheets, not Kimberly Shields.