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: Ohio voters on Tuesday rejected a Republican-backed measure called Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made it difficult to ever change the state's constitution again, 57-43. The result means that pro-choice advocates will need to win a simple majority on Nov. 7 in order to pass their own amendment to enshrine abortion rights into the state's governing document instead of the 60% supermajority that Issue 1 would have imposed.
The outcome also ensures that activists seeking to pass other amendments opposed by Ohio's GOP-dominated state government will not need to contend with the dramatically increased signature requirements that Issue 1 would have required in order to qualify measures for the ballot. (Republicans in numerous other states have also been trying to make it tougher to pass progressive ballot change at the ballot box, mostly without success.) That's good news for a 2024 effort to create an independent redistricting commission in place of a broken bipartisan board that tilts heavily to the GOP, as well as a campaign to raise the minimum wage from its current level of $10.10 per hour.
Both sides, however, chiefly viewed Tuesday's contest as a proxy fight over abortion rights, with Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose outright declaring in June, "This is 100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution." The "no" side ran a barrage of ads highlighting those comments from LaRose, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, warning that "[c]orrupt politicians and special interests" were "trying to rig the rules to lock in Ohio's extreme abortion ban and stop efforts to restore our rights."
Conservative groups, though, seem to have decided that abortion rights were too popular to directly attack in a state where, according to Civiqs, voters agree 55-40 that the procedure should be legal in all or most cases. The "yes" side instead resorted to transphobia by insisting, "Out-of-state special interests that put trans ideology in classrooms and encourage sex changes for kids are hiding behind slick ads." (Neither Issue 1 nor the abortion amendment has anything to do with any of these issues.)
Other right-wing ads insisted that Issue 1 was necessary to stop "radical groups" from "tak[ing] away parents' ability to be informed and to make decisions for their children," even though the November abortion amendment wouldn't impact the state's parental consent laws.
The pro-Issue 1 side further claimed it was trying to stop out-of-state interests from changing the state's governing document for their own ends, despite the fact that much of their money came from one out-of-state billionaire, Illinois megadonor Richard Uihlein. But Uihlein's deep pockets were not enough: AdImpact reports that the "no" side outspent its rivals $15.9 million to $10.7 million on TV and radio ads.
None of the GOP's messages helped avert defeat on Tuesday, but it remains to be seen whether conservatives will adopt different tactics heading into the fall. And another expensive battle looms: The groups backing abortion rights tell NBC they'll spend at least $35 million to pass their amendment, while their opponents at Protect Women Ohio say they've already booked $25 million in ad time.
It’s also possible that Buckeye State voters will have another amendment like Issue 1 to deal with again at some point in the future. State Senate President Matt Huffman responded to the amendment’s defeat by telling Ohio Public Radio his party “will probably ask this question again,” though not “in the same atmosphere.”
● MS-LG: Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann turned back a GOP primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel 52-43, which was the majority he needed to avoid an Aug. 29 runoff. The incumbent will be favored in November against Ryan Grover, who had the Democratic side to himself.
McDaniel, who infamously refused to accept his 2014 runoff loss against the late Sen. Thad Cochran, conceded to Hosemann on election night. The incumbent, for his part, said he was trying to “temper” his own words about McDaniel, whom he’s repeatedly accused of breaking campaign finance laws. However, Hosemann also pledged to use his powerful position as leader of the state Senate to strengthen those laws, declaring, “When you have this much dark money pumped into a race— almost $1 million in the last week—it screams for reform.”
● NV-Sen: Air Force veteran Tony Grady, who later served as the Reno Air Races' director of flight operations, confirmed Tuesday that he was joining the GOP primary to take on Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen. Grady, who would be Nevada's first Black senator, campaigned for lieutenant governor last cycle and lost the primary 31-25 to the eventual winner, Stavros Anthony.
● WI-Sen: Rich guy Eric Hovde tells the conservative Washington Examiner that he'll decide in the fall if he'll take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, though he says he hasn't "set a specific time" for making up his mind. The once and possibly future Senate candidate added that he may not actually announce his plans once he makes them, however, and he noted he'd waited until March of 2012 before launching his first bid that cycle. (Hovde lost that primary 34-31 to former Gov. Tommy Thompson, whom Baldwin beat a few months later.)
Hovde's unhasty deliberations come at a time when the only declared Republican candidate is Rejani Raveendran, the 40-year-old head of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College Republicans and someone that few observers would classify as a serious threat to Baldwin. (When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked Raveendran if Joe Biden won the 2020 election she responded, "I am still learning about that.") Party strategist Bill McCoshen, however, told the Examiner that Hovde is "certainly leaning towards entering the race" and predicted he'd spend at least $10 million of his own money.
● KY-Gov: The DGA's Defending Bluegrass Values affiliate is back on the airwaves for what the GOP firm says is its first spot since before July 4, and it's once again tying Republican Daniel Cameron to unpopular former Gov. Matt Bevin. "After former Gov. Matt Bevin attacked Kentucky teachers, Daniel Cameron stood behind him," says the narrator, continuing, "When Bevin let murders and sexual predators out of prison early, Cameron protected Bevin from a special prosecutor." She goes on declare that the current GOP nominee is "bringing back Bevin's ruthless health care plan."
● AL-??: Democratic state Rep. Juandalynn Givan tells The Messanger's Sophie Tatum she's considering running for the House and already has put together "a team … that is poised, ready to go," but she says she won't decide until a final map is in place. The GOP-dominated legislature last month passed boundaries intended to defy a federal court order that the state create two districts where Black voters could elect their preferred candidates, and plaintiffs quickly asked a three-judge panel to draw up their own lines.
Givan, who represents part of the Birmingham area, appears to be the first notable Democrat to publicly express interest in running for a new seat, and she acknowledges she'd almost certainly have to get through a crowded primary. "I think you would expect four, six, eight, ten you know, candidates to file for that even if nobody has taken the plunge to this point," she told Tatum.
● NY-01: Former state Sen. Jim Gaughran on Monday became the first notable Democrat to launch a bid against freshman GOP Rep. Nick LaLota, whose Long Island constituency supported Joe Biden by a narrow 49.5-49.3 in 2020.
But the 1st District, which includes the eastern and northern portions of Suffolk County, swung hard to the right two years later, and LaLota's 56-44 victory over County Legislator Bridget Fleming makes him one of the 18 House Republicans to hold a Biden district: That win, according to numbers from Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, came at a time when Republican Lee Zeldin, who represented the last version of the 1st District, defeated Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul here by a similar 57-43. There's a chance, however, that the state's court-imposed congressional map could change as the result of a pending lawsuit.
Gaughran himself is a longtime Suffolk County politico who got his start in 1983 when the 26-year-old became the youngest-ever member of the Huntington Town Board, as well as its lone Democrat. Gaughran won a promotion to the County Legislature four years later, but his attempts to advance further in elected office would stall for decades. Gaughran badly lost his high-profile 1992 campaign to unseat state Senate Majority Leader Ralph Marino, and his bid to become Huntington Town Supervisor the following year likewise ended in defeat. (The Republican who beat him, Frank Petrone, would switch parties in 2002 and ultimately retired in 2017.)
Gaughran eventually returned to public life in 2008 when the County Legislature appointed him to become a member of the Suffolk County Water Authority, and he'd become its chair in 2010. Gaughran, though, wasn't done trying to regain elected office: Two years after losing the 2014 race for county comptroller to Republican John Kennedy, he narrowly failed to unseat state Sen. Carl Marcellino 51-49. But Gaughran reached the state Senate at last by winning his 2018 rematch against Marcellino 55-45, a victory that came the same cycle that Democrats were finally winning a stable majority in the chamber, and he defended his new seat 50-49 in 2020.
The state senator got some unwelcome news in the spring of 2022, however, when New York's highest court ordered that the state's congressional and Senate maps be redrawn, a task that was carried out by an outside expert hired by a lower court. The senator opted to retire after being placed in the same constituency as GOP colleague Mario Mattera, saying, "The electoral realities of my home district as drawn by the special master cannot be ignored."
Gaughran reentered the political arena this week when he launched his bid to unseat LaLota, and he immediately made it clear he'd make abortion rights a centerpiece of his campaign. He also kicked off his campaign with support from Suffolk County's powerful longtime party chair, Rich Schaffer, which may help him deter some would-be primary foes from running here.
● OR-06: A consultant for 2022 GOP nominee Mike Erickson told the Capital Chronicle on Monday that Erickson plans to announce another run within the next month for this 55-42 Biden district in the Salem area and southwestern Portland suburbs. Erickson lost 50-48 to Democrat Andrea Salinas last year for this newly created district, and shortly after the election he sued over his defeat.
Erickson's lawsuit claimed Salinas' negative ads over his 2016 arrest and conviction for driving under the influence violated a state law that "prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure." The Capitol Chronicle's recent story says he's still seeking $800,000 in damages and is pushing for a trial, though no date has been set yet.
● RI-01: Rhode Island's Board of Elections voted Tuesday to review all of the signatures that Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos turned in to qualify for the Sept. 5 special Democratic primary, though it's unclear what this probe could actually do this close to Election Day. Federal law requires that absentee ballots be mailed to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before a federal election, so ballots with the lieutenant governor's name have already gone out.
The state attorney general's office is investigating allegations that Matos' team submitted fraudulent petitions, but election authorities previously verified that she'd turned in about 230 more than the required 500 needed to qualify. The seven-member BoE said two weeks ago that it wouldn't review her signatures only to shift course this week, with one board member arguing that some voters were losing "faith in the process." Matos' team responded to the vote, "We too want to understand what transpired with our nomination papers and we look forward to hearing the results of this review."
● AZ Ballot: Arizona for Abortion Access, a coalition that includes the ACLU, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood, has launched a ballot initiative effort for November 2024 that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. The proposed amendment would guarantee abortion access up until fetal viability, or roughly 22 to 24 weeks, after which the procedure would be allowed to protect a patient's physical or mental health.
Arizona Republicans enacted a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with almost no exceptions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, which remains in effect. Abortion opponents are also currently appealing to the state Supreme Court, which is dominated by conservatives, asking it to allow a law from 1864 banning almost all abortions to take effect after a state appellate court blocked its enforcement last year.
Abortion rights supporters will have until July 3, 2024 to gather roughly 384,000 voter signatures to make the ballot. That gives them almost a full year to collect signatures, a considerable advantage over a similar failed attempt last year. That effort only began after the leak of the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling in May of 2022, meaning supporters had just weeks to gather signatures before a similar July deadline.