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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● CA-Sen: With ballots about to go out to voters for California's March 5 top-two primary, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff is deploying his massive war chest to try to pick his preferred general election opponent.
Schiff, employing tactics that Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill made famous in 2012, is airing ads ostensibly attacking former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey as an ally of "far-right conservatives." Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, whose campaign would be over if Schiff's plan succeeds, blasted her colleague's commercial as "brazenly cynical," but he's hardly the first Golden State Democrat to try something like this.
The congressman's offensive, though, comes the same day that Garvey was the subject of a Los Angeles Times story challenging his self-described image as a "devoted family man."
Jeff Singer has more about the volatile final weeks of this primary―including how a classic joke on "The Golden Girls" foreshadowed Garvey's current predicament.
● PA-Sen: Franklin & Marshall College's new survey shows Democratic Sen. Bob Casey leading his likely general election foe, wealthy Republican Dave McCormick, 47-35, a wider margin than his 46-39 advantage in the school's October poll. Respondents also favor Joe Biden 42-41 in a one-on-one contest with Donald Trump and 42-37 when third-party and independent candidates are included.
● TX-Sen: YouGov takes a look at the March 5 Democratic primary for the University of Houston and finds Rep. Colin Allred leading state Sen. Roland Gutierrez 40-12, which is less than the majority he'd need to avert a May 28 runoff. Another 38% remain undecided, while none of the other contenders take more than 4%. When YouGov asks respondents whom they'd prefer in a one-on-one between Allred and Gutierrez, the congressman holds a 46-26 advantage.
The poll also finds each Democrat trailing GOP Sen. Ted Cruz by similar margins in hypothetical general election matchups. Cruz respectively turns back Allred 48-39 and Gutierrez 48-38, with Libertarian Ted Brown securing 4% in both scenarios. The sample also favors Donald Trump by a similar 49-40 spread.
Note that this poll was in the field for 14 days, which is the maximum we generally allow for inclusion in the Morning Digest.
● UT-Sen: Dan Jones & Associates, polling the June 25 Republican primary on behalf of the Deseret News and the University of Utah, has the first survey we've seen of the state's open-seat Senate race since the field fully formed last month:
- Rep. John Curtis: 18
- Attorney Brent Orrin Hatch: 14
- Former state House Speaker Brad Wilson: 8
- Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs: 3
- Undecided: 52
Hatch, who is the son of the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, is identified both in this poll and on the ballot as "Brent Orrin Hatch," which likely helps explain why the first-time candidate is in second place just weeks after entering the contest.
● CA-12: BART board member Lateefah Simon on Wednesday picked up the endorsement of the congresswoman she's hoping to succeed, Senate candidate Barbara Lee. Simon appears to be the only Democrat running a serious campaign in this dark blue East Bay constituency ahead of the March 5 top-two primary. She ended 2023 with a $300,000 to $71,000 cash on hand advantage over her nearest intra-party opponent, California State University East Bay professor Jennifer Tran.
● CO-03: Grand Junction Mayor Anna Stout announced Wednesday evening that she was dropping out of the June 25 Democratic primary for the 3rd District. Stout joined the race last summer, well before far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert surprised everyone and launched a bid for the more conservative 4th, but she struggled to raise money. That has not been a problem for 2022 Democratic nominee Adam Frisch, who ended 2023 with a mammoth $5.1 million banked for what's now an open-seat race.
● LA Redistricting: A group of Louisiana voters, all of whom identify themselves as "non-African American," have filed a lawsuit challenging the state's new 6th Congressional District as an unlawful racial gerrymander. They're asking a federal court to bar the use of the new district and institute a remedial plan.
The state's Republican-run legislature recently created the new Black-majority 6th District after a different federal court ruled that Louisiana's previous map likely violated the Voting Rights Act by splitting up Black voters and diluting their power. However, the revamped district closely resembles one that was struck down following the 1994 elections for unlawfully segregating voters by race. Plaintiffs explicitly compare the two districts in their complaint and say the new district should suffer the same fate as the old one.
In the initial case brought against Louisiana's map, plaintiffs—who are Black voters and civil rights organizations—have until Tuesday to notify the court as to whether they object to the legislature's new boundaries. However, both sets of plaintiffs have expressed their happiness with the map.
● NC-06: Lobbyist Addison McDowell this week publicized an endorsement from Sen. Ted Budd ahead of the March 5 Republican primary. McDowell already had Donald Trump's support in the contest to replace Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning, who retired after Republicans gerrymandered this seat to make it all but unwinnable for her party.
● VA-02: Attorney Jake Denton announced Wednesday that he was joining the Democratic race to take on freshman GOP Rep. Jen Kiggans. Denton says he raised $100,000 since he began eyeing this contest in late December, though he didn't open an FEC account before he entered the race.
Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal has been running since September, and she earned a spot on the DCCC's Red to Blue list two days before Denton launched his own bid. Smasal, however, has struggled to raise money for her effort to flip this swing seat in Virginia Beach, and she ended 2023 with only $94,000 in the bank. Kiggans, for her part, finished last year with $1.5 million available.
The local Democratic Party doesn't appear to have announced yet whether Kiggans' eventual opponent will be selected through a traditional party primary on June 18, a convention, or a party-run "firehouse primary." Democrats in all 11 congressional districts, though, opted for primaries last cycle, so it would be a surprise if the same thing didn't happen this time. The deadline for parties to make a decision is March 5.
● NC Supreme Court: Campaign finance reports released this week show Republican Court of Appeals Judge Jefferson Griffin finishing 2023 with a wide $703,000 to $282,000 cash on hand advantage over Democratic Supreme Court Justice Allison Riggs, whom Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper appointed to the bench last year. Riggs faces opposition from Superior Court Judge Lora Cubbage in the March 5 party primary but, according to numbers compiled by journalist Bryan Anderson, the challenger ended the year with all of $76 in the bank.
● OR State Senate: The Oregon Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that a 2022 referendum prohibits 10 Republican state senators from running for reelection because they participated in a legislative boycott last year. Six members, including Minority Leader Tim Knopp, will be forced to retire this cycle (two of them already planned not to run again), while the other four won't be able to seek a new four-year term in 2026.
The decision may not do anything to stop Republicans from utilizing dilatory tactics when the new legislative session begins next week, though. "I think we still win," Knopp told reporters on Wednesday ahead of the ruling, "because our members literally have no reason to show up, and so in order for them to show up, they’re going to want to see that they’re going to be able to make a difference."
In 2022, voters approved a constitutional amendment known as Measure 113, which says that any legislator who incurs 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session can't seek another term in the subsequent election, requiring them to sit out a term in order to regain their eligibility.
The amendment, which passed 68-32, came after Republicans spent years boycotting the legislature in order to deny Democrats the two-thirds supermajorities needed for a quorum, tactics that let the GOP minority block bills on topics such as climate change and gun safety.
Republicans continued to utilize the same walkout tactics last year despite Measure 113's passage, and they sued when Democratic Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced that she'd invoke the amendment to keep the boycotters from running again. The GOP senators argued that, because of how the text of the amendment was worded, Measure 113 couldn't bar anyone from the ballot until 2028 at the earliest. The state's highest court disagreed, meaning that these 10 senators―who make up a third of the chamber―are now lame ducks.
The Republicans are still suing in federal court, and one plaintiff anticipates a decision this month. Knopp and his fellow travelers, though, had previously endorsed successors―some of them family members―in the event that they were not restored to the ballot. Oregon's candidate filing deadline is March 12.
Mayors & County Leaders
● Bridgeport, CT Mayor: Former city official John Gomes announced Wednesday that he will continue challenging Mayor Joe Ganim in the Feb. 27 general election, which will make this their fourth faceoff in less than six months.
Gomes, who most recently lost the Jan. 23 Democratic primary to Ganim, will run under the banner of the state Independent Party. Nonaligned candidate Lamond Daniels, by contrast, dropped out ahead of Thursday's deadline to withdraw from the race, but Republican David Herz said he'd only end his campaign if all of his fellow challengers did as well.
Ganim appeared to narrowly defeat Gomes in the Democratic primary that originally took place in September, but a judge threw out the results because of suspected fraud and ordered a new nomination contest. That decision, though, didn't halt November's general election in which the incumbent turned back Gomes 41-40, a margin of 179 votes; Daniels took 13%, while Herz claimed 6%. The Democratic primary do-over finally took place last week, but this time, Ganim prevailed by a wide 56-44 spread.
Gomes was undecided about continuing on to the general election following his 12-point defeat as he faced pressure to drop out. Even Gov. Ned Lamont, who himself beat Ganim 81-19 in the gubernatorial primary in 2018, said through a spokesperson that he was "ready to turn the page" following the mayor's victory. (Lamont had remained neutral through the previous three contests.)
Gomes, however, declined to give in. "To give up is to concede, to concede is to accept, to accept is to repeat history, and to repeat history means Bridgeport will never change," he said at a Wednesday press conference.