The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Matt Booker, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● OR-04: Republican Alek Skarlatos announced Sunday that he'd seek a rematch against incumbent Peter DeFazio, a veteran Democrat who defeated him 52-46 last year after a surprisingly expensive and closer-than-anticipated race. Skarlatos made his declaration about two weeks after he learned that, even though Oregon Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the legislature, the party will not be able to help DeFazio or anyone else during the next round of redistricting.
That's because, as we explained in a recent edition of the Voting Rights Roundup, Democrats recently reached a deal with Republican lawmakers under which Democrats agreed to give up their majorities on the legislature's redistricting committees. In exchange for granting GOP veto power over any new congressional maps, Democrats received assurances that Republicans would back off some of their unprecedented obstruction of routine legislative business. As a result, in the absence of a bipartisan compromise, it would be up to a court to craft a new map.
No one can say, of course, how this new arrangement might impact DeFazio's 4th Congressional District, especially now that the Beaver State will be gaining a seat in the House, though the congressman has represented competitive turf under several previous maps. The current version of this constituency, which includes the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon's southern coast, supported Joe Biden 51-47—a close showing, though a veritable landslide compared to Hilary Clinton's 46.1-46.0 victory four years before.
DeFazio himself had prevailed by double digits in every single campaign following his first victory in 1986, but Skarlatos presented a much more prominent profile than any of his previous foes. The former Oregon National Guardsman made global headlines when he helped stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015, went on to place third on "Dancing With The Stars” later that year, and even played himself in a 2018 movie called "The 15:17 to Paris" that was directed by Clint Eastwood. Still, Skarlatos initially struggled to bring in cash, and he seemed destined to be on the wrong side of another DeFazio blowout.
That impression began to change over the summer, however, when the incumbent began running negative ads against his opponent. Skarlatos also dramatically ramped up his financial efforts, and while much of his haul was eaten up by fees paid to fundraising services, he still brought in more than enough to run a serious campaign.
Major national Republican groups, however, didn’t behave as though they had a serious opening, as they spent just $275,000 and went off the air weeks before Election Day. Their Democratic counterparts, though, sensed trouble and dropped close to $2.2 million to protect DeFazio. It was a fortunate outcome for the veteran lawmaker, whose 6-point victory was easily his closest showing in any of his 17 re-election campaigns.
● AZ-Sen: Republicans got their first noteworthy contender on Monday when Jim Lamon, the chair of the solar energy and construction company Depcom Power, announced that he would take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Lamon does not appear to have run for office before, though local NBC reporter Brahm Resnik said last month that Lamon founded a conservative voter registration group in the state and has spoken before a number of Republican organizations in Arizona.
● CA-Sen: The Los Angeles Times' Jennifer Haberkorn recently interviewed Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna over the weekend about his interest in waging an intra-party challenge to appointed Sen. Alex Padilla, writing that Khanna "left the impression it is unlikely." The congressman said, "I'm happy where I am. I mean, I haven't ruled anything out in my future, but I am chairing the environmental subcommittee [on the House Oversight Committee] and doing good work."
● PA-Sen, PA-17: Neither Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb nor his 2020 Republican opponent, Sean Parnell, have announced Senate bids yet, but Politico reports that both men are "likely" to run. Lamb held off Parnell 51-49 last year as Joe Biden was carrying his suburban Pittsburgh seat 51-48.
On Friday, reporters Sarah Ferris and James Arkin wrote that Lamb "has begun telling some donors and supporters in recent days that he is likely to enter" the contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, though one unnamed source added that there were "no imminent plans" for him to kick off a campaign. Lamb's team said in response that, while the congressman is indeed considering a bid, "no decision has been made."
In a separate article published days later, Arkin relayed that Parnell "is expected" to launch a Senate bid of his own. The former candidate's spokesperson also publicly confirmed that Parnell was interested in this race, though he also said that he was still making up his mind. The Washington Examiner said three months ago that Parnell was also thinking about another House campaign, but there's no indication that he's still contemplating another run for the lower chamber.
● MN-Gov: Republican state Sen. Michelle Benson tells Axios' Torey Van Oot that she's considering taking on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and will decide after the state budget is complete. Benson, who is the chamber's deputy majority leader, has represented a safely red seat in the northern Twin Cities suburbs since 2011.
Benson's boss, state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, has also been talking about running for a while, and Van Oot says he's "expected to make a public decision around the end of the [legislative] session." No one knows exactly when the legislature—which, unusually, is split, with Democrats in charge of the House and Republicans controlling the Senate—will actually go home, though, as insiders tell the Minnesota Reformer, they don't expect it to finish its work before the scheduled May 17 adjournment date. One unnamed lobbyist adds, "Watch to see how Gazelka's governor ambitions play into an end of session deal. Gonna get messy."
● NJ-Gov: Perennial candidate Hirsh Singh has publicized a poll conducted by Brad Parscale, who was unceremoniously demoted as Trump's first 2020 campaign manager, that shows him leading former Assemblyman Jack Ciatterelli 22-20 in the June 8 Republican primary. Pretty much everyone has treated Ciatterelli, who has the backing of the state's powerful county party leaders, as the heavy frontrunner for months, though this is the first survey we've seen of the primary.
● RI-Gov: State Treasurer Seth Magaziner's team has confirmed that he’s thinking about taking on Gov. Dan McKee, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to the top job in March, in next year's Democratic primary. That statement came after Magaziner, who is termed-out of his current post, unveiled his largest quarterly haul ever, to which the Boston Globe's Dan McGowan responded, "If you didn't know, he's almost certainly running for governor next year."
Magaziner outraised McKee $302,000 to $284,000 during the first three months of the year, and the treasurer ended March with a huge $1.3 million to $451,000 cash-on-hand edge. Two other Democrats who are eyeing the race, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, brought in smaller sums, though they both still had larger war chests than McKee: Gorbea took in $159,000 for the quarter and had $547,000 in the bank, while Elorza raised just $87,000 but had $955,000 on-hand. Physician Luis Daniel Muñoz, who is McGee's only declared intra-party foe, entered the primary in April after the new quarter began.
● AZ-06: Democrat Jevin Hodge, who lost a 2020 race for one of the five seats on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors by a tiny 50.05-49.95 margin, announced Monday that he'd challenge Republican Rep. David Schweikert. Schweikert himself prevailed 52-48 last year as Trump was carrying his district by a similar 51-47 spread.
● FL-13: Sunshine State political observers anticipate that Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist will announce Tuesday that he's giving up his House seat to wage another campaign for governor, and several politicians from both parties have already expressed interest in running to succeed him. This St. Petersburg-based seat backed Joe Biden 51-47, but Republicans will be in a position to draw themselves more favorable lines.
On the Democratic side, the Tampa Bay Times' William March writes that state Rep. Ben Diamond and former Department of Defense official Eric Lynn each "are considered almost certain to run," though neither would commit to anything publicly. Diamond said he would "certainly re-evaluate my options" if Crist gave up this seat, while Lynn said he'd "take a serious look" at an open seat race. March also mentions St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who will be termed-out of office early next year, and state Rep. Michele Rayner as possibilities.
A Diamond-Lynn primary would also be a rematch between the two. Lynn campaigned for the 13th District in the 2016 cycle and remained in the race several months after Crist got in. He eventually dropped out and sought an open state House seat, but Diamond beat him 54-46. Lynn, though, still has $140,000 in his federal campaign account that he could use for a new congressional race.
On the Republican side, Anna Paulina Luna just kicked off a second campaign while Amanda Makki said that she, too, was thinking about another bid. Luna beat Makki, who had the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, 36-28 in last year's primary, but she went on to lose the general election to Crist 53-47 in a contest that didn't attract any serious outside spending.
March also name-drops former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, though he notes that he comes up "when any high-profile political office in Pinellas [County] comes open." He's not kidding: Baker turned down Republican attempts to recruit him for Congress in 2014, 2016, and 2020, and he's been talked about as a possible contender for the state Senate next year.
● IL-17: Politico reports that Peoria City Councilwoman Beth Jensen is considering running to succeed Rep. Cheri Bustos, a fellow Democrat who unexpectedly announced her retirement on Friday. Jensen doesn't appear to have said anything publicly yet, while Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and state Rep. Maurice West each aren't ruling anything out for themselves. Politico also name-drops two other Democrats, state Reps. Jehan Gordon-Booth and Mike Halpin, as possibilities.
● MT-01, MT-02: Former Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke announced on Friday that'd he run for Montana's new congressional seat, a day after filing paperwork with the FEC. Zinke represented the state's at-large district from 2015 to 2017 before serving as Donald Trump's interior secretary, a position he was reportedly forced out of after less than two years. During his tenure, Zinke was the target of 18 different federal investigations—some of which were never publicly resolved—and aggressively sought to roll back environmental protections while promoting expanded fossil fuel extraction.
That record could haunt Zinke back home, where he long sought to cast himself as a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt concerned with protecting public lands and waterways while serving in the state legislature. Though Montana is a solidly red state, the rights of hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists are often issues of great concern in local politics, even among Republicans—as Zinke's own attempted branding shows.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are also eyeing the opportunity that Montana's new district will present. Businesswoman Whitney Williams, who unsuccessfully sought her party's gubernatorial nomination last year, tells Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin she's considering a bid for "the seat my Dad once proudly held."
Williams' father, Pat Williams, represented Montana's 1st District from 1979 until it was eliminated in 1993, then held its at-large seat for two more terms after that, making him the last Democrat to represent the state in the House. The elder Williams' old district covered the more liberal western slice of Montana and could be resuscitated under the next map.
Another Democrat who ran for office in 2020, public health expert Cora Neumann, is also reportedly considering a House bid. Neumann was a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for Senate last year but dropped out after former Gov. Steve Bullock was lured into the race at the filing deadline.
● NH-01: 2020 Republican nominee Matt Mowers tells WMUR that he'll decide whether to seek a rematch with Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas after his child is born in June. Last year, Pappas beat Mowers 51-46 as Joe Biden was carrying this swingy seat by a similar 52-46 margin. Republican map-makers, though, will have the opportunity to make this constituency more conservative.
● OH-15: State Sen. Stephanie Kunze and state Rep. Jeff LaRe have each announced that they'll compete in the August Republican primary to succeed GOP Rep. Steve Stivers, who will officially resign from Congress later this month. They join a field that currently consists of state Sen. Bob Peterson, state Rep. Brian Stewart, and Fairfield County Commissioner Jeff Fix.
● TX-15: The Washington Post reports that Democrats are imploring Rep. Vicente González "to stay in Congress" after Rep. Filemon Vela, who represents a neighboring district, announced his retirement in March. González, who was elected to what had long been a safely blue Rio Grande Valley seat in 2016, has not publicly expressed interest in leaving office, though there's little question he'd be in for a much tougher campaign than he's ever experienced before. González prevailed last year 51-48 as Joe Biden carried his district by a small 50-49 spread, and Republicans will once again control redistricting.
● VA-AG: Del. Jay Jones' new commercial features him with Gov. Ralph Northam, his most prominent backer in the June 8 Democratic primary. Jones explains, "This campaign is about leading the way on criminal justice reform and policing," to which the governor responds, "My proudest day—and you were standing right there beside me—was when we ended the death penalty." The spot does not mention the man Jones is hoping to beat next month, Attorney General Mark Herring.
● Cincinnati, OH Mayor: The Queen City is holding a nonpartisan primary for its open mayoralty on Tuesday, and while there's little question that a pair of Democrats will advance to the November general election, the Cincinnati Enquirer's Jason Williams says that even close observers have little idea which two they'll be.
The contender with the most money by far is Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee against GOP Rep. Steve Chabot. Pureval has hauled in $231,000 since Jan. 1, which is $3,000 more than his five rivals combined. Behind him with almost $100,000 raised is businessman Gavi Begtrup, a first-time contender.
Also in the mix are City Councilman David Mann, who represented the area in the U.S. House for one term in the early 1990s; businessman Raffel Prophett; and state Sen. Cecil Thomas. The only non-Democrat in the contest is Herman Najoli, an independent who brought up the rear with just over $1,000 raised.
● Cleveland, OH Mayor, OH-11: Democratic state Sen. Sandra Williams announced Monday that she would compete in this year's contest for mayor of Cleveland rather than run in the special election for Ohio's 11th Congressional District. Williams, who represents the East Side in the legislature, would be the second woman to serve as mayor, as well as the first Black woman elected to lead the city.
● New York City, NY Mayor: City Comptroller Scott Stringer has lost a number of high-profile endorsements in the days since a woman named Jean Kim accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2001. The Working Families Party, Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Adriano Espaillat, and several state legislators and members of the New York City Council have withdrawn their support from the Stringer, who has repeatedly denied Kim's allegations and vowed to remain in the June 22 Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams received an endorsement on Monday from Donovan Richards, his counterpart in Queens. Adams also earned the support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. last week.
● Texas: Below you'll find a recap of the key mayoral elections that went down in Texas on Saturday. Two races where no candidate took a majority of the vote will head to an as-yet unscheduled runoff.
● Arlington, TX Mayor: Former police officer Jim Ross and former City Councilman Michael Glaspie will square off once more after Ross, who was endorsed by outgoing Republican Mayor Jeff Williams, led the way with 47% while Glaspie, who ran on a platform highlighting inequalities in the city, took 21%. City Councilman Marvin Sutton rounded out the candidates who received double-digit support with 15%.
● Fort Worth, TX Mayor: Mattie Parker, a former chief of staff to outgoing Republican Mayor Betsy Price, and Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples will meet again in a runoff. Peoples led Parker 34-31, while City Councilman Brian Byrd, who was the second-best fundraiser in the field behind Parker, finished third with 15%. According to The Dallas Morning News, Parker would be the youngest mayor of a major city in the country, while Peoples would be Fort Worth's first Black mayor.
● Plano, TX Mayor: Businessman John Muns defeated former Plano City Councilwoman Lily Bao 53-43 to win this post outright, a victory that represents a continued shift in this former Republican stronghold. According to one analysis, Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Plano in living memory last year, and Muns, though a registered Republican, had the endorsement of the Collin County Democratic Party.
Housing and development was the dominant issue in this race. It's been a hot-button in Plano, as it's grown from a northern suburb of Dallas into one of the biggest cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Bao, who was endorsed by Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton, was a staunch opponent of housing complexes and mixed-use housing, vowing to "Keep Plano Suburban". Muns took a decidedly less hardline stance, stressing a desire for balance between Plano's residential character and the need for further mixed-use development of the city's land.
● San Antonio, TX Mayor: Incumbent Ron Nirenberg defeated Greg Brockhouse 62-31 to win a third term, a dominant showing compared to his narrow 51-49 win in the pair's first matchup in 2019. In that earlier contest, the conservative Brockhouse had the support of the police and firefighter unions, but both declined to endorse him this time around.
Labor continued to be a major topic in this race, though, as Proposition B, which would have repealed the right of the city's police union to engage in collective bargaining, was on the ballot alongside the mayoral race. Nirenberg, a progressive independent, declined to take a stand on the measure, which narrowly failed 51-49.
● Austin, TX Ballot: On Saturday, voters in Austin approved Proposition D, which will move mayoral elections from midterm to presidential cycles, by a 67-33 margin. In order to realign the calendar, next year's contest to succeed termed-out Mayor Steve Adler will be for an abbreviated two-year term, while another election will take place in 2024 for a regular four-year term.
Austinites also approved Proposition E, which would institute instant-runoff voting for local elections, 59-41. However, Texas law, as the Austin-American Statesman explains, doesn't currently allow for instant runoffs, so the paper says that "the most this measure can do is get Austin ready to go in the event the state ever decides to allow it."
At the same time, voters decisively rejected other measures that would have changed how local elections and government would function. Proposition H, which would have implemented a "democracy voucher" system of public campaign financing, failed by a 57-43 margin. Meanwhile, Proposition F, which would have greatly strengthened the mayor's powers, went down by a punishing 86-14, a showing the paper says was "a margin wider than any in recent memory."