The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● NC-??: On Friday, Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel set up an exploratory committee with the FEC for a potential run in North Carolina’s “House District 00,” a congressional district that does not exist.
Nickel, though, told North Carolina Policy Watch that he was preparing for the possibility that the upcoming round of redistricting would create a new Raleigh-area seat he could campaign for. Nickel also said that he had “no plans at all to run” against his fellow Democrats, Rep. David Price or Rep.-elect Deborah Ross, adding, “My plan is to run for re-election to the state Senate, but if there’s an open seat [for Congress] we’ll strongly consider it.”
Nickel is the first politician we’ve seen to kick off a 2022 run for a Schrödinger’s Seat, a term we coined nearly a decade ago at the Swing State Project to refer to a constituency that may or may not come into being after redistricting but that candidates are nonetheless eyeing. He won’t be the last, though: Running for the House is a very expensive and time consuming process, and most viable candidates need to get started well before they even know if they’ll have a winnable district to run for.
Nickel, for his part, said of the upcoming map, “There’s been a ton of growth in western Wake County, and wouldn’t it make sense to put a new seat in the place where there’s been the most growth?” He may be right, but it won’t be up to him. Republicans maintained their iron grip on both chambers of the North Carolina legislature this month thanks in part to their existing gerrymanders, and because state law doesn’t give the governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, a veto over congressional redistricting, the only potential constraint on GOP mapmakers is the Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court, whose involvement is no sure thing.
● GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: The Republican firm InsiderAdvantage, polling on behalf of FOX5 Atlanta, finds very tight races in both of Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoffs. The survey shows Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff deadlocked 49-49, while Democrat Raphael Warnock edges out appointed GOP incumbent Kelly Loeffler 49-48 in the special election. The only other runoff survey we’ve seen was released last week by another GOP pollster, Remington Research, and it had Perdue and Loeffler up 50-46 and 49-48, respectively.
AdImpact, which went by the name Advertising Analytics until this week, also has an update on spending for both sides for the second round. Republicans have outspent Democrats $27 million to $18 million in the regular contest, while Team Red has a larger $47 million to $28 million in the special.
It’s not clear why the Loeffler-Warnock race is so much more expensive, though it may be because of the nature of the two contests. Warnock didn’t get hit much during the all-party primary, when Loeffler and fellow Republican Doug Collins were concentrating their fire on one another, so he may be entering the runoff with fairly low negatives. Ossoff and Perdue, by contrast, spent months slugging it out, so their images likely are more hardened.
Ossoff, meanwhile, is running a minute-long spot where he once again ties himself to Joe Biden, who carried the state earlier this month. Ossoff declares, “Everybody in Georgia is thankful for everyone who stepped up to get us through this year, and now, it’s time to step up for them—to reunite our country and end this crisis.”
Ossoff continues, “I’ll work with Joe Biden to beat the virus, empowering medical experts to implement a national health strategy with free testing and vaccinations, to provide immediate financial relief for working families and small businesses, and an infrastructure and jobs program that will jumpstart our economy.” The Democrat concludes, “And when we get this done, next year it’s Thanksgiving with the whole family.”
A new conservative group called Georgia Battleground Fund is also up with a commercial that Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin says is airing on Fox nationally. The ad, unusually, stars Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who tells the audience that a Republican defeat in both races means a win for “radical liberal policies like the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all, and defunding our police.”
McConnell adds that these ideas could become real if the GOP loses, which is about as close as he’s come to acknowledging that Donald Trump won’t be in the White House to veto them, and he ends by imploring the audience to donate to the organization.
● FL-Gov: Politico writes that Democratic Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy are each on the party’s “2022 short list for governor,” though there’s no word on either of their interest in taking on Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis. The Miami Herald also recently name dropped both congresswomen as potential opponents for GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.
● MD-Gov: While Josh Kurtz wrote in Maryland Matters last month that he wasn’t sure if state Comptroller Peter Franchot would continue with his 2022 Democratic primary bid following the surprise departure of his longtime chief of staff, Franchot sounds determined to go forward. Franchot told Maryland Matters’ Bruce DePuyt this week, “I’m going to be in this battle all the way. And I’m the candidate that challengers really fear, which is someone who is actually willing to lose.” Franchot continued, “I’m in it. Everything I have will be in it.”
Franchot entered the race to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan all the way back in January, and he currently has the field to himself. The comptroller was first elected to his current post in 2006, and he won his fourth term in 2018 in a 72-28 landslide. However, the Washington Post’s Erin Cox noted in her lengthy profile of Franchot last year that he has a bad relationship with much of the party establishment going back to his 1986 victory in a primary for a spot in the state House. The Democratic-dominated legislature has limited Franchot’s authority twice, actions his then-chief of staff labeled “prepubescent cat slaps.”
By contrast, Franchot has developed close ties with Hogan, and he chose to remain neutral during the governor’s 2018 re-election fight. Franchot has continued to portray himself as above party lines, and Cox wrote last year that he “delivered what sounded like a stump speech on marrying liberal ideas with fiscal conservatism” at a fundraiser. Franchot predicted this week that his relationship with Hogan would bother “only among the most partisan of partisans,” and he added, “That was the same attack used on Joe Biden and frankly he seems to be—the last time I looked—successful.”
DePuyt, though, noted that Franchot was doing some things to distance himself from the Republican governor’s administration. Franchot criticized the state Department of Labor’s work dealing with unemployment insurance claims, and he said of Hogan, “I can understand why he’s looking to the national thing where obviously a Republican presidential primary is a lot different than being governor of Maryland. But if I had to pick I’d prefer the earlier version [of Hogan] rather than the current one.”
A number of other Democrats are eyeing this race, and DePuyt name-dropped a few more: Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. There’s no word on any of their interest yet, though.
● LA-02: On Wednesday, state Sen. Troy Carter became the second Democrat to announce a bid to succeed Rep. Cedric Richmond, who will resign before Jan. 20 to take a post in the Biden White House, in the upcoming all-party special election for this safely blue seat.
Carter, who was a New Orleans city councilman at the time, ran in the 2008 Democratic primary against indicted Rep. Bill Jefferson and took sixth with 8% of the vote. (Richmond placed third in that contest, but won the seat two years later.) Carter went on to win a competitive 2015 race for the state Senate against a fellow Democrat, and he was re-elected last year without opposition.
The only other declared candidate is state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, a fellow New Orleans Democrat, but there are plenty of other Democrats who could run here. We ran down some potential contenders right after Richmond made his plans known, and NOLA.com’s Bryn Stole reports that state Sen. Jimmy Harris is “actively weighing” a campaign. There’s no quote yet from Harris, who also represents part of New Orleans in the upper chamber.
Stole and LAPolitics‘ Jeremy Alford also name-dropped a few other Democrats, though there’s no word yet on their interest:
New Orleans City Councilman Jay Banks
Public Service Commissioner Lambert Boissiere
State Sen. Joe Bouie
New Orleans City Councilman Jared Brossett
East Baton Rouge Parish School Board Darius Lanus
Finally, there’s the question about when this special would take place. Stole writes that a March contest, with an April runoff in the likely event that no one takes a majority of the vote, would line up with the state’s local elections, and that this appears to be the most likely timeline. Stole adds that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards also “has some latitude” in scheduling, though Edwards said he’d need to talk to both Richmond and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin before making any decisions.
● MN State Senate: Just like they did in 2016, Minnesota Republicans kept control of the state Senate two weeks ago by winning a 1-seat majority in the 67-member body despite Democrats winning more votes overall, and they got more good news Wednesday when Democratic state Sens. Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni announced that they were becoming independents.
Bakk, who was deposed as Democratic caucus leader earlier this year, and Tomassoni attributed their decision to leave the party to partisanship, though they readily acknowledged that they were bolting because of the chance to “chair committees.” Majority Leader Paul Gazelka seemed more than willing to indulge them, and he said afterwards that they would lead “prominent” committees.
The development leaves Republicans and their two new allies with a 36-31 majority. The entire chamber is up in years ending in 0, 2, and 6, but while Democrats will have another chance soon to flip the Senate, no one knows what the district lines will look like in 2022.
Democrats control the governor’s office and the state House, and since it will be difficult for both parties to agree on a map, we could be in for a repeat of what happened a decade ago (and each of the last several decades). Back then, the courts took over the redistricting process after the Republican-led legislature and then-Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton failed to agree on congressional and legislative maps. The legislative boundaries put into place, while not a partisan gerrymander, were very good for Team Red, though Democrats still managed to flip both chambers in the 2012 elections.
● Special Elections: We had one special general election on Tuesday in Alabama:
AL-HD-49: Former Alabaster City Council member Russell Bedsole won the race to succeed fellow Republican April Weaver, who resigned to take a post at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 63-37 against Democrat Cheryl Patton. Team Red’s victory in this seat, which includes parts of Bibb, Chilton, and Shelby Counties south of Birmingham, brings Team Red’s majority back to 76-28, with one additional GOP-held seat still vacant.
Alabama, unfortunately, is one of the most difficult states from which to wrangle data, so we do not have past presidential results for this district, but it assuredly leans very heavily GOP. Weaver won this seat in 2018 without any opposition.
● New York City, NY Mayor: On Wednesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams kicked off his long-anticipated campaign for the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out incumbent Bill de Blasio next year.
Adams, who would be the city’s second-ever Black mayor, is a former NYPD police captain who was a registered Republican until 2002. Adams called himself “extremely conservative on crime” back in 2018, and he said earlier this year that he would carry a gun if elected while forgoing a security detail, adding, “If the city is safe, the mayor shouldn’t have a security detail with him. He should be walking the street by himself.”
However, as David Freedlander recently wrote in New York Magazine, the borough president is “a difficult figure to place among the left-right spectrum.” Adams, Freedlander says, notably launched group calling for police reform while he served in the NYPD, and has “pushed for more affordable housing and job-training programs.” Adams also has spoken out against racial injustice, saying, “If white kids were failing at the level of Black and brown boys every year in school, there would be riots in the streets.”
Adams also has a knack for generating headlines far outside of Brooklyn. Last year, he held a press conference where he unveiled what he called a “cutting-edge” rat killing trap, which Gothamist’s Jake Offenhartz described as “part bait trap, part drowning tank—known as the Ekomille.” Continued Offenhartz, “We were promised dead rats, and goddamn did we get them.”
In January, Adams also generated attention when he said of newcomers gentrifying the city, “Go back to Iowa, you go back to Ohio. New York City belongs to the people that were here and made New York City what it is.” That statement didn’t go over well with his detractors, though, who pointed out that he’s enjoyed plenty of financial support from developers.
Meanwhile, Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker also reported Wednesday that another familiar name is eying the race. Multiple unnamed sources said that Democratic Rep. Max Rose, who lost re-election this month in his Staten Island-based seat to Republican Nicole Malliotakis, has “started making calls soliciting donors to back a potential mayoral bid,” though Rose hasn’t said anything publicly yet.
● TX-AG: The Associated Press’ Jake Bleiberg reported Tuesday that the FBI was investigating Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton over allegations that he “broke the law in using his office to benefit a wealthy donor” named Nate Paul.
This is the latest scandal involving Paxton, who is up for a third term in 2022. Paxton was indicted for securities fraud during his first months in office in 2015, though things soon stalled due to ongoing legal challenges. Paxton was re-elected 51-47 in 2018, but the case, which is unrelated to his current matter, remains ongoing.
Paxton found himself back in the news in early October after eight of his senior staffers told federal authorities that he’d illegally intervened to aid Paul in legal matters. The Texas Tribune also obtained an email from these employees to the attorney general saying, “It would be a violation of our own public responsibilities and ethical obligations to stand by while the significant power and resources of the Texas Attorney General’s Office are used to serve the interests of a private citizen bent on impeding a federal investigation into his own alleged wrongdoing and advancing his own financial interests.”
Paxton, though, dismissed this as the work of “rogue employees.” All eight staffers soon resigned, were fired, or put on leave, and four of them have filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Paxton. Earlier this month, two unnamed people also told the AP that Paxton “had an extramarital affair with a woman whom he later recommended for a job” with Paul.
Paxton’s team said last month that he “is absolutely planning on running again, is looking forward to winning a third term and is never going to stop fighting for the people of Texas.” However, there was already talk about a serious primary challenge even before news of the FBI investigation broke.
An advisor for state Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is the son of Jeb Bush, put out a statement in October saying, “Several donors have asked Commissioner Bush to consider running for Attorney General in 2022 in light of the recent allegations about that office.” He continued, “Commissioner Bush has always said he will ‘keep all options open’ and that remains his policy. Like many conservative leaders around the state, he is very concerned about the allegations regarding Paxton.”
If Paxton does leave before his term is over, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott would be tasked with appointing an interim attorney general, and it would be up to the state Senate to confirm the pick during their next legislative session, which normally only takes place during odd-numbered years.
● LA-05: The Associated Press called an all-Republican Dec. 5 runoff on Wednesday in the contest to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham in this safely red northeastern Louisiana seat. Luke Letlow, a former Abraham chief of staff who is running with his old boss’ endorsement, took first place with 33%, while state Rep. Lance Harris edged out Democrat Sandra Christophe 16.6-16.4—a margin of 428 votes—for the second runoff spot.
While the first round was largely a positive affair, the runoff is proceeding very differently. Harris went negative first on Monday, two days before the AP called second place for him, with a spot asking, “How do you get rich in politics? Just ask Luke Letlow.”
The narrator continues by accusing Letlow of pocketing “over $1 million from taxpayers working for politicians,” including former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Jindal left office in early 2016 with horrible approval numbers statewide, and Harris seems to be betting that he’s still toxic enough nearly five years later to hurt Letlow, especially among Democratic voters, who no longer have a candidate of their own.
Letlow quickly responded with his own ad declaring, “Lance Harris helped create the largest tax hike in Louisiana history. And Lance Harris pushed multiple bills that would directly benefit his gas stations.”