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.
● AK State House: The Alaska House of Representatives is currently run by an alliance of Democrats, independents, and breakaway Republicans called the Majority Caucus, but no one knows who will control the 40-member body more than two weeks after Election Day.
Republican hardliners won 18 seats, while another three Republican members of the Majority Caucus also prevailed. Democrats, meanwhile, won 15 districts, as did three Democratic-aligned independents. Independent Josiah Patkotak, who has not committed to joining any coalition, won the final constituency.
Alaska election authorities said Wednesday that they were done counting ballots and had produced final unofficial numbers but explained they would spend a week double checking before certifying the results. The only contest that appears to be in any doubt, though, is in the Anchorage-based House District 27, where Democrat Liz Snyder enjoys a 16-vote edge over Republican Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, who was hoping to be speaker in a GOP-led House.
The race is close enough that the state would pay for a recount, and Pruitt said Tuesday that he was still deciding whether to proceed. James Brooks of the Anchorage Daily News notes, however, that no recount in state history has ever overturned a lead as large as Snyder’s.
Regardless of what happens between Snyder and Pruitt, it remains to be seen who will be able to put together a majority. Two of the three Republican members of the Majority Caucus, state Reps. Steve Thompson and Bart LeBon, said in October that they wanted “to form a Republican majority,” while the third, state Rep. Louise Stutes, described herself at the time as “noncommittal.” LeBon, however, backpedalled this week, saying he hadn’t decided what to do, though he predicted that the new governing coalition would include members from both parties and some independents.
LeBon added that he was wary of any caucus that includes only a bare majority of members, which he argued would not be “healthy.” The person the Republicans may need to win over to give them a plumper majority is Patkotak, the independent who flipped an open Democratic-held seat in the far northern part of the state and has not decided on what caucus to join.
Patkotak said this week that he wanted to make sure several programs he supported, including “petroleum property taxes and Power Cost Equalization,” were protected, warning that he didn’t want to join a caucus that would undermine them. Power Cost Equalization is an Alaska program that subsidizes rural utility customers, which Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed eliminating. Dunleavy has also advocated for transferring authority to tax oil-related properties from local municipalities to the state government. The governor will propose a budget next month, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll call for these changes again.
Republicans may also have problems even if they do earn the support of Thompson, LeBon, Stutes, and Patkotak. One big divide in the party has been over the legislature’s “binding caucus rule,” which Brooks described earlier this month as “a set of voluntary rules that require members of a majority to vote together on specific items, including the budget.”
State Rep. David Eastman, a conservative who never joined the Majority Caucus but has nevertheless been a huge pain for party leaders, has opposed this rule and recently said that he’d be reluctant to stay in the GOP caucus if it remained a requirement.
LeBon, by contrast, wants to keep the rule, saying, “Eventually, you need to pass a budget … And, if you’re in the majority, you basically need to depend on your teammates in the majority to support the budget process from the start to the finish, and then pass it on the floor.” (The Majority Caucus actually booted a Republican member last year after she crossed it on a key budget vote.)
Republicans in the state Senate are also struggling to sort out their own differences, leaving Democrats hopeful that they can put together a similar bipartisan coalition in the upper chamber, which the GOP has run on its own since 2013. One factor that could improve Democrats’ prospects is the narrow passage of Measure 2, which will implement a “top four” primary system in place of the current partisan primary.
Starting in 2022, Measure 2 will require all candidates from all parties (including independents) to face off on a single primary ballot. The top four vote-getters—regardless of party—will advance to the general election, where a winner will be chosen via an instant runoff. This new system, which is the first of its kind in the United States, could make it easier for more pragmatic Republican legislators to form cross-party alliances and still keep their seats now that they no longer have to worry quite so much about protecting their right flank in GOP primaries.
With so many factors in play, it could take a while before we know who winds up on top in either chamber. Indeed, just two years ago it looked like Republicans had taken control of the House from a previous bipartisan alliance, but they simply could not find a candidate for speaker who could command a majority. The deadlock lasted through February of 2017, a full third of the way through the legislature’s 90-day session, until a new coalition finally formed.
Republicans will send 13 members to the Senate and Democrats seven, the same breakdown as before the election. However, one Democrat, Lyman Hoffman, has long caucused with the GOP. Democratic Leader Tom Begich recently said that “there remains the possibility of a coalition” but also noted that “there’s more of them than there are of us,” so Republicans—at least in theory—will have the final say.
● GA-Sen-B: A new poll from Republican pollster VCreek/AMG for Americas PAC, a pro-GOP super PAC primarily funded by conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, finds Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler leading Democrat Raphael Warnock 50-46. (There were no numbers included for the regular Senate election.) The only other post-Election Day polls have found a one-point race in either direction.
VCreek/AMG hasn’t previously released any polling of Georgia, but at the bottom of their memo, the firm claims that its “most recent public statewide U.S. Senate Poll accurately captured Republican Roger Marshall taking the lead in Kansas’ Senate election.” That survey, taken at the end of October, showed Marshall with just a 47-43 edge on Democrat Barbara Bollier, which was far off the mark from Marshall’s 54-42 win.
Meanwhile, Loeffler is running a new positive ad touting her charitable efforts on behalf of her state, including a $1 million donation she gave for COVID relief earlier this year. Forbes estimates that Loeffler and her husband together are worth at least $800 million.
● OH-Sen, OH-Gov: No one in American politics has flirted with bids for higher office more frequently than Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, so naturally, he’s at it again. Ryan told the Tribune Chronicle‘s David Skolnick this week that he has “no interest” in running for statewide office in 2022—unless he winds up with a “bad” district after redistricting or gets pitted against a fellow incumbent.
Either is possible. Ohio is likely to lose a seat during reapportionment, and Ryan’s 13th District in the Youngstown area is heavily white working-class turf that has trended sharply toward the GOP in recent years. While we don’t yet know how Trump performed here this month, Ryan’s 52-45 win over his Republican foe, former state Rep. Christina Hagan, was by far the narrowest of his 10 House campaigns,
But even if Ryan gets jacked up by the next Republican gerrymander—the GOP will more or less have free rein to draw the maps as they please despite the passage in 2018 of a supposedly reform-minded constitutional amendment—would he really try to prolong his political career by running for governor or Senate? Our old friend, the Great Mentioner, has dropped the congressman’s name half a dozen times only to see him stay put on every occasions.
Most recently, Ryan weighed a bid for Ohio’s open governorship in 2018 but opted not to. Before that, he considered taking on Republican Sen. Rob Portman in 2016; thought about challenging Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014; teased a run for an open Senate seat in 2010; came very close to joining Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland as his running-mate, also in 2010; and declined to go up against Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in 2006.
In a Politico interview four years ago, shortly after his quixotic challenge to Nancy Pelosi’s leadership in the House predictably fell apart, Ryan defended his choices by noting that Ohio Democrats had fared poorly in 2010 and 2016, two election cycles when he’d mooted seeking a promotion. However, he also turned down opportunities in far better years, including 2018 and most especially 2006, when Sherrod Brown—then a fellow representative—decided to challenge DeWine and won.
● VA-Gov: The Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s Jeff Schapiro reports that wealthy finance executive Glenn Youngkin is considering a run for governor as a Republican and could self-finance a bid. According to Schapiro, Youngkin, who stepped down as co-CEO of the mammoth Carlyle Group earlier this year, may be prepared to spend $25 million or more of his own money.
Two Republicans, state Sen. Amanda Chase and Del. Kirk Cox, are already running, and several more notable contenders are also weighing bids, but we still don’t know precisely how the GOP will choose a nominee. Schapiro says party leaders will decide whether to hold a convention or stage a traditional primary at a meeting on Dec. 5. Over 8,000 delegates attended the last gubernatorial convention Republicans held in 2013, which would make a similar gathering impossible if COVID restrictions remain in place in May, the month when such conclaves are usually held.
● Boston, MA Mayor: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hasn’t announced if he’ll seek a third term in 2021, but his Wednesday campaign fundraiser strongly indicates that he plans to be on the ballot next year. Walsh currency faces two fellow Democrats, City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu.
In Boston, all candidates will run on one nonpartisan ballot next September, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a November general election; candidates cannot avert a second round of voting by winning a majority in the first round, which is known locally as the preliminary election.
● Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Next year’s race to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor John Cranley took a shocking turn on Thursday when City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who very much looked like the frontrunner, was arrested by FBI agents on bribery charges. Federal authorities accused Sittenfeld, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2016, of soliciting bribes from FBI agents posing as developers in exchange for casting favorable votes.
Sittenfeld is the third member of the nine-person City Council to be charged this year with seeking bribes from developers in exchange for voting their way, though U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said that Sittenfeld’s case wasn’t directly related to those.
● St. Louis, MO Mayor: In a big surprise, Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Wednesday that she would not seek a second term next year. The incumbent’s decision came weeks after St. Louis became the first big city in America and only the second in the country after Fargo, North Dakota to adopt “approval voting,” though Krewson denied that this played a role in her departure.
Krewson herself won this post in 2017 after defeating city Treasurer Tishaura Jones 32-30 in the Democratic primary, which is tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic city. Under the new approval voting system, though, all the contenders will face off on one nonpartisan ballot, and voters could cast as many votes as there are candidates, with up to one vote per candidate. The top-two vote-getters will then advance to a general election.
Jones, Alderwoman Cara Spencer, and restaurant owner Dana Kelly had already announced campaigns against Krewson, and more local politicians will likely eye this race. President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed, who took third place with 18% in the 2017 primary, had said two weeks ago that he was “highly likely” to run again, and there’s no indication that the incumbent’s retirement has altered his plans.
Next year’s contest could also give St. Louis its first African American leader since 2001. Jones, Kelly, and Reed, like a small plurality of city residents, are Black, while Spencer is white.
● NJ-07: It looks like freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski will hang on after all: Though Malinowski’s 28,000-vote election night edge on Republican Tom Kean has since been whittled down to under 5,000, the New Jersey Globe says that counting is “almost completed,” leaving too few untallied ballots to make up the difference. The AP called the race for Malinowski shortly after midnight ET on election night, though at that time, a large proportion of votes had yet to be counted.