The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide moves forward with numbers from five very different states: Arkansas, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and West Virginia. You can find our complete data set here, which we’re updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available. Just below is our analysis of the Buckeye State, while our look at the other four states can be found in our “Data” section further on down.
Despite Democratic hopes, Donald Trump’s 53-45 win in Ohio virtually matched his 52-44 performance four years ago in this one-time swing state. Trump also carried the same 12 congressional districts that he took last time, while the remaining four Clinton seats also went for Biden. Likewise, all the Trump districts remained in GOP hands, while the four Clinton/Biden districts once again elected Democratic members. You can find our map here.
Democrats were optimistic that Biden could flip the 1st District in the Cincinnati area, and the seat did move to the left. However, while Trump’s 51-48 showing this time was notably closer than his prior 51-45 performance, veteran Republican Rep. Steve Chabot still rode to a 52-45 victory over Democrat Kate Schroder.
Trump secured single-digit victories in three other seats. The 10th District in the Dayton area supported him 51-47, which was a slip from his 51-44 win last time. Longtime Republican Rep. Mike Turner, though, again ran well ahead of the ticket and beat Democrat Desiree Tims 58-42.
The 12th District in the Columbus suburbs, meanwhile, went for Trump 52-46, which was quite a bit narrower than his 53-42 performance in 2016; Republican Rep. Troy Balderson, though, won 55-42 against Democrat Alaina Shearer. Trump also prevailed 54-45 in the 14th District in the Cleveland suburbs, which was down a little from his prior 54-42 win, though Republican Rep. David Joyce racked up a strong 60-40 win over Democrat Hillary O’Connor Mueri.
Biden, by contrast, lost ground in the 13th District, ancestrally blue turf in the Youngstown area with a large white working class voting bloc. This constituency had already moved dramatically to the right: Barack Obama carried it 63-35 in 2012 but Clinton won it just 51-45, and Biden hung on by an even narrower 51-48 margin. Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan beat former Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan by a stronger 52-45 spread, but it was by far the narrowest victory in his 10 House campaigns.
These results owe much to the extreme gerrymander that Republicans passed in the last round of redistricting, which have locked in a 12-4 congressional majority for the GOP every single year, even when Obama won Ohio in 2012. There’s a good chance the coming decade will see something similar.
Voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that theoretically puts congressional redistricting in the hands of a commission that includes members from both parties. However, if the commission’s proposals don’t achieve the bipartisan support the amendment requires, the Republican-led legislature would be able to just pass its own maps again. Those maps would only be good for four years instead of the usual 10, but the process would just repeat itself. In other words, anyone who wants to gerrymander just needs to pass new maps more often.
● GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: The Senate Majority PAC says it’s adding $5.5 million in TV time across both Georgia runoffs, with a new ad in each. They focus on heavily scrutinized stock trades that both Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue made following private coronavirus briefings that Congress received before the pandemic exploded and sank the markets. The Loeffler spot features a rotting peach, while the Perdue ad focuses on a recent New York Times article elaborating on a federal investigation into Perdue’s trades.
● AZ-Sen: By virtue of winning a special election, Democrat Mark Kelly was sworn in to the Senate on Wednesday, a month before November’s other victors will take their congressional oath of office. Kelly’s ascension slims the GOP’s majority to 52-48 and marks the first time Arizona’s had two Democratic senators since the early 1950s, when Sens. Carl Hayden and Ernest McFarland served together.
It also means that Kelly will have to face voters again in just two years, so unsurprisingly, we’re starting to hear some Republican names burble up. The National Journal’s Zach Cohen name-drops several possible contenders in a new piece: Reps. Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko, as well as Blake Masters, the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, the investment firm run by billionaire conservative activist Peter Thiel.
Biggs, a member of the nihilist House Freedom Caucus, was mentioned as a possible Senate candidate after GOP Sen. Jeff Flake announced his retirement, but he never ran. Masters, meanwhile, considered a primary challenge against Martha McSally after she was appointed to the Senate following her 2018 loss but ultimately didn’t bite. As for Lesko, she won a much-closer-than-it-should-have-been special election in a very red district in 2018 but prevailed easily this year.
Cohen also takes note of term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, whom NRSC chair Rick Scott recently talked up as a potential recruit. However, we haven’t heard anything from Ducey or anyone else yet.
● PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said in October that he was “considering both” a bid for the Senate and governor, but USA Today’s J.D. Prose indicates that the former option is far more likely.
Keystone State politicos view Attorney General Josh Shapiro as an all-but-certain candidate to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, and Prose relays that insiders “are betting” that Fetterman won’t want to take on Shapiro in a primary. Fetterman unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 to face Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is not seeking re-election in 2022.
Prose also mentions Rep. Susan Wild as a potential Democratic Senate candidate, though there’s no word on her interest, as well as a few Republicans who could run to succeed Toomey:
- Beaver County Republican Chairman Jim Christiana
- Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman
- Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick
- Former state House Speaker Mike Turzai
It also remains to be seen if any of this bunch are looking at the race, though Prose writes that “some observers have said Turzai might be reluctant to jump back into the political fray” only a few months after he resigned from office.
● AZ-Gov: The National Journal’s Zach Cohen has a couple of tidbits about potential Republican candidates for Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial election, when Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is term-limited out. Former Rep. Matt Salmon, who narrowly lost a bid for governor in 2002, says he’ll make up his mind “in the next few months,” while Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson says a decision will come this month.
Robson, a wealthy real estate developer and major Republican donor, hails from a prominent political family: Her father, Carl Kunasek, served as state Senate president in the 1980s and later on the Arizona Corporation Commission, while Andrew Kunasek, her brother, was a longtime member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Robson was appointed as a regent by Ducey in 2017, and her name came up as a possible successor to John McCain, both before and after Jon Kyl’s brief return to the Senate (Ducey of course wound up choosing Martha McSally). Last year, she floated the possibility of running for governor and suggested she might partially self-fund her campaign.
● GA-05: Former Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall defeated former Morehouse College president Robert Franklin 54-46 in an all-Democratic special election runoff Tuesday night for the final month of the late Rep. John Lewis’ term. While Hall’s tenure will be brief, Roll Call notes he may have the chance to vote on some consequential legislation, including a spending bill to avert a looming government shutdown. Hall will be succeeded next month by fellow Democrat Nikema Williams, who easily won the regular election for a full two-year term on Nov. 3.
● IA-02: Democrat Rita Hart, who trails Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by six votes in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, says she will forego a challenge to the results under state law and will instead seek redress before the U.S. House under a 1969 statute called the Federal Contested Elections Act. That law allows the House to investigate a disputed election, potentially conduct its own recount, and seat a different winner if warranted.
Hart’s campaign explained its preference for going this route by noting that under Iowa’s system for contesting election results, a final determination would be required no later than Tuesday. That, said the campaign, would leave insufficient time to address the many ballots it believes remain improperly uncounted.
The House, by contrast, could take as much time as it feels is necessary, as it did following a protracted dispute over a 1984 race in Indiana’s 8th District when it ultimately seated Democrat Frank McCloskey over Republican Rick McIntyre, who’d been certified the winner under questionable circumstances.
● GA Western Circuit District Attorney: Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, who briefly served in the Georgia state House as a Democrat, defeated prosecutor James Chafin by a 52-48 margin in a special election to serve as district attorney in Clarke and Oconee counties, which include the city of Athens. Gonzalez will become the first Hispanic district attorney in the state and has called for an array of progressive reforms to the criminal justice system, including ending cash bail and the death penalty. Chafin, meanwhile, ran as an independent but enjoyed the support of Republicans and was described by The Appeal’s Daniel Nichanian as “more skeptical of reforms.”
Gonzalez had led Chafin 48-35 in the first round of voting on Nov. 3, but this election would never have taken place at all had Republican Gov. Brian Kemp gotten his way. Kemp refused to appoint a successor after the incumbent district attorney, whose post was set to go before voters this year, unexpectedly resigned in February, which would have delayed a new election until 2022. Gonzalez brought a crowdfunded lawsuit that successfully challenged the state law Kemp had relied on, prompting the courts to reinstate the election.
● Arkansas: Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in Arkansas 62-35, which was almost identical to his 61-34 showing four years earlier, and as in 2016, he decisively carried all four of the state’s congressional districts. You can find our map here.
Trump’s weakest showing once again came in the 2nd District in the central part of the state, but his 53-44 victory here also wasn’t much different from his 52-44 showing in 2016. National Democrats targeted Republican Rep. French Hill in this Little Rock-area seat, but Hill fended off Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott 55-45. Meanwhile, Trump took more than 60% of the vote in the other three congressional districts.
Arkansas last elected a Democratic congressman in 2010, when veteran Rep. Mike Ross prevailed over weak opposition in the 4th District. Democrats, who then controlled state government, made a half-hearted attempt to protect Ross in the ensuing round of redistricting, but Republicans easily flipped his southern Arkansas seat after Ross instead decided to retire.
Republicans have held a 4-0 majority under this Democratic-drawn map ever since, and because the GOP will control redistricting for the first time next year, it’s very likely to hold on to the entire delegation for a long time to come.
● Iowa: Despite pre-election polls showing a close race, Donald Trump won Iowa 53-45 over Joe Biden, which was only a small improvement for Democrats from Trump’s 52-42 victory in 2016 in what was once an extremely competitive state. Trump also once again carried all four of the Hawkeye State’s congressional districts (you can find our map here), though there was one notable shift.
Trump captured the 3rd District in the Des Moines area only 49.1-49.0, which was decidedly weaker than his 49-45 showing in 2016. That move to the left may also have made all the difference for freshman Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, who beat former Republican Rep. David Young 49-48 in a rematch of their 2018 battle.
Unfortunately for Team Blue, though, the 1st and 2nd Districts in eastern Iowa voted about the same in this year’s presidential race as they did in 2016. Indeed, both seats supported Trump 51-47 four years after they each backed him by an identical 49-45 spread. Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson unseated freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer 51-49 in the 1st District, while as of this writing, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks holds a 6-vote lead over Democrat Rita Hart in the Democratic-held 2nd District to the south.
Trump also romped to a 63-36 victory in the 4th District in the western part of the state, which was also similar to his 61-34 performance in 2016. This district hosted an unexpectedly close race in 2018 when white nationalist Rep. Steve King held off Democrat J.D. Scholten only 50-47. However, state Sen. Randy Feenstra unseated King in this year’s Republican primary, and Feenstra went on to defeat Scholten 62-38 in November.
Republicans also maintained control of Iowa’s state government, and if they decide to ignore decades of precedent, they’ll be able to draw themselves an even more favorable congressional map. Under state law, a nonpartisan agency proposes maps to the state legislature, but while lawmakers have always adopted them, the GOP now can simply reject the agency’s proposals and implement their own gerrymanders, or even repeal the statute that created the agency in the first place.
● Nevada: Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump 50-48 in Nevada, which was similar to Hillary Clinton’s 48-46 showing in 2016 (and also a good demonstration of the reduced appeal of third-party candidates in 2020). However, while Trump and Clinton each took two of the state’s congressional districts four years ago, Biden secured three of them this time. You can find our map here.
Biden’s improvements in the suburbs helped him flip the 3rd District to the south of Las Vegas: While Trump took this seat 48-47 four years ago, Biden scored an even tighter 49.1-48.9 win this time. Freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee ran a bit ahead of the ticket, though, by defeating former wrestler Dan Rodimer 49-46 in a contest that attracted millions in outside spending on both sides. (This also makes this district the second we’ve encountered so far that flipped from Trump to Biden, after New Hampshire’s 1st. We haven’t come across any Clinton-to-Trump seats yet.)
Meanwhile, there was a tiny tick to the right in the 4th District, which includes Las Vegas’ northern suburbs and a large swath of rural areas in the middle of the state. Biden won 51-47 in a seat that had favored Clinton 50-45; Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford also prevailed 51-46 in a race that saw little outside spending on either side.
The other two districts remained uncompetitive, though there were some notable shifts in each. Biden took Democratic Rep. Dina Titus’ 1st District 61-36, which was a little weaker than Clinton’s 62-33 win in this Las Vegas-based seat. Trump’s 54-44 victory in Republican Rep. Mark Amodei’s 2nd District, though, was a shade smaller than his previous 52-40 showing in this northern Nevada seat.
Unlike their colleagues in many other states, Silver State Democrats are considerably better positioned for redistricting than they were 10 years ago. The current congressional lines were drawn up by a federal judge after then-GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Democratic-led legislature failed to agree on a map. Democrat Steve Sisolak won the 2018 race to replace Sandoval, however, and Team Blue also currently controls both chambers of the legislature.
● West Virginia: Donald Trump carried West Virginia 69-30, which was slightly narrower than his 68-26 victory in 2016, but he nevertheless scored more than 65% of the vote in all three congressional districts. Republicans have also controlled the state’s trio of House seats since the 2014 elections. You can find our map here.
Rep. David McKinley’s 1st District in northern West Virginia backed Trump 68-30, which was likewise just a small shift from his 68-26 win four years ago. Rep. Alex Mooney’s 2nd District in the center of the state, meanwhile, supported Trump 65-33 after going for the top of the ticket 66-29 in 2016.
Trump’s best showing in both of his races, though, was in Rep. Carol Miller’s 3rd District in the south, a once heavily Democratic area that routinely backed the party down-ticket into the early 21st century; Trump won 73-25 here, compared to 73-23 last time.
Below the presidential level, the 18 counties that make up the current 3rd District supported only a single Republican candidate for statewide office from 1930 until 2014, Republican Gov. Arch Moore in 1972. (West Virginia is one of just two states that doesn’t split counties in congressional redistricting, along with Iowa.) Longtime Democratic Rep. Nick Rahal lost re-election in 2014, though, and as Trump’s performance shows, the area is now extremely hostile for Democrats.
Democrats controlled redistricting a decade ago, but they made minimal adjustments to the state’s map and did little to stop the GOP from sweeping the delegation, though at this point, it’s unlikely any district lines could have saved even a single Democrat. Republicans will now be in charge of the process at a time when the state looks likely to lose a seat.