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, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● Pres-by-LD: Despite Joe Biden’s narrow win last year in Nevada, he carried more than 60% of the districts in each chamber of the legislature, according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections. As a result, Democrats easily kept control of both the state Senate and Assembly, though they fell short in their quest to secure two-thirds majorities. You can find all of our district-level data nationwide at this bookmarkable permalink.
Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the Silver State by a narrow 50-48 margin, but rather unusually, he won a much greater proportion of legislative districts: 27 in the Assembly compared to 15 for Trump, and 14 of 21 seats in the Senate. Those strong showings, though, weren’t quite enough for Democrats who wanted to win the supermajorities they’d need to pass certain revenue-related measures without GOP support.
Democrats instead emerged with a 26-16 advantage in the Assembly after the Republicans flipped three seats, which cost Team Blue the supermajority they’d won in 2018. And while Democrats needed to net just one seat to win two-thirds control in the Senate, the GOP instead scored a win that reduced the Democratic edge to 12-9. The entire Assembly goes before voters every two years, but only half of the Senate seats are on the ballot in presidential years while the rest are up in midterm cycles.
One tough problem for Democrats is that the Republicans benefited from what little crossover support there was: The GOP holds one Assembly seat that voted for Biden as well as two Senate constituencies, while no Trump turf is in Democratic hands. That assemblywoman is Jill Tolles, who won without any general election opposition even as Biden was pulling off a 49-48 victory in her Reno-area district; four years ago, it was Trump who defeated Clinton 48-44 in AD-25.
The most competitive Democratic-held seat, meanwhile, is the 29th District around Henderson in the Las Vegas suburbs. This constituency supported Biden 50-48 after backing Trump 47-46, and Democratic incumbent Leslie Cohen turned back her Republican opponent 51-49.
In the upper chamber, both GOP-held Biden seats were on the ballot last year. One of them is SD-15, which includes all of Tolles’ constituency. (In Nevada, two Assembly districts are nested within each Senate district.) Biden prevailed by a convincing 52-45 four years after Clinton won it by a much smaller 47-44, but Republican incumbent Heidi Gansert, a well-connected politician who once served as chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, was reelected 52-48.
The other crossover seat is also the site of Team Red’s one Senate pickup. SD-05, which includes Cohen’s constituency, supported Biden 51-47, also a shift to the left from Clinton’s 48-46 margin. Republican Carrie Buck, however, won the open seat race 48.8-48.3, a margin of about 330 votes.
The reddest Democratic-held seat is also in the Las Vegas area, though it wasn’t on the ballot this year. In 2018, Democrat Marilyn Dondero Loop prevailed 52-48 to succeed retiring incumbent Patricia Farley, who had beaten her as a Republican in 2014 only to become a Democratic-aligned independent right after the 2016 elections. SD-08 backed Biden 50-48, which was similar to Clinton’s 48-47 performance.
What makes Biden’s district-level performance so notable is that in most states where we’ve crunched the numbers for so far, he’s won a smaller proportion of districts than his statewide share of the vote, typically thanks to Republican gerrymanders. Nevada’s current map, though, wasn’t designed to favor Democrats: Rather, it was drawn by a federal judge after Sandoval and the Democratic-led legislature failed to agree on new lines a decade ago.
That, however, is likely to change soon. Unlike the situation a decade ago, Democrats now have full control of state government following Gov. Steve Sisolak’s victory in 2018. That would allow them to pass their own gerrymanders and potentially win the two-thirds supermajorities that eluded them last year.
● AK-Sen: Democratic state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson told the Alaska Landmine this week that she was considering entering next year’s top-four primary election against the two main Republicans, incumbent Lisa Murkowski and former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Gray-Jackson was elected in 2018 in a heavy blue state Senate seat in Anchorage, a win that made her the second Black woman to ever serve in the chamber, and the site says she “is known for her fundraising abilities.”
● MO-Sen: This time it’s the Republicans who won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore now that former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has announced that he won’t run for the Senate. The former governor would have given Team Blue a well-known contender in a very challenging race, though plenty of progressives remain angry about how he handled the 2014 protests against police violence in Ferguson.
On the GOP side, though, one potential candidate may be close to revealing his plans. Rep. Billy Long, who represents the 7th District in the southwest corner of the state, has a “Birthday Celebration and Special Announcement” set for Aug. 11 that will be headlined by Trumpworld favorite Kellyanne Conway. Long himself raised an underwhelming $200,000 for his federal campaign account, which could be used for either a reelection bid or a Senate run, and he ended June with $560,000 in the bank.
Long hails from one of the biggest sources of GOP votes in the state, though he may not be able to count on as much local support as he might want. While the former auctioneer has never faced serious intraparty opposition since he won his first race in 2010, he’s also never exceeded 66% of the vote in any of his nomination fights. We’re not sure exactly why so many primary voters keep opting for Some Dudes over their incumbent, especially since Long doesn’t seem to have done anything serious to alienate conservatives.
Meanwhile another Republican who had once been mentioned as a possible contender, state Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, announced this week that he’d run for state auditor instead. That job is occupied by retiring incumbent Nicole Galloway, the Democrats’ 2020 gubernatorial nominee who is also Team Blue’s only statewide elected official.
● OH-Sen: Investment banker Mike Gibbons has announced that he’s reserved $10 million in TV and radio airtime for spots that will begin Friday and last through the May Republican primary, with $3 million of that going towards advertising for 2021. Gibbons, by contrast, had a total Senate campaign budget of $3 million in 2018 when he lost the nomination to then-Rep. Jim Renacci 47-32.
Gibbons can afford this huge early media booking because, thanks to his large personal investment, he ended June with the largest war chest in the primary. Gibbons raised only $535,000 from donors during the second quarter of 2021 but self-funded $5.7 million, and he had $5.9 million on-hand at the conclusion of last month.
Ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel wasn’t too far behind with $5 million in the bank, though that’s almost entirely because he still has plenty of leftover cash from his aborted 2018 campaign. Mandel brought in $975,000 which, while not impressive by 2021 Senate campaign standards, is far better than the $33,000 he raised during the first three months of the year. (It’s still not as good, though, as the $1.3 million he claimed to have raised during the first three months of the year.)
The field also includes more well-funded Republicans. Former State Party Chair Jane Timken brought in $1.1 million (unlike last time, she did no self-funding) and had $2.1 million in the bank. Businessman Bernie Moreno, meanwhile, raised $2.2 million during his opening quarter and had $1.6 million on-hand. Another notable contender, venture capitalist J.D. Vance, got into the race after this fundraising period ended, though not before he’d fully purged his old anti-Trump Twitter history.
The only serious Democrat in the race, meanwhile, remains Rep. Tim Ryan. The congressman raised $2.1 million during his first quarter as a Senate candidate and ended June with $2.6 million in the bank.
● PA-Sen, PA-17: Roll Call reports that Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb will announce his long-anticipated Senate campaign on Aug. 6. This move would open up Lamb’s 17th District, a suburban Pittsburgh seat that, in its current form, swung from 49-47 Trump to 51-48 Biden.
● CA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newest commercial stars Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who warns the audience that the Trump supporters who are attacking voting rights are “coming to grab power in California, abusing the recall process, and costing taxpayers millions.” She continues, “Here’s how we stop them. Every Californian will get a mail-in ballot for the Sept. 14 election. Vote no to protect California and our democracy.”
● NY-Gov: Brian Schwartz of CNBC reports that Democratic state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi is considering a primary bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Schwartz also relays that Biaggi could also be considering a run for a lower statewide office, such as state comptroller and lieutenant governor. Biaggi did not rule out running for governor earlier this year and her spokesperson did not dispute this new report.
● MO-02: Democratic state Rep. Trish Gunby has filed FEC paperwork for a potential bid for the seat held by Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican who is flirting with running for the Senate. The current version of this suburban St. Louis seat voted for Donald Trump just 49.18-49.16, which made it the closest of any of the nation’s 435 congressional districts, but the GOP legislature has the power to gerrymander it all over again.
Gunby would join a primary that includes Ben Samuels, whom we hadn’t previously mentioned. Samuels recently finished a stint working for the administration of Massachusetts’ Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, though he says he did his job remotely from Missouri during the pandemic. Samuels’ campaign said Tuesday that he’d raised $360,000 during his first few weeks in the race.
● NH-01: John DiStaso of WMUR writes that 2020 GOP nominee Matt Mowers will announce another bid in September. Mowers, a longtime Republican operative and former Trump administration official, was defeated by Rep. Chris Pappas last year 51-46 as Joe Biden was beating his former boss here by a similar 52-46 spread.
● NY-11: Former state Assembly staffer Michael DeCillis, who was a first responder during the 9/11 attacks, kicked off a bid on Wednesday against Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. DeCillis was initially a Democratic candidate for this seat in 2018, but he dropped out well before the primary after he raised little money. DeCillis joins Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros in the contest for this Staten Island-based district.
● OH-11: Former state Sen. Nina Turner’s latest attack ad claims that Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown is “facing investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission” and “could face … jail time,” though that “could” is doing a ton of work here, especially since there’s no confirmation that any such investigation actually exists.
The background: In April, The Intercept reported that Brown, while on the county council, had voted to approve contracts to companies with ties to her partner, Mark Perkins. A paywalled piece published this week at the Daily Poster (a site founded by former Bernie Sanders adviser David Sirota) and co-authored by left-wing essayist Walker Bragman now says that the Intercept’s allegations were reviewed by the office of state Auditor Keith Faber, a Republican, and were referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The post by Bragman, who’s best known for a notorious 2016 piece headlined, “A liberal case for Donald Trump,” was then republished by Newsweek, a once-respected outlet that long ago collapsed into what The New Republic’s Alex Shepard last year called a “zombie publication, whose former legitimacy is used to launder extreme and conspiratorial ideas.”
It’s this Newsweek version that Turner’s ad prominently cites, showing the magazine’s logo onscreen in two locations simultaneously, along with the text of the article (though it deletes the headline, which calls Brown the “Hillary Clinton-endorsed Candidate”). A narrator then claims that Brown is “facing investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission” and “could face criminal charges, and if convicted, jail time”—as a prison door is shown slamming shut.
But the commission, as the Daily Poster’s own piece notes (albeit in the final paragraph), has refused to “confirm or deny” the existence of any investigation. Brown’s campaign has declined to comment on the story throughout, and local media outlets haven’t covered it, so there’s no reliable reporting as to whether there even is an investigation underway, let alone whether one might lead to criminal charges or a prison sentence.
The ad may in fact say more about the state of Turner’s campaign than about Brown, seeing as Turner hasn’t otherwise responded to recent polls showing Brown closing what was once a sizable gap. There’s also little time for this spot to have an impact with the Democratic primary on Tuesday, especially since early voting began weeks ago.
● SD-AL: Austin Goss of the ABC affiliate KOTA reports that state Rep. Taffy Howard is “likely to make an announcement in the coming weeks” about challenging Rep. Dusty Johnson in the Republican primary. Howard did not confirm she’ll go up against this very red state’s lone House member, but did say she was “exploring all possibilities.”
Johnson has been a fairly low-key but ardently loyal Trump supporter, while Howard has established herself as a conservative zealot. This year, she loudly complained after Republican Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed an anti-trans bill. Howard also picked a fight with the governor when she sponsored an unsuccessful bill that would have required Noem, who is a potential 2024 presidential candidate, to disclose the security costs of her out-of-state trips.
Noem isn’t the only big-name Republican Howard has gone after. Goss notes that last week, the state representative spoke at an “America First” rally that was co-sponsored by a group dedicated to challenging Sen. John Thune in the primary. Howard, though, doesn’t appear to have yet thrown any bombs at Johnson, her would-be opponent.
Johnson himself won renomination last year by turning back former state Rep. Liz Marty May 77-23, and he ended June with $1.5 million on-hand.