Morning Digest: Georgia Republicans are playing a dangerous game with their new maps

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Leading Off

GA Redistricting: Georgia Republicans have passed new congressional and legislative maps pursuant to a court order, but like their conservative brethren in so many Southern states past and present, they’re doing their utmost to resist full compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The pièce de résistance of the new GOP gerrymanders is some sleight-of-hand in the Atlanta area. A court instructed lawmakers to create a new Black-majority congressional district in the suburbs, which Republicans did … while simultaneously dismantling a diverse neighboring district with a large Black population.

As a result, Republicans would retain their wide 9-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation—but only if the map passes legal muster. And there’s good reason to think it won’t.

Read more about the George GOP’s efforts to sidestep the VRA, including why a federal judge might very well smack them down once again, in Stephen Wolf’s new explainer. You’ll also find interactive maps at the link.

Senate

CA-Sen: The Public Policy Institute of California has released a survey conducted Nov. 9-16, and it shows Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter advancing out of the March top-two primary:

  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D): 21
  • Rep. Katie Porter (D): 16
  • former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey (R): 10
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (D): 8
  • Others: 27
  • Undecided: 14

WI-Sen: NRSC chair Steve Daines confidently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday that wealthy businessman Eric Hovde “is gonna get in” to the race against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, adding, “We’re behind him.” An unnamed source close to Hovde wasn’t so definitive about the Republican’s plans, disclosing to reporter Lawrence Andrea that the would-be candidate is “continuing to talk with supporters and is looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the holidays.”

Another rich guy, Scott Mayer, was also not so sure that Hovde would run. Mayer, who is mulling his own bid, told Andrea that Hovde “said a handful of times in the past he was going to [run for office] and never did.” Mayer recently told the paper he was aiming to decide in January or February whether to wage his own effort, and he’s declined to rule out the possibility that he could take on Hovde in the August GOP primary.

Finally, Andrea notes that former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke this week indicated to a conservative radio show that he could reveal his plans “as we get into the New Year, early in the New Year.” Clarke, who is close to far-right groups, started flirting with a campaign against Baldwin back in March, though national Republicans have spent months insisting that he’s not actually serious.

WV-Sen: A group called Conservative Americans PAC has begun airing TV ads against Rep. Alex Mooney ahead of the May Republican primary, though there’s no word how much it’s spending.

The narrator touches on Mooney’s past career in the Maryland legislature and his support from the Club for Growth, declaring, “Maryland Mooney is being backed by the same big-money D.C. club that opposed President Trump. Trump called them ‘political misfits,’ ‘globalists,’ and ‘losers.'” The ad goes on to praise Gov. Jim Justice, the primary frontrunner whom the Club recently began attacking on the air.

Governors

NH-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in from the period covering June 6 through Dec. 4, and we’ve collected each major contender’s numbers in one place:

  • Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R): $2.7 million raised, $2.4 million cash on hand
  • Former state Senate President Chuck Morse (R): $903,000 raised, $851,000 cash on hand
  • Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig (D): $901,000 raised, $969,000 cash on hand
  • Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington (D): $707,000, $698,000 cash on hand

The party primaries don’t take place until September.

NJ-Gov: The New Jersey Globe reports that former state Senate President Steve Sweeney will announce Monday that he’s joining the 2025 Democratic primary to replace termed-out Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, though Sweeney himself only told the site, “I’m leaning toward an announcement shortly.” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who launched in April, is currently the only major declared Democratic candidate.

House

CA-16: Businessman Peter Dixon and Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims have each announced that they’re joining the March top-two primary to replace their fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo. Democratic state Sen. Josh Becker, though, says he’s decided to sit the race out for this dark blue Silicon Valley constituency.

Dixon, who co-founded a cybersecurity company, previously served with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the State Department during the Obama administration. Dixon is also the co-founder of With Honor Fund, a group that backs military veterans in both parties.

Lythcott-Haims, for her part, is a former dean of freshmen for Stanford University, which is located in the 16th District, as well as the writer of the New York Times bestseller “How to Raise an Adult.” Lythcott-Haims, who identifies as a “Black, queer woman,” is the first woman to launch a campaign to replace Eshoo. The councilmember would be the first Black person to represent either Santa Clara or San Mateo counties in the House, as well as the Bay Area’s first LGBTQ+ representative. (Another Democrat running here, Assemblyman Evan Low, would also achieve that latter distinction.)

CA-20: Outgoing Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s potential successors only have until Dec. 13 to decide if they want to seek a full term representing this conservative seat. Businessman David Giglio, who took fourth in last year’s top-two primary for the neighboring 13th District, launched an intra-party bid against the deposed speaker in late October, but he’s unlikely to deter anyone else from getting in.

Indeed, one particularly infamous Republican didn’t rule out a comeback hours before McCarthy announced his own resignation. “I’m just assuming that he’s running―that he’s going to run again,” former Rep. Devin Nunes, who himself resigned from Congress last cycle to lead Donald Trump’s disastrous social media enterprise, told The San Joaquin Valley Sun of his former colleague. “I’d be glad to support him if he wants to continue to run, and we’ll leave it at that.”

After McCarthy made it clear he wouldn’t be running again, though, an unnamed source told the site that “plenty could happen between now and Wednesday, but no one is better positioned to succeed McCarthy than Devin. If he wants to run, his election would be a mere formality.”

There was already plenty of chatter about which Republicans could run in a McCarthy-less contest for this conservative seat, but one of the most talked about names, Assemblyman Vince Fong, said Thursday he won’t be a candidate. But state Sen. Shannon Grove, who has also been the subject of much speculation, has yet to reveal her plans.  

A few other Republicans also didn’t rule anything out last week before McCarthy made his intentions known. Former Rep. Connie Conway, who served out the remaining quarter of Nunes’ term, told gvwire.com, “If my service is needed, I’m okay with that.” Assemblyman Devon Mathis, likewise, said of the former speaker, “If he is truly out, yes I would have to look at it.” Clovis City Council member Diane Pearce additionally informed Politico, “My focus remains on serving Clovis and fighting to protect us from the onslaught coming from Sacramento. I’m not in the habit of closing doors though.”

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, meanwhile, responded to McCarthy’s announcement by telling the Sun, “I was surprised by Congressman McCarthy’s decision. I wish him well.” Magsig last cycle ran against his fellow Republican, Rep. Tom McClintock, in the top-two primary for the 5th District, but he took a distant third with just 13%.

GVWire.com mentioned Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux last week as a possibility, but he doesn’t appear to have said anything about running. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, however, declared Wednesday that he wouldn’t run.

CA-31: Former Rep. Gil Cisneros on Wednesday publicized an endorsement from 28th District Rep. Judy Chu, a fellow Democrat who represents a neighboring seat, for the March top-two primary.

CO-04: Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg declared Thursday that he was joining the June Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ken Buck in this dark red seat. “I think 16 years of legislative experience and leadership skills I have obtained over a lifetime has prepared me to become an advocate for rural Colorado and this district,” said Sonnenberg, who served in both chambers of the legislature before being termed out last year. “If not me, then who?”

Several other eastern Colorado Republicans, though, don’t believe Sonnenberg is as indispensable as he thinks he is. Weld County Council member Trent Leisy launched his campaign before Buck retired last month, while conservative talk radio host Deborah Flora and state Rep. Richard Holtorf have since joined him. The Colorado Sun also reported this week that observers anticipate that state House Minority Leader Mike Lynch will launch soon.

GA-06: Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson, a Democrat, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tamar Hallerman on Thursday that she won’t challenge a Democratic incumbent after Republican legislators passed a new congressional map to replace districts that a federal court recently struck down for violating the Voting Rights Act. Richardson had announced her candidacy in September in anticipation of the court potentially requiring new districts, and she indicated to Hallerman that she’s waiting to see whether the court rejects the new GOP map before deciding on her 2024 plans.

Republicans’ new map puts part of Cobb County in a new 6th District that would be majority-Black and solidly Democratic, but a Daily Kos Elections analysis finds that 53% of the new 6th’s population comes from Democratic Rep. David Scott’s current 13th District, while no new other district has nearly as many of his current constituents. Scott does not yet appear to have commented on the new map and what he might do next year if it gets implemented, but the longtime congressman said back in August that he would seek reelection.

MA-07: Joe Battenfeld of the conservative Boston Herald speculates that Josh Kraft, who is the son of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, could challenge Rep. Ayanna Pressley in the September Democratic primary, though Battenfeld acknowledges it would be difficult for anyone to defeat her.

Battenfeld writes that the younger Kraft, who leads the New England Patriots Foundation, “has expressed an interest in possibly exploring running for office in the future, admitting he has been approached by people to run.” However, it’s not clear if Kraft has specifically talked about running for this safely blue Boston-based seat.

NC-06: Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning declared Thursday she would not seek a third term “under the egregiously gerrymandered congressional districts, which the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly passed into law.” That gerrymander transformed Manning’s 6th District from a seat that would have voted 56-43 for Joe Biden in 2020 into one that would have gone 57-41 for Donald Trump, according to Dave’s Redistricting App—a 29-percentage-point swing in partisanship.

Manning, who is a former chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, spent years as an active member in several local Greensboro civic organizations, including as the chief fundraiser for a new performing arts center. She first sought office in 2018 when she challenged GOP Rep. Ted Budd in a previous version of the 13th District, a gerrymandered constituency that had favored Trump 53-44 the previous cycle, and she always looked like the underdog in such a tough turf.

Still, Manning’s strong fundraising and that year’s blue wave helped her put up a tough fight. Budd prevailed 52-46, but Manning’s respectable showing helped set her up for another campaign in 2020 after court-supervised redistricting led to the creation of a Democratic-leaning seat, now numbered the 6th District, in the Greensboro area.

GOP Rep. Mark Walker retired rather than try to defend the revamped 6th, which would have favored Hillary Clinton 59-38, and Manning began this race as the frontrunner. (Budd easily claimed the new 13th, and he went on to take a Senate seat two years later.) Manning won the primary 48-20 over Rhonda Foxx, a former chief of staff to 12th District Rep. Alma Adams, and her easy general election victory made her the first Jewish person to represent the state in Congress.

The GOP legislature soon targeted the new congresswoman for defeat by passing a gerrymander that split up her home county of Guilford between three districts and stranded her in a dark-red seat with GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx. Manning caught a break when the Democratic-led state Supreme Court struck down those boundaries and approved new ones that included a still-blue 6th District, and she turned back an unheralded Republican foe 54-45.

However, the GOP’s takeover of the state Supreme Court that year ensured that her reprieve would only be temporary. While Manning announced in October that she’d run again, Republicans unveiled their new and aggressive gerrymander a short time later that made victory all but impossible for her.

Three notable Republicans didn’t wait for Manning to announce her retirement before launching bids to take the new 6th: Walker; outgoing High Point Mayor Jay Wagner; and Bo Hines, who lost the 2022 contest to Democrat Wiley Nickel in the last incarnation of the 13th. (Nickel, who was also targeted by GOP mapmakers, has not yet announced his plans.) The filing deadline is Dec. 15, and the primary is set for March 5.

NJ-03: Assemblyman Herb Conaway declared Tuesday that he would run to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Andy Kim, in a constituency that Joe Biden took 56-43. Conaway joins Assembly Majority Whip Carol Murphy, who represents the same legislative district, in the June primary. Conaway would be South Jersey’s first Black House member, while Murphy would be the region’s first congresswoman.

Conaway, who is a physician and Air Force veteran, was first elected to the state Assembly in 1997 from what was a competitive seat at the time. The Democrat sought a promotion in 2004 when he challenged GOP Rep. Jim Saxton for a previous version of the 3rd District, but he came nowhere close to beating the entrenched incumbent: Saxton prevailed 63-35 as George W. Bush was beating John Kerry 51-49 in the district.

Because the New Jersey legislature is only up in odd-numbered years, though, Conaway did not need to give up his place in the lower chamber. (Saxton himself retired ahead of the 2008 elections.) Conaway and Murphy were both up for reelection this year, and the former earned slightly more votes in the primary and general.

NY-03: Democratic leaders unsurprisingly announced on Thursday that they’d chosen former Rep. Tom Suozzi to be the party’s nominee in the closely watched Feb. 13 special election to replace Suozzi’s successor, expelled GOP Rep. George Santos. Suozzi has spent more than two decades as one of the most prominent Democrats on Long Island, so his party is hoping that his name recognition and moderate reputation will be an asset.

Local Republicans, meanwhile, seem to be delaying their choice. The New York Daily News’ Dave Goldiner reported on Thursday that the GOP would not announce a selection until “early next week,” but a party spokesperson previously said the party would decide by the end of this week. (Primary voters in New York do not select nominees in special elections.)

One Republican hopeful is using that extra time to roll out a poll he hopes will help his prospects. Opinion Diagnostics conducted a survey for Air Force veteran Kellen Curry the day before Santos was expelled that shows Suozzi leading him 43-39. While that might not sound like the most enticing result, Curry’s survey finds that rival Republicans who’ve attracted more attention would nonetheless fare similarly.

In particular, respondents favor Suozzi 43-40 against Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip, while they prefer the Democrat by a slightly larger 45-38 margin over businessman Mike Sapraicone. The polling firm’s memo goes on to say that when presented with seven different “character attributes,” voters overwhelmingly say they’re more likely to favor a “United States Military Veteran.”

The pollster adds that 58% of those polled say they’re “less likely” to support someone who has backed Santos in the past. “Thankfully, my understanding is that you did not endorse Santos and no photographs of you exist with him,” pollster Brian Wynne adds in an unusually wry note for such a memo, though he didn’t specify who does fit this description.

“The DCCC has indicated they intend to make the special election a referendum on Santos,” Wynne concludes, “and this poll indicates that any past affiliation with him is likely fatal to a Republican campaign.” It’s not clear whether any of the other GOP candidates ever snapped a selfie with the disgraced ex-congressman, but Santos did endorse Sapraicone following his expulsion. Sapraicone had previously called Santos “a crook and fraudster.”

VA-10: We wrote last week that two Democrats, Department of Defense official Brandon Garay and defense contractor Krystle Kaul, filed paperwork to run for this open seat, and both say they’re in. Kaul’s LinkedIn page identifies October as the start of her campaign, while Garay’s says he began running the following month.

Mayors and County Leaders

Portland, OR Mayor: Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez, who is a self-described “centrist,” declared Thursday that he would run to succeed retiring Mayor Ted Wheeler. The Nov. 7 nonpartisan election will be the first mayor race in city history to use instant-runoff voting following the passage of a 2022 ballot measure that also enlarged Portland’s legislative body and implemented a proportional representation system for it.

Fellow Commissioner Mingus Mapps, whom Oregonlive.com calls a “relative moderate,” launched his own bid back in July two months before Wheeler announced his second term would be his last.

The site also reports that a third city commissioner, Carmen Rubio, “is expected to decide by January.” Willamette Week describes Rubio as “the most progressive member of the current City Council,” while also noting she “has curried favor with the business community in recent months with her efforts to fix the city’s construction permitting process.” There’s little question that the next mayor of this dark blue city will identify as a Democrat.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

St. Louis, MO Circuit Attorney: Appointed St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore declared Wednesday that he would seek a full term next year as the top prosecutor for the city of St. Louis. Gore will compete in the August Democratic primary, and the winner should have no trouble prevailing in the November general election in this loyally blue community.

Gore was working as a partner at a prominent local law firm in May when Republican Gov. Mike Parson appointed him to replace Democrat Kim Gardner, who resigned to stop Missouri’s GOP-dominated legislature from approving a bill that would have dramatically weakened her office. Gardner also had a terrible relationship with fellow Democrats like Mayor Tishaura Jones.

It remains to be seen if Gore, who has never run for office before, will face any serious intra-party opposition. Defense attorney David Mueller launched a campaign against Gardner the month before she stepped down, and he remains in the race. Mueller ended September with $12,000 in the bank, while Gore does not appear to have done any fundraising through the third quarter. The local NBC affiliate adds that former Alderman Mike Gras has also expressed interest.

Ad Roundup

Correction: Previous editions of the Morning Digest incorrectly identified Jerry Sonnenberg as a current, rather than former, member of the Colorado Senate.

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