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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● ND Redistricting: Federal judges keep finding that Republican-drawn election maps violate the Voting Rights Act—and Republican lawmakers keep defying court orders to remedy them. The latest to do so just this year is North Dakota, which recently saw two legislative districts struck down for undermining the rights of Native American voters.
- “No way” to comply on time. A month ago, a judge directed the GOP-run legislature to come up with a new map by Friday. But a top Republican said lawmakers wouldn’t meet that deadline, even though only a handful of districts need to be adjusted.
- The third time is no charm. Earlier this year, Alabama Republicans outright refused to draw a second Black congressional district, and just this month, Georgia Republicans dismantled a diverse House seat that had elected a Black Democrat even though a judge expressly warned them not to.
- A ticking time bomb. North Dakota Republicans are appealing, and they’re putting forth an extremely dangerous argument that wouldn’t just upend their case but could shred what remains of the VRA.
Read more on this pattern of GOP intransigence, including how a Republican president could end all enforcement of the Voting Rights Act if North Dakota’s appeal succeeds.
● NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim is out with a new poll from Breakthrough Campaigns that shows him beating former financier Tammy Murphy 45-22 in the June Democratic primary, with indicted Sen. Bob Menendez clocking in at just 6%. A mid-November Kim internal from another firm, Public Policy Polling, showed him leading New Jersey’s first lady 40-21, with 5% going to the incumbent. Neither Murphy nor Menendez have released their own numbers.
Murphy, as we’ve written before, will still be hard to beat because she’s poised to win the “county line” in several large counties, which ensures her an advantageous place on the ballot. (This is also sometimes called the “organizational line.”) The New Jersey Globe’s Joey Fox is out with a thorough county-by-county look at the battle for the organizational line, and he writes that the process can vary quite a bit.
In the state’s most populous county, Bergen, Fox writes that chairman Paul Juliano almost always gets to decide who gets the line, and his support for Murphy means “that’s probably the end of the story for Kim.” It’s a similar state of affairs in the three next largest counties―Middlesex, Essex, and Hudson―where party leaders have made it clear that Murphy is their choice.
However, things aren’t as clear in Ocean County, a longtime conservative bastion that nonetheless has a large number of Democratic primary voters. Kim represented about half of the county under the last map, and Fox says many local Democrats remain “hugely loyal” to him. He adds that, while Murphy could make a play for the line here, she’ll likely face a tough task.
Over to the north in Hunterdon County, meanwhile, Fox says that the organization line will be decided by a “genuinely open convention with little intervention from party leaders.” You can find out a lot more in the Globe about the state of play across the state.
● OH-Sen: Donald Trump endorsed rich guy Bernie Moreno on Tuesday for the March GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown even though a poll released the previous day put Moreno in third place.
SurveyUSA, working on behalf of the Center For Election Science, which promotes approval voting, showed Secretary of State Frank LaRose leading state Sen. Matt Dolan 33-18, with Moreno at 12%. Morero recently publicized a pair of internals giving him a small edge over LaRose, with Dolan a close third.
● Texas: Filing closed Dec. 11 for Texas’ March 5 primary, though there’s a quirk: Candidates file with their respective political parties, which had an additional five days to send final lists to the secretary of state. That means we can now take a comprehensive look at who is running in the major contests.
Texas may be the second-largest state in the union, but as far as House races are concerned, most of the action will be confined to the primaries (and, in contests where no candidate takes a majority, May 28 runoffs). That’s because Republicans enacted a very precise defensive gerrymander following the most recent census, opting to make competitive GOP-held districts safely red rather than aim for further gains by targeting Democratic seats.
You’ll also want to bookmark our calendar of every filing deadline, primary, and runoff for the 2024 elections. One person we’re very sure does not use our calendar is Donald Trump, who on Monday night called for someone to challenge GOP Rep. Chip Roy for renomination in the 21st District. “If interested, let me know!!!” Trump wrote a week after it was too late for anyone to take him up on his offer. Roy, who appears to have pissed off his party’s supreme leader by campaigning with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is unopposed in March.
● TX-Sen: Ten Democrats have filed to take on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, though Rep. Colin Allred ended September with a huge financial advantage over the entire primary field. However, a new survey from YouGov on behalf of the University of Texas and Texas Politics Project finds that many primary voters have yet to make up their minds with about two-and-a-half months to go.
Allred leads state Sen. Roland Gutierrez 28-7, who is the only other Democrat who had at least a six-figure war chest at the end of the third quarter. Two other notable options, state Rep. Carl Sherman and former Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, were at just 2% each. A 38% plurality volunteered they “haven’t thought about it enough to have an opinion,” while another 10% answered “don’t know.” Spending has yet to begin in earnest, however, so this state of affairs should soon change.
● AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich has publicized an internal from Remington Research that shows him outpacing his fellow Republican, Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, in the August top-four primary, though he notably did not include numbers simulating how he’d do in an instant-runoff race against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola. The congresswoman takes first with 42% as Begich leads Dahlstrom 28-9 for second, with another 7% going to Libertarian Chris Bye, who ran in 2022 along with Begich. All of these contenders would advance to the November general election if these results held.
● CA-20: GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday submitted his resignation letter to the House, and his departure will take effect Dec. 31. It remains to be seen if Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will schedule a special election to succeed the former speaker; the top-two primary for a full two-year term will take place March 5.
● NY-26: Reporter Robert J. McCarthy writes in WKBW that Erie County Legislator Jeanne Vinal is considering competing in the unscheduled special election to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, while an unnamed source says that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown will decide early next year.
These two Democrats’ deliberations may not matter much, though, because the person who may single-handedly get to pick the party’s nominee for the special seems happy with someone else. Erie County Democratic chair Jeremy Zellner tells McCarthy that the one major declared candidate, state Sen. Tim Kennedy, is “far ahead” of Brown and Vinal in organizing a campaign. “I am very impressed at this point in what he has put together in fundraising and forming a team,” Zellner said, adding, “And whoever does this has to be ready.”
● OH-02: State Sen. Shane Wilkin announced Tuesday that he was joining the March GOP primary to replace retiring Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a declaration that came one day before the filing deadline. Wilkin already represents about a third of this safely red southern Ohio seat.
● OH-15: Cleveland.com reports that Democratic state Rep. Adam Miller last week filed FEC paperwork for a bid against Republican Rep. Mike Carey. Donald Trump took this seat in the southwestern Columbus area 53-46 in 2020.
● TX-03: Freshman Rep. Keith Self faces a GOP primary rematch against businesswoman Suzanne Harp, whom he outpaced in a truly strange 2022 contest. Harp, though, finished September with less than $5,000 in the bank, so she’s unlikely to be much of a threat. Three other Republicans are also running for this Plano-based seat that Donald Trump took 56-42.
● TX-04: GOP Rep. Pat Fallon is running for reelection after waging a bizarre one-day campaign to return to the state Senate, but he seems to be in for a soft landing. Fallon faces just one little-known primary foe in a safely red seat based in the northeastern Dallas exurbs.
● TX-07: Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher’s only intraparty foe in this safely blue seat is Pervez Agwan, a renewable energy developer whose challenge from the left has been overshadowed in recent weeks by sexual harassment allegations.
The Houston Landing reported this month that one of Agwan’s former staffers is suing him for allegedly trying to kiss her; the candidate responded by insinuating that the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC was involved in the lawsuit, but he did not produce any evidence to back it up his claim. The New Republic later reported that 11 staffers resigned in October from Agwan’s campaign, which it described as an environment “where multiple women faced frequent sexual harassment from senior staff.”
● TX-12: Longtime Rep. Kay Granger is retiring from this conservative seat in western Fort Worth and its western suburbs, and five fellow Republicans are competing to succeed her. The early frontrunner is state House Republican Caucus Chair Craig Goldman, who has the support of Gov. Greg Abbott.
Another name to watch is businessman John O’Shea, who began running well before Granger announced her departure in November. However, while O’Shea has the support of Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom Goldman voted to impeach earlier this year, he ended the third quarter with a mere $20,000 in the bank.
Also in the running is businesswoman Shellie Gardner, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Christmas Lights.” (Gardner says her business has spent nearly two decades “supplying Christmas lights across the country, including the United States Capitol Christmas Tree.”) Two other lesser-known Republicans round out the field.
● TX-15: Freshman GOP Rep. Monica De La Cruz faces a rematch against businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, whom she beat 53-45 last year after major Democratic groups spent almost nothing on the race. Donald Trump won this gerrymandered seat in the Rio Grande Valley 51-48 in 2020. The incumbent ended September with a huge $1.4 million to $184,000 cash on hand lead.
Vallejo herself drew a familiar intra-party opponent on the final day of filing from attorney John Villarreal Rigney. Vallejo edged out Rigney 20-19 for second place in the 2022 primary, while Army veteran Ruben Ramirez took first with 28%, though Vallejo went on to narrowly beat Ramirez in the runoff.
● TX-18: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced she would seek a 16th term just two days after she was blown out by state Sen. John Whitmire, a fellow Democrat, in Houston’s mayoral race, but she faces a challenging renomination fight in this safely blue seat.
Former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who once was a Jackson Lee intern, began campaigning after the congresswoman kicked off her bid for mayor and pledged to stay in the race even if the incumbent ultimately were to run for reelection—a promise she’s kept. Edwards finished September with a hefty $829,000 banked, around four times as much as Jackson Lee reported. A third candidate named Rob Slater is also in, and his presence could prevent either Jackson Lee or Edwards from claiming a majority.
● TX-23: GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales faces four primary foes in a sprawling West Texas seat that went 53-46 for Trump, one of whom has attracted some attention. Two Democrats are also running, though neither has earned much notice.
Gunmaker Brandon Herrera, who has over 3 million subscribers on his “The AK Guy” YouTube channel, finished September with $240,000 in the bank, which was far more than any of Gonzales’ other intra-party challengers. Those hopefuls include former Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Victor Avila, Medina County GOP Chair Julie Clark, and Frank Lopez, who claimed 5% as an independent in last year’s general election.
Gonzales infuriated hardliners by confirming Joe Biden’s victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack and later supporting gun safety legislation after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, which took place in his district. The state GOP responded to his apostasies in March by censuring him, a move that bars him from receiving party help until after any runoffs take place. Gonzales may not care, though, since he ended the third quarter with $1.7 million to spend.
● TX-26: Rep. Michael Burgess announced his retirement shortly before Thanksgiving, and 11 fellow Republicans want to replace him in a safely red seat located in the northern Fort Worth suburbs and exurbs.
Donald Trump is supporting far-right media figure Brandon Gill, who is the son-in-law of MAGA toady Dinesh D’Souza. Gill also recently earned the backing of the like-minded House Freedom Caucus, which is capable of spending serious money in primaries.
Southlake Mayor John Huffman, meanwhile, picked up the support of 24th District Rep. Beth Van Duyne, who serves a neighboring seat. And in a blast from the past, former Denton County Judge Scott Armey is also in the running, more than two decades after losing a nasty 2002 runoff to Burgess. (Armey is the son of former Majority Leader Dick Armey, who was Burgess’ immediate predecessor.)
Also in the running is Luisa Del Rosal, who previously served as chief of staff to 23rd District Rep. Tony Gonzales. The fourth quarter fundraising numbers, which are due at the end of January, will provide clues as to whether any of the other seven Republicans are capable of waging a serious effort.
● TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar, who is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, does not face any intraparty opposition this year, following narrow back-to-back wins against progressive Jessica Cisneros. Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes Laredo and the eastern San Antonio suburbs, 53-46.
Cuellar turned back a well-funded general election rival by a comfortable 57-43 margin in 2022, so it remains to be seen if any of his four Republican foes are capable of giving him a scare this time. The candidate who has attracted the most attention so far is Jose Sanz, who is a former Cuellar staffer. Not all the attention has been welcome, though, as the Texas Tribune reported in October that the Republican was arrested for throwing a chair at his sister in 2021; the case was eventually dismissed after Sanz performed community service and attended batterer intervention classes.
● TX-32: Ten Democrats are competing to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred in a diverse northern Dallas constituency that Republicans made safely blue in order to protect GOP incumbents elsewhere in the area.
The two early frontrunners appear to be state Rep. Julie Johnson, whose 2018 victory made her the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, and Brian Williams, the trauma surgeon who attracted national attention in 2016 after he treated Dallas police officers wounded by a sniper. Williams finished September with a $525,000 to $404,000 cash lead over Johnson; the only other Democrat with a six-figure campaign account was Raja Chaudhry, who owns a charter bus company and self-funded his entire $266,000 war chest.
Also in the running are Alex Cornwallis, who was the party’s 2022 nominee for a seat on the state Board of Education; former Dallas City Council member Kevin Felder; and civil rights attorney Justin Moore.
● TX-34: Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez is in for a rematch against former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores, whom he convincingly beat 53-44 in an unusual incumbent vs. incumbent contest last year. Gonzalez finished September with a $944,000 to $230,000 advantage in cash on hand.
Three other Republicans are also running, including wealthy perennial candidate Mauro Garza, but none of them appear to pose much of a threat to Flores. Joe Biden won this seat in the eastern Rio Grande Valley 57-42.
● OH Supreme Court: The state GOP announced Tuesday that appointed Justice Joe Deters will take on Democratic colleague Melody Stewart for a full six-year term. Deters previously said he would challenge either Stewart or Democratic Justice Michael Donnelly rather than run for the remaining two years of the term of the Republican he replaced, Sharon Kennedy. (Kennedy won a promotion from associate justice to chief justice last year as part of a sweep by Republican hardliners after Republicans enacted a law adding party labels to the ballot.)
● TX Supreme Court: Partisan control of Texas’ all-Republican, nine-member Supreme Court isn’t at stake, but progressives are hoping that the trio of justices up in 2024 will pay a price for their unanimous ruling rejecting Kate Cox’s petition for an emergency abortion. Cox, who said her fetus suffered from fatal abnormalities and posed a risk to her own health, left the state to undergo the procedure in a case that continues to attract national attention.
Each of the three Republicans faces at least one Democratic foe in their respective statewide race. Justice John Devine is being challenged by Harris County District Judge Christine Weems, who narrowly won reelection last year in Texas’ largest county. Two pairs of Democrats, meanwhile, are competing to take on each of the other incumbents.
Going up against Justice Jimmy Blacklock are Harris County District Judge DaSean Jones, who last year survived an extremely tight reelection contest, and attorney Randy Sarosdy. And in the race to unseat Justice Jane Bland are Court of Appeals Judge Bonnie Lee Goldstein, who prevailed in a close 2020 race in the Dallas area, and Judge Joe Pool, who has run for the Supreme Court in the past as a Republican but won a local judgeship last year in Hays County as a Democrat.
● Where Are They Now?: The U.S. Senate confirmed former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Monday night as secretary of the Social Security Administration. The Democrat will take over from acting secretary Kilolo Kijakazi, who has served since July of 2021.
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