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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This is the last Digest of 2023! We’ll see you again in January of 2024. Happy holidays!
● 2023 was an amazing year at the ballot box—and a very difficult one here at Daily Kos.
While Democrats were winning races up and down the ticket from coast to coast, the same trends that have devastated the media industry have dealt us a serious blow as well. News consumption has dropped ever since Donald Trump left the White House, and monopolistic tactics by Google have led to a precipitous drop in ad revenues. (There’s a reason why the Department of Justice has brought an antitrust suit against the tech giant.)
On top of that, unscrupulous spammers have decimated our email list-building business. Why pay more for our strictly opt-in service when you can pay bargain basement prices to shady vendors who will hand over a million random email addresses—whether or not those people actually want to hear from you?
As a result of all this, Daily Kos experienced its first-ever layoffs earlier this year, affecting a third of the company. The Elections team, already very small, wasn’t spared.
Yet our commitment to you, our readers, has never wavered. We have continued to publish the smartest elections coverage you’ll find anywhere in this newsletter, the Morning Digest, every single weekday. We’ve also churned out best-of-breed data sets month after month, all of which you can find—for free—at dailykosdata.com. (That data was used to create the map at the top of this post—another special Daily Kos Elections creation.) And we’ve brought you our one-of-a-kind podcast, The Downballot, week in and week out.
The reason Daily Kos is still here, despite all of our struggles, is because of you—and we’re damn lucky to have you. Reader donations now make up our most important source of revenue, and that’s something very few media outlets can say. But over the years (we just celebrated our 20th anniversary at Daily Kos Elections), you have forged the strongest online progressive community anywhere in the country.
It’s that strength that keeps us going. It’s an enormous privilege to do what we do, and we hope we can keep doing it for many years to come. We are grateful to you for giving us this opportunity, so if that feeling of gratitude is mutual, we would be extremely appreciative if you could make a donation to support us this holiday season.
In spite of everything, we are incredibly excited about what’s in store for 2024, and we want to make sure we can continue to provide the same awesome data and analysis that’s been helping progressives win elections for two decades. Thank you so much for your loyal readership—none of this would have been possible without you. Happy holidays!
● We’re celebrating an amazing 2023 by revisiting all of the year’s best elections on this week’s episode of The Downballot! January kicked us off with a huge special election flip for Democrats in the Virginia Senate that set the tone for the rest of the year—and made it clear that abortion would remain the most potent issue driving voters to the ballot box. We saw that again and again, from the Wisconsin Supreme Court race to Issue 1 in Ohio to the other Issue 1 in Ohio and even to the governor’s race in deep-red Kentucky. The safest bet you can make is that we’ll see more of the same in 2024.
David Beard then hands out the First Annual Downballot Awards! Who will take home the prize for Most Notorious Elected Official? Best Leveraging of Raw Political Power? Funniest Fall from Grace? And the biggest honor of them all, Most Badass Campaign Announcement? Tune in to find out! Our congratulations to all the winners! And in all sincerity, a huge thank you to all of our listeners, who are the reason for this show in the first place. We are so grateful for your support.
Subscribe to “The Downballot” on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You’ll find a transcript of this week’s episode right here by noon Eastern time. We’ll be taking off next week, but we’ll be back in January!
● AZ-Sen: The GOP firm VCreek/AMG’s new survey for the conservative Americas PAC shows Republican Kari Lake leading Democrat Ruben Gallego 41-35, with independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema taking 16%. The memo did not include numbers testing a scenario without Sinema even though it featured three different versions of a presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump with various third-party or independent options included or excluded. (Respondents favor Trump 46-41 in a head-to-head.)
● VA-Gov: EMILY’s List has endorsed Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in the 2025 contest for governor.
● AZ-08: Abe Hamadeh has released an internal from National Public Affairs that gives the election denier a double-digit lead in the August GOP primary:
- 2022 attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh: 37
- 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters: 14
- State House Speaker Ben Toma: 7
- Former Rep. Trent Franks: 6
- State Sen. Anthony Kern: 3
- Undecided: 34
The survey was conducted days after Trump endorsed Hamadeh in this busy contest.
● CT-05: Speaker Mike Johnson this week endorsed 2022 GOP nominee George Logan’s rematch campaign against Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes, though it remains to be seen if Logan will have any notable opposition in the August primary. Former ESPN broadcaster Sage Steele didn’t rule out taking on Hayes back in September, but we’ve heard nothing else about her interest over the ensuing three months.
● NJ-08: Rep. Rob Menendez this week secured the county line in Union County, which cast 12% of the vote in the 2022 primary for this seat, for the June Democratic nomination contest. Menendez already had the line in Hudson County, which was the source of 83% of the vote in that primary. Leaders in the district’s remaining county, Essex, have not yet taken sides in the intra-party battle between the congressman and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
● Ohio: Candidate filing closed Wednesday for Ohio’s March 19 primary, but there isn’t one single source to find every contender running for the U.S. House. Those candidates file with the county that makes up the largest proportion of their district rather than with the state, so this information will be found on county election sites.
We’ve put together a list with the largest county in each House seat, as well as a link to its respective board of elections:
We’ll have a rundown of the 2024 races to watch in the Buckeye State early next year.
● OH-09: Republican state Rep. Derek Merrin unexpectedly launched a campaign against Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur just before filing closed Wednesday, an entrance that Politico’s Ally Mutnick says came after a “heavy last-ditch recruitment effort” from Speaker Mike Johnson and his allies.
Merrin, who as we’ll discuss has been at the center of plenty of intraparty angst all year, dived into the race for this 51-48 Trump seat about two weeks after the GOP’s ostensible frontrunner, former state Rep. Craig Riedel, watched his standing plummet with the base. Far-right personality Charlie Kirk shared audio where Riedel bashed Donald Trump as “arrogant” and called for the party to go “in a different direction,” quotes that are toxic in the Trump-era party.
Riedel quickly tried to undo the damage by endorsing his party’s master, and he has remained in the March primary. However, his travails left House Republican leaders convinced they needed an alternative to prevent voters from once again nominating J.R. Majewski, the QAnon ally who lost to Kaptur 57-43 last year. Still, Mutnick notes that the presence of both Merrin and Riedel on the ballot could still make it easier for Majewski to secure the plurality he’d need to advance.
Merrin himself also has plenty of enemies within his own party. He began 2023 as his party’s official choice to lead the state House, a chamber where Republicans hold 67 of the 99 seats. However, Jason Stephens and 21 other Republicans unexpectedly joined all 32 Democrats to make Stephens speaker.
Merrin, who is even more of a hardliner than the conservative Stephens, still retains the loyalty of a majority of the GOP caucus, and that’s created an ugly situation in the caucus. The two wasted no time feuding over who would have access to the official corporate debit cards that allow them to control the state House GOP’s powerful campaign arm, and things escalated further in October when Merrin’s side filed a lawsuit.
● VA State House: Democrat Kimberly Pope Adams conceded to Republican Del. Kim Taylor Wednesday after the recount affirmed that Taylor won their Nov. 7 contest. The recount reduced Adams’ deficit from 78 to 53 votes in a $5.8 million contest that the Virginia Public Access Project says was the third-most expensive state House race since it began tracking spending in 1997.
Taylor’s win leaves Democrats with a 51-49 majority in the lower chamber, an almost mirror image of the 52-48 edge the GOP won two years prior. Democrats will enjoy a 21-19 advantage in the state Senate after Republicans netted a single seat.
● FL Ballot: Pro-choice activists said Tuesday that they’re “confident” they have collected the requisite 892,000 valid signatures needed to place an amendment on the November 2024 ballot that would guarantee abortion rights up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, and that they would therefore stop gathering petitions. Under state law, this proposal needs to win 60% of the vote to pass.
As we recently wrote, though, Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed a lawsuit to convince the conservative state Supreme Court to keep the amendment from going before voters. That could be a formidable obstacle to overcome: The high court blocked two different amendments in 2021 to allow the use of recreational marijuana after ruling that the proposals were confusingly worded, and Moody is insisting that this abortion rights amendment is similarly flawed.
● Where Are They Now?: Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry announced Wednesday that he was naming his fellow Republican, former Rep. Ralph Abraham, to be the state’s health secretary. The Advocate reported during Abraham’s failed 2019 run for governor, “When compared to other family-practice doctors throughout the U.S., Abraham was in the top 0.2% in the number of Medicare Part D patients he wrote opioid prescriptions for in 2013.”
Abraham, writes reporter Tyler Bridges, would later spend the early months of the pandemic promoting hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that scientists have warned is ineffective and potentially deadly when used to treat COVID. The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics also called out Abraham for his 2020 tweet falsely insisting that “abortions nearly always have a fatal outcome for the baby, and many times it’s the same for the mother.”
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