Morning Digest: Why Lauren Boebert’s district-hopping gambit may end in tears

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

CO-04, CO-03: The last time Lauren Boebert trekked to the other side of the state, she made herself a national laughingstock with her boorish behavior at a theater in Denver. Will her latest sojourn—this time to Colorado’s eastern reaches, to seek reelection in a different district—go any better? There are many reasons to think it may not, as Jeff Singer explains.

  • Ballot access stumbles: Seasoned Centennial State pols have often struggled to make the ballot, or even failed altogether, thanks to the state’s unforgiving rules. Boebert has three possible paths, but all pose threats to unwary travelers.
  • Terra firma or terra incognita? Colorado’s open 4th Congressional District is much redder than her current seat, but Boebert has no ties to the new turf she’s hoping to represent—and Republicans already running there have been happy to remind her of that fact.
  • Don’t sleep on the 3rd: Boebert’s special flaws were the reason her House race was the closest in the nation last year despite her district’s red lean, but what if we told you that there’s already another Republican running who might just be craptacular enough to put this seat in play once again? Would you believe us? You should!

Read Singer’s complete rundown of Boebert’s gambit at Daily Kos Elections.

4Q Fundraising

VA-07: Now that 2023 has come to a close, candidates for federal office have begun sharing details of their fundraising hauls for the final quarter of the year. Note, though, that official reports aren’t due at the FEC until Jan. 31; for the other three quarterly reports, campaigns have just two weeks to get them in. That means we’ll be seeing numbers come out in dribs and drabs for an entire month.

The first hopeful to get us started is former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman, who says he brought in $2 million during his first six weeks in the race for Virginia’s open 7th Congressional District. Vindman, who is running as a Democrat, rose to prominence in 2019 when he and his identical twin brother, Alexander Vindman, helped blow the whistle on Donald Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s government into undermining Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Senate

CA-Sen: A Morning Consult poll of California’s March 5 top-two primary conducted for Politico from Dec. 15-19 and released just before Christmas finds Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff leading the pack with 26% of the vote. Former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey, the most prominent Republican in the race, edges Democratic Rep. Katie Porter 15-14 for the second slot in the general election, while Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee takes 12%. Four other candidates are in the single digits while 19% say they are undecided.

UT-Sen: Shortly before the new year, Reuters reporter Gram Slattery tweeted that Republican Rep. John Curtis would kick off a bid for Utah’s open Senate seat in the first week of January, according to unnamed sources. The state’s candidate filing deadline is Monday.

WI-Sen: Rich guy Scott Meyer tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he’ll likely decide by the end of February if he’ll seek the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Governors

WV-Gov: Just before Christmas, Republican Del. Moore Capito resigned from the state legislature to concentrate on his bid for West Virginia’s open governorship.

House

AL-02: A poll of the March 5 Democratic primary in Alabama’s new 2nd Congressional District finds state Rep. Napoleon Bracy in front with 15%, while former Justice Department official Shomari Figures edges out state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels 9-8 for the second slot in a likely April 2 runoff.

Three other state lawmakers are further back: State Sen. Merika Coleman is at 6, state Rep. Jeremy Gray takes 4, and state Rep. Juandalynn Givan nets 2% of the vote, while 47% are undecided. Another 5% went to Darryl Sinkfield, a former Alabama Education Association official who has since dropped out. The survey was conducted Dec. 16-20 by Democratic pollster Impact Research for the political arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

CA-20: A state judge ruled Thursday that Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong could simultaneously seek reelection and run to succeed his top backer, now-former Rep. Kevin McCarthy, in California’s 20th Congressional District. However, Democratic Secretary of State Shirley Weber quickly announced she would appeal the decision, and one of Fong’s intraparty rivals, businessman David Giglio, said he would do so as well.

Weber said earlier in December that Fong couldn’t compete in the March 5 top-two primary to replace McCarthy because he’d already filed to run for the legislature and couldn’t withdraw his name from the ballot for the latter office. She also argued the assemblyman was unable to seek both posts at the same time because of a state law that reads, “No person may file nomination papers for a party nomination and an independent nomination for the same office, or for more than one office at the same election.”

Fong’s team, however, argued that the provision doesn’t apply because California voted in 2010 to do away with party primaries, leaving no party nomination for him to seek. Judge Shelleyanne Chang sided with the assemblyman, writing that, while it “somewhat defies common sense to find the law permits a candidate to run for two offices during the same election,” she was “compelled to interpret the law as it is written by the Legislature.”

Weber complied with the ruling by adding Fong’s name to the state’s official list of candidates running for the 20th District, but she made it clear in a statement that she doesn’t see the matter as settled. The seat became vacant on Dec. 31 when McCarthy’s resignation took effect, and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll announce plans for a special election by Jan. 14.

CA-31: Former Rep. Gil Cisneros publicized an internal poll from Tulchin Research just before Christmas showing him with a 27-12 lead in the March 5 top-two primary over state Sen. Susan Rubio, a fellow Democrat. Attorney Daniel Martinez, a Republican who lost to retiring Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano 60-40 in 2022, is at 10%, with all other candidates in single digits and 28% of voters undecided. The survey was in the field from Dec. 14-19.

FL-20: The House Ethics Committee unanimously voted to set up a subcommittee to investigate allegations of campaign finance violations against Democratic Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick just before the new year. The committee previously announced an investigation in November following a referral from the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics in September. Specifics regarding the allegations have not been reported, but a statement from the committee says the inquiry stems from the congresswoman’s special election victory in 2022, for which she loaned her campaign $4.7 million, and her reelection that fall.

GA Redistricting: A federal judge ruled just before the new year that Georgia Republicans’ new maps for Congress and the state legislature complied with his October directive to draw more districts in which Black voters can elect their preferred candidates. As a result, Republicans are likely to retain their 9-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation as well as their majorities in the legislature.

U.S. District Judge Steven Jones also rejected plaintiffs’ complaints that lawmakers had created additional Black seats by dismantling diverse districts, such as the state’s 7th Congressional District in the Atlanta area, despite his own prior warning against “eliminating minority opportunity districts.” Jones said that his admonition was solely in reference to Black districts and that any challenge regarding the 7th District would have to be brought in a new lawsuit. Plaintiffs have indicated they will appeal, but it’s unlikely the courts would change course before the 2024 elections.

Following the ruling, Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, who represented the old 7th District, said she’d seek reelection in the new 6th, which would have voted for Joe Biden by a 74-25 margin. While the two districts do not overlap, McBath lives in Cobb County, which makes up a key portion of the revamped 6th. She also represented a small part of the district from 2019 to 2023, prior to the last time Republicans targeted her in redistricting.

Other members of Congress in the Atlanta area, which saw the bulk of changes, have also announced their plans. Longtime Democratic Rep. David Scott said he would remain in the safely blue 13th District, which is home to 29% of his current constituents, according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections. (A 53% plurality lives in the revised 6th, where McBath is running.)

And Republican Rep. Rich McCormick said he’d switch from the 6th to the 7th, which shares 74% of the same turf. The 7th would have backed Donald Trump 59-40, similar to Trump’s 58-42 margin in the old 6th.

Links to rulings: Congress | Legislature (Alpha Phi Alpha plaintiffs) | Legislature (Grant plaintiffs)

IN-05: In a story published days before Christmas, the Indianapolis Star relayed that Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz might not retire after all. “I still feel that I need to take some time off to regroup unless a few key issues I have been working on are not going to happen in the next month or so,” the congresswoman told the paper, “Then I might have to reconsider.”

After announcing her retirement nearly a year ago, Spartz has at various points said she’s still thinking about seeking a third term; reaffirmed she would retire; and threatened to resign. But if she does actually run again, one of the Republicans campaigning to succeed Spartz, rich guy Siddharth Mahant, tells the Star he won’t defer to her, though there’s no quote from him. The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 9.

MI-08: Punchbowl News reported shortly before Christmas that state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet is “expected” to announce sometime this week that she’ll run to replace retiring Rep. Dan Kildee, a fellow Democrat. The Detroit News separately wrote around that same time that her kickoff could come “as soon as Jan. 3.”

NJ-03: Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello told the New Jersey Globe on Thursday that she remained interested in running to succeed fellow Democrat Andy Kim, who is running for Senate, and would decide sometime early this year.

NY-03: Democrats have launched the first advertising salvo ahead of the Feb. 13 special election in New York’s vacant 3rd Congressional District, but Republicans have yet to answer back.

Just before the new year, the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC announced it would spend $5.2 million on TV and digital ads, plus another $700,000 on mail. Politico also reports that the DCCC is backing its initial foray with a “seven-figure broadcast and cable buy.”

The ad tracking firm AdImpact says that Democratic groups have so far booked $4.9 million in airtime. The D-Trip is already running its first ad, a 30-second spot attacking Republican Mazi Pilip as a candidate “handpicked by MAGA” who would make cuts to Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and law enforcement.

The NRCC, however, will not begin its ad campaign until Jan. 16, according to AdImpact’s tracking as of Tuesday, and so far, the committee has reserved just $242,000 worth of TV time, though expect that figure to rise. HMP’s Republican counterpart, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has not yet weighed in on the race.

OH-06: Republican Rep. Bill Johnson, who previously announced plans to resign from Congress to become president of Youngstown State University, submitted a letter on Tuesday saying he would step down on Jan. 21. Once he does, the GOP advantage in the House will shrink to 219-213, meaning House Speaker Mike Johnson would be able to afford no more than two defections on any vote.

SC-01: The Cook Political Report wrote before Christmas that Charleston County Council member Jenny Costa Honeycutt could challenge Rep. Nancy Mace in the June 11 Republican primary.

VA-07: Speaker Mike Johnson declared just before Christmas that he was supporting Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson in the Republican nomination contest to succeed departing Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. On the Democratic side, Prince William County School Board Chair Babur Lateef has filed paperwork to run in the 2025 race for lieutenant governor rather than campaign for Congress, adding that he’ll make a formal announcement later this month.

Legislatures

MI Redistricting: A three-judge federal panel struck down 13 of Michigan’s state legislative districts for relying on race to an unconstitutional degree in a ruling issued just before Christmas.

In Detroit, which is 80% Black and heavily Democratic, the state’s independent redistricting commission had drawn many districts to be less than 50% Black to avoid packing Black voters into fewer districts. However, the ruling faulted commissioners for relying on an analysis of general elections, rather than primaries, to ensure Black voters could still elect their preferred candidates under the Voting Rights Act.

It’s uncertain whether the commission will file an appeal, which would go directly to the Supreme Court. Some Republican and unaffiliated commissioners have already come out publicly against doing so, which would require a supermajority with cross-party support.

PA State House: Democratic leaders in Bucks County convened shortly before Christmas to select Pennsbury School Board member Jim Prokopiak as their nominee in the Feb. 13 special election to replace former Democratic Rep. John Galloway. Prokopiak will take on Republican Candace Cabanas in a contest that Democrats need to win to keep control of the lower chamber. Joe Biden carried this seat in the Philadelphia suburbs by a 55-44 margin, according to Dave’s Redistricting App.

WI Redistricting: The new liberal majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s Republican-drawn legislative maps in a 4-3 decision along ideological lines. The court ruled that the maps for both chambers violated the state constitution because most districts were not contiguous, ordering them to be completely redrawn.

The ruling specifically requires that any replacement plans must not “privilege one political party over another,” meaning that new maps would give Democrats the chance to win a majority in the Assembly this fall in perennially swingy Wisconsin. However, the justices rejected plaintiffs’ request that all Senate seats go before voters in November rather than just the half that last saw elections in 2020. As a result, Democrats likely would not be in a position to flip the upper chamber until 2026.

The court also adopted a two-track approach to implementing remedial maps. It’s giving lawmakers the chance to pass new maps of their own, but in the likely event that GOP legislators fail to override an expected veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, the court also directed parties to the case to submit their own proposals by Jan. 12. In addition, the court selected redistricting experts Bernard Grofman and Jonathan Cervas to draw new maps if no submissions satisfy the court’s criteria.

Mayors and County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah told The Baltimore Banner just before Christmas that he was creating an exploratory committee as he mulls entering the May 14 Democratic primary. Vignarajah would join a race that includes incumbent Brandon Scott and former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who both outpaced him in the 2020 primary.

New York: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill shortly before Christmas that will move local elections for county executive, county legislature, and town supervisor from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years to increase voter participation by aligning them with federal and state election dates. However, a future constitutional amendment would be needed to move the remaining elections, which include races for district attorney, sheriff, and all city and village offices, including those in New York City.

Obituaries

Eddie Bernice Johnson: Former Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat who served from 1993 to 2023, died Sunday at the age of 88. Johnson, as we recounted after she announced her retirement in 2021, was the first Black person to represent the Dallas area in Congress and the second Black woman to ever represent the state in D.C. You can find out much more about her trailblazing life and career in her obituary from the Texas Tribune.

Herb Kohl: Former Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat who served from 1989 to 2013, died Wednesday at the age of 88. Kohl, who helped his family’s eponymous supermarket chain grow into the national retail giant it is today, also owned the Milwaukee Bucks when he successfully campaigned in 1988 under the slogan, “Nobody’s senator but yours.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has much more about the former senator’s long life in business, sports, and politics, in its obituary.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now? A federal appeals court just after Christmas overturned former Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s 2021 conviction for lying to FBI investigators, saying prosecutors tried him in the wrong jurisdiction. Prosecutors had brought charges against Fortenberry in Los Angeles, where a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire set in motion a straw donor scheme to funnel $30,000 to Fortenberry’s campaign. However, the false statements for which a jury convicted the then-congressman were made in Washington, D.C., and at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Department of Justice said in response that it might retry Fortenberry, though it also did not rule out an appeal.

Where Are They Now?: Former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, who was a longtime Democratic power broker in this dark-blue city, was convicted of racketeering and related corruption charges just days before Christmas. Now 80 years old, Burke served a record-setting 54 years on the City Council until he declined to seek reelection last year following his indictment by federal prosecutors in 2019.

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