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.
● AR-Sen: Politico reports that conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein has contributed $1 million to Arkansas Patriots Fund, a PAC set up to aid retired NFL player Jake Bequette’s Republican primary battle against Sen. John Boozman. Bequette, who had a successful stint as a defensive end at the University of Arkansas and a disappointing career with the New England Patriots before becoming an Army Ranger, generated some attention when he announced his campaign in July, but he still faces a very tough campaign against the incumbent.
Boozman, who was elected in 2010 after nearly a decade in the House, has been a fairly low-key figure during his career, but he also doesn’t appear to have done anything to upset the base; even Bequette’s well-produced launch video didn’t lay out a reason for why voters should fire Boozman. The senator also has Donald Trump’s backing, which makes it tougher for anyone to run to his right.
Uihlein’s donation does give Bequette’s allies plenty of resources to make their case against Boozman, but the challenger himself begins with a huge financial disadvantage. Boozman outraised his opponent $1.1 million to $500,000 during Bequette’s opening fundraising quarter (Bequette self-funded an additional $35,000), and the senator ended September with a $2.8 million to $355,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Uihlein, for his part, is no stranger to picking fights with the GOP establishment, as he proved in 2018 when he financed Illinois state Rep. Jeanne Ives’ nearly successful intra-party campaign against Gov. Bruce Rauner. Earlier this year, Uihlein also contributed $2.5 million to a group supporting Missouri’s disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens in the Show Me State’s Senate race.
However, while some Republicans fear that Greitens could endanger them in a general election, there’s little reason to think that Bequette could give Democrats an opening in Arkansas, a former Democratic bastion that supported Trump 62-35 last year.
● HI Redistricting: Hawaii’s bipartisan redistricting commission has voted to advance a congressional map that would make just minor tweaks to the existing lines in order to reduce population inequality between the two districts. The proposal would still leave a deviation of 0.34%, which could conceivably make the map vulnerable to a legal challenge since courts usually require congressional districts to have exactly equal populations. Separately, the commission has now also released draft plans to redraw the state’s legislative maps.
● IL Redistricting: Democrats in Illinois’ legislature released a proposed congressional map on Friday, an aggressive gerrymander that would aim to elect 14 Democrats and just three Republicans. Despite its many snake-like districts, however, several districts would be tenuous for Democrats during strong GOP years, particularly the 3rd, 14th, and 17th.
The current map, which reflects one of the only Democratic gerrymanders from the previous decade, sends 13 Democrats and five Republicans to Congress. However, due to population loss, Illinois is losing a seat. The new proposal would target Republican Rodney Davis by making the 13th District bluer, and it would likely pair Republican Adam Kinzinger (currently in the 16th District) in the 3rd with Democrat Marie Newman, though Kinzinger could conceivably run in the new 15th, probably against fellow Republican Mary Miller.
● VA Redistricting: Virginia’s bipartisan redistricting commission released what is apparently a unified proposal from both Democrats and Republicans on Friday, a day after each side put out congressional maps of their own that were very similar to one another. Astonishingly, the plan would create six districts that Donald Trump would have carried in 2016 versus just five for Hillary Clinton, according to Dave’s Redistricting App, even though Clinton won the state 50-44.
Virginia’s only gotten bluer since, as Joe Biden took it 54-44 last year. And under the current map, a GOP gerrymander that was partially redrawn by the courts mid-decade, Biden won seven districts, all of which are held by Democrats. The commission’s Democratic co-chair, Greta Harris, had asked the consultants for both parties to reach a compromise, but it’s inexplicable that the Democrats’ map-drawers would simply accede to the GOP’s demands.
The commission has not yet adopted a final map, but if it fails to do so—as recently happened with the state’s legislative maps—the task would fall to the state Supreme Court.
● CO-Sen: Self-funding businessman Joe O’Dea has launched what Axios says is a $100,000 opening TV ad well ahead of next year’s Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. O’Dea argues that Bennet, whom he donated $500 to in 2010, “votes with Joe Biden 100% of the time.” O’Dea goes on to lay out his conservative credentials and pledges he’ll defeat Bennet.
Johnson, who will need to give up her Senate seat to run, kicked off her campaign to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Kate Brown by positioning herself as an alternative to “another left-wing liberal promising more of the same or a right-wing Trump apologist.” Still, Johnson leaned on her old Democratic credentials in an apparent pitch to her ex-party’s voters, saying, “For twenty years, I’ve been an independent-minded, pro-choice, pro-jobs Democrat proudly serving the people of Northwest Oregon. This is who I am.”
Johnson, whom Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Dirk VanderHart describes as a “wealthy timber heiress,” has represented the state’s northwestern corner in the legislature since the 2000 elections, and she’s never had trouble getting re-elected. Johnson didn’t even face Republican opposition in either 2014 or 2018 even though her constituency swung from 52-44 Obama to 47-45 Trump in 2016 (2020 numbers are not yet available).
However, Johnson was anything but a loyal Democrat even before she abandoned the party to run statewide. VanderHart writes that she “votes with Republicans more than any other Democrat” and has stood against Democratic environmental protection and gun safety legislation. The senator has also also appeared at rallies hosted by Timber Unity, a pro-logging group whose spokesperson attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on Congress.
Johnson additionally broke ranks in 2016 when she supported Republican Dennis Richardson’s successful campaign for secretary of state, a move that eventually got her ejected from the state party’s executive committee. However, Johnson has long had a powerful ally in Senate President Peter Courtney, who picked her in 2018 to co-chair the influential Joint Ways and Means Committee.
It remains to be seen what impact Johnson’s presence will have on Team Blue’s efforts to hold an office they’ve controlled since the 1986 elections, especially since both party’s fields have yet to fully take shape. Johnson, though, does begin with a credible $504,000 in her legislative campaign account that she can use for her gubernatorial bid.
On the Republican side, Willamette Week writes that unnamed party “power brokers” are trying to convince House Minority Leader Christine Drazan to run. Drazan didn’t rule out the idea when directly asked last month, though we previously hadn’t heard anything before or since to indicate she was seriously thinking about it.
● VA-Gov: A new survey for Fox News, relying on Democratic pollster Beacon Research and Republican pollster Shaw & Company, finds Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Glenn Youngkin 51-46; late last month, the same firms had McAuliffe up 48-44.
Meanwhile, McAuliffe’s latest ad once again goes after Youngkin on reproductive rights, featuring a clip from a debate where Youngkin said he’d oppose amending Virginia’s constitution to guarantee the right to an abortion. Youngkin also has a new spot in which, absurdly, he claims, “Now the FBI is trying to silence parents.” That’s his gonzo take on a recent DOJ directive asking federal and local law enforcement officials to work together to stem a recent surge in “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers.”
● AZ-01: Ron Watkins, the alleged founder of QAnon, announced on Thursday that he’s running for Congress in Arizona’s 1st District, which is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran, even though Watkins reportedly lives in Japan. However, journalist Mike Rothschild, who literally wrote the book on QAnon, said he’s “very skeptical that this is a serious campaign and not a fundraising scam.”
● KY-03: Democratic state Rep. Josie Raymond tells McClatchy’s Dave Catanese that she’s considering running to succeed retiring Rep. John Yarmuth in the 3rd Congressional District, a safely blue Louisville seat that the Republican legislature has the opportunity to radically gerrymander.
Fellow state Rep. McKenzie Cantrell also tells the Louisville Courier Journal‘s Morgan Watkins that she’s interested in seeking the Democratic nod, though she added that she wants to see how this constituency and her state House district change after redistricting. Physician Muhammad Babar also says he’s thinking about running for Team Blue, while Catanese reports that former state party chair Jennifer Moore, who is close to ex-Gov. Steve Beshear, is also considering.
The Democratic field already includes state Rep. Attica Scott, who launched a primary bid against Yarmuth in July before he made his departure known, and state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, who launched his campaign less than 10 minutes after the congressman made his announcement on Tuesday. Yarmuth’s son, former alternative weekly editor Aaron Yarmuth, also previously expressed interest. However, while the congressman previously said he’d back the younger Yarmuth if he ran, he added that it’s “probably not the best time in his life” for his son to seek this seat.
A spokesperson for termed-out Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, meanwhile, says he “has no intention of running for the seat,” while Watkins writes that businessman Gill Holland and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Matthew Barzun are also noes.
On the GOP side, both Catanese and state Rep. Jason Nemes name-drop state Sen. Julie Raque Adams as a possibility, though she did not respond to Watkins’ inquiries. Catanese writes that Adams is an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and is “considered the favored candidate of the Republican establishment,” and one prominent Republican already has made it clear he’ll defer to her. Secretary of State Michael Adams says he’d support Julie Raque Adams (the two do not appear to be related) and would only consider if she sat the contest out.
● WI-03: Retiring Rep. Ron Kind announced Thursday that he was endorsing state Sen. Brad Pfaff, who is one of his former senior staffers, for the Democratic nomination to succeed him in what is currently a competitive seat. Pfaff previously earned the backing of former Sen. Herb Kohl, who retired in 2013 after four terms. Pfaff faces businesswoman Rebecca Cooke in the primary.
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: Three different candidates competing in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan election each received a notable endorsement over the last few days.
The International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623, which represents most of the city’s police officers, threw its backing behind former Mayor Kasim Reed on Thursday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that Reed and the union often clashed over pay raises and pensions when he led the city from 2010 to 2018: In 2015, when the police and fire unions were part of an unsuccessful lawsuit against Reed over the latter, they even put up a billboard reading, “Mayor Kasim Reed does not care about public safety.” However, Reed said Thursday that his new allies have since recognized that his pension reform plan helped the city overall.
The following day, City Councilman Andre Dickens unveiled an endorsement from former Mayor Shirley Franklin, whose eight years in office directly preceded Reed’s. Franklin and Reed were once allies, and Reed even served as her campaign manager during the 2001 race that made her the first Black woman to lead a major Southern city. The two have since had a very public falling out, though, and Franklin in June made news when she responded to Reed’s comeback launch by saying she was “embarrassed by his lack of ethical leadership.”
Also on Friday, EMILY’s List endorsed City Council President Felicia Moore, who several polls show is the most likely candidate to compete with Reed in a runoff.
● Buffalo, NY Mayor: The Working Families Party, which was one of India Walton’s most high-profile allies during her successful June Democratic primary against Mayor Byron Brown, is spending $100,000 on a TV ad ahead of her Nov. 2 general election against Brown’s write-in campaign.
The spot features various people condemning Brown’s attempts to portray Walton as a threat to the police force, with the cast arguing, “It’s the same thing they did to Joe Biden. Lies! Paid for by developers and big money that want to run our city.” The commercial goes on to highlight Walton’s career as a nurse who believes in “safer streets, more affordable housing, real results, and real change.”
● Minneapolis, MN Mayor: Incumbent Jacob Frey has picked up the support of the local AFL-CIO ahead of next month’s instant-runoff contest, with the Minnesota Reformer’s Max Nesterak writing that the Democratic mayor has “been endorsed by every labor union to have made an endorsement this cycle, according to his campaign.”
Frey isn’t doing nearly so well with local state legislators, though, as seven of Minneapolis’ 15 state House and Senate members put out a statement declaring that “our city needs a new direction and that begins with electing a new mayor on November 2nd.” These legislators, all of whom are Democrats, did not mention any of his opponents in their declaration: Frey faces a crowded field that includes activist Sheila Nezhad, former state Rep. Kate Knuth, and nonprofit director A.J. Awed.
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