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.
● Washington, D.C. Mayor: Two members of the Council of the District of Columbia, Robert White and Trayon White, each said Wednesday that they would run for mayor next year against Mayor Muriel Bowser, a fellow Democrat who the Washington Post says is expected to run for a third term.
Of the two challengers (who do not appear to be related), Robert White appears to start out with considerably broader appeal than Trayon White, who made national news in 2018 when he launched an antisemitic rant accusing the Rothschild family of controlling the weather. It only takes a plurality to win the June Democratic primary in D.C., which is tantamount to election in what has long been one of the bluest jurisdictions in the entire country.
The District of Columbia infamously has no voting representation in Congress, the body that reviews all laws passed by the local government before they can go into effect and has authority over its budget. Bowser, however, herself attracted national attention during the Trump era for standing up to her unwanted resident, though she had only limited power to actually hinder his machinations.
At home, a July poll from the Gotham Research Group for the DC Police Union gave the mayor a 71-23 favorable rating, which are the type of numbers that would normally defer most prominent opponents. However, DCist’s Martin Austermuhle writes that Bowser “has tended to lack a political base that is passionate about her.” Austermuhle notes that several of her Council allies have lost over the last few years, while Bowser led a failed 2018 attempt to defeat one of her critics.
While Bowser has not yet revealed her 2022 plans, local politicos widely expect her to run again. “There’s just no reason to announce early,” an unnamed advisor told Axios last week, adding, “We know she can raise money. She has name recognition.” Bowser would be the district’s first three-term executive since the late Marion Barry, whose political survival still bedevils many outside observers.
Robert White, who holds an at-large Council seat, didn’t criticize Bowser directly when he launched his campaign Wednesday, but he argued, “The systems of government are showing their age and that means that we need the type of leader who’s going to dig deep into government, hold it accountable and be ambitious.” White further added that the city’s growth was leaving plenty of Washingtonians behind, saying, “Our population is dwindling. Black and Brown kids are struggling in our schools. Parents of young kids are leaving this city in droves.”
The Washington Post writes that White has been “a stalwart of the legislature’s growing left-leaning wing,” which has often brought him into conflict with the more-moderate Bowser. Notably, the paper says he passed laws to increase taxes on the wealthy and create paid parental leave, and he’s also called for spending less money on the police. Austermuhle adds that White performed well last year in both heavily Black and white areas, which demonstrated “citywide appeal that eludes many candidates.”
Colleague and rival Trayon White, meanwhile, is no stranger to criticism. While his antisemitic 2018 comments and disastrous trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum earned him the most attention outside of D.C., he also made news last year when he announced he wouldn’t encourage his constituents to get vaccinated for COVID-19. White, who initially refused to say if he had been vaccinated (Update: He later revealed he had been), was earlier this month the only no vote against a vaccine mandate for council members and staff.
White, though, has proved popular at home in Ward 8, a heavily Black constituency that none other than Barry represented until his death in 2014. White has been an ardent critic of gentrification and gun violence, and he’s well known for using social media for constituent outreach. Last year, during the early weeks of the pandemic, he also personally delivered supplies to constituents and broke up non-socially distanced groups. Months later, White won renomination 58-27.
White, characteristically, broke the news of his mayoral campaign on Instagram after another user responded to a post about Robert White’s candidacy by saying that “@trayonwhite needa be mayor.” The Ward 8 council member wrote, “I’m running,” and he soon confirmed to Washington City Paper that he was indeed in.
Trayon White didn’t say more about his campaign, texting, “Got some things I’m considering and working out,” but he hasn’t been shy about going after the Bowser administration before. White recently responded to an audit revealing that the district didn’t spend the legally designated amount on building homes for residents in the lowest income bracket by writing, “The administration doubled down on the misspending and a lot of people got richer while poor families remained homeless and hopeless.”
● AR Redistricting: In a surprise, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on Wednesday that he’d allow Arkansas’ new congressional map to become law without his signature, saying, “The removal of minority areas in Pulaski County into two different congressional districts does raise concerns.” Hutchinson declined to veto the plan, however, “out of deference” to his fellow Republicans in the legislature who passed it, though it only takes a simple majority to override vetoes in Arkansas, so lawmakers could have easily bypassed the governor.
Perhaps most unusually, Hutchinson all but invited lawsuits targeting the new map, saying his move “will enable those who wish to challenge the redistricting plan in court to do so.” Democrats have attacked the new gerrymandered lines because they crack Pulaski County between three different districts, with the Black community in Little Rock and neighboring suburbs divided between the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Districts
As a result, the 2nd District, which hosted competitive elections the last two cycles, would grow redder, shifting from a 53-44 win for Donald Trump to a 55-42 Trump victory, according to Dave’s Redistricting App. An analysis from the nonpartisan site PlanScore also shows an extremely heavy tilt toward Republicans for the map overall.
It’s not clear yet whether any litigants will take Hutchinson up on his suggestion, though the map won’t actually take effect for a few more weeks. The legislature is set to adjourn on Friday, and under state law, any unsigned bills would become law 20 days later, which would make the map’s likely effective date Nov. 4.
● CO Redistricting: Late on Tuesday, Colorado’s legislative redistricting commission gave approval to a new map for the state Senate after signing off on a state House map earlier in the day. Both plans will now be reviewed by the state Supreme Court, which has until Nov. 15 to either give its endorsement or instruct the commission to make further revisions. Separately on Tuesday, the justices heard oral arguments from those opposed to the state’s proposed congressional map, though several sounded skeptical about second-guessing it. At least one suggested that critics had not shown an “abuse of discretion” on the part of commissioners, the standard necessary for the court to order changes.
● TX Redistricting: Texas’s Republican-run House passed a new map for the chamber on a largely party-line vote Tuesday, with four Democrats voting in favor of the GOP’s gerrymanders and two Republicans against. Earlier, lawmakers adopted several amendments that likewise were approved on a partisan basis. The map now goes to the state Senate.
● AZ-Sen: Arizona Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson announced Wednesday that he was joining what was already a crowded Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. The new contender, unlike most Republican candidates, didn’t mention Donald Trump much in his kickoff, though he said he’d be “honored to have his support.” Olson earlier this month left his post as chief finance officer for Turning Point USA, a well-funded far-right group that’s infamous for spreading lies about the pandemic and targeting college professors for harassment and intimidation.
Olson previously served in the state House, but he left the legislature to wage a 2016 campaign for the open and safely red 5th Congressional District in the Mesa area. Olson, though, spent little and was overshadowed by state Senate President Andy Biggs and former GoDaddy attorney Christine Jones: Biggs went on to edge out Jones by an extremely tight 29.49-29.47 margin, while Olson took fourth with 20%.
Olson quickly rebounded the next year, though, when Gov. Doug Ducey appointed him to the Arizona Corporation Commission, the powerful statewide body that regulates utilities. Olson has used his post to weaken clean energy rules, though he hasn’t been able to do away with them altogether.
Olson was on the ballot in 2018 to keep his new job in an election where the top-two statewide vote-getters won seats. Democrat Sandra Kennedy took first with 26% while Olson edged out fellow Republican Rodney Glassman, who was the Democratic nominee against Sen. John McCain back in 2010, 25.2-25.1.
● MO-Sen: Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens has released a Fabrizio Lee internal that gives him a 36-17 lead over Attorney General Eric Schmitt in next year’s Republican primary, with Rep. Vicky Hartzler in third with 10%. That’s actually a big slip for Greitens, though, from his 48-11 advantage over Schmitt in March; that poll was taken when the field to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt was only starting to take shape and tested some politicians who didn’t end up running while leaving out some eventual candidates like Hartzler.
● OH-Sen: Sen. Sherrod Brown endorsed Rep. Tim Ryan on Wednesday in his quest to join Ohio’s senior senator in the upper chamber, cementing Ryan’s status as the Democratic frontrunner in next year’s open-seat Senate race.
● NM-Gov: Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham reported raising $2.5 million between April 6 and Oct. 4, putting her far ahead of the Republican pack. Her nearest GOP competitor was state Rep. Rebecca Dow, who took in $440,000, though $106,000 was a transfer from her legislative campaign. Retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, meanwhile, took in $154,000 and loaned himself $185,000. Lujan Grisham also has a dominant advantage in cash-on-hand, with $2.1 million in the bank.
● RI-Gov: Former CVS Health executive Helena Foulkes on Wednesday became the latest candidate to announce a Democratic primary challenge against incumbent Dan McKee, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in March when Gina Raimondo resigned to become secretary of commerce. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and former Secretary of State Matt Brown are also competing in a contest where it takes just a simple plurality to win the Democratic nod.
Foulkes is the niece of former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and is close to Raimondo, but she’s never run for office before. WPRI’s Ned Nesi, though, writes that the new candidate likely can self-fund, noting that she took a nearly $30 million pay package in 2019 during her brief time running Hudson’s Bay Co.
Meanwhile, a new Youngkin ad tries to claim McAuliffe would hike taxes by $5,400 on the average Virginia family, but as the Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel notes, the argument is based on a report put out by a conservative think-tank that was then picked up by a conservative news site that was then syndicated by Yahoo News. It’s this laundered version of the initial report that Youngkin’s ad cites, visibly showing the Yahoo News logo throughout the ad, as though to suggest it was independently published by the outlet’s news arm. (Why Yahoo allows its brand to be tarnished in this way is a different matter.)
● CA-37: Culver City Vice Mayor Daniel Lee, who recently filed paperwork with the FEC, has now launched a campaign for California’s open 37th Congressional District in downtown Los Angeles. Lee first won his seat on the Culver City Council in 2018, making him the body’s first-ever Black member. However, he fared poorly in a special election for the state Senate earlier this year, losing to fellow Democrat Sydney Kamlager 69-13.
● IL-17: Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann, who’d reportedly been considering a bid for Illinois’ open 17th Congressional District, became the first Democrat to enter the race when he kicked off a campaign on Wednesday. Logemann, a teacher who served in Afghanistan as a member of the Illinois Army National Guard, is in his second term on the city council. Several other Democrats are still weighing the race, while attorney Esther Joy King, the GOP’s 2020 nominee, is likely to once again win the Republican nod.
● KY-03: Aaron Yarmuth, the son of retiring Rep. John Yarmuth, said on Tuesday that he’s considering a bid for his father’s seat in Congress. Until earlier this year, Yarmuth served as editor of LEO Weekly, the alternative newspaper his father founded in 1990, though he sold the paper in June. The elder Yarmuth said he has no plans to endorse in the race to succeed him unless his son enters.
One potential high-profile candidate, meanwhile, has ruled out a run: Former state Rep. Charles Booker, who is running against Republican Sen. Rand Paul, insisted on Tuesday that he would continue with his campaign.
● WI-03: Businesswoman Rebecca Cooke joined the race for Wisconsin’s open 3rd Congressional District on Wednesday, making her the second notable candidate to seek the Democratic nod following state Sen. Brad Pfaff’s entry earlier this month. Interestingly, both Cooke and Pfaff grew up on Wisconsin dairy farms, though Cooke says her family sold their cattle in the early 2000s; she now runs a clothing and home goods boutique in Eau Claire. A number of other Democrats have been mentioned as potential contenders but none have openly expressed interest. The GOP’s 2020 nominee, Navy veteran Derrick Van Orden, has Donald Trump’s endorsement and the field to himself.
● Special Elections: Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s special election in Iowa:
IA-HD-29: Republican Jon Dunwell defeated Democrat Steve Mullan 60-40 to flip this rightward trending seat for Team Red. This is the second legislative seat to flip for the GOP this year. This chamber is now at full strength with Republicans in control 60-40.
● Albuquerque, NM Mayor: Democratic incumbent Tim Keller has launched his first negative TV spot against Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, a conservative Democrat who is his main rival in the Nov. 2 race. The narrator begins by praising Keller’s record on crime prevention before bringing up the scandal that prevented Gonzales from receiving public financing. The spot also says that the sheriff “[s]ays no to body cameras. And murders go unreported.”
● Boston, MA Mayor: MassInc is out with the first survey of the Nov. 2 general election we’ve seen in the month since the nonpartisan primary, and it gives City Councilor Michelle Wu a massive 57-25 lead over her more moderate colleague, Annissa Essaibi George. Wu outpaced Essaibi George 33-22 on Sept. 14, and she’s since earned the support of Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who took fourth with 19%. (City Councilor Andrea Campbell, whose 20% was good for third place, has yet to take sides.)
● Former Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee: a Democrat who represented the Flint area from 1977 until his 2013 retirement, Kildee died this week at the age of 92. Kildee, who was involved in rewriting No Child Left Behind, was succeeded by his nephew, Dan Kildee, who continues to represent the 5th District.
The elder Kildee first won elected office when he prevailed in a race for state House, and he had no trouble winning the 1976 primary and general elections to succeed Donald Riegle, a fellow Democrat who left to successfully run for the Senate. Kildee’s only close call during his long career came during the 1994 GOP wave when he held off Republican Megan O’Neill 51-47; two years before, he’d defeated the same opponent 54-45. Kildee returned to form in 1996, though, when he won 59-39.
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