The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● PA-Sen: David McCormick, who recently stepped down as chief executive of the hedge fund giant Bridgewater Associates, on Thursday finally launched his campaign to win the May Republican primary in Pennsylvania’s closely-watched Senate contest. McCormick already has spent $2.3 million in TV ads since late December ahead of his announcement, but he’s now taking fire for the first time. American Leadership Action, a super PAC set up to help TV personality Mehmet Oz win the nomination, has begun a $550,000 ad campaign that excoriates McCormick as a pro-China rich guy who “cut Pittsburgh jobs only to create new jobs overseas, all to make a buck.” The narrator adds, “McCormick even criticized President Trump’s China policy. No wonder Trump fired him.” (That last line goes unexplained.)
McCormick can expect a whole lot more to come his way as he dukes it out with Oz and plenty of others in the primary. While the former hedge fund head is originally from Pennsylvania, he lived in Connecticut for years through 2021. Indeed, Politico identified McCormick as a Connecticut resident just a little over two months ago when it first talked about his potential candidacy, though he has since bought a home in the Pittsburgh area. (Oz, who is also self-funding, has even weaker ties to the Keystone State.)
Politico also highlighted some potentially far larger liabilities for the new contender in a separate story from earlier this week. In 2017—well after most Republicans accepted that they needed to be Trump sycophants in order to advance in party politics—McCormick said of the previous year’s election, “I wasn’t particularly involved with the Trump camp—I wasn’t a Trump supporter.” And last year, in addition to saying he “really appreciated Biden’s tone,” the Republican argued that Trump bore “a lot of responsibility” for the “divisiveness” that had occurred during his time in the White House.
McCormick, perhaps belatedly, now realizes that sucking up to Trump offers him his best path to victory in the primary, and he’s been doing what he can to, as Politico puts it, give his campaign some “MAGA-proof[ing].” McCormick, who now promotes himself as an “America First” contender, has enlisted some of Trumpworld’s most infamous names as official and unofficial advisors including Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and Arkansas gubernatorial frontrunner Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The candidate’s wife, Dina Powell McCormick, also notably served as a Trump deputy national security adviser, while McCormick himself turned down Trump’s offer to be a deputy secretary of Defense.
It remains to be seen whether all of this will be enough to win the backing of Trump, whose endorsed candidate, Army veteran Sean Parnell, suspended his campaign in November after losing an ugly custody battle with his estranged wife. An unnamed source tells Politico that Trump did indeed watch the clip of McCormick blaming him for “divisiveness.” This person also relays that Trump reviewed more McCormick statements bashing him, though the contents and author of that document are unknown. They added that, while Trump didn’t seem to have a strong reaction afterward, “The sliding scale is the more recent your insults have been, the more they weigh … To that extent, it’s not great to be David McCormick today.”
In addition to Oz, the GOP field also includes election conspiracy theorist Kathy Barnette; attorney George Bochetto; former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands; and businessman Jeff Bartos, the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor. Democrats additionally have their own competitive primary for what is arguably Team Blue’s best Senate pickup opportunity.
● FL Redistricting: A committee in Florida’s Republican-run state Senate unanimously approved a new congressional map on Thursday that would create 16 districts Donald Trump would have carried versus 12 Joe Biden would have won. The map is viewable here, with associated data files here.
● RI Redistricting: Rhode Island’s redistricting commission has voted to advance new congressional and legislative maps, which now must be approved by the state’s Democratic-run legislature. The congressional map would make minimal changes to the state’s two districts in order to ensure equal populations in both, while the legislative maps would not affect Democratic dominance of state politics. The commission is formally advisory in nature, but it was created by lawmakers and is made up mostly of legislators hand-picked by party leaders, so it’s likely its proposals will be adopted wholesale.
LA-Sen: John Kennedy (R-inc): $3.3 million raised, $11 million cash-on-hand
OH-Sen: J.D. Vance (R): $1 million raised
CA-22 (special): Nathan Megsig (R): $142,000 raised (in three weeks)
TX-28: Henry Cuellar (D-inc): $700,000 raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand
WA-08: Kim Schrier (D-inc): $1 million raised, $4 million cash-on-hand
● NC-Sen: A super PAC called Restore Common Sense has spent about $1 million on digital and radio ads to boost businesswoman Marjorie Eastman, who has barely registered in public polls of the race. The PAC’s treasurer is wealthy pharma executive Fred Eshelman, who gave $2.5 million to the group True the Vote in 2020, then unsuccessfully sued to recover his donation after claiming the organization—one of many that pursued bogus voter fraud claims following Joe Biden’s win—failed to spend the money as promised.
Case in point: A new survey from former Gov. Pat McCrory finds him leading Rep. Ted Budd 30-21, with Eastman at just 1%. Of note, though, McCrory appears to have switched pollsters: This newest poll is from Strategic Partners Solutions, while his last poll—which gave him a wider 40-25 advantage over Budd—was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in October.
Meanwhile, a poll from Cygnal on behalf of the conservative think tank Civitas finds an even tighter race, with McCrory ahead of Budd just 24-19. (Eastman, by the way, once again clocks in at 1%.)
● MI-Gov: Former Detroit Police chief James Craig has released an internal poll from the GOP firm ARW Strategies showing him tied at 46% with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The last James survey was a September poll from Strategic National that had Whitmer ahead 47-46, but he’s since parted ways with that firm. A recent independent poll from the Glengariff Group, however, had Whitmer leading 49-39.
● NY-Gov: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is from the city, in her bid for a full term. The move is a snub of Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is challenging Hochul for the Democratic nomination: Suozzi stumped for Brown during his successful write-in campaign for re-election last year after he lost the primary to self-described socialist India Walton while Hochul remained neutral.
● CA-37: Democratic state Sen. Sydney Kamlager kicked off her bid for California’s open 37th Congressional District on Thursday with an endorsement from current Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles. Kamlager also received the backing of Rep. Ted Lieu, who represents a neighboring seat.
● IL-01: On Thursday, retiring Rep. Bobby Rush gave his endorsement to Karin Norington-Reaves, who recently stepped down as head of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership and launched a campaign for Rush’s seat earlier this week. Norington-Reaves is one of several Democrats running for the open 1st Congressional District, and more may join the race.
● IN-09: Hah, wow: Brian Howey, who publishes the local tipsheet Howey Politics, reports that former GOP Rep. Mike Sodrel is considering a comeback bid in the 9th District, which is newly open due to Rep. Trey Hollingsworth’s unexpected retirement. Sodrel, now 76, ran five consecutive campaigns for a previous version of this southeastern Indiana seat—four of which were against Democrat Baron Hill—but only won once.
The first in the series of Hill-Sodrel matchups came in 2002, which Hill, first elected in 1998, won 51-46. Sodrel notched his only victory two years later when he unseated Hill by just 1,400 votes—a margin of half a percentage point—as George W. Bush was carrying the district 59-40. Hill roared back in the 2006 wave, though, to bounce Sodrel 50-45, then crushed him 58-38 in 2008. Sodrel took one last stab in 2010, but by that point, Republican voters had evidently had enough of him, as he finished third in a tight three-way primary. Much to Sodrel’s doubtless chagrin, the GOP nominee, Todd Young, ousted Hill 52-42 that November. (Perhaps Sodrel should have invested in better yard signs.)
It’s unlikely primary voters will find Sodrel any more appealing today, and it’s also worth noting that his name popped up as a possible contender the last time the 9th District (now solidly conservative) came open in 2015, but he never bit. However, he’s personally wealthy, so he could have an impact if he does get in.
● OR-04: Retiring Rep. Peter DeFazio endorsed state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle on Thursday in the race to succeed him in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District. Hoyle is the most prominent candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, though Airbnb executive Andrew Kalloch is also running. For Republicans, Army National Guard veteran Alek Skarlatos, who was the party’s nominee against DeFazio in 2020, is trying again.
● OR-06: Cryptocurrency developer Matt West announced this week that he’d raised more than $600,000 in the final quarter of 2020, but he didn’t mention in his press release that most of that haul was self-funded. The Willamette Week, however, reports that $437,000 came from the candidate, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District.
● TX-15: Insurance agent Monica De La Cruz, the apparent frontrunner in the March 1 GOP primary, has released her first TV ad of the race. In the spot, she insists her grandmother “legally immigrated from Mexico” (emphasizing the word “legally”) but claims, “Joe Biden abandoned us, and our border, transforming our country with drugs, gangs, and violence.” There she features a notorious photo of three shirtless and tattooed men that’s long been a staple of racist GOP ads. That picture, by the way, was not taken in the United States any time recently but rather in a prison in El Salvador a decade ago by British photographer Adam Hinton.
● VT-AL: Democratic state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who would be the first person of color to represent Vermont in Congress, kicked off a bid for the state’s lone at-large congressional district this week. She joins two other prominent women in the primary, state Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, all of whom would be the first woman elected to federal office in the state.
In an essay last year, Hinsdale described her background and upbringing in southern California, writing, “My Indian immigrant father and Jewish American mother ran an Irish pub in Los Angeles.” She moved to Vermont in the mid-2000s for college and first won a seat in the state House in 2008 at the age of 22. A 2016 bid for lieutenant governor, however, saw her finish a distant third for the Democratic nomination with 17% of the vote, though she bounced back with a victorious state Senate campaign in 2020.
● WV-02: In response to a poll released by his rival in May’s GOP primary, Rep. David McKinley has surfaced a mid-December internal from Meeting Street Insights that finds him leading fellow Rep. Alex Mooney 40-34. By contrast, Mooney’s survey, conducted in early January by Public Opinion Strategies, had him up 45-32.
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