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.
● TX-AG, TX-01: Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, the legendary bomb-thrower who carried the far right’s banner in Congress before the tea party wave and the Donald Trump era reshaped the Republican caucus, announced Monday night that he would challenge scandal-ridden Attorney General Ken Paxton in the March primary rather than seek a 10th term.
Gohmert joins Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman in trying to deny renomination to the Trump-endorsed incumbent. Meanwhile, another contender, state Rep. Matt Krause, ended his campaign the day after Gohmert’s entry and announced that he would instead compete in the open-seat race for Tarrant County district attorney. If no one wins a majority of the vote, a primary runoff would take place in late May.
Gohmert, like Paxton’s other foes, is hoping that the attorney general’s many ethical woes will give him a natural opening: The congressman attacked his new opponent as someone who only “started working harder after so many of his most honorable and very top people in the AG’s office left, complaining of criminal conduct.”
Paxton has been under indictment since 2015 for securities fraud (the case is still awaiting trial) and is reportedly under FBI investigation over unrelated allegations that he used his office to aid a wealthy ally in exchange for favors. He’s also facing a whistleblower lawsuit from several former senior aides who say they were fired after they reported Paxton’s actions to law enforcement.
To date, though, Paxton has very much looked like the primary frontrunner over both Guzman, who isn’t well-known, and Bush, who is—but has his own weaknesses with the party’s nativist base. An October YouGov poll showed Paxton beating Bush by a giant 54-18 margin, while a newer UT Tyler poll gave the attorney general a smaller 46-32 edge. But here’s no telling how things might change now.
Gohmert, in fact, surprised pretty much everyone on Nov. 9 when he revealed that he was trying to raise $1 million in 10 days for a potential campaign against Paxton, though in true Gohmert fashion he tried to unveil his plans with a link to a livestream that didn’t work. His website also failed at basic math by asking “100,000 citizens to send $100 each (or any other amount to get to $1,000,000) by November 19.”
The congressman was supposed to make an announcement on Nov. 19 on conservative radio host Mark Davis’ show, but he naturally never called in. On Monday evening, though, Gohmert finally divulged his intentions, and for once, his unveiling appears to have gone off without a hitch. He also declared that he’d “reached our initial goal of raising $1 million,” though he didn’t say whether he’d managed to do so during his self-imposed 10-day window.
Whether Gohmert wins or loses his next race, however, neither the House GOP leadership nor his Democratic colleagues are likely to miss him on Capitol Hill. Gohmert wasn’t always the lighting-rod he’s known as now, though. After he won the East Texas-based 1st District in 2004 by unseating conservative Democrat Max Sandlin in a seat that Republicans had just redrawn under the infamous DeLaymander, he attracted little attention for years.
Things began to change in 2010, though, when he went on CNN and claimed, without any evidence, that terrorists dwelling in America were raising “terror babies,” a phenomenon he said was a “gaping hole in the security of our country.” Gohmert evidently enjoyed his moment in the sun, since he soon became nationally known for his many offensive and bizarre rants. This included him:
Blaming the Aurora theater mass shooting on “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs”;
Insisting that “radical Islamists” are “trained to act like Hispanic[s]” to enter the U.S.;
Musing about the romantic lives of caribou;
Claiming the Obama administration “has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America”;
Telling then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that “the attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus”;
Asking how many same-sex couples would be saved in a spaceship if the world was about to end;
Using a hearing on reparations to insist, “It is important that we know our history and we not punish people today for the sins of their predecessors in the Democratic Party”;
Claiming an unspecified “mist” was being used in Germany to kill COVID-19;
The only people who might have loathed Gohmert more than progressives, though, may have been his nominal leaders. Gohmert, as Tim Alberta recounted in his book “American Carnage,” once tried to convince then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor to bring a birther-inspired bill to the floor by asking, “Kenya hear me? Kenya hear me?” Speaker John Boehner reacted to his antics by angrily musing, “Louie Gohmert is insane. There’s not a functional brain in there.”
The Texan thought little of Boehner as well. In 2013, Gohmert joined the attempted coup against the speaker by casting his vote for the top job for his former colleague Allen West, who had just lost re-election in Florida. (West has since moved to Texas and is currently waging a longshot primary campaign against Gov. Greg Abbott.) In 2015, Gohmert himself offered up his own name as an alternative to Boehner, but he only earned the support of two other members. Gohmert also opposed putting Paul Ryan in the speaker’s chair after Boehner resigned later that year.
One GOP leader who took to Gohmert with gusto, though, is Trump. The congressman not only has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Big Lie, he filed a since-dismissed lawsuit seeking to compel Mike Pence to interfere with the electoral vote count on Jan. 6.
Gohmert has also portrayed the insurrectionists as unarmed protesters who are being targeted by the Justice Department and has even unsuccessfully tried to visit some in prison. Last month, Rolling Stone reported that he was one of several GOP congressmen who’d had discussions with the planners of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally that preceded the attack, an allegation he denies.
For Texas Republicans, a disregard for the law may in fact be precisely the qualification they’re looking for in their state’s top law enforcement official. After all, just look at Paxton.
To stay on top of the congressional and legislative redistricting process in all 50 states, be sure to bookmark our continually updated tracker.
● CT Redistricting: Connecticut’s bipartisan Reapportionment Commission unanimously approved a new map for the state Senate on Tuesday, completing its work on legislative redistricting following the adoption of a map for the state House last week. Because the commission took over the redistricting process after lawmakers missed a mid-September deadline to draw maps themselves, the legislature and governor no longer have a role, meaning the legislative plans are now final.
The commission is also responsible for drawing new congressional districts but has said it won’t meet its Nov. 30 deadline to do so and will ask the state Supreme Court for more time. If the panel doesn’t obtain an extension or can’t finish on time even it does, the task of creating a new congressional map would fall to the court, as it did a decade ago.
● IL Redistricting: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Illinois’ new congressional map on Tuesday, which the state’s Democratic-run legislature passed last month. The map, which we previously explored in detail, is an aggressive partisan gerrymander that seeks to shore up several Democratic seats and deliver a 14-3 advantage for the party.
● MA Redistricting: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed Massachusetts’ new congressional map on Monday, bringing redistricting to a close in the Bay State. The new map, which passed the Democratic-run legislature with several Republican votes in favor, doesn’t make many changes to the previous lines and will likely continue to elect the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation.
● MN Redistricting: Minnesota Democrats have released a proposed congressional map to go along with legislative plans they put out the other day. As before, however, this proposal has no chance of moving forward as is because Republicans control the state Senate. (Along with Alaska, Minnesota is the only state with a partisan split between its legislative chambers, and only in Minnesota are lawmakers responsible for redistricting.)
● OK Redistricting: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Oklahoma’s new congressional and legislative maps on Monday, following their recent passage along party lines in the state’s Republican-run legislature. The congressional plan makes the 5th District, which had been the state’s only competitive seat, safely red by cracking the Oklahoma City area between three different districts. The legislative maps, meanwhile, replace maps passed earlier this year, prior to the release of 2020 census data, that relied on population estimates.
● FL-Sen, FL-Gov: While St. Pete Polls’ last few surveys have been relatively bullish for Team Blue, its new numbers for Florida Politics find Republicans gaining strength. Sen. Marco Rubio leads his likely Democratic foe, Rep. Val Demings, 51-44, a shift to the right from his 48-46 advantage in August. In the race for governor, meanwhile, Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis outpaces Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 51-45 and 51-42, respectively. (A third Democratic candidate, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, was not tested.) Over the summer, St. Pete found Crist actually edging out DeSantis 45-44 and leading Fried only 45-42.
● NH-Sen: Attorney Phil Taub has announced that he won’t compete in next year’s Republican primary.
● AR-Gov: Independent state Sen. Jim Hendren has announced that he won’t run next year to succeed his termed-out uncle, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hendren, a former majority leader who left the GOP after Jan. 6, also says he won’t seek re-election to the legislature.
● MA-Gov: The Democratic firm Change Research’s new poll for Northwind Strategies, a Democratic firm that isn’t affiliated with any candidate in the governor’s race, finds Republican Gov. Charlie Baker leading Attorney General Maura Healey and former Rep. Joe Kennedy III by margins of 33-29 and 36-30, respectively. Healey is considering seeking the Democratic nod, while Kennedy has given no sign that he’s interested.
The poll also tests out a very hypothetical general election scenario in which Baker decides to run as an independent rather than stick with his GOP primary battle against Trump-backed former state Rep. Geoff Diehl. Change shows Baker outpacing Healey 32-26, with Diehl taking 21%.
● MD-Gov: Donald Trump’s blue state sabotage tour came to Maryland on Monday night when he issued an endorsement of Del. Dan Cox, who not only organized a bus of people to attend the infamous Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol but also tweeted “Pence is a traitor” during the height of the violence.
Trump also used his not-tweet to take shots both at Cox’s intra-party foe, state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz (though of course he didn’t bother to spell her name right) and his longtime intra-party critic, termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan. “Dan is MAGA all the way — unlike his opponent, Kelly Schultz, who was handpicked by her ‘boss,’ RINO Larry Hogan, who has been terrible for our Country and is against the America First Movement,” Trump wrote.
Hogan, who hasn’t publicly taken sides in the primary, responded with a tweet of his own saying, “Personally, I’d prefer endorsements from people who didn’t lose Maryland by 33 points.” Cox, for his part, doesn’t seem to actually accept that Trump lost Maryland at all because he launched his campaign over the summer calling for a “forensic audit of the 2020 election.”
The Old Line State already offered Democrats one of their best gubernatorial pickup opportunities in the nation, and Team Blue’s path would likely be easier if Cox, whom Hogan slammed in January as “a QAnon conspiracy theorist who says crazy things every day,” won next June’s primary.
Cox might also benefit if former RNC chair Michael Steele, who outright backed Joe Biden last year, seeks the nomination as well, since Steele would be apt to split whatever exists of the non-Trump GOP vote with Schultz. Cox may be in luck: Maryland Matters reports that Steele “is expected to decide in the next week whether to enter the race.”
● OR-Gov: State House Minority Leader Christine Drazan announced Monday that she was joining next May’s Republican primary for governor. Her candidacy came weeks after the Willamette Week reported that unnamed party “power brokers” were trying to recruit her to run for a post that the GOP hasn’t held since 1987. Drazan, who previously served as executive director of the state House Republicans’ campaign arm, was only elected to the lower chamber in 2018 from a seat south of Portland, though from that perch, she quickly ousted the party’s previous leader. She then used her new authority in 2020 to organize a walk-out in order to deny the Democratic majority the quorum they needed to pass a climate change bill.
● CA-14: Assemblyman Kevin Mullin on Tuesday became the latest candidate to announce a bid to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Jackie Speier, in this safely blue San Mateo County-based seat. Mullin, who worked as Speier’s district director when she was in the legislature, entered the race with an endorsement from fellow Assemblyman Phil Ting, who himself had been mentioned as a possible contender.
● GA-02: Businessman Wayne Johnson, a former Trump official in the Department of Education, became the first notable Republican to join the race for Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday. Johnson ran in Georgia’s special Senate election last year but dropped out a month before Election Day. Republicans made the 2nd District, which is held by Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop, slightly redder in redistricting: It would have gone 55-44 for Joe Biden, as opposed to 56-43 under the old lines. While this corner of southwestern Georgia is usually reliably blue, Bishop did suffer a scare in the 2010 GOP Wave, when he won re-election in a tight 51-49 scrape.
● GA-06: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Republican physician Rich McCormick, who had been gearing up for a rematch in Georgia’s 7th District after his narrow loss last year, will likely switch over to the open 6th District and may make an announcement next week. In their new map, Republicans gerrymandered the 6th to make it 26 points redder at the presidential level, prompting Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath to announce she’d run for re-election in the 7th, which is now commensurately bluer.
The AJC also says that state Sen. Greg Dolezal is considering joining the GOP primary, though there’s no direct word from him, while another Republican, state Rep. Will Wade, is a no.
● GA-07: Gwinnett County Board of Education member Everton Blair, a Democrat who was reported to be considering a bid for Georgia’s redrawn 7th District, announced on Tuesday that he wouldn’t seek re-election to his current post. However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein says that Blair is more likely to run for state schools chief, which makes sense, given that the 7th now features an incumbent-vs.-incumbent battle between Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux.
● IL-13: EMILY’s List has endorsed former Obama official Nikki Budzinski’s bid for Illinois’ reconfigured 13th Congressional District. The old 13th is currently represented by Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, but Democrats made the district significantly bluer in redistricting: The new version would have voted 54-43 for Joe Biden, per Dave’s Redistricting App, compared to the 51-45 margin for Donald Trump under the old lines. Davis has said he wouldn’t announce his plans until Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the new map into law, which he just did on Tuesday, but there’s a good chance he’ll seek re-election in the new 15th (or maybe run for governor), which would leave the 13th open.
● NJ-02: Since the last effort to recruit a conservative Democratic state senator to run in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District worked out so well, state party chair LeRoy Jones says that he’d like to see soon-to-be-former state Senate President Steve Sweeney run against Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew next year. Sweeney rather infamously lost his bid for re-election this month to an unknown Republican who spent $153 on his campaign, while Van Drew, of course, switched to the GOP a year after first winning election to Congress as a Democrat.
● NC-02, NC-Sen: Two Democrats have announced campaigns for North Carolina’s open 2nd Congressional District, now a 51-48 Biden seat that the Republican legislature sought to undermine for Democrats through racial gerrymandering. The more familiar name to Digest readers is probably former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost a primary bid last year for the U.S. Senate and was waging a second campaign for the upper chamber. Smith ended September with $65,000 on-hand, which she can use for her new campaign.
The other new arrival is state Rep. James Gailliard, who proclaimed, “I’m not a far-left liberal Dem, and this is not a far-left, liberal-drawn district, so we’re going to need a moderate candidate to get us across the finish line and I feel like I’m that candidate.” Another Democratic state legislator, state Sen. Don Davis, recently created a campaign committee with the FEC, but he’s not ready to announce anything yet. Davis said, “I’ve filed the necessary paperwork and will have more to share on my future plans after I take time to reflect and have further discussions with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday.”
● NC-04: Democratic state Sen. Ben Clark and Republican state Rep. John Szoka have each announced campaigns for the new 4th District, an open seat in the Fayetteville area that favored Donald Trump 53-46. Clark is the first notable Democrat to enter the race, while Szoka joins former Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson in the March GOP primary.
● TX-01: Rep. Louie Gohmert only announced Monday night that he was leaving this 72-26 Trump seat behind to run for state attorney general (see our TX-AG item above), but a few of his fellow East Texas Republicans had already been eyeing the chance to replace him.
Former Gohmert staffer Aditya Atholi declared over the weekend he was “100% in the race” no matter what his old boss did. Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran also said last week that he was considering running, but only in the event of an open seat. Moran listed several local figures who would support his potential campaign, including state Sen. Bryan Hughes, who KETK said was “seen by many East Texans as the apparent heir” to this seat. (Hughes has also announced that he’s seeking re-election to the legislature.)
State Rep. Matt Schaefer, meanwhile, responded to Gohmert’s flirtations with a statewide run on Nov. 9 by tweeting his interest. Texas’ filing deadline is Dec. 13.
● TX-30: State Rep. Jasmine Crockett has filed FEC paperwork for a potential bid to succeed her fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, in this safely blue Dallas seat, and she says she’ll have an announcement on Wednesday. The Dallas Morning News‘ Gromer Jeffers adds that two of Crockett’s colleagues, state Reps. Toni Rose and Yvonne Davis, are also considering.
However, Johnson’s choice may be someone who hasn’t publicly shown interest in running yet. Jeffers writes, “If she hasn’t already, expect Johnson to reach out to State District Civil Court Judge Tonya Parker, a rising star who people close to Johnson say has always been her first choice as a successor.” Jeffers, though, adds that insiders had not expected Parker, who is “on a path for greater accomplishments in the judicial field,” to run for Congress prior to Johnson’s Saturday retirement announcement.
● VT-AL: State Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, who’d reportedly been considering a bid for Vermont’s newly open at-large seat in Congress, has now confirmed her interest and says she’ll decide whether to enter the Democratic primary “in the next few days and weeks.” Another Democrat who’s been looking at the race, state Sen. Kesha Ram-Hinsdale, says she’ll make up her mind “during the holiday season.”
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: The first poll we’ve seen of Atlanta’s Nov. 30 mayoral runoff comes to us from University of Georgia on behalf of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2, and it finds City Councilman Andre Dickens leading City Council President Felicia Moore 43-37. The result is a surprise, since it was Moore who outpaced Dickens by a wide 41-23 just three weeks ago in the nonpartisan primary, but we don’t have enough data to know if the contest has in fact shifted dramatically in the second round.
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