Morning Digest: Top Oregon Democrat launches bid to become nation’s first lesbian governor

Morning Digest: Top Oregon Democrat launches bid to become nation’s first lesbian governor

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.

Leading Off

OR-Gov: State House Speaker Tina Kotek, who’d been eyeing a bid for months, kicked off a campaign for governor on Wednesday, making her by far the most prominent Democrat in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Kate Brown next year.

Kotek first joined the legislature after winning a safely blue seat in Portland in 2006, then became the nation’s first lesbian legislative leader when she was elevated to the speakership just six years later. During her eight years leading the House, Kotek has overseen passage of an array of progressive measures, including a generous family and medical leave program, a minimum wage hike, and an equal pay law.

But in recent years, these efforts have been thwarted by repeated Republican walkouts that have killed legislation to combat climate change and increase education funding, among other things. Earlier this year, Kotek caved to another threatened boycott by giving GOP lawmakers veto power over the redistricting process despite their minority status, earning her the fury of prominent democrats like Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader.

Campaign Action

Kotek has also often been described—and described herself—as a strong advocate for organized labor, which could prove a boon in next year’s primary. But two years ago, she shepherded a bill that made cuts to pensions for public employees, a move that infuriated unions. The Willamette Week‘s Rachel Monahan says that Kotek has nevertheless “stayed a close ally of union leadership,” though just how true that remains once other Democrats join the race will be a key test.

And join they will. Though Kotek’s entry will likely deter some candidates (labor leader Melissa Unger said last week she’s “really unlikely” to run), other major players are still weighing bids. These ranks include state Treasurer Tobias Read, whom Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Dirk VanderHart says “is widely expected to announce a campaign in coming days,” and state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who is reportedly considering.

For what it’s worth, there’s also New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who tells VanderHart that he’s “getting close to a decision,” though since he voted in New York last year, he may not be eligible to run (though of course he insists otherwise). The lone notable Democrat already in the race is Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla.

The best-known Republican, meanwhile, is physician Bud Pierce, who lost a 2016 special election to Brown 51-43. He faces a primary that includes businesswoman Jessica Gomez and Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten.

P.S. If Kotek were to succeed Brown, who is bisexual, it would be the first time a governorship has ever passed from one LGBTQ office-holder to another.


IL Redistricting: Illinois Democrats have passed revised legislative maps that are now based on firm figures from the 2020 census, updating lines they drew earlier this year that relied on population estimates. The changes will likely make moot a Republican lawsuit that challenged the initial set of boundaries for creating districts with population variances in excess of what the law allows.

The new districts will also maintain Democratic control over both chambers by shoring up several incumbents and pitting many Republican lawmakers against one another. (Analyst Benjamin Lefkowitz offers a detailed examination of the shifts between maps.) The plans now go to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who quickly signed the earlier versions after their passage.

OK Redistricting: Much as in Illinois, Oklahoma Republicans say they will soon redraw legislative maps they passed earlier this year that used estimated population data. Though the exact timeline is unclear, Senate President Greg Treat said in March that the legislature would “absolutely” hold a special session this fall to address the matter, and a final public hearing on the maps will be held on Sept. 15.


AZ-Sen: Saving Arizona PAC, a group funded by billionaire Peter Thiel to support former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, has launched what Politico calls a seven-figure buy well ahead of next year’s GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

The commercial begins by going after Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is one of Masters’ many intra-party rivals, for recognizing Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The ad then shows footage of Donald Trump, who has made his hatred of Brnovich well known but hasn’t endorsed anyone, praising Masters.

NH-Sen: In a new survey of what remains a hypothetical race, St. Anselm College finds Republican Gov. Chris Sununu leading Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan by a 49-41 margin. That’s similar to the 47-41 Sununu advantage St. Anselm had in March, but considerably wider than the only other recent-ish numbers we’ve seen of this potential matchup: a 49-48 edge for Sununu from the University of New Hampshire in mid-July.

But of course, Sununu still has yet to say whether he’ll run. When he last hinted at a timetable back in June, he said, “I’m really going to enjoy having a summer and fall … of just being a governor.” Meanwhile, the one notable Republican who actually is running, retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, wasn’t even tested in St. Anselm’s poll.


MN-Gov: State Sen. Michelle Benson announced Wednesday that she was joining what had been a slowly-developing Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, but one likely rival pre-empted her kickoff with some news of his own.

Fellow state Sen. Paul Gazelka said hours before Benson’s scheduled event that he was stepping down as majority leader and expected to decide on a gubernatorial bid sometime after Labor Day; he also revealed later in the day that he wouldn’t seek re-election to the legislature regardless of whether or not he ran statewide. Gazelka has spent months keeping politicos guessing about his plans and observers speculated just a month ago that he’d sit the contest out, but his decision to give up his powerful job indicates he’s quite serious about running against Walz.

Benson, who would be the first woman to lead Minnesota, has represented a safely red seat in the northern Twin Cities suburbs since 2011, and she currently serves as deputy majority leader. The senator has made a name for herself over the last year as a fierce opponent of Walz’s public health measures, and she used her Wednesday event to argue that people in the more rural parts of the state feel “very differently” about the governor’s pandemic policies than residents of the Twin Cities area.

Benson joins a field that already includes former state Sen. Scott Jensen, a physician who has been banned from TikTok for spreading what the company called “misinformation on COVID-19 guidelines;” dermatologist Neil Shah; and Mike Murphy, the mayor of the small community of Lexington.

The Associated Press notes that Jensen has spent the last several months working to win over the party activists who will determine who earns the party endorsement next year. Winning the party endorsement is not the same thing as winning the nomination, but many politicos in Minnesota take it very seriously, and there’s often pressure on candidates to drop out if they lose it.

As a result, it’s common for candidates in both parties to, in local parlance, “abide” by the party endorsement process and end their campaigns instead of proceeding to the primary if they aren’t chosen. Benson said she would try to win over the delegates, but she declined to say if she’d abide by the endorsement.

NM-Gov: Despite resuming his old job as a TV meteorologist earlier this year following his failed 2020 Senate bid, Republican Mark Ronchetti will join the race for governor “in several weeks,” according to unnamed “senior sources” who’ve spoken with local reporter Joe Monahan. That trajectory—going from broadcasting to politics and back to broadcasting—is so unusual that the only other example we know of is from Latvia, but a second foray onto the campaign trail by Ronchetti would be even more unusual, if not unique, and raises some real questions.

As Monahan wonders, should Ronchetti fail again in his pursuit of statewide office, would his employer, KRQE, welcome him back once more? “Critics argue the station is licensed by the FCC to serve the public interest, not as a Republican bullpen for potential GOP candidates,” observes Monahan. Then again, does KRQE or its owner, the $6 billion media giant Nextar, even care?

Whatever happens (or, more likely, doesn’t happen) on the journalistic ethics front, Ronchetti would join a primary field that already includes retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Brock, and state Rep. Rebecca Dow. We won’t have a sense of how this gang’s been doing on the fundraising front until Oct. 11, when reports covering a six-month period starting April 6 are due to be filed. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking a second term, had $134,000 on hand as of her previous report.

VA-Gov: Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin is out with three new ads, all focusing on crime. The first two feature Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard and Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin reading the same script almost verbatim, proclaiming that “Virginia won’t be safe with four more years of [Democrat] Terry McAuliffe.” The third spot is more positive, showing a Black woman whose father was killed in the 2015 Charleston shooting by a white supremacist saying that Youngkin is the best-equipped candidate to handle the “rising crime” in Virginia.

McAuliffe is also out with a new commercial that again attacks Youngkin’s opposition to abortion. The ad features a doctor who chides Youngkin for his anti-abortion views and portrays McAuliffe as a governor who would focus on issues such as the economy and education, “not someone who wants to do my job.” This is the second recent spot from McAuliffe to go after Youngkin on reproductive rights.

WI-Gov: Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has filed paperwork to create a campaign committee ahead of her long-anticipated bid for governor, though she still isn’t launching a campaign just yet and a spokesperson offered no timetable for when she might do so. Another Republican, state Rep. John Macco, also set up a committee last month and says he’ll decide “in the next few weeks.”


FL-11: Far-right activist Laura Loomer, a self-described “proud Islamophobe” who has been banned from numerous social media, rideshare, and payment services for spreading bigotry, announced Wednesday that she would challenge Rep. Dan Webster in the GOP primary.

Loomer was the GOP’s nominee last year against Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel in Florida’s 21st District, a South Florida seat located far away from this constituency in the north-central part of the state. Loomer raised $2.3 million for her campaign in that safely blue district, and while she attracted national attention after receiving the endorsement of would-be-constituent Donald Trump, she predictably lost 59-39.

Loomer had filed with the FEC earlier this cycle for a second run at Frankel but explained Wednesday that she was instead taking on Webster because he was one of the “do-nothing Republicans who are in safe red seats who have an ability to push back and fight back against what is happening and they’re not.”

GA-06, GA-07: Normally, a prominent figure endorsing an incumbent of their own party isn’t news, but as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, there’s some important subtext behind Stacey Abrams’ decision to give her backing to Rep. Lucy McBath’s re-election campaign. That’s because the GOP’s next gerrymander of Georgia’s congressional map could throw McBath into the same district as freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, whose seat neighbors hers.

And in soliciting donations for McBath, Abrams also said the congresswoman “has not wavered on Georgia jobs and infrastructure.” That’s an unsubtle shot at Bourdeaux’s decision to join a group of nine renegade Democrats who threatened to derail the delicate compromise on infrastructure spending now working its way through Congress. The rebels soon caved, however, with little to show for it beyond a non-binding bit of appeasement—though they did earn an epithet that may haunt them with progressives: the “Sabotage Squad.”

MN-02: Republican state Sen. Eric Pratt says he’s considering a bid against Democratic Rep. Angie Craig and “will take the next month to think about it.” Pratt’s legislative district is contained entirely within the current 2nd Congressional District, which occupies the Twin Cities suburbs.

MO-07: Republican state Sen. Eric Burlison, who’d been considering a bid for Missouri’s open 7th Congressional District, announced his entry on Wednesday and swiftly earned an endorsement from the deep-pocketed Club for Growth. Burlison has opposed measures to mitigate the pandemic and has championed laws to allow the permitless carry of firearms.

NY-19: Army veteran Kyle Van De Water, who was the GOP’s nominee in New York’s 19th Congressional District in 2020, has abandoned his second bid less than two months after kicking off his campaign. Last year, Van De Water raised very little money and lost to Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado by a 54-43 margin.

That leaves no notable Republicans running here (to the extent Van De Water passed as such), though Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said back in March that he was considering a bid. Molinaro​ said in April that he’d take just a couple of months to decide if he wanted to serve the remainder of his term, which concludes at the end of 2023, or seek higher office; however, while Molinaro ​soon announced he wouldn’t run for governor, we have yet to hear anything new about a possible House bid.

TX-12: Businessman Chris Putnam, who lost a very expensive primary challenge to Republican Rep. Kay Granger last year, announced on Wednesday that he’s trying again. In his previous campaign, Putnam slammed Granger as insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump (though Trump wound up endorsing her) and attacked her involvement in a long-delayed and over-budget development project in Fort Worth called Panther Island, which he dubbed a “boondoggle.”

It was that last bit that really shaped the contours of the race, though, as the virulently anti-tax Club for Growth abandoned many years of détente with GOP incumbents to spend heavily on Putnam’s behalf. Granger, meanwhile, went after Putnam for his weak ties to the district: He’d previously held local office in a community located outside the deep red 12th and only moved to the area shortly before commencing his campaign.

Ultimately, Granger, who is the top Republican on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the most senior Texan in Congress, prevailed by a 58-42 margin. A big question for Putnam on his second attempt will be whether the Club backs his play once again, though it hasn’t issued another endorsement yet. And though Granger is 78 and has been in office for almost a quarter century, she’s very unlikely to retire, since she’d become Appropriations chair if Republicans win back the House next year.

Ballot Measures

Minneapolis, MN Ballot: This November’s city ballot measure to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a “Department of Public Safety” and shift more control of the department from the mayor to the city council has arguably attracted far more attention than the concurrent mayoral contest, and high-profile Minnesota Democrats are coming down on opposite sides.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the entire city in Congress, and state Attorney General Keith Ellison both announced this week they supported passing the measure. Omar wrote, “We have a mandate, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, to deliver a public safety system rooted in compassion, humanity and love, and to deliver true justice. I hope we fulfill it.” She also declared, “Let’s be clear about what the amendment is not: It has nothing to do with funding levels, much less ‘defunding’ public safety in Minneapolis.”

Ellison, who previously represented Omar’s seat, likewise tweeted, “Fundamentally, communities across Mpls need & want the possibility for reform & accountability, which the current Charter blocks by locking us into an outdated model for law enforcement and safety. There are no financial components of this amendment.”

On the other side are Gov. Tim Walz and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who joined Mayor Jacob Frey in calling for Minneapolis to vote down the question. Walz argued last week, “We see this both here and across the country, increasing crime coming out of COVID. We need to recognize that the police force is going to be part of that solution.” He continued, “We can ask for that to be reformed, but I just think that the debate appears to be too simplified and I think it’s fraught with peril to just use a slogan like ‘defund the police.'”

Klobuchar’s spokesperson also expressed similar sentiments, saying she backed legislation to reform the police but “has also repeatedly stated her opposition to defunding the police.” Frey has also spoken out against the ballot measure while two of his main opponents in this year’s instant-runoff election, activist Sheila Nezhad and former state Rep. Kate Knuth, are both in favor.


Special Elections: Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s special elections in California and Texas:

CA-AD-18: As of Wednesday afternoon, Democrat Mia Bonta was leading fellow party member Janani Ramachandran 55-44. While Bonta looks to be in good position, the final outcome of this contest will not be determined for a few more days, as Alameda County (where this district is wholly contained) says there are more than 19,000 more ballots to be counted, compared to about 47,000 tallied so far.

TX-HD-10: Republicans Brian Harrison and John Wray will advance to a runoff election as the leading vote-getters in this eight-candidate field. Harrison led Wray 41-36, with Democrat Pierina Otiniano finishing a distant third with 11%. Overall, GOP candidates outpaced Democrat 88-11, a large overperformance in a district where Joe Biden gained 9 points over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 showing (though Donald Trump still handily won 67-31).

Special elections in top-two primaries or all-party races can yield unusual results, though, particularly in districts that are decidedly slanted towards one party. For example, earlier this year in a special election in the New Orleans area, Democrats combined to lead the GOP candidate 83-17, even though Trump took 30% of the vote there in 2016. Due to these oddities, we exclude contests of this type from our special elections tracker.


Buffalo, NY Mayor: Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday that she would not be taking sides in the November general election between Democratic nominee India Walton and incumbent Byron Brown, who is running a write-in campaign following his June primary loss to Walton. Hochul, whose ascension last month made her the first governor from the Buffalo area since none other than fellow Democrat Grover Cleveland, who won the top job in 1882 after a short stint as mayor, explained, “I’m not making any local endorsements.”

Los Angeles, CA Mayor, CA-37: Democratic Rep. Karen Bass confirmed Tuesday that she was “seriously considering” running for mayor of Los Angeles next year instead of seeking re-election to the House. Her victory would make Bass the first woman elected to lead America’s second-largest city, as well as its second African American mayor following the legendary Tom Bradley.

The Washington Post first reported a month ago that Bass was mulling a mayoral bid, but the congresswoman’s team insisted that she was “not considering it at this time.” That statement, though, came two weeks before one of her allies, City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, announced that he would not enter that race, a development that may have made the mayoral contest more appealing for Bass.

Bass served as state Assembly speaker before she was elected to Congress in 2010, and her profile rose last year when Joe Biden considered her as his running mate.  A month-old poll from the Democratic firm FM3, which was conducted on behalf of an unidentified client, also indicated that the congresswoman would start out as the frontrunner for mayor if she decided to run. The poll found Bass with 22% of the vote in a hypothetical June nonpartisan primary field, while none of the other names tested took more than 6% each.

Bass’ deliberations come as the race to succeed termed-out Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is awaiting his Senate confirmation hearings to become ambassador to India, has been only slowly developing. Only two notable candidates, City Attorney Mike Feuer and Councilman Joe Buscaino, are already in, though other local politicians are considering.

One of those potential candidates is Council President Nury Martinez, who would automatically become acting mayor upon Garcetti’s resignation. Her colleagues on the Council, though, would have the chance to select an interim mayor afterwards, and they may prefer to choose someone who wouldn’t run in 2022.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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