The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Matt Booker, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● VA-Gov, VA-LG, VA-AG: Virginia Republicans will hold a convention Saturday to pick their nominees for this fall’s contests for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, but we won’t know the identity of the winners until sometime next week. Old Dominion Democrats, meanwhile, will select candidates via a traditional party primary on June 8 as they seek to hold this trio of offices.
Why the delay for Republicans? State party chair Rich Anderson explained that tabulations, which will be live-streamed, won’t start until Sunday afternoon. And while Anderson said he hopes to have the gubernatorial nomination resolved by Tuesday, he cautioned, “That’s obviously just my hope.” Whoever booked the Richmond ballroom where the hand count will take place may not share that hope, though, since the party reserved it through Thursday.
And though it’s the marquee event, the outcome of the governor’s race may in fact be known last, since Anderson said that the results for attorney general would be counted first, followed by the contest for lieutenant governor. Again, though, Anderson didn’t express a lot of confidence in his projections, saying, “This is politics, so don’t be surprised if that changes.”
Team Red’s “unassembled convention” will feature 39 drive-through voting sites for the 53,000 delegates; by contrast, more than 365,000 voters participated in 2017, when Republicans opted for a primary, but just 8,000 did so in 2013, the last time the GOP held a convention. Delegates will be presented with a ranked-choice ballot, and the results will be weighted based on how well the most recent Republican candidates for president and governor performed in participants’ home county or city.
The four major contenders for governor are Del. Kirk Cox, who served as state House speaker before the GOP lost its majority in 2019; state Sen. Amanda Chase; and a pair of wealthy businessmen, Glenn Youngkin and Pete Snyder. The field also includes former Roanoke City Sheriff Octavia Johnson, businessman Peter Doran, and former Defense Department official Sergio de la Peña, but they haven’t attracted much attention.
Conventions usually involve candidates personally reaching out to delegates rather than running traditional paid media campaigns, but the deep-pocketed Youngkin and Snyder have each poured their resources into advertising as well. The Republican firm Medium Buying said Monday that Youngkin had spent $2.2 million for TV and radio spots while Snyder wasn’t far behind with $1.86 million; it did not mention any similar spending from the other contenders.
Cox, though, has been running digital ads in which he’s tried to take advantage of the instant-runoff system. The former speaker, who has largely avoided criticizing any of his rivals, has implored delegates to consider him as a second-choice option.
Chase, a self-described “Trump in heels” who has long had a bitter relationship with her party’s leaders, has adopted far more belligerent tactics. She’s continually claimed that Snyder is trying to win the convention through underhanded means and even said in March that she’d run as an independent if he’s the GOP nominee.
In the final days of the race, Chase also earned the kind of attention she’s notorious for garnering when one of her aides brandished an AR-15 at another driver. Chase, who was in the vehicle participating in a virtual candidate event at the time, told the audience at the time, “Speaking of a Second Amendment moment, we just had to—oh, my goodness—we are exercising our Second Amendment rights right now [in] our car, where we had somebody road rage, trying to get in front of—get on us.” The state senator heavily promoted the story afterwards.
The Republican competition for lieutenant governor, meanwhile, is a six-way fight between Del. Glenn Davis; former Dels. Tim Hugo and Winsome Sears; and businessmen Puneet Ahluwalia, Lance Allen, and Maeve Rigler. The contest had been decidedly low-key until late April, when Hugo sent out a mailer featuring a photo of Davis wearing a rainbow-themed shirt at an LGBTQ event.
An anonymous text message also was sent to convention delegates around the same time claiming Davis was “a gay Democrat” while calling Hugo “the only conservative running for Lt Governor.” Hugo’s campaign denounced the message and insisted it had nothing to do with it.
Finally, the contest for attorney general features four candidates: Chesterfield County Supervisor Leslie Haley, Del. Jason Miyare, 2017 candidate Chuck Smith, and attorney Jack White. This is the only statewide office involving a Democratic incumbent who’s seeking re-election, though Attorney General Mark Herring faces a competitive primary challenge on June 8 from Del. Jay Jones.
● MO-Sen: Two unnamed Republican operatives tell Morning Consult that GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler “is likely to declare her candidacy soon” for Missouri’s open Senate seat, though they didn’t offer a specific timetable, and the word “soon” means different things to different people (including, in our experience, “never”). Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Brian Williams says he’ll announce a decision “this summer after the legislative session ends.” That’s a big window, though, since the session wraps in just a week.
● NC-Sen: EMILY’s List, which has a history of spending considerable sums to help some of its most prominent candidates, has endorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in her quest for the Democratic nomination for Senate in North Carolina.
● FL-Gov: Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani, who said shortly after Election Day that she was considering a run for governor, announced on Thursday that she’ll seek re-election instead.
● MD-Gov: Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski has decided to take a pass on seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year and says that he will instead run for a second term in his current post.
● NH-Gov: In a broader piece about Democratic retirements from the House due in part to concerns about redistricting, the New York Times suggests that sophomore Rep. Chris Pappas could run for governor if New Hampshire Republicans make his 1st Congressional District redder. There’s no word from Pappas himself, however.
● OH-11: Candidate filing closed Wednesday for the special election to succeed Marcia Fudge, who resigned in March to become secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a list of contenders is available here. This majority-Black constituency, which stretches from East Cleveland south to Akron, backed Joe Biden 80-19, and the winner of the Aug. 3 Democratic primary should have no trouble in the Nov. 2 general election.
The two Democratic candidates who have generated the most attention and money over the last few months are former state Sen. Nina Turner, who was a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate for both of his presidential campaigns, and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, who also leads the county party. Turner ended March with a hefty $1.2 million war chest, though Brown’s $582,000 on-hand also gives her the resources to run a serious campaign.
The race also includes former state Rep. John Barnes, ex-Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson, and former State Sen. Shirley Smith, but all three have raised almost nothing. Businessman Bryan Flannery, a former state representative who was the only white candidate who’d previously held office, had also entered the race, but he dropped out just before filing closed.
● WY-AL: With Liz Cheney on the verge of getting turfed out of her spot as the House GOP’s number-three leader for having the temerity to call out the Big Lie, the Trump brigades are renewing their push to oust her from Congress altogether. While multiple Republicans are already running against Cheney in next year’s primary, Politico’s Ally Mutnick reports the field could grow further still.
According to two unnamed operatives, Donald Trump’s “political team” (such as it is) is gunning to recruit Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and attorney Darin Smith, who ran for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat when it was last open in 2016 but finished a distant fourth, behind Cheney and two state lawmakers. Smith says he’s considering a bid while Buchanan, says Mutnick, is “leaning against” a campaign, adding that it’s unlikely the two would wind up running against one another.
In addition, Mutnick says that William Perry Pendley is also looking at the race; he was Trump’s acting director of the Bureau of Land Management for more than a year because Senate Democrats and some Republicans refused to confirm him. A federal judge later ruled that Pendley had served in the post illegally and ordered him to resign, which he refused to do.
With state Sen. Anthony Bouchard and state Rep. Chuck Gray already in the race, Cheney could get saved by the proverbial clown car if even more Republicans hop in and split the anti-incumbent vote. But the congresswoman’s enemies think they have a solution to this problem: As Smith put it, “I think anybody who’s a decent Republican is going to get behind whoever Donald Trump eventually endorses.” But while Trump’s endorsements remain potent, they haven’t always succeeded in clearing the field, so there’s no telling how a Donald ex machina move might play out this time.