Morning Digest: Georgia GOP’s new gerrymander pits two Democratic incumbents against one another

Gun Rights

“It is no mystery why Republicans and the NRA have decided I’m their top target,” McBath said in a statement. “As a Black woman, activist, and mother on a mission—they would like nothing more than to stop me from speaking truth to power about the gun lobby and Republican Party in Congress.”

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At the same time, the GOP redrew the neighboring 7th to take in as many Democratic voters as possible, transforming it from a seat that Joe Biden won just 52-46 into far bluer turf he would have carried 62-36, per DRA.

McBath’s decision, though, means she’ll face fellow Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux for the Democratic nomination, and likely others as well. State Rep. Donna McLeod said on Monday that it’s “my intention to run” in the 7th, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein says that Gwinnett County Board of Education member Everton Blair is considering a bid as well. (Georgia requires runoffs in primaries where no one wins a majority of the vote.)

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On paper, Bourdeaux would appear to start off with a considerable advantage: She already represents 57% of the new 7th while McBath represents just 12%. Bourdeaux’s slice of the 7th is also much bluer: It voted 63-36 for Biden while McBath’s portion went for Biden 55-45. In raw numbers, that means there are roughly 109,000 Biden voters from Bourdeaux’s old district now living in the new one versus just 27,000 from McBath’s.

But McBath brings a higher profile to the race: After her son was murdered by a gunman in 2012, McBath, then a flight attendant, became a prominent advocate for gun safety as a spokesperson for the group Moms Demand Action. Spurred by the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, she decided to run for Congress and that fall unseated Republican Rep. Karen Handel—who just a year earlier had narrowly won a nationally followed special election against Democrat Jon Ossoff. (McBath easily beat Handel in a rematch last year.)

Bourdeaux, meanwhile, was the only Democrat to flip a House seat without the aid of redistricting in 2020, picking up the 7th after Republican Rep. Rob Woodall decided to retire; a cycle earlier, she’d held Woodall to a 433-vote win following a recount, the closest congressional race in the nation that year. Bourdeaux may, however, have miscalculated about the direction the GOP’s new map would take: Over the summer, she joined a group of nine renegade Democratic moderates who threatened to derail Biden’s Build Back Better agenda if they didn’t get a vote on Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill first.

McBath, by contrast, held firm with the vast majority of her caucus, putting her in the mainstream of her party—and far more in-tune with progressive primary voters. That also helped earned her an endorsement from Stacey Abrams, well-known as a force in Georgia politics.

Redistricting

GA Redistricting: Georgia’s Republican-run state House passed the GOP’s new congressional map on Monday, following the same action in the state Senate on Friday and sending it to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The plan is aimed at sending nine Republicans and just five Democrats to Congress, despite the fact that Joe Biden won the state last year; under the current lines, Republicans have an 8-6 advantage. See our GA-07 item above for more on the fallout the new map has already yielded.

MN Redistricting: Democrats in Minnesota’s state House have unveiled new redistricting plans for the state legislature, but with Republicans in charge of the state Senate, these proposals are unlikely to go anywhere and redistricting will probably once again fall to the courts. Democrats also say they’ll release a congressional map on Tuesday. Republicans have not yet put out any plans of their own.

OH Redistricting: Over the weekend, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed the GOP’s new congressional redistricting plan, an aggressive partisan gerrymander designed to give Republicans 87% of the seats in Ohio’s congressional delegation—transforming their current 12-4 edge into a 13-2 advantage—despite the fact that Donald Trump carried the state 53-45.

The map would place Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in House history, at serious risk. Her Toledo-based 9th District, which voted for Joe Biden 59-40 last year, would instead have gone for Donald Trump by a 51-47 margin, according to Dave’s Redistricting App. (Despite the new lines, Kaptur said recently that she will “absolutely” seek re-election.) And with Ohio losing a seat and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan running for Senate, his 13th District would essentially disappear, with its core of Youngstown absorbed into the dark red 6th.

Two GOP seats, meanwhile, would have gone for Biden by a whisker—the open 13th outside of Cleveland and Rep. Steve Chabot’s 1st in Cincinnati—but Republicans would be favored to hold both in a typical midterm environment. The rest would all be safely red except, in a strong Democratic year, the 10th around Dayton and 15th in the Columbus suburbs. Republicans will, however, have the chance to update their gerrymanders before too long. That’s because the map passed without any bipartisan support, meaning that it only has legal force for two elections under the state constitution.

The GOP may in fact have preferred this outcome precisely because it will enable them to tweak the lines in four years rather than waiting out a full decade. That flexibility comes with a potential price, though: Because Republicans couldn’t muster the votes from at least one-third of Democratic lawmakers, a separate constitutional provision will now come into play that bars any redistricting plan that “unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents.” A suit challenging the map has already been filed, but its outcome will likely depend on how aggressively the Ohio Supreme Court, which is home to a 4-3 Republican majority, enforces the law.

Senate

PA-Sen: Army veteran Sean Parnell announced Monday that he was suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, a decision that came hours after a judge awarded custody of their children to the candidate’s estranged wife, Laurie Snell, and said he believed Parnell committed “some acts of abuse in the past.” Parnell, who had looked like the primary frontrunner after winning Donald Trump’s endorsement in September, said, “[W]hile I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can’t continue with a Senate campaign.”

Parnell’s campaign was rocked after Snell testified under oath earlier this month that he had choked her and hit their children as recently as 2018, allegations Parnell subsequently denied in court. Judge James Arner, though, said Monday he believed Small was “the more credible witness.” He noted that, while Small “could remember and describe the specific incidents about which she testified,” Parnell was “somewhat evasive.” Still, Arner added that he said that he also didn’t believe Parnell had committed any abusive acts over the past three-and-a-half years and had “properly cared for the children” in the intervening time.

As far as the GOP primary goes, though, it remains to be seen who will benefit from Parnell’s departure. The field already includes a few notable names, including former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands and real estate developer Jeff Bartos, but a Politico report last week suggested they’ve struggled to gain traction. TV personality Mehmet Oz has also reportedly been eyeing this race, but several Republicans have expressed skepticism about his prospects. The candidate filing deadline isn’t until March, however, so there’s still quite a bit of time left for this race to develop.

VT-Sen, VT-AL: Rep. Peter Welch, who has represented Vermont’s only House seat since 2007, announced Monday that he would run to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Sen. Pat Leahy.

Welch quickly earned the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a move that could help him avoid a competitive primary in this very blue state. The only notable politician who had expressed any interest in taking Welch on an intra-party contest was state Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, but she said last week that she wouldn’t enter the race if Sanders endorsed the congressman.

The August primary to succeed Welch in the House, though, will likely be far more eventful, especially since the winner could end Vermont’s status as the only state that still hasn’t elected a woman to either chamber of Congress. Both state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray said Monday that they were thinking about House bids, with Gray saying she would consider it over Thanksgiving. Seven Days also says that Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint has expressed interest as well, though there’s no quote from her.

The candidate filing deadline isn’t until May, so this race could take a while to come together.

Governors

MI-Gov: Kevin Rinke, a wealthy businessman who has committed to spending at least $10 million of his own money, announced Monday that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Rinke’s candidacy is unwelcome news to former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, the GOP frontrunner who now will need to go through an expensive August primary battle; a few other Republicans are also in, though they don’t appear to have gained much traction yet.

Rinke, whose family owns several car dealerships in the Detroit area, launched his bid with what AdImpact reports is a $225,000 TV buy. The new candidate, unsurprisingly, leaned into his background by appearing in a 1969 Pontiac GTO muscle car and comparing Whitmer’s administration to the infamous Yugoslavian-made Yugo. Rinke also joined fellow Republicans in, among other things, taking shots at Whitmer’s public health measures and winking at the Big Lie with his rant against “a tyrannical government, closed small businesses, illegal immigration, voter fraud, critical race theory.”

NY-Gov: Data for Progress’ new Democratic primary survey for consultant Neal Kwatra, who Politico says is working for an unidentified donor, finds Gov. Kathy Hochul leading Attorney General Tish James 39-24, with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at 9%. The firm also tested a matchup that includes disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and found Hochul outpacing James by a similar 36-22 margin as Cuomo took third with 15%.

RI-Gov: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has publicized a survey from Lake Research Partners that shows Gov. Dan McKee edging her out just 26-24 in the Democratic primary, with Treasurer Seth Magaziner at 16% and no one else hitting double digits. This is the first poll we’ve seen of next September’s contest.

TX-Gov: UT Tyler’s newest survey of the March Republican primary for The Dallas Morning News shows Gov. Greg Abbott well ahead with 65%, while no one else exceeds 6%.

The firm, unfortunately, once again did not identify any candidate’s party affiliation in the general election portion of the poll, which is something we require for a survey to be written up in the Digest. As we’ve written before, if a pollster doesn’t include this in a partisan election, then they’re leaving out important information and failing to accurately mimic the way voters will make their choices when they actually cast their ballots.

House

CA-14: Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Mullin has filed FEC paperwork for a potential bid for this safely blue open seat.

IL-06: Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau has announced that he’ll seek the Republican nomination in this 55-44 Biden district in the Chicago suburbs. The main event in this constituency is the June Democratic primary between Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newman.

IL-13: Sen. Dick Durbin has endorsed former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski in the Democratic primary for this new downstate Illinois seat, which stretches from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana. Budzinski ended September with a wide $395,000 to $40,000 cash-on-hand lead over her only intra-party foe, financial planner David Palmer.

Both Budzinski and Palmer launched their campaigns earlier this year in a very different district than the one they’re seeking now. The two Democrats were campaigning against Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in a 13th Congressional District that backed Donald Trump 51-47, but the new Democratic map created a seat that instead supported Joe Biden 54-43.

Davis, for his part, could campaign in the new and safely red 15th District, but he could face a tough primary after years of presenting himself as a moderate. The congressman, who also hasn’t ruled out a bid against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said in late October that he’d “make a formal announcement on his 2022 plans” after Pritzker signs the redistricting bill into law, something that still hasn’t happened after more than three weeks.

NC-02: Two Democrats have filed FEC paperwork for potential campaigns to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield in this 51-48 Biden seat: state Sen. Don Davis and former state Sen. Erica Smith, who began running for the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

NC-14: Republican state Sen. Deanna Ballard has acknowledged her interest in running for this open seat in the western North Carolina mountains and says she’ll consider over Thanksgiving weekend. Fellow GOP state Sen. Kevin Corbin, though, said Monday he’d remain in the legislature rather than run here.

NY-03, NY-Gov: Well, this is weird: New York City’s incoming mayor, Eric Adams, said on Saturday that he’d like to tap Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi as a deputy mayor—even though Suozzi, who represents a House district on Long Island, very much does not live in the city. Even weirder, Suozzi says he’s entertaining the idea, saying, “Lots to think about over Thanksgiving.” His geographic issues may not in fact be a big concern for Adams, whose own residency in New York came under intense scrutiny during his campaign this year.

One important thing to note: Being “deputy mayor” might sound like a big deal, but it’s nothing like being vice president or even lieutenant governor. First off, deputies don’t actually succeed to the top job in the event of a vacancy; that responsibility falls to the public advocate. (According to Wikipedia, the position of deputy mayor “was created by Fiorello La Guardia … to handle ceremonial events that the mayor was too busy to attend.”) Second, there are currently five deputy mayors. While they do have duties far weightier than they did in La Guardia’s day, they’re more akin to cabinet secretaries. They do get paid a lot more than members of Congress, though: The current first deputy earns $291,000, compared to Suozzi’s current salary of $174,000.

Suozzi has also been considering a bid for governor and told reporters earlier this month that he’d decide by the end of November.

TX-15: Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said Monday that he wouldn’t run for anything in 2022; the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek writes that Rodriguez had been seen as a possible Democratic candidate for this open seat.

TX-30: Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announced Saturday that she would not seek a 16th term in Texas’ 30th Congressional District, a Dallas-based constituency that supported Joe Biden 78-21. The 85-year-old Johnson, who is the second-oldest member of the House as well as the second Black woman to ever represent the state in Congress, said two years ago that her 2020 campaign would be her last, though she acknowledged over the weekend that she’d since gone “back and forth” about running this cycle.

Political observers spent months speculating about who would run to succeed Johnson in this seat, and we won’t need to wait much longer to know what the field will look like. Texas’ candidate filing deadline is Dec. 13, the earliest in the nation, and the primary will take place March 1. If no one earns a majority of the vote, a runoff would occur in late May.

The field already included progressive activist Jessica Mason, who had $25,000 on-hand at the end of September, and attorney Abel Mulugheta, a former state legislative aide who launched his bid weeks before Johnson made her plans known. Also in the race is former state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, who challenged Johnson in the primary in each of the last five cycles: Caraway’s highwater mark was in 2014, when Johnson still beat her by a lopsided 70-30.

A few other Democrats also began making their moves following the incumbent’s Saturday announcement. Veteran Democratic operative Jane Hope Hamilton, who was Joe Biden’s state director for Texas’ primary last year, began raising money back in May for an open seat race, and she confirmed she was in over the weekend; Hamilton had $34,000 to spend at the end of the last quarter.

Former Dallas City Council member Vonciel Jones Hill also filed with the FEC, while state Reps. Jasmine Crockett and Carl Sherman each expressed interest over the weekend. The Dallas Morning News also writes that former state District Judge Elizabeth Frizell has said in the past she could run as well, and the paper also mentions state Reps. Yvonne Davis and Toni Rose and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley as possibilities.

One person who has taken himself out of contention, meanwhile, is state Sen. Royce West, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate last year. Johnson, for her part, said she would eventually be endorsing someone in this race, adding that she wanted a “female that is qualified.” The congresswoman also said, “Anyone who has already been rejected in this district will not be getting my endorsement,” a line the local media widely interpreted as a reference to Caraway.

Johnson’s retirement announcement marks the beginning of the end of a history-making career. The future congresswoman recounted how she was confronted with the sort of “overt racism” she had never experienced after the Waco native moved to Dallas in 1956 to work as a nurse at the V.A. hospital, and one racist act motivated her to get into politics for the first time.

Johnson was furious when she learned that the store where she was shopping for a hat wouldn’t let Black customers like her try on clothing. In response, she organized a group called “50 Sensitive Black Women” in the early 1960s; she later said, “We bought cameras and took pictures for the newspapers of people that patronized stores we were boycotting. Eventually stores closed.”

Johnson considered a campaign for the state House in 1972, but she understood that this would force her to quit her government job at a time when she had to support her child as a divorced mother. Things changed, though, when Stanley Marcus, who was the rare liberal in the city’s conservative-dominated business world, offered her a job at Neiman Marcus on the condition that she run. Johnson won and became the first Black woman elected in Dallas County; she went on to serve in the Carter administration before returning to the legislature by winning a seat in the state Senate seat in 1986.

Johnson was the chamber’s redistricting committee chair in 1991, the last time Texas Democrats controlled the process, and she was instrumental in determining the boundaries of the new 30th District. She ran for that seat the following year and won without any serious primary or general election opposition, which made her the first African American to represent Texas in D.C. since the legendary Barbara Jordan retired 12 years before. Johnson, who was also the first nurse elected to Congress, rose to become chair of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Johnson only faced a serious re-election fight during her long career in 2012, two years after negative headlines detailed how she’d given Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to relatives. The congresswoman went up against attorney Taj Clayton, who raised a serious amount of money and aired several well-produced commercials; and Caraway, whose husband had recently served as acting mayor of Dallas. Johnson, though, turned back Caraway 70-18, and she had no trouble beating her during the following four cycles.  

VA-07: Republican Del. John McGuire used a Friday night fundraising email to announce that he’ll launch a second campaign against Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in a seat that has yet to be drawn. It also remains to be seen if the GOP will be selecting its nominee through the convention system that thwarted McGuire last year, through a traditional primary, or a party-run “firehouse primary.” McGuire ran for Congress in 2020 but lost the convention 56-44 to fellow Del. Nick Freitas, who went on to lose to Spanberger 51-49.

McGuire went on to attend the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded that day’s attack on the Capitol. The delegate said he only learned about the violence from the news after he got home, though Blakely Lockhart, McGuire’s Democratic opponent in his successful re-election contest this month, released a photo of him near men in paramilitary gear being confronted by the police. McGuire himself also continued to fan the Big Lie this summer when he wrote that voters “are nervous their votes are not counted in a free and fair way.”

Legislatures

Special Elections: Mississippi hosts Tuesday’s only special legislative election:

MS SD-32: A runoff is taking place to succeed Democrat Sampson Jackson, who announced in July that he was stepping down after nearly 30 years in office. We don’t have presidential numbers for this seat, which is located in the Meridian area, but Jackson himself won without opposition in 2019 and turned back a Republican foe 69-31 four years before.

All special legislative elections in Mississippi are officially nonpartisan contests: Noxubee County Justice Court prosecutor Rod Hickman took 26% of the vote in the Nov. 2 primary, while optometrist Minh Duong outpaced the former incumbent’s son, Keith Jackson, 23-13 for the second runoff spot. Hickman has the support of the state Democratic Party as well as the older Jackson, while several local Republicans are in Duong’s corner.

Republicans hold a 36-15 supermajority in the chamber, with only this seat vacant.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: City Councilman Andre Dickens earned an endorsement Friday from outgoing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ahead of his Nov. 30 runoff against City Council President Felicia Moore. Bottoms’ decision wasn’t a surprise, as Moore launched a campaign to unseat her months before the incumbent announced her retirement; Dickens, by contrast, didn’t enter the race until Bottoms had already left it.

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