No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.
While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”
Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.
A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”
GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.
Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”
There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”
Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.
● AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a “weak” position, but it doesn’t address Alaska’s new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it’s impossible to know any candidate’s true strength.
● CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn’t ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he’s “keeping [his] options open” regarding a potential Senate bid.
Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board’s first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.
If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year’s race, she’d also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she’ll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.
● UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP’s direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.
The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we’d previously identified as running based on her statement that she was “all in”; Schott, however, says that she’s “all in” on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There’s also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she’s looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.
Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year’s four-way Republican primary for governor, didn’t rule out a bid, saying that “there continues to be a desire to serve.” However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn’t run and would back Lee for re-election.
Schott adds that there have been “persistent rumblings” that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there’s no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016’s presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is “probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point.”
● TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, “I’ve got no plans to run.” After lots of folks (who aren’t wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O’Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn’t), his team released a further statement to clarify. “I’m not currently considering a run for office,” said O’Rourke. “I’m focused on what I’m doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing’s changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future.”
In November of 2018, O’Rourke said, “I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That’s I think as definitive as those sentences get.” O’Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.
● VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy’s campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury’s Graham Moomaw describes as “the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control” over state lawmakers.
Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.
Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state’s primaries—to file as an independent.
● KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who’d reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.
However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP’s supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that “takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd.” Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year’s primaries, meaning they’d likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
● LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate‘s Tyler Bridges describes as a “six-figure ad buy” against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson’s opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month’s all-party primary.
The PAC’s commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she “missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year,” including on “COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety.” Peterson said at the time that she didn’t feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature’s GOP leaders for rejecting her call “for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol.”
● MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there’s been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.
Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that’s located in Keating’s district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign
Keating’s constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts’ nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton’s 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker’s veto, so it’s unlikely this turf would dramatically change.
● MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that “[i]t’s time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative,” says he’s kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He’s by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn’t launched a bid yet.
● NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they’re considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he’s looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.
● OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it’s door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who’d previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O’Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.
It doesn’t sound, however, as though he’d challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called “a champion for working families” and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he’d want to emulate in Congress. O’Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson’s 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she’s running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.
● TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee’s 5th District is based, during his “decades in Congress,” and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.
If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.
● TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas’ 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.
In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, “We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab.” Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, “I don’t want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don’t hold themselves accountable.” She added, “And quite frankly, I can say that because I’m Korean.”
California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim’s remarks. Saying that she’d refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, “We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy.” Kim responded by claiming that “the liberal media is targeting me” and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements “racist.”
On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune’s Patrick Svitek says is backed by a “six-figure buy on cable and satellite.” The spot features some basic biographical details (she “put herself through college and started a business from scratch”), then bashes “Washington politicians like Ted Cruz” for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas’ devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, “They even abandoned us when the lights went out.”
● WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a “former NASCAR driver,” but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball’s minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.
● Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:
CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.
Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.
MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.
Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.
OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.
WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.
WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.
● Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh’s cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald‘s Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as “Big Marty” to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.
P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year’s mayoral race.
● New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate’s father, tech executive Michael Donovan.