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Morning Digest: Judge blocks California gig worker law, the most expensive ballot measure in history

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

CA Ballot: State Judge Frank Roesch on Friday struck down Proposition 22, which designates drivers for “App-Based Transportation and Delivery Companies” as independent contractors with some benefits rather than as employees. Uber, which was a major contributor in the more than $220 million campaign to pass Prop. 22 last year in what was the most expensive ballot measure campaign in Californian–;and perhaps American–;history, quickly vowed to appeal. The initiative passed by a wide 59-41 margin over opposition from labor groups and prominent state and national Democrats, but the SEIU and several drivers continued their fight in court.

Those plaintiffs scored a win on Friday as Roesch took issue with a provision that requires seven-eighths of each chamber of the legislature to make any amendments, an unprecedented threshold that makes major alterations all but impossible. “If the people wish to use their initiative power to restrict or qualify a ‘plenary’ and ‘unlimited’ power granted to the Legislature, they must first do so by initiative constitutional amendment, not by initiative statute,” wrote the judge in his decision. Roesch also argued that Prop. 22 violated state law by being about more than one subject, as a portion “obliquely and indirectly” prevents collective bargaining.

It may be a while before there’s a final decision on Prop. 22’s fate. Catherine Fisk, a law school professor who filed an amicus brief in support of the initiative’s detractors, said it could take a year for the California Supreme Court to eventually make a ruling on whether the initiative complies with the state constitution. It’s common for state ballot measures to be challenged in court, though the Los Angeles Times writes that “traditionally, California courts are often hesitant to overturn ballot measures because the move can be seen as challenging the will of the people.”

Senate

NV-Sen: Donald Trump has given his endorsement in next year’s Senate race in Nevada to former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who wasn’t likely to face any serious opposition in the GOP primary and now is even less so.

Governors

AK-Gov: Terre Gales, who chaired Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s independent expenditure committee in 2018, told the Alaska Landmine on Friday that he was thinking about running as an independent against his old ally in next year’s top-four primary. Gales, though, does not have a good electoral record as a candidate. He challenged Rep. Don Young in the 2012 primary and took a mere 6% of the vote, while he lost a 2016 campaign for the Anchorage Assembly by a 62-38 margin.

Campaign Action

Meanwhile, Matt Buxton of the progressive Midnight Sun takes a look at other potential contenders, though some sound considerably more interested than others. He writes that there’s been a “recent push” to get Democrat Mike Navarre, who is a former member of the state cabinet, to run, while he relays a rumor that GOP state Sen. Natasha von Imhof “is seriously considering a bid.”

Buxton adds that “[t]here’s been a load of chatter” about a campaign from Al Gross, who ran for the Senate in 2020 as a Democratic-aligned independent; Gross has expressed interest in another Senate run, but this is the first time we’ve heard him mentioned for governor. He hasn’t said anything publicly about taking on Dunleavy, though he retweeted the Alaska Landmine last week when it wrote, “Lots of chatter about Al Gross entering the governor’s race.”

Finally, Buxton name-drops GOP state Sen. Lora Reinbold, though he adds that “it’s frankly hard to parse out what’s legitimate rumor and what’s wishful thinking.”

CA-Gov: Conservative radio host Larry Elder, who’d been the leading Republican in limited polling of next month’s recall election, has fired his campaign manager following reports that his abusive treatment of his former fiancé led her to break off the couple’s engagement in 2015. Among other things, Elder’s former partner, Alexandra Datig, said that Elder had “waved a gun at her while high on marijuana.”

Elder has also come under scrutiny for his long history of denigrating remarks about women, but that’s not all. On Sunday, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission confirmed they were investigating whether Elder had omitted key information from the financial disclosure statements all candidates are required to file.

In particular, Elder reported receiving income from a company called Laurence A. Elder & Associates Inc. but failed to disclose his ownership stake. Elder subsequently amended his filings to include his ownership of the company, as well as previously unreported income from the far-right newspaper Epoch Times, several Republican groups, and Promedev Relief Factor, a supplement hawked by other conservative figures like Michael Medved. (This is a good moment to read Rick Perlstein’s excellent piece explaining how the right became literal peddlers of snake oil.)

MI-Gov: A new poll from local pollster EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with just a 45-44 edge on her most prominent Republican opponent, former Detroit Police chief James Craig. This is EPIC’s first public survey of the race, and also the first poll we’ve seen in months, so there’s little to compare these numbers to.

NH-Gov: Columnist Patrick Hynes of the Union Leader relays word that Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman “is gearing up to run” for the post held by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who is in no hurry to decide if he’ll run for the Senate or seek another term next year.

NY-Gov: In a statement released on his last day in office before his resignation (which, desperate to the last, wasn’t set to take effect until 11:59 PM), Andrew Cuomo’s office said the now-former governor “is exploring a number of options, but has no interest in running for office again.” That’s unlikely to help end the speculation that he could try to wage an instant comeback bid next year, though this might help: Democratic pollster Civiqs, which fields daily tracking polls, finds that Cuomo’s favorability rating has dropped to 29-58 overall and sits at just 47-36 among Democrats.

WI-Gov: Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, who said last year that he was considering a bid for governor, was elected as chair of the Wisconsin GOP over the weekend. That presumably takes him out of the running for the race to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, though some party leaders in other states have held elective office in recent years, such as Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado.

House

CA-21: Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who last week was reported to be preparing a campaign for California’s 21st Congressional District, now says only that he will decide in the “next couple of weeks.” In addition, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez says through a spokesperson that she’s only considering a bid for Salas’ seat in the legislature, likely contingent on his decision; KGET had reported that Perez, a fellow Democrat, was already in.

PA-17: Democrat Chris Deluzio, a Navy veteran who served in Iraq, announced a campaign for Pennsylvania’s open 17th District on Monday, making him the first notable candidate from either party to enter the race. Deluzio is a policy director at the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security whom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Julian Routh describes as “one of Western Pennsylvania’s foremost experts on election reform.”

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Candidate filing closed Friday for the Nov. 2 nonpartisan primary to succeed Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who shocked city politicos in May when she announced that she would not seek a second term. In the all-but-certain event that none of the 14 candidates take a majority of the vote, a runoff would be held Nov. 30.

Only five of the contenders look like they have the name recognition or connections to run a serious campaign in this heavily Democratic city. The early frontrunner looks like former Mayor Kasim Reed, who is running to regain the post he was termed out of four years ago. Reed decisively won his second term in 2013 and quickly raised $1 million in June for his comeback campaign, and he’s been arguing that he’s proved that he has the experience to deal with the city’s crime rate.

The former mayor, though, also has some potential liabilities. Notably, corruption scandals have so far resulted in bribery convictions for two senior Reed administration officials and federal indictments for others, though Reed himself has not been implicated. In late June, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported that he was apparently under federal investigation for spending campaign funds on personal purchases, including jewelry, hotel stays, and lingerie, though there have been no public developments over the ensuing two months.

The only other contender who has won citywide office is City Council President Felicia Moore, who was challenging Bottoms before she ended her campaign. Another would-be Bottoms foe is attorney Sharon Gay, who has been heavily self-funding; Gay is also the only major white candidate in a city that has been led by Black mayors ever since the legendary Maynard Jackson was first elected in 1973.

Two city council members, Andre Dickens and Antonio Brown, entered the contest after Bottoms ended her campaign. Dickens is the co-founder of City Living Home Furnishings, which the AJC describes as “a multi-million dollar retail business with two locations.” Brown, for his part, has been a prominent progressive critic of Bottoms since he was elected in a 2019 special election, an accomplishment that made him the body’s first Black LGBTQ member. Brown, though, has been under federal indictment since July on fraud charges, allegations he denies.

The only poll we’ve seen was from SurveyUSA in late July, and it found Reed out in front with 17%, while Moore led first time candidate Walter Reeves 10-6 for second. It’s hard to draw any conclusions off one survey, though, especially since it found so many voters undecided.

This year’s mayoral race comes at a time when there’s plenty of uncertainty about Atlanta’s future. Notably, a number of residents of Buckhead, an affluent and predominantly white neighborhood, are calling for it to secede and create a new city, an idea opposed by all the major mayoral candidates. It’s not clear, though, what role the debate about Buckhead’s future will play in this year’s election, nor if the GOP-dominated state legislature will allow a referendum to create a new city over the next few years.

The 2021 contest will also take place months after the U.S. Census confirmed that Atlanta, which has long been known as a “Black Mecca,” is continuing to become more white as many African Americans have moved to the suburbs in search of more affordable housing. In 2010, the census found that Black residents outnumbered non-Hispanic whites 54-38, but the latest numbers found this gulf closing to 47-40.

Boston, MA Mayor: Acting Mayor Kim Janey and former city cabinet official John Barros have launched their opening TV commercials ahead of the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary, which makes them the last of the five major contenders to take to the airwaves. Politico reports Janey is putting $164,000 behind her commercial for the first week, which there is no word on the size of the buy for the Barros spot.

Janey’s spot begins with the candidate, whose ascension in March made her both the first woman and person of color to ever lead Boston, standing in City Hall Plaza holding up a frame that quickly flashes images of the city’s past mayors. Janey asks, “What’s the difference between me and every mayor before me?” and responds, “Experience.”

The incumbent continues, “I experienced desegregation busing at 11, motherhood at 16, even lived in a shelter. I know Boston’s challenges because I lived them.” She then explains this is why “I’m expanding affordable housing programs, reforming our Police Department, and getting vaccines into as many arms as possible.” The campaign is also out with a Spanish language version of this ad, which also is narrated by Janey.

Meanwhile, Barros, whose first spot is set around a large table in his backyard, tells the audience, “I’ve built affordable housing and quality schools. And as chief of economic development, I’ve brought over 140,000 jobs and greater access to opportunity for all Bostonians.” He continues, “Our diversity is our strength, but only if we work together.”

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: St. Pete Polls is out with one last poll ahead of Tuesday’s nonpartisan primary for Florida Politics, and it once again finds Democrat Ken Welch and Republican Robert Blackmon advancing to the November general election. Welch, a former Pinellas County commissioner who would be the city’s first Black mayor, leads with 37%, while Blackmon beats Darden Rice, his Democratic colleague on the City Council, 27-17 for second. The firm also shows Welch beating Blackmon 53-29 in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup.

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