Morning Digest: New frontrunner in Massachusetts would be the nation’s first lesbian governor

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

MA-Gov: State Attorney General Maura Healey declared on Thursday that she was running for governor of Massachusetts, making her the favorite to win the September Democratic primary in what is one of Team Blue’s best gubernatorial pickup opportunities nationwide. Healey would be the first lesbian to serve as governor of any state should she succeed retiring Republican Charlie Baker, as well as the first woman elected to the Bay State’s top job. (Republican Jane Swift ascended to this office in 2001 but never sought election in her own right.)

Healey joins a field that already includes political scientist Danielle Allen and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, either of whom would be the first woman of color to lead Massachusetts. (Allen is Black while Chang-Díaz is of Latina and Asian ancestry.) Healey, though, has both a high-profile statewide office as well as a gigantic financial advantage: The attorney general ended 2021 with $3.6 million on hand while Allen had just $370,000 banked and Chang-Díaz had only $250,000 in her coffers.

Healey, however, has some critics on the left. The Boston Globe’s Emma Platoff wrote back in June that some of the vocal progressive activists who backed Sen. Ed Markey’s successful re-nomination campaign in 2020 “see Healey as a willing participant in a criminal justice system that some believe should be pared back or eliminated entirely.” The attorney general herself on Thursday avoided calling for the major reforms that her intra-party opponents have advocated, saying instead, “If something’s working, then let’s keep with it. And if it’s not working, let’s figure out what we need to do.”

Campaign Action

Before any of the candidates can fully focus on the primary, though, they need to make sure they’re actually on the ballot. That’s because Democratic and Republican candidates for statewide office in Massachusetts need to compete at a party convention in the spring, and they have to win the support of at least 15% of the delegates to advance to the primary. This rule eliminated two of the five Democrats who sought the governorship in 2014, though things could be different in a three-person race.

Potential contenders have until May to file to run for office in Massachusetts, but it looks unlikely that any other major Democrats will get in. While U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh hasn’t ruled out a bid, both Politico and the Globe say he’s unlikely to go up against Healey.

Things are more volatile on the GOP side, where Trump-backed former state Rep. Geoff Diehl has had the race to himself ever since Baker announced his departure at the start of December. More moderate Republicans are understandably skeptical that the far-right Diehl, who last month refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden was legitimately elected, can win in this solidly blue state, and some of Diehl’s critics are reportedly hoping to convince wealthy businessman Chris Doughty to run as a more electable alternative.


Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.

FL Redistricting: Florida’s GOP-run state Senate approved a new congressional map in a bipartisan vote on Thursday, with all but four Democrats joining every Republican in support of the plan. The map would create 16 districts where Donald Trump would have won and 12 that would have gone for Joe Biden.

Notably, it differs considerably from a much more aggressive proposal put forth by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis–;an unusual intrusion that raised the hackles of GOP leaders in the legislature. It also raised the possibility of a veto, since DeSantis might want to prove his extremist bona fides by going to war with lawmakers over a bipartisan agreement.

While the Senate would have the votes to override a theatrical rejection by DeSantis, it’s not yet clear what the House will do. Legislators in the lower chamber, which is scheduled to reconvene next week, are still considering a variety of maps, including some akin to the Senate’s and others more like the DeSantis plan.

KY Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed new maps for Congress and the state House passed by Kentucky’s Republican-run legislature, saying they represent “unconstitutional political gerrymandering,” but GOP lawmakers immediately overrode his vetoes. Beshear had until midnight on Thursday to take action on the new map for the state Senate but had not done so when we put the Digest to bed.

MD Redistricting: Maryland’s Democratic-run Senate passed new maps for both legislative chambers on a party-line vote on Thursday, with the state House reportedly set to begin work on the maps next week. House districts, which elect anywhere from one to three members each, are nested within Senate districts, which elect a single member.

TN Redistricting: Tennessee’s Republican-run Senate voted on Thursday to pass a new congressional map that would split the city of Nashville between three conservative districts in order to eliminate one of the state’s two Democratic seats. The state House is working on a similar plan and could vote next week.

4Q Fundraising

IA-Sen: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): $1.4 million raised, $3.7 million cash-on-hand
IL-Sen: Tammy Duckworth (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $6.4 million cash-on-hand
NC-Sen: Marjorie Eastman (R): $420,000 raised
NV-Sen: Adam Laxalt (R): $1.4 million raised
NY-Gov: Lee Zeldin (R): $4.3 million raised (in six months), $5.6 million cash-on-hand
PA-Gov: Dave White (R): $350,000 raised, additional $3 million self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
CA-40: Young Kim (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.6 million cash-on-hand
FL-13: Eric Lynn (D): $240,000 raised, $800,000 cash-on-hand
IA-01: Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-inc): $457,000 raised, $1.8 million cash-on-hand
NY-22: Claudia Tenney (R-inc): $370,000 raised, $1.15 million cash-on-hand


MO-Sen: Rep. Billy Long is airing a TV spot on the far-right channels Newsmax and One America News well ahead of the crowded August Republican primary, though there’s no word on the size of the buy. The ad itself is about as bad as you’d expect given the venues involved, with Long declaring, “I was one of the first to support Donald Trump for president. … But the Democrats rigged the election.”

NC-Sen, NC-07: Former Rep. Mark Walker, who has to date remained in the Republican Senate primary despite weak polling as he considers dropping down to the redrawn 7th Congressional District, will talk about his 2022 plans Monday.

NH-Sen: Saint Anselm College finds Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan leading her three announced Republican foes in hypothetical general election scenarios, with a huge portion of respondents undecided:

43-36 vs. 2020 candidate Donald Bolduc
41-27 vs. state Senate President Chuck Morse
42-24 vs. former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith

Hassan takes about the same percentage of the vote against each Republican, so it’s likely name recognition explains why Bolduc performs better than Morse or Smith.


IA-Gov: 2018 secretary of state nominee Deidre DeJear essentially has the Democratic primary to herself, but she went into the new year in precarious financial shape. DeJear spent most of the $280,000 she raised since August and ended December with all of $8,500 on-hand. Gov. Kim Reynolds, the Republican DeJear is hoping to unseat, by contrast had $4.8 million in the bank.

MD-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in covering through Jan. 12, and Maryland Matters has rounded them all up. First up are the many Democrats competing in the jam-packed June primary:

Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker: $128,000 raised, $63,000 cash-on-hand
Nonprofit executive Jon Baron: $420,000 raised, additional $1.9 million self-funded, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
State Comptroller Peter Franchot: $2 million raised, $3.3 million cash-on-hand
Former Attorney General Douglas Gansler: $510,000 raised, $393,000 cash-on-hand
Former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain: $103,000 raised, $44,000 cash-on-hand
Former Secretary of Education John King: $2.5 million raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
Former nonprofit head Wes Moore: $4.8 million raised, $3.1 million cash-on-hand
Former Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman: $109,000 raised, $108,000 on-hand
Former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez: $2.7 million raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand

Neuman entered the race Jan. 10, just before the fundraising period ended.

Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz notes that, while Baker’s haul might look low, he”;s the only Democrat “participating in the state’s revamped public financing system, so there should be a payoff.” He explains that Baker, unlike his many rivals, can’t accept donations of more than $250 or take contributions from PACs or businesses. However, the public finance system, says Kurtz, “pays an 8-1 match for the first $50 raised from every Maryland donor, a 6-1 match for the second $50, and a 2-1 match on the third $50.”

On the Republican side, the best-funded contender was former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who left the state cabinet earlier this month; Schulz raised $1.5 million and had $1.1 million on-hand. Not far behind was Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate and self-funder we hadn’t previously mentioned; Ficker took in a mere $4,000 from donors but threw in $1.1 million of his own money, which left him with $910,000 to spend. Finally, Del. Dan Cox, who is Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, raised $350,000, took in another $43,000 through self-funding and transfers from his old campaign, and had $272,000 on-hand.

OR-Gov: Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla has dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor and will instead run for the officially nonpartisan post of state labor commissioner. That position is open because the current incumbent, Democrat Val Hoyle, is running for the open 4th Congressional District.

PA-Gov, PA-17: Despite multiple media reports that former state House Speaker Mike Turzai would enter the GOP primary for governor, he announced on Wednesday that he would not in fact join the race. (This is why we’re such sticklers when it comes to hearing from candidates themselves before marking them down as “in”!) Another recent report indicated Turzai might run for Congress instead, but he seemed to rule that idea out as well, saying in a statement that “for now focusing on family and work is what matters most.”

Meanwhile, a well-financed PAC heavily funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass has announced it will support former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain’s bid for the Republican nod in the governor’s race. Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, which advocates for charter schools, reported having $20 million in the bank as of late last year and says “all of that money is at our disposal” to help McSwain.


CA-40: Physician Asif Mahmood announced Thursday that he would run as a Democrat in the June top-two primary against Republican Rep. Young Kim in the new 40th District, an Eastern Orange County seat that would have backed Joe Biden by a small 50-48 margin. Kim, whose existing 39th District makes up just 20% of this redrawn constituency, already faces an intra-party challenge from Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, who lost to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter 53-47 in the old 45th District in 2020.

Mahmood previously ran for state insurance commissioner in 2018, but he took a distant third in the top-two primary with 13% of the vote. He launched his new effort, however, with endorsements from several prominent state Democrats, including his old rival, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and Southern California Reps. Tony Cárdenas and Mike Levin.

FL-13: Attorney Kevin Hayslett has joined the GOP primary for Florida’s open 13th Congressional District and kicked off his bid with the backing of a major local politician, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. In a strange twist, Hayslett represented former candidate William Braddock, who dropped out of the race last year after another Republican hopeful, 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, obtained a restraining order against Braddock after he made violent threats about her.

GA-13: Former state Sen. Vincent Fort announced Thursday that he would challenge Rep. David Scott, who has long earned the ire of progressives, in the May primary for this safely blue seat in Atlanta’s southern suburbs. Scott already faces opposition from South Fulton City Councilman Mark Baker in a contest where it takes a majority to avoid a runoff.

Fort, who was elected to the legislature in 1996, stood out as one of Bernie Sanders’ most prominent Georgia supporters during the 2016 presidential primaries. Fort resigned the next year to focus on his bid for mayor of Atlanta but ultimately took a distant fifth place with 10% of the vote. He launched his new campaign by going after Scott’s conservative record, saying the seat “needs someone who believes in Democratic ideals and someone who doesn’t vote like a South Georgia Republican.”

MI-13: Former Detroit police Chief Ralph Godbee and Teach for America official Michael Griffie each announced this week that they were joining the August Democratic primary for this safely blue Detroit-based seat.

The more recognizable name belongs to Godbee, who resigned as chief in 2012 after he was accused of having an affair with an internal affairs officer. After a brief stint as a radio host, though, he later became head of the police force for the Detroit Public Schools Community District as well as an ordained minister. Godbee launched his new campaign by alluding to his past scandal, saying, “I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. I have no trouble articulating to the people I’m trying to support that I’ve made mistakes.”

MD-04: Former Rep. Donna Edwards, who represented Maryland’s 4th Congressional District for a decade until 2017, announced a comeback bid for her old seat on Wednesday. She joins a busy Democratic primary that includes Former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, Del. Jazz Lewis, and former Del. Angela Angel.

The recently redrawn 4th, which is still situated in the northern suburbs of D.C. (and is still deep blue), is open because the man who succeeded Edwards, Rep. Anthony Brown, launched a campaign for state attorney general last year. Edwards gave up her seat to run for Senate in 2016 but was defeated in the primary 53-39 by Chris Van Hollen, then a colleague in the House. She sought to return to elective office two years later with a bid for Prince George’s County executive but again lost in the primary, this time by a wide 62-24 margin to Angela Alsobrooks.

OR-06: State Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon declared Thursday that she was joining the May Democratic primary for this brand-new seat in the mid-Willamette Valley. Alonso Leon would be both Oregon’s first Indigenous and Latina member of Congress; one of her intra-party rivals, state Rep. Andrea Salinas, would also be the first Latina to represent the state.

RI-02: State House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, who would arguably have been the frontrunner in the September Democratic primary, said Thursday that he would not run for this newly open seat. Two other Democratic legislators, state Sen. Sam Bell and state Rep. Carol Hagan, did express interest, though; Rhode Island Public Radio also mentions state Rep. Robert Craven as a possibility.

On the Republican side, two-time gubernatorial nominee Allan Fung has acknowledged that he’s considering entering the race to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, while former Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian did not rule out running himself.

TX-28: The FBI raided both the home and campaign headquarters of conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar on Wednesday night, though it’s not yet clear why. Agents spent hours cataloging and seizing items, including computers, with a spokesperson saying they were “conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity.” In a statement, Cuellar said he would “fully cooperate in any investigation.”

The congressman faces a rematch in the March 1 Democratic primary with immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, whom he beat in a close 52-48 race two years ago. In response to news of the raid, a group called Better Jobs Together, which had been spending heavily to air TV ads on Cuellar’s behalf, reportedly began “cutting from its current buy.”

Attorneys General

TX-AG: The Texas Tribune has a roundup of all the fundraising for the Republican candidates for state attorney general for the second half of 2021 ahead of the March 1 primary:

Land Commissioner George P. Bush: $1.9 million raised, $3.2 million cash-on-hand
Rep. Louie Gohmert: $1 million raised, $882,000 cash-on-hand
Former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman: $3.7 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
Attorney General Ken Paxton: $2.8 million raised, $7.5 million cash-on-hand

Gohmert launched his campaign just before Thanksgiving by proclaiming his team had “reached our initial goal of raising $1 million” in a 10-day sprint that began on Nov. 9, but the new reports reveal he’d collected just $27,000 through Nov. 19. Gohmert eventually hit $1 million on Dec. 31―the last day of the fundraising period―when a PAC called Save Texas Now sent him $100,000 to push him over the top. The congressman defended his old claim, though, saying this week he was counting “both contributions and commitments” for the $1 million figure.

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