A notorious GOP extremist could challenge his own party's governor in Ohio

A notorious GOP extremist could challenge his own party's governor in Ohio
Image via Gage Skidmore.

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, and David Beard.

LEADING OFF

OH-Gov: Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias takes a look at which Ohio Republicans might be interested in challenging Gov. Mike DeWine, who infuriated Donald Trump by recognizing Joe Biden's victory, in the 2022 primary, and he reports the far-right Rep. Jim Jordan is thinking about it.

Jordan, who co-founded the nihilist House Freedom Caucus and has been one of Trump's most ardent allies, has publicly shown no interest in leaving behind his D.C. power base. Unnamed Buckeye State Republicans, though, tell Tobias that the congressman has been talking about a campaign against DeWine. Indeed, hours after Trump fired off a shot at the governor on Monday, Jordan wrote his own message attacking the restrictions DeWine recently put in place to slow the pandemic.

However, one consultant said that it was still unlikely that Jordan would leave behind Congress to run for governor as long as redistricting doesn't place him in danger. "It's on his mind, I'll put it that way," the consultant said before adding, "I would say it's unlikely in the end knowing him, but I'm not going to shut the door on it."

The only Republican who so far has talked about a campaign against DeWine is former Rep. Jim Renacci, who lost the 2018 Senate race to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown by a 53-47 margin. Renacci didn't rule anything out earlier this month, and Tobias writes that he's "likely to run." However, he adds that the former congressman also has a terrible relationship with state party leaders, and predicted he would "struggle to assemble a statewide staff, having burned through several campaign managers during his U.S. Senate run."

Tobias mentions a few other Republicans as possibilities, though there's no word on their interest. The list includes former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who was Team Red's 2012 nominee against Brown. Mandel spent more than a year waging a second campaign against Brown but suddenly dropped out in early 2018, citing his wife's health. Tobias also mentions former Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who lost the 2018 primary to DeWine 60-40, and Rep. Warren Davidson, who has also made a hobby out of trashing DeWine on Twitter.

SENATE

AL-Sen: Republican Sen. Richard Shelby told The Hill on Tuesday that he would "make a public announcement" about his re-election plans in January. Shelby turned 86 this year, and plenty of politicos are speculating that he won't campaign for a seventh term in this very red state. If Shelby retired, the 2022 contest would be Alabama's first Senate election without an incumbent since 1996, when fellow Republican Jeff Sessions won the race to succeed Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin.

NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Richard Burr said he would not seek a fourth term all the way back in 2016, and it's very unlikely he'd be able to change his mind now that he's under investigation for the large stock transactions he made just before the markets tanked in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. There are a number of North Carolina Republicans who could run to succeed Burr in this light red state, and multiple media organizations reported Thursday that Lara Trump, who is the wife of Eric Trump, is considering.

Trump, a Tar Heel State native who worked as an adviser for her father-in-law's failed re-election campaign, was mentioned last year as a possible contender for New York's 2nd Congressional District on Long Island, and she initially didn't rule the idea out before deciding against a run. Trump currently lives in Westchester County, NY, which is quite far from both the Long Island-based 2nd District and especially North Carolina.

Several other Republicans could also compete here. Outgoing Rep. Mark Walker, who decided not to run for anything this year after court-supervised redistricting turned his gerrymandered seat reliably blue, recently reaffirmed that he was interested in a Senate bid. Outgoing Rep. George Holding, who also decided to retire for the same reason as Walker, didn't rule out a bid for the upper chamber last year, though he doesn't appear to have said anything since then.

Oh, and that's not all: Former Gov. Pat McCrory, who lost re-election in 2016, also said in late 2019 that he was mulling a campaign to succeed Burr. In September, McCrory said he was interested in seeking office again, though he added that he was "having fun" pursuing other activities.

A few other GOP politicians are also reportedly thinking about it. the New York Times' Annie Karni writes that outgoing Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who lost this year's gubernatorial contest to Democrat Roy Cooper 52-47, is "expected to be in the field." State House Speaker Tim Moore was also name-dropped as a potential contender, though there's no word on his interest.

However, there's one name we can cross off. While the Times reported that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who resigned from Congress earlier this year, was expected to run, Meadows himself said Friday he'd stay out of the contest, declaring that "in terms of my hat, it won't be in the ring."

The Democratic field is taking longer to develop. Outgoing state Sen. Erica Smith told the News & Observer's Brian Murphy on Friday that she was running for the Senate again, but few national Democrats will want to see her as their nominee. Earlier this year, Republicans spent nearly $3 million on an unsuccessful effort to help Smith, who had raised very little money herself, win the primary against Democratic establishment favorite Cal Cunningham. Democratic groups spent heavily to push back on the GOP meddling, and Cunningham beat Smith 57-35 before narrowly losing this month to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

Months later, Smith endorsed Republican Sonja Nichols' campaign against one of her colleagues, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson. When Smith was asked about her decision on Facebook, she responded by telling the poster, "[Y]ou cannot see beyond your sexist male privilege. Funny that you are not attempting to deal with the real issues." Jackson ended up prevailing 55-41.

GUBERNATORIAL

CA-Gov: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has long been one of the few big names in the California Republican Party's bench, said Thursday that he was "seriously considering" a 2022 bid against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Faulconer, who will step down as leader of the state's second-largest city next month due to term limits, spent much of 2017 sending confusing messages about his interest in this office, but this is the first time he's publicly said he was thinking about a bid.

Faulconer would give Republicans a candidate with a geographic base of support, but he'd still need a lot to go right to have a shot against Newsom in a state where Team Red hasn't won a statewide race since 2006. The San Diego media market only contains about 8% of California's population, so Faulconer also likely would start out with little name recognition in this incredibly expensive state.

MI-Gov: Kyle Melinn of MIRS puts on his Great Mentioner hat and name-drops some Republicans who might challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2022, and the first person on his list is a familiar one.

Melinn says that Macomb County Public Works Director Candice Miller, a former Michigan secretary of state and congresswoman, has been approached by unnamed people about a campaign. He adds that multiple Republicans say that Miller "would be a field-clearing candidate," though Melinn also asks if she'd want to leave her current elected post in this large suburban Detroit county.

Melinn also mentions 2018 gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck; House Speaker Lee Chatfield; Rep.-elect Lisa McClain; and state Rep. Jack O'Malley as possible GOP contenders.

HOUSE

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Cleo Fields said Thursday that he would decide "after the holidays" if he'd try to return to Congress after a 24-year absence by competing in next year's all-party special election to succeed Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is resigning from Louisiana's safely blue 2nd District to take a job in the Biden administration.

Fields was elected to the House in 1992 from what was then numbered Louisiana's 4th District, a sprawling Z-shaped seat that stretched from the Shreveport area in the northwest corner of the state down into Baton Rouge. Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson had made history in the New Orleans area two years before by becoming the state's first African American member since Reconstruction, and the 4th District was drawn up so that Louisiana could elect a second Black congressman. Fields, who was 29, was also the youngest member of the House when he took office.

Months after Fields unsuccessfully waged his 1995 bid for governor, though, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his congressional district was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, leading to it being redrawn as heavily white. He retired in 1996 but his political career was far from over: Fields was elected to the state Senate the next year, and after being termed-out in 2008, he returned to the chamber by winning a competitive intra-party race in 2019.

Two fellow Democratic state senators, state Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter, are already running to succeed Richmond, and plenty of other politicians are considering jumping in as well. If Fields ran, though, his past experience in Congress wouldn't be the only thing that would set him apart in what could be a very crowded race. Peterson, Carter, and most of the prospective candidates we've heard from so far have bases in the city of New Orleans, while Fields represents a district in East Baton Rouge.

If the race comes down to geography, a candidate from the New Orleans area would have a big edge over someone from elsewhere in the district. Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, makes up 40% of the district, while another 26% lives in neighboring Jefferson Parish. Fields' East Baton Rouge Parish base, by contrast, makes up only 14% of the seat, with the balance coming from seven smaller parishes.

However, there are plenty of other potential factors at play in this all-party primary. Perhaps most importantly, it's quite possible that a Republican could take one of the two spots in a likely runoff, an outcome that would make any Democrat the heavy favorite to win round two.

P.S. If Fields sought and won this seat, he wouldn't be the only sitting member of Congress to return after a 24-year absence. Maryland Democrat Kweisi Mfume, a former Fields colleague who resigned in 1996 to lead the NAACP, returned to Congress earlier this year through a special election. Neither Fields nor Mfume would hold the record for longest gap in congressional service, though: That title belongs to another Maryland Democrat, Philip Francis Thomas, who was elected to his only terms in the House in 1838 and 1874.

LEGISLATIVE

AK State House: Democrats looking to maintain the state House's bipartisan majority coalition got some good news Thursday when state Rep.-elect Josiah Patkotak, an independent who flipped a Democratic-held seat, announced that he would join with members of the "Bush Caucus," a group that includes several Democrats and Democratic-aligned independents representing rural areas. Matt Buxton of the progressive site The Midnight Sun explains that Patkotak's move is "not a full commitment to join with the bipartisan coalition but gives the bloc of legislators representing the rural areas of western and northern Alaska powerful sway as the House works toward a majority."

MAYORAL

Cincinnati, OH Mayor: On Friday, one day after City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was arrested by FBI agents on bribery charges, the Democrat put out a statement proclaiming his innocence and pledging that he would keep "fighting for our city and its future." Sittenfeld did not directly address whether he would stay in next year's mayoral contest, though the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that he gave no sign that he plans to drop out.

The officially nonpartisan contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor John Cranley currently includes three other candidates, all of whom are also Democrats: City Councilman David Mann, community activist Kelli Prather, and retired firefighter Raffel Prophett.

Mann, who has had a long career in Cincinnati politics, is the most prominent member of this trio. Mann previously served as mayor in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the post had little actual power and merely rotated among city council members (none other than Jerry Springer held the job in 1977 a few years before Mann), and he was elected to Congress in 1992. Mann lost re-election to Republican Steve Chabot during the 1994 wave, but he returned to elected office in 2013 by winning his current job.

Other candidates may be interested in competing in the May primary, though, especially now that Sittenfeld is no longer the clear frontrunner. City Councilman Christopher Smitherman, a conservative independent who has always enjoyed Republican support, had ended his campaign in 2019 following his wife's death, but he said Friday that he'd decide whether to get back in after Thanksgiving. The filing deadline is Feb. 18, and the nonpartisan primary is in May: The top two vote-getters will then compete in a November 2021 general election.

Detroit, MI Mayor: While Democratic incumbent Mike Duggan has not yet said that he'll seek a third term in 2021, his spokesperson confirmed that the mayor's chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, was stepping down "to be the campaign manager for his re-election."

New York City, NY Mayor: Former non-profit executive Dianne Morales announced Thursday that she was joining the June Democratic primary. Morales, who identifies as Afro-Latina, would be the first woman to serve as mayor, as well as the second person of color to hold the post.

Morales is seeking office for the first time, and she argued in her kickoff, "I'm not a traditional candidate because I've not spent a lifetime jockeying for the job." Morales has also argued that funding should be redeployed from the NYPD, whose officers she called "foot soldiers for a mass incarceration movement," to other areas, and that all New York City residents should be guaranteed a minimum income.

CALLED RACES

NJ-07: On Thursday evening, Republican Tom Kean Jr. conceded to freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski.

MT Ballot: While the AP has not yet called a victory as of Friday for LR-130, a ballot measure that prevents local jurisdictions from regulating the concealed carry of weapons, The Montana Free Press writes that both supporters and opponents have acknowledged that it won 51-49.

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