Jeff Singer

Anti-yoga Republican who endorsed Roy Moore in 2017 eyes primary bid against governor of Alabama

Businessman Tim James, who came in a very close third during the 2010 Republican primary, confirmed Wednesday that he was thinking about waging an intra-party campaign against Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and would decide by the end of the year. James is the son of former Gov. Fob James, who was elected governor as a Democrat in 1978 and as a Republican in 1994 but badly lost re-election four years later.

Ivey infuriated the GOP's anti-vaxx base in July when she said it was "time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks" for the resurgent pandemic, but the younger James himself didn't say this week why he believed the governor should be fired. Instead, he declared war on the "beast with three heads," which he said were critical race theory, transgender rights, and yoga in public schools. Ivey's team responded to James' speech by saying, "We appreciate his unwavering commitment to the important fight on yoga. As for Gov. Ivey, she doesn't do any yoga."

Republicans across the nation routinely demonize transgender people and the idea of critical race theory, but James' attack on yoga is much more unusual. The only notable Republican we'd heard torch the exercise before now was E.W. Jackson, the 2013 nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia who once suggested it leads to Satan, but James isn't the only Alabama conservative up in arms about it.

In May, Ivey signed a bill that removed a nearly three-decade ban on yoga in public schools, though it still required English names for any positions. Additionally, the law's language said, "Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited."

The Montgomery Advertiser's Brian Lyman tweeted in the spring that the bill "close[d] the book on one of the stupidest moral panics in Alabama history, which is really saying a lot," but as James' speech demonstrates, not everyone is done panicking. The Eagle Forum of Alabama alleged that yoga wasn't an exercise but was instead done as "an offering of worship" to Hindu deities. The Universal Society of Hinduism pushed back, saying that many yoga instructors aren't Hindus and that "traditionally Hinduism was not into proselytizing."

James, for his part, badly lost the 2002 primary for governor, but his second bid for the GOP nod eight years later went far better. The candidate generated national attention when he said in an ad, "This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it." James ended up finishing 166 votes behind state Rep. Robert Bentley for the important second-place spot in the runoff, and that tiny loss proved to have enormous consequences. Bentley went on to win the nomination and the general election, and the sex scandal that led to his 2017 resignation elevated Ivey to the governor's office.

Ivey already faces a potential primary challenge from state Auditor Jim Ziegler, who formed an exploratory committee in June. Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard also hasn't ruled out switching from the Senate race to the gubernatorial contest. Alabama requires primary candidates to win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a runoff.

Alaska's former independent governor mulls comeback bid against GOP successor

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy confirmed Friday that he would seek re-election in Alaska, but he may face his predecessor in next year's top-four primary.

Bill Walker, an independent who was elected to his only term in 2014, told the Anchorage Daily News he was giving "very serious consideration" to seeking a comeback. The only other notable politician who has expressed interest in running so far is former state Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat who formed an exploratory committee last month and recently said that, while he hasn't made a final decision, he's "likely" to get in.

If Walker runs, he'll continue a long and eventful career in Last Frontier politics. Walker got his start as a Republican in the 1970s as a member of the city council and later became the mayor of Val. He went on to serve as general counsel for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority. Walker first ran for governor in 2010 when he challenged incumbent Sean Parnell, who had ascended to the state's top post the previous year after Sarah Palin resigned, but he lost the GOP primary 50-33.

Walker decided to seek a rematch with Parnell as an independent in 2014. Still, while early surveys from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling gave the incumbent only lukewarm approval ratings in this red state, Parnell looked secure in a three-way contest that included Democratic nominee Byron Mallott. All of that dramatically changed around Labor Day, though, when Mallott dropped out and became Walker's running mate, which made the independent candidate the de facto Democratic nominee.

Parnell suddenly found himself in a much tougher race than he'd anticipated, and one he wasn't adequately prepared for: While the Republican's campaign belatedly tried to buy TV ad time, there just wasn't much left to purchase in a state that was hosting an ultra-expensive Senate race between Democratic incumbent Mark Begich and Republican Dan Sullivan. Indeed, while Parnell ended up launching a hard-hitting commercial against Walker, he could only air it in the Juneau media market, where just around 10% of the state lives. Ongoing questions about how Parnell handled sexual assault cases in the state National Guard only made things worse for the governor.

Walker ended up unseating Parnell 48-46 even as that year's red wave was propelling Sullivan to victory, but the new governor faced a tough four years in office thanks to a budget crisis from declining oil revenue. Walker, with Mallott at his side, planned to take advantage of a recent court decision that would have allowed him to claim the Democratic nomination in 2018 while still identifying as an independent, but he decided to run without any party support after Begich made a late entry into the race.

Dunleavy, like Parnell four years before, very much looked like the frontrunner in this three-way race—thanks in large part to Alaska's red hue—and the Walker and Begich camps spent the next several months arguing that the other should drop out. Ultimately, Walker ended up leaving the contest and endorsing Begich weeks ahead of Election Day after Mallott resigned after a sexual harassment scandal. It wasn't enough to stop Dunleavy, though, from beating Begich 51-44, with another 2% going to Walker.

Dunleavy made his own enemies early in his tenure after he oversaw draconian budget cuts, including a retaliatory reduction in funds for the Alaska Supreme Court after it ruled against him in an abortion rights case. This led a bipartisan group to launch a recall campaign against him in 2019, but the pandemic ended up dramatically slowing their signature gathering.

The deadline for the Recall Dunleavy campaign to turn in the 71,000 valid petitions they'd need isn't until early June of next year, but it's not clear how many signatures are still needed. There have also been no recent polls indicating if Dunleavy is vulnerable either in a recall campaign or in a regular election.

No matter what, though, Alaska will be in for a very different gubernatorial election than any state has ever had next year, thanks to the passage of a 2020 ballot measure. Starting in 2022, all the candidates for congressional, legislative, and statewide races will compete on one primary ballot, where contenders will have the option to identify themselves with a party label or be listed as "undeclared" or "nonpartisan." The top four vote-getters will advance to the general election, where voters will be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting.

Maine Republican will run to avenge 2018 House defeat he still refuses to recognize

Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin announced Wednesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Rep. Jared Golden, the Democrat who unseated him in a tight 2018 contest for Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

Poliquin, though, is continuing with his Trumpish refusal to accept his defeat in that instant runoff general election, as he once again proclaimed, "Head-to-head, you know, I beat Golden in 2018, and God willing, I will do it again next year." Poliquin joins state Sen. Trey Jackson in the primary, which will also be conducted using instant runoff voting, in their quest to take one of the seven Democratic-held Trump seats in the House.

Poliquin, a one-time Wall Street investment manager who later was appointed state treasurer, flipped this northern Maine constituency during the 2014 GOP wave, and he held it two years later as his district was swinging from 53-44 Obama to 51-41 Trump. The Republican incumbent, though, learned the hard way in 2018 that the area hadn't abandoned its Democratic roots. Golden ran a strong campaign that emphasized his service in the Marines, and this race ended up attracting huge amounts of outside money from both parties.

The contest also took a weird turn in the final days when Poliquin aired an ad set in a local hot dog restaurant that featured diners awkwardly and unconvincingly praising him and dissing the challenger. Some sample dialogue from the actors, many of whom were actually local Republican officials: "One thing's for certain, Bruce Poliquin's good for jobs," and "Stopping Mainers from buying heating oil? Golden's out there."

The spot also featured a doctor sporting a lab coat with the logo of the Central Maine Medical Center, which led the hospital to publicly call for the campaign to pull the commercial. Poliquin's team, naturally, refused to so much as make a minor edit to remove the logo.

Poliquin led Golden 49-47 among first-choice voter preferences on election night, but that wasn't enough under the 2016 voter-approved instant runoff law. Golden ended up prevailing 50.6-49.4 once votes were assigned to subsequent preferences as minor candidates were eliminated, a result that made Poliquin the first incumbent to lose re-election in the 2nd District since 1916.

The defeated congressman, though, responded by filing a lawsuit arguing that the ranked choice law violated the Constitution. Poliquin's suit was frivolous, and both the district court and an appellate court emphatically rejected his legal arguments since nothing in the Constitutional provisions he cited came close to barring the use of instant-runoff voting, which several states have used for overseas and military voters for years to comply with federal law regarding absentee ballots. Poliquin ultimately dropped all his legal challenges a full seven weeks after Election Day but never acknowledged his defeat.

The now-former incumbent soon began expressing interest in a 2020 rematch, and he took every chance he got to pretend he was the rightful victor of the last race. In April of 2019, Poliquin ranted that he'd "won in 2018" and his defeat was illegitimate because "[w]e have this thing called ranked voting" that is "the biggest scam I've ever seen in my whole life."

Not everyone was excited about the idea of a Poliquin return, though. The National Journal reported that even Republican operatives who believed he could beat Golden thought he'd made some serious mistakes in 2018, and they singled out his hot dog restaurant commercial for particular scorn. The former congressman ultimately announced that, while he was "itching to run again," he'd sit the cycle out to care for his ailing parents; Donald Trump soon nominated Poliquin for a volunteer post on the Board of Securities Investor Protection Corporation, but the Senate never held a confirmation vote.

Republicans may have been better if Poliquin, for all his flaws, had been their standard bearer in 2020, however. The eventual GOP nominee, Dale Crafts, struggled to raise money, and major groups on both sides dramatically cut their ad buys in the final weeks of the race to focus elsewhere. Golden ultimately fended off Crafts 53-47 even as his seat backed Trump 52-45.

Extreme partisan gerrymandering once again saved Michigan Republicans — despite Biden's statewide win

Daily Kos Elections has calculated the 2020 presidential results for every state Senate and state House district in Michigan, where the GOP's gerrymandered maps will be replaced next year by plans crafted by a new independent redistricting committee. You can find all of our district-level data nationwide at this bookmarkable permalink.

Republicans drew the lines for the 2012 round of redistricting just as they had for the previous decade, and they've used their power in this swing state to craft some truly brutal gerrymanders. Last year's election is a perfect illustration: While Joe Biden beat out Donald Trump 51-48 statewide last year, Trump still carried 60 of the 100 seats in the state House and 21 of 38 in the state Senate.

We'll start with a look at the House, where members are up for re-election every two years but are limited to a maximum of three terms. Democrats had hoped to net the four seats they needed to take control for the first time since 2010 but, despite once again winning more votes than GOP candidates—as they have in almost every election over the last decade—they were unable to so much as dent the GOP's 58-52 majority.

Unlike in many other states in 2020, crossover voting actually benefited Democrats more than Republicans. Four Democrats sit in Trump districts, with state Rep. Darrin Camilleri holding the reddest of the bunch: Camilleri earned his third term 53-47 even as Trump was taking his suburban Detroit constituency 54-45. (The other three similarly situated Democrats are Nate Shannon, Jim Haadsma, and Angela Witwer.) Meanwhile, just two Republicans, Mark Tisdel and Ryan Berman, represent Biden seats, though just barely. Tisdel's district, which is also in the Detroit area, backed Biden just 50.2-48.6, while Berman's was even closer, 49.9-48.9.

One way we can dig deeper to see just how rough these maps are for Democrats is to sort each district in each chamber by Biden's margin of victory over Trump to see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because the House has an even number of seats, we average the two middle seats to come up with the median point in the chamber. Taking this approach, we find that the median House seat supported Trump 51-47, a full 7 points to the right of his 3-point statewide loss.

That's bad, but the Senate, which is only up in midterm years and where members can serve two four-year terms, is far worse. The median seat in the upper chamber went for Trump by a stunning 54-44 margin―13 points to the right of his statewide showing. Republicans hold one Biden constituency while Democrats represent no Trump turf, which gives Team Red a 22-16 edge. The one crossover seat belongs to Republican state Sen. Jim Runestad, who won an open seat 52-48 two years before Biden went on to carry his suburban Detroit seat 51-48.

The Senate has been in Republican hands since early 1984, when the GOP successfully recalled two Democratic incumbents, but Team Blue may have an opening to finally take it back next year. That's because in 2018, voters approved the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw new lines in place of the state legislature. Republicans are by no means guaranteed to lose control in this competitive state, of course, but for the first time in a long time, Democrats won't have to compete on a gerrymandered playing field.

While we're on Michigan, we also have an update for our calculations by congressional district. Though the state certified its results last year, election officials have since completed their regular review process, during which they've found and fixed data entry errors in county vote totals. These corrections (which the state refers to as "statistical adjustments") can result in candidates either gaining or losing votes in a given county.

These changes have made a small impact on our numbers in three congressional districts. The largest shift is in the 7th District, where Biden's total dropped by about 1,600 votes, while Trump's dropped by about 300. The district consequently moves from 56.7-41.6 Trump to 56.9-41.4 Trump.

These two 'Biden-Republican' districts highlight Colorado's leftward trend over the last decade

Daily Kos Elections has calculated the 2020 presidential results for every state Senate and state House district in Colorado, a one-time swing state that has shifted sharply to the left over the last few years. You can find all of our district-level data nationwide at this bookmarkable permalink.

Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by a wide 55-42 margin, which was the best Democratic performance at the top of the ticket since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide. Unsurprisingly, Democrats also maintained their majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

In the House, where all seats are up every two years, Democrats enjoy the same 41-24 majority they went into 2020 with. Team Blue took control of the lower chamber in 2004 after 28 years in the minority and, apart from the two years following the 2010 Republican wave, they've held it ever since. Crossover voting helped the GOP, but not nearly enough: Republicans hold all 22 Trump districts but just two of the chamber's 43 seats that went for Biden.

Those two Biden-Republican seats illustrate Colorado's overall leftward trajectory well. In HD-43 in Douglas County, state Rep. Kevin Van Winkle won his fourth and final term 53-47 despite Biden winning his district 52-46. Only a few years ago, though, it would have been shocking to imagine a Democratic presidential candidate winning in a constituency located in what has long been Team Red's biggest source of strength in the Denver area: Mitt Romney carried Van Winkle's HD-43 by a wide 58-40 margin, while Trump won it 49-42. Even in 2018, Republican Walker Stapleton took this seat 51-47 despite losing the governor's race to Democrat Jared Polis in a 53-43 blowout.

His colleague is Colin Larson, who secured his second term 51-46 in HD-22, a 49-48 Biden district in neighboring Jefferson County that also was solidly red not long ago: Trump won it 50-41 in 2016 and Romney carried it 55-43 four years earlier.

In the Senate, meanwhile, Biden won 23 districts to Trump's 12, with Republicans occupying all the Trump seats plus three Biden constituencies, leaving Democrats with a 20-15 advantage overall. Only half of the chamber is up each cycle, though, so only two of these Republicans had to fight against anti-Trump headwinds last year.

One was state Sen. Robert Rankin, who was reelected 50.6-49.4 as his SD-08 in western Colorado went for Biden 52-46; the other was state Sen. Kevin Priola, who won another term 51-49 in SD-25 despite Biden's 52-45 victory in this slice of suburban Denver. The final Biden Republican is Minority Leader Chris Holbert, who will be termed out in 2022; his SD-30, also in the Denver 'burbs, went for Biden 50-48.

While Democrats look dominant in the Senate now, that advantage only solidified after years of rough fighting. After flipping the chamber in 2004, Democrats emerged from the 2012 elections holding the same 20-15 majority they have now, but the NRA financed a successful recall campaign against two Democratic legislators the following year that whittled the party's Senate edge to just a single seat.

Democrats recaptured those two districts in 2014 but lost three others, a result that handed Republicans a one-seat edge, which they clung to in 2016 despite Hillary Clinton's 48-43 victory in the state. It wasn't until the 2018 blue wave that Democrats were able to recapture a 19-16 majority, which they expanded last year.

New maps will replace the current districts next year, but Democrats' top-to-bottom takeover of state government nonetheless won't give them authority over the coming round of redistricting. That's because voters approved two independent redistricting commissions, one for Congress and one for the state legislature, in 2018. The congressional commission is slated to release a preliminary map on Wednesday while the panel handling the legislative redraw will do so for both chambers next week.

The power of GOP gerrymandering: Georgia's median Senate seat was 15 points redder than the state

Daily Kos Elections has calculated the 2020 presidential results for every state Senate and state House district in Georgia, a state that Joe Biden put in the Democratic column for the first time in nearly three decades but where Republican gerrymanders helped keep Team Red firmly in control of both legislative chambers.

Democrats, until last year, had failed to win a single statewide race in Georgia since 2006, but the highly educated and diversifying Atlanta area's rapid swing to the left during the Trump era helped power Biden to a 49.5-49.3 victory. Two months later, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock proved this showing was no fluke by capturing both of the Peach State's U.S. Senate seats.

However, while the legislative boundaries the GOP crafted in 2011 and tinkered with in 2014 and 2015 failed to anticipate the party's erosion in the suburbs, they were still more than enough to protect the party's majorities. Democrats netted only one seat in each chamber, which left the GOP with a 34-22 advantage in the Senate and a 103-77 edge in the lower chamber.

Despite his statewide loss, Donald Trump carried 31 Senate seats to Biden's 25, as well as 94 House districts compared to 86 for Biden. That divergence between the statewide outcomes and the legislative results is only one way, however, to illustrate the power of the GOP's gerrymanders—and how tough it would have been for Democrats to have flipped either chamber under these maps.

Diving deeper, we can sort each district in each chamber by Biden's margin of victory over Trump to see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because both chambers have an even number of seats, we average the two middle seats to come up with the median point in each chamber.

Taking this approach, we find that the median Senate seat backed Trump 57-42, a full 15 points to the right of his statewide margin. That means that for Democrats to have secured a majority, the party's Senate candidates would have somehow had to win districts that remained firmly Republican by double digits even during the best year for Georgia Democrats in recent memory. The median point in the House wasn't quite so unfavorable at 52-47 Trump, but that was still a 5-point advantage for the GOP and, in this age of heavily polarized voting, a massive obstacle for Democrats.

It was therefore Democrats who badly needed voters to split their tickets downballot, but it was Republicans who actually benefited from crossover support. Three Republican senators and nine House members represent seats that voted for Biden, while not a single Democrat represents a Trump district.

The bluest GOP-held Senate seat is SD-56, where Republican incumbent John Albers prevailed 51-49 even as Biden was taking his suburban Atlanta constituency 53-45. Its counterpart in the House is HD-43 around Marietta; Biden won by an even larger 54-44 spread, but longtime state Rep. Sharon Cooper was also re-elected 51-49.

Republicans will once again be in charge of redistricting ahead of the 2022 elections, so the legislature will have the chance to shore up these seats, as well as any other vulnerable turf.

P.S. You can find all of our district-level data at this bookmarkable permalink.

Democrat resoundingly wins New Mexico special election that GOP tried to make a referendum on crime

Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury defeated Republican state Sen. Mark Moores in a 60-36 landslide to hold New Mexico's 1st Congressional District in Tuesday's special election to succeed Deb Haaland, who resigned earlier this year to become U.S. secretary of the interior.

Stansbury improved on Haaland's 58-42 win last year and even ran slightly ahead of Joe Biden's 60-37 showing in this Albuquerque-based constituency, a result indicating that Republican efforts to turn the race into a referendum on crime gained little traction. Moores almost singularly focused his campaign on the rising local crime rate, a message his party hopes will resonate nationally next year. One of his TV ads even featured horror movie-style sound effects of a woman screaming as the narrator went after Stansbury on police reform.

Stansbury, though, pushed back and aired her own ads featuring law enforcement personnel vouching for her. She also emphasized her support for the Biden administration and its policies and campaigned with both first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.

While Democrats will be pleased with the end result, whether the outcome portends anything for the midterms is much harder to say. At the very least, extrapolating from a single special election is a risky endeavor, and Republicans will be quick to note that GOP outside groups didn't spend any serious money on Moores' behalf.

For now, though, Stansbury's victory means Democrats will restore one more vote to their slim House majority, giving Nancy Pelosi a 220-211 advantage with four more vacancies to be filled in future special elections.

Arizona's independent commission produced districts that matched the state — but will it last?

Daily Kos Elections is out with new data from Arizona breaking down the 2020 presidential results for each district in the state legislature. Republicans maintained the narrowest possible majorities in both chambers last year even as Joe Biden became the first Democrat to take the state's electoral votes in the 21st century.

The Grand Canyon State is divided into 30 legislative districts, with each electing one senator and two state representatives every two years; the districts are exactly the same (or "perfectly coterminous") for both chambers. Last year, Biden and Donald Trump each carried exactly half of the districts as Biden was prevailing statewide 49.4-49.1, but crossover voting was just enough to keep Republicans in power. As you'd expect when both candidates each carried half the districts, the two median districts when averaged together come close to reflecting the statewide result itself, with Biden winning them 50-48 for a Democratic median seat advantage of just one point.

Despite a strong Democratic campaign to flip the legislature, they netted just one seat in the Senate, knocking the GOP's majority from 17-13 to 16-14, while Republicans maintained their 31-29 edge in the House.

We'll start in the Senate, where just one lawmaker holds a seat carried by the other party's presidential candidate. That incumbent is Republican J.D. Mesnard, who prevailed 53-47 in LD-17, which includes a large part of Chandler in the Phoenix area, even as Biden won his constituency 51-47.

The only other Senate Republican who won a closer race was Paul Boyer, whose LD-20 around Glendale backed Trump just 49.2-48.9. Boyer, though, still ran several points ahead of the ticket to win 52-48. Split-ticket voting wasn't quite enough, however, to save Republican state Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, who lost to Democrat Christine Marsh 50.2-49.8 as Biden was carrying the Phoenix-based LD-28 by a 55-43 margin.

In the House, the electoral rules are a bit different. Each party can nominate up to two candidates for each district, and voters can vote for their top two choices in the general election, with the top two vote-getters winning. Sometimes, though, parties will choose to nominate only one candidate in a tough constituency and encourage their voters to not select a second contender, a tactic known as "bullet voting." The hope is that, by ceding one seat, the party will increase its chances to take the other one, and as we'll see, this maneuver did indeed seem to aid both parties last year.

Two House Republicans represent Biden districts, but unlike in the Senate, there's one Democrat in a Trump seat. That Democrat is Judy Schwiebert in the aforementioned LD-20, who was her party's only nominee here: Schwiebert took first place with 34.4%, while Rep. Shawnna Bolick edged out fellow Republican incumbent Anthony Kern 33.5-32.0.

Bullet voting, though, also likely secured the GOP control of a seat in LD-04, a geographically vast constituency in the southwestern corner of the state that backed Biden 56-43. Democratic state Rep. Charlene Fernandez led with 40%, but Republican Joel John beat out the district's other Democratic incumbent, Geraldine Peten, 32-29 for second.

The other Republican-held Biden seat in the House is also in LD-17, where one incumbent from each party ended up winning. Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, who was Team Blue's sole nominee, led with 33.8%, while Rep. Jeff Weninger defeated fellow Republican Liz Harris 33.4-32.8.

Democrats may have another chance to flip either chamber of the legislature in 2022 if the new map looks similar to the current one, but redistricting will be an especially unpredictable affair in Arizona.

The state's congressional and legislative maps are drawn by an ostensibly independent commission, but Republicans have done everything they can to hijack it: Its nominally independent tiebreaking member has troubling ties to the GOP and has repeatedly sided with Republican commissioners on a variety of preliminary matters, such as hiring a map-drawing consultant who testified as an expert witness in support of a Republican gerrymander in North Carolina that was struck down by the courts.

P.S. You can find all of our district-level data at this bookmarkable permalink.

Washington Republican who voted to impeach Trump earns challenge from far-right extremist

Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp announced Thursday that he would challenge Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. Culp, who was the GOP's 2020 nominee for governor, made it very clear he'd be making his campaign all about that vote: After accusing the incumbent of having a "spine made of jelly," Culp, without offering any evidence, accused Newhouse of making "some kind of deal" with Democrats.

Newhouse was already facing intraparty challenges on his right from state Rep. Brad Klippert and businessman Jerrod Sessler in next year's top-two primary, and more could still join. It's possible that a crowded field of opponents could split the anti-Newhouse GOP vote in the 4th District and allow the congressman to advance to a general election with a Democrat, but that's far from assured. This 58-40 Trump seat is red enough that Newhouse went up against a fellow Republican in both 2014 and 2016, and this eastern Washington seat will almost certainly remain very conservative turf after redistricting.

Culp may also be prominent enough to emerge as Newhouse's main foe, especially since Klippert did not report raising any money in the time between his January launch and the end of March. (Sessler entered the race in early April.) Culp himself served as the small community of Republic, which is located in the neighboring 5th District, in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn't enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41.

Culp's stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden "Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors" message to his Facebook page.

Culp soon decided to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee's measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates.

Inslee ended up winning by a wide 57-43, but Culp responded by saying he'd "never concede." Instead, he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made allegations of "intolerable voting anomalies" for a contest "that was at all times fraudulent."

The state GOP did not welcome Culp's refusal to leave the stage, though. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp's campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner described as "large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact."

Culp also gave himself a total of $48,000 for lost wages and mileage reimbursement, a sum that Brunner said "appears to be the largest-ever for a candidate in Washington state." Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.

Culp's attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making "factually baseless" claims. Culp himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, "It doesn't mean that the war's over … It just means that we're not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts."

Newhouse, for his part, responded to Culp's new campaign by reaffirming that he'll be running for a fifth term next year. Newhouse brought in $288,000 during the first quarter for his campaign, and he ended March with $528,000 to defend himself.

Notorious ex-Democrat launches GOP primary challenge to Georgia governor

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-obsessed Democrat-turned-Republican, announced Thursday that he would oppose Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in next year's GOP primary. Jones' challenge comes as Kemp is also preparing for a widely anticipated rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams, whom Peach State political observers universally expect to run again.

Jones used his kickoff Friday to once again repeat the lie that Trump would still be in the White House if Jones had been governor in 2020. Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp for refusing to go along with his efforts to try and steal the state's electoral votes.

That hasn't changed in the last month even though Kemp has attracted plenty of gratitude in conservative circles for signing the new voter suppression bill, a development that led Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game from the Atlanta suburbs to Colorado. Trump instead responded earlier this month by labeling the new law "far too weak and soft" and claiming, "Kemp also caved to the radical left-wing woke mob who threatened to call him racist if he got rid of weekend voting."

Jones, as we'll discuss, has been an ardent Trumpest throughout the last year, but Kemp is already trying to make his Democratic past a liability. The incumbent's team greeted Jones' arrival into the race by noting that the then-Democrat opposed a 2019 bill that effectively banned abortion just six weeks into a pregnancy, legislation that has since been struck down by a federal court. Jones, who agreed during his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign that abortion should be legal, tried to get ahead of Kemp's attacks by tweeting on Monday, "Life begins at conception - period."

The governor may also have plenty of other material to work with from Jones' long time in Democratic politics, a career that was defined by several failed attempts to win higher office. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, he "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones, who had voted for George W. Bush twice, tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office by seeking Team Blue's nomination to take on Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2008. However, the CEO earned plenty of negative attention during the nomination contest after Barack Obama took him to task for creating a mailer that made it appear that the two were campaigning together. Jones lost the primary runoff 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Chambliss.

Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26. In 2013, a grand jury probing his time leading DeKalb County recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for county sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. The state representative, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate. Jones spent his time after Election Day headlining Trump rallies alleging nonexistent voter fraud, and he finally switched parties in January.


Happy Holidays!