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

● Pres-by-CD: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to bring you our calculations of the 2020 election results for Illinois’ 18 congressional districts, where yet another surge in ancestrally Republican territory helped Democrats hang on to a seat in the Chicago exurbs that they flipped in 2018. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Two years ago, in one of the most colossal upsets of the midterm blue wave, Democrat Lauren Underwood, then a 32-year-old nurse who’d never sought office before, defeated Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren in Illinois’ 14th District, making her the youngest Black woman ever elected to Congress. Last year, she drew a far weaker opponent in perennial candidate Jim Oberweis, a state senator who was so despised by his own party that a major Republican super PAC tried to defeat him in the primary, but Underwood wound up winning by a closer-than-expected 51-49 margin.

That spread was similar to Biden’s 50-48 win, but that take represented Biden’s biggest district-level improvement in the state on Hillary Clinton’s performance four years ago, when she lost the 14th to Donald Trump 49-45. In a sign of just how much things have changed, this district’s predecessor, also numbered the 14th, was once held by child molester and former Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert before his resignation following the GOP wipeout in the 2006 elections.

Campaign Action

Biden also saw a sizable jump in the neighboring 6th District, one rung closer to the city of Chicago, which Democrats also picked up in 2018. That seat, however, is now all but out of reach for Republicans: Biden won it by a sizable 52-43 margin, after Clinton carried it 50-43. Democratic Rep. Sean Casten secured a second term with a similar 53-45 victory.

Democrats were less successful in the one Illinois district that outside groups targeted in 2020, the 13th in the central part of the state. While Trump’s margin declined slightly, from 50-44 to 51-47, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis defeated Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan 54-46, considerably better than his narrow 50.4-49.6 escape in their first matchup two years earlier.

Team Blue was lucky, however, to avoid a major humiliation in the 17th District in the northwestern corner of the state. That seat is occupied by former DCCC chair Cheri Bustos, who won re-election just 52-48 over an unheralded Republican foe, Esther Joy King, after deep-pocketed super PACs on both sides poured money into the race just before Election Day. But Bustos actually ran ahead of the top of the ticket, as Trump once again carried the 17th, this time by a 50-48 margin—a slight increase on his 47.4-46.6 win in 2016. With Biden flipping the 14th District, that leaves Bustos as the only member of Illinois’ delegation to represent a district carried by the opposite party’s presidential candidate.

Biden’s 57-41 statewide victory was very similar to Clinton’s 55-38 win, but his success in the suburbs was offset by a decline in Latino and Black areas of Chicago. The district that saw the biggest drop in the margin was the 4th, a majority-Latino seat represented by Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia, which Biden won 81-17 versus 82-13 for Clinton. Similar dips took place in the 1st and 7th, which are predominantly Black. Biden still won each of these districts in a romp, but his weaker performance mirrors a similar slump in Black and Latino neighborhoods in other states.

Senate

● CA-Sen: Not that anyone was expecting otherwise, but Democrat Alex Padilla, who will fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat as soon as she’s sworn in as vice president, has confirmed that he’ll run for election to a full six-year term next year.

Governors

● NJ-Gov: That was fast: Former New Jersey Republican Party chair Doug Steinhardt, who announced a bid for governor just a month ago—and left his post as head of the state GOP to do so—has now dropped out of the race. Steinhardt claimed that “unforeseen professional obligations have made it untenable for me to continue,” but the New Jersey Globe suggests that former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli’s consolidation of party support in several key counties was an important factor in Steinhardt’s departure.

Ciatterelli hasn’t completely cleared the field just yet, though. Former Somerset County Commissioner Brian Levin says he’s still considering a bid for the GOP nomination and will make up his mind this week. (Until the start of this year, the position of county commissioner had been known in New Jersey as “freeholder.” However, because of the term’s association with slavery, lawmakers passed a bill last year to replace it.)

● NM-Gov, NM-01: It seems that Republican Mark Ronchetti, whose name surfaced as a possible candidate for governor or Congress following his closer-than-expected 52-46 loss in last year’s Senate race, has given up the campaign trail for the TV studio. Joe Monahan reports that Ronchetti, who’d been a meteorologist for an Albuquerque news station before his Senate bid, returned to his old job on Monday, delivering the weather forecast with little fanfare. While many other TV news personalities have run for office before, we can’t recall one who’s later gone back to broadcasting. If you can think of someone, let us know!

● VA-Gov: The field seeking the GOP nomination for Virginia’s governorship this year is getting more crowded: Sergio de la Peña, a former official in Trump’s Defense Department, just joined the race, while an aide to wealthy finance executive Glenn Youngkin says a formal campaign kickoff is coming this week. Already running are state Sen. Amanda Chase and Del. Kirk Cox. Republicans previously decided to select their nominee through a convention rather than a traditional primary.

House

● LA-02: New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno said Tuesday that she would not run in the special election to succeed her fellow Democrat, Cedric Richmond. The filing deadline for the March all-party primary is Jan. 22, so the field will be set before long.

● NJ-03: Republican Assemblyman Ryan Peters, who last month sounded like he might be gearing up to challenge sophomore Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, has decided not to seek re-election to the legislature this year. While such a move might normally presage a bid for higher office in a state like New Jersey, where the fact that state elections take place in odd-numbered years can pose an obstacle to running for Congress, it seems instead that Peters is giving up on politics for now.

Citing his obligations as “a father, husband, coach, Naval officer and volunteer,” Peters said in a statement that he feels compelled “to shift where and how I should spend the limited hours we have each day.” The New Jersey Globe added that Peters “has no plans to run” against Kim next year. Of course, that could always change, but for the moment at least, we’re counting Peters out.

Judges

● PA Supreme Court: Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but they could strengthen their grip further in November because Republican Justice Thomas Saylor will hit the mandatory retirement age of 75 this year, creating an open seat.

At least two Democrats and one Republican who currently sit on the Superior Court, the more prominent of the state’s two intermediate appellate courts, are already running for Saylor’s seat, while the AP reports that one GOP judge on Pennsylvania’s other appellate court, the Commonwealth Court, is considering. Primaries are scheduled for May 18, though state parties will convene before then to consider endorsements, which could clear the field on either side.

Democrats won a trio of races to flip the court in 2015, which opened the way for a string of decisions protecting voting rights, including a major ruling in 2018 that struck down the state’s GOP-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander. Those rulings have, however, ignited unending fury from Republicans, who have abandoned the compact at the heart of every democracy and ceased to regard the court as legitimate.

To strike back, they’ve proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively gerrymander the Supreme Court as well as the Superior and Commonwealth courts by electing judges via districts—that Republicans would craft—rather than statewide. There’s a good chance GOP lawmakers will place the measure on the ballot this year, possibly as soon as the May primary, though even if voters pass it, it would not impact elections this fall.

Mayors

● Boston, MA Mayor: Several more Bostonians have expressed interest in competing in this year’s contest to succeed Mayor Marty Walsh, who is Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of labor. Police Commissioner William Gross, who is the first Black person to hold this post, confirmed on Monday that he was considering after an unnamed source told WBZ he was “90%” likely to run.  

City Councilor Michael Flaherty also acknowledged his interest this week, though he said that Gross’ decision would factor into his own. Flaherty ran for this post back in 2009 against incumbent Thomas Menino and lost 57-43, which was the closest that Boston’s longest serving mayor ever came to losing. John Barros, the city’s chief of economic development, also said he was looking at another run. Barros competed in the crowded 2013 race to succeed Menino and took sixth place with 8% of the vote.

One big question looming over the race, though, is whether there would be a special election for the final months of Walsh’s term in addition to the regularly-scheduled contest this fall. Should Walsh resign by March 5, the city charter would require a special take place 120 to 140 days after his departure. However, City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who says he won’t run, is planning to introduce a proposal on Wednesday to waive this rule, though the legislature would need to sign off on any action by the City Council.

City Council President Kim Janey would become mayor following Walsh’s resignation, and she could benefit from a few extra months of incumbency if she decides to run in her own right.

● Fort Worth, TX Mayor: City Councilman Brian Byrd announced Monday that he would run in the May 1 nonpartisan race to succeed retiring Mayor Betsy Price, a fellow Republican.

Before Byrd launched his campaign, a 2016 clip surfaced of him urging the local school board to repeal a policy aimed at helping transgender youth that Byrd dismissed as “a destructive worldview.” Byrd defended himself this week, arguing, in the words of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Luke Ranker, that he had been “mostly concerned about elements of the policy that would bar parents and guardians from discussions about a student’s gender identity.” Byrd added, “There’s no place for discrimination in the city of Fort Worth anywhere.”

● St. Louis, MO Mayor: Show Me Victories, a Democratic pollster that says it is not working for anyone involved in the March 2 nonpartisan primary, is out with the first survey we’ve seen of this contest, which will be conducted using the “approval voting” system. Aldermanic President Lewis Reed takes first with 30%, while City Treasurer Tishaura Jones leads Alderman Cara Spencer 28-11 for the second spot in the April 6 general. Republican Andrew Jones, who is also the only non-Democratic candidate on the ballot, brings up the rear with 5%.

Approval voting allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, with up to one vote per candidate. However, Show Me Victories finds that 59% of respondents intend to select just one contender, while only 21% say they plan to back multiple candidates.

● St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: On Tuesday, former City Councilwoman Darden Rice kicked off her long-anticipated bid to succeed termed-out Mayor Rick Kriseman, a fellow Democrat. Rice would be the first woman to hold this post since Corinne Freeman left office in 1985, as well as the city’s first gay mayor.

Grab Bag

● Where Are They Now?: The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and several former top aides would soon be charged by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for their role in the Flint water crisis, which poisoned the majority-Black city with lead-tainted water and led to the outbreak of disease starting in 2014. The AP said it “could not determine the nature of the charges” and Nessel’s office declined to elaborate except to say that it would “share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so.”

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

Pres-by-CD: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to bring you our calculations of the 2020 election results for Illinois’ 18 congressional districts, where yet another surge in ancestrally Republican territory helped Democrats hang on to a seat in the Chicago exurbs that they flipped in 2018. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Two years ago, in one of the most colossal upsets of the midterm blue wave, Democrat Lauren Underwood, then a 32-year-old nurse who’d never sought office before, defeated Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren in Illinois’ 14th District, making her the youngest Black woman ever elected to Congress. Last year, she drew a far weaker opponent in perennial candidate Jim Oberweis, a state senator who was so despised by his own party that a major Republican super PAC tried to defeat him in the primary, but Underwood wound up winning by a closer-than-expected 51-49 margin.

That spread was similar to Biden’s 50-48 win, but that take represented Biden’s biggest district-level improvement in the state on Hillary Clinton’s performance four years ago, when she lost the 14th to Donald Trump 49-45. In a sign of just how much things have changed, this district’s predecessor, also numbered the 14th, was once held by child molester and former Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert before his resignation following the GOP wipeout in the 2006 elections.

Campaign Action

Biden also saw a sizable jump in the neighboring 6th District, one rung closer to the city of Chicago, which Democrats also picked up in 2018. That seat, however, is now all but out of reach for Republicans: Biden won it by a sizable 52-43 margin, after Clinton carried it 50-43. Democratic Rep. Sean Casten secured a second term with a similar 53-45 victory.

Democrats were less successful in the one Illinois district that outside groups targeted in 2020, the 13th in the central part of the state. While Trump’s margin declined slightly, from 50-44 to 51-47, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis defeated Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan 54-46, considerably better than his narrow 50.4-49.6 escape in their first matchup two years earlier.

Team Blue was lucky, however, to avoid a major humiliation in the 17th District in the northwestern corner of the state. That seat is occupied by former DCCC chair Cheri Bustos, who won re-election just 52-48 over an unheralded Republican foe, Esther Joy King, after deep-pocketed super PACs on both sides poured money into the race just before Election Day. But Bustos actually ran ahead of the top of the ticket, as Trump once again carried the 17th, this time by a 50-48 margin—a slight increase on his 47.4-46.6 win in 2016. With Biden flipping the 14th District, that leaves Bustos as the only member of Illinois’ delegation to represent a district carried by the opposite party’s presidential candidate.

Biden’s 57-41 statewide victory was very similar to Clinton’s 55-38 win, but his success in the suburbs was offset by a decline in Latino and Black areas of Chicago. The district that saw the biggest drop in the margin was the 4th, a majority-Latino seat represented by Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia, which Biden won 81-17 versus 82-13 for Clinton. Similar dips took place in the 1st and 7th, which are predominantly Black. Biden still won each of these districts in a romp, but his weaker performance mirrors a similar slump in Black and Latino neighborhoods in other states.

Senate

CA-Sen: Not that anyone was expecting otherwise, but Democrat Alex Padilla, who will fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat as soon as she’s sworn in as vice president, has confirmed that he’ll run for election to a full six-year term next year.

Governors

NJ-Gov: That was fast: Former New Jersey Republican Party chair Doug Steinhardt, who announced a bid for governor just a month ago—and left his post as head of the state GOP to do so—has now dropped out of the race. Steinhardt claimed that “unforeseen professional obligations have made it untenable for me to continue,” but the New Jersey Globe suggests that former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli’s consolidation of party support in several key counties was an important factor in Steinhardt’s departure.

Ciatterelli hasn’t completely cleared the field just yet, though. Former Somerset County Commissioner Brian Levin says he’s still considering a bid for the GOP nomination and will make up his mind this week. (Until the start of this year, the position of county commissioner had been known in New Jersey as “freeholder.” However, because of the term’s association with slavery, lawmakers passed a bill last year to replace it.)

NM-Gov, NM-01: It seems that Republican Mark Ronchetti, whose name surfaced as a possible candidate for governor or Congress following his closer-than-expected 52-46 loss in last year’s Senate race, has given up the campaign trail for the TV studio. Joe Monahan reports that Ronchetti, who’d been a meteorologist for an Albuquerque news station before his Senate bid, returned to his old job on Monday, delivering the weather forecast with little fanfare. While many other TV news personalities have run for office before, we can’t recall one who’s later gone back to broadcasting. If you can think of someone, let us know!

VA-Gov: The field seeking the GOP nomination for Virginia’s governorship this year is getting more crowded: Sergio de la Peña, a former official in Trump’s Defense Department, just joined the race, while an aide to wealthy finance executive Glenn Youngkin says a formal campaign kickoff is coming this week. Already running are state Sen. Amanda Chase and Del. Kirk Cox. Republicans previously decided to select their nominee through a convention rather than a traditional primary.

House

LA-02: New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno said Tuesday that she would not run in the special election to succeed her fellow Democrat, Cedric Richmond. The filing deadline for the March all-party primary is Jan. 22, so the field will be set before long.

NJ-03: Republican Assemblyman Ryan Peters, who last month sounded like he might be gearing up to challenge sophomore Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, has decided not to seek re-election to the legislature this year. While such a move might normally presage a bid for higher office in a state like New Jersey, where the fact that state elections take place in odd-numbered years can pose an obstacle to running for Congress, it seems instead that Peters is giving up on politics for now.

Citing his obligations as “a father, husband, coach, Naval officer and volunteer,” Peters said in a statement that he feels compelled “to shift where and how I should spend the limited hours we have each day.” The New Jersey Globe added that Peters “has no plans to run” against Kim next year. Of course, that could always change, but for the moment at least, we’re counting Peters out.

Judges

PA Supreme Court: Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but they could strengthen their grip further in November because Republican Justice Thomas Saylor will hit the mandatory retirement age of 75 this year, creating an open seat.

At least two Democrats and one Republican who currently sit on the Superior Court, the more prominent of the state’s two intermediate appellate courts, are already running for Saylor’s seat, while the AP reports that one GOP judge on Pennsylvania’s other appellate court, the Commonwealth Court, is considering. Primaries are scheduled for May 18, though state parties will convene before then to consider endorsements, which could clear the field on either side.

Democrats won a trio of races to flip the court in 2015, which opened the way for a string of decisions protecting voting rights, including a major ruling in 2018 that struck down the state’s GOP-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander. Those rulings have, however, ignited unending fury from Republicans, who have abandoned the compact at the heart of every democracy and ceased to regard the court as legitimate.

To strike back, they’ve proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively gerrymander the Supreme Court as well as the Superior and Commonwealth courts by electing judges via districts—that Republicans would craft—rather than statewide. There’s a good chance GOP lawmakers will place the measure on the ballot this year, possibly as soon as the May primary, though even if voters pass it, it would not impact elections this fall.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: Several more Bostonians have expressed interest in competing in this year’s contest to succeed Mayor Marty Walsh, who is Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of labor. Police Commissioner William Gross, who is the first Black person to hold this post, confirmed on Monday that he was considering after an unnamed source told WBZ he was “90%” likely to run.  

City Councilor Michael Flaherty also acknowledged his interest this week, though he said that Gross’ decision would factor into his own. Flaherty ran for this post back in 2009 against incumbent Thomas Menino and lost 57-43, which was the closest that Boston’s longest serving mayor ever came to losing. John Barros, the city’s chief of economic development, also said he was looking at another run. Barros competed in the crowded 2013 race to succeed Menino and took sixth place with 8% of the vote.

One big question looming over the race, though, is whether there would be a special election for the final months of Walsh’s term in addition to the regularly-scheduled contest this fall. Should Walsh resign by March 5, the city charter would require a special take place 120 to 140 days after his departure. However, City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who says he won’t run, is planning to introduce a proposal on Wednesday to waive this rule, though the legislature would need to sign off on any action by the City Council.

City Council President Kim Janey would become mayor following Walsh’s resignation, and she could benefit from a few extra months of incumbency if she decides to run in her own right.

Fort Worth, TX Mayor: City Councilman Brian Byrd announced Monday that he would run in the May 1 nonpartisan race to succeed retiring Mayor Betsy Price, a fellow Republican.

Before Byrd launched his campaign, a 2016 clip surfaced of him urging the local school board to repeal a policy aimed at helping transgender youth that Byrd dismissed as “a destructive worldview.” Byrd defended himself this week, arguing, in the words of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Luke Ranker, that he had been “mostly concerned about elements of the policy that would bar parents and guardians from discussions about a student’s gender identity.” Byrd added, “There’s no place for discrimination in the city of Fort Worth anywhere.”

St. Louis, MO Mayor: Show Me Victories, a Democratic pollster that says it is not working for anyone involved in the March 2 nonpartisan primary, is out with the first survey we’ve seen of this contest, which will be conducted using the “approval voting” system. Aldermanic President Lewis Reed takes first with 30%, while City Treasurer Tishaura Jones leads Alderman Cara Spencer 28-11 for the second spot in the April 6 general. Republican Andrew Jones, who is also the only non-Democratic candidate on the ballot, brings up the rear with 5%.

Approval voting allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, with up to one vote per candidate. However, Show Me Victories finds that 59% of respondents intend to select just one contender, while only 21% say they plan to back multiple candidates.

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: On Tuesday, former City Councilwoman Darden Rice kicked off her long-anticipated bid to succeed termed-out Mayor Rick Kriseman, a fellow Democrat. Rice would be the first woman to hold this post since Corinne Freeman left office in 1985, as well as the city’s first gay mayor.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and several former top aides would soon be charged by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for their role in the Flint water crisis, which poisoned the majority-Black city with lead-tainted water and led to the outbreak of disease starting in 2014. The AP said it “could not determine the nature of the charges” and Nessel’s office declined to elaborate except to say that it would “share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so.”

Daily Kos