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Morning Digest: Outside spending intensifies ahead of all-Democratic House race in Louisiana

Both Carter and Peterson are campaigning as ardent Democrats, but Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, is arguing she’s the more liberal of the two. Notably, while Peterson has called for a Green New Deal, Carter merely characterized it as “a good blueprint” that won’t be in place for a long time and that he doesn’t support. Carter, for his part, has insisted he’d have a far easier time working with Republicans than Peterson, who is a former chair of the state Democratic Party.

Campaign Action

Carter, as the EMILY ad points out, does indeed have some prominent Republican backers, including Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng. Those GOP supporters could be an asset to Carter if they can help him appeal to the district’s bloc of Republican voters, but only if they don’t cost him Democratic support; EMILY is hoping that its advertising will make it tough for Carter to strike that balance.

Both contenders also have some high-profile local Democrats in their corner. Carter is backed by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to join the Biden administration, as well as East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams, who was elected last year on a platform emphasizing criminal justice reform. Peterson, for her part, has the support of Gary Chambers, a vocal progressive who took 21% in the first round in March, plus New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Carter is also getting some help from American Jobs and Growth PAC, a conservative group that until now has never supported any Democrats. So far the PAC has reported deploying just $21,000, however, and with early voting already underway, it doesn’t have much time left to ramp up its spending if it wants to make an impact.

1Q Fundraising

SC-Gov: Henry McMaster (R-inc): $373,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

VA-Gov: Glenn Youngkin (R): $7.5 million raised (note: Youngkin’s campaign would not tell Politico how much of that haul came from self-funding)

NC-05: Virginia Foxx (R-inc): $290,000 raised, $2.48 million cash-on-hand

NV-03: Susie Lee (D-inc): $600,000 raised, $500,000 cash-on-hand

NY-22: Claudia Tenney (R-inc): $425,000 raised, $500,000 cash-on-hand

RI-01: David Cicilline (D-inc): $650,000 raised

WA-08: Kim Schrier (D-inc): $600,000 raised, $2.1 million cash-on-hand

WI-08: Mike Gallagher (R-inc): $830,000 raised, $1.9 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AK-Sen: 2020 Democratic nominee Al Gross, who identifies as an independent, tells Inside Elections that he’s considering taking on Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski next year. Gross ran for Alaska’s other U.S. Senate seat last year against Republican Dan Sullivan and outraised him $19 million to $10 million. Major outside groups on both sides also spent heavily here, but Sullivan ended up running ahead of Donald Trump’s 53-43 showing and prevailed 54-41.

GA-Sen: The elusive Herschel Walker has finally spoken: The former college and NFL star, long a target of Trump-fueled ardor, said in an interview Sunday on Fox Business that he’s “really considering” a bid for Senate next year but cautioned, “I want to take my time” to make a decision. Added Walker, “[J]ust stay tuned. And I tell you what, it’s going to be exciting.”

Just days ago, however, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Walker hadn’t “returned the calls of even some senior Republican officials” who’d been trying to gauge the sincerity of his interest, and it’s not clear whether that’s changed. Walker, a Texas resident, also doesn’t appear to have addressed whether he plans to move back to Georgia.

Meanwhile, Republicans finally got their first notable candidate (and one who actually lives in Georgia) when businessman Kelvin King announced a campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock on Monday. King is an Air Force veteran and prominent Trump backer, but many bigger names (even setting Walker aside) are still weighing the race on the GOP side.

KY-Sen: Former Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker, who expressed interest in a second Senate bid in February, announced on Monday that he is forming an exploratory committee for a possible run against Republican Sen. Rand Paul. Last year, Booker very nearly upset the vastly better-funded (and DSCC-endorsed) Amy McGrath in the Democratic primary, losing the nomination by an unexpectedly tight 44-42 margin. McGrath went on to lose to Republican Mitch McConnell, at the time the majority leader of the Senate, 58-38.

NC-Sen: Former Gov. Pat McCrory says he will announce Wednesday whether he’ll seek the Republican nomination for North Carolina’s open Senate seat, and unnamed “people familiar with his plans” tell Politico they expect him to run. That would be a big departure from 2019 when McCrory, who became a conservative radio host following his 2016 re-election loss, also teased a “big announcement” for his listeners. Plenty of observers wondered if McCrory was going to launch a rematch against Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but he instead launched … a podcast.

This time, though, McCrory seems serious about putting his name on the ballot. Politico reports that a Public Opinion Strategies survey for the former governor gives him a hefty 48-13 lead in a hypothetical Republican primary against former Rep. Mark Walker, who is the only notable GOP candidate already running, while Rep. Ted Budd takes third with 9%. The poll did not include Lara Trump, who has expressed interest in relocating to her home state to seek this office.

SC-Sen: State Rep. Krystle Matthews has launched a challenge to Republican Sen. Tim Scott, giving Democrats their first notable candidate. Matthews (who at the time went by the surname Simmons) ousted an incumbent Republican legislator in 2018 in a district that had narrowly gone for Donald Trump two years earlier. Scott has said that next year’s race would be his last.

Governors

GA-Gov: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-obsessed Democrat-turned-Republican who’s been considering a challenge to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, now promises he’ll be “sharing my plans for the state” on Friday.

NM-Gov, NM-01: Republican-turned-independent Aubrey Dunn is currently running in the June 1 special election for the House in what he acknowledges is a “long-shot race,” and the former state land commissioner may still cause trouble next year for his old party. Dunn told the Santa Fe New Mexican, “If I lose, I might run for governor as an independent.”

NY-Gov: Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who was reported to be eyeing a bid for governor, has now spoken publicly on the topic, telling the Wall Street Journal, “I’ve run for governor in the past, and I think I’d be a good governor.” His fellow New Yorkers didn’t quite agree: In 2006, Suozzi ran in the Democratic primary for governor with the vociferous backing of Home Depot founder Ken Langone, who sought payback against then-state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for his crusade to uproot Wall Street corruption. The gambit utterly failed, as Spitzer crushed Suozzi 82-18.

In a George Costanza-esque bit of self-awareness, though, Suozzi also told the Journal, “Whenever I’ve tried to plan ahead, it never worked out ever. And the things I didn’t plan are the things I ended up being successful at.”

VA-Gov: Former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman has confirmed a recent New York Times report that he’s still thinking about a bid for governor as an independent and says that if he decides to go for it, he’ll make an announcement on June 7, which is a day before the Democratic primary. Republicans, as Digest readers well know, are not holding a primary but will instead pick a nominee at a May 8 “unassembled convention” at 37 different sites that definitely won’t be a balagan.

House

CA-25: Politico mentions former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides as a possible Democratic opponent for Republican Rep. Mike Garcia, though there’s no word on his interest. The publication reported last cycle that Whitesides was thinking about entering the 2020 special election that Garcia ultimately won, but he never went forward with a bid.

CA-45: Politico reports that Scott Baugh, the former chair of the Orange County Republican Party, is considering running for Congress somewhere, and it mentions Democratic Rep. Katie Porter as a possible foe for him. Porter is the only Democrat who represents a competitive Orange County seat under the current map, though things could change after California’s independent redistricting commission redraws the boundaries for 2022.

Baugh has coveted a seat in the House for some time, though his previous efforts haven’t worked out well. In 2016, Baugh began raising money for a bid in the 48th District, which was represented by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher at the time. That wasn’t a problem initially, as Rohrabacher said that his friend wasn’t campaigning against him and was instead “just laying the foundation for a race for Congress when I am no longer a member … but I don’t know when that’s going to be.”

Baugh himself initially seemed to confirm this, but things got tense when the Orange County Register asked if he might run against Rohrabacher if the incumbent didn’t retire and Baugh responded that he wasn’t “going to engage in speculation.” Rohrabacher was pissed, and he publicly claimed that his longtime pal had “represented to me and many of my supporters/donors that he would never run against me and was only raising money for when I retire.” Rohrabacher continued, “Baugh now seems to be evolving out of that commitment,” and told him to return the donations.

However, while Baugh stopped raising money, he kept the cash he’d brought in and ended up using it for his bid against Rohrabacher in 2018. Baugh came very close to advancing to a general election against his former friend and locking Democrats out, but it was Democrat Harley Rouda who advanced instead.

Rouda went on to unseat Rohrabacher that fall, and Baugh soon began laying the groundwork for a second bid. However, while Baugh set up a new fundraising committee, he surprised observers by announcing he would stay out of the race. Fellow Republican Michelle Steel ended up beating Rouda in 2020, so it makes sense that Baugh is now setting his sights on a different Orange County district.

FL-20: We recently noted that Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief filed FEC paperwork back in early December for a Democratic primary bid against Rep. Alcee Hastings, and we’ve since learned that she also announced her campaign months before the congressman’s death last week.

Sharief put out a press release days before the end of 2020 identifying her as a congressional candidate, and the Florida Sun-Sentinal’s Anthony Man writes that she’s spent the ensuing time “raising money, holding Zoom video conferences with supporters, and campaigning door to door.” Sharief, who would be the first Muslim to represent Florida in Congress, also noted she was a candidate in a tweet posted over the weekend, so it’s safe to say she plans to run in the unscheduled special to succeed Hastings.

As we’ve noted before, Sharief is a longtime intra-party rival of Hastings. In 2014, Hastings backed a primary challenge to Sharief, who responded, “Obviously my working relationship with Alcee is not what I thought it was.” Sharief in turn supported Hastings’ primary opponent, but both incumbents ultimately won easily that year.

Man mentions several other Democrats who could run for this safely blue seat, including a few names we hadn’t heard before: state Rep. Bobby DuBose; Broward County School Board member Rosalind Osgood; and former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who ran an aborted 2016 campaign for the 18th District.

Man writes that there’s also speculation that the late congressman’s son and namesake, Alcee “Jody” Hastings II, could campaign here. Man says that the younger Hastings has “been at his father’s side at some events over the years,” but that he “hasn’t been politically active.”

NC-11: Pastor Eric Gash, who previously played football for the University of North Carolina, announced over the weekend that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Gash joins a primary that includes Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara; the current version of this western North Carolina seat backed Donald Trump 55-43.

NE-02: Democrats are searching for a fresh challenger to third-term Rep. Don Bacon, who now sits in one of the bluest districts held by a Republican after two difficult campaigns in a row, and some names are starting to emerge.

Precious McKesson, who served as Joe Biden’s lone elector from Nebraska last year thanks to his 52-46 victory in the 2nd Congressional District, says she’s considering a bid; she’d be the first Black person to represent the state in the House. The Omaha World-Herald’s Paul Hammel also reports that state Sen. Tony Vargas is looking at the race, though he did not respond to the paper’s queries. Vargas, who is of Peruvian descent, would be Nebraska’s first Latino representative.

A number of other potential candidates are saying “no,” however. Most notably, Hammel says that activist Kara Eastman, who lost bids against Bacon in both 2018 and 2020, won’t try a third time, though there’s no quote from her. He also reports that state Sen. Megan Hunt, Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing Jr., Nebraska Public Service Commissioner Crystal Rhoades, and former NFL quarterback and sports broadcaster Sage Rosenfels won’t join the race either.

NM-01: EMILY’s List, a major player in Democratic politics that is devoted to electing pro-choice Democratic women, has endorsed state Rep. Melanie Stansbury in the June 1 special election for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.

VA-02: Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans announced Monday that she would challenge Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a fellow Navy veteran, in this competitive seat in the Hampton Roads area. Virginia’s 2nd District, which includes all of Virginia Beach as well as part of nearby Norfolk, swung from 49-45 Trump to 51-47 Biden; Luria won her second term that year by a larger 52-46 in her rematch with scandal-plagued former Rep. Scott Taylor.

Kiggans herself has also won on tough turf before. In 2019, she campaigned for an open GOP-held state Senate seat in Virginia Beach that had supported Hillary Clinton 47.1-46.9 before going for Democrat Ralph Northam by a wide 53-45 in the following year’s gubernatorial race. The GOP ended up losing both chambers of the legislature that evening, but Kiggans still prevailed 50.4-49.5 against Democratic Del. Cheryl Turpin.

House: Politico’s Ally Mutnick takes a look at a number of Republican military veterans who are or could run for Democratic-held seats this cycle, and she includes some names we hadn’t heard about for 2022:

CA-??: Oceanside City Council member Christopher Rodriguez, a Marine veteran, is reportedly thinking about campaigning for a seat in Southern California. Oceanside is located in the current version of the 49th District, which is held by Democratic Rep. Mike Levin.

FL-07: Army Bronze Star recipient Cory Mills has announced a run against Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who is considering a bid of her own against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

IA-03: State Sen. Zach Nunn, an Air Force veteran who eyed this seat last cycle, is reportedly thinking about taking on Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne. Axne, for her part, has not ruled out running for governor or Senate.

IL-17: Mutnick writes 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, an Army reservist who held Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos to a 52-48 victory, is “gearing up for another run.”

KS-03: State Rep. Chris Croft, a retired Army colonel, is reportedly considering taking on Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids.

NJ-??: Marine veteran Nick De Gregorio is reportedly mulling a bid somewhere in “northern New Jersey.”

Mutnick adds that national Republicans are trying to again recruit several veterans who lost against Democratic incumbents in 2020 including Anna Paulina Luna (FL-13), Tyler Kistner (MN-02), Alek Skarlatos (OR-04), and Wesley Hunt (TX-07).

Legislatures

Special Elections: There are special elections in Connecticut and New Hampshire on tap for Tuesday:

CT-HD-112: This Republican seat that covers the town of Monroe and a sliver of Newtown became vacant when former Rep. J.P. Sredzinski resigned earlier this year. Candidates are selected by parties in Connecticut special elections and Democrats tapped Monroe Board of Education member Nick Kapoor, while the GOP nominated Monroe Town Council member Tony Scott. Former Newtown Selectmen Bill Furrier is also in the running as an independent candidate.

This seat backed Donald Trump 54-42 in 2016 and Mitt Romney 55-44 in 2012. This is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 96-53.

NH-HD-Hillsborough 21: This seat in this multi-member Merrimack-area district became vacant after former Rep. Dick Hinch died late last year. Former state Rep. Wendy Thomas, a Democrat who lost her bid for a second term last year, is taking on Merrimack Town Councilman Bill Boyd, a Republican, while independent candidate Stephen Hollenberg is also running.

This race has attracted attention from observers outside of the Granite State: Boyd has the backing of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, while the women’s reproductive rights advocacy group EMILY’s List has donated to Thomas’ campaign.  

This light red district that backed Trump 50-44 in 2016 and Romney 52-46 usually has eight members, and Team Red currently has a 6-1 advantage. Overall, Republicans control this chamber 212-186 with this and one other seat vacant.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Attorney Maya Wiley earned an endorsement Friday from Rep. Yvette Clarke, who represents part of Brooklyn, ahead of the June instant-runoff Democratic primary.

Omaha, NE Mayor: Final results are in from last week’s nonpartisan primary, and developer RJ Neary edged out his fellow Democrat, public health official Jasmine Harris, 16-14 for the second spot in the May 11 general election. Republican Mayor Jean Stothert took first with 57%, which puts her in a strong position ahead of the second round. 

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