Morning Digest: With Devin Nunes bailing, California could see some major special election weirdness


One of those two seats, labeled “FRESNOTULARE” (the draft maps don’t use numbers), would have voted for Joe Biden by a 53-45 margin, making it inhospitable for almost any Republican, but most especially a high-profile Trump sycophant like Nunes. The other, called “FRESNO-KERN,” might appear much more attractive to Nunes, since it would have backed Trump 58-40. The problem with this district, though, is that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would be all but certain to run here—which may explain why Nunes rather improbably decided he’d rather run Trump’s new social media company than chair the Ways and Means Committee, which he’d have been in line to do if Republicans take back the House next year.

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Of course, this proposal could change substantially before the commission adopts a final plan, so Nunes might have just made a huge mistake. (Actually, we know he did: Everyone who’s worked for Donald Trump has wound up either miserable or indicted.) But if this map or something like it becomes law, candidates would have to woo one electorate that backed Trump by 6 points and another that supported Biden by almost 9—both at the same time.

And when might that be exactly? According to the Los Angeles Times, a special election “will likely be held in April,” which means that a probable runoff—required if no one wins a majority—would take place on the same day as the state’s regular June primary. The Times also rattles off a long list of Republicans who could potentially run, including state Sens. Shannon Grove and Andreas Borgeas; Assemblymen Devon Mathis and Jim Patterson; Fresno County Supervisors Nathan Magsig and Steve Brandau; and Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld.

A few Democrats were already running against Nunes before he bailed, including Marine veteran Eric Garcia and financial advisor Phil Arballo, who lost to Nunes 54-46 last year. State Sen. Melissa Hurtado also signaled her interest, though she added, “Let’s see what redistricting lines look like first?!” Her point is well-taken.


MD Redistricting: A committee in Maryland’s Democratic-run House has voted along party lines to approve a new congressional map that would target Republican Rep. Andy Harris by making the state’s 1st Congressional District bluer, though not nearly as blue as it could be.

SC Redistricting: South Carolina’s Republican-run state Senate almost unanimously adopted a new map for its own chamber on Tuesday, with just two Democrats voting against. A day earlier, the state House, which is also controlled by Republicans, likewise passed a map for itself, with many Democrats voting in favor. Congressional redistricting, however, may not move forward until January.


NC-Sen: The Club for Growth, which has been spending heavily to help Rep. Ted Budd win the GOP nomination for North Carolina’s open Senate race, is running yet another ad attacking former Gov. Pat McCrory as an apostate. The spot lambastes McCrory for calling Mitt Romney “a man of incredible courage” (teeny text in the corner of the screen notes the remarks are from 2012, when Romney was the GOP’s presidential nominee) and for refusing to embrace the Big Lie.

Meanwhile, the state AFL-CIO has endorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s campaign for the Democratic nod.

NH-Sen: Republican businessman Bill Binnie, who’d reportedly been looking at a bid against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, has now confirmed his interest and says he’ll “make a decision in the next week or two,” with “an announcement soon after the new year.” Binnie previously ran for Senate in 2010 after Republican Judd Gregg retired and self-funded almost $7 million, but he finished third in the GOP primary with just 14% of the vote. (The eventual winner, Kelly Ayotte, went on to lose to Hassan in 2016.)


AL-Gov: Republican megadonor Lynda Blanchard dropped her floundering bid for Senate and entered Alabama’s race for governor on Tuesday, a day after businessman Tim James joined the contest. The twin moves set up a three-way primary as Gov. Kay Ivey seeks a second full term next year, though under state law, a runoff is required if no one secures a majority.

Blanchard, a wealthy former ambassador to Slovenia under Donald Trump, had spent more than $5 million of her own money pursuing the state’s open Senate seat since February, but recent polls nevertheless showed her mired in the low single digits. She also failed to secure Trump’s support, which instead went to Rep. Mo Brooks, one of the frontrunners.

But Trump was apparently more encouraging of a campaign against Ivey, whom he reportedly blames for the cancellation of a July rally he intended to hold in Mobile. Blanchard traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago lair in October, and the Wall Street Journal reported last month that Trump suggested he might offer his endorsement if Blanchard switched races—though that endorsement has not yet been forthcoming.

It’s not really clear what Blanchard’s professed beef with Ivey is: In her kickoff, she referenced “the go-along, get-along so-called conservatives who have run things in Montgomery way too long.” She also rebranded herself as “Lindy Blanchard” on campaign signs and her Twitter account, though not her website (yet?), which is still

As for James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, he outlined a litany of decisions he’s displeased with, including an increase to the state’s gas tax, a law authorizing the use of medical marijuana, and a failed push to legalize casinos. He also hates mask and vaccine mandates (he even says he’s not vaccinated against COVID) and wants to ban same-sex marriage.

But it was a press conference in September that garnered him even more attention than his strange launch this week (which seemed to consist of a handful media interviews), when he railed against the “beast with three heads,” which he said were critical race theory, transgender rights, and yoga in public schools. Yes, yoga: In May, Ivey signed a bill that removed a nearly three-decade ban on yoga in schools. For most people, it’s a form of exercise. For James, it’s “a cancer, metastasizing over time infecting the minds of children.”

Ivey’s not wasting any time: Her campaign already went up with its first TV ads during Saturday’s SEC championship game won by Alabama over Georgia. In the spot, Ivey hits the usual themes, boasting of banning critical race theory in schools and siding with Trump “to ensure no election here can ever be stolen.”

But is Ivey actually vulnerable? The only poll of the race, taken in August, found her leading James 42-4, with 34% undecided. Blanchard wasn’t included in that questionnaire, though state Auditor Jim Zeigler, who’s talked about a bid, took 9%. Those aren’t great numbers for an incumbent, but they’re not catastrophic either, and in any event, it’s only one poll. We’ll have to wait for new numbers to get a better sense, especially if and when Trump does finally weigh in.

GA-Gov: Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump has endorsed former Sen. David Perdue in his freshly launched primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp, one of Trump’s top targets in his never-ending crusade to destroy those who displease him.

NY-Gov: A new Siena College poll finds Gov. Kathy Hochul leading the way in next year’s Democratic primary with 36% of the vote, followed by state Attorney General Tish James with 18, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at 10, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (who hasn’t actually announced a bid yet) and Rep. Tom Suozzi both at 6, and 24% undecided. An October Siena poll that didn’t include Suozzi had Hochul up on James by a similar 39-20 margin.

PA-Gov: Republican state Sen. Dan Laughlin, who said he’d run for governor in September, has had a change of heart and said he would instead endorse businessman Dave White. White also kicked off a reported $500,000 ad buy with a minute-long spot featuring him delivering a shouty speech filled mostly with platitudes.


CA-14: Retiring Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier endorsed Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, who worked for her when she served in the state Senate, as her preferred successor on Monday.

CO-08: Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann entered the race for Colorado’s swingy new 8th Congressional District on Tuesday, making her the third notable Republican in the race along with state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer and Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine.

FL-20: Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, who still hasn’t conceded after losing last month’s special election primary by five votes, is reportedly planning to run again next year and has filed paperwork with the FEC to do so. (He’s also filed a bonkers lawsuit to overturn the results, saying that the winner, businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, tried to bribe voters … by proposing $1,000 monthly payments to most adults as a universal basic income.)

Meanwhile, Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, who took third place, says she is “more than likely” to run again but is “waiting to see what the districts look like.” (Right now, several different proposed maps are circulating in the legislature.) However, state Rep. Bobby DuBose, who finished a distant fifth, won’t try a second time. As an aside, all of the also-rans who currently hold office will have to resign their posts as of Jan. 11, the date of the special election, under Florida’s “resign-to-run” law.

IL-11: Former Trump official Catalina Lauf, who says she raised $1 million primarying GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the old 16th District, said this week that she’s switching to the new 11th, where she’ll seek to take on Democratic Rep. Bill Foster. Kinzinger announced his retirement in October after Democrats all but dismantled his seat in redistricting, leaving him without a plausible district to run in. But while the 11th got redder, it still won’t be particularly friendly to Lauf: It would have voted for Joe Biden by a 57-41 margin, according to Dave’s Redistricting App, compared to 62-36 under the old lines.

IL-13: The Illinois Federation of Teachers, which represents 103,000 member statewide, has endorsed former Obama official Nikki Budzinski in the Democratic primary for the state’s open 13th Congressional District.

NC-13: Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla has entered the GOP primary for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, apparently undeterred by Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s strange decision to seek re-election there. However, Cawthorn only represents 12% of the new 13th—about 87,000 people—so despite his national profile, he doesn’t start with a large base of voters who’ve cast ballots for him before. Huntersville, meanwhile, is a fast-growing suburb of Charlotte with a population of 61,000.

TX-01: Republican state Rep. Matt Schaefer, who’d reportedly been considering a bid for Texas’ open 1st Congressional District, has instead announced that he’ll seek re-election.

TX-28: EMILY’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women, has endorsed attorney Jessica Cisneros, who is once again seeking to unseat Rep. Henry Cuellar in next year’s primary. In September, Cuellar was the lone House Democrat to vote against a bill to codify abortion rights into law following the passage of a Texas law that virtually bans abortion.



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