The 3rd District is also open, for an unusual reason: Last year, Democrat Thomas Kilbride became the first Supreme Court justice to lose a retention election in Illinois history after he failed to win the 60% supermajority he needed to earn another 10-year term.
As a result of that loss, state law requires a new election be held at the next available opportunity—in this case, Nov. 2022. Unlike a retention election, where voters simply vote “yes” or “no” on keeping an incumbent in office, this race will be a traditional partisan affair between multiple candidates, hence the possibility of a LaHood candidacy. Kilbride’s court-appointed replacement, Democrat Robert Carter, has said he won’t run, so Democrats will need to find a new candidate of their own, too.
The 3rd District will be a major battleground because if Republicans flip it while holding a seat in the neighboring 2nd District, they’ll also flip control of the court, which Democrats control 4-3. The 3rd is a particularly ripe GOP target because it voted for Donald Trump 51-47 last year, and in a typical midterm, that sort of lean would likely create a serious headwind for Democrats. That same factor should help Republicans hang on to the 2nd District, which backed Joe Biden 55-43, especially since Justice Michael Burke is seeking re-election.
(There are also retention elections in the 1st and 4th Districts, which are respectively held by a Democrat and a Republican, but the incumbents should both be heavily favored.)
The ultimate stakes, however, are even higher. Five years ago, as Stephen Wolf explains in a new piece, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a Republican-backed ballot initiative on redistricting that would have prioritized compact districts over fair outcomes. Maps drawn to reflect these priorities would have locked in an unwarranted advantage for the GOP thanks to a decades-long history of racist redlining and white flight segregation in Chicago that has left voters of color heavily concentrated in urban areas.
A Republican-run court could, however, greenlight such an initiative, which in turn could lead to perverse outcomes, such as Democrats winning fewer seats than Republicans in Congress despite winning more votes in statewide races, as they almost always do in solidly blue Illinois. The same outcome could even happen in the state House and Senate, handing Republicans control of the legislature.
Undergirding worries about potential congressional and legislative maps is a very problematic map for the Supreme Court itself. Illinois is one of just four states that elects the members of its top court by district rather than statewide, using a map that hasn’t been redrawn in over half a century. That’s led to extreme malapportionment, with the rural 4th and 5th Districts in the conservative southern part of the state now home to fewer people combined than the 2nd District, which is based in the Democratic-leaning Chicago suburbs.
Republicans have benefitted from this state of affairs over the past decade, which federal jurisprudence doesn’t view as a problem because the courts say judicial districts don’t have to have equal population, the thinking being that judges aren’t representative officials. But just because lawmakers don’t have to redraw the court’s map doesn’t mean they can’t do so. In fact, they’re empowered to do just that, and it’s possible they will: Reporter Dan Vock says there have been reports “that new judicial maps are in the works,” though he adds he’s been unable to confirm them yet.
Democrats in the legislature may be eager to come up with new lines that shore up their majority on the Supreme Court, but doing so would also correct a serious imbalance that boosts one part of the state over another for no justifiable reason. And that, in the end, could leave LaHood out in the cold, both on the congressional front and the judicial.
● NH-Sen: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu offered some very weird comments recently when asked on a radio show whether he’d spoken with Mitch McConnell about running for Senate, first saying he hadn’t talked to McConnell, then immediately backtracking and admitting he had:
I have not spoken with Mitch McConnell about this issue. I’ve spoken with him on anoth—no, I take that back. I did speak to Mitch. I’m sorry, no, I did speak to Mitch McConnell. I’ve spoken to a bunch of senators, frankly, I’ve spoken to a bunch of governors. They come and go.
They come and go, we guess, like memories of conversations with Senate minority leaders: Sununu’s fuzziness came two days after Politico reported that McConnell had “personally lobbied” the governor about challenging Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. In late February, Sununu said he’d “take a look” at the race in “six, seven months,” so if he’s still sticking to that timeline, that means no answer until the end of the summer at the soonest.
● OH-Gov, OH-Sen: After briefly flirting with a Senate campaign after Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced his retirement earlier this year, former GOP Rep. Jim Renacci sounds like it’s governor or bust. Referring to his failed 2018 run against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, Renacci said in new remarks to Fox that “my biggest mistake and my biggest regret was that I jumped into a Senate race because people wanted me to jump in, when I was fully prepared and running for governor.”
That cycle, after he’d already spent nearly a full year on the trail seeking the open governorship, Renacci switched over to the Senate contest following fellow Republican Josh Mandel’s departure from the race. Much to his chagrin, Renacci lost his bid, while Mike DeWine, who easily secured the GOP nomination for governor, won his. Now Renacci is looking for some sort of indirect vengeance, reiterating that he’s still considering a challenge to DeWine, whom he’s continued to trash for his aggressive efforts to protect Ohio from the coronavirus pandemic.
Renacci also claims that a poll he commissioned shows him leading DeWine, but he hasn’t released all the details we need for inclusion in the Digest, nor has he offered a timetable for making a decision.
● PA-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has released a new poll of a hypothetical Democratic primary for Senate that shows him with a wide lead over all his rivals, actual and potential. The survey, conducted by Data for Progress, finds Fetterman taking 40%, while Rep. Conor Lamb, who is considering the race but hasn’t launched a bid yet, is in second with 21. They’re followed by state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta at 9, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan at 8, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh at 5, and state Sen. Sharif Street at 2, leaving just 14% undecided. Like Lamb, Houlahan and Street are still exploring the race, while Kenyatta and Arkoosh are already running.
● MI-Gov: Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon just joined the GOP primary for governor, but whether she rates as the first notable Republican candidate in the race is hard to say: She has no Wikipedia page, and her Twitter following numbers less than 8,000.
● NM-Gov: New Mexico reporter Joe Monahan says that retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti is considering a bid against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham next year. Zanetti unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod for lieutenant governor all the way back in 1994, then ran an abortive campaign for governor in 2009, dropping out after just a few months.
● PA-Gov: Republican state Rep. Doug Mastriano, whose resignation Democrats have called for due to his role in instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for this open seat, and now he’s publicly considering a bid. He also claims he would have the backing of the most powerful man in Republican politics if he were to take the plunge: In a radio interview, Mastriano said he met with Donald Trump regarding an endorsement and even says Trump encouraged him to run.
At first, an unnamed Trump aide declined to comment on Mastriano’s claims to the Associated Press, though another Trump staffer (or possibly the same one) later confirmed to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Jonathan Tamari that a meeting between the two men had occurred. However, this aide made clear that Trump has not issued an endorsement.
Regardless, Mastriano has been attempting to position himself as the Keystone State’s Trumpiest politician for a while now: The Associated Press notes that he claims to have met with Trump 15 times (including an Oval Office get-together after the election last year during which he received a positive COVID test during the meeting). If Mastriano does get in, he’ll have stiff competition for Trump’s backing, as another Trump favorite, former Rep. (and 2018 Senate nominee) Lou Barletta, has already entered the race.
● AZ-02: Democratic state Rep. Daniel Hernandez has kicked off a bid for this Tucson-area open seat. Hernandez is the third notable Democrat to launch a bid, following state Sen. Kirsten Engel and state Rep. Randy Friese.
Before getting elected to the state House in 2016, Hernandez was an intern for former Rep. Gabby Giffords and assisted her immediatley after she was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting at a constituent event she was hosting outside of a supermarket. Hernandez, just 20 at the time, stanched Giffords’ bleeding with his bare hands and was credited with saving her life.
Notably, Hernandez is the second person connected to that shooting who is vying for this seat: Friese was the trauma surgeon who attended to Giffords upon her arrival at the hospital.
● CA-48: While Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda made it clear he was very interested in a rematch while conceding to Republican Michelle Steel following his narrow loss last year, he never formally announced a campaign, and perhaps he never will. In a new piece on the impact of redistricting on next year’s elections, Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux characterizes Rouda as “running again,” a characterization Rouda affirms in his own remarks to Giroux. We’ll therefore flip the switch on Rouda’s status, though for the sake of clarity, we always like seeing a press release or news report when a campaign actually kicks off.
● KY-01: Former Hopkins County Republican Party Chair David Sharp says he’ll challenge Rep. James Comer in next year’s GOP primary, though the precise nature of his grievances with the congressman aren’t quite clear. Referring to a study from the Center for Effective Lawmaking, Sharp claimed that Comer “ranks in the bottom one-third of Republicans” in effectiveness, which isn’t actually true, at least for the most recent Congress (he ranked 121st out of 205 members rated in the House).
Legislative prowess also isn’t typically something disaffected conservatives hound incumbents over; usually intra-party dust-ups like these are about insufficiently “owning the libs” or demonstrating fealty to Donald Trump. No matter what, though, western Kentucky’s rural 1st District will return a Republican to D.C. next year: According to Daily Kos Elections’ calculations, it voted 73-26 for Trump, making it one of the reddest districts in the country.
● Anchorage, AK Mayor: A total of 90,000 votes have been counted as of Wednesday for last week’s officially nonpartisan general election, and conservative Dave Bronson holds a raw vote lead of just over 1,200 votes—a 51-49 margin—over Democrat Forrest Dunbar. While domestic ballots can be received through Friday, the local clerk says there are very few left overall.
● New York City, NY Mayor: The conservative Manhattan Institute has commissioned a poll from the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies of the June 22 instant runoff Democratic primary that finds 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang leading Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 22-21, with former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia at 13%. After the ranked choice process is simulated, Adams pulls ahead in the 11th and final round and edges out Yang 52-48.
● Erie County, PA Executive: Voters in Erie County, Pennsylvania have the opportunity in November to elect the first trans county executive in American history following Erie School Board President Tyler Titus’ victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Titus edged out Erie County Councilman Carl Anderson 32-31, but rather than endorse them, Anderson said that he planned to decide in the next month whether to run as write-in candidate this fall. That may not actually be an option, though, as the Erie Times-News‘ Matthew Rink writes that state law “restricts a candidate who lost in a primary from filing to run in a general election.”
Titus will face Brenton Davis, a construction company owner who lost the 2017 Republican primary, for the right to succeed retiring incumbent Kathy Dahlkemper, a Democrat who previously represented this area in the U.S. House from 2009 to 2011. Erie County, which is located in the northwest corner of the state, backed Barack Obama by double digits in both his races, but it’s become very competitive turf since then: Donald Trump took the county 48-46 in 2016, while Joe Biden prevailed 50-49 here four years later.