Morning Digest: Longtime Democratic power player on Long Island will not seek re-election to House

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar. Check out our new podcast, The Downballot! Leading Off ● NY-04: New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Long Island Democrat who spent years as an intra-party critic of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, declared Tuesday that she would not seek a fifth term representing the 4th Congressional District, which is located entirely within Nassau County. The decision was a surprise, as the congresswoman—who turned 57 the day she made her announcement—had given no obvious indication she was looking to leave the House. Rice is the 30th House Democrat who is retiring or running for another office, compared to 13 Republicans. The redrawn version of Rice's constituency, which barely changed after redistricting, would have supported Joe Biden 55-43. However, Democrats will want to still keep an eye on this contest following last year's Republican wins in Nassau County's local elections; indeed, one of those victors was Bruce Blakeman, who was narrowly elected county executive seven years after losing an open-seat race for the 4th District to Rice. Campaign Action As for possible Democratic successors, City & State reports that former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who lost that race to Blakeman, is considering a bid. Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and county Democratic parties, also mentioned former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages as possibilities. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who lost last year's special election for Nassau County district attorney, also has been talked about, but Jacobs says that, based on their recent conversations, he thinks Kaminsky "would not be inclined to run." Finally, Newsday name-drops Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, who lost the 2014 primary to Rice. On the GOP side, businessman Bill Staniford generated very little attention when he launched his campaign last quarter and has primarily been self-funding his effort. Staniford raised a mere $52,000 during the fourth quarter but self-funded $200,000, which left him with $233,000 on hand at the end of December. Rice's retirement, though, will likely entice more Republicans to take a look ahead of the early April filing deadline. Rice's announcement also means that Long Island's House delegation will get almost a complete refresh, since two other local representatives, 1st District Republican Lee Zeldin and 3rd District Democrat Tom Suozzi, are both running for governor. Meanwhile, freshman Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino, who was elected last cycle after longtime Rep. Peter King retired, should have no trouble winning now that his 2nd District has become considerably more conservative—which would actually make him the area's most senior congressman. (Veteran Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks also represents a small portion of Nassau County, but almost 90% of his safely blue 5th District is made up of his Queens base.) Rice, who got her start as a prosecutor in Queens before taking a post in the U.S. attorney's Philadelphia office, registered to vote as a Republican in 1984, though she never cast a ballot until 2002. She joined the Democratic Party in 2005 the same year party leaders recruited her to challenge Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, whose political trajectory went in the opposite direction: He first won this office in 1974 as a Democrat but became a Republican in 1989 over his opposition to abortion rights. Dillon had convincingly won re-election in 2001 by a 56-44 margin, but Rice campaigned on charges that the incumbent had treated his office as "his birthright," offered too many plea bargains, and done a poor job investigating abuse allegations involving the local Catholic Church. Rice also argued that Dillon, who had run for governor in 1986 as the nominee of the Right to Life Party, allowed his anti-abortion views to interfere with his ability to do his job. The Democrat, who proved to be a strong fundraiser, ultimately ended up unseating Dillon in a tight 51-49 contest. Rice ran statewide for attorney general in 2010 when Andrew Cuomo left the post to successfully run for governor, though the crowded primary for this powerful office generated little attention until the final weeks before Election Day. State Sen. Eric Schneiderman made Rice’s background as a Republican an issue, and he ended up beating her 34-32; self-funding attorney Sean Coffey scored 16%, with much of his support coming from upstate counties where Rice otherwise performed well. Rice, though, decisively won a third term at home in 2013 in what was an otherwise horrible night for Nassau County Democrats, which made her a compelling recruit when Rep. Carolyn McCarthy retired early the next year. Rice won the Democratic primary for the open 4th District 5

Morning Digest: Longtime Democratic power player on Long Island will not seek re-election to House

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Check out our new podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

NY-04: New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Long Island Democrat who spent years as an intra-party critic of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, declared Tuesday that she would not seek a fifth term representing the 4th Congressional District, which is located entirely within Nassau County. The decision was a surprise, as the congresswoman—who turned 57 the day she made her announcement—had given no obvious indication she was looking to leave the House. Rice is the 30th House Democrat who is retiring or running for another office, compared to 13 Republicans.

The redrawn version of Rice's constituency, which barely changed after redistricting, would have supported Joe Biden 55-43. However, Democrats will want to still keep an eye on this contest following last year's Republican wins in Nassau County's local elections; indeed, one of those victors was Bruce Blakeman, who was narrowly elected county executive seven years after losing an open-seat race for the 4th District to Rice.

Campaign Action

As for possible Democratic successors, City & State reports that former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who lost that race to Blakeman, is considering a bid. Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and county Democratic parties, also mentioned former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages as possibilities. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who lost last year's special election for Nassau County district attorney, also has been talked about, but Jacobs says that, based on their recent conversations, he thinks Kaminsky "would not be inclined to run." Finally, Newsday name-drops Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, who lost the 2014 primary to Rice.

On the GOP side, businessman Bill Staniford generated very little attention when he launched his campaign last quarter and has primarily been self-funding his effort. Staniford raised a mere $52,000 during the fourth quarter but self-funded $200,000, which left him with $233,000 on hand at the end of December. Rice's retirement, though, will likely entice more Republicans to take a look ahead of the early April filing deadline.

Rice's announcement also means that Long Island's House delegation will get almost a complete refresh, since two other local representatives, 1st District Republican Lee Zeldin and 3rd District Democrat Tom Suozzi, are both running for governor. Meanwhile, freshman Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino, who was elected last cycle after longtime Rep. Peter King retired, should have no trouble winning now that his 2nd District has become considerably more conservative—which would actually make him the area's most senior congressman. (Veteran Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks also represents a small portion of Nassau County, but almost 90% of his safely blue 5th District is made up of his Queens base.)

Rice, who got her start as a prosecutor in Queens before taking a post in the U.S. attorney's Philadelphia office, registered to vote as a Republican in 1984, though she never cast a ballot until 2002. She joined the Democratic Party in 2005 the same year party leaders recruited her to challenge Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, whose political trajectory went in the opposite direction: He first won this office in 1974 as a Democrat but became a Republican in 1989 over his opposition to abortion rights.

Dillon had convincingly won re-election in 2001 by a 56-44 margin, but Rice campaigned on charges that the incumbent had treated his office as "his birthright," offered too many plea bargains, and done a poor job investigating abuse allegations involving the local Catholic Church. Rice also argued that Dillon, who had run for governor in 1986 as the nominee of the Right to Life Party, allowed his anti-abortion views to interfere with his ability to do his job. The Democrat, who proved to be a strong fundraiser, ultimately ended up unseating Dillon in a tight 51-49 contest.

Rice ran statewide for attorney general in 2010 when Andrew Cuomo left the post to successfully run for governor, though the crowded primary for this powerful office generated little attention until the final weeks before Election Day. State Sen. Eric Schneiderman made Rice’s background as a Republican an issue, and he ended up beating her 34-32; self-funding attorney Sean Coffey scored 16%, with much of his support coming from upstate counties where Rice otherwise performed well. Rice, though, decisively won a third term at home in 2013 in what was an otherwise horrible night for Nassau County Democrats, which made her a compelling recruit when Rep. Carolyn McCarthy retired early the next year.

Rice won the Democratic primary for the open 4th District 57-43 against Abrahams, who ran to her left but raised little money, and she spent most of the cycle looking like the favorite against Blakeman in a seat Barack Obama had carried 56-43 in 2012. However, a Republican organization called the Independent Majority Group launched a $450,000 buy in the final days to boost Blakeman, who held her to a 53-47 win during that GOP wave year.

Rice won her next term with ease, and while she considered another run for attorney general in 2018 when Schneiderman resigned after multiple women accused him of physical abuse, she opted to stay in the House. The congresswoman, though, had an acrimonious relationship with Pelosi, whom she'd publicly called on to step down as Democratic leader. Rice also took part in the disorganized attempt to keep Pelosi out of the speaker's chair in 2019 after Democrats regained control of the chamber, to which Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe responded by threatening to challenge her for renomination. Pelosi, for her part, blocked Rice from taking a spot on the House Judiciary Committee.

Rice, however, went on to win her final term without any serious intra-party or GOP opposition, and Pelosi soon awarded her old critic a slot on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that fellow New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had wanted.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Louisiana's Republican-run state House and Senate each approved new maps for their own chambers by veto-proof majorities on Monday, though the Senate plan passed on a virtually party-line vote while 12 Democrats voted in favor of the House map. Both bodies must still pass one another's maps before they can go to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

MN Redistricting: A special panel of five appellate and trial court judges tasked by the Minnesota Supreme Court with drawing new congressional and legislative maps completed its work on Tuesday, after the Democratic-controlled state House and the GOP-run state Senate could not agree on new redistricting plans (data files can be found here). The congressional map makes limited changes to existing boundaries and therefore maintains the status quo, with four districts that would have voted for Joe Biden and four for Donald Trump.

The Senate map, just by raw numbers, would appear to move slightly in the GOP's favor, since Biden's existing edge in districts would get cut from 37-30 to 36-31. The House, meanwhile, would go in the opposite direction, from a 72-62 Biden advantage to a wider 77-57 gap. A number of these seats, however, are extremely close, so the legislature will remain a major battleground.

Senate

PA-Sen: The super PAC Honor Pennsylvania's new commercial against TV personality Mehmet Oz uses footage from his show to argue he's a "Republican in name only," including a 2013 clip of him enthusiastically jumping up and down with Michelle Obama.

Governors

FL-Gov: Mason-Dixon has released its first general election poll of Florida in nearly a year, and it shows Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis decisively beating each of his three Democratic foes. The results are below, with the firm's February 2021 numbers in parentheses:

51-43 vs. Rep. Charlie Crist (52-41)

53-42 vs. state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (51-42)

53-37 vs. state Sen. Annette Taddeo

The only other poll we've seen here this year was a late January offering from Suffolk University that showed the incumbent leading Crist and Fried 49-43 and 51-40, respectively. (Suffolk did not test Taddeo; Mason-Dixon's earlier poll also did not include her, but she hadn’t launched her campaign yet.) Mason-Dixon also takes a look at the August Democratic primary and shows Crist ahead of Fried 44-27, with just 3% going to Taddeo.

NH-Gov: WMUR asked state Sen. Tom Sherman if he was near to deciding if he'd challenge Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, prompting the Democrat to reply that he was "very close." The story also says that, while Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington has been talked about as a possible Democratic contender, she "does not appear to be taking any steps toward a campaign."  

NM-Gov: The RGA has launched what the Santa Fe New Mexican describes as a "six-figure ad buy" caricaturing Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham as soft on crime.

NY-Gov: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul in the June Democratic primary.

PA-Gov: While state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman ended 2021 with more cash on hand than any of his many rivals in the May Republican primary, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Andrew Seidman reports that his three-month-old campaign has been burdened by major staff turnovers and internal disappointments.

Corman earlier this month hired his third campaign manager after already cycling through two others, and Seidman adds that he's also parted ways with his "political director, finance director, a fund-raiser, and scheduler." And while the candidate raised $3 million from donors during 2021—far more than anyone else brought in, not including self-funding—an unnamed source says his team initially believed they could have raised $2 million more during this time than they ultimately did.

Political observers are still very much treating Corman like a viable contender, though some suggested to Seidman he "may have been overly confident at the outset." The Senate leader reportedly predicted in October that he could clear the field, something Corman himself acknowledged this month very much didn't happen. "I probably thought there was an opportunity to sort of coalesce around someone," he told the Inquirer, adding, "So, if I said that, it didn't happen."

House

MN-04: Rep. Betty McCollum's first TV spot for the August Democratic primary touts her work in Congress and progressive record; there is no word on the size of the buy. The commercial comes at a time when the 11-term congresswoman faces her first-ever serious primary foe since she first won this safely blue district in the form of Amane Badhasso, a member of Saint Paul's Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity. Badhasso outraised McCollum $306,000 to $218,000 during her opening quarter, though the incumbent ended 2021 with a $553,000 to $250,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Redistricting, though, will not be much of a factor here. The court-drawn map released Tuesday (see our MN Redistricting item above) moves about 13,000 of McCollum's constituents to other seats without adding any new areas, so the incumbent already represents the entire new 4th District.

NC-??: When State House Speaker Tim Moore was asked Tuesday if he would take a new look at running for the U.S. House now that the state Supreme Court has ordered new congressional maps, he didn't rule out the idea. "I'm not even considering that right now," said the Republican. "I'm just focused on getting these maps approved." Almost everyone had expected Moore to run in the 13th District under the map that has since been struck down, but he decided not to after Rep. Madison Cawthorn surprised everyone by announcing he'd run for that constituency rather than the neighboring 14th.

NY-01: EMILY's List has endorsed Jackie Gordon, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee in the old 2nd District, for the new 1st District in the northeastern part of Long Island. Gordon faces two Suffolk County legislators, Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn, in the June primary for an open seat that would have backed Joe Biden 55-44.

NY-16: Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi filed FEC paperwork last week for a potential Democratic primary bid against freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman, and the Yonkers Times says that he is "expected to formally announce by Feb. 18."

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar is going up with his first negative campaign ad of the cycle against attorney Jessica Cisneros two weeks ahead of their Democratic primary rematch. Cuellar, just like in 2020, uses the type of language you'd normally expect to find in a Republican commercial, with a narrator arguing that Cisneros' agenda would result in "open borders that would make us less safe." The spot concludes with the sound of a siren as the narrator describes the challenger as "a risk we can't afford."

On the other side, J Street, which describes itself as a "pro-Israel, pro-peace group" is spending $100,000 on digital ads running in English and Spanish in support of Cisneros.

Secretaries of State

CO-SoS: Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters announced Monday evening that she would seek the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a declaration that came days after the Grand Junction Police Department charged the nationally infamous Peters with obstructing an officer when she refused to turn over her iPad. A few other Republicans are already running, including former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson.

The Colorado Sun explains that Peters, who has been one of the far-right's most prominent election deniers, is currently "under grand jury investigation for a security breach of her county's election system after she allegedly allowed an unauthorized person to attend a sensitive Dominion Voting Systems software update and facilitate the digital copying of her election system." Griswold went on to prevent Peters from overseeing the 2021 elections in Mesa County, and she's seeking the same sanction for this year.

The local district attorney's office is also investigating whether Peters illegally recorded the court hearing of one of her deputies with the iPad that the police tried to seize last week. The clerk was arrested and filmed being restrained by the cops, with one officer telling her, "Do not kick, do you understand?"

Mayors

Louisville, KY Mayor: Developer Craig Greenberg, who is one of the leading Democrats competing in the May primary, was shot at Monday in his campaign headquarters, but neither the candidate nor anyone else was injured. Quintez Brown, a 21-year-old candidate for the Metro Council, was arrested minutes later and charged with attempted murder. Authorities have not yet ascribed a motive.