Fried herself pulled off an unexpected victory in 2018 when she edged out Republican Matt Caldwell 50.04-49.96—a margin of fewer than 7,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast—which made her the only Democrat to win statewide in any of the four election cycles from 2014 through 2020. Fried established herself as a prominent DeSantis critic during her first two years as a member of the state cabinet: Last month, she responded to the passage of a voter suppression bill by predicting that Floridians “will see Ron DeSantis for who he is, and that is an authoritarian dictator who is borderline fascism that we are seeing here in the state of Florida.”
Fried would be the first woman to serve as Florida’s governor if she pulls off another upset next year, as well as its first Jewish chief executive, but she has plenty of obstacles ahead of her. A late May St. Pete Polls survey found Crist beating Fried 55-22 for the nomination, though this is the only poll we’ve seen of that contest.
A few general election polls have been released this year, but they don’t agree how vulnerable DeSantis is in a state Trump took 51-48 last year. In late March, St. Pete Polls found Fried, who was the one Democrat tested, deadlocked with the governor 45-45. However, a Mason-Dixon survey done weeks before had DeSantis beating her 51-42, while the governor’s allies at the Florida Chamber of Commerce recently publicized their own numbers showing him ahead 51-39; Crist posted comparable deficits in both of those surveys.
● IL Redistricting: On a party-line vote, both chambers in Illinois’ Democratic-run legislature have passed new legislative maps in an effort to beat a June 30 deadline in the state constitution that would have kicked the redistricting process to a bipartisan commission and given the Republican minority an even shot at completely controlling the outcome.
To make this deadline, Democrats relied on population estimates from the Census Bureau, which won’t release final data from the 2020 census before mid-August. Republicans in Oklahoma recently made the same move—and for the same reason: a constitutional cutoff date that would have given Democrats much greater say had it not been met—though the use of estimated figures could open up both states to litigation.
Illinois Democrats also passed a new map reconfiguring the districts used to elect the state’s seven-member Supreme Court, which hadn’t been redrawn in more than half a century and had grown badly malapportioned as a result. The new boundaries fix this malapportionment problem, and they also make it more likely that Democrats will hang on to their narrow 4-3 majority on the court in next year’s elections by making the 3rd District in the central part of the state considerably bluer.
All three maps now go to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his approval. While Pritzker has yet to say whether he’ll sign off, it would be a major surprise if he crossed his fellow Democrats.
● AL-Sen: CNN reported late last week that Katie Boyd Britt, the head of the Business Council of Alabama and a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, is “expected” to enter the Republican primary to succeed her old boss sometime this month. Britt at the time merely said she couldn’t comment as long as she led the Chamber of Commerce-type organization, but she announced Tuesday that she was stepping down from the Business Council.
Britt would be in for a tough primary against Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, far-right Rep. Mo Brooks, but intra-party apathy to the congressman may give her an opening. CNN writes that some unnamed Republicans fear that Brooks, who was one of the ringleaders who egged on the crowd at the Jan. 6 rally that turned into an invasion of the U.S. Capitol, would be “an unreliable ally to the business community.”
Brooks’ detractors instead would very much prefer someone like Shelby, who spent decades in D.C. steering federal money to Alabama, and they see Britt as a good option. The field also includes Lynda Blanchard, a former ambassador to Slovenia who has already self-funded $5 million; Alabama requires a runoff if no one wins a majority in the primary.
● GA-Sen: Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is “expected” to announce a bid for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Previous reports said that Black had been considering a bid, but there’s still no word on anything from Black himself.
It’s also unclear whether Black’s would-be campaign is contingent on a decision from former University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker, who has largely frozen the GOP while he mulls a bid himself. Walker, Bluestein adds, has reportedly told Georgia Republicans he’ll announce his plans soon.
● UT-Sen: Former state Rep. Becky Edwards, who’d previously sent some mixed signals about whether or not she would in fact take on Sen. Mike Lee in next year’s Republican primary, announced just before the holiday weekend that she would indeed run. Unusually, Edwards’ challenge is centered around Lee’s unbending fealty to Donald Trump—an approach that would be a political death sentence anywhere but Utah, where a large number of otherwise conservative Mormon voters have demonstrated discontent with the GOP’s embrace of Trumpism.
Edwards didn’t directly mention Trump in her kickoff, but she did present herself as a candidate “who will prioritize the values of respect, honesty, civility and faith in the people of Utah”—something, safe to say, that describes the opposite of Trump. Last year, Edwards and other high-profile fellow travelers participated in a mostly online effort to encourage Mormon women to oppose Trump’s re-election, though his margin in the state actually increased compared to 2016. There may therefore be, even in Utah, a limited appetite for a #neverTrump-style Senate candidate.
● CA-Gov: Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a Republican who self-published a book earlier this year that implored readers to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, recently told Politico that he’s thinking about becoming a candidate in the upcoming recall election.
● GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein reports that “[l]eading state Democrats are all but certain” Stacey Abrams will seek a rematch with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp next year, though he adds that an announcement “is not imminent.” No one, in fact, seems to know when Abrams might get in, but given her huge fundraising apparatus and considerable name recognition, notes Bluestein, she can afford to wait.
● MA-Gov: Harvard professor Danielle Allen says she’s getting closer to making a decision on seeking the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts’ gubernatorial race next year. Allen, who previously said she’d make up her mind in June, says it’ll be “a few more weeks before we have all the information that we need” on waging a bid.
● MD-Gov: An unnamed source tells Maryland Matters that former DNC chair Tom Perez, who has been considering a bid for governor, will “likely make a decision by July 4.” Meanwhile, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, who reportedly had been weighing a run for the Democratic nomination, has announced that he’ll seek re-election next year instead.
● FL-20: The candidate filing deadline for the Jan. 11 special election in Florida’s vacant 20th Congressional District has been set for Aug. 10. Primaries will take place on Nov. 2.
● GA-10: Georgia Revenue Commissioner David Curry announced this week that he would join the Republican primary for this safely red open seat in the east-central part of the state. Curry previously served as tax commissioner for Henry County before Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him state revenue commissioner two years ago, a post he relinquished when he launched his congressional campaign.
● IL-07: Anti-gun violence activist Kina Collins, who unsuccessfully sought to oust Rep. Danny Davis in last year’s Democratic primary, has announced she’ll try again. In her previous campaign, Collins finished a distant second in a four-way race, losing 60-14 to the incumbent.
● KY-03: State Rep. Attica Scott is considering a primary challenge to longtime Rep. John Yarmuth in this Louisville-area seat. Scott began her political career by knocking off conservative Democrat Tom Riner 54-31 in the 2016 Democratic primary for the state House seat she now represents.
Scott may not have the chance to duplicate her success as an upstart, though, as Kentucky Republicans could divide Louisville between the deep red surrounding areas and create a new safe GOP seat for 2022.
● OH-01: Political consultant Jaime Schwartz, who for many years served as Republican Rep. Steve Chabot’s campaign manager, has pleaded guilty to embezzling $1.4 million from his former employer and agreed to pay restitution. While the charges carry up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors have recommended a sentence of no more than 32 months as part of Schwartz’s plea deal.
The development brings to a close a long and strange saga that began almost two years ago, when the FEC launched an investigation after Chabot amended a fundraising report from earlier to show an additional $124,000 in receipts that hadn’t previously been accounted for. While he was attacked in campaign ads over the missing money, the congressman maintained he was the unwitting victim of a swindle, a claim that charging documents filed in April backed up.
● OH-11: An internal poll for former state Sen. Nina Turner of the Aug. 3 special election primary for Ohio’s 11th District shows Turner with a 50-15 lead on her nearest rival for the Democratic nomination, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown. The survey, from Tulchin Research, finds all other candidates in the low single digits, with 21% of voters undecided.
● PA-10: While 2020 Democratic nominee Eugene DePasquale has been raising money for weeks for a potential rematch against Republican Rep. Scott Perry, the former state auditor said last week he wouldn’t make a final decision until he sees Pennsylvania’s new congressional map. That date could be well in the future, as it’s very unlikely that the Republican-controlled state legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would agree on any new boundaries.
● TX-08: Retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell filed FEC paperwork Tuesday for a potential campaign for this safely red open seat in Houston’s northern exurbs. The Texas Tribune says that Luttrell is close to former Gov. Rick Perry, who went on to serve as Trump’s energy secretary.
● TX-??: Wesley Hunt, who was Team Red’s 2020 nominee in the 7th Congressional District, announced Monday that he’d be running for the House again somewhere in the Houston area but that he wouldn’t decide where until the GOP-controlled state government passes new maps. Hunt said that he was considering seeking a rematch with Democratic incumbent Lizzie Fletcher, but he also said that he could run for an open seat if the region gets one of the state’s two new congressional districts.
Hunt, who previously served as an Army helicopter pilot, was one of the House GOP’s most highly-touted candidates last cycle, as well as one of its strongest fundraisers anywhere in the country. Hunt’s allies, though, grew dispirited with his chances of retaking the 7th District, a historically red West Houston seat that had swung hard to the left during the Trump era, and major outside groups ended up redirecting spending away from this contest. However, Hunt still ended up running well ahead of the top of the ticket: While Joe Biden took the 7th District 54-45, Fletcher fended off Hunt 51-47.
● WA-08: Army veteran Jesse Jensen, who held Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier to a surprisingly close 52-48 win last year in a race that attracted little outside spending, says he’s considering a second try. Another Republican, 2020 attorney general nominee Matt Larkin, is already running.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: Former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell has released a mid-May survey from ALG Research that finds her tied for third place in the August top-two primary for mayor. Former City Council President Bruce Harrell outpaces current City Council President Lorena Gonzalez 23-11, while Farrell and nonprofit head Colleen Echohawk are just behind with 7% each. Farrell released this survey to argue that she has room to grow as she gets her name out.
● Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg has earned the endorsement of the New York Times, which is arguably one of the few newspaper endorsements still capable of moving voters in a Democratic primary, ahead of the eight-way June 22 contest.
● Foster Friess, conservative megadonor: Friess, who took second place in the 2018 Republican primary after a strange campaign for governor of Wyoming, died Thursday at the age of 81. Before his one run for office, though, the multi-billionaire rose to prominence in 2012 when he spent millions on a super PAC backing Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, which was basically the only thing keeping Santorum afloat for months.
Friess also generated a firestorm over birth control during that campaign when he explained, “Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Santorum only half-heartedly distanced himself from Friess by calling his comments a “stupid joke” and “not reflective of me,” though the two remained friendly.
Friess continued to bankroll conservative candidates, and in 2018, he finally decided to become one himself. First, though, the wealthy businessman considered launching a primary bid against Sen. John Barrasso. Strangely, Friess repeatedly extolled Barrasso as “an incredible human being” and “one of my heroes” even as he was talking about running against him. However, Friess didn’t bother to spell his “hero’s” name correctly in an email explaining how white nationalist Steve Bannon had given him the idea to run against “John Barrosso.”
Friess decided not to launch a Senate campaign that year, but he surprised everyone when he jumped into the open seat race for governor. He kicked off that campaign with an appearance at the state party convention where he called for a return to “civility” in American politics.
In that very same civility speech, Friess suggested that Barack Obama had funneled money intended to mitigate global warming to cousins in a foreign country the candidate didn’t know how to pronounce, adding, “Zoowanatou … it’s some little country I’ve never been.” He went on to talk about the importance of providing weapons to the Kurdish military force in Iraq (whose name he also butchered), even though the governor of Wyoming has very little say in whether the United States arms them or not.
Unsurprisingly, Friess didn’t seem at all prepared for his gubernatorial campaign. He admitted to not having a clear position on education funding, and when a reporter went on to ask if he’d hired a campaign manager, Friess offered the reporter the job. (We assume he was joking, but we can’t be sure.) However, the candidate did put his money where his mouth was, and Friess used his personal wealth to go on TV well before any of his primary rivals and outspent each of them.
On primary day, Friess picked up an endorsement from Donald Trump about two hours after the polls opened. However, Trump’s intervention may have come just too late to alter the race, and Friess lost to state Treasurer Mark Gordon 33-26 (Gordon won the general election a few months later). Friess later mulled running for Wyoming’s open Senate seat in 2020, but he decided not to go for it.
● Israel: After four inconclusive elections in two years, opponents of Israel’s radical-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believe they have the votes to install a new government and send Netanyahu into the opposition—if not retirement. An unwieldy coalition of the left, center, and anti-Netanyahu right are planning to form a seven- or eight-party alliance (depending on whether the Islamist Ra’am Party formally joins in or instead gives support from the outside) that would control 62 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.
The coalition will be led by Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Yamina, and Yair Lapid, the chair of the centrist Yesh Atid, with Bennett serving as prime minister for the first half of what in theory is a four-year term and Lapid for the second. Bennett is ideologically just as conservative as Netanyahu but will be far more constrained in the top job due to the nature of the bloc putting him in power. Assuming the coalition doesn’t fall apart in the final negotiating stages, the formal vote to seat the new government will take place early next week. Once that happens, we’ll take a deeper look at what this means for Netanyahu and Israeli politics going forward.