Home » The Downballot: The GOP’s biggest election-fraud scandal returns (transcript)

The Downballot: The GOP’s biggest election-fraud scandal returns (transcript)

What do you do if you’re associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you’re Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris’ 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before “casting” them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won’t shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also discuss a late entrant into the race North Carolina governor; why Republicans are struggling to recruit in Ohio now that they can’t gerrymander their congressional map again; how a Freedom Caucus member has bizarrely emerged as a voice of sanity within the GOP—and why it’ll likely doom him; Mitt Romney’s retirement in Utah; and proposed maps that our Daily Kos Elections colleague Stephen Wolf submitted to the federal court in Alabama that’s about to impose new congressional districts.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

David Beard: Hello and welcome. I’m David Beard, contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections.

David Nir: And I’m David Nir, political director of Daily Kos. “The Downballot” is a weekly podcast dedicated to the many elections that take place below the presidency, from Senate to city council. Please subscribe to “The Downballot” on Apple Podcasts and leave us a five-star rating and review.

Beard: We’ve got some pretty big political news to cover this week.

Nir: Once again, we do; we have a trio of stories out of North Carolina, including an absolutely wild comeback bid by a Republican associated with one of the worst election fraud scandals in many, many years. Then we are onto Ohio where Republicans are struggling with recruitment because it seems they aren’t going to be able to gerrymander again. Then we’re off to Colorado to document the evolution of the crazy in the GOP over the last decade, or how a House Freedom Caucus member has emerged as a voice of sanity in the Republican Party. Finally, we are wrapping up with some late-breaking news out of Utah where Senator Mitt Romney has said he will not run for a second term next year. And we have a whole bunch of other stories and tidbits to share with you. Awesome episode coming up. Let’s get rolling.

So Beard, let’s say you are the Republican most closely associated with one of the worst election fraud scandals in memory. What do you do next? You run for office again.

Beard: Of course. That makes sense to me.

Nir: So I know you remember the story of Mark Harris because it took place right in your home state of North Carolina.

Beard: Yes. We still tell children bedtime stories of Mark Harris.

Nir: Well, he just announced that he’s running for the open 8th Congressional District, and it’s really nothing short of astonishing that we’re hearing from him again. And I’m really sorry for all the little children who listened to “The Downballot” who have to hear this terrifying nightmare tale.

So for those of you who don’t recall — or maybe like us, you just enjoy reliving the story — back in 2018, Harris managed to beat Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary for the old 9th District, which was pretty conservative turf, around Trump +8. Of course, that was the year of the big blue wave, and Democrats were putting seats in play all over the place that ordinarily should have been safe for Republicans. It was like what the GOP fantasized 2022 was going to be, only it was real.

So enter Democrat Dan McCready, he was a Marine veteran, a literal Boy Scout. I don’t just mean he had been in the Boy Scouts; he also served on the Boy Scouts’ board. And he ran a very strong campaign and he made Harris really have to fight for it. And in the end, Harris survived, but it was super, super close. Fewer than a thousand votes, less than a percentage point. But then this is where things got really, really strange. And you know what, parents? Maybe take away your children right now.

A few weeks after the election, the State Board of Elections, which was a bipartisan body, unanimously refused to certify the results. This was just so weird because at first, Beard, do you remember when this happened? They didn’t really put out a statement explaining why. All we knew was that there were maybe some kind of questions of something hinky, but we had no idea what, and the state was saying, “We’re not going to sign off on these election results.”

Beard: Yeah. I think the expectation was that it was just something clerical that needed to be fixed, like they found some ballots or some numbers were wrong. Nobody I think had any idea that it was going to go quite where it went.

Nir: Yeah, no kidding. But it really wasn’t long before we found out what had actually happened. It turned out that a consultant for Mark Harris, a Republican named McCrae Dowless, had orchestrated a scheme to straight up, straight up steal the election. What he did was he paid a crew to collect absentee ballots from voters. Mind you, North Carolina prohibits third-party ballot collection. Republicans love to rail about this, they call it ballot harvesting, and that’s exactly what McCrae Dowless and his team were doing, though that was just the tip of the iceberg.

It turned out that they were going through these relatively poor Black communities in rural areas, and they would take these ballots from voters that were often incomplete or blank. And then Dowless and his crew would fill them out for their preferred candidates, you can guess who that might’ve been, and would even forge voter signatures and return them to election officials. In other words, they would cast these votes that were completely fraudulent. This was literal, actual out-and-out fraud.

And I want to be really clear, this was not voter fraud. That’s the term Republicans like to use as a boogeyman to sort of dream up mostly fake stories about individual voters who are supposedly voting twice. Though it kind of seems like whatever we do have stories about that, it’s somewhat who tried to vote for Trump more than once. This was election fraud, a straight-up deliberate conspiracy designed to rig the results.

Beard: Yeah. And all those times when Trump says they sold the election, this is the “they,” and this is the election that was stolen.

Nir: So the Board of Elections recognized exactly what you just said, that an attempt had been made to steal this election. And there were so many potentially tainted ballots much more than the margin between Harris and McCready that they ordered a do-over election. The problem for Republicans was that under state law, the primaries had already been held, so the do-over should have taken place between McCready and Harris. But of course Republicans did not want Harris as their standard-bearer. And so they did what North Carolina Republicans always try to do when they don’t like election laws, they changed them. It was a lame-duck session of the legislature at the end of 2018. They had veto-proof majorities and they just ran through a bill that contained all kinds of goodies for them, including a bill that would allow new primaries to take place. And as a result, they dumped Harris.

Harris actually… I’d forgotten about this detail, but I was researching it after the news broke. Harris could have run again in that primary, they couldn’t have forbade him from doing so. And obviously, they were desperate for him not to do that. He wound up not running again. Instead, Republicans nominated state Senator Dan Bishop who was notorious for another completely different reason. He had authored the infamous bathroom bill known as HB2 that I am sure many “Downballot” listeners remember quite well. This brought holy hell down on the state of North Carolina with all kinds of threats of boycotts. And it’s almost certainly the reason why Republican Governor Pat McCrory lost his bid for reelection in 2016. But if you’re a far-right extremist, oh, that’s a small price to pay for getting to hate on trans people.

Bishop wound up defeating McCready. It was another really close race. It was 51-49, though that special election in part because of the GOP requiring this new primary didn’t take place until 10 months after the original contest between Harris and McCready. And in the end, with Bishop taking Harris’s place, it meant that Republicans paid no price. They paid no price at the ballot box for what Harris had tried to do. They got another Republican into that seat anyway. So things worked out quite well for Dan Bishop, who is now running for state Attorney General. That’s an open seat, going to be a very competitive race next year. His district, which is now numbered the 8th district — it’s even more conservative than the old 9th district was — now that’s open too.

Dowless, the consultant at the center of the scandal, was charged with various counts of fraud, but he died last year before he could go to trial. Harris was never charged with wrongdoing. But obviously, this scandal is the only thing that most people know about him. It was in literally every headline about his campaign kickoff this week. I mean, if you type Mark Harris into Google News, this is all you’re going to see.

And the wild thing, Beard, is that he keeps wanting to talk about it. He won’t shut up. He put out this totally unhinged statement ranting that he was the victim of a “manufactured scandal” perpetrated by Democrats, that it was actually Democrats who tried to steal the race, who did steal the race according to him. He even rehired his campaign manager from 2018. Like, dude, you’re trying to relive that whole campaign? It really kind of blows my mind, but election denialism is now simply a core belief of today’s Republican Party. So this kind of just feels like the logical next step.

Beard: Yeah, we’ve seen now time and again that things like reality, and things like trying to steal an election, is not disqualifying to Republicans and even in some cases can be a positive. So I can see why from his point of view, why not just pretend that Democrats stole this election from him? It fits right in with what Trump always says. And just Ron, that is probably a winner for Republican primary voters, weirdly enough.

Nir: God. Yeah, I think you’re right. At the moment there’s nobody running against Harris and given how red this seat is D.C. Republicans probably don’t really care, but I also suspect that they’d rather not have to deal with questions about him, but if he wins the primary he’s almost certainly going to wind up in Congress. This seat is just simply too conservative. Even a McCready-type and another wave for Democrats would not be enough to stop him. I guess he’ll just fit right in with the George Santos of the world.

Beard: Yeah, we’ll see if the primary becomes competitive and maybe somebody challenges him seriously, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in Congress for the next Congress and just goes about his business pretending that he won that election fair and square all along and the dastardly Democrats kept him from Congress for four years.

Nir: Oh yes. Those dastardly Democrats in North Carolina with so much power at their disposal. Beard, I feel like we never intended this to be a show that was very heavily devoted to your home state, but somehow North Carolina always keeps being in the news.

Beard: Yeah. I mean, I’m sure that I play a part in that if something’s on the borderline, I want to talk about it, but also North Carolina is just a fascinating, frustrating, very competitive state. So there’s a lot of things going on. And you’ve covered one thing from this week. I’ve got another thing from North Carolina for this week, and that’s that former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan did indeed decide to run for governor. We speculated earlier over the summer that his decision to resign was so that he would have a chance to run for governor, and that ended up being the case.

He announced on Tuesday, joining front-runner Attorney General Josh Stein in the Democratic primary. Now in his sort of announcement interview with the Raleigh News & Observer, he touted his long record of judicial service; he said that he would be the most electable candidate, but the reality is he’s facing pretty long odds. Stein’s campaign already has more than $8 million on hand as of the end of June. He secured endorsements from a number of key Democratic officials and progressive interest groups, most notably of course, incumbent Governor Roy Cooper, which we mentioned last week.

And the primary is on March 5th; since it’s a presidential year, it’s not in May as non-presidential primaries tend to be in North Carolina. So Morgan has less than six months to put together this campaign and raise enough money to at least get on the air in a state as big as North Carolina. And that is not cheap. There’s a reason that Stein and GOP front-runner Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson have been running for governor all year and have been raising money because this generally isn’t something you can just jump in and do in a few months.

And while Morgan also pointed out that his statewide victory was larger than Stein’s statewide victories have been, Morgan was elected back when the Supreme Court races were non-partisan elections in North Carolina. He won his statewide election in 2016. It was a non-partisan election, and those simply aren’t comparable to partisan elections that are so competitive in North Carolina like we’ve seen and with Stein’s narrow victories, but victories nonetheless with a D next to your name.

Nir: Yeah. We’ve seen those nonpartisan judicial races become extremely partisanized. Obviously, Wisconsin is a really good example, but I feel like it’s accelerated in just the last few years. And in 2016, things were really not quite as extreme, and that’s why someone like Morgan, I think could win by nine points while Democrats on the ticket, including Stein, were just barely eking out super narrow victories. And of course, it also bears pointing out that Republicans soon after changed Supreme Court races to make them partisan contests. And since 2018 when Democrats had some success, Republicans have just been cleaning up in those races.

Beard: Yeah. And we’ve seen them get much, much closer to the top of the ticket partisan results as a result of them also becoming partisan. Now ultimately, I personally doubt that Morgan is going to be a major obstacle to Stein winning the primary. I think Stein is going to have to spend more money than he would’ve preferred ahead of the primary to ensure a victory, but in something like this, Stein already has better name recognition. Obviously, people tend to know your attorney general a lot more than they’re going to know individual state supreme court’s justices. He’s going to have the money to be on the air, so it’s hard to imagine a path for Morgan’s victory ultimately in the primary.

Nir: I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing for Stein though. I mean, when situations like this arise, when you have a clear front-runner, but they get a reasonably serious challenger, you can say one of two things will happen. If Stein cannot beat Mike Morgan in the primary, then whoa, his campaign has serious problems. I would be very, very shocked if that happened. Conversely, if Stein does win, yeah, he will have to spend more money, like you said, that he wasn’t expecting to, but it gives him a chance to almost take his campaign on a shakedown cruise and get his name further out there.

He’ll have to probably run more ads earlier and just stress-test his whole campaign operation. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, especially because as you noted, Beard, the primary is so early, it’s in March, and Republicans have a primary too. I mean, Robinson is almost certainly going to run away with it, but that will still leave plenty of time no matter who the Democratic nominee is before the general election to regroup and raise a ton more money for the ultimate contest.

Beard: And Stein has been way outraising Robinson over the course of this year. So I think even if he does have to spend a lot of money in the primary, he’ll still have a cash advantage headed into the general election. Now, also this week related to Morgan’s resignation from the Supreme Court incumbent Governor Roy Cooper appointed Court of Appeals Judge Allison Riggs to replace him on the Supreme Court for the remainder of his term, which goes through 2024. That move makes Riggs at 42 the youngest woman ever to serve on the court, and she did confirm that she’s going to run for a full eight-year term next year.

Riggs has been a zealous advocate for voting rights and a strong opponent of gerrymandering. So I’m sure Democrats are going to rally around her and put up a really strong fight for that seat next year. And of course, given her age, she’s someone who could be on the court for a long time, which is really crucial given that Democrats are going to have to work to take back the Supreme Court over a number of years due to the way that the seats are staggered out.

Nir: Yeah. We’ve mentioned this before, but it seems to me that running Riggs next year is advantageous compared to running Morgan for the simple reason that had Morgan run again and won, he would’ve had to step down from his position just three years into the next eight-year term because he would’ve hit the mandatory retirement age of 72. Obviously, Riggs is decades away from retirement, so if she wins next year, then she’ll be able to serve a full eight-year term which would be great news for Democrats.

Beard: Yeah, for sure. Now, I know that we’ve spent a long time talking about North Carolina, so I guess I can let you talk about a different state now.

Nir: Well, we are back to Ohio, another state that we have talked about a ton in recent months, and there is some redistricting news. Voting rights advocates who had been challenging Ohio’s congressional map before the state Supreme Court have dropped their case. But this is actually good news for Democrats, at least relatively speaking.

Ohio’s map had been illegally gerrymandered by Republicans. The Supreme Court had ruled against it, but Republicans ran out the clock and managed to use it last year anyway, then hard-right Republicans also took control of the state Supreme Court, so opponents of this map knew that they were no longer going to be able to get a favorable hearing before the court.

What this has the effect of doing is almost certainly locking in Ohio’s current map for 2024 instead of giving the GOP an opening to gerrymander the map further and make it even worse for Democrats. And Democrats actually did — I’ve got to say — quite well, not just decently well, quite well, in Ohio elections last year for Congress. They flipped the 1st congressional district; they held the 13th district, which we’re going to talk about more in a moment. And also, of course, there was Marcy Kaptur, who was really marked for extinction when her seat was made super, super red in the Toledo area, but she of course defeated her opponent, JR Majewski. He was a notorious far-right nobody.

And so yeah, they more than held serve. They gained a seat. So really running on this map again in 2024 compared to the alternatives is not such a bad thing. And instead, activists are focusing on qualifying an amendment for next year’s ballot that would establish an independent redistricting commission, and that would have an enormous impact if it passes, much greater, to be honest, than even a successful suit in the Supreme Court at this moment.

But it seems like the decision to stop challenging the current map has had a further impact and a negative one for Republicans because Republican recruitment keeps coming up short, particularly in the 13th district that I was mentioning earlier. This is a super swingy seat in the Akron/Canton areas in the eastern part of the state; it’s just Biden +3 and Republicans really thought they would win it last year. But instead, Democrat Emilia Sykes held off Madison Gesiotto Gilbert by a pretty decent 53-47 margin, and that was quite a critical hold. Gesiotto Gilbert tried running again this year, but even though she raised a boatload last cycle, her fundraising totally sucked this time. It’s really not clear why, maybe her heart just wasn’t in it. And she dropped out last month to take a gig at the RNC. So that kind of left Republicans without a real candidate in a race that they definitely want to compete in.

And things have only gotten worse since. Just this week the GOP’s top two alternate recruits have also said no: state Senator Kristina Roegner and former state GOP chair Jane Timken. It’s actually kind of funny to me that Timken was considered a good get. Beard, do you remember her bid for Senate last year?

Beard: Yeah. It was not impressive, to be kind.

Nir: I’d be like if you had said not really, that would’ve been an okay answer too, because I had kind of sort of forgotten it. I was like, wait, why do I remember her name? Yeah, it was the open seat, of course, Senate race, and she ran in the Republican primary, only took 6%, really, really feeble. And this was the GOP’s idea of a top recruit to run in a swingy seat. Okay, well, I guess we don’t have to worry about it because she’s not running.

It really seems like Republicans only want to run if they get to gerrymander. Again, former state Senator Kevin Coughlin had some comments this week saying that he’d been looking at running, but what he’d really been looking at was running under a proposed Republican map that would’ve made the district redder. That was what was getting his juices flowing. And now his remarks make it sound like he’s much less likely to do so given that the current map is going to stay in place.

So instead, the only candidate right now running is this far-right extremist named Greg Wheeler, who actually almost beat Gesiotto Gilbert in the primary last year, even though he raised almost no money and she raised millions. His fundraising, however, has been a total joke. I mean, yeah, elections are so polarized in this country that you can really never rule out a Republican win in a district that’s this narrowly divided, but he would be a very hard candidate for the NRCC and other big establishment players to get behind. They might do so anyway, but he is just not their idea of a serious, credible challenger.

Beard: And I love the idea that Coughlin and these other Republicans are like, wait, you want me to go before a regular group of voters, not just a group of Republican primary voters? I don’t want to do that. That involves answering difficult questions, dealing with reality. I just want to live in my little bubble, convince the Republican primary voters that I love Donald Trump, and be a congressman. And clearly doing anything more than that was too tough for him. So, sorry to him.

Nir: You raise a really interesting point because state legislatures have for the longest time, probably since forever, been really the top farm team for Congress, the number-one pipeline that creates members of the U.S. House and also sometimes the U.S. Senate too. And with gerrymandering just growing more and more extreme, particularly on the Republican side, what I’m sure is happening is that you have so many state legislators in super-red districts, kind of like what you’re talking about, Beard. And then when the time comes for them to bubble up the pipeline and run in a swingy competitive district for the U.S. House, it’s like it is just such a bad mismatch because, like you said, they’re not used to talking to normal people.

Beard: Yeah. And I think this goes back to Republican primary voters too. They like the crazies. They make the crazies their state reps and their state senators. And then when the crazies run for Congress, everyone’s like, oh, these people are crazy. And it’s because of a lack of coverage of state houses in a lot of states across the country. And then when you bump up a level, suddenly these far-right crazies get exposed. And we’ve seen that time and again.

Nir: That’s such a perfect example because you have to be really, really hardcore into baseball to follow who the minor-league players are. But once they make it to the big show, then the spotlight is on them.

Well, Beard, this is a perfect transition talking about the transformation of the crazies because we got to go out west now and talk about Ken Buck in Colorado.

Beard: Yes. I don’t think there’s a better example of how far the GOP has moved to the right in the last 13 years than Ken Buck. And maybe even to the right isn’t quite correct. It’s more like moved out of reality. Because Buck first appeared on the national stage, if you’ll remember, running for a Senate in Colorado in 2010. In the primary, he defeated the more mainstream Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton for the Republican nomination before losing the general election pretty narrowly in a really good GOP year, if you’ll remember, 2010. Buck was part of a group of poor Senate candidates that the Republicans nominated, including classic names like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware; I’m sure lots of us remember her.

Now Buck later ran for a safely GOP congressional seat that was open in 2014 and won, heading to D.C. and joining the House Freedom Caucus. So really on the far-right there. But as the years went by and the Trump-ification of the GOP started, he started becoming known for not being a Trump sycophant the way that everybody else was and the way that you were supposed to be to be a GOP Congressman.

Nir: Especially a member of the Freedom Caucus.

Beard: Yeah, they were the first, they were the vanguard of the Trump sycophants.

Nir: Yeah, exactly.

Beard: Now, while he bought into some election conspiracy stuff, he didn’t think Congress should just overturn the election and hand the presidency to Trump in 2020, which is just such a novel thought for a Republican to have. And so he voted to certify the 2020 election when most of the Republicans in the House did not. And now he’s saying totally crazy things like, “what are we actually impeaching Joe Biden for again?”

Nir: Whoa. Whoa. That’s nuts.

Beard: I know, I know. Just so unacceptable to actually want a reason to impeach Joe Biden. So of course, in response to this, rumors of primary challenges have started to appear. A couple of names are already being thrown around: state Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, who apparently thought about challenging Buck last cycle as a result of his certifying the 2020 election gambit. And then there’s state Rep. Richard Holtorf, the minority whip in the Colorado State House, who’s seen as a super pro-Trump Republican of course. And clearly, these are candidates who will stay in line, not upset Trump, not try to challenge any of their fellow Republicans with pesky issues like truth and reality. So they would be much more acceptable to the GOP than Ken Buck, who’s somebody who’s extremely, extremely conservative, but likes to live in reality.

Nir: Yeah, it really is amazing. They are going to have to create something crazier than the House Freedom Caucus. Buck has been feuding with Marjorie Taylor Greene. And he was really funny, he totally bagged on her in some interview. He said, when I was teaching law school I learned and taught constitutional principles. When Marjorie Taylor Greene was teaching CrossFit she learned a whole different set of values. And he says, the Constitution says Congress shall count the votes, it doesn’t say Congress may overturn an election result. In her CrossFit class maybe they didn’t cover that. I mean, this guy’s totally doomed in a primary if he runs again, maybe he’s just pulling a YOLO and isn’t going to run again at all. But if he keeps totally ripping on Marjorie Taylor Greene, this, funnily, I don’t want it to go away.

Beard: Yeah, yeah. Just imagine going back and telling the 2010 versions of ourselves, you know what we’re going to be laughing about in 2023? Ken Buck ragging on the crazies. And you’re like, who are the crazies then? Little did we know.

Nir: It’s not possible.

Beard: Little did we know.

Nir: Not possible.

Oh, man. Well, speaking of the crazies, forcing the non-crazies out the door, there was a big announcement on Wednesday afternoon in Utah.

Beard: Yeah. Somebody further along the path that I think Ken Buck is treading is Mitt Romney, of course, one of the few publicly anti-Trump Republicans left in DC. And he announced Wednesday that he would not be seeking reelection to a second term. That’s probably news to Trump and the Trump sycophants’ ears; it’s going to make the Senate GOP caucus worse, despite Romney, again, being a very conservative politician, he’s one who lives in reality. So when he leaves and we get a new Republican, it will likely be one who’s a lot less friendly to reality, and the Senate GOP Caucus] as a whole is likely to get more Trumpist and even worse.

Now, a few names have already been bandied about, including incumbent Governor Spencer Cox, Congressman Blake Moore, former Congressman Jason Chaffetz. But it’ll probably be a while before the field really shakes out and becomes clear. And of course, we’ll circle back and cover that as that primary gets closer.

Nir: Yeah, Utah is a perfect example of just how awful a senator you can produce, because just look at Mike Lee. I mean, that guy is just a pathetic Trump butt-licker. And really, I definitely would be worried that his next colleague in 2025 is going to look a lot more like him than Mitt Romney.

Beard: Yeah, that’s unfortunately what I suspect. I feel like Utah’s sort of strong anti-Trump Republicanism that seemed to be very alive and well in 2016 and immediately after has faded the longer that Trump has had a hold on the party, and that’s no longer really the dominant faction in the Utah GOP. The Trumpist faction there, I think is on the rise.

Nir: Yeah, for sure. And we even saw that in the special election last week, which was not called as of the time that we recorded the previous episode of “The Downballot,” but now we know the winner.

Beard: Yeah. Celeste Maloy’s election night lead in that primary held up and the AP called the race soon after some additional results were posted. Ultimately, second-place finisher Becky Edwards’ really strong results in the Salt Lake City area weren’t enough to overcome Maloy’s strengths in the rest of the district. The general election is on November 21st; Maloy, of course, is the heavy favorite, and soon she’ll be on her way to D.C. to fade into the sea of Trump loyalists and the GOP house.

Nir: Yeah, Edwards was definitely a very unusual Republican candidate. She said she had voted for Joe Biden in 2020. She actually tried running against Mike Lee in 2022, and she came pretty close. But it’s also important to remember this was a three-way race, so she won about a third of the vote in Utah’s second congressional district. So I think that gives you a pretty good vibe check on where anti-Trump Republicans stand, even in the Utah GOP these days.

Beard: Yeah. I think she got somewhere between 33 and 34% of the final vote. And I think it’s also worth noting that the GOP gerrymander of Utah also hurts the anti-Trump Republicans that are of course centered in the more urban areas. That’s where these anti-Trump Republicans tend to be. And the fact that they’ve split the Salt Lake City area into the four congressional districts to make sure they’re all heavily Republican also means that that faction of the Republican Party is also split up and can’t have any chance to really win one of the congressional seats either. It gives all the power to the more rural areas, that are the more Trumpist areas, both in the Republican primaries and in the general.

Nir: Yeah. I do think that if you had an un-gerrymandered Utah map, you’d probably have a pretty blue seat centered around Salt Lake City. So as is the case across the country, the anti-Trump Republicans just simply don’t have a home. They should become Democrats.

Beard: Yes. Welcome.

Nir: There’s your home. That’s a good solution. So we want to finish off with a few quick hits. There was a special election for the New York Assembly on Tuesday night. This was for the 27th district in Queens. And Republicans really thought they had a strong chance to flip it. This seat had voted for Joe Biden by 12 points, but then it swung hard last year and voted for Republican Lee Zeldin by 13 points in the race for governor. The district is home to a lot of Orthodox Jews and also a sizable Asian American population. And a lot has been made in particular of the movement of many Asian American voters toward the GOP, particularly in New York last year. But Democrat Sam Berger defeated Republican David Hirsch 55/45. That’s quite close to Biden’s score. So Republicans looking for hopeful signs about demographic trends in New York City are going to have to look elsewhere.

Beard: And I mean, we’ve seen a lot of special elections even outperformed by numbers this year, which has been great. This slightly underperformed. So I guess, it’s sort of a very mild indicator, but it’s such a small amount of change. It’s not really, I think, worth putting a lot of stock in.

Nir: Exactly. And also, if we’re really trying to understand shifting demographics in New York City, we’re going to need more than one data point.

Beard: Yes, for sure.

Nir: So we have another special election coming up next week. It’s one that we have talked to you about a ton on “The Downballot.” This is the critical race for the New Hampshire State House between Democrat Hal Rafter and Republican Jim Guzofski. If Democrats win this race and then hold a safely blue seat in a different special election in November, they will force this gigantic 400-member chamber into an exact tie between the parties. There will be no liveblog because there are all of two precincts in this election. The district is made up of two small towns, Northwood and Nottingham: just one precinct in each. So we will know the results very quickly.

Beard: Yeah, it should be another interesting special election to put up on the board and hopefully lead to some nice chaos in the New Hampshire House.

Nir: And finally, I want to let our listeners know about a pair of maps that our Daily Kos Elections colleague Stephen Wolf just submitted to the federal court in Alabama that’s hearing the redistricting case regarding the state’s congressional map. Stephen submitted these proposals along with longtime Alabama-based pollster, Zac McCreary, to remedy the fact that the state’s map only features one district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidate, when the Voting Rights Act says they really should have two.

We will drop a link in the show notes so that folks can check these plans out. The court will almost certainly rule in just a couple of weeks to impose a new map on Alabama for the 2024 elections. This has been a very fascinating and exciting case, so we will definitely be covering the final developments as they occur.

Beard: Yeah, and one of the great things about Daily Kos and the Daily Kos community is that not only does it cover the news and cover it with the progressive slant, but its activism and it gets involved. And we see this most often, obviously through the money that it raises for candidates, for the volunteers that it sends out on behalf of Democrats across the country. And this is just another avenue of that activism of submitting this map. So I think it’s very cool that Stephen submitted this map and we’ll see what the results are.

Nir: I cannot wait to see.

Beard: That’s all from us this week. “The Downballot” comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. You can reach out to us by emailing [email protected]. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to “The Downballot” on Apple Podcast and leave us a five-star rating and review. Thanks to our editor, Trever Jones, and we’ll be back next week with a new episode.


September 2023