Virginia Republicans eschew troublesome conventions for 2024

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The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Virginia: Every nominee for the Senate and House in Virginia this year will be chosen when the state conducts its regularly scheduled primaries on June 18, according to a report published this week by the state’s Department of Elections. Elections for local offices throughout the state, such as mayor and city council, will also operate according to the same rules.

Virginia political parties have the option of picking their candidates using a traditional primary run by the state; a so-called “firehouse primary” run by the parties themselves; or a convention. Democrats have rarely availed themselves of the latter two options, but Republicans have regularly chosen to hold conventions, which are often dominated by hardcore activists.

When the GOP has picked the convention route, it’s often caused serious headaches for the Republican Party’s electoral hopes—and even sometimes for the delegates themselves.

Perhaps the most infamous of these gatherings took place in 2013 when minister E.W. Jackson competed to become the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor. Jackson, who had taken a mere 5% of the vote in the prior year’s primary for U.S. Senate, thrilled the largely white crowd in a speech proclaiming, “I am not an African American, I am an American,” and delegates responded by nominating him.

Jackson, though, did not play as well with general election voters. The Republican spent the next several months explaining and defending his long history of statements both offensive and bizarre, including his suggestion that yoga leads to Satan. Democrat Ralph Northam ended up blowing past Jackson in a 55-45 rout even as Republicans fared much better further down the ticket that year.

GOP convention-goers haven’t picked anyone as electorally toxic since thennow-Gov. Glenn Youngkin even secured his own nomination at a convention in 2021, for instance. But other gatherings have produced their share of drama.

In 2020, freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faced a tough renomination battle from the right in the form of Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, who among other things took the incumbent to task for officiating a same-sex wedding. The 5th District convention, which to Riggleman’s frustration took place in the parking lot of Good’s church, ended with a 58-42 victory for the challenger.

When the GOP held another convention the following month in the 7th District to choose between two members of the House of Delegates seeking to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, it turned into a miserable affair for essentially everyone. The event, which took place during the height of the COVID pandemic, saw many delegates run back to their air-conditioned cars in 97-degree heat between the three rounds of voting. “Burned a quarter tank of gas sitting right here,” one attendee told the Washington Post.

Only about half of the projected number of participants even showed up, and those who did ended up opting for Nick Freitas over fellow Del. John McGuire. Spanberger ultimately narrowly fended off Freitas in the general election, though she’s retiring from Congress this cycle to prepare her 2025 run for governor. McGuire, who is now a member of the state Senate, is waging a primary campaign against Good, who last year made the mistake of endorsing Ron DeSantis over Donald Trump.

Good, who attracted national news last month when he was ejected from a political event at a “Trump store”, has suspected for some time that his fate would rest in the hands of primary voters. “I think Virginia is moving to all primaries,” he told Politico last year. He was right, at least for 2024: Both parties will exclusively rely on primaries for each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts as well as in the state’s Senate race, in which Democrat Tim Kaine hopes to earn a third term.

Candidates have until April 4 to file for the primary ballot. To stay on top of all these dates, you can bookmark our complete calendar of primary dates and major-party filing deadlines.


NV-Sen: Gov. Joe Lombardo has joined the national GOP establishment in endorsing Army veteran Sam Brown ahead of the June primary to take on Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen.


CA-30: ABC has projected that Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman and Republican Alex Balekian have claimed the top two spots in the race to replace Democratic Senate candidate Adam Schiff in this safely blue seat. With the Associated Press estimating that 75% of the vote is in as of Friday morning, Friedman is in first with 29% as Balekian leads Democratic state Sen. Anthony Portantino 19-14 for second.

A grand total of 15 candidates were on Tuesday’s ballot for this 72-26 Biden seat, which includes a portion of Los Angeles as well as the cities of Burbank and Glendale. The contest for California’s 30th District, which is home to the Hollywood Sign and Universal Studios, also attracted national curiosity because of the presence of actor Ben Savage. The former “Boy Meets World” star may not have spent enough time meeting voters, though, as he’s currently sitting in seventh place with just 4%.

Friedman also has a background in the entertainment industry, having served as an executive in the 1990s at the now-defunct film and TV production company Rysher Entertainment. As far as we know she never worked with Savage, though she was an executive producer of 1996’s Foxfire co-starring an up-and-coming Angelina Jolie.

CA-49: The Associated Press has projected that businessman Matt Gunderson will be Democratic Rep. Mike Levin’s opponent in the general election. Gunderson, who came close to flipping a state Senate seat last cycle, is outpacing another Republican self-funder, Margarita Wilkinson, 26-11 with 68% of the estimated vote reporting as of Friday morning. Levin, for his part, is firmly in first with 51%.

Gunderson will, however, be in for an uphill battle against Levin in a seat that Joe Biden carried 55-43 in 2020, though he’s hoping this constituency based in southern Orange and northern San Diego counties will be friendlier to Republicans down the ballot.

Levin faced a tough battle in 2022, when the four largest outside groups on the House side ended up spending a combined $12.4 million here. The incumbent, however, ultimately prevailed 53-47 as Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was carrying his district by a much smaller 50.4-49.6 margin.

GA-03: Republican Brian Jack, who is a longtime campaign aide for Donald Trump, announced his bid for Congress shortly after his boss pre-endorsed him on Thursday for this safely red open seat southwest of the Atlanta area. Jack joined the race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson just ahead of Friday’s filing deadline.

IL-07: AIPAC, the hawkish pro-Israel group, has waded into the Democratic primary for this safely blue Chicago seat via its affiliated United Democracy Project PAC.

UDP is spending at least $146,000 on TV ads to attack gun-safety activist Kina Collins, a progressive who is one of multiple challengers to longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the March 19 Democratic primary. UDP’s spot plays a clip in which Collins says, “What we’re demanding is that they defund the police,” arguing that she would worsen crime.

Collins made that remark in an interview with Vocalo Radio (starting around the 3:17 mark) in early June 2020, just two weeks after the murder of George Floyd sparked mass protests nationwide over police brutality targeting Black people. Collins went on to argue that police funding kept increasing while Chicago shut down mental health clinics and underfunded public schools, health care services, and job opportunities in communities of color.

IL-12: Republican pollster M3 Strategies has publicized a survey of the March 19 GOP primary that finds Rep. Mike Bost leading challenger Darren Bailey, a former state senator, by just a 45-39 margin. The firm tells us that it had no client for this poll.

MT-02: Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen stated on Tuesday that she’s staying in the Republican primary despite Rep. Matt Rosendale’s decision to reboot his failed Senate campaign as a bid for reelection. Several other Republicans joined the primary for Rosendale’s House seat in the months he spent teasing a Senate run only to bail a week after launching, but it’s unclear which of them plan to remain in this contest. The filing deadline for the June primary is on Monday.

PA-10: Former local TV anchor Janelle Stelson has released an internal from Normington Petts that shows her leading 2020 nominee Shamaine Daniels 36-16 in the April 23 Democratic primary to face far-right Rep. Scott Perry. Marine veteran Mike O’Brien, who was the only Democrat other than Stelson to end 2023 with a six-figure campaign account, is in third with 9%, while 31% are undecided.

​​SC-03: Kevin Bishop, who retired in January as communications director for Sen. Lindsey Graham, announced Thursday that he was joining the June Republican primary for this safely red seat. Bishop, who first began working for Graham in 1997 when his boss represented a previous version of the 3rd District, joins Air National Guard Lt. Col. Sheri Biggs and state Rep. Stewart Jones in the contest to succeed retiring Rep. Jeff Duncan.

Prosecutors & Sheriffs

 Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: County prosecutor Jonathan Hatami conceded defeat on Thursday evening two days after voting concluded in the nonpartisan primary to serve as district attorney. With an estimated 68% tabulated as of Friday morning, incumbent George Gascon leads with 23%, while former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman is outpacing Hatami 17-13 for the second spot in the November general election. You can find more on this race here.  

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