Morning Digest: Election conspiracy theorist picks up Trump backing for Michigan attorney general

Plenty of major state party figures are hoping the answer is no. The paper writes that several Republicans “have privately expressed doubts that DePerno would be a viable general election candidate,” and it’s not hard to see why. DeParno, who describes himself as liberals’ “worst nightmare,” first attracted attention well before the election when he served as the attorney for ex-state Rep. Todd Courser, a Republican whose career came to a brutal end in 2015 after the public learned that he and colleague Cindy Gamrat devised a fake gay sex scandal to try to hide their real straight sex scandal.

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In 2017, when then-GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette was prosecuting Courser for perjury, a court hearing came to a dramatic end when the judge ejected DeParno from the courtroom for “offensive” statements. (Courser was eventually sentenced to 12 months of probation for a lesser offense after he reached a plea deal with the state.) The following year, DePerno​​ was Courser’s lawyer in his defamation suit against the Detroit News. In 2019, a state judge not only dismissed that lawsuit, he also ordered Courser and DeParno to pay ​$80,000 in sanctions; the parties eventually reached a settlement requiring the pair to pay just $20,000, which was wired to the paper in May.

Trump’s interest in DePerno, though, has nothing to do with his connection to one of the strangest scandals we’ve ever documented. The attorney stepped into the far-right spotlight after last year’s election when he filed a lawsuit arguing that election fraud had taken place in Antrim County after vote totals initially showed Joe Biden leading Trump in this small conservative community. Those numbers were the result of a clerical error that was quickly corrected to reflect Trump’s actual 61-37 win in the community, and a hand-count audit confirmed that the Dominion Voting Systems machines had correctly tabulated the results.

None of that stopped Antrim County, though, from becoming a prominent part of the fake Trumpian narrative about Dominion stealing the election. Indeed, Trump used his not-tweet endorsement to claim, “Dana Nessel, the Radical Left, and the RINOs are targeting Matt because he gets results and has exposed so much Voter Fraud in Antrim County, and many more places, in the 2020 Election.”

But DeParno, who became a frequent conservative media guest, has had a tougher time winning over courts and even fellow Michigan Republicans. The attorney used his Antrim County lawsuit to argue there was a “strong presumption of ballot stuffing,” but a judge dismissed it in May.

The GOP-led state Senate Oversight Committee even singled DeParno out in its report on the 2020 election, saying, “The committee closely followed Mr. DePerno’s efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions.” The committee further recommended that Nessel investigate people who circulated false claims about the election results “to raise money or publicity for their own ends,” an idea the incumbent said she’d act on.

DeParno himself has also been more than willing to pick fights with the GOP legislature. Last month, he told a party gathering, “What I’ve learned in the past six months is we elected people to Lansing who do not have courage. And that needs to stop.” He also volunteered that just three state representatives had met with him about his Antrim County conspiracy theories.


AK Redistricting: Alaska’s Redistricting Board recently released two draft proposals for the state’s legislature, with plans to take more feedback from the public before settling on a single plan. In Alaska, state Senate districts (which are lettered) are made up of two state House districts (which are designated by number), a practice known as “nesting.” The order is sequential, so House Districts 1 and 2 make up Senate District A, HD 3 and 4 make up SD B, and so forth.

Alaska’s five-member board, which is made up of three Republicans and two independents, has final say over the maps; the legislature and governor are not involved, though any disputes over new lines would ultimately go before the state Supreme Court. The state only has sufficient population for a single congressional district, so federal redistricting is not at issue.

ID Redistricting: Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission recently introduced a pair of proposals for the state’s congressional map as well as a plan for the legislature. (Idaho uses the same districts for both the state House and state Senate, with each district electing two representatives and one senator.) Though Idaho is as red as a state can be, its equally divided commission was established several decades ago by an amendment to the constitution, and efforts to undermine it by Republican lawmakers have failed. As a result, the panel’s members are likely to reach a compromise, as they did following the 2010 census, though the maps could wind up in court if commissioners fail to come to an agreement.

ME Redistricting: Maine’s Apportionment Commission, which is made up of 10 legislators and five political appointees, has released first drafts of maps for Congress and state Senate. Maps for the state House “will be posted at a later date,” according to the commission, which faces a Sept. 27 due date set by the state Supreme Court. Approval for any new districting plans requires a two-thirds supermajority vote by the full legislature, which has 10 days to act after the commission’s deadline. If lawmakers fail to reach a consensus, the high court would take over the redistricting process.

MI Redistricting: Michigan’s new independent redistricting commission has released its first draft congressional map, but as Bridge Michigan reporter Jonathan Oosting notes, “It’s going to change, perhaps a lot, especially because it doesn’t appear to create two required minority-majority districts, as required.” Meanwhile, GOP operative Jeff Timmer, who helped draw the state’s last set of maps but has since criticized his own work, slammed the proposal, saying, “I wouldn’t have dared make public something this gerrymandered. I know, because I drew maps this gerrymandered and we buried them in a drawer.”

The commission has not yet released complete plans for the state House and Senate, but an Excel file on the commission’s site includes links to a variety of partial maps. The panel was supposed to publish maps for all three sets of districts by Friday under a deadline in the state constitution but acknowledged it would not meet this timetable due to the months-long delay in receiving necessary data from the Census Bureau.

NE Redistricting: A Democratic-led filibuster has blocked a Republican redistricting plan that would have made Nebraska’s only competitive congressional district considerably redder, prompting both sides to say they would begin negotiations anew on Monday. On a party-line vote on Thursday, a committee in the unicameral legislature had advanced the proposed map, which would have split Omaha’s Douglas County, currently located entirely within the 2nd District, and placed half of it in the solidly Republican 1st District.

However, all 16 of the chamber’s 17 Democrats were joined by one Republican senator to filibuster the plan, and two other Republicans voted “present.” (The final Democrat was excused from attendance.) As a result, GOP leaders could only muster 29 votes to cut off debate, four short of the 33 required. If the parties can’t reach a compromise on a new map, redistricting would wind up in the courts.

The stakes here are higher than usual because Nebraska, along with Maine, is one of just two states that awards Electoral College votes to the winner of each congressional district. Joe Biden carried the 2nd District last year, as did Barack Obama in 2008. However, Republican Rep. Don Bacon won re-election in 2020 despite Biden’s performance.

OR Redistricting: Democrats in Oregon’s legislature released congressional and legislative plans on Thursday that they expect to vote on in a special session this coming week, but it remains to be seen whether they can actually pass them. In April, Democrats ceded their authority over redistricting by giving Republicans equal representation on the committees responsible for drawing new maps, essentially handing them veto power in exchange for a promise not to grind the legislature to a halt by once again fleeing the state, as they’ve done many times in recent years.

However, Democrats aren’t acting as though the GOP represents a choke-point, since their congressional map is identical, and their legislative maps both very similar, to proposals they put out a couple of weeks ago. Republicans issued their own rather different proposals at the same time, but the latest Democratic maps don’t seem like any attempt at a compromise.

Democrats could in fact bypass the relevant committees and directly vote on new maps before the full legislature, though that might lead to another quorum-busting GOP walkout. The signals are mixed: A spokesperson for House Speaker Tina Kotek said the speaker “is really disappointed House Republicans on the redistricting committee didn’t engage more meaningfully during this process,” but Kotek was the architect of the original deal to cede power over redistricting to Republicans. Kotek was pilloried on the record by high-profile Democrats for that decision, though, and she’s now running for governor, so perhaps she’s stiffening her spine in order to rehabilitate her partisan bona fides.

It’s just as possible, of course, that Democrats are sticking to their guns now to avoid negotiating with themselves and will ultimately make concessions to the GOP once the legislative session gets underway. But if Democrats engage in hardball tactics to backtrack on Kotek’s agreement, we could be headed toward another Republican-triggered meltdown.

Should lawmakers fail to pass any maps, legislative redistricting would be handled by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat. Congressional redistricting, however, would go to the courts.


SD-Sen: While Politico said back in March that Republican Sen. John Thune’s colleagues were “certain” he’d seek a fourth term next year in this very red state, the incumbent sounded anything but sure about his own plans in an interview with CNN’s Manu Raju. The senator said he would be making up his mind this fall.

Thune, who is the chamber’s minority whip, acknowledged that retiring would cost him the chance to lead the caucus whenever Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eventually leaves. Still, the incumbent continued, “But there are lots of other (factors) too. … I’ve been doing it for 25 years. I think you gotta get into family considerations, personal considerations.” When Raju asked what was keeping Thune from making up his mind, the senator replied, “It’s a six-year commitment.”


CA-Gov: A UC Berkeley poll finished about a week before the Sept. 14 recall found Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom defeating four prospective GOP foes by landslide margins in hypothetical 2022 matchups. Newsom outpaced conservative radio host Larry Elder and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer 52-30 and 49-27, respectively, and he performed slightly better against 2018 nominee John Cox and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley.

Faulconer, who spent several years as one of the GOP’s few rising stars in California before bombing on Tuesday, doesn’t seem deterred by all this, though. The ex-mayor indicated he was interested in another run next year in an election night speech, declaring, “I’m not one that’s part of a circus. I’m the guy that comes in to end the circus.” He added, “Tonight was round one; there’s more to come.”

But Elder, of all people, seems to have finally acknowledged how unlikely it is that he or any other California Republican can win in 2022. While the radio host sounded very likely to try again after losing on Tuesday, he said later in the week, “It’s hard to see how the outcome would be any different unless I was able to raise at least as much money as Gavin Newsom has spent, but even then the thing is daunting.” Elder added, though, “I may change my mind over the next coming days.”

MD-Gov: VoteVets has endorsed former nonprofit head Wes Moore, an author who previously served as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, in the Democratic primary for this open seat.

Meanwhile on the GOP side, the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker writes that former RNC chair Michael Steele  is “likely” to decide by early November. Steele endorsed Joe Biden last year, and Drucker relays that many of his fellow Republicans aren’t sure why he’s still a member of Team Red, much less a potential candidate. State party Chairman Dirk Haire, who holds the post Steele had in the early 2000s, said, “If his plan over the past couple of years was to run for governor as a Republican, he’s gone about it in an odd way.”

A longshot bid by Steele, though, could still have an impact on the GOP primary to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in this very blue state. Drucker writes that some Republicans trying to talk the former RNC chair out of running worry that he could take enough votes from state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz to hand the nomination to Del. Dan Cox, who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a bus of people to attend the riot.

NM-Gov: 2020 GOP Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti hasn’t revealed anything about his plans in the weeks since local reporter Joe Monahan said he’d challenge Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, but the would-be candidate’s wife is a bit more vocal.

Kristy Ronchetti used a Facebook comment on Monahan’s page to say, “We want to help serve the people of this state and we want to see it do better… I’m not sure it will be in a political arena or not – but it won’t stop us for fighting for the people we’ve gotten to know, respect and heard.” Kristy Ronchetti, writes Monahan, also “expressed discontent that the story was published here but notably her comment does not close the door on her husband running.”

OR-Gov: The Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council has backed state Speaker Tina Kotek in what Oregon Capitol Insider identifies as “a key labor endorsement” in the Democratic primary.


CA-25: 2020 Democratic nominee Christy Smith has picked up an endorsement from the California Federation of Teachers in the top-two primary to take on Republican Rep. Mike Garcia.

CO-08, CO-Sen: Former state Rep. Joe Salazar said Thursday that he wouldn’t run for Congress next year, an announcement that takes him out of the running both for the not-yet-finalized 8th Congressional District and as a potential Democratic primary foe for Sen. Michael Bennet. And while state Rep. Brianna Titone hinted back in June that she was interested in seeking the 8th District, she’s endorsed fellow state Rep. Yadira Caraveo instead.

Caraveo, who would be the first Latina to represent Colorado in Congress, currently is the only major Democrat running for the 8th District, but other party members are eyeing the race. State Sen. Dominick Moreno acknowledged his interest to Colorado Politics‘ Ernest Luning. The legislator ran for the current 7th District in 2017 after Rep. Ed Perlmutter decided to campaign for governor, but Moreno dropped out with the rest of the field after the incumbent decided to seek re-election after all. Luning also says that Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco is thinking about running for the new seat as well, but there’s no quote from him.

On the GOP side, Luning writes that state Sens. Kevin Priola and John Cooke are “eyeing the seat,” but there’s also no direct word from either of them.

FL-10: Both the International Association of Fire Fighters and its Osceola County chapter have backed state Sen. Randolph Bracy in what Florida Politics says are the first union endorsements for next year’s Democratic primary for what is currently a safely blue Orlando seat.

MA-04: After an unreleased poll tested Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission chair Sam Hyun in a hypothetical Democratic primary against Rep. Jake Auchincloss, Politico spoke to Hyun and wrote that he “said he’s not running for the seat right now.”

OH-16: Ohio Rep. ​​Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, announced Thursday evening that he would not seek re-election out of disgust for “​the toxic dynamics inside our own party.”

Gonzalez, who also said that his family had received death threats following his January vote, further told the New York Times that he’d devote “[m]ost of my political energy” towards ensuring that Trump never returned to the White House. Trump, for his part, celebrated Gonzalez’s departure by emphasizing his earlier endorsement for former White House aide Max Miller and gloating, “1 down, 9 to go!”

The current version of Ohio’s 16th District, which contains the western suburbs of Cleveland and Akron, supported Trump 56-42 in 2020. The Buckeye State will lose a House seat during the upcoming round of redistricting, but it’s unlikely this constituency will be the one that gets eliminated since the GOP has more or less complete control over the map making process. The Trump-backed Miller will also be hard to stop in a primary despite allegations that he physically attacked his then-girlfriend, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, last year.

Despite the nature of Gonzalez’s departure, the two-term congressman began his political career looking like a GOP rising star not long ago. Gonzalez had a well-regarded football career at the Ohio State University, and he was named an Academic All-American. After he left the NFL following his stint with the Indianapolis Colts, he went on to serve as chief operating officer for an education technology company in San Francisco.

Gonzalez moved back to Ohio before he entered the 2018 race to succeed Rep. Jim Renacci, who initially launched a campaign for governor before switching to the Senate race later in the cycle. Gonzalez’s main intra-party rival was state Rep. Christina Hagan, who was a prominent Trump backer in 2016 when Ohio Gov. John Kasich was also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Hagan pitched herself as the true Trump believer of the race and argued that Gonzalez’s Silicon Valley connections made him an insider. Gonzalez, though, enjoyed a massive financial advantage over Hagan and benefited from outside spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; his ties to his locally popular alma mater also probably made it tougher for his opponent to frame this as a battle between the dreaded establishment and a Trump-flavored outsider. Ultimately, Gonzalez prevailed 53-41, and his easy general election win made him the first Latino to represent Ohio in Congress.

Gonzalez loyally voted with the Trump administration during his first term and opposed impeaching him in 2019, but he changed course after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “The President of the United States helped organize and incite a mob that attacked the United States Congress in an attempt to prevent us from completing our solemn duties as prescribed by the Constitution,” the congressman said as he explained his vote for impeachment, adding, “During the attack itself, the President abandoned his post while many members asked for help, thus further endangering all present. These are fundamental threats not just to people’s lives but to the very foundation of the Republic.”

That vote quickly made Gonzalez radioactive with the party base and enticed Miller, who hails from a very wealthy and well-connected family, to challenge him. Gonzalez raised a serious amount of money to defend his seat, but he acknowledged Thursday, “Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now.” The outgoing congressman continued, “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

Attorneys General

TX-AG: State Rep. Matt Krause, who is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, announced Thursday that he would take on scandal-ridden incumbent Ken Paxton in the GOP primary. Krause was an early supporter of Paxton’s 2014 campaign, and he loudly stood up for the new attorney general after he was indicted for securities fraud the following year. (The case is still awaiting trial.) However, while Krause acknowledged that he had been close to Paxton, he argued, “I think Texas needs—and wants—an attorney general who can give his or her full focus to the job.”

Paxton, who has Donald Trump’s endorsement, also faces Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman for the nomination. A runoff would take place if no one secured a majority in the first round of the primary.

Secretaries of State

IA-SoS: Two Democrats recently announced bids against Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate: Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller. Pate won his second term in 2018 by a 53-45 margin against Democrat Deidre DeJear, who is now running for governor.

Ballot Measures

Minneapolis, MN Ballot: Police reformers scored a big legal victory Thursday when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that this November’s referendum to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety agency would go forward. The decision overturned state Judge Jamie Anderson, who ruled days earlier that votes in this race would not be counted because the ballot measure was “vague, ambiguous and incapable of implementation.”

Opponents of the ballot measure, which is listed as Question 2, also went up with what Axios reports is their first TV ad of the race. The spot features a barber store owner identified as Teto acknowledging, “Racism in policing has been around since policing began in this country.” However, Teto argues that while reform is needed, “[T]o get rid of police I think would be a disaster. If we abolish the police, you know, scrap the whole system, then what?” Question 2’s supporters have pushed back on the idea that the measure would eliminate the police department before a plan is put in place to replace it.


Los Angeles, CA Mayor: City Council President Nury Martinez said Thursday that she would not run in next year’s open seat race. Martinez would automatically take over as acting mayor should incumbent Eric Garcetti, who cannot run again in 2022 because of term limits, be confirmed as ambassador to India, which would make her the first woman to lead America’s second-largest city. Martinez said that, while she was open to the idea of serving out the remainder of his term as interim mayor, she was “also not interested in playing political games.”


Los Angeles County, CA, District Attorney: Conservatives seeking to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón acknowledged Thursday that they failed to collect enough signatures to force a vote, but they pledged to try again at the end of this year. Gascón was elected last year as top prosecutor of America’s most populous county on a criminal justice reform platform.

The incumbent’s detractors needed to turn in more than 580,000 valid signatures by Oct. 26 but the campaign acknowledged that it gathered only 200,000 before shutting down the effort; the movement also reportedly only raised just a fifth of the estimated $5 million needed to get on the ballot.


Canada: Contributing editor David Beard previews Monday’s federal election in Canada, where polls show a close battle between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party and their rival Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole.

Trudeau called an early election last month in an attempt to win back a majority for his centrist Liberal Party in Parliament, which for the last two years has depended on the support of the left-wing New Democratic Party. After a month of campaigning, however, that majority is probably out of reach as the Liberals are now trying to hold off their resurgent Conservative rivals and continue as a minority government.

When the election was called, the Liberals had seen polling leads ranging from 5-15 points, which would have likely delivered them a majority government. Almost immediately after the election began, though, that lead evaporated as swing voters rebelled against what they saw as an unnecessary election during a pandemic, while Conservative-leaning voters came home.

For about two weeks, the Conservatives even led in the polls, but the numbers have since stabilized, putting the Liberals either neck-and-neck or slightly ahead. That makes another Liberal minority government the most likely outcome, particularly as the Liberals won more seats despite narrowly losing the popular vote 34-33 in 2019, though a Liberal majority or a Conservative minority are still real possibilities.

Beard runs through what each of the six major parties competing in Monday’s election are now hoping to accomplish as the campaign winds to a close and also offers a guide on how to follow the returns on election night.

We’ll be liveblogging the results starting at 7 PM ET on Monday night at Daily Kos Elections, when the first polls close in eastern Canada. And with the race so tight, any number of possibilities could unfold, so be sure to check back in with us for our recap once the results are settled.

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