Morning Digest: Liz Cheney goes down in defeat, but Sarah Palin’s comeback campaign is unresolved

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

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Leading Off

WY-AL, AK-AL: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney lost Tuesday’s Republican primary 66-29 to Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman, but we’re going to need to wait another two weeks to learn who prevailed in Alaska’s instant-runoff special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Don Young.

With 150,000 ballots tabulated early Wednesday, which the Associated Press estimates represents 69% of the total vote, former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola leads with 38% as two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, grab 32% and 29%, respectively; the balance is made up of write-in votes.

The Last Frontier allows mail-in ballots postmarked by election day to be counted if they're received through the end of the month, so these margins may shift: State election officials say they plan to have updated results on Aug. 23 and Aug. 26, with final numbers on Aug. 31. After all the votes are tabulated, officials will conduct an instant runoff to reallocate the third-place finisher's votes to the two remaining candidates.

No matter what, though, Peltola, Palin, and Begich will all be on the ballot again in the November instant-runoff election for a full two-year term along with one other competitor. (This special election only had three candidates because independent Al Gross dropped out shortly after taking third in the June special top-four primary.)

Tuesday was also the day that Alaska held its top-four primaries for statewide and legislative offices, and the results of the House race so far closely resemble the special tallies: Peltola is in first with 35%, Palin second with 31%, and Begich third at 27%. Another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, leads Libertarian Chris Bye 4-1 for fourth, but the AP has not called the final spot in the general.

While it will take some time to know the winner in Alaska, though, there was no suspense about what would happen with Cheney in dark-red Wyoming. The congresswoman just two years ago was the third-ranking member of the House GOP leadership and a strong contender to become the first Republican woman to serve as speaker, but she instantly became a national party pariah when she voted to impeach Trump; Cheney went on to serve on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack along with just one other Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Trump and his allies made defeating Cheney a top priority, and his “Bachelor” style endorsement process eventually resulted in him supporting Hageman, who had placed third in the 2018 primary for governor. (Politico relays that Trump’s team originally considered backing her in a prospective rematch against Gov. Mark Gordon.) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Club for Growth went on to fall in line behind Hageman, a one-time Trump skeptic who now embraces the Big Lie.

Cheney’s defeat makes her the eighth House Republican to lose renomination this year compared to four Democrats so far. The Wyoming result also means that at least eight of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment will not be going back to Congress next year because of primary losses and retirements: Only California Rep. David Valadao and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse advanced through their respective top-two primaries, though Valadao still has to win his competitive general election against Democrat Rudy Salas.

But Cheney didn’t show any regret about what happened to her once promising career in Republican politics. She proclaimed in her concession speech that “now, the real work begins” and pledged she “will do whatever it takes to ensure Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office.”

election recaps

 AK-Sen: Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her fellow Republican, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, advanced through the top-four primary as expected, though the AP has not yet called the other two spots for the November instant-runoff general election. Murkowski holds a 44-40 edge over her Trump-backed foe as of Wednesday morning, while Democrat ​​Pat Chesbro, who is a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission, is well behind with 6%. A pair of little-known Republicans, Buzz Kelley and Pat Nolin, are taking 2% and 1%, respectively.

 AK-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy will face former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara and independent former Gov. Bill Walker in the fall, but it remains to be seen who will be the fourth general election candidate. Dunleavy is in first with 42%, while Gara and Walker are grabbing 22% each. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce holds a 7-4 edge for fourth over state Rep. Christopher Kurka in a race where both Republicans are each positioning themselves to the right of the ardently conservative governor.

 WY-Gov: Gov. Mark Gordon didn’t come close to losing his Republican primary, but he still scored an unimpressive 62-30 victory over Brent Bien, a retired Marine colonel who campaigned against the incumbent’s pandemic health measures. Gordon should have no trouble in the fall against the Democratic nominee, retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee Theresa Livingston.

 WY-SoS: State Rep. Chuck Gray, a Trump-endorsed election conspiracy theorist who has insisted the 2020 vote was “clearly rigged,” beat state Sen. Tara Nethercott 50-41 in the Republican primary to serve as secretary of state. Wyoming Democrats did not field a candidate here.

Senate

FL-Sen: The University of North Florida’s newest survey finds Democratic Rep. Val Demings leading Republican Sen. Marco Rubio 48-44, which is actually better for Team Blue than the tie that two different pro-Demings polls recently showed. This is the first independent survey we’ve seen since winter, and quite a departure from the 46-34 Rubio advantage UNF had in February. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn notes that the school obtained its sample by emailing a list of registered voters, which he calls a “​​pretty unusual design.”

NH-Sen, NH-01, NH-02: Saint Anselm College gives us a rare look at the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, which is the last competitive Senate primary in the nation, as well as Team Red's nomination contests for New Hampshire's two Democratic-held congressional districts. Before we get into the results, though, we need to note that the school asked several issue questions about abortion before it got to the horserace: We always encourage pollsters to ask these sorts of questions after the horserace to avoid "priming" voters to lean one way or the other.

We'll begin with the Senate question, where Donald Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who lost the 2020 nomination for New Hampshire's other Senate seat, posts a 32-16 advantage against state Senate President Chuck Morse. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith are far back with just 4% each, while author Vikram Mansharamani notches 2%; a 39% plurality remains undecided with less than a month to go.

This is the first poll we've seen here since April, when the University of New Hampshire had Bolduc beating Smith 33-4. Prominent national groups haven't taken sides here, but Bolduc so far has not run a particularly impressive campaign two years after his 50-42 loss. The frontrunner had a mere $70,000 in the bank at the end of June, and he spent last year accusing Gov. GOP Chris Sununu of being a "Chinese communist sympathizer" with a family business that "supports terrorism."

Bolduc also has ardently embraced the Big Lie, saying at a recent debate, "I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it]." He has plenty of company, though, as Morse is the one GOP candidate who acknowledged that Joe Biden is the president when asked Tuesday if the 2020 election was stolen. Bolduc would also prefer this be the last New Hampshire Senate election in history: Both he and Fenton have called for repealing the 17th Amendment, which gave voters the right to elect their senators in 1913.

Bolduc's many rivals, though, have considerably more resources available as they try to get their names out in the final weeks of the campaign. Fenton finished the second quarter with a $1.63 million war chest, though almost all of that was self-funded. Morse and Mansharamani had $980,000 and $790,000, respectively, with Smith holding $350,000.

Turning to the 1st District, Saint Anselm College shows 2020 nominee Matt Mowers edging out former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt 25-21 in his bid for a rematch against Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas. Former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown and state Rep. Tim Baxter are well behind with 9% and 8%, respectively, with former Executive Councilor Russell Prescott clocking in at 2%. The lead still goes to unsure, though, as 33% did not select a candidate.

Mowers has the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and he finished June with a modest $820,000 to $670,000 cash-on-hand edge over Leavitt. Biden carried both the old and new version of this eastern New Hampshire constituency 52-46 (the court-drawn congressional map made only tiny changes to both of the state's districts after Sununu thwarted efforts by his fellow Republicans in the legislature to make the 1st considerably redder), while Pappas defeated Mowers 51-46 last time.

Finally in the 2nd District, the school finds a hefty 65% undecided in the GOP primary to go up against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns leads Keene Mayor George Hansel just 12-10 while another 8% goes to Lily Tang Williams, who was the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for Senate in Colorado. (She earned 4% against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.)

Hansel has the backing of Sununu, and he ended the last quarter with a $300,000 to $130,000 cash-on-hand edge over Williams, with Burns holding $100,000. Biden would have prevailed 54-45 here.

Governors

FL-Gov: The University of North Florida finds Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried beating Rep. Charlie Crist 47-43 in next week's Democratic primary, which makes this the first poll to give her the edge all year. Crist quickly responded by releasing a Change Research survey that gave him a 47-37 advantage, which is only a little larger than the 42-35 Crist lead that Fried's own internal from Public Policy Polling showed just last week. An early August St. Pete Polls survey for Florida Politics had Crist up 56-24.

UNF also takes a look at the general election and has Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis outpacing Crist and Fried 52-40 and 50-43, respectively.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College also surveyed the general election for governor, and it finds Republican incumbent Chris Sununu beating Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman 48-29. An early July Sherman internal from Public Policy Polling put the governor's lead at a smaller, though still wide, 43-33. The school looks at the Sept. 13 GOP primary as well, but it shows Sununu with a huge 68-6 lead over perennial candidate Karen Testerman.

House

NY-10: Rep. Mondaire Jones has launched the first negative TV spot of next week's Democratic primary against attorney Dan Goldman, a self-funder who is the only other candidate with the resources to air television ads; Jones' team tells Politico that he's putting $500,000 into this late effort.

The commercial frames the crowded contest as a straight-up choice between "conservative Dan Goldman" or "progressive Mondaire Jones." The narrator goes on to contrast the two, saying, "Dan Goldman has dangerous views on abortion; Mondaire Jones is 100% pro-choice, the best record in Congress." She goes on to argue that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," while the 17th District congressman stood up to the NRA and Republicans.

The spot doesn't go into detail about its charges against Goldman, but Politico provides some background. The candidate last month sat down for an interview with Hamodia's Reuvain Borchardt and was asked, "Should there be any limitation whatsoever on the right to terminate a pregnancy at any point in the pregnancy?" Goldman responded, "I do think, generally speaking, I agree with the break-point of viability, subject to exceptions."

Goldman later said he "would not object" when Borchardt inquired if he'd be alright with a state law that would ban abortion if "there is a perfectly healthy fetus, and the mother just decides after viability that she wants to terminate the pregnancy." However, the candidate then had a conversation with an aide who was also present at the interview, and Borchardt writes that "from that point forward Goldman's responses switched from a post-viability limitation to no limitations at all."

Jones and Goldman's other rivals were quick to go on the attack after the article was published, while Goldman himself insisted he'd "misspoke" and "unequivocally support[s] a woman's right to choose."

As for this ad's charges that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," the New York Daily News recently explained that he has stock in, among many other companies, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, and News Corp. A spokesperson said, "Dan does not manage his money … It is handled by a broker, and is designed to mirror the S&P 500."

NY-19 (special): DCCC Analytics has dropped an internal showing Republican Marc Molinaro edging out Democrat Pat Ryan 46-43 in next week's special election. The last poll we saw was a late July Triton Polling & Research survey for Molinaro's allies at the right-wing Freedom Council USA, and it gave their man a larger 50-40 advantage.

PA-08: Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright is out with an internal from GQR Research that shows him defeating Republican Jim Bognet 52-46 in their rematch for a northeastern Pennsylvania constituency that would have supported Trump 51-48. The only other poll we've seen here was a late June survey for Bognet and the NRCC that put the Republican ahead 46-45.

Cartwright held off Bognet 52-48 last cycle as Trump was prevailing in the old 8th District 52-47, a win that made him one of just seven House Democrats to hold a Trump district. The congressman has taken to the airwaves early for 2022, and Politico's Ally Mutnick relays that he's already spent $415,000 on TV for the general election. Bognet, by contrast, on Tuesday began running his first spot since he won the May primary, a joint ad with the NRCC that ties Cartwright to Scranton native Joe Biden.

Secretaries of State

MA-SoS: MassInc has surveyed the Sept. 6 Democratic statewide primaries for Responsible Development Coalition, and it finds longtime Secretary of State Bill Galvin leading Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan 43-15, which is larger than the 38-25 advantage he posted in a late June poll from YouGov for UMass Amherst. Responsible Development Coalition is funded in part by the Carpenters Union, which backs Galvin.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The FBI on Tuesday arrested former Rep. TJ Cox, a California Democrat who won his sole term in a huge 2018 upset, for "15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud." Politico says that these charges carry a combined 20-year maximum prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 through 2018 Cox "​​illicitly obtained over $1.7 million in diverted client payments and company loans and investments he solicited and then stole." They also say that he broke campaign finance laws by funneling money to friends and family and having them contribute it to his campaign as "part of a scheme and plan to demonstrate individual campaign donations as preferred over the candidate's personal loans or donations to his campaign."

Cox narrowly unseated Republican Rep. David Valadao in 2018 in the 21st Congressional District in the Central Valley, but he lost their tight rematch two years later. Cox initially announced in December of 2020 that he'd run again, but, in a development that now comes as a massive relief for his party, he ultimately decided not to go for it.

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Morning Digest: Landslide wins close out Hawaii’s biggest weekend primaries

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

Leading Off

Hawaii: The Aloha State held its primary Saturday, and we have a summary of each of the big contests below.

 HI-Gov: Lt. Gov. Josh Green defeated businesswoman Vicky Cayetano 63-21 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. David Ige, while freshman Rep. Kai Kahele notched third with 15%. Green, who continued to work as a physician after going into politics, had a large media presence throughout the worst months of the pandemic, and he was the frontrunner from the start.

Green remains the favorite in November against former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, a two-time Republican nominee who scored a 50-26 victory over Ultimate Fighting Championship champion B.J. Penn. Aiona was defeated by former Rep. Neil Abercrombie 58-41 in the 2010 general election, and Aiona lost his chance for a rematch four years later when Ige beat the unpopular Abercrombie in the primary. Both parties believed that Aiona still had a real shot with another GOP wave looming and with conservative Democrat-turned-independent Mufi Hannemann threatening to siphon off votes from the Democratic ticket, but Ige turned back Aiona 49-37.

Joe Biden carried Hawaii 64-34 (he took each of the state’s two congressional districts by that same margin), and national Republicans haven’t shown any obvious sign of interest in targeting this seat again. Indeed, the RGA didn’t even respond for a Washington Post article that ran just before the primary.

 HI-01: Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Ed Case held off attorney Sergio Alcubilla by a lopsided 83-17 margin in this Honolulu-based seat. Alcubilla, who ran to Case’s left, had the backing of a few big unions, but he raised little himself and never attracted any serious outside spending.

 HI-02: Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda beat state Rep. Patrick Branco 58-25 in the Democratic primary to replace Kai Kahele in a constituency that includes northern Oahu and all of the state’s other islands.

Tokuda, who lost a tight 2018 primary to lieutenant governor to Josh Green, entered the race as the frontrunner, but a quartet of major outside groups—VoteVets, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Web3 Forward, and Mainstream Democrats PAC— spent a total of $1.2 million to elevate Branco or attack her. While this ad barrage represented a truly massive amount for a Hawaii congressional race, it turned out to be far from enough to stop Tokuda.

Senate

FL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Val Demings' allies at EMILY's List have publicized a poll from Change Research that shows her deadlocked 46-46 against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, a release that came days after two progressive groups unveiled their own survey from Clarity Campaigns that found a 45-45 tie. We have not seen any independent polls of this contest since winter.  

 NC-Sen: NBC reports that Republican Ted Budd and the NRSC will launch a joint ad campaign for $750,000, which will make this Budd's first TV commercial since he won the primary all the way back in May. Democrat Cheri Beasley, by contrast, has deployed $4.7 million since she won the nomination, though the NRSC has spent $6.3 million against her.

House

AK-AL: Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, a Republican whose city is home to about 40% of the state's population, has endorsed businessman Nick Begich III ahead of Tuesday's instant-runoff special.

Meanwhile another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, announced Friday that she'd registered with the state as an official write-in candidate for the special "after repeated requests from supporters," though she said her main focus would be to advance out of the top-four primary for a full two-year term.

FL-01: Self-funding businessman Mark Lombardo's latest commercial against Republican incumbent Matt Gaetz opens with the primary challenger declaring, "As a member of Congress, Matt Gaetz took an oath to protect America's secrets. He broke that oath when he engaged in illicit behavior on foreign soil, leaving himself vulnerable to blackmail and putting our nation's secrets at risk." Lombardo doesn't let up as the ad goes on, continuing, "To cover up, he paid pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's attorney with donors' cash and pressured Trump for a pardon for any or all crimes."

FL-13: While 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna has always looked like the frontrunner to claim the Republican nomination again on Aug. 23 in this newly gerrymandered seat, attorney Kevin Hayslett's outside group allies are deploying a serious amount to stop her. Florida Politics reports that Stand for Florida, a PAC that was set up in February, has spent $860,000 in recent days, which takes its total investment here all the way up to $1.5 million.

Luna, though, has gotten plenty of outside help herself, as the Club for Growth has dropped over $1.8 million to promote her. Conservative Outsider PAC, which is funded in part by Club donor Dick Uihlein, is also using about $110,000 for a commercial that responds to a recent Hayslett commercial that featured a clip of Luna appearing to praise Obama. The audience sees Luna warning that undocumented immigrants will cost conservatives "this country," before the narrator notes that she's Trump's endorsed candidate.

The only recent poll we've seen here was a late July Hayslett internal that showed him trailing Luna 36-34 for this constituency in the St. Petersburg area.

FL-23: Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz has earned endorsements from the National Education Association, the Florida Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers ahead of this month's Democratic primary.  

NY-01: While Nick LaLota once appeared to have a smooth path through the Aug. 23 GOP primary for this competitive open seat, the chief of staff of the Suffolk County Legislature went up with a commercial against his main intra-party rival, cryptocurrency trader Michelle Bond, earlier this month.

The narrator insists that Bond is a "liberal D.C. lobbyist" with a history of "working for Obama and Biden as a registered Democrat." The spot also declares that Bond "bankrolled a Trump-hating senator [and] lives in a mansion in the Swamp." (That last bit is a reference to Bond's newly purchased estate in Maryland, which she said is one of the "multiple residences" she has.) The rest of the ad promotes LaLota as a loyal Long Island conservative and "Trump conservative."

Bond is airing her own ads (here and here) that tout her as a conservative businesswoman, though they do not mention LaLota. Bond has used her personal wealth to decisively outpace LaLota in the money race, and the outside spending has also very much benefited her. Stand for New York, a group that hasn't gotten involved in any other races, has dropped $580,000 to attack LaLota. Another committee called Crypto Innovation PAC has also spent another $160,000 to promote Bond: The group is funded by crypto notable Ryan Salame, who just happens to be her boyfriend. (Salame has also bankrolled American Dream Federal Action, another super PAC that's gotten involved in other GOP primaries.)

LaLota has not received any super PAC aid, though he does sport endorsements from the local Republican and Conservative parties. The contest to succeed GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin also includes government relations firm executive Anthony Figliola, though he's attracted little money or attention. The winner will go up against Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who has no Democratic primary opposition, in an eastern Long Island constituency that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.4-49.2.

NY-10: Attorney Dan Goldman on Saturday earned the backing of the New York Times, which is arguably one of the few newspaper endorsements still capable of moving voters in a local Democratic primary, ahead of the packed Aug. 23 contest for this safely blue seat based in Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn. The Times’ nod was especially coveted here: City & State wrote earlier this month, “One campaign said they’ve probably had 20 supporters email or call members of the board to make their case,” while an unnamed operative added, “Everybody lobbies … The question is to what degree.”

Those candidates may have had good reason to lobby. City & State notes that the NYT’s endorsement last year provided a huge lift to then-Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in the primary for mayor of New York City and helped establish her as a frontrunner. Garcia still narrowly lost the instant-runoff contest to Eric Adams, but she performed well in areas that overlap with the 10th District as well as the 12th, which is home to another big Democratic primary.

Politico's Joe Anuta also reports that Goldman has so far spent $2.8 million on TV ads, which is a truly massive sum for a campaign taking place in America's priciest media market. Goldman, though, is an heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune, and he has plenty of personal wealth and connections: The candidate, who would be one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has self-funded $4 million so far and raised another $1.5 million from donors through Aug. 3.  

Anuta relays that only one Goldman opponent, 17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones, has joined him on television, and he's deployed a considerably smaller $784,000. The other contenders have stayed off the airwaves, which is a common strategy for candidates running in the massive New York City media market. (Over 20 million people live in this market, and relatively few can vote in the 10th District's primary.)

"You're wasting your spending on 90% of the people who see your ad," explained Matthew Rey, a strategist who isn't involved in this race. He added, "So is it a powerful way to persuasively and effectively reach that other 10%? Yes. But dollar-for-dollar, it's a luxury." Another unaligned consultant, Basil Smikle Jr., was even more skeptical, saying, "In a congressional race where you are expecting turnout to be low, there are much more efficient ways to spend your money than doing a large broadcast buy in the last couple of weeks."

Goldman, though, is betting that voters will indeed react well to his TV spots, including a new piece touting his work in civil rights law and "leading the impeachment of Donald Trump." The commercial also displays Trump's message on his Truth Social platform (which, yes, still exists) reading, "Dan Goldman puts in his ad used in running for Congress that he 'impeached Donald Trump'" to argue, "Donald Trump doesn't want Dan Goldman in Congress, but we do."

 NY-12: The New York Times on Saturday endorsed incumbent Jerry Nadler in his Democratic primary against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney and attorney Suraj Patel. 

NY-17: The New York City Police Benevolent Association, which endorsed Trump in 2020, has spent $310,000 to oppose state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in her Democratic primary against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. The spot labels Biaggi an “anti-police extremist,” which is the type of rhetoric Republicans usually love to throw at Democrats in general elections.

 NY-19 (special): VoteVets has launched what Politico reports is a $450,000 ad buy to aid Democrat Pat Ryan, which makes this Team Blue's first major independent expenditure ahead of an Aug. 23 special election. The narrator echoes Ryan in framing the contest as a choice between a pro-choice candidate and "a Congress that'll pass a nationwide ban on abortion first chance they get." She adds that Ryan, who served with the Army in Iraq "sure didn't fight for our freedom abroad to see it taken away from women here at home."

The NRCC, for its part, is continuing to try to frame Ryan as weak on public safety in its new spot.

 OH-09: Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur's latest commercial argues that, while she's fighting to lower drug prices, Republican J.R. Majewski "made a rap video." Yes, you read that right: The QAnon-aligned candidate did indeed star in a piece called "Let's Go Brandon Save America," and Kaptur's spot treats viewers to a mercifully small piece of it. "Not to poke fun at dementia, it's a serious disease," raps Majewski, "But come on, man, squeeze your cheeks when you sneeze." Kaptur's narrator concludes, "We don't need celebrity wannabes, we need serious leaders tackling serious challenges."

 OK-02: The newest commercial in what's turned into a very expensive Aug. 23 Republican runoff is a spot from the Club for Growth affiliate School Freedom Fund starring Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who extols former state Sen. Josh Brecheen as an ardent "Trump conservative."

This group has deployed $1.8 million during the second round to promote Brecheen, who is a former Club fellow, or rip his opponent, state Rep. Avery Fix, in the contest for this safely red eastern Oklahoma constituency. Two other organizations, Fund for a Working Congress and American Jobs and Growth PAC, have dropped a similar amount to help Frix, who outpaced Brecheen just 15-14 in late June.

Other Races

 GA Public Service Commission: On Friday, an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel stayed a recent lower court ruling that had blocked Georgia from holding elections this fall for two seats on its Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, on the grounds that the statewide election method violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters. The district court ruling had postponed the elections until Georgia lawmakers adopted a district-based election method next year, but the appellate judges ruled that it was too close to November to implement any election changes to ongoing 2022 elections and stayed the lower court's decision while Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's appeal is pending.

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Morning Digest: Trump’s candidates faceplant again in Georgia’s House runoffs

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

GA-02, GA-06, GA-10: Georgia held its primary runoffs on Tuesday, and all three of the House candidates endorsed by Donald Trump―including one he backed at almost the last moment―went down in defeat. The bad results for Trump’s contenders came a month after his Big Lie slate of statewide candidates unsuccessfully tried to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Attorney General Chris Carr on May 24 (Georgia requires runoffs in any primaries where no one earned a majority of the vote).

In southwestern Georgia’s 2nd District, Air Force veteran Chris West edged out Army veteran Jeremy Hunt, the recipient of that belated Trump endorsement, 51-49 on Tuesday for the right to take on 15-term Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop. Meanwhile in the 6th District, physician Rich McCormick triumphed 67-33 against former state Ethics Commission Chair Jake Evans in a newly-gerrymandered seat in the Atlanta suburbs. Finally in the open 10th District in the northeastern part of the state, trucking company owner Mike Collins walloped former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a prominent, conservative Democrat-turned-Republican, 74-26 in another safely red constituency.

We’ll start in the 2nd District, where Republicans are hoping that, despite Joe Biden’s 55-44 win here in 2020, Bishop might be vulnerable against the right opponent. Hunt seemed to have a good chance to be that opponent after leading West 37-30 in the first round of voting on May 24. Hunt, who was the subject of a detailed Washington Post profile a day ahead of Election Day titled, “A Black Republican tries to bring in Black voters to the GOP,” also benefited from numerous Fox News appearances as well as outside spending from a super PAC funded by conservative megadonor Ken Griffin.

However, while Hunt largely avoided bringing up Trump on the campaign trail, Trump waded in over the weekend in a truly odd way. The MAGA master used an address at the national Faith & Freedom conference to give a shoutout to Bishop Garland Hunt, who backed him in 2020, by saying, “Bishop Hunt, I know your son, I just endorsed your son and he won big…what a great son.”

That statement left observers scratching their heads both because Trump had made no such endorsement of his son, Jeremy Hunt, and the runoff had not even taken place yet. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that Trump had endorsed Texas’ Wesley Hunt, who did win his GOP primary in March; the two candidates do not appear to be related.) However, Jeremy Hunt’s campaign seized on those confusing words by broadcasting them in a text message, though even his team seemed a little confused by what was happening. “We were just going based on what the President said, speaking about Jeremy’s father, and then we took it as referring to our big win, coming in first place in the primary,” Hunt’s campaign manager said.

West, though, worked hard to portray his opponent as an outsider by attacking his weak ties to southwestern Georgia, saying at one debate that Republicans needed a nominee “who is going to go up and represent middle and southwest Georgia, not someone who has just moved here three months ago, who has been bought and paid for by Washington, D.C., special interests.” West also earned an endorsement from businessman Wayne Johnson, who finished third in the first round with 19% and went on to launch a lawsuit against Fox News for supposedly giving Hunt (whom he’s also suing) an unfair amount of positive coverage.

Trump, meanwhile, went all-in for Evans and Jones well before the May 24 primaries only to see them each wind up in second place: McCormick outpaced Evans last month 43-23 in the 6th, while Collins edged out Jones 26-22. McCormick, who narrowly lost last cycle’s race in the prior version of the 7th District to Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, likely benefited from name recognition from that campaign; Evans, by contrast, had plenty of connections through his father, former Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans, but he wasn’t such a familiar name to voters. It didn’t help that a Club for Growth affiliate spent heavily in the runoff on messaging using Evans’ old writings to portray him as “woke.”

Finally in the 10th, Collins, who picked up an endorsement from Kemp days ahead of Election Day, also had plenty to attack Jones with. While Collins’ late father, Mac Collins, used to serve this area in Congress, Jones never represented any part of this district either in the legislature or as the chief executive of DeKalb County. (The younger Collins also unsuccessfully ran here in 2014 only to lose the runoff to Jody Hice, who gave up this seat to wage a failed bid against Raffensperger.)

Jones earned Trump's support after he ended his long-shot campaign for governor to run here instead, but that hardly stopped Collins from portraying his Black opponent as an outsider and “radically anti-white racist.” Things intensified in the final days when Collins sent out a tweet that featured a picture of a rape whistle emblazoned with the web address for an anti-Jones site, an item that references an accusation of rape leveled against Jones in 2004​ (he was never charged), alongside an image of a gun.

However, while McCormick and Collins each turned back Trump’s candidates, both of them still ran as ardent Trump allies themselves: Collins notably launched his campaign with a video where he drove a truck labeled “Trump Agenda” that sported a Trump bobblehead on the dashboard. The results, while embarrassing for Trump, are another reminder what, while the GOP leader may lose some battles to nominate his favored candidates, Trumpism remains alive and well in the GOP.

election recaps

 Primary Night: We had another busy primary night on Tuesday outside of those three Georgia contests, and below is a summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in the big contests.

  • AL-Sen (R): Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt defeated Rep. Mo Brooks 63-37 in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, who ardently supported her, in this safely red state. Trump himself endorsed Britt ahead of Election Day two months after he abandoned Brooks’ flailing campaign.
  • AL-05 (R): Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong outpaced former Department of Defense official Casey Wardynski 63-37 to claim the GOP nod to succeed Brooks in this heavily Republican constituency in northern Alabama. Wardynski’s allies at the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus ran ads portraying Strong as a politician who "caved to the woke liberals" and "shunned President Trump," but it was far from enough.
  • VA-02 (R): State Sen. Jen Kiggans, who was the candidate of the GOP establishment, scored a 56-27 victory over Big Lie fanatic Jarome Bell despite a late ad campaign from Democrats designed to help Bell capture the Republican nod. Kiggans will go up against Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in a Virginia Beach-based seat where, under the new court-drawn map, Joe Biden’s margin of victory was halved from 51-47 to just 50-48.
  • VA-07 (R): Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, who was backed by the House Freedom Caucus, beat Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson 29-24 in the six-way GOP primary. Vega will now face Democratic Rep. ​​Abigail Spanberger in a constituency that dramatically transformed under the new map from a district anchored in the Richmond suburbs seat to one largely based in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County; Biden would have won the new seat 52-46, compared to just 50-49 under the old lines.
  • GA-SoS (D): State Rep. Bee Nguyen defeated former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler 77-23 for the right to go up against Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
  • Washington, D.C. Mayor (D): Mayor Muriel Bowser won renomination by turning back Councilmember Robert White 50-39, a win that all but guarantees her a third term in this dark blue city.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Louisiana's Republican-run legislature has failed to meet a court-ordered June 20 deadline to draw a new congressional map, meaning a federal judge will now be responsible for crafting her own map that would allow Black voters to elect their preferred candidates in a second district. However, Republicans have asked the Supreme Court to block a recent ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed the case to proceed. Earlier this year, the justices barred a similar decision in Alabama from taking effect.

Senate

AK-Sen: Alaskans for L.I.S.A.—oh, you thought that was just "Lisa," as in Murkowski? nope, it stands for the almost recursive, very nearly tautological "Leadership In a Strong Alaska," and yes, it includes those periodsis spending $2 million to air ads boosting … you'll never believe it … Lisa Murkowski. The super PAC's spot, which is the first outside TV advertising of the race, touts the Republican senator's local roots and her advocacy on behalf of the state. There's no word yet as to whether the Man from U.N.C.L.E. plans to get involved.

FL-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Florida's Aug. 23 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's only serious opponent is Democratic Rep. Val Demings, whose one notable intra-party foe, former Rep. Alan Grayson, announced last month that he'd instead run to succeed her in the House. Demings has been a very strong fundraiser, but she faces a difficult campaign in a longtime swing state that has been trending right in recent years. Major outside groups have also so far avoided reserving ad time on either side in this extremely expensive state.

The most recent survey we've seen was a late May internal for the congresswoman's allies at Giffords PAC, and it gave Rubio a 47-41 edge.

UT-Sen: A new WPA Intelligence poll for Republican Sen. Mike Lee finds him leading conservative independent challenger Evan McMullin by a 52-33 margin, a very different result from a recent independent survey from Dan Jones & Associates that gave Lee just a 41-37 edge. Earlier this year, Utah Democrats declined to put forward their own nominee and instead gave their backing to McMullin in the hopes that an alliance between Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans would give both factions the best chance to boot Lee, a notorious Trump sycophant.

SMP: The Senate Majority PAC and its affiliated nonprofit, Majority Forward, have booked $38 million in airtime to run ads this summer in six key battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire, where Democrats are on defense, as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the party's two best shots to pick up seats. The PAC previously reserved $106 million for the fall, though this is the first time its target list has included New Hampshire, where it now has $4 million in spending planned.

Governors

FL-Gov: St. Pete Polls, working on behalf of Florida Politics, shows Rep. Charlie Crist beating his one serious intra-party foe, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, 49-24 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP incumbent Ron DeSantis. Fried herself recently publicized an internal that founds things far closer, but she still trailed Crist 38-34.

The ultimate winner will be in for an uphill battle against DeSantis. We haven't seen any reliable polling here in months, but the governor and his PAC ended May with a gigantic $112 million at their disposal. Crist, who was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican and narrowly lost the 2014 general election following his party switch, by contrast led Fried $6.3 million to $3.9 million.

NM-Gov: Two new polls of November's race for governor in New Mexico both show a close contest. A survey from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, taken on behalf of the independent news site New Mexico Political Report, finds Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham leading Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti 45-42, with Libertarian Karen Bedonie taking 9% of the vote, while a Ronchetti internal from Public Opinion Strategies has him edging out the incumbent 46-45.

Ronchetti's poll doesn't appear to have included Bedonie, whose share of the vote is unusually high for a third-party candidate but not quite out of the realm of possibility: Former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson took 9% in New Mexico's presidential race in 2016 while running as a Libertarian, then followed that up two years later with a 15% showing in a bid for Senate. Bedonie of course lacks the name recognition of Johnson, and her ultimate Election Day performance is likely to be in the low rather than high single digits, but Democrats will be pleased so long as she draws votes away from Ronchetti.

House

AK-AL: In a surprise development, independent Al Gross announced Monday that he was dropping out of both the special election and regular contest for a two-year term for Alaska's lone House seat, a decision that came a little more than a week after he earned a spot in the Aug. 16 instant runoff special by finishing third with 13% of the vote. But Gross' hopes that his spot might be filled by another candidate were quickly dashed by election officials.

Gross, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee for Senate, urged his supporters to back either former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola or Republican Tara Sweeney, a former state Interior Department official who is in fifth place with most ballots counted in the June 11 top-four primary. Gross did not indicate a preference between the two or even mention either by name, saying only that there are "two outstanding Alaska Native women in this race" and urging his supporters to "consider giving their first-place vote to whichever of them best matches their own values."

However, Gail Fenumiai, Alaska's director of elections, said that state law only allows the fifth-place finisher to replace a candidate who drops out if there are at least 64 days until the general election; in a Tuesday letter to an attorney for second-place finisher Nick Begich, she noted there were only 56 days left. Fenumiai did say that Gross' name would be removed from the ballot, though she urged anyone who might disagree with her decision to "file suit immediately," citing a June 28 deadline to finalize the August ballot for printing.

It’s not clear whether Sweeney intends to challenge Fenumiai's ruling. Sweeney's campaign manager responded to the news late on Monday by saying the candidate had been in an area without cell phone reception and promised that a statement would be "forthcoming once she is back in communication"; Sweeney was still incommunicado on Tuesday afternoon, per her campaign. Gross himself explained Tuesday he'd decided to quit because he'd decided "it is just too hard to run as a nonpartisan candidate in this race."

With most of the votes counted, Sweeney holds a 6-5 edge over North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described "independent, progressive, democratic socialist" who is not running for the full two-year term, for what might be a suddenly important fifth-place spot. Two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and Begich, took first and second place in the top-four primary, respectively, with the Associated Press calling the fourth spot for Peltola late on Friday.

FL-01: Rep. Matt Gaetz, the far-right icon who reportedly remains under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses, has three opponents in the Republican primary for this safely red constituency in the Pensacola area.

Gaetz's most serious foe appears to be former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo, who pledged to spend $1 million of his own money when he launched his bid last week against the incumbent, whom he labeled "a professional politician who has dishonored his constituents with unnecessary drama, childish gimmicks, and is reportedly entangled in a federal investigation for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old girl to the Bahamas." Air Force veteran Bryan Jones and Greg Merk, who took 9% in Gaetz’s uncompetitive 2020 primary, are also in, but they've generated little attention.  

FL-02: Democratic Rep. Al Lawson decided to take on his Republican colleague, Neal Dunn, after the new GOP gerrymander transformed Lawson's reliably blue and plurality-Black 5th District into a very white and conservative constituency. Neither congressman faces any intra-party opposition ahead of what will almost certainly be one of only two incumbent vs. incumbent general elections of the cycle (the other is in Texas' 34th District, where Republican Mayra Flores will take on Democrat Vicente Gonzalez).

The new 2nd, which includes Tallahassee and Panama City, would have supported Trump 55-44. Dunn, for his part, already represents 64% of the redrawn constituency, while another 31% are Lawson's constituents.

FL-04: Three Republicans and two Democrats are campaigning for the new 4th District, an open constituency that includes part of Jacksonville and its western suburbs and would have supported Trump 53-46.

The only elected official on the GOP side is state Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean, who recently began running ads here. Navy veteran Erick Aguilar, meanwhile, earned just 20% of the vote in 2020 when he challenged incumbent John Rutherford in the primary for the previous version of the 4th (Rutherford is now running for the new 5th), but he appears to be running a far more serious operation this time: While Aguilar brought in just $16,000 two years ago, he ended March with $810,000 on-hand thanks to both stronger fundraising and self-funding. The final Republican, Jon Chuba, has raised almost nothing.

The Democratic contest is a duel between former state Sen. Tony Hill and businesswoman LaShonda Holloway. Hill left office in 2011 to take a job in then-Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's administration, while Holloway took 18% of the vote in the 2020 primary against incumbent Al Lawson in the old 5th District.

FL-07: Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced her retirement months before Republicans transformed her suburban Orlando from a 55-44 Biden seat into one Trump would have taken 52-47, and Republicans have an eight-way primary to replace her.

The only sitting elected official in the race is state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a far-right zealot who has a terrible relationship with his chamber's leadership. The field also includes former DeBary City Commissioner Erika Benfield, who lost a competitive state House primary in 2020, and former Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards, who entered the race last week pledging to balance gun safety with respect for the Second Amendment.

There are several other Republicans worth watching. One contender who has been trying hard to get attention is Army veteran Cory Mills, a self-funder who recently aired an ad bragging how his company manufactures the tear gas that's been used on left-wing demonstrators. There's also Navy veteran Brady Duke, whom we hadn't previously mentioned but who has raised a notable amount of money through March. Rounding out the GOP field are former congressional staffer Rusty Roberts; businessman Scott Sturgill, who lost the 2018 primary for the old 7th 54-30; and Al Santos, another businessman who has yet to earn much notice.    

There are four Democrats running here as well. The early frontrunner appears to be party official Karen Green, who has endorsements from a number of local elected officials.

FL-10: Ten Democrats are campaigning to succeed Senate candidate Val Demings in a contest that completely transformed in the final days of candidate filing.

Until then, the frontrunners for this safely blue Orlando constituency were state Sen. Randolph Bracy and gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost, who each ended March with a credible amount of money. Several other candidates, including pastor Terence Gray, have also been running since last year, but they've struggled to bring in cash. Things took a dramatic turn last week, though, when former 9th District Rep. Alan Grayson decided to end his little-noticed Senate campaign to run here, while former 5th District Rep. Corrine Brown jumped in days later. (Brown's launch came about a month after she accepted a deal with federal prosecutors where she pleaded guilty to tax fraud.)

Both former House members have experience running in this area. Grayson, according to political data expert Matthew Isbell, would have carried the new 10th 40-39 in the 2016 Senate primary against national party favorite Patrick Murphy even as the bombastic Grayson was badly losing statewide. (Grayson in 2018 went on to badly lose the primary to take the old 9th back from his successor, Rep. Darren Soto.) And while Brown's longtime base is from Jacksonville, she spent 24 years representing a seat that snaked down about 140 miles south to Orlando.

FL-11: Six-term Rep. Dan Webster faces Republican primary opposition from far-right activist Laura Loomer, a self-described "proud Islamophobe" who has been banned from numerous social media, rideshare, and payment services for spreading bigotry, in a constituency in the western Orlando area that Trump would have won 55-44. Webster only represents 35% of this new district, but he's still a far more familiar presence here than Loomer, who ran a high-profile but doomed 2020 bid against Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel in South Florida. Two other Republicans also filed here.

FL-13: Five Republicans are competing to replace Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who is leaving to try to reclaim his old job as governor, in a newly gerrymandered St. Petersburg-based district that flipped from 52-47 Biden to 53-46 Trump. The frontrunner is 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who sports endorsements from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth for her second try. Team Red's field also includes Amanda Makki, whom Luna beat last time; attorney Kevin Hayslett; and two others. The only Democrat on the ballot, by contrast, is former Department of Defense official Eric Lynn.

FL-15: Each party has five candidates campaigning for a new suburban Tampa constituency that Trump would have won 51-48.

On the GOP side, the two elected officials in the running are state Sen. Kelli Stargel, who is an ardent social conservative, and state Rep. Jackie Toledo, who has prevailed in competitive turf. Another notable contender is former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who recently resigned to run and was previously elected as a local judge before Gov. Ron DeSantis chose her as Florida's top elections administration official. Rounding out the field are retired Navy Capt. Mac McGovern and Demetrius Grimes, a fellow Navy veteran who lost the 2018 Democratic primary for the old 26th District in South Florida.

For the Democrats, the most familiar name is arguably Alan Cohn, who was the 2020 nominee for the previous version of the 15th. Also in the running are political consultant Gavin Brown, comedian Eddie Geller, and two others.

FL-20: Freshman Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick faces a Democratic primary rematch against former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, whom she beat by all of 5 votes in last year's crowded special election, in a safely blue constituency that includes part of the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas. Holness doesn't have the anti-incumbent lane to himself, though, as state Rep. Anika Omphroy is also in.

FL-23: Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch is retiring from a Fort Lauderdale-based seat that's very similar to the 22nd District he currently serves, and six fellow Democrats are running to succeed him in this 56-43 Biden constituency. The frontrunner from the beginning has been Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, a well-connected former state representative who later served in Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration as director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Moskowitz's two main rivals appear to be Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Ben Sorensen and former prosecutor Hava Holzhauer.

FL-24: While former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson announced in March that she'd challenge Rep. Frederica Wilson in the Democratic primary, Edmonson never filed to run here before qualifying closed last week. Wilson now only faces one little-known opponent for renomination in this safely blue Miami-based seat.  

FL-27: Republican map makers did what they could to insulate freshman GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar by shifting her Miami-area seat from a 51-48 win for Joe Biden to a 50-49 margin for Donald Trump, but Team Blue is still betting she's beatable. National Democrats, including the DCCC, have consolidated behind state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who dropped out of the governor's race earlier this month to run here. Taddeo's main intra-party rival is Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who abandoned his own long-shot Senate bid, while progressive activist Angel Montalvo rounds out the field.

FL-28: Freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Giménez picked up a notable Democratic rival just before filing closed Friday when former state Rep. Robert Asencio launched a campaign. Trump would have carried this exurban Miami seat 53-46, which makes it a tad redder than Giménez's existing 26th District.

HI-02: Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda earned an endorsement earlier this month from both the Hawai'i Government Employees Association, which is the largest union in the state, and the AFL-CIO ahead of the August Democratic primary.

IL-01: Two crypto-aligned groups, Protect Our Future and Web3 Forward, are dropping just shy of $1 million total to support businessman Jonathan Jackson in next week's Democratic primary, a crowded contest that saw little outside spending until now. Only the latter's spot is currently available, and it reminds the audience that Jackson is the son of civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. "Jonathan Jackson knows we are in the fight for our lives now," says the narrator. "Jackson is running for Congress to get guns off our streets, tackle inflation, and protect our right to vote."

Meanwhile, another organization called Forward Progress is deploying $160,000 to help former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves, who has retiring Rep. Bobby Rush's backing.

IL-15: Far-right Rep. Mary Miller has publicized an internal from Cygnal showing her edging out fellow incumbent Rodney Davis 45-40 ahead of next week's Republican primary, which is an improvement from their 41-41 tie in an unreleased survey from two weeks ago. We haven't seen any other recent polling of the contest for this dark-red seat in downstate Illinois.

MD-04: The hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC last week began a $600,000 ad campaign against former Rep. Donna Edwards through its United Democracy Project super PAC, which was the first major outside spending of the July 19 Democratic primary. AIPAC, which supports former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, argues that Edwards did a poor job with constituent services during her first stint in the House: The narrator claims, "Her congressional office was widely regarded as unresponsive to constituents who needed help and Donna Edwards was rated one of the least effective members of Congress, dead last among Democrats."

Edwards quickly responded by releasing a video message from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who supports her comeback campaign, praising her as "one of the most effective members in Congress" and someone who "fought hard for Prince George's County—for jobs and investments in her community, to help constituents in need, and to deliver results."

MD-06: Matthew Foldi, a former staff writer for the conservative Washington Free Beacon whom we hadn't previously written about, has unveiled an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy ahead of next month's GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. David Trone.  

Foldi, who previously worked for McCarthy's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund, faces five intra-party opponents including Del. Neil Parrott, the 2020 nominee who lost to Trone 59-39 as Biden was carrying the old 6th 61-38. However, the new map, which the Democratic-dominated legislature passed after their original draft was struck down in state court, halved Biden's margin to 54-44.

TX-15: The Texas Democratic Party announced Friday that a recount has confirmed that businesswoman Michelle Vallejo won the May 24 runoff by defeating Army veteran Ruben Ramirez by 35 votes, which was five more than she started with. Vallejo will now go up against 2020 Republican nominee Monica De La Cruz in a Rio Grande Valley seat that, under the new GOP gerrymander, would have supported Trump 51-48.

WI-03: Former CIA officer Deb McGrath has released an attention-grabbing spot for the August Democratic primary that features the candidate skydiving. McGrath, who is campaigning to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, explains that, as the one woman in her Army jump school, "The guys thought I'd chicken out. I was the first out the door." Following her jump and before deploying her parachute, McGrath explains through a voiceover, "I'm running for Congress because of the sky-high cost of everything. Wisconsin needs a representative who thinks for herself, works with both parties, and fights for women's rights."

Other Races

SD-AG: Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who was impeached in April for fatally striking a pedestrian named Joe Boever with his car in 2020 and lying about the crash to investigators, was convicted on both counts and removed from office on Tuesday. Twenty-four members of the GOP-dominated state Senate—exactly the two-thirds supermajority necessary for conviction—voted in favor of the first count, with 9 opposed, while the second count was backed by a wider 31-2 margin. In addition, in a unanimous 33-0 vote, the Senate barred Ravnsborg, who recently announced he would not seek re-election, from ever holding public office in South Dakota again.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who had long called for Ravnsborg's resignation, will now appoint a replacement. Noem has not yet said whom she might pick, but she previously endorsed former Attorney General Marty Jackley's bid to reclaim his old post. Jackley faces a top Ravnsborg aide, David Natvig, for the GOP nomination, which will be decided at the state party's convention that begins on Thursday.

Mayors

Oakland, CA Mayor: Former City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente announced last week that he was joining November's instant-runoff contest to succeed termed-out Mayor Libby Schaaf, which makes him the 16th candidate to enter the officially nonpartisan race to lead this loyally blue city. De La Fuente, who mulled a 2018 bid against Schaaf, launched his new effort by pledging to hire more police officers and saying he "will not tolerate" homeless encampments.  

De La Fuente ran for mayor twice during his long tenure on the City Council, which spanned from 1992 to 2013, but he badly lost both campaigns to prominent figures. In 1998 he took just 7% in a contest that resulted in former Gov. Jerry Brown beginning his second stint in elected office (Brown reclaimed his old job as governor in 2010). De La Fuente tried again in 2006 but lost 50-33 to former Rep. Ron Dellums; De La Fuente himself left the City Council six years later when he unsuccessfully campaigned for a citywide seat.

The field already included a trio of councilmembers: Loren Taylor, Sheng Thao, and Treva Reid. Schaaf has not yet endorsed anyone, but Taylor has often supported her on key votes. Thao, by contrast, has run to Taylor's left and sports endorsements from several unions and state Attorney General Rob Bonta, while the San Francisco Chronicle identifies Reid as a Taylor ally. Also in the running is Allyssa Victory, who works as an attorney for the regional ACLU and Communications Workers of America Local 9415.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Rep. David Rivera's latest comeback bid may have ended before it could begin, as elections authorities say that he didn't actually qualify for the ballot in state House District 119. Rivera responded Tuesday by insisting that the matter wasn't settled and that he'd "let the lawyers in Tallahassee handle that," though there's no word on what the problem is. The former congressman, though, didn't hold back on attacking the Miami Herald's coverage of the many corruption scandals he's been linked to.

Ad Roundup

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Morning Digest: Investment in GOP primary for Illinois governor pays dividends … for Democrats

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Leading Off

IL-Gov: Democrats looking to prevent Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin from winning the June 28 GOP primary got some very welcome news Friday when the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling finding far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey ahead 32-17, with another 11% going to venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan. The poll came shortly after a conservative PAC called People Who Play by the Rules PAC, which has been attacking Irvin, publicized its own numbers from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates giving Bailey a smaller 27-20 edge over the mayor.

Irvin in late May had unveiled his own numbers showing himself ahead 31-25, but he didn't have anything to offer Friday when reporters asked him about his underwhelming showing from PPP. Instead, the one-time frontrunner said there were "two and a half weeks left" before primary day and that "that's a lifetime in politics." Those comments came a day after Irvin's campaign confirmed they had cut planned advertising in southern Illinois, which led observers to wonder if the mayor was running out of the $50 million he'd received from billionaire Ken Griffin.

But Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's allies at the DGA are still pouring it on with another ad designed to make Bailey, who among other things once pushed a hopeless bill to kick Chicago out of Illinois, more appealing to GOP voters. Just like the group's previous spots, the narrator asks, "Are pro-Trump conservative Darren Bailey's policies too conservative for Illinois?" The spot goes on to remind viewers that Bailey "sued to stop J. B. Pritzker's Covid mandates" before showing footage of the state senator using a firearm.

election recaps

 AK-AL: Almost 110,000 votes have been counted in Saturday’s special top-four primary for the final months of the late GOP Rep. Don Young’s term, and while the Associated Press has not yet called any of the four spots in the Aug. 16 instant runoff general election, three contenders have established clear leads over the other 45 candidates. Two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, are taking 30% and 19%, respectively; independent Al Gross, who was the 2020 Democratic Senate nominee, is in third with 12%.

The battle for the fourth and final spot is tight, with former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola holding a 7-5 edge over a third Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney; not far behind with 4% is North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described "independent, progressive, democratic socialist" who previously had his name changed from Thomas O'Connor. 

It’s not clear how many votes are left since mail-in ballots received though June 21 will be tabulated as long as they were postmarked by Saturday, though election authorities say that a total of 139,000 votes have been received thus far. The state, writes the Alaska Beacon, plans to count more ballots on Wednesday, Friday, and June 21, with certification to follow four days later.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: A panel of judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday issued a short-term "administrative stay"​ for a lower court ruling that struck down Louisiana's GOP-drawn congressional map for racial discrimination, but the stay was lifted Sunday​​. Arguments over the case are set to take place in early July, though, so this is far from the final word on the future of the maps. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has reiterated that a special redistricting session will begin Wednesday.

NY Redistricting: A state appellate court has struck down New York's Democratic-drawn Assembly map on the grounds that the legislature lacked the authority to draw its own map after the state's bipartisan commission failed to pass anything of its own. However, the ruling won't take effect until after this year's elections, since the court ruled that the Republican plaintiffs had waited too late into the election cycle to bring their lawsuit, meaning the upcoming June 28 primary will proceed using the Democratic-drawn districts and the courts will oversee the redrawing of the map for the 2024 elections.

Senate

GA-Sen: The progressive group VoteVets has launched a TV commercial as part of a $1.5 million ad buy that accuses Republican Herschel Walker of using his supposed charity to prey upon veterans to his own financial benefit of $331,000 last year alone, noting that prosecutors charged the charity with defrauding the federal government. As the Associated Press has reported, Walker served as a celebrity spokesperson for Patriot Support, which is actually a for-profit program marketed to veterans by the large hospital chain Universal Health Services.

A civil lawsuit against Universal by the Justice Department and a number of state governments alleged that the company aggressively pushed veterans into inpatient mental health care facilities, often via misdiagnosis and fraudulent documents, to take advantage of how government-sponsored insurance plans don't limit the duration of psychiatric hospital stays under certain conditions, unlike private insurance plans. Universal ultimately reached a $122 million settlement with the federal government and various states in 2020 but denied any wrongdoing.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The nonpartisan Nevada Independent has once more released a survey from the GOP firm OH Predictive Insights of Tuesday's Republican primaries, and it finds the Trump-backed Senate and gubernatorial frontrunners, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, maintaining double-digit leads in their respective contests.

In the contest to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Laxalt posts a 48-34 edge over Sam Brown, an Army veteran who has run a surprisingly well-funded campaign. One month before, the firm showed Laxalt up by a similar 45-30 edge, and we haven't seen any reliable polling in the intervening time. The former attorney general's allies at the Club for Growth and its School Freedom Fund affiliate aren't taking any chances, though, as they've continued to spend on advertising in the closing days of the contest.

Meanwhile in the race to go up against Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, Lombardo outpaces attorney Joey Gilbert, a former professional boxer who has bragged that he was "definitely on the Capitol steps" on Jan. 6, 34-21, which puts things a bit closer than Lombardo's 35-15 edge the previous month. Two other Republicans, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee and former Sen. Dean Heller, tie for third with 10% each, which is about where they each were in May.

NBC reported Wednesday that Lee, a former conservative Democrat who defected to the GOP last year, has actually outspent Lombardo $2 million to $1.2 million on advertising, but that a group called Better Nevada PAC has deployed an additional $2.9 million to help the sheriff. The DGA-affiliated A Stronger Nevada, meanwhile, has poured $2.5 million into ads largely attacking Lombardo as "more worried about his public image than public safety" in an effort to try to derail the frontrunner.

OH-Sen: The Democratic group Innovation Ohio has publicized an internal from GrowProgress that shows Democrat Tim Ryan leading Republican J.D. Vance 44-41, little different from his 43-41 edge in a late April poll taken just before both men won their primaries. The only other recent general election survey we've seen was a late May Suffolk University poll that put Vance ahead 42-39.

Governors

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker announced Friday that he was suspending his campaign, saying that he didn't have the money to win the Democratic nomination on July 19. Baker, who took second in the 2018 primary, said he'd consider restarting his efforts if he received substantially more donations in the next month, but he acknowledged this was very unlikely to happen.    

MI-Gov: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was the Republican primary frontrunner before he was disqualified last month for fraudulent voter petition signatures, announced Thursday that he'd wage a write-in campaign to secure the nomination in August. "I got emails, text messages through my campaign that says: 'Chief, we know you were robbed," insisted Craig. "And you know what? I'm not going to roll over. Because this is not about me as a candidate."

Craig made his announcement on the local station Fox 2 along with self-funding businessman Perry Johnson, who is suing in federal court to get back on the ballot himself. However, while Johnson, whose campaign also fell victim to a fraudulent signature scandal, is going to federal court to try to get back on the ballot, he sounded skeptical about running his own write-in effort.

Johnson, while not explicitly ruling out the idea, acknowledged it would be "very, very difficult" for anyone to pull off and estimated the effort would take $22 million. Craig, who had $1.2 million on-hand at the end of 2021, suggested that he and his wealthy former rival "should be partners," but Johnson quickly said he didn't want to be his running mate.

MN-Gov, MN-AG: The Democratic firm Change Research's new survey for the nonpartisan MinnPost shows Democratic Gov. Tim Walz leading his likely Republican rival, Scott Jensen, just 42-40, but there's an important caveat.

The firm found that 7% of respondents chose, "The candidate from either one of the legalize marijuana parties (Legal Marijuana Now or Grassroots Legalize Cannabis)," but the poll didn't name any candidates by name or even separate the two parties. This is a potential issue because, by presenting the two options this way, Change is not replicating how these choices will actually be presented on the ballot. (Independence-Alliance Party Hugh McTavish, who was indeed asked about by name, snagged an additional 3%.)

The poll also finds Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison locked in a tight race against both of the Republicans competing in the August primary. Attorney Jim Schultz, who won the party convention last month, edges out Ellison 45-44, while the incumbent deadlocks 44-44 in a rematch against 2018 rival Doug Wardlow.

House

FL-07: Several Orlando-area Democratic elected officials have endorsed state party official Karen Green's campaign to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in a constituency that the new GOP gerrymander transformed from a 55-44 Biden seat into one Trump would have taken 52-47. One of the pols backing Green, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, is state Rep. Carlos Guillermo, who didn't quite rule out a bid of his own right after Murphy retired. Florida's filing deadline is June 17, so the field will be set very soon.

FL-23: Airline pilot Curtis Calabrese has filed paperwork with the FEC terminating his campaign for the Democratic nomination for this open seat. Calabrese only switched his party registration from Republican to Democratic in March even though state law requires candidates be registered with their party at least a year before the start of candidate filing, so he likely would have faced serious legal opposition had he continued on.

GA-10: There haven't been many negative ads in the leadup to the June 21 GOP primary runoff, but former state Rep. Vernon Jones is going up with one that portrays his opponent, trucking executive Mike Collins, as a little boy who can only explain his rationale for running with, "My daddy was in Congress." After the actor playing "Little Mike" repeats this line, Jones tells the audience, "My daddy wasn't in Congress, but he was a veteran and he fought for this country."

MT-01: The Associated Press on Thursday evening called the June 7 Republican primary for former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who outpaced former state Sen. Al Olszewski by a surprisingly slim 41-40 margin. But despite his name recognition, support from Trump, and financial advantage, Zinke faced serious scrutiny for reportedly spending more time in his wife's hometown of Santa Barbara, California rather than in Montana, as well as over his myriad of ethics issues from his time as Trump's secretary of the interior.

Zinke will go up against Democratic nominee Monica Tranel, an attorney and former Olympic rower, for a western Montana seat that Trump carried 52-45.

NY-23: State Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy said Friday morning that he would indeed run to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs, a decision Langworthy revealed hours before candidate filing closed.

NY-23 (special): Republican leaders on Thursday chose Steuben County party chair Joe Sempolinski as their nominee in the Aug. 23 special election for the final months of former GOP Rep. Tom Reed's term. Sempolinski, who is not seeking a full term in Congress this year, will go up against Democrat Max Della Pia in a constituency Trump took 55-43.

TN-05: The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled that music video producer Robby Starbuck would stay off the August Republican primary ballot for this open seat, a move that reverses a lower-court decision that briefly resurrected his campaign.

Starbuck, who was booted by the state GOP failing to meet its opaque "bona fide" standard​, responded by​ tweeting Sunday​, "I have 3 days to decide if I’ll run write in for the primary or general (I have to pick 1). Problem is, if I win the primary, TNGOP can ignore it and pick the person who came in 2nd." He added that he'd told party leaders​, "If they agree to honor the results of the primary election and support the winner, even if it’s a write-in, then I’ll run in the primary as a write-in and not in the general. The ball is in their court now."

Secretaries of State

NV-SoS: The GOP firm OH Predictive Insights surveys Tuesday's Republican primary for secretary of state for the nonpartisan Nevada Independent and finds a 21-21 deadlock between former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and developer Jesse Haw. Marchant, a QAnon ally who has said he would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 victory, has attracted attention by grouping with other conspiracist candidates running to become their state's chief election official. Haw, though, has himself winked at the Big Lie by saying that last election "had a lot of shenanigans and potential fraud."

The eventual nominee will go up against former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar, who faces no Democratic primary opposition in the race to succeed termed-out Republican incumbent Barbara Cegavske.

Morning Digest: A pair of Republican congressmen stumble into tough runoff campaigns in Mississippi

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

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 MS-03, MS-04: Two Mississippi Republicans―3rd District Rep. Michael Guest and 4th District Rep. Steven Palazzo―posted surprisingly weak showings in Tuesday’s primaries, and they each are in for a tough fight going into June 28 runoffs in their safely red constituencies.

Guest appeared secure before the votes started coming in, but with 45,000 ballots tabulated as of Wednesday morning, he trails his unheralded intra-party rival, Navy veteran Michael Cassidy, 48-47; another challenger named Thomas Griffin is taking the remaining 5%. A second round of voting would take place if neither Cassidy nor Guest earned a majority of the vote, though the Associated Press has not yet projected a runoff. Palazzo, however, is definitely going to be fighting it out on June 28, as he’s taking just 32% of the vote. The AP hasn’t called the second runoff spot, but Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell posts a 25-22 edge over banker Clay Wagner with 51,000 votes in.

Guest, a self-described “conservative Christian leader” and former district attorney, has almost entirely been a reliable Trumpist during his two terms representing the 3rd District, an east central Mississippi seat that’s also home to many of Jackson’s suburbs. The congressman, though, risked MAGA outrage last year when he became one of the 35 Republicans to vote in favor of a Jan. 6 commission last year, something that Cassidy zeroed in on.

However, while Cassidy worked hard to court more far-right outrage by pledging, as he puts it on his website, to “hold the Establishment's feet to the fire on numerous America First issues, including election integrity and the removal of all COVID mandates and restrictions,” he didn’t look like much of a threat for almost the entire campaign. Cassidy raised a mere $32,000 from donors through late May, though he also threw down $230,000 of his own cash.

Guest himself didn’t appear at all worried, and no outside groups got involved to aid either him or Cassidy. The congressman, though, seemed to acknowledge on election night that he’d run a complacent campaign, arguing, “I think people are confused about who we are and what we stand for. We’ve allowed our opponent to define that.” Guest continued, “So if this does go to a runoff, then we are going to make sure that people of the 3rd District know who we are, they know our conservative values, and when they have the chance to go back to the polls, we hope that we’re going to be able to better convince people that we are the right person to represent our state in Washington D.C.”

Palazzo, by contrast, was in more obvious danger in the neighboring 4th District along the Gulf Coast, though it was still startling to see him perform so poorly. The incumbent is the subject of a long-running ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes, and he attracted six different intra-party opponents.

There have been no public developments about the probe in over a year, however, so it was unclear if this matter would end up hurting Palazzo with voters. His many challengers seemed to think he had even bigger vulnerabilities, because they largely focused on portraying the six-term incumbent as uninterested in doing his job. That’s not a new criticism, as Palazzo, writes Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau, “notoriously holds few public events since he was first elected to Congress in 2010.”

However, the congressman gave his critics more fodder this year when he abruptly canceled a campaign forum for what his staff said were “meetings dealing with national security.” Hours later, Palazzo posted a picture on Facebook of himself and his son at a restaurant in Mississippi; “It is unclear,” Ganucheau writes, “if national security was among the topics Palazzo discussed with his college-aged son over dinner.”  

Palazzo’s rivals took him to task for missing multiple candidate events and casting numerous proxy votes that didn’t require him to be in D.C. (Palazzo previously filed a lawsuit trying to end those proxy vote rules that were set up early in the pandemic.) Ezell himself went after Palazzo’s absenteeism by holding an “I’ll Show Up” tour of the district, arguing, “South Mississippi needs a Congressman who will show up, speak up and stand up for our conservative values—every day.”

Like Guest, though, Palazzo didn’t seem to have any idea how much trouble he was in for much of the campaign, and he hadn’t even run any TV ads going into the final month of the contest. Indeed, Ganucheau wrote in early May, “One month from Election Day, it’s difficult to see signs he’s actually running.” Palazzo now has just three weeks to put together a viable campaign to turn his underwhelming 32% of the vote into the majority he needs to secure renomination.

More primaries also took place Tuesday in California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. You can find the results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: A federal court in Louisiana has struck down the state's new Republican-drawn congressional map, ruling that lawmakers' failure to create a second district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidate violates the Voting Rights Act. Judge Shelly Dick ordered the legislature to pass a remedial plan by June 20, and to that end, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a special session for June 15. But Republicans have already appealed the decision, and the arch-conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to block it, much as the Supreme Court did with a very similar case out of Alabama earlier this year.

Senate

AK-Sen: Candidate filing closed June 1 for Alaska's Aug. 16 top-four primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. The four candidates who take the most votes, regardless of party, will face off in an instant-runoff general election on Nov. 8.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has long had an uneasy relationship with state and national conservatives, faces eight Republicans, three Democrats, and eight independent or third-party foes in August. The only opponent who has attracted much attention, though, is former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican hardliner who has Trump's endorsement. The most prominent Democrat is arguably Pat Chesbro, a Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission member and former high school principal who badly lost a 2014 race for state Senate.

AL-Sen: Politico reports that the Club for Growth's Conservative Outsiders PAC is spending $800,000 on what reporter Natalie Allison characterizes as the Club's "final" buy in support of Rep. Mo Brooks for the June 21 GOP runoff. The spot comes days after the Club reportedly cut $500,000 in ad time meant to help Brooks.

The narrator argues that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's allies are attacking the congressman because they "prefer a lobbyist" like his opponent, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt, over a "proven conservative" like Brooks. The voiceover continues, "Britt ran a special interest group that worked with D.C. lobbyists backing amnesty for over 1 million illegal immigrants. And, Britt's group opposed making it harder for businesses to hire illegals."

AZ-Sen: The Republican firm Data Orbital, polling the August GOP primary on behalf of an unidentified client, finds wealthy businessman Jim Lamon edging out Attorney General Mark Brnovich 20-18, with former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters at 15%. Trump endorsed Masters on Thursday, which happened to be the second day that this three-day poll was in the field.

PA-Sen: Democratic nominee John Fetterman has been off the campaign trail since he suffered a stroke on May 13, and his wife told CNN Monday, "I think he deserves a month break to come back as strong as ever." However, when Giselle Fetterman was asked if the candidate would be back in July, she responded, "Maybe. I think so. That's my hope."

That same day, John Fetterman's campaign began its first general election ads with a $250,000 buy on Fox News, which is usually not a venue where Democrats like to promote themselves. Unsurprisingly, though, the spots (here and here) focus on the lieutenant governor's blue collar image while highlighting him as an untraditional politician: In one commercial filmed before his health emergency, the 6 '9 tattooed candidate tells the audience, "I do not look like a typical politician. I don't even look like a typical person."

WI-Sen: Wednesday was also the deadline for Wisconsin's Aug. 9 primary, and you can find a list of candidates here.

Democrats have a competitive nomination contest to take on Sen. Ron Johnson, a far-right Republican who represents one of the swingiest of swing states. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who would be Wisconsin's first Black senator, has led in every primary poll that's been released and recently picked up an endorsement from the prominent union AFSCME Council 32.

The field also includes Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who recently released an internal showing him only narrowly behind Barnes, and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and nonprofit head Steven Olikara are also in, but they've each struggled in the polls and with fundraising. Two others, Milwaukee Alderwoman Chantia Lewis and administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management Darrell Williams, announced last year but never filed to run.

Governors

AK-Gov: GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy is going up against four Republicans, four unaffiliated contenders, and one Democrat, former state Rep. Les Gara. The prominent challenger in this lot is former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent who was elected to his only term in 2014 with Democratic support but abandoned his re-election campaign four years later in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Dunleavy from winning. The incumbent also faces intra-party opposition from state Rep. Christopher Kurka and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, who are each positioning themselves to the right of the ardently conservative governor.  

AZ-Gov: The Republican pollster Data Orbital's newest look at the August GOP primary shows former TV news anchor Kari Lake with a small 27-23 edge over Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, with former Rep. Matt Salmon well behind with 12%. While no other firm has released numbers showing things this close, Data Orbital finds Lake's lead expanding to 35-21 once respondents are informed she's Trump's choice. Still, even if those numbers are on target, it hardly guarantees that Lake only has room to grow as more voters learn about the Trump endorsement.

Georgia Republican David Perdue found that out the hard way after a December survey from Insider Advantage showed his 41-22 primary deficit against Gov. Brian Kemp transforming into a 34-34 tie after the pollster followed up, "As you may have heard, President Trump is planning to endorse David Perdue in the Republican Primary for Governor. Knowing this information, how would you vote?" Perdue spent the next months doing everything he possibly could to let the base know he was Trump's guy, but primary voters ended up rewarding him with a landslide 74-22 defeat.

Robson, like Kemp, is doing what she can to make sure this primary turns into anything other than a choice between a Trump-backed candidate and everyone else, and she's turning to former Gov. Jan Brewer to make her case that Lake isn't actually a loyal conservative. Brewer, who left office in 2015, begins a new ad for Robson by recounting her battles with the Obama administration over immigration before a picture flashes by of Lake with Obama. The former governor tells the audience, "Kari Lake? She donated to Obama and published a radical plan that even the liberal Arizona Republic called 'mass amnesty.'" Brewer spends the rest of the spot touting Robson as "a fighter, like me."

GA-Gov: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp uses his opening general election commercial to attack Democrat Stacey Abrams for labeling Georgia the "worst state in the country to live" because of its poor rankings in mental health, maternal mortality, and incarceration rates. Kemp's narrator, unsurprisingly, leaves out exactly why Abrams is so unhappy with the status quo, as well as her argument that "Georgia is capable of greatness. We just need greatness to be in our governor's office," and instead dismisses her with a "Bless her heart." The spot goes on to praise Kemp for having "reopened Georgia first" and for cutting taxes to "deal with Biden's inflation."

KS-Gov: State Sen. Dennis Pyle, a conservative hardliner who recently left the GOP to become an independent, announced Tuesday that he would challenge Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly without a party affiliation, a move that could ease Kelly’s path to victory against Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Pyle, who needs to turn in 5,000 valid signatures by Aug. 1 in order to qualify for the general election ballot, explained his decision in a statement arguing, “Due to the continual gross negligence in protecting and assisting citizens, my family and I have decided it is in the best interest of our state that I pursue running for Governor to enact solutions to stop the hardship of Kansans.”

Pyle himself has made a name for himself for trying to make it more difficult to vote in Kansas and for trying to hobble the state government’s response to COVID, but Republicans quickly sought to portray him as anything but a right-winger. Schmidt, who faces no serious opposition in the Republican primary, labeled Pyle a “fake conservative.” Kansans for Life also blasted the new candidate for “playing games with the lives of preborn babies and their mothers,” a reference to his missed vote for a proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment (Pyle says he was absent for personal reasons).

Pyle himself has come into conflict numerous times with his now-former party’s leadership long before this. In 2010, he tried to ride the tea party wave to D.C. by challenging Rep. Lynn Jenkins for renomination in the 2nd Congressional District, but he lost 57-43. (He also took fifth in the 2018 primary to replace the retiring Jenkins.) Pyle this year opposed the legislature’s successful drive to pass a new congressional gerrymander, which resulted in him losing most of his committee assignments.

KY-Gov: State Rep. Savannah Maddox announced Tuesday that she was joining next year's Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Maddox, who once labeled Beshear's pandemic health measures "tyranny," is a close ally of 4th District Rep. Thomas Massie, and the duo last month backed three successful primary challenges against Maddox's colleagues. The state representative launched her campaign for governor this week by framing the nomination contest as between "moderate Republicans" and "an authentic conservative who has a proven track record of fighting every day for our freedoms."

WI-Gov: Four notable Republicans are competing to take on Democratic incumbent Tony Evers in what will be one of the most competitive governor contests in the nation.

The early frontrunner was former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who has the backing of her old boss, former Gov. Scott Walker, but she may be in for a tougher nomination battle than she expected. A mid-May survey from Public Policy Polling showed her narrowly trailing wealthy businessman Tim Michels, who badly lost the 2004 Senate race to Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold, 27-26, and Trump has since endorsed Michels. The field also includes businessman Kevin Nicholson, a former College Democrats of America president who lost a competitive 2018 Senate GOP primary, and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, an ardent Big Lie proponent, though PPP showed them each badly lagging.

P.S. Amusingly, while Michels launched his bid for governor in late April by pledging, "I will never ask anyone for a donation," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice notes that Michels almost immediately began … asking people for donations. Michels this week also argued he'd remained a Wisconsinite despite owning multi-million dollar homes in Connecticut and New York, where his three children graduated high school, insisting, "I'm not going to apologize for my success."

House

AK-AL: Most of the 48 candidates running in Saturday's special top-four primary to succeed the late GOP Rep. Don Young filed to seek the full two-year term, but a few notable contenders decided to only compete in the special.

Both former state Rep. Andrew Halcro, who is a Republican-turned-independent, and Emil Notti, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Young in 1973, pledged to only run for the remainder of Young's term, and they kept that promise by not filing on June 1. North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described "independent, progressive, democratic socialist" who previously had his name changed from Thomas O'Connor, also will not be continuing on.

Altogether, 31 candidates are campaigning for a seat in the next Congress. The regular top-four primary will take place Aug. 16, which is the same day as the special general election for the final months of Young's term.

FL-15, FL-14: The August Republican primary for the new 15th District got smaller this week when former Rep. Dennis Ross and wealthy businessman Jerry Torres each dropped out. Ross, who unexpectedly retired in 2018 from a previous version of the 15th, said that he was abandoning his comeback bid because of "limited resources." By contrast Torres, who pledged to self-fund up to $15 million, announced that he would run instead against Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in the 14th District even though, at 59-40 Biden, it's far tougher turf than the 51-48 Trump constituency he had been seeking.

FL-27, FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo announced on Monday that she'd drop her bid for governor and would instead seek to run against freshman GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in south Florida's 27th Congressional District. Republicans made this seat several points redder in redistricting, shifting it from a 51-48 win for Joe Biden to a 50-49 margin for Donald Trump, but it remains one that Democrats are eager to target.

Last year, Taddeo had entered the gubernatorial primary behind two much better-known opponents, Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and failed to gain any traction, with every recent poll showing her in the low single digits. But by switching races, Taddeo brings a high profile to a contest for a swingy seat that Democrat Donna Shalala picked up in 2018 but lost two years later.

After several unsuccessful bids for office, Taddeo flipped a Republican seat in the state Senate in an attention-grabbing 2017 special election, a perch that means she represents about a quarter of the congressional district she's now running for. The Colombia-born Taddeo also gives Democrats, who've lost serious ground with Hispanic voters in the region, the chance to put forward a Spanish-speaking Latina candidate.

First, though, Taddeo faces a matchup in the Aug. 23 primary with Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, a one-time professional yo-yo player who reiterated his commitment to the race after Taddeo's entry. But Taddeo immediately hoovered up a series of major endorsements, with Shalala (who herself had still been considering a bid), Crist, and a couple of nearby congresswomen, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all giving her their backing.

The final name on that list represents quite the irony. In 2008, when Taddeo first ran for the House against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Shalala's predecessor), Wasserman Schultz infamously refused to endorse Taddeo despite the fact that she was co-chair of the DCCC's Red to Blue program—the Democrats' campaign arm devoted to flipping Republican seats. Wasserman Schultz's absurd excuse that she couldn't get involved because of her supposed friendship with Ros-Lehtinen sparked immense outrage online and among Florida Democrats (we covered the scandal extensively at our predecessor site, the Swing State Project here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), but she never budged and Taddeo went on to lose 58-42.

Wasserman Schultz remains in office but her career has soured badly: She was greeted with widespread hostility when she floated the possibility of a Senate bid in 2015, and a year later, she was forced to resign as DNC chair after hackers released emails stolen from the committee. Taddeo, by contrast, is being hailed as a strong recruit at a time when Democrats could very much use one.

IL-15: Mary Miller is going up with an attack ad against fellow Republican Rep. Rodney Davis weeks after the better-funded Davis went on the offensive himself. Miller's narrator labels her colleague a "RINO" on guns before the ad makes use of old footage of Davis saying, "That's why the red flag law is so important and should be put on the floor." The second half of the spot reminds the audience that Trump is in Miller's corner in the June 28 primary and that she's "A-rated by the NRA, unlike Rodney Davis."

MO-04: Gov. Mike Parson has endorsed cattle farmer Kalena Bruce in the packed August Republican primary for this safely red seat, a contest that has lacked an obvious frontrunner. Parson, who now resides in the 4th District thanks to the new congressional map, explained he was taking sides because of his longtime friendship with Bruce's parents, saying, "I am going to return those favors at times like this."

NY-17: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi on Tuesday unveiled an endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the prominent national progressive who represents the 14th District, for her August primary campaign against DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney.

AOC last month took Maloney to task for choosing to campaign for the new 17th District rather than the 18th, a more competitive seat that contains most of his current turf, a decision that threatened to instigate a primary battle against Rep. Mondaire Jones. Jones ultimately decided to run for the 10th, but Biaggi herself highlighted Maloney’s move when she launched her own campaign against him days later.

SC-07: With a week to go before the Republican primary, Rep. Tom Rice’s allies at Grand Strand Pee Dee PAC, which so far is responsible for all of the $260,000 in outside spending here, are doing everything they can to portray Trump-endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry as a secret liberal. Its commercial does not mention Rice, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment, or any of the other challengers hoping to force the incumbent into a June 24 runoff.

The minute-long spot begins by faulting Fry for supporting gas and car sales taxes as well as the “largest tax increase in South Carolina history” before it attacks him for not stopping America from turning into a conservative nightmare. The narrator argues that Fry “hasn’t done enough to protect our borders,” “has done little to push back against woke radical left ideas like critical race theory,” and “hasn't done enough to keep these dangerous ideologies from poisoning the minds of our kids,” though the ad never actually goes into detail on what exactly the state representative should be doing.

TX-34 (special): House Majority PAC is spending $110,000 on a Spanish-language ad campaign against Republican Mayra Flores, which makes this the first TV ad on the Democratic side for the June 14 all-party primary. The commercial ties Flores to the Jan. 6 attack, arguing, “Mayra supported the conspirators and conspiracy theories that were part of the armed attack on Jan. 6, leaving 150 police officers injured and 5 dead, all thanks to criminals who promote the same lawlessness that Mayra Flores supports.”

VA-07: The NRA has endorsed state Sen. Bryce Reeves ahead of next week’s Republican nomination contest to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. The organization itself has dramatically diminished in recent years and it rarely spends much in primaries, but its stamp of approval can still give Republican office seekers a boost with conservatives.

WI-01: The new congressional map adopted by the state Supreme Court shrunk Donald Trump's margin of victory in this southeastern Wisconsin district from 54-45 to 50-48, but Republican incumbent Bryan Steil still doesn't look vulnerable this year. Businesswoman Ann Roe, who is the only Democrat who appears to have filed, ended March with only $80,000 on-hand. Still, even if Steil skates by this time, he could be in for a much tougher race in a better political climate for Democrats.

WI-03: Longtime Rep. Ron Kind is retiring from a southwestern Wisconsin district that, just like the constituency it replaces, would have supported Trump 51-47, and at least four fellow Democrats have filed to succeed him. Kind is backing state Sen. Brad Pfaff, who is his former chief of staff. Two other Democratic contenders, former CIA officer Deb McGrath and businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, also brought in a notable amount of money through the end of March.

The only Republican is 2020 nominee Derrick Van Orden, whose 51-49 defeat was still the closest race of Kind's congressional career. Months later, Van Orden used leftover campaign funds to attend the Jan. 6 insurrectionist rally in D.C., where, it appears, he went inside a restricted area on the Capitol grounds.

Attorneys General

MD-AG: OpinionWorks, working on behalf of the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, finds Rep. Anthony Brown beating former Judge Katie Curran O’Malley 42-29 in the July 19 Democratic primary for attorney general.

WI-AG: Three Republicans are competing to take on Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. The most full-throated election denier is Karen Mueller, who founded a conservative legal organization and has declared that “the 2020 presidential election results must be decertified to restore the integrity and transparency of Wisconsin’s future elections.” Former state Rep. Adam Jarchow and Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, writes NBC, “haven’t denied the results of the 2020 election.”

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.

Michigan Republican sends horrid anti-trans solicitation after fundraising shortfall

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

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MI-07: Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in Michigan's new and competitive 7th Congressional District, recently sent out a fundraising appeal by text message falsely telling recipients that "your child's gender reassignment surgery has been booked," complete with a phony time for the appointment. Barrett, a far-right politician who has worn a "naturally immunized" wrist band and refused to say if he's vaccinated, deployed this tactic after David Drucker of the conservative Washington Examiner reported that he'd badly missed his own team's fundraising goals.

We know about Barrett's underperformance because a Democratic operative provided Drucker with a vivid recording of one of his top aides. "We announced just before Thanksgiving, you know, really, you know, we chained him to a desk and had him on the phones," said the staffer in February, "and he raised, you know, 310 grand. He's raising more money now—our goal is a million by the end of March." However, the senator hauled in only $456,000 during the first three months of 2022, which left him with $396,000 on hand. Slotkin, by contrast, took in $1.32 million during the first quarter and had a gigantic $5.5 million on hand.

One thing Barrett doesn't need to worry about, though, is the Aug. 2 primary. Candidate filing closed Tuesday, and the only other Republican to turn in paperwork was insurance agency owner Jacob Hagg, who hasn't reported raising any cash at all. This constituency in the Lansing area would have supported Joe Biden by a 50-49 margin, a small improvement for Slotkin from Trump's 50-49 edge in the old 8th District. But even an underfunded extremist like Barrett has an opening in a district this close.

Now that filing has passed in the Wolverine State, we'll be taking a look at Michigan's other big competitive races, starting with our MI-Gov item below. It's possible that some candidates who submitted signatures won't appear on the ballot, though, because election authorities in Michigan have disqualified contenders in past years for not meeting the state's requirements. In 2018, for instance, seven House hopefuls—including a few notable names—were thrown off the ballot after the secretary of state ruled that they'd failed to turn in the requisite number of acceptable petitions.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his state's new congressional map—which he himself proposed—on Friday, following party-line votes that advanced the map in both chambers of the Republican-run legislature. (We previously detailed the map's impacts in this post.) The same day, several advocacy groups and Florida voters filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that the map violates the state constitution's prohibitions on partisan gerrymandering and diluting minority representation.

NY Redistricting: A five-judge panel on New York's Appellate Division, the state's intermediate appellate court, upheld a recent lower court ruling that the new congressional map drawn by Democrats violates the state constitution as an illegal partisan gerrymander and gave lawmakers until April 30 to craft a replacement. However, Democrats have already said they'll appeal to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday.

In its ruling, the Appellate Division also overturned the trial court's finding that the legislature lacked the power to draw new maps for the state Senate and Assembly, allowing those maps to be used. It's not yet clear whether Republicans plan to pursue their own appeal regarding this issue.

Senate

AR-Sen: We have yet to see any polls indicating whether former NFL player Jake Bequette poses a serious threat to Sen. John Boozman in the May 24 Republican primary, but the incumbent did recently air an ad taking a swipe at his foe. Most of Boozman's spot, which praises him as a "workhorse, not a show pony" is positive, though it employs a photo of Bequette as the narrator hits those last words.

Bequette's allies at Arkansas Patriots Fund, meanwhile, have been going directly at Boozman with a commercial faulting him for having "voted to confirm six in 10 Biden cabinet picks" in the first 40 days of the administration. The ad goes on to accuse the senator of backing "amnesty for illegals, tax dollars for abortions, bailouts for Wall Street, even allowed the feds to confiscate your firearm records." The super PAC received $1 million from conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein last year, which Politico's Alex Isenstadt says makes up most of its budget.

AZ-Sen: The NRSC is commencing what they call a "seven figure" ad buy that starts off with a spot attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly over immigration. This appears to be the first ad of the cycle going directly after a candidate from any of the "big four" party groups (which in addition to the NRSC includes the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC on the GOP side and the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC for Democrats).

CO-Sen: Wealthy construction company owner Joe O'Dea has announced he's spending $250,000 over three weeks to air an ad that touts his business record and portrays him as a conservative outsider. O'Dea faces state Rep. Ron Hanks in the June Republican primary.

NC-Sen: Former Gov. Pat McCrory has debuted a new commercial ahead of the May 17 GOP primary where he calls Rep. Ted Budd weak on Vladimir Putin before claiming that Budd is backed by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros is a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor whom the far-right both here and abroad has frequently used as a target of and a stand-in for age-old conspiracy theories about wealthy Jews using their power to exert a nefarious influence over the world.

However, McCrory's accusation that Soros, who is well known for openly funding progressive causes, would secretly support Budd, who has compiled a hard-right voting record in his three terms in office, relies on very dubious facts. The Charlotte Observer reports that a Soros-affiliated investment firm once owned a 7.6% stake in a company led by Budd's father that filed for bankruptcy in 2000, and there's no indication the congressman even had any role in the company's day-to-day operations, which is a very far cry from Soros actually supporting his contemporary political activities.

Budd himself has launched a new ad that features footage of a rally where Trump effusively endorses Budd and McCrory goes unmentioned. While the two Republican front runners dominate the airwaves, the pro-Budd Club for Growth is notably training its focus on former GOP Rep. Mark Walker with an ad that criticizes him for frequently missing votes, including one involving Trump's impeachment. The polls have shown Walker in a distant third place, but the Club likely views his hard-right support base as overlapping with potential Budd supporters.

OH-Sen: Undeterred by Trump's recent endorsement of venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, the Club for Growth is once again running an ad that uses Vance's lengthy past history of anti-Trump statements against him. The ad campaign reportedly angered Trump so greatly that he had an aide text Club president David McIntosh, "Go f*^% yourself" (which presumably wasn't censored). A spokesperson for the Club, which is supporting former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, tersely responded to the news about Trump's message by saying, "We are increasing our ad buy."

Meanwhile, former state GOP chair Jane Timken has been struggling to gain traction in the polls, and she has reportedly been off of broadcast TV in much of the state for weeks and is only continuing to run limited cable ads on Fox News.

Governors

AL-Gov: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has commissioned a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows her holding a dominant 57-14 lead over former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard ahead of the May 24 Republican primary, with businessman Tim James taking just 12%. There have only been a few polls here from reliable firms, but every one of them this year has found Ivey far ahead of her rivals and in good shape to surpass the simple-majority threshold needed to avoid a June runoff.

GA-Gov: A group called Take Back Georgia with ties to pro-Trump state Sen. Brandon Beach has unveiled a $2 million ad buy for a spot that goes all-in on 2020 election denial to highlight Trump's endorsement of former Sen. David Perdue ahead of the May 24 GOP primary against Gov. Brian Kemp. Perdue has only been running a modestly sized ad buy recently after struggling to keep up in fundraising with Kemp, whose allies at the RGA have also spent millions airing their first-ever ads backing an incumbent against a primary challenger.

It's unclear whether Trump himself, whose super PAC recently reported it had over $120 million on hand, will increase its support for Perdue beyond the meager $500,000 it allocated a few weeks ago toward backing his endorsee. However, with the polls showing Kemp in striking distance of the outright majority needed to avoid a June runoff, time is quickly running short for Perdue.

IL-Gov: Far-right billionaire Dick Uihlein has given another $2.5 million to the June primary campaign of Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, bringing his total contributions to $3.5 million in addition to another $1 million that Uihlein gave to a third-party group opposing Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. In yet another election that has turned into a battle of rival billionaires thanks to Illinois being one of just a few states without any limits on direct contributions to candidates, Uihlein's involvement so far still trails far behind the $20 million that fellow billionaire Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager who is Illinois' wealthiest resident, has given to Irvin's campaign.

MI-Gov: A total of 10 Republicans are competing to take on Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, which would make this the largest gubernatorial primary field in state history. The few polls that have been released show former Detroit Police Chief James Craig as Team Red's frontrunner, but he's had to deal with several major campaign shakeups: Craig, most notably, parted ways with his first campaign manager in December, and his second left last month.  

The August primary also includes two wealthy businessmen, Kevin Rinke and Perry Johnson. Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon doesn't have the same resources as her intra-party foes, but she sports endorsements from Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain. Also in the running are chiropractor Garrett Soldano, Michigan State Police Captain Mike Brown, and five others.

OR-Gov: The May 17 primary is rapidly approaching, and the Portland Monthly's Julia Silverman has collected several TV spots from the candidates. On the Democratic side, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek talks about the progressive policies she helped pass, while state Treasurer Tobias Read's narrator argues that "Oregon has lost its way. It's time for a new approach." Silverman notes that this messaging is "all in keeping with Read's efforts to portray himself as a change agent, though he has been in state government about as long as Kotek."

For the Republicans, former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan declares that she's "led the fight against [Democratic Gov.] Kate Brown's radical agenda." Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, meanwhile, goes all-in with courting right-wing outrage with spots where he calls for getting "critical race theory out of our schools" and "not allow[ing] transgender athletes to compete in girls' sports." Former state Rep. Bob Tiernan uses his messaging to attack Brown and Kotek, saying that their approach is "bull****." (A different Republican, consultant Bridget Barton, also tried to stand out with some censored potty mouth.) Finally, 2016 nominee Bud Pierce alludes to the Big Lie with the mention of "broken elections."

House

AK-AL: The Alaska Republican Party has endorsed businessman Nick Begich III ahead of the top-four special election primary this June, where Begich has emerged as one of the leading Republicans in the crowded all-party contest alongside former Gov. Sarah Palin.

MI-03: Rep. Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump, faces primary opposition from conservative commentator John Gibbs, who is Trump's endorsed candidate. (We recently took a closer look at this primary.) Little-known attorney Gabi Manolache is also running, though "MAGA bride" Audra Johnson did not end up filing. The winner will take on 2020 nominee Hillary Scholten, who faces no intra-party opposition for her second bid, in a Grand Rapids-based seat that redistricting transformed from a 51-47 Trump seat to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45.

MI-04: Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, who represents the existing 2nd District, has no primary opposition following fellow Rep. Fred Upton's retirement announcement earlier this month. This seat in southwestern Michigan would have favored Trump 51-47, and the one Democrat to file, Joseph Alfonso, has not reported raising any money.

MI-08: Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee is defending a seat in the Flint and Saginaw areas that would have favored Joe Biden only 50-48, a small but potentially important shift from Biden's 51-47 showing in Kildee's existing 5th District. The Republican frontrunner is former Trump administration official Paul Junge, who lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in the old 8th District in 2020. (The old and new 8th Districts do not overlap.) Former Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Matthew Seely and businesswoman Candice Miller (not to be confused with the former congresswoman with the same name) are also in, but neither opened fundraising committees until recently.

MI-10: Five Democrats are competing to take on John James, who was Team Red's Senate nominee in 2018 and 2020, in an open seat in Detroit's northeastern suburbs that would have gone for Trump 50-49. James, who only has a little-known primary foe, had $1.25 million stockpiled at the end of March, which was considerably more than the Democrats had combined.

Warren Council member Angela Rogensues finished the quarter with $160,000 on hand, while attorney Huwaida Arraf and former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga were similarly situated with $145,000 and $135,000 to spend, respectively. Sterling Heights City Council member Henry Yanez, though, was far back with only $22,000 in the bank, while former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell had less than $5,000.

MI-11: The Democratic primary is a duel between Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin for a constituency in the Detroit northern suburbs that Biden would have won 59-39. Stevens' existing 11th District makes up 45% of the new seat, while Levin represents only 25%. (Several Democrats grumbled to Politico recently that Levin should have instead run for the new 10th, where he already serves most of the residents.)

Stevens has the support of retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who represents the balance of this district, and EMILY's List, while the SEIU is in Levin's corner. The two have largely voted the same way in Congress, though while Levin has emphasized his support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, Stevens has portrayed herself as more pragmatic. Stevens ended March with a $2.79 million to $1.47 million cash-on-hand edge over her fellow incumbent.

MI-12: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the most prominent progressives in the House, faces three Democratic primary opponents in this safely blue Detroit-based seat. Tlaib, whose existing 13th District makes up 53% of the new 12th, ended March with a $1.62 million to $221,000 cash-on-hand lead over her nearest foe, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey; Winfrey, for her part, has faulted Tlaib for casting a vote from the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill. Also in the race are former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett, neither of whom reported raising any money during the last quarter.

MI-13: A total of 11 Democrats have filed to run to succeed retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who is Michigan's only Black member of Congress, in this safely blue seat, which includes part of Detroit and its southern suburbs. Lawrence, who supports Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Portia Roberson, has argued that it's vital to keep a "qualified, committed" African American representing the state, something that several other Black candidates have also emphasized.

However, the candidate who ended March with the most money by far is self-funding state Rep. Shri Thanedar, who is originally from India. (Thanedar, who lived in Ann Arbor when he unsuccessfully ran for governor, moved to Detroit ahead of his victorious bid for a state House seat in the city two years later.) Thanedar had over $5 million on hand, which was more than ten times as much as the $453,000 that his nearest foe, state Sen. Adam Hollier, had available.

Other candidates to watch include hedge fund manager John Conyers III, who is the son and namesake of the late longtime congressman; Detroit School Board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo; Teach for America official Michael Griffie; former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail; and Detroit city official Adrian Tonon, who is one of the few other non-Black contenders in the primary.

MN-01: In what appears to be the first TV ad from anyone ahead of the special May 24 Republican primary, former Freeborn County party chair Matt Benda plays up his farming background and pledges to "protect our children from indoctrination in the classroom [and] ensure election integrity."

NC-11: Axios reports that Results for North Carolina, a super PAC close to Sen. Thom Tillis, is spending $310,000 on an ad campaign against Rep. Madison Cawthorn, which makes this the first major outside spending of the May 17 Republican primary. The commercial focuses on reports that the incumbent "lied about being accepted to the Naval Academy" and declares he's "been caught lying about conservatives." The narrator, who brands the congressman "an attention-seeking embarrassment," does not mention Tillis' endorsed candidate, state Sen. Chuck Edwards.

TN-05: Tennessee has finalized its list of candidates for the Aug. 4 primary ballot now that each party has had the chance to eject contenders who did not meet their "bona fide" standards, an option the GOP utilized in the 5th District in order to bounce three notable candidates. The 5th will also likely be home to the only seriously contested House race, and we'll be taking a look at the field now that we know who's on the ballot.

There are nine Republicans remaining in the race to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper in the 5th, which GOP mapmakers transmuted from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency by cracking the city of Nashville. The only three who appear to be serious contenders are former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, who took a disappointing fourth place in the 2018 primary for governor; Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles; and retired Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, who has the largest war chest by far, though it's possible another candidate will catch fire. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Heidi Campbell has the field to herself.

Ad Roundup

It's that time of the election cycle again when campaign ads have grown too numerous for us to detail every one, so we're bringing back a feature from past cycles where we'll round up any remaining ads that we don't have space to cover in greater depth. Today's list only has a few entries, but the roundup will be sure to grow longer as the year progresses:

Morning Digest: Longtime congressman will retire rather than face Trump-backed colleague in primary

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.

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Leading Off

MI-04: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year, announced Tuesday that he would not seek a 19th term this fall. In an email to supporters, Upton said he believed "it is time to pass the torch," though the person who will most likely be claiming that beacon in the new 4th Congressional District is his colleague and would-be primary foe, Trump-backed Rep. Bill Huizenga.

While it's possible that Upton's departure will entice someone else to run against Huizenga in the August GOP primary, they'd need to collect at least 1,000 valid signatures by the April 19 filing deadline. No notable Democrats have entered the race so far for the new version of the 4th, a southwestern Michigan seat Trump would have carried 51-47 in 2020.

Huizenga announced back in December, right after the state's new congressional maps were completed, that he'd be seeking re-election in the new 4th, and he earned an endorsement from Trump last month. Upton, by contrast, spent months keeping the political world guessing as to whether he'd go up against Huizenga in the primary or retire, though until Tuesday, it seemed that he had one more race in him: In February, Upton launched a $400,000 ad campaign in which he told viewers, "If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy. But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I'm asking for your support."

Upton, though, said at the time that he was still undecided about 2022, and his retirement announcement proves he wasn't just playing coy. On Tuesday, he insisted that redistricting mattered more to him than any backlash from his impeachment vote, saying, "My district was cut like Zorro—three different ways." However, it was Huizenga who, at least on paper, was more disadvantaged by the new map: While about two-thirds of the residents of the new 4th are currently Upton's constituents, Huizenga represents only about a quarter of the seat he's now the frontrunner to claim.

Upton's decision ends a long career in politics that began in the late 1970s when he started working for local Rep. David Stockman, and he remained on his staff when Stockman became Ronald Reagan's first director of the Office of Management and Budget. In 1986, Upton decided to seek elected office himself when he launched a primary challenge to Rep. Mark Siljander, who had succeeded Stockman in the House in 1981, in an earlier version of the 4th District.

Siljander was an ardent social conservative well to the right of even Reagan: Among other things, he'd unsuccessfully tried to torpedo Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1981 because he didn't feel she was sufficiently conservative, and he even threatened to vote against the White House's priorities in an attempt to thwart O'Connor. Siljander, though, had taken just 58% of the vote in his 1984 primary, which suggested that a significant number of primary voters were unhappy with him.

Upton argued that, while both he and Siljander were "conservative Republican[s]," the incumbent had ignored his constituents to focus on international issues. Upton, by contrast, insisted that he'd work better with the party's leadership and seek committee assignments that would allow him to direct his energies to domestic concerns. The race took a dark turn late in the campaign when audio leaked of Siljander telling local clergy members to aid him in order to "break the back of Satan," arguing that his loss "would send a shock wave across America that Christians can be defeated in Congress by impugning their integrity and smear tactics."

Upton ended up dispatching the congressman 55-45, a convincing thumping that both sides attributed to Siljander's comments. Upton's team, while denying that the outcome represented a loss for the religious right, predicted, "Fred's tactics will be much more moderate and more reasonable." Upton easily prevailed in the general election and had no trouble winning for decades; Siljander, for his part, was last in the news in late 2020 when Trump pardoned what an angry Upton described as "a series of federal crimes including obstruction of justice, money laundering and lobbying for an international terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban."

In 2002, Upton easily turned back a primary campaign from state Sen. Dale Shugars 66-32 in what was now numbered the 6th District, but when the burgeoning tea party turned its wrath on establishment figures in 2010, the longtime congressman had become much more vulnerable to intra-party challenges. His opponent that year was former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, who had badly failed in his quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Carl Levin two years earlier but argued that Upton was insufficiently conservative. The congressman outspent Hoogendyk by an 18-to-1 margin but prevailed only 57-43, which enticed Hoogendyk to try again in 2012.

However, while the anti-tax Club for Growth ran commercials this time against Upton, who by now was chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the incumbent worked hard to emphasize his opposition to the Obama administration and won by a larger 67-33 margin. That was the last time he faced a serious primary challenge at the ballot box, but in 2014 he went through his first expensive general election campaign when law professor Larry Lessig directed his Mayday PAC, which he called his "super PAC to end super PACs," to target Upton.

Mayday spent over $2 million to aid a previously unheralded Democrat named Paul Clements, and while Upton didn't come close to losing in that red wave year, Democrats hoped his 56-40 showing meant he could be beaten in a better political climate. Clements sought a rematch in 2016, but Upton won by a 59-36 spread.

In 2018, though, the congressman faced a considerably tougher battle against physician Matt Longjohn at a time when the GOP was on the defensive nationwide. Upton got some surprising help during that campaign when Joe Biden delivered a speech in his district that was paid in part by an Upton family foundation; Biden, who was apparently motivated to praise Upton because of the congressman's work on a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, declared the congressman was "one of the finest guys I've ever worked with" and "the reason we're going to beat cancer." Ultimately, the congressman prevailed 50-46 in what was by far the closest race of his career. Afterwards, Longjohn’s campaign manager said Biden’s involvement was "brutal at the time and stings even more today."

Democrats hoped they could finally take Upton down in 2020, but Upton returned to form and beat state Rep. Jon Hoadley 56-40 as Trump was carrying his district 51-47. Two months later, Upton responded to the Jan. 6 attack by voting for impeachment, a vote that arguably did more than anything else to close out his lengthy time in Congress.

1Q Fundraising

  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $3.1 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-Sen: Kevin Smith (R): $410,000 raised (in nine weeks)
  • FL-07: Rusty Roberts (R): $173,000 raised (in 10 days)
  • MI-12: Janice Winfrey (D): $200,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • OH-13: Emilia Sykes (D): $350,000 raised
  • RI-02: Joy Fox (D): $175,000 raised (in two months)
  • SC-01: Nancy Mace (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for Arizona's Aug. 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. We run down all the major contests in their respective sections of the Morning Digest, starting with the Senate race.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly won a tight 2020 election for the final two years of the late John McCain's term, and he'll be a top GOP target this fall as he seeks re-election. Five Republicans are running to take him on (though Gov. Doug Ducey, to the frustration of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is not one of them), and polls show that a large plurality of primary voters is undecided.

The most prominent contender may be state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, though he attracted heaps of abuse last year from Trump for not doing enough to advance the Big Lie. The only other current elected official is state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, but he's struggled to attract attention. The field also includes self-funding businessman Jim Lamon; former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, whose former boss is heavily financing a super PAC to boost him; and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel are each running commercials for the May 3 Republican primary espousing ultra-conservative ideas as they attack the very idea that their beliefs could be racist.

Vance is pushing that message in what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is his first-ever TV ad, though his allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have already spent over $6 million promoting him. "Are you a racist?" Vance begins as he points right at the camera, "Do you hate Mexicans? The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump's wall." The Hillbilly Elegy author continues by accusing the media of censorship before proclaiming, "Joe Biden's open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country." Mandel, meanwhile, exclaims, "There's nothing racist about stopping critical race theory and loving America."

On the Democratic side, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Morgan Harper has launched what her campaign says is a six-figure opening ad buy. Harper describes her local roots and service in the Obama administration before trying to contrast herself with Rep. Tim Ryan, the frontrunner for the nod, by declaring, "I'm the only Democrat for Senate who's always supported Medicare for All and a $15 living wage, who's always been pro-choice, and supports expanding the Supreme Court to protect women's rights."

PA-Sen: Allies of Rep. Conor Lamb at a super PAC called Penn Progress just dropped the first negative TV ad of Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, but there's a huge problem with the spot.

The narrator begins by asking, "Who can Democrats trust in the race for Senate?" and contrasts Lamb—"a former prosecutor and Marine"—with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, "a self-described democratic socialist." The ad cites an NPR segment from 2020 for that claim about Fetterman, but at the bottom of the piece are not one but two correction notices that both read, "This story wrongly states that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is a 'self-described democratic socialist.' He is not." Citing those corrections, attorneys for Fetterman's campaign sent a letter to TV stations demanding they take down the spot, calling it "false and defamatory."

Penn Progress responded by pointing to other news articles that have also called Fetterman a "self-described democratic socialist," but no one seems to have found a quote from Fetterman actually referring to himself this way. That's because, according to his campaign, no such quote exists. In their letter, Fetterman's lawyers say the candidate "has never described himself as a 'democratic socialist'" and link to a 2016 interview in which Fetterman says, "No, I don't label myself a democratic socialist."

Fetterman's team is seeking to have this advertisement bumped from the airwaves because TV and radio stations can be held liable for defamatory content in third-party ads. (Because they're obligated under federal law to run candidate ads so long as they're paid for, broadcasters aren't liable for the content of such spots.) On Tuesday evening, the Fetterman campaign said that one station, WPVI in Philadelphia, had complied with its request.

Aside from the factual blunder, Lamb's supporters may be making a political mistake as well: Attacking a rival as too liberal in a Democratic primary is rarely a winning move. If Penn Progress' ad gets bounced, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for the super PAC.

Separately, a new poll of the GOP primary from Public Opinion Strategies for Honor Pennsylvania finds hedge funder David McCormick (whom the group is backing) leading TV personality Mehmet Oz 22-16. In a previously unreleased POS poll from January, Oz enjoyed a 31-13 advantage, but both sides—and other candidates as well—have unleashed millions in attack ads since then.

SD-Sen: Candidate filing closed March 29 for South Dakota's June 7 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the fields for any notable 2022 contests now that the Secretary of State's office has had a week to receive "the official certification(s) from county central committees or state political parties"; you can find a list of contenders here. A runoff would be required on Aug. 16 in the races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and governor if no candidate wins at least 35% of the vote, but there aren't enough contenders in any of those races to make this a possibility. Note also that the parties hold nominating conventions (typically later in June) instead of primaries for several offices, including attorney general.

Donald Trump used the last days of his time on Twitter to rant in late 2020 that Republican Sen. John Thune "will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!" but the Senate minority whip's political career seems like it will continue just fine. Only two little-known Republicans, Oglala Sioux tribal administrator Bruce Whalen and rancher Mark Mowry, ended up filing to take him on, despite Thune's long dalliance with retirement, and there's no indication that either poses a threat. Attorney Brian Bengs has the Democratic primary to himself in this very red state.

Ad Reservations: Last week we got preliminary information about the first fall TV bookings from the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC, and AdImpact now has full details about how much money is going into each reservation:

  • Arizona: $22.4 million
  • Georgia: $24.6 million
  • Nevada: $14.1 million
  • Pennsylvania: $25.8 million
  • Wisconsin: $11.7 million

Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are Democratic-held, while SMP is going on the offensive in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These are the first general election reservations we've seen from any major outside groups on the Senate side.

Governors

AL-Gov: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard is running more ads ahead of the May 24 Republican primary arguing that Gov. Kay Ivey is insufficiently conservative. One spot focuses entirely on attacking the governor, including a clip of her saying last year, "It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks." The other commercial tries to use the Big Lie against Ivey, with the narrator proclaiming, "Lindy believes the election was stolen from Trump. Kay Ivey thinks Biden's victory was legitimate."

Ivey, meanwhile, is running her own ads playing up her own far-right credentials. "The fake news, big tech, and blue state liberals stole the election from President Trump," says the governor, "but here in Alabama, we are making sure that never happens. We have not, and will not, send absentee ballots to everyone and their brother."

AZ-Gov: Both sides have competitive primaries to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey in swingy Arizona. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has long looked like the frontrunner on the Democratic side, and she picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers. Her two intra-party foes are former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and former Homeland Security official Marco López, who is a one-time mayor of Nogales.

Republicans, meanwhile, have six contenders. Trump has thrown his endorsement behind Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist. The only current elected official, by contrast, is Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who is backed by former Govs. Jan Brewer and Fyfe Simington.

Another name to watch is former Rep. Matt Salmon, who narrowly lost the 2002 general election to Democrat Janet Napolitano; his second bid has the support of the Club for Growth as well as Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. There's also self-funding businessman Steve Gaynor, who narrowly lost the open-seat race for secretary of state to Hobbs in 2018. Businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen, who founded a biscotti company, also attracted attention earlier this year when politicos learned she'd self-funded $1.2 million, but she hasn't otherwise generated much press. Neither has the sixth GOP candidate, Scott Neely.

NM-Gov: Former Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block uses his first spot for the June Republican primary to proclaim that he was "a day-one supporter of President Donald J. Trump," who badly lost New Mexico twice. The ad goes on to tout Block's conservative ideas, including his desire to "finish the border wall" and "block the COVID mandates," though at times the narrator's message almost gets drowned out by the commercial's loud music.

SD-Gov: Gov. Kristi Noem faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Steve Haugaard, a former state House speaker who, believe it or not, is trying to run to the incumbent's right. Noem, though, has a massive financial edge over the challenger, as well as Trump's endorsement, and there's no indication yet that she's vulnerable. The winner will take on state House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, who faces no opposition in the Democratic primary.

TX-Gov: YouGov's new poll for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 50-42 among likely voters.

House

AK-AL: 314 Action Fund, a group that supported independent Al Gross in his 2020 Senate race, has released a survey from the Democratic pollster Change Research that finds him locked in a close special election against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin in the instant-runoff general election in August.

It's impossible to know which of the 48 candidates competing in the June top-four primary might advance to the general, but we know the final matchup will be different than the one Change polled because one of the candidates it included, Republican state Sen. Lora Reinbold, did not end up running; the survey was also conducted days before either Palin or the final Republican candidate tested, state Sen. Josh Revak, announced they were in.

The firm initially finds Gross leading Palin 33-30 in a hypothetical general election, with Revak and Reinbold at 9% and 8%, respectively. After the instant runoff process is simulated, not much changes, as Gross and Palin tie with 35% apiece, while 30% are undecided. In a separate question pitting the two head-to-head, however, Palin edges out Gross 42-40.

314 Action hasn't made an endorsement yet, but the organization made it clear it wanted Gross to win in its release, saying, "Dr. Al Gross has dedicated his life to improving health outcomes for Alaskans, and if elected to Congress he'll have a platform to craft policy that will do just that."

AZ-01: Republican Rep. David Schweikert is running for re-election in the revamped 1st District, a seat in eastern Phoenix and its eastern suburbs that's changed quite a bit from the 6th District he currently represents: While Trump would have carried his existing constituency 51-47, it’s Biden who would have taken the new 1st 50-49. (We explain the many changes to Arizona's congressional map here.)

Before he can focus on the general election, though, Schweikert needs to get past self-funder Elijah Norton in the primary. Norton has been attacking the ethics of the incumbent, who in 2020 agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, accept a formal reprimand, and admit to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude a two-year investigation. Schweikert, though, has made it clear he'll focus on Norton's turbulent departure from his insurance company. The field also includes Josh Barnett, who badly lost to Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego last cycle in the safely blue 7th District.

Three Democrats are also competing for this competitive seat. The field consists of Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf; and environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, who has the backing of southern Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45, which is a significant shift from Biden's 50-48 win in the 1st District that he currently holds.

Seven Republicans are competing to take him on, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. The two elected officials in the running are state Rep. Walt Blackman and John Moore, the mayor of the tiny community of Williams. Also in the running are Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane; Ron Watkins, the reputed founder of the QAnon conspiracy cult; and three others. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer had announced he was running last month, but his name was not on the state’s final list of candidates.

AZ-04: Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton is defending the 4th District in the southern Phoenix suburbs that, at 54-44 Biden, is considerably less safe than the 9th District it replaces. Six Republicans are competing to take him on, including Tanya Wheeless, who served as a staffer to then-Sen. Martha McSally, and Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez.

AZ-06: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her retirement last year before Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission drew up a new 6th District in the Tucson area that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.3-49.2 margin—a sizable drop from Biden’s 55-44 win in the old 2nd District.

The Democratic contest pits former state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who as an intern helped save then-Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was shot in 2011, against state Sen. Kirsten Engel; a third candidate, engineer Avery Anderson, hasn't earned much attention so far. The GOP frontrunner is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, though it remains to be seen if any of his four intra-party rivals can give him a serious fight.

FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who has Trump's endorsement, has released a Spry Strategies poll that shows her again winning the August Republican primary. The firm gives Luna the lead with 35%, while prosecutor Kevin Hayslett and 2020 candidate Amanda Makki are tied for second with 9% each.

GA-07: NBC reports that Rep. Lucy McBath is spending $74,000 on her first TV ad for the May 24 Democratic primary, which features her visiting the grave of her son, Jordan Davis, as she describes how he was murdered by a gunman. (The commercial features surveillance footage from the gas station where Davis was killed, with someone responding to the sounds of gunfire, "Oh my God. Somebody's shooting!") McBath tells the audience, "My tragedy turned to purpose. In Congress, I'm fighting to protect voting rights, to lower prescription drug costs, and to prevent gun violence."

McBath's longtime allies at Everytown for Gun Safety are also spending $1 million to help her, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says will come in the form of digital and radio ads and a mail campaign. McBath has already benefited from $1 million in advertising from another group, Protect Our Future PAC, while fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux has not yet received any major outside support.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur says she'll continue her campaign for the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Andy Harris even though Trump would have carried the newest version of this seat by a tough 56-42 margin. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden, who is the underdog in the July primary, also made it clear he'd remain in the race.

NH-01: The Associated Press reports that former Trump administration official Matt Mowers, one of the leading GOP candidates for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, voted twice in the 2016 primaries, which would be a violation of federal law.

According to the AP, Mowers cast a ballot in New Hampshire's primary in February, when he was working for Chris Christie's presidential campaign. (Christie finished sixth with just 7% of the vote and quit the race the next day.) Mowers then voted in the June primary in his home state of New Jersey, a month after Donald Trump became the GOP's de facto nominee, though there were other races on the ballot that day as well.

Any statute of limitations has long run out, so Mowers—who has a page devoted to "election integrity" on his campaign website—would be able to evade any legal ramifications. Politically, though, it's a different story, as his rivals for the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas immediately went on the attack. Mowers' campaign has so far declined to respond directly to the story.

SD-AL: Rep. Dusty Johnson faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Taffy Howard, a Big Lie supporter who launched her bid last year insisting, "I believe there was fraud in the last election that needs to be investigated. Our current congressman is not willing to admit that there was an issue." No Democrat ended up filing to run for the state's only House seat.

TX-15: EMILY's List has endorsed businesswoman Michelle Vallejo in the May 24 Democratic primary runoff for this open seat. Vallejo will face Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who led her 28-20 last month in the first round of the nomination contest.

TX-34 (special): Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled the special all-party primary to succeed former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela for June 14, with the filing deadline set for April 13. A runoff date would only be scheduled if no one earns a majority of the vote in the first round.

Attorneys General

AZ-AG: Republicans have a six-way primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking Team Red's nod for U.S. Senate, and this is another nominating contest without an obvious frontrunner. The only Democrat, by contrast, is former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes.

One familiar GOP contender is Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran. Another 2020 loser is Rodney Glassman, who narrowly failed to unseat the Maricopa County assessor in the primary; Glassman was the 2010 Democratic nominee against Sen. John McCain, but he now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar. The field also consists of two former prosecutors, Lacy Cooper and Abe Hamadeh; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove.

TX-AG: YouGov surveys the May 24 Republican primary runoff for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and shows incumbent Ken Paxton fending off Land Commissioner George P. Bush 65-23, which is even larger than the 59-30 lead that CWS Research found in its recent poll for a pro-Paxton group. YouGov also has former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza beating former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski 46-31 for the Democratic nod.

YouGov tests hypothetical general election scenarios as well and finds that, despite his myriad of scandals, Paxton outperforms Bush. The attorney general leads Garza and Jaworski 48-42 and 48-41, respectively, while Jaworski edges out Bush 39-38 and Garza ties him at 39-all.

Secretaries of State

AZ-SoS: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is running for governor, and four Republicans and two Democrats are running to replace her as this swing state's chief elections officer.

Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, has taken a strong interest in this contest and endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Team Red's field also includes state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, who championed a bill that would have allowed the state legislature to decertify the state's presidential results at any point before Inauguration Day, and state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has sponsored some of the most aggressive new voting restrictions in Arizona. The final Republican contender is advertising executive Beau Lane.

Democrats, meanwhile, have a duel between state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and Adrian Fontes, who narrowly lost re-election in 2020 as Maricopa County clerk, the post responsible for election administration in the county.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Prosecutor: Republican incumbent Alistair Adel resigned late last month as the top prosecutor of America's fourth-largest county over serious questions about her ability to manage her office, and one Democrat and three Republicans quickly collected the requisite signatures needed to compete in the special election to succeed her. The partisan primary and general elections will take place on the same days as the state's regularly scheduled statewide contests, and the winner will be up for a full term in 2024.

The only Democrat in the race is 2020 nominee Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel by a close 51-49. The GOP field consists of Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel; City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere; and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whom Senate Republicans hired in 2018 as a "female assistant" to question Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford. A fourth Republican, attorney James Austin Woods, does not appear to have filed.

Morning Digest: Maine’s Jared Golden ran 13 points ahead of the top of the ticket

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

Leading Off

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Maine, where Democratic Rep. Jared Golden won a second term even as Donald Trump once again carried his 2nd Congressional District. We'll also be taking a look at the seven states that are home to only one U.S. House seat. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available.

Joe Biden carried Maine, which has backed every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992, by a 53-44 margin, which was a notable improvement on Hillary Clinton's 48-45 performance there in 2016. Maine, however, gives an electoral vote to the winner of each of its congressional districts (the only other state to do this is Nebraska), and for the second cycle in a row, the 2nd District went to Trump. This seat in the northern part of the state supported Trump 52-45, a somewhat smaller margin compared to his 51-41 performance there four years ago but still a clear win. You can find a larger version of our map here.

Campaign Action

Despite Trump's victory at the top of the ticket, though, Golden defeated Republican Dale Crafts 53-47. At the start of the cycle, Republicans had planned to target Golden, who had flipped this seat in a tight 2018 race, but major outside groups on both sides dramatically cut their ad buys in the final weeks of the race in what Politico characterized at the time as "a sign of no confidence" in Crafts.

Biden took the 1st District, meanwhile, by a 60-37 margin, which was also a big shift from Clinton's 54-39 win. This seat, which contains Portland, has been solidly blue turf for decades, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree won her seventh term 62-38.

While Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the legislature, redistricting isn't likely to alter Maine's congressional boundaries all that much. The state requires two-thirds of each chamber to pass a new map, and there are more than enough Republicans to block any districts they view as unfavorable. If the legislature deadlocks, the state Supreme Court would take charge of redistricting.

We'll now take a look at the nation's seven at-large congressional districts. Alaska supported Donald Trump 53-43, a smaller margin than his 53-38 showing in 2016. This was the closest a Democrat's come to winning the Last Frontier's three electoral votes since 1992, when George H.W. Bush edged out Bill Clinton 39-30 as Ross Perot was taking 28%. Biden's 43% was also the highest for Team Blue since 1964, when Lyndon Johnson became the only Democratic candidate to ever carry Alaska.

Rep. Don Young, a Republican whose nearly 48 years in office makes him the House's longest serving current member, faced a rematch this year against Alyse Galvin, an independent who won the Democratic nomination. While outside groups for both parties spent heavily, Young won 54-45, an improvement from his 53-47 showing in 2018.

Democrats also made a serious effort to flip Montana's open House seat but came up short. Trump's 57-41 margin of victory was smaller than his 56-36 showing four years ago, but the state still wasn't close. Republican Matt Rosendale beat Democrat Kathleen Williams 56-44, a win that came two years after Rosendale lost his challenge to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester by a 50-47 margin. It was also a much bigger defeat for Williams than in her previous attempt for this seat in 2018, when she fell to now-Gov.-elect Greg Gianforte 51-45.

Biden, meanwhile, improved on Clinton's performance in his home state of Delaware and in Vermont, where Democratic Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Peter Welch, respectively, also had no trouble winning re-election. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming remained safely red turf up and down the ballot. Wyoming, which backed Trump 70-27, also gave him his largest margin of victory in any state for the second cycle in a row.

Congressional redistricting hasn't been a factor in any of these seven states in some time, but there's a very good chance that Montana could regain the second House seat that it lost after the 1990 census. However, while Gianforte's win in this year's gubernatorial race gives Team Red the trifecta it lost in the 2004 elections, state law grants a bipartisan commission responsibility over redistricting matters. Rhode Island, meanwhile, could soon join the list of at-large states, as population growth patterns suggest its two seats will shrink to one following reapportionment.

Georgia Runoffs

GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: A new poll from RMG Research, the firm run by Scott Rasmussen, finds Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly leading Republican Sen. David Perdue 48-47 while Democrat Raphael Warnock holds a similar 48-46 edge over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Ossoff excoriates Perdue in a new ad for "doing nothing" to alleviate the pandemic and "blocking relief for the rest of us." Warnock, meanwhile, holds aloft a photo of his father, an Army veteran born in 1917 who served in World War II, calling him his "hero." Warnock blasts Loeffler for "taking my words out of context to try and fool you into believing that I don't respect members of the military, like my own father."

Finally, AdImpact reports that total ad spending across both runoffs has reached $315 million, with $170 million of that devoted to the special election. In that contest, Warnock has outspent Loeffler $60 million to $45 million so far, but outside GOP groups have spent $53 million versus just $13 million for Democrats.

However, as AdImpact notes, the difference between the third-party spenders is "misleading." That's because at least one large Republican super PAC, American Crossroads, has spent $44 million on ads that will run straight through Jan. 5. Democratic groups, by contrast, have all booked airtime on a week-by-week basis.

Senate

CO-Sen, CO-Gov: Outgoing Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who just lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper 54-44 last month, has declined to rule out bids against either Sen. Michael Bennet or Gov. Jared Polis, two Democrats who are both up for re-election in 2022.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson, who recently said he'd "like to be the first member of Congress from Pennsylvania in 202 years to chair the House Agriculture Committee" in describing his feelings about a bid for Senate or governor, was elevated to the post of "ranking member" on the committee by his GOP colleagues this week. That makes him the most senior Republican on the committee and puts him in line to chair it in two years' time should the GOP win back the House in 2022.

Gubernatorial

IL-Gov: State Rep. Darren Bailey, who wouldn't rule out a run for governor in a radio interview over the summer, just decided to pick a Facebook fight with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a fellow Republican whom Capitol Fax's Rich Miller says is "widely rumored" to also be considering a bid against Democratic Gov. J. B. Pritzker.

Kinzinger has been just about the only congressional Republican to explicitly call out Donald Trump's "baseless conspiracies" about the election, as he put it, earning the ire of true believers like Bailey, who termed Kinzinger's view that Trump should accept reality and stop undermining democracy "appalling."

NV-Gov: Republican Rep. Mark Amodei says in a new interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Colton Lochhead that he's "gonna look at" a challenge to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who's up for re-election in 2022. For almost six years, Amodei's half-heartedly sought an escape from Washington, D.C., whose culture, he said at a 2015 town hall, "sucks." Not long after, he began mooting a bid for governor in 2018 but ultimately declined—and then said he might run for state attorney general that year … but ultimately declined.

In fact, Amodei even suggested he might retire that cycle, though he wound up seeking another term and winning comfortably in northern Nevada's rural 2nd District, which twice backed Donald Trump by double digits, according to new Daily Kos Elections calculations. Perhaps as a consequence, he was dogged by retirement rumors last year, though he pushed back against them firmly early on and easily won again.

However, he nearly courted electoral disaster when he expressed the slightest openness to impeaching Trump and inspired the Club for Growth to push for former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt to challenge Amodei in the GOP primary. Amodei had earlier accused Laxalt of coveting his seat and fomenting the chatter that he might quit, but in the end, Laxalt left the congressman alone.

Things might play out differently in a gubernatorial race, though. Lochhead says that Laxalt and former Sen. Dean Heller are both "rumored" to be considering bids against Sisolak, who defeated Laxalt 49-45 in 2018. Neither man, however, has publicly said anything about their interest.

House

NJ-03: Republican Assemblyman Ryan Peters sounds as though he's considering a bid against Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who just won re-election to a second term by a surprisingly hale 53-45 margin. Insider NJ says that Peters is "not ready yet to say he's running for Congress," but he also disparaged the idea of running against Democratic state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego next year (a race he's been rumored to be interested in) by saying, "Do I want to be in the minority again? I really don't have a burning desire to do that."

Called Races

NY-01, NY-02: With New York finally certifying the results of last month's elections, the AP called the race for 1st Congressional District for Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin on Friday, a day after Democrat Nancy Goroff conceded; Zeldin defeated Goroff by a 55-45 margin. The AP also called the contest in the neighboring 2nd District, which Democrat Jackie Gordon conceded to Republican Andrew Garbarino a couple of weeks ago. Final tallies there show Garbarino winning 53-46.

That leaves just two unresolved House races, Iowa's 2nd and New York's 22nd, both of which are subject to ongoing legal challenges.

Morning Digest: Nevada Democrats won big in 2018. Our new data shows they may again in 2020

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

Leading Off

Senate-by-LD, Governor-by-LD: Nevada was a huge success story for Team Blue in 2018, with Democrats making big gains in both houses of the legislature at the same time that the party was flipping the U.S. Senate seat and governor's office. And as our new data, which was crunched for us by elections analyst Bill Coningsby, illustrates, Democrats have opportunities to pick up more seats this fall.

Democrats currently hold a 13-8 majority in the Senate, which is just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass certain revenue-related measures that the GOP blocked in the previous sessions of the legislature without any GOP votes. In the state Assembly, though, Team Blue has a 29-13 supermajority.

We'll start with a look at the Senate, where half the chamber was up in 2018 while the rest of the seats will be on the ballot this fall. Democrat Jacky Rosen carried 15 of the 21 seats while she was unseating GOP Sen. Dean Heller 50-45, while Democrat Steve Sisolak took those very same districts while he was being elected governor 49-45 over Adam Laxalt. The median district backed Rosen by 53-43 and Sisolak by 52-44, placing it somewhat to the left of the state overall.

Two Republicans sit in Rosen/Sisolak seats, while no Democrats hold Heller/Laxalt districts. The only one of that pair of Republicans up this year is Heidi Gansert, who holds Senate District 15 in the Reno area. This constituency supported Rosen 51-45, while Sisolak took it 50-45; four years ago, the district also backed Hillary Clinton 47-44 while Gansert was winning by a convincing 53-42. This cycle, the Democrats are fielding Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, who lost a close primary for Washoe County assessor last cycle.

The other Republican on unfriendly turf is Keith Pickard, who won a four-year term in 2018 by 24 votes. That year, Rosen and Sisolak carried his SD-20 50-47 and 50-46, respectively.

Democrats do have a few potentially competitive seats to defend this year. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro won SD-06 51-49 as Clinton was pulling off a 50-45 victory. Last cycle, though, the seat backed Rosen 53-44, while Sisolak took it by a similar 52-44 spread. Democrats will also be looking to keep the open SD-05, which supported Clinton just 48-46 but went for Rosen and Sisolak 53-43 and 52-44.

We'll turn to the 42-person Assembly, where members are elected to 2-year terms. Both Rosen and Sisolak carried the same 29 districts, while Heller and Laxalt took the remaining 13 districts. The two median districts backed Rosen by 54-42 and Sisolak by 53-41, placing them several points to the left of Nevada overall.

One assemblymember from each party holds a seat that was carried by the other side's statewide nominee. On the Democratic side, incumbent Skip Daly won 52-48 in a seat Heller and Laxalt took 49-47 and 49-45; Trump won by a larger 49-43 margin here in 2016. Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick is termed-out of a seat that backed both Rosen and Sisolak 49-48 but where Trump prevailed 49-46.

We'll also take a quick look at the state's four congressional seats. The 3rd District, which is located in Las Vegas' southern suburbs, backed both Rosen and Sisolak 50-46, which was a shift to the left from Trump's 48-47 win. The 4th District supported Rosen 51-44, while Sisolak took it 50-44; the seat went for Clinton by a similar 50-45 margin in 2016. The 1st District went overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket, while Republicans had no trouble carrying the 2nd District.

P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states. Additionally, you can find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker spreadsheet for a compilation of the latest developments in major lawsuits over changes to election and voting procedures, along with our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, all of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

Alabama: Civil rights advocates have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to loosen Alabama's restrictions on mail voting during the pendency of the pandemic. The plaintiffs want the court to order the state to suspend requirements that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot, have their ballot envelope notarized, and include a photocopy of their ID with their ballot. Additionally, the plaintiffs want 14 days of in-person early voting, which Alabama currently offers none of, along with drive-through voting and other measures to make voting safe for those not voting by mail.

Florida: Officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, which are home to the greater Tampa area and one in every nine registered voters in Florida, have announced that both counties will pay for postage on mail-in ballots. Officials in the southeastern Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach, which are home to around a quarter of Florida voters, had previously announced measures to implement prepaid postage and also mail out applications for mail ballots to voters or households who had yet to request one.

Montana: Montana's Supreme Court has reversed a lower court ruling that had allowed absentee mail ballots to count if they were postmarked by Election Day and received within a few days afterward. As a result, voters in the June 2 primary, which is taking place almost entirely by mail, will have to make sure election officials receive their ballots by Election Day.

The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' request but rather explained that it was reinstating the original deadline to avoid voter confusion and disruption to election administration. Plaintiffs will still have a chance to make their case that the ballot receipt deadline should be extended for the November general election.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that he has no further plans to alter procedures for the July 7 primary. Murphy recently ordered the election to take place largely by mail with active registered voters belonging to a party being sent ballots and inactive or unaffiliated voters getting sent applications, while municipalities operate at least one in-person voting each.

New Mexico: Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for Senate in New Mexico, is urging Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to delay the deadline to return absentee mail ballots, saying he has heard reports of voters failing to receive a mail ballot in time even though the primary is taking place just days away on June 2.

A spokesperson for Toulouse Oliver says that extending the deadline, which currently requires ballots to be received by Election Day rather than simply postmarked by that date, would require legislative action. However, the state legislature isn't in session, and there's no indication yet whether Luján or anyone else will file a last-minute lawsuit instead.

North Carolina: North Carolina's Republican-run state House has almost unanimously passed a bill that would make it easier to vote absentee by mail. In particular, the bill would ease—though not eliminate—the atypical requirement that absentee voters have a notary or two witnesses sign their ballot envelope by allowing only one witness instead.

However, the bill also makes it a felony for election officials to mail actual ballots to voters who haven't requested one, which would prevent Democratic officials in charge of running elections from conducting elections by mail. Activists had also called on lawmakers to make other changes such as prepaying the postage on mail ballots or making Election Day a state holiday, but Republican legislators refused.

Even if it becomes law, this bill is not likely to be the final word on voting changes in North Carolina. Two separate lawsuits at the federal and state levels are partially or wholly challenging the witness requirement, lack of prepaid postage, and other absentee voting procedures.

South Carolina: South Carolina's all-Republican state Supreme Court has rejected a Democratic lawsuit seeking to waive the requirement that voters under age 65 provide a specific excuse to vote absentee by mail in June's primary. The court ruled that the issue was moot after the Republican-run state legislature recently passed a law waiving the excuse requirement for the June 9 primary and June 23 runoffs. However, that waiver will expire in July, so Democrats are likely to continue pressing their claim in either state court or a separate federal lawsuit for November.

Texas: Texas' all-Republican Supreme Court has sided with Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton in determining that lack of coronavirus immunity doesn't qualify as an excuse for requesting a mail ballot under the state's definition of "disability." Consequently, all voters must present an excuse to vote by mail except for those age 65 or older, a demographic that favors Republicans.

While the ruling did note that it's up to voters to decide whether or not to "apply to vote by mail based on a disability," that may not be much of a silver lining, because Paxton has repeatedly threatened activists with criminal prosecution for advising voters to request mail ballots. If campaigns and civic groups limit their outreach as a result of Paxton's threats, then even voters still entitled to mail ballots may not learn about the option.

However, in one positive development for voting access, the court ruled that Paxton couldn't tell officials in five counties not to send absentee ballots to voters citing disability even for coronavirus, since Texas' absentee application doesn't ask what a voter's disability is. In addition, separate federal litigation remains ongoing after a lower court blocked the absentee excuse requirement. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to rule soon on whether to in turn block that ruling for the state's July 14 primary runoff.

Virginia: Conservatives filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month seeking to block Virginia from implementing its absentee voting plan for the state's June 23 primary, specifically targeting instructions that voters "may choose reason '2A My disability or illness' for absentee voting." Although a new law was passed this year to permanently remove the excuse requirement, it doesn't go into effect until July. Consequently, the plaintiffs argue that the current law is being impermissibly interpreted to let those concerned about coronavirus cite it as an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot when they aren't physically ill themselves and don't otherwise qualify.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin's bipartisan Elections Commission has unanimously voted to send applications for absentee mail ballots to all registered voters, which requires a photo ID. However, the commissioners still must decide on the wording of the letter sent to voters, and a deadlock over the language could prevent the commission from sending anything at all. Notably, the Republican commissioners' votes to mail applications comes after the major Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee and some other Democratic-leaning cities had already moved to do so, so the GOP may face pressure to extend the practice statewide.

Senate

GA-Sen-A: Investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff talks about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in his new ad for the June 9 Democratic primary. Ossoff tells the audience that his business involves investigating corruption, "And when a young black man in Georgia is shot dead in the street, but police and prosecutors look the other way? That's the worst kind of corruption." He continues by pledging to "work to reform our criminal justice system" in the Senate.

KS-Sen: On Thursday, just days ahead of the June 1 filing deadline, state Senate President Susan Wagle announced that she was dropping out of the August GOP primary. Wagle's move is good news for state and national party leaders, who are afraid that a crowded field will make it easier for former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to win the primary.

Wagle's decision came weeks after Kansas GOP chair Mike Kuckelman asked her to leave the race in order "to allow our Party to coalesce behind a candidate who will not only win, but will help Republicans down the ballot this November." Wagle's campaign responded to Kuckelman's appeal at the time by saying she wasn't going anywhere and adding, "Others can speculate on his motives, but it may be as simple as he doesn't support strong, pro-life conservative women."

On Thursday, though, Wagle herself cited the party's need to avoid a "primary fight that will divide our party or hurts my colleagues in the state legislature" as one of her main reasons for dropping out. Wagle also argued that a competitive nomination fight would help Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier in the fall.

Wagle's departure came hours after Rep. Roger Marshall, who looks like Kobach's main rival, picked up an endorsement from Kansans For Life, a development the Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry characterized as a major setback for Wagle.

The organization, which Lowry called the state's "leading anti-abortion group," notably backed both Kobach and then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. Kobach won that contest by less than 350 votes before losing the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly, and Lowry says that plenty of state Republican operatives believe things would have turned out very differently if KFL had only supported Colyer.

Meanwhile, Bollier's second TV ad touts her as a "sensible centrist" and a "leading moderate voice."

ME-Sen: A progressive group led by former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is out with a survey from Victory Geek that shows Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon leading GOP Sen. Susan Collins 51-42. The poll also tested 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betty Sweet, who is a longshot candidate in the July Democratic primary, and found her edging Collins 44-43; Strimling disclosed that he was close to Sweet and had contributed to her campaign.

This is the first poll we've ever seen from Victory Geek, a firm Strimling characterized as "a non-partisan data and telecom provider with mostly conservative clients." Strimling called this survey a "joint left/right partnership" between Victory Geek and his progressive organization, "Swing Hard. Run Fast. Turn Left!"

The is also the first poll we've seen here in close to three months, so we don't have a good sense if Collins really is badly trailing. Indeed, the only other numbers we've seen from Maine all year were a February SocialSphere poll that had Gideon up 43-42 and an early March survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had her ahead 47-43. While it's very clear that Collins is in for the fight of her career, we need more data before we can call her an underdog.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The conservative pollster We Ask America finds GOP Gov. Mike Parson leading Democrat Nicole Galloway 47-39, while Donald Trump edges Joe Biden 48-44. The only other poll we've seen here in the last month was a late April survey from the GOP firm Remington Research for the Missouri Scout tipsheet that showed Parson ahead 52-39.

VT-Gov: On Thursday, which was the candidate filing deadline, GOP Gov. Phil Scott confirmed that he'd seek a third two-year term. While Scott waited until now to make his plans official, there was never any serious talk about him stepping aside. Scott also pledged that he wouldn't bring on "a campaign staff or office, be raising money, or participating in normal campaign events" until the current state of emergency is over.

House

HI-02: On Thursday, VoteVets endorsed state Sen. Kai Kahele in the August Democratic primary. Kahele currently faces no serious intra-party opposition for this safely blue open seat, though it's always possible someone could launch a last-minute campaign before the filing deadline passes on Tuesday.

IA-04: Politico reports that Iowa Four PAC, a group run by former GOP state House Speaker Christopher Rants, has launched a $20,000 TV buy against white supremacist Rep. Steve King ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary. The commercial declares that it's "sad that Steve King lost his committee assignments in Congress and embarrassed Iowa." The narrator also says that "President Trump stopped allowing Steve King to fly on Air Force One." The rest of the ad touts state Sen. Randy Feenstra as a reliable Trump ally.

Meanwhile, 2018 Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten, who doesn't face any intra-party opposition next week, has launched what Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports is a $50,000 TV buy. The 60-second ad, which is narrated by "Field of Dreams" star Kevin Costner, is a shorter version of Scholten's launch video. The spot features images of western Iowa and its people and declares that the area is "rooted within us. Within him."

IN-01: Former Sen. Joe Donnelly endorsed Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott on Monday ahead of next week's Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the Voter Protection Project has announced that it will spend "six figures" on mailers supporting state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon.

IN-05: The anti-tax Club for Growth began targeting former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi a little while ago, and it recently went up with a commercial targeting businesswoman Beth Henderson, who is another candidate in next week's GOP primary. Roll Call's Jessica Wehrman writes that the Club, which backs state Sen. Victoria Spartz, has spent $400,000 on ads for this contest.

The ad shows an old clip of Henderson from just before the 2016 Indiana presidential primary saying of Donald Trump, "I don't like his outbursts and his inappropriateness with the public and … his scruples." The narrator goes on to argue that Henderson "even went on Facebook to support a liberal group that called for Trump's impeachment."

Spartz, who has self-funded most of her campaign, has decisively outspent her many opponents in this competitive open seat. A recent poll for the Club also showed her leading Brizzi 32-14 as Henderson took 13%, and no one has released any contradictory numbers.

Henderson is also acting like Spartz is the one to beat here. Henderson made sure to inform voters in a recent ad that she was born in the United States in what appears to be a not-very subtle shot at Spartz, who has discussed leaving her native Ukraine in her own commercials.

NY-24: 2018 nominee Dana Balter is out with her second TV spot ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Katko.

Balter tells the audience that she has a pre-existing condition and continues, "I know the fear of living without insurance, so it's personal when John Katko repeatedly votes to sabotage Obamacare and put coverage for pre-existing conditions at risk." Balter declares that she came closer to defeating Katko last cycle than anyone ever has, and pledges "we'll finish the job so everyone has good healthcare."

NV-03: The conservative super PAC Ending Spending recently launched an ad against former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz ahead of the June 9 GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy for the TV and digital campaign is $300,000.

UT-04: Former Rep. Mia Love has endorsed state Rep. Kim Coleman in the June 30 GOP primary to take on freshman Rep. Ben McAdams.

DCCC: The DCCC has added another six contenders to its program for top candidates:

  • AK-AL: Alyse Galvin
  • AR-02: Joyce Elliott
  • MT-AL: Kathleen Williams
  • NC-08: Pat Timmons-Goodson
  • NE-02: Kara Eastman
  • OH-01: Kate Schroder

Kathleen Williams, who was the 2018 nominee for Montana’s only House seat, does face a primary on Tuesday against state Rep. Tom Winter. However, Winter has struggled with fundraising during the contest.

Judicial

MI Supreme Court: On Tuesday, the Michigan Democratic Party announced its endorsements for the two state Supreme Court seats on the ballot in November, backing Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and attorney Elizabeth Welch. Both Democratic-backed candidates will face off against two Republican-supported candidates in elections this fall that are nominally nonpartisan and let voters select up to two candidates elected by plurality winner. If McCormack is re-elected and Welch wins office to succeed a retiring GOP justice, Democrats would gain a 4-3 majority on the bench.

A Democratic majority would have major implications for battles over redistricting and voting access, two topics that are currently the subject of active lawsuits at both the state and federal levels in Michigan. While Michigan has a new independent redistricting commission, Republicans are currently suing in federal court to strike it down, something that isn't outside the realm of possibility given the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority, but a Democratic state court could serve as a bulwark against unfair maps in such a scenario.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who represented Dallas' northern suburbs from 1991 to 2019, died Wednesday at the age of 89. Johnson was the last Korean War veteran to serve in Congress, as well as a founding member of what later became the influential Republican Study Committee.

Johnson was serving as a fighter pilot in Vietnam in 1966 when his plane was shot down and he was captured by North Vietnamese forces. Johnson spent almost seven years as a prisoner of war, a period that included physical and mental torture. Johnson and another future Republican politician, John McCain, also shared a tiny cell for 18 months.

Johnson was released in 1973, and he went on to become a homebuilder back in Texas. Johnson was elected to the state House in 1984, and he sought an open U.S. House seat in a 1991 special election after Republican Steve Bartlett resigned to become mayor of Dallas. Johnson took second in the all-party primary against a fellow Vietnam veteran, former Reagan White House aide Tom Pauken, and the two met in an all-Republican general election. Johnson emphasized his military service and won 53-47, and he never had trouble winning re-election for the rest of his career.

In 2000, Johnson notably endorsed George W. Bush over McCain, saying of his former cellmate, "I know him pretty well … and I can tell you, he cannot hold a candle to George Bush." Three years later, though, McCain would say of the Texan, "I wasn't really as courageous as Sam Johnson." Johnson would ultimately back McCain in the 2008 primaries, arguing it was "time to get behind the front-runner."

Morning Digest: Former GOP congressman runs bigoted ad highlighting that his top GOP rival is gay

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

Leading Off

CA-50: Former California Rep. Darrell Issa is standing by a new TV spot that repeatedly highlights the fact that his top rival, former San Diego City Councilman and fellow Republican Carl DeMaio, is gay.

Issa's ad came just after DeMaio launched his own commercial that argued that the former congressman hadn't done enough to support Donald Trump. Issa's spot responds by featuring a DeMaio tweet calling Trump "a disgusting pig" and arguing that he supported citizenship for "illegal aliens" while he was on the San Diego City Council. The ad also showcases the same shot of three shirtless and tattooed men taken in a Latin American prison that has become a staple of racist GOP ads during the Trump era.

Campaign Action

The spot then highlights a large headline from the Los Angeles Blade that reads "Carl DeMaio: California's gay GOP kingmaker" and a considerably smaller excerpt from the article quoting DeMaio saying, "My job isn't to support Donald Trump." The image then switches to an article from The Hill titled "Gay GOP Candidate: Party Must Change" with some text reading, "DeMaio said some illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship."

The ad drew quick condemnation from two local Republicans, San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate and county party chair Tony Krvaric, for emphasizing DeMaio's sexual orientation. Meanwhile, a spokesman for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is one of Issa's most high-profile endorsers, also declared, "Campaigns should focus on people's positions on the issues, not people's sexual orientation." However, Issa's intra-party critics were silent about the ad's blatant racism, and Faulconer's team also made sure to note that the mayor is still backing the former congressman.

Unsurprisingly, Issa dug in and defended himself. On Thursday, when local ABC reporter Jon Horn asked him about the spot, Issa initially responded, "I have no idea what you're talking about." After Horn elaborated, Issa responded, "You're talking about some headlines from actual newspapers" and continued, "I certainly think you should talk to The Hill and The Blade and ask them why they use those words."

Issa continued to insist the next day that his ad was free of homophobia. The former congressman told Politico that DeMaio "made no public statements complaining about [The Blade] or The Hill" at the time the articles were originally published, adding that he doesn't consider the word "gay" to be a slur (how enlightened of him).

Issa went even further, saying he has gay staffers, and protesting, "This ad is not about anything related to that term." Issa did not, however, explain why he chose to use two large headlines about DeMaio's sexual orientation if he didn't want viewers to clearly see them.

4Q Fundraising

AK-AL: Alyse Galvin (I): $350,000 raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand

FL-19: Dan Severson (R): $4,000 raised, additional $103,000 self-funded, $103,000 cash-on-hand

NJ-05: Mike Ghassali (R): $560,000 raised, $728,000 cash-on-hand

NY-02: Jackie Gordon (D): $260,000 raised, $289,000 cash-on-hand

WI-03: Ron Kind (D-inc): $292,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand

Senate

KS-Sen: Former Red State director Bryan Pruitt announced Friday that he was dropping out of the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate and running instead for the state Senate.

ME-Sen: Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon's latest TV ad is a minute-long spot that shows Gideon embarking on a "supper with Sara" tour and meeting with voters across the state. Gideon is filmed telling voters that "we have to take the pharmaceutical companies on," while supporters argue it's time for new blood in the Senate.

House

FL-26: On Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez's campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Giménez famously backed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, so the White House's seal of approval could help the mayor avoid any problems in the August GOP primary. However, Trump's support is unlikely to be such an asset for the mayor in November in this 57-41 Clinton seat.

GA-14: Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin announced Thursday that he would run for the state Senate rather than seek the GOP nod for this open congressional seat.

MI-06: GOP Rep. Fred Upton just can't seem to make up his mind about seeking a 18th term this year, even with Michigan's filing deadline looming—and a competitive race for his 6th District in the offing no matter what he chooses to do. Here's his latest statement about his timeline for making a decision, made during a radio interview on Thursday:

"We'll make a decision in the next couple of weeks, for sure."

You know … that sure sounds familiar. In fact, it sure sounds identical. This is what Upton had to say on Jan. 7—you know, about two weeks ago:

"We'll make that decision in the next couple of weeks, for sure."

Okay, here's something even funnier, though: Fred Upton from Sept. 9:

"[W]e'll make a decision in a couple months."

A couple of weeks, a couple of months, a couple of whatevers. But hey, if he wants to wait until April 22 to decide, we'd be quite happy with that—for sure.

NJ-03, NJ-02: On Friday, wealthy businessman David Richter told the Press of Atlantic City that he was considering dropping his GOP primary bid against Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who left the Democratic Party last month, and challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim in the 3rd District instead. Richter added that he would make up his mind in the next week.

Indeed, Richter may want to make up his mind very quickly. The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein writes that former Gov. Chris Christie has told Richter that if he endorses Van Drew, the candidate could wind up on the same stage as Donald Trump on Tuesday when Trump holds his rally in the 2nd District.

Wildstein adds that if this happens, it could make it easier for Richter to secure the important party organization line in Ocean County, which is home to 55% of the 3rd District's Trump voters. (The balance of the district is in Burlington County, where party leaders are supporting former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs.)

Richter is the only notable Republican challenging Van Drew in the June GOP primary, and his departure from the 2nd District would clear the way for the defector to win his new party's nomination.

It's also possible that Richter could improve the GOP's chances against Kim in the 3rd District. While party leaders were reportedly excited about Gibbs, she had a mere $138,000 on-hand at the end of December after five weeks in the race. That's not an impressive figure in any competitive seat, and it's especially underwhelming in a district that's split between the pricey Philadelphia media market and the ultra-expensive New York City market. Richter had a considerably larger $515,000 to spend, though almost all of that was self-funded.

However, Richter does have one big potential liability. The candidate grew up in the 3rd District in Willingboro, but he doesn't appear to have lived there in a while. Richter was residing in Princeton, which is located in the safely blue 12th District, when he announced his campaign against Van Drew over the summer, and he soon relocated to Avalon in the far southern point of the 2nd District.

Avalon is about 56 miles away from the nearest community in the 3rd District, and Richter said Friday that he'd move to Kim's seat if he ran there. However, it wouldn't be hard for Richter's political foes to portray him as a carpetbagger if he relocates for the second time in the space of a year to run for another office.

PA-08: Republican Jim Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, announced on Thursday that he would run in the April primary to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright. Bognet joins a crowded field that includes Army veteran Earl Granville, who recently picked up an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

TX-12: Protect Freedom PAC, which is allied with the anti-tax hardliners at the Club for Growth, is putting at least $547,000 behind a new TV ad attacking Rep. Kay Granger ahead of the March 3 Republican primary. The spot starts off by asking if voters can trust Granger to support their values as she's shown in a 2007 MSNBC clip saying, "I am a pro-choice Republican," and they note she has voted repeatedly against defunding Planned Parenthood in recent years. However, the ad of course makes no mention that Granger earlier this month signed onto an amicus brief along with more than 200 other Republican members of Congress urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

TX-17: Businesswoman Renee Swann is launching her first Republican primary ad with a spot that blasts Obamacare and claims that Democrats want a "government takeover" of health care, which she attacks as "socialism."

TX-24: Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne is up with her first TV spot of the March GOP primary for this open seat. Van Duyne walks through a prison and says, "There's one thing we can all agree on: When criminal illegals commit crimes and hit these doors, they should be deported." The candidate goes on to say that under her leadership, Irving was one of the top-ten safest cities in America. Van Duyne then decries "liberal elites" who "want sanctuary cities."

WI-03: Republican Jessi Ebben, a public relations professional and first-time candidate, announced on Friday that she would compete in the August primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Ron Kind.