Morning Digest: Ohio cancels in-person voting despite judge denying request to delay Tuesday primary

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

Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Illinois: With the coronavirus pandemic leading to widespread shutdowns, it appears that in-person voting in Tuesday's primary in Ohio will not go forward, though the three other states with elections Tuesday said they would proceed as planned.

On Monday evening, a judge rejected a request supported by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine to postpone the election until June 2, calling the idea a "terrible precedent," but DeWine responded with a defiant statement saying that "it simply isn't possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans." The governor later declared that the director of the state's Department of Health, Amy Acton, would "order the polls closed as a health emergency," which she did shortly before 11 PM ET.

Though the petition to delay the election was unopposed by the state, Franklin County Judge Richard Frye cited a litany of reasons not to postpone the primary. Among other factors, he noted that neither DeWine nor legislative leaders had called an emergency session of the legislature to address the matter. Adding to the confusion, the Republican speaker of the House, Larry Householder, said prior to the governor's last statement on Monday night that he opposed DeWine's efforts and insisted the election would indeed go forward on Tuesday.

Campaign Action

DeWine's decision to ignore Frye's ruling could result in him and other officials, particularly Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, being held in contempt of court. However, as election law expert Ned Foley noted, Frye did not order the primary to proceed but rather denied a request that the election be delayed, meaning that Acton's order might not have defied a judicial command. DeWine also added that LaRose will "seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options."

At this point, if anyone were to succeed in a last-minute attempt to override DeWine and Acton, election administration would unfold disastrously. Many poll workers were mistakenly told to stay home Tuesday while matters were up in the air on Monday, and at least one told the Columbus Dispatch earlier in the evening that she still doesn't plan to open her polling site on Tuesday—and that was before Acton's order came down.

As of this writing just before midnight on Monday night, it appears that in-person voting will not go forward on Tuesday, assuming officials heed Acton's order and no further legal actions are forthcoming. That may not be a safe assumption, though: In response to DeWine's announcement, Republican state Rep. John Cross declared, "We have a constitutional crisis now in Ohio," and warned, "I will be fighting in the AM to keep our polling locations OPEN in the 83rd district with law enforcement as the Ohio Department of Health can not shut down an election."

As another election law expert, Rick Hasen, pointed out, while Acton may have the authority to close polling sites, that does not necessarily give DeWine the authority to reschedule primary day. It's possible this problem could be retroactively resolved, Hasen says, if the legislature were to pass a law setting a new date for in-person voting. If not, Ohio would find itself in the bizarre situation of trying to decide a primary election based solely on absentee votes.

LaRose, however, doesn't seem interested in waiting on lawmakers. He released his own memo in response to Acton's insisting that the primary had in fact been rescheduled for June 2 and forbidding local election officials "from tabulating and reporting any results until the close of polls" (which would be 7:30 PM ET) on that day.

Meanwhile, officials in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois all reiterated on Monday that they would proceed with in-person voting on Tuesday. However, whether the primaries end on Tuesday is a different question: Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in Florida late on Monday asking a federal court to extend the deadline to request an absentee ballot to March 24, and to order that election officials count all such ballots postmarked by that date and received by March 27.

Election Changes

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter life in the United States, we’ve added a new section to the Digest specifically devoted to potential or actual changes to election dates and procedures. As these decisions are finalized, we will update both of our 2020 calendars: one for statewide primary dates and the other for key downballot elections.

AL-Sen, AL-01, AL-02: On Sunday, GOP Secretary of State John Merrill requested an opinion from the state attorney general's office on whether Republican Gov. Kay Ivey could postpone the March 31 primary runoffs due to the coronavirus. Merrill said that Alabama law doesn't explicitly allow anyone to delay an election once it has been scheduled, but that he wanted Attorney General Steve Marshall to issue a legal opinion on whether Ivey had the authority to take this action now that she's declared a state of emergency.

For now, though, the GOP runoffs for the U.S. Senate and the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts are still set for March 31. Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, who is running in the 1st District, said Monday that he was suspending all of his political advertising due to the ongoing situation.

That same day, the anti-tax Club for Growth also announced that it was endorsing former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Senate runoff and 2018 candidate Barry Moore in the race for the 2nd District. The Club threw its support behind former state Sen. Bill Hightower, who is competing with Carl, during the summer of last year.

Kentucky: At the recommendation of Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has issued an executive order postponing Kentucky's primaries both for the presidential race and for downballot office from May 19 to June 23. To effect the change, Beshear and Adams relied on what one report described as a provision of law that had never before been used. Because Kentucky's filing deadline passed in January, it's unaffected by Beshear's order.

New York: Officials in New York are considering postponing the state's presidential primary, which is set for April 28, and consolidating it with the primaries for downballot office that will be held on June 23. Such a move would also include delaying the special election for the state's vacant 27th Congressional District, which is likewise scheduled for April 28. Douglas Kellner, the co-chair of the state Board of Elections, told the New York Times that a decision might not come for another two weeks.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order Monday moving village-level elections that had been scheduled for Wednesday to April 28. Presumably, if the April primary is delayed until June, these village elections would shift with them. Cuomo also reduced the signature requirement to get on the June ballot to 30% of the amount normally required by law and ordered that all petitioning halt as of Tuesday evening.

Pennsylvania: As Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf began weighing whether to delay the state's April 28 primary for the presidential race and downballot offices, a judge in Bucks County denied an emergency request from local officials seeking to postpone a hotly contested special election for the state House set to take place on Tuesday—despite the fact that Wolf has asked residents in southeastern Pennsylvania to stay home.

Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is responsible for scheduling all special elections for his chamber, had refused to change the date. Turzai originally set the race for the 18th House District for March 17 rather than consolidate it with the April election, likely because he anticipated that Democratic turnout would be lower in mid-March with no other races on the ballot than it would be for the presidential primary. Two other special elections for the House in red districts are also taking place Tuesday in western Pennsylvania.

As for the presidential primary, Wolf said that it's "too far out for anyone to make a decision." Like in Wisconsin (see our item below), it's not clear whether the governor would have the power to unilaterally change the date, which is set by state law.

Puerto Rico: As expected, Puerto Rico's Senate passed a bill on Monday moving the commonwealth's presidential primary from March 29 to April 26, though the House apparently will not take it up until next week. According to USA Today, Gov. Wanda Vazquez supports the change.

South Carolina: Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order postponing all local elections in South Carolina that had been slated to take place before May 1. The measure affects 32 different races across the state, a full list of which can be found here. The order does not impact the state's June 23 primary for state and federal office. Officials have said that the filing period, which runs from noon on March 16 to noon on March 30, remains undisturbed, though they've asked candidates to schedule appointments to file their paperwork in order to minimize crowding.

Texas: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said on Monday that he will announce later this week how Texas plans to proceed with its primary runoffs, which are scheduled for May 26. In a large number of primaries, which were held on March 3, no candidate won a majority of the vote, which under Texas law means that a second round of voting between the top two finishers must take place.

UT-Gov: Businessman Jeff Burningham said on Friday that he would no longer collect signatures to make it onto the June GOP primary ballot because of the dangers of the coronavirus and would instead compete at the April 25 state party convention. Both major parties also announced late last week that these state party gatherings would take place online rather than in-person.

Utah allows statewide candidates to reach the primary by turning in 28,000 valid signatures or by taking enough support at their party convention, though candidates have the option to try both methods. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes announced in January that he would only go through the GOP convention route, while Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton said last month that she would do the same thing because of the high cost of gathering petitions.

Former party chair Thomas Wright, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, and former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, though, have each turned in signatures; the state has announced that Wright has submitted enough valid petitions to appear on the primary ballot, while Cox and Huntsman's signatures are still being verified.

Wisconsin: Some Wisconsin politicians are calling for the state to postpone its early April elections, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has so far opposed the idea, saying he's not considering a delay "at this time." Should his position change, experts are divided on whether Evers could act unilaterally, or whether the legislature would have to pass new legislation changing the date. Wisconsin is set to conduct its presidential primary on April 7, as well as general elections in an important race for the state Supreme Court and several other judicial posts.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Two independent polls released on Monday both showed Democrat Mark Kelly leading appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally by margins comparable to what several other recent polls have found. Monmouth gave Kelly a 50-44 advantage, while Marist's survey for NBC had him ahead by a smaller 48-45.

CO-Sen: Former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Monday that the state had verified that he'd turned in enough signatures to appear on the June Democratic primary ballot to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, and that he would no longer compete at the state party convention.

Colorado allows candidates to reach the primary either by turning in enough valid signatures or by winning the support of at least 30% of the delegates at their party's convention, though contenders have the option to try both methods. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is Hickenlooper's only well-funded intra-party opponent, is trying to make the ballot by taking part in the convention.

Iowa: Candidate filing closed Friday for Iowa's June 2 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Iowa has an unusual law that requires party conventions to select nominees in races where no candidate receives over 35% of the vote in the primary.

IA-Sen: Five Democrats are competing to take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, who flipped this seat six years ago. National Democrats, including the DSCC, have consolidated behind real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, who had a large financial advantage over her primary rivals at the end of 2019.

Another contender to watch is self-funder Eddie Mauro, who lost the 2018 primary for the 3rd District to eventual winner Cynthia Axne 58-26. Also in the race are retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken, attorney Kimberly Graham, and real estate agent Cal Woods, though none of them have brought in much money through December.

Iowa took a sharp turn to the right in 2014 and 2016, though Democrats rebounded last cycle. Ernst has done little to distinguish herself from Trump one way or the other, and her fate is likely tied closely to the presidential contest. Daily Kos Elections rates the contest as Likely Republican, but a more competitive presidential race in the state would give Democrats a better chance against Ernst.

Gubernatorial

VT-Gov: Candidate fundraising reports are in covering the period of July 2019 through mid-March of this year, and GOP Gov. Phil Scott has less cash-on-hand than either of his two main Democratic rivals. Scott took in $52,000 during this period, with almost all of that amount coming in during the final month-and-a-half of the fundraising period, and he had $95,000 to spend.

On the Democratic side, former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe raised $378,000 and had $129,000 on-hand. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman took in $156,000 and transferred another $27,000, and he had $104,000 in the bank. Attorney Patrick Winburn self-funded almost all of the $106,000 he brought in, and he had $35,000 left after an opening advertising campaign.

WV-Gov: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango in the May Democratic primary to face GOP Gov. Jim Justice.

House

IA-01: Democrat Abby Finkenauer flipped this northeast Iowa district last cycle, and national Republicans quickly consolidated behind state Rep. Ashley Hinson to try to get it back. Hinson's only intra-party opponent is businessman Thomas Hansen, who has raised very little money. This seat swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump.

IA-02: Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack is retiring from a southeast Iowa seat that swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump, and former state Sen. Rita Hart faces no opposition in the Democratic primary to succeed him.

On the GOP side, state Republican officeholders have consolidated behind state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was Team Red's nominee against Loebsack in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Miller-Meeks' main intra-party foe is former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, who was elected to his one term in Congress in a seat located just across the Mississippi River in 2010; Schilling lost re-election two years later to now-DCCC chair Cheri Bustos, and she decisively defeated him in their 2014 rematch. Schilling has struggled to raise money for his first campaign in Iowa, and he hasn't attracted any help from major outside groups so far.

Three other Republicans are also in, but none of them appear to be running credible campaigns.

IA-03: Democrat Cynthia Axne unseated GOP incumbent David Young 49-47 last cycle, and Young is running to try to reclaim this Des Moines-area district. Young's only primary foe is Army veteran Bill Schafer, who has raised very little money and doesn't appear to be a threat. This seat swung from 51-47 Obama to 49-45 Trump.

IA-04: GOP Rep. Steve King had been safe for years in a red northwestern Iowa seat that moved from 53-45 Romney all the way to 61-34 Trump, but he now faces both a competitive primary and general election campaign.

King only narrowly beat Democrat J. D. Scholten 50-47 last cycle after voters learned about a week before Election Day that the congressman was rubbing shoulders with international white supremacist candidates and hate groups, and Scholten is running again. Scholten, who has no primary opposition, didn't attract much outside attention until late in the campaign, but he ended December with a credible $540,000 on-hand.

King also picked up four intra-party challengers after he was stripped of his committee assignments early last year for musing to the New York Times, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?" State Sen. Randy Feenstra ended 2019 with a huge $489,000 to $32,000 cash-on-hand lead over King, while self-funding Army veteran Bret Richards had $100,000 to spend.

Two other Republicans, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and real estate developer Steven Reeder, didn't have much money, but they could make it more difficult for anyone to take the 35% of the vote needed to win outright.

While King has little money or outside support, he very well could win another term. Voters in this seat have long tolerated his racism, and the congressman could benefit as memories of his January 2019 comments fade. There's also no telling what would happen if this nomination goes to a convention.

Idaho: Candidate filing closed Friday for Idaho's May 19 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. We're not expecting much action in the Gem State this year, though: GOP Sen. Jim Risch and Republican Reps. Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson don't face any serious primary opponents, and they're very unlikely to have trouble in November in their deep-red constituencies.

Nevada: Candidate filing closed Friday for Nevada's June 9 primaries, and the Nevada Independent has put together a list of contenders here.

NV-02: While there was serious talk throughout 2019 that Rep. Mark Amodei could face a serious GOP primary challenger in this reliably red northern Nevada seat, it doesn't appear that the congressman will have much to worry about now that filing has closed. Amodei's only intra-party foe is Joel Beck, who challenged him two years ago and took third place with just 8%.

NV-03: Six Republicans filed to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a seat in the Las Vegas suburbs that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump very narrowly carried, but only two of them look noteworthy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is backing former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer, a World Wrestling Entertainment alum who was accused of assault three different times from 2010 to 2013; Rodimer pleaded guilty to battery in one of those incidents, while no charges were filed in the other two. The other candidate worth watching is former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who has been self-funding almost his entire campaign.

Both men lost primaries last cycle: Rodimer lost a contest for a competitive state Senate seat by a narrow 40-38 margin, while Schwartz took on establishment favorite Adam Laxalt in the race for governor and went down by a brutal 72-9 margin.

NV-04: Eight Republicans are running against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who is defending a seat in the northern Las Vegas area that moved from 54-44 Obama to 50-45 Clinton. Horsford ended last year with $1 million on-hand, which was far more than any of his Republican rivals.

The candidates with the most money at the end of 2019 were former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who lost re-election in 2018 after one term, and insurance agency owner Samuel Peters. Both men have been self-funding much of their campaigns, and Marchant held a small $209,000 to $206,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of 2019. Just behind was businesswoman Lisa Song Sutton, who had $187,000 to spend.

Businesswoman Randi Reed and Charles Navarro, a former district director for former Rep. Cresent Hardy, each were well behind with just under $35,000 on-hand. Also in the contest are Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo and two other Republicans who each had less than $10,000 to spend.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: State Sen. Mary Washington announced Monday that she was suspending her campaign for the Democratic nod so she could focus on her work in the legislature as the coronavirus emergency continues. It doesn’t sound like Washington plans to rejoin the April 28 primary since she referred to her campaign in the past tense and added, “We will work to ensure the next Mayor is held to the standards we deserve, and push them relentlessly to do the hard, bold work this city needs.”

Special Elections

Special Elections: There are three special elections set for Tuesday in Pennsylvania, including an important pickup opportunity for Democrats in the suburbs of Philadelphia. However, a judge rejected a last-minute request to postpone this hotly contested race, even though Gov. Tom Wolf has asked residents in southeastern Pennsylvania to stay home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, so turnout could be very low and election administration could suffer. See our Pennsylvania item in the "Election Changes" section above for more on these developments.

PA-HD-08: This is a Republican district in the Mercer area that became vacant when former Rep. Tedd Nesbit became a member of the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas. The Democratic candidate is businessman Phil Heasley and the Republican is Grove City College professor Tim Bonner. This is a strongly Republican district that voted for Donald Trump 71-24 and Mitt Romney 67-32

PA-HD-18: Democrats have a big pickup opportunity in the Philadelphia suburbs, where the 18th District district became vacant after former GOP Rep. Gene DiGirolamo was elected Bucks County commissioner last year.

The Democratic candidate for this seat, which is located entirely in the city of Bensalem, is union plumber Howie Hayes while the Republican is funeral director KC Tomlinson. Hayes has the backing of multiple unions, including the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers. Tomlinson is from a prominent local family and her father, state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, is well-known in the area. The elder Tomlinson represented this district for two terms immediately before DiGirolamo, and his current Senate district contains all of the 18th House District.

On paper, this seat looks favorable for Team Blue, since it's been solidly Democratic at the presidential level, backing Hillary Clinton 53-44 and Barack Obama 58-41. However, it's been much more amenable to supporting Republicans downballot: DiGirolamo had held this seat since he was first elected in 1994, and thanks to his well-known personal brand in the area, won his last re-election effort 57-43 in 2018 despite the blue wave.

For Democrats, flipping this seat has higher stakes than a typical pickup opportunity. This chamber is a top target for Democrats in the fall and a win here would lower the number of seats Democrats need to flip to take control of the Pennsylvania House from nine to eight.

PA-HD-58: This is a Republican district in the Jeannette area, east of Pittsburgh. This seat became vacant when former Rep. Justin Walsh became a judge in Westmoreland County last year. The Democratic candidate is Army veteran Robert Prah Jr. and the Republican is union carpenter Eric Davanzo. There is also a Libertarian in the running, businessman Ken Bach. This is a solidly Republican district that supported Trump 63-34 and Romney 55-43.

These three seats are the only vacancies in this chamber, which Republicans control 107-93.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: It just wouldn't be an election cycle in Nevada without wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian on the GOP primary ballot. Tarkanian moved to Douglas County in northern Nevada following his 2018 defeat in the 3rd Congressional District in suburban Las Vegas, and he filed on Friday to challenge County Commissioner Dave Nelson, a fellow Republican. Tarkanian has unsuccessfully sought various elected offices a total of six times from 2004 through last cycle, and we'll see if his seventh time is a charm.

Morning Digest: Former Hawaii congresswoman enters what could be a crowded race for Honolulu mayor

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

Honolulu, HI Mayor: On Friday, former Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced her long-anticipated campaign for mayor of Honolulu.

Hanabusa, who has been raising money for months, is one of several candidates competing to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Kirk Caldwell, but others may jump in ahead of Hawaii's June filing deadline. All the candidates will run on one nonpartisan ballot in September, and a runoff would take place in November if no one secures a majority of the vote in the first round.

Campaign Action

Hanabusa has a long history in Hawaii politics, though she lost two high-profile primaries during the last decade. Hanabusa gave up her House seat representing the 1st District, which includes just over 70% of Honolulu, in 2014 to challenge appointed Sen. Brian Schatz, a campaign she very narrowly lost.

Fellow Democrat Mark Takai won the race to succeed Hanabusa, but he announced in 2016 that his battle with pancreatic cancer would prevent him from running for re-election. Hanabusa, who earned Takai's endorsement shortly before he died that summer, went on to win back her old seat with minimal opposition. Hanabusa left the House again in 2018 to challenge Gov. David Ige in the primary, and she was the clear frontrunner for most of the campaign.

However, while Ige's prospects seemed to sink even lower that January when a false ballistic missile alert went out, intense flooding in Kauai and the Kilauea volcano eruption both gave the incumbent the chance to demonstrate the decisive leadership that Hanabusa insisted he lacked. It also didn't help Hanabusa that her duties in the House kept her thousands of miles away from the state for much of the campaign, a problem Ige did not have. Ige ended up winning renomination 51-44, and he carried Honolulu 54-43.

Hanabusa began talking about a mayoral run last year by highlighting Honolulu's ongoing difficulties completing its expensive and long-delayed rail system and the island's struggles with homelessness. The former congresswoman launched her campaign last week arguing that she has the "requisite experience, connections and a history of being able to tackle the hard issues and know what you are doing."

A number of other candidates are already running, and two of them had considerably more money than Hanabusa at the end of 2019. Former insurance executive Keith Amemiya, who is a former executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, took in $724,000 and self-funded another $200,000 during the second half of the year, and he had $360,000 on-hand at the end of December.

City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine raised a much smaller $127,000 during this time but already had plenty of money available, and she had $607,000 on-hand. Hanabusa hauled in $259,000 during these six months and had $216,000 in the bank at the close of last year.

The field continued to expand in January when real estate broker Choon James launched her campaign, while former Hawaiʻi News Now general manager Rick Blangiardi entered the race this month. It may get larger still: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser also wrote in mid-February that two prominent politicians, former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and ex-Rep. Charles Djou, had not ruled out running here over the last few weeks.

Hannemann, who has a terrible record when it comes to LGBTQ rights and abortion access, served from 2005 until he resigned to focus on his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the Democratic nod for governor. After losing a 2012 primary for the 2nd Congressional District, Hannemann bolted the party and took 12% of the vote as an independent in the 2014 race for governor. He considered another independent bid for governor last cycle but decided against it, and it's not clear how Hannemann identifies now.

Djou, for his part, is a former Republican who became an independent in 2018 after waging several high-profile, but mostly unsuccessful, campaigns of his own. Djou beat Hanabusa in a fluke in a three-way 2010 special election for the House but lost their rematch several months later, and Djou failed poorly against her the following cycle. However, Djou came close to winning this seat back against Takai in 2014, and he only lost the 2016 mayoral race to Caldwell 52-48.

Senate

GA-Sen-B: On Monday, GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger set the candidate filing deadline for this special election for March 6, which is the same day that the state requires candidates to file for its regularly-scheduled primaries. This move means that anyone who loses in the spring won't be able to just turn around and enter the November all-party primary for this Senate seat.

IA-Sen: On Monday, Senate Majority PAC began a seven-figure TV and digital ad buy in support of businesswoman Theresa Greenfield well ahead of the June Democratic primary to face GOP Sen. Joni Ernst.

The narrator begins, "Tough times don't last, but tough people do," and he describes how Greenfield worked her way through college. The spot continues by talking about how Greenfield raised her two boys and led a business after her husband died in an accident, and it concludes, "All of it makes Theresa tough enough to take on Washington's corruption and deliver for Iowa."

KS-Sen: Former Gov. Jeff Colyer endorsed Rep. Roger Marshall on Monday ahead of the August GOP primary. Colyer lost an incredibly close 2018 primary to former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who looks like Marshall's main intra-party foe for this race.

KY-Sen: Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath, who has the support of the DSCC, is out with two January polls that show her in a tight race with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Garin-Hart-Yang, which was in the field Jan. 8-13, gave McConnell a 43-40 edge over McGrath, while Libertarian Brad Barron took another 5%. A Change Research poll conducted Jan. 17-21 showed McConnell and McGrath tied 41-41, while Barron took 7%. McGrath's memo did not mention state Rep. Charles Booker, who is her main foe in the May Democratic primary.

These are the first polls we've seen of this race since July, when a survey from the GOP firm Fabrizio Ward for the AARP showed McConnell leading McGrath by a similar 47-46 spread. However, while the majority leader has been unpopular in Kentucky for years, he's also proven to be a very tough opponent for Democrats in this very red state. Indeed, some early polls from the 2014 cycle showed McConnell trailing Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but the incumbent ended up winning by a convincing 56-41 spread.

While the political environment should be considerably better for Democrats this year than it was back then, it's still going to be extremely difficult for McGrath or any other Democrat to beat McConnell in a year where Donald Trump will be leading the ballot.

NE-Sen: The GOP firm We Ask America is out with a poll giving Sen. Ben Sasse a 65-17 lead over businessman Matt Innis in the May Republican primary. There was some talk at the beginning of the cycle that Sasse, who once made a name for himself by criticizing #BothSides, could face serious intra-party opposition, but that never happened. Donald Trump has joined the state party establishment in supporting Sasse, while Innis has brought in almost no money.

Gubernatorial

NJ-Gov: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced over the weekend that he would be treated for a tumor on his kidney early next month. Murphy said, "The expectation is that overwhelmingly, assuming nothing happens on the operating table or you don't get an infection or something, you're back on your feet and back in the game without any impairment going forward."

House

AL-01: The GOP firm Strategy Research is out with a poll of next week's Republican primary for News 5, and it gives Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl the lead with 29%. That's well below the majority needed to avoid a March 31 runoff, though, and former state Sen. Bill Hightower leads state Rep. Chris Pringle 21-13 for the second place spot. This is the first poll we've seen here since just before Thanksgiving when Hightower's allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth released a survey showing him ahead with 35% as Pringle edged Carl 16-13 for second.

P.S. Strategy Research also polled the Democratic primary in this 63-34 Trump seat along the Gulf Coast.

MN-07: While Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson previously insisted that he'd decide by the end of this month whether to seek re-election in his 62-31 Trump seat, he recently told Agri-Pulse that he still hadn't made up his mind. Peterson said that he might make his choice after the March 3 primaries, but he also noted that candidate filing doesn't begin until May; the deadline to file is June 2.

Peterson has flirted with retirement for years, and he said he wasn't sure he wanted to stick around much longer. The congressman argued, "I know I can win. That's not the issue. That's the problem. I'm not sure that I want to win." Peterson didn't give a good indication about which way he was leaning, though he said, "I tell people I'm running until I'm not."

Peterson is almost certainly the only Democrat who could hold this very red seat in western Minnesota, but Team Red will make a strong push for it even if he seeks another term. Former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, who has House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement, is the most prominent Republican who has run here in years, and she outraised Peterson $261,000 to $158,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019. Peterson, who does not traditionally raise much money during odd-numbered years, still ended December with a large $1 million to $204,000 cash-on-hand lead over Fischbach, though.

Fischbach also doesn't quite have a clear path through the August GOP primary. Physician Noel Collis, who has been self-funding most of his campaign, had $272,000 to spend at the end of last quarter, which was actually a bit more than what Fischbach had available. Dave Hughes, who held Peterson to unexpectedly close wins in 2016 and 2018, is also trying again, but he had just $19,000 to spend.

NY-01: Perry Gershon, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee against GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, is out with a new poll that finds him well ahead in the June primary in this eastern Long Island seat. GBAO gives Gershon a 42-21 lead over Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, while Stony Brook University professor Nancy Goroff takes 9%.

It's quite possible that Gershon is benefiting from name recognition from his last campaign, which ended in a surprisingly close 51-47 loss against Zeldin. However, his opponents will have the resources to get their names out closer to primary day: Goroff outraised the field during the fourth quarter by bringing in $348,000, while Fleming outpaced Gershon $239,000 to $200,000 during her opening quarter.

Goroff ended 2019 with a $636,000 to $549,000 cash-on-hand edge against Gershon, while Fleming had $202,000 to spend. However, Gershon did plenty of self-funding during his last campaign, and he might be able to throw down more if he feels like he needs to.

Whoever wins in June will be a tough race against Zeldin in a seat that has shifted sharply to the right in recent years. While Barack Obama carried the 1st District by a narrow 50-49 margin, Trump won it 55-42 just four years later, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo prevailed there by just a 49.1 to 48.6 spread in 2018 despite winning a 23-point blowout statewide. Zeldin himself raised $713,000 during the last quarter and had a hefty $1.5 million on-hand.

TX-13: Wealthy businessman Chris Ekstrom is out with a new TV spot ahead of next week's GOP primary promoting himself as a political outside opposing "the creatures of the swamp."

TX-17: Rocket scientist George Hindman is going up with a negative TV spot against businesswoman Renee Swann, who has the endorsement of retiring Rep. Bill Flores, ahead of next week's GOP primary. The narrator declares that Swann is "actually a Democrat primary voter" and that she refused to answer whether she'd support additional restrictions on gun owners. The ad goes on to charge that Swanson is "the handpicked candidate of the Washington establishment."

While this ad doesn't actually mention Flores, who is Swanson's most prominent supporter, there's no love lost between the retiring congressman and Hindman. Back in 2012, Hindman challenged Flores for renomination and lost by a lopsided 83-17 margin; Hindman went down in flames in subsequent races for the Austin City Council and for state Senate in 2014 and 2018, respectively. However, Hindman has poured $600,000 of his own money into his newest campaign, and his heavy spending could help him at least advance to a May runoff in this very crowded contest.

Legislative

Special Elections: There are three special elections on tap for Tuesday.

KY-HD-67: This is a Democratic district located in Campbell County in the suburbs of Cincinnati. This seat became vacant after Gov. Andy Beshear tapped former Rep. Dennis Keene to be commissioner of the state Department of Local Government.

Candidates were selected by the parties rather than through primary elections, and businesswoman Rachel Roberts is the Democratic candidate while businesswoman Mary Jo Wedding is the GOP standard bearer. Roberts ran for a state Senate seat in this area in 2018 and lost to Will Schroder 57-43, though she still overperformed in a 62-32 Trump seat. Wedding, by contrast, faced legal questions about her residency in this district but was ultimately ruled eligible to seek this seat.

This district is swingy turf that went for Trump 49-44 and Mitt Romney by a narrow 49-48. According to analyst Drew Savicki, Beshear dominated here last year by winning 61-36.

KY-HD-99: This is a Democratic district in rural eastern Kentucky that became vacant when Beshear selected former State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, whom he defeated in the primary last year, to be a senior advisor to his administration.

Democrats picked former Rowan County Board of Education chair Bill Redwine, who was also endorsed by Adkins, to be their nominee, while Republicans chose former Rowan County party co-chair Richard White as their candidate.

At the presidential level, this is a strongly Republican district that backed Trump 68-28 and Romney 57-40. However, this district has been much more favorable to Democrats down the ballot. Adkins had served in this seat since 1987 and, according to analyst Matthew Isbell, Beshear prevailed 50-48 here last year.

Republicans have a 61-37 advantage in this chamber with these two seats vacant.

PA-HD-190: This is a Democratic district in west Philadelphia that became vacant when former Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell resigned after being charged with stealing funds from a charity she ran. Johnson-Harrell had just won a special election last year to replace Vanessa Lowery Brown, who was convicted of bribery.

Just like in Kentucky, the candidates were chosen by the parties: The Democrat is SEIU business agent Roni Green, while the Republican is businesswoman Wanda Logan. This is Logan's fifth run for this seat, though it is her first as a Republican after primarying Lowery Brown in each election from 2012 to 2018.

This district is assured to remain in the Democrats' column, as it backed Hillary Clinton 96-3 and Barack Obama 97-2. Republicans have control of this chamber 107-92 with this and three other seats vacant.

Morning Digest: GOP legislator threatens an independent run for VA governor if ‘shenanigans’ occur

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

VA-Gov: On Monday, state Sen. Amanda Chase became the first notable Republican to join the 2021 race for governor of Virginia, but she may not be sticking with Team Red. Chase, who has a famously awful relationship with her party's leadership, said that she would "fully run" as an independent if there are "any shenanigans that are pulled" in the nomination contest. No matter what Chase does, though, GOP leaders won't want to see her name on the general election ballot next year.

Chase made news in the spring of 2019 when she swore at and berated a police officer at the state capitol who told her that she couldn't park her car in a secure area. Chase, according to the officer's report, also referred to the state Senate clerk as "Miss Piggy" and angrily demanded, "Do you know who I am?" Chase refused to apologize and posted on Facebook that the report looked like it had been written by "a democrat operative."

Campaign Action

State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment responded to the incident by putting out a letter praising the Capitol Police and saying the GOP caucus members "share your exasperation." Karl Leonard, who serves as sheriff of Chase's Chesterfield County, also withdrew his support for her re-election campaign after she wouldn't apologize to the officer.

Chase responded to Leonard's snub by backing his independent opponent's unsuccessful campaign and falsely accusing the incumbent of making Chesterfield a "sanctuary city." The Chesterfield County GOP in turn voted to eject her from the party.

Chase was still re-elected to her reliably red seat, but the Senate GOP found itself in the minority. After her Republican colleagues elected Norment as minority leader, though, Chase announced that she'd leave the party caucus in protest.

Chase still remains a Republican, but one without much influence: The senator only serves on one minor committee, and every bill she's sponsored by herself this year has been killed. However, Chase has continued to garner attention by ardently opposing gun safety measures and continuing to bring her pistol into Senate buildings in defiance of new legislative rules prohibiting firearms.

A few other Republicans are also eyeing next year's race to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who is prohibited from seeking a second consecutive term. State Sen. Bill Stanley has expressed interest in running for governor or for attorney general, while the Washington Post writes that businessman Pete Snyder has publicly talked about a potential gubernatorial bid.

Senate

GA-Sen-B: While there's been plenty of speculation that Donald Trump could back Rep. Doug Collins over appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Collins himself seems pessimistic that he'll be waking up to any endorsement tweets. Speaking to the Georgia Recorder, the congressman said of Trump, "He's not getting in this race," and continued that Trump "respects the senator and her position and he knows me intimately." Collins added, "I respect the fact that he's staying out of it."

NC-Sen: Faith and Power, a PAC with extensive GOP ties, is spending an additional $500,000 to promote state Sen. Erica Smith ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary. This takes the group's total investment here up to $2.9 million to date.

TX-Sen: Nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez picked up an endorsement on Tuesday from Rep. Joaquin Castro ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn.

WY-Sen: Converse County Commissioner Robert Short announced this week that he'd join the August GOP primary to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi. Short is a self-described "centrist Republican," which is unlikely to be a compelling pitch to GOP voters in this extremely red state.

Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis has been the clear primary frontrunner ever since Rep. Liz Cheney announced last month that she'd stay out of the race, and both Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso endorsed her on Tuesday. The only other notable Republican who has expressed interest in this race in recent months is conservative mega donor Foster Friess, who said this week that he was still considering. Wyoming's filing deadline isn't until late May, so Friess could keep us waiting a while longer.

Gubernatorial

VT-Gov: On behalf of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, Braun Research is out with the first poll we've seen of this race, and they have good news for GOP Gov. Phil Scott. The incumbent posts a hefty 52-29 lead in a hypothetical general election match with Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a member of the Progressive Party who is also competing for the Democratic nod. Braun also finds Scott leading another Democratic contender, former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe, by a larger 55-20 spread.

Vermont is a reliably blue state in presidential elections, but it's been more than willing to elect moderate Republican governors. Scott decisively won his 2016 and 2018 races, and Braun gives him a 57-26 favorable rating. Morning Consult also found Scott with a 65-22 job approval score during the final quarter of 2019.

House

AL-01: Over the last few weeks we've gotten new ads from state Rep. Chris Pringle and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, who are both competing in the March 3 GOP primary.

Pringle's commercial begins features him building a brick wall in front of what's made to look like Nancy Pelosi's D.C. office as the candidate tells the audience, "Walls protect us from America's enemies, and I have the perfect place for another." After calling Democrats "radical socialists," Pringle engages in some extra McCarthyism by walking off and uttering the word "commies" under his breath.

Carl's considerably more generic ad, by contrast, praises him as a pro-Trump conservative problem solver who opposes abortion and gun safety measures.

GA-09: GOP activist Ethan Underwood announced this week that he would run for this safely red open seat. Underwood is a former party chair in Forsyth County, which makes up about 8% of this district.

MA-04: Former state Comptroller Thomas Shack announced on Tuesday that he would join the crowded and expensive September Democratic primary for this reliably blue open seat. Shack was appointed comptroller in 2015 by GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, and he stepped down early last year. (Unlike in many other states, Massachusetts does not elect comptrollers.)

Shack came into conflict with Baker during the last months of his tenure over who would be in charge of designing the computer system that would impact all state agencies. Shack said in 2018 that the administration was "subjecting the apolitical and independent comptroller's office to a political arm of government" and withholding money for security updates and new software.

A number of well-funded candidates are already seeking to succeed Senate candidate Joe Kennedy III in this seat, which includes the Boston suburbs of Brookline and Newton and stretches south to Bristol County on the Rhode Island border. The candidate with the most money at the end of 2019 was City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who had $663,000 on-hand. Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss wasn't too far behind with $554,000 in the bank, while fellow Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman had $318,000 to spend.

Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell and Dave Cavell, a former senior adviser to Attorney General Maura Healey, had $248,000 and $173,000 on-hand, respectively. Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey had just $52,000 available while another contender, attorney Ben Sigel, announced after the end of the quarter.

MI-03: Attorney Nick Colvin announced on Tuesday that he was dropping out of the August Democratic primary to take on independent Rep. Justin Amash because of fundraising challenges. Colvin's decision leaves fellow attorney Hillary Scholten as the only notable Democratic candidate competing for this seat in the Grand Rapids area.

Amash left the GOP in July and while he has not ruled out a bid against Donald Trump, he's said that he plans to seek re-election without a party label this year. While Amash only brought in $150,000 during his first fundraising quarter as an independent, he nearly quadrupled that in the final three months of 2019 by hauling in $592,000. Amash ended the year with $722,000 on-hand, which was more than any of his opponents.

Two notable Republicans are challenging Amash in this 52-42 Trump seat. Army veteran Peter Meijer, who hails from a wealthy family, raised $235,000 and self-funded another $78,000, and he ended December with $557,000 in the bank. State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis was well behind with $101,000 raised and another $11,000 self-funded, and she had $199,000 to spend. Scholten, now has the Democratic side to herself, raised $124,000 and had $207,000 in the bank. Michigan's filing deadline is in April, so there's still a bit of time for this race to take shape no matter what Amash ends up doing.

TX-02: Attorney Sima Ladjevardian rolled out endorsements this week from Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia, who each represent nearby Houston-area seats, for the March 3 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

TX-11: A new group called Energy Security PAC is up with a TV spot praising the military record of Air Force veteran August Pfluger, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, ahead of the March 3 GOP primary. There is no word on the size of the buy.

Pluger ended 2019 with a massive financial edge over all of his primary foes, but two of them are also getting outside help. Fired Up PAC is spending at least $186,000 on a TV spot promoting Brandon Batch, a former staffer for retiring Rep. Mike Conaway, though we don't have a copy yet. Keep Texas Great, which supports Midland City Councilman J.Ross Lacy, is spending at least $30,000 on a commercial that promotes Lacy as someone who understands West Texas and isn't just "another carbon copy Republican."

TX-12: The Congressional Leadership Fund is spending a hefty $850,000 on a new TV ad campaign targeting businessmen Chris Putnam, who is challenging veteran Rep. Kay Granger in the March 3 GOP primary.

The CLF's narrator begins by proclaiming that the people spending millions against Granger "spent millions attacking President Trump. They lost. America won." All of that is reference to the extremist Club for Growth, which goes unnamed in this commercial but has been airing ads hitting the incumbent. The Club, which did indeed spend millions to try and deny Trump the 2016 GOP nomination, has refashioned itself since then as an ardently pro-Trump organization, but their intra-party foes don't especially care.

The CLF's ad continues by going after Putnam directly, saying he's "best known for raising property taxes and as a leader of a company that outsourced good paying jobs to Asia instead of hiring Texans." The narrator never actually accuses Putnam of opposing Trump but instead argues, "It's Trump against them. Again. And he's backing Kay Granger." The spot concludes by asking the audience, "Whose side are you on?"

TX-22: Nonprofit CEO Pierce Bush talks about his famous family’s history in the Houston area in his newest ad and actually refrains from name-dropping Donald Trump.

But in case anyone was worried that Bush had forgotten what animates GOP voters in this day and age, he goes on to claim that “liberals want to rip the American system apart and bring socialism out of the trash heap of history.” In case that was too subtle, the ad also features images of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Nicolás Maduro, and … Putin? We’re not sure the last time we saw Trump’s BFF used as a villain in a GOP ad, but there he is!

TX-31: Rep. Marc Veasey, who serves as the regional vice chair for the DCCC, has endorsed Round Rock City Councilor Tammy Young in the crowded Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Carter.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Incumbent Jack Young recently launched his first commercial ahead of the April Democratic primary, while former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller also began a $500,000 opening ad buy.

Young, who was elevated to this office last year after Catherine Pugh resigned in disgrace, features a narrator praising him for working to “clean up City Hall.” The spot goes on to laud Young for working to require police to wear body cameras, lower the city’s crime rate, and open city recreation facilities on Saturdays. Young’s team said that the buy was “sizable,” but they did not reveal more.

Miller’s first ad also features her talking about public safety. Miller tells the audience that the police force is understaffed and burdened with outdated technology, and she pledges that Police Commissioner Michael Harrison will have “the resources and support to succeed with his plan, because everyone in Baltimore has a right to be safe.” Her second commercial shows a mother talking about Miller’s work helping her son graduate from school, and the candidate declares that “wherever you live in Baltimore, you deserve a quality education with a path to success.”

Other Races

Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: On Tuesday, Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón's campaign against incumbent Jackie Lacey in the March 3 nonpartisan primary. Gascón was appointed to succeed Harris as SF's top prosecutor after she was elected state attorney general in 2010, and she praised him as a "proven leader" for criminal justice reform.

Former public defender Rachel Rossi is also challenging Lacey from the left next month. If no one takes a majority of the vote, the top-two candidates would compete in the November general election.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he was commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has been in prison since 2012. Blagojevich made global headlines in December 2008 after he was arrested on corruption charges, which included trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.

The Illinois legislature almost unanimously removed him from office the following month, and he was later convicted. (Before he was found guilty, Blago found time to appear on Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice" show.) Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and had Trump not commuted his sentence, he would not have been eligible for parole for another four years.