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.
• Primary Night: The Buckeye stops here: Ohio goes to the polls Tuesday for its presidential and downballot primaries … finally. The election was originally scheduled for March 17, but GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, citing the coronavirus pandemic, haphazardly canceled it hours before it was to begin. DeWine eventually signed a bill into law that moved the election to April 28 and all but eliminated in-person voting.
We've put together our preview of the downballot contests to watch. The biggest race will be the Democratic contest to take on GOP Rep. Steve Chabot in the 1st Congressional District, a Cincinnati-area seat that Donald Trump carried 51-45. We'll also be watching the safely blue 3rd District in Columbus, where Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty faces a challenge from former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advisor Morgan Harper.
Our live coverage will begin at 7:30 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the presidential and downballot primaries in all 50 states, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.
• Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill says she's considering sending absentee ballot applications to all registered Democrats and Republicans ahead of Connecticut's Aug. 11 primaries (the state only allows party members to vote in primaries). Merrill had previously planned to send ballot applications to voters for the state's presidential primary, but that election was postponed from June 2 to Aug. 11 and consolidated with Connecticut's downballot primaries.
Because the state currently requires voters to present an excuse to request an absentee ballot, Merrill has encouraged Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont to issue an executive order allowing all voters to cite the coronavirus pandemic as an acceptable excuse. On Friday, Lamont refused to say whether he would sign such an order, saying only, "We’re working on that right now as we speak." Three weeks ago, Lamont's top counsel said the governor's office was researching whether the excuse requirement could be relaxed.
• Missouri: Republican State House Speaker Elijah Haahr says he supports relaxing Missouri's excuse requirement to vote absentee and says that the legislature will hold a hearing on election-related issues sometime during its session over the next three weeks. Many county clerks have advocated for waiving the requirement, but Republican Gov. Mike Parson has opposed the idea. A lawsuit seeking to allow voters to cite the coronavirus pandemic as a valid excuse is pending in state court.
• New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says he still has not made a decision about whether to conduct New Jersey's July 7 primaries by mail. Three weeks ago, the last time Murphy addressed the matter, the governor said the state would have to decide in "a number of weeks."
• New York: New York's Board of Elections, a bipartisan panel whose members are all appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has canceled the state's June 23 presidential primary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had asked that the Democratic primary go forward, but a Democratic board member, Douglas Kellner, said, "What the Sanders campaign wanted is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous."
However, the state's downballot primaries, which are taking place the same day, will proceed as planned, meaning the only way public safety might be enhanced is if turnout is lower as a result. According to the New York Times, about one third of New York counties have no other races on the ballot and therefore will not hold an election. However, it is not clear what proportion of the state's actual electorate would be affected.
Separately, Cuomo canceled the June 23 special election for Queens Borough President, an all-party race that would have allowed the winner to serve out the current calendar year. However, a second, separate special election for the final year of now-Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz's term will still go forward. This will be a traditional race, with party primaries on June 23 and a general election in November. There will then be still another election next year for the borough presidency's regular four-year term.
Cuomo also canceled several state legislative special elections, instead leaving those seats vacant until the November general election. The special election for New York's 27th Congressional District in the Buffalo suburbs will still proceed on June 23.
• Virginia: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has postponed Virginia's May 5 local elections to May 19, the longest delay he is permitted to unilaterally impose under state law. Last week, the Democratic-run legislature rejected Northam's proposal to consolidate local races with the November general election.
• AZ-Sen: Democrat Mark Kelly has debuted two new TV ads that showcase the candidate talking directly to viewers. The first spot highlights his background as a former Navy pilot and touts his political independence, while the second one focuses on the coronavirus pandemic and the need to both provide healthcare workers with the resources they require and to ensure everyone can access life-saving care without going bankrupt.
• CO-Sen: Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced Friday that she would appeal a state judge's decision to place businesswoman Michelle Ferrigno Warren on the June Democratic primary ballot.
Judge Christopher Baumann wrote that, while Ferrigno Warren had only submitted about half of the 10,500 petitions needed, she "had to collect petition signatures in the shadow of a global pandemic and looming public health emergency." Baumann also said that the candidate's ability to collect about 5,400 petitions "suggests Ms. Ferrigno Warren has a 'significant modicum' of support for her candidacy." Griswold's team, though, argued that the decision was unfair to the contenders who had met the requirements as well as to candidates who had fallen short but hadn't sued to get on the ballot.
• Utah: Both parties held their conventions on Saturday as virtual events, and the lineup for Utah's June 30 primaries is now set.
As we've written before, Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by competing at their party conventions, though contenders had the option to try both methods. Any candidate who handed in enough petitions was guaranteed a spot in the primary no matter how well or poorly they did at their convention on Saturday.
Both Republicans and Democrats used ranked-choice ballots at this year's conventions in contests with more than two candidates. If one contender took more than 60% of the delegate vote, they would be the only candidate to advance to the primary ballot. If, however, no one hit this threshold, then the two competitors left standing would make it to the primary.
• UT-Gov: The GOP field to succeed retiring Republican Gov. Gary Herbert went from seven candidates to just four after Saturday's convention.
While Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox had already turned in enough signatures to advance to the primary, he still took the top spot at the party gathering by winning 53% of the delegates. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, who was only pursuing the convention route, grabbed the second spot with 43%. Saturday was game over, though, for wealthy businessman Jeff Burningham, Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton, and perennial candidate Jason Christensen.
Former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, who preceded Herbert as governor, and former state party chair Thomas Wright each had already earned a spot on the the primary ballot by turning in enough signatures. Early polls show Huntsman and Cox, who has Herbert's support, far ahead of the other candidates, but that could change now that the field has been reduced to four contenders. Cox, however, does begin the contest with a big financial advantage: The lieutenant governor led Huntsman in cash-on-hand $703,000 to $336,000 on April 15, while Wright and Hughes had $222,000 and $164,000 to spend, respectively.
The Democrats, by contrast, avoided a primary altogether. All six of Team Blue's candidates ended up pursuing only the convention route, and University of Utah law professor Chris Peterson won the event with 88% of the vote. Democrats haven't won a statewide race in Utah since Jan Graham was re-elected as attorney general back in 1996, and we rate the gubernatorial contest as Safe Republican.
• Florida: Filing closed Friday for congressional candidates running in Florida’s Aug. 18 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. The deadline for candidates for the state legislature is not until June 19, even though the primary is the same date.
• FL-03: Far-right Rep. Ted Yoho is retiring, and 10 fellow Republicans are running to succeed him. This north-central Florida seat, which includes Gainesville and Ocala, backed Donald Trump 56-40, and the GOP nominee should have no trouble holding it.
Physician James St. George, who has self-funded about half of his campaign, led the field with $336,000 in the bank on March 31. Just behind was another self-funder, 2018 candidate Judson Sapp, who had $310,000 available. Sapp lost to Yoho 76-24 last cycle in a campaign that attracted very little attention, but this time, Sapp has the support of neighboring Rep. John Rutherford.
Another candidate to watch is Kat Cammack, who served as Yoho’s campaign manager during his upset 2012 win and later worked in his congressional office. Cammack ended March with $166,000 in the bank, which was a little more than the $137,000 that former Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase had available. Two other contenders, businessman Ryan Chamberlin and Clay County Commissioner Gavin Rollins, had $97,000 on-hand, while none of the other candidates had more than $25,000 to spend.
• FL-05: While Democratic Rep. Al Lawson’s weak fundraising early last year had us wondering if he’d retire, the two-term congressman filed to run again. Lawson doesn’t face any serious intra-party opposition for this safely blue seat in the northern part of the state.
• FL-07: Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is defending a seat in the northern Orlando suburbs that backed Hillary Clinton 51-44 four years after Barack Obama won it by an extremely narrow margin, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be a major GOP target this year.
While a number of Republicans launched bids here, the only two who ended up filing were physician Leo Valentin and mortgage broker Richard Goble. Valentin, who has self-funded a portion of his campaign, had $276,000 to spend at the end of March, while Goble had only $13,000 on-hand. Murphy, who turned back a touted opponent 58-42 last cycle, had $1.32 million in the bank.
• FL-13: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who served as Florida’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, is seeking a third term in a St. Petersburg seat that moved from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton. Crist had a hefty $2.94 million in the bank at the end of March, and it remains to be seen if national Republicans will target his seat after ignoring it last cycle.
Five Republicans filed to challenge Crist, and attorney Amanda Makki looks like the frontrunner. Makki, who has the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, ended March with $613,000 on-hand, while Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna was a distant second with $147,000 in the bank. 2018 nominee George Buck, who lost to Crist 58-42 last time, had just $59,000 available; the NRCC also cut ties with Buck last year after he sent out a fundraising email calling for Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar to be hanged for "treason." The other two Republicans had less than $7,000 to spend.
• FL-15: Freshman GOP Rep. Ross Spano is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, and he faces notable primary and general opposition. This seat, which includes Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, went from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, but Spano won it by a modest 53-47 before his scandal fully came out.
Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin announced last month that he’d challenge Spano for the GOP nod, and he quickly raised $107,000 and self-funded an additional $160,000. Spano took in $229,000 during this time, but he held only a $293,000 to $266,000 cash-on-hand lead over Franklin at the end of March.
Three Democrats are also competing here. State Rep. Adam Hattersley ended last month with a $231,000 to $90,000 cash-on-hand lead over Alan Cohn, a former local TV news anchor who lost a 2014 primary for a previous version of this seat. The third candidate, Iraq War veteran Jesse Philippe, has not reported raising any money yet.
• FL-16: GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan turned back a credible Democratic foe 55-45 last cycle, and he faces another expensive race.
State Rep. Margaret Good, who won her seat in a 2018 special by defeating the congressman’s son, faces no opposition in the Democratic primary. Good has been a strong fundraiser, though the wealthy and well-connected Buchanan ended March with a $1.18 million to $737,000 cash-on-hand lead. This Sarasota-area seat went from 54-45 Romney to 54-43 Trump.
• FL-18: GOP Rep. Brian Mast won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and Democrats don’t seem to be making a play for this seat this time.
Mast ended March with a huge $1.52 million to $98,000 cash-on-hand lead over Oz Vazquez, a former state deputy solicitor general. Pam Keith, who lost the 2018 primary 60-40, also recently entered the Democratic primary. This seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, moved from 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump.
• FL-19: GOP Rep. Francis Rooney is retiring from this safely red district in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area after only two terms, which means that we have our fourth open seat contest here in just 8 years. Ten Republicans are running here, and it’s already turning into an expensive fight.
Wealthy businessman Casey Askar, who only entered the race last month, quickly raised $506,000 and self-funded $3 million, which left him with a massive $3.48 million war chest. Urologist William Figlesthaler, who has also been doing some heavy self-funding, had a significant $1 million to spend as well.
Three state representatives are also in. Dane Eagle, who serves as majority leader, held a $334,000 to $221,000 cash-on-hand lead over Byron Donalds, while Heather Fitzenhagen was far behind with $90,000. Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson and former Minnesota state Rep. Dan Severson had $69,000 and $62,000 to spend, respectively, while the rest of the field was even further behind.
• FL-26: Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell won this district 51-49 in a very expensive 2018 race, and the new incumbent will be a top GOP target this cycle. This seat, which includes the southwestern Miami area and the Florida Keys, went from 55-44 Obama to 57-41 Clinton, but Republicans still do well downballot here.
National Republicans, including Donald Trump, are supporting Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, and he starts with a strong geographic base. About 90% of this seat is located in Miami-Dade County (the balance is in neighboring Monroe County), and Giménez has consistently been in the news during the coronavirus pandemic. Mucarsel-Powell, though, ended March with a strong $2.2 million to $405,000 cash-on-hand edge over Giménez, who entered the race in late January. The only other Republican, firefighter Omar Blanco, had just $59,000 in the bank.
• FL-27: Democrat Donna Shalala won an open seat race last cycle 52-46 against former Spanish-language TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, and the Republican is back for a rematch. This seat, which includes the southern Miami area and Coral Gables, went from 53-46 Obama all the way to 59-39 Clinton, though this is another district where the GOP does better downballot. Shalala ended March with a $1.45 million to $895,000 cash-on-hand lead.
• NM-02: Oil businesswoman Claire Chase has launched a Republican primary ad accusing 2018 GOP nominee Yvette Herrell of having "undermined Trump's campaign" and breaking a promise not to vote to raise taxes. The spot repeatedly labels Chase as the "pro-Trump" conservative instead.
Meanwhile, Herrell has launched a TV spot of her own attacking Chase over the latter's old anti-Trump Facebook posts. As a cutout of Chase appears on screen, speech bubbles pop up with posts such as "(Donald Trump)'s an a**hole unworthy of the office... of the President." Lastly, Herrell is airing another spot that features Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who previously led the House's far-right Freedom Caucus, praising her candidacy.
• UT-01: The Republican field to succeed retiring Rep. Rob Bishop, who is running for lieutenant governor on former state GOP chair Thomas Wright's ticket, was dramatically cut from 12 to four after Saturday's convention. This seat, which includes Ogden and northern Utah, is safely red turf, and whoever emerges with the GOP nod on June 30 should have no trouble holding it.
Former Utah Commissioner of Agriculture Kerry Gibson took first place at the convention with 53%, while former U.S. Foreign Service officer Blake Moore grabbed second with 40%. Two other contenders, Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, had already made the primary ballot by turning in signatures. It's game over, though, for Morgan County Councilor Tina Cannon, Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd, and six other contenders.
There's no obvious frontrunner here, and none of the candidates had a large amount of money to spend on April 5. (Because the party convention came so close to the April 15 quarterly reporting deadline, Utah congressional candidates' reports cover the period of Jan. 1 through April 5.) Gibson led Moore in cash-on-hand $102,000 to $84,000, while Stevenson had $65,000 in the bank. Witt, though, was far behind with just $9,000 to spend.
• UT-04: The GOP field to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams was reduced from seven to four at the weekend's convention. State Rep. Kim Coleman secured a spot in the primary by taking 54% of the delegates, while former NFL player Burgess Owens, who had already successfully petitioned his way onto the ballot, took 45%.
Coleman and Owens will also face former radio host Jay Mcfarland and Trent Christensen, who served as a regional finance director for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, on June 30. However, party activist Kathleen Anderson, nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger, and businesswoman Cindy Thompson all failed to make the ballot.
This suburban Salt Lake City-area seat is likely to be a top GOP target, but none of the Republicans had much money on April 5. Coleman led Owens $115,000 to $93,000 in cash-on-hand, while Mcfarland had $33,000. Christensen, who only entered the race in mid-March, had a mere $4,000 in the bank, though he may have the connections to haul in more. McAdams, who has no intra-party opposition, had a hefty $2.2 million to spend.
• UT-AG: GOP incumbent Sean Reyes, who picked up an endorsement from Donald Trump on Thursday evening, will face Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in the June 30 primary. Reyes outpaced Leavitt 56-42 at Saturday's convention after the third candidate, former Attorney General John Swallow, was eliminated from contention in the first round of balloting. The Democrats are fielding defense attorney Greg Skordas, who lost the 2004 general election 68-28.
Leavitt, who is the the brother of former Gov. Mike Leavitt, has pitched himself as a reformer and focused his campaign on lowering the state's incarceration rate. Leavitt has also argued that Reyes is "shameless" for keeping large donations from an energy company whose leaders were convicted of fraud in federal court. Reyes, who is running as an ardent Trump ally, held a $128,000 to $23,000 cash-on-hand lead in mid-April.