Morning Digest: Trump-backed rich guy wins close primary to take on Wisconsin’s Democratic governor

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

 WI-Gov: Self-funding businessman Tim Michels, who had Donald Trump’s endorsement, defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch 47-42 in the Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Michels was last on the ballot all the way back in 2004 when he lost the Senate race to Democrat Russ Feingold 55-44 as John Kerry was only narrowly carrying Wisconsin 50-49. Team Red, though, is counting on a much better performance from him this time against Evers in what will be one of the biggest races of 2022.

Kleefisch, who was Scott Walker’s running mate in each of his campaigns and had his backing for the top job, looked like the clear frontrunner until April when Michels jumped in seemingly out of nowhere. The construction executive, however, immediately used his wealth to reintroduce himself to voters, and he wound up decisively outspending his opponent after investing at least $12 million into his comeback.

Michels went on to earn Trump’s endorsement in June; the GOP's leader reportedly was infuriated about a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of Brian Hagedorn, a conservative state Supreme Court justice who sided against Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election. Kleefisch and her allies began airing negative ads a month before Election Day, but Michels spent weeks insisting he wouldn’t do the same.

As recently as last Monday, the businessman proclaimed, “I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race,” explaining, “And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition.” However, while Michels continued, “And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you,” he decided to risk that disrespect on Thursday by indeed going negative. That belated response, as well as the Club for Growth’s earlier anti-Kleefisch ad campaign, may have made the difference in Tuesday’s close primary.

Election Recaps

Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here.

 CT-Sen (R): Former Ambassador to Chile Leora Levy beat former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides 51-40 for the right to face Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Biden won Connecticut 59-39, and there was little indication that the senator was vulnerable even before the Trump-endorsed Levy took the GOP nomination.

Klarides spent years as a GOP rising star in a state where the party desperately needed one, and she had been widely expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. In January, though, Klarides kicked off a Senate bid instead after wealthy businessman Bob Stefanowski announced that he would seek a rematch with Lamont, who beat him 49-46. However, while Klarides likely believed she’d avoid a tough primary by choosing to go after the entrenched Blumenthal, Levy proved her very wrong.

 MN-01 (special): The Associated Press has not yet called the special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, but Republican Brad Finstad leads Democrat Jeff Ettinger 51-47 with 118,000 votes in; the AP estimates that this is represents 99% of the total vote. Trump carried this southern Minnesota constituency 54-44 in 2020, while Hagedorn won his second and final term that year 49-46

 MN-01 (R): Finstad easily turned back state Rep. Jeremy Munson 76-24 in the Republican primary for a full two-year term, while Ettinger secured the Democratic nod 92-6 against a little-known foe. Trump would have carried the new version of the 1st, which largely resembles the constituency Hagedorn represented, by a similar 53-44 spread.

Finstad beat Munson just 38-37 in the May special primary, and while Munson filed to run for a full term days later, it initially looked like he was just raising money to pay back a $200,000 campaign loan. Munson announced in July that he would indeed try once more to beat Finstad, but that effort badly collapsed on Tuesday.

 MN-04 (D): Longtime Rep. Betty McCollum pulled off a landslide 83-15 win against party operative Amane Badhasso in the primary for this safely blue St. Paul-based seat.

 MN-05 (D): In arguably the biggest surprise of the evening, Rep. Ilhan Omar fended off former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels just 50-48 to win renomination in this heavily Democratic constituency in the Minneapolis area. We’ll take a closer look at this near upset in our next Digest.

MN-AG (R): Attorney Jim Schultz, who earned the state party’s endorsement in May, beat 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow 53-35. Schultz will now take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, who defeated Wardlow 49-45 four years ago.

Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty took first place in the seven-way nonpartisan primary with 36%, while retired judge Martha Holton Dimick edged out state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler 18-16 for the second spot in the November general election.

Both Moriarty and Dimick are Democrats, but they’ve been running very different campaigns. Moriarty, who has the backing of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, has pitched herself as a reformer, saying there needs to be “accountability both for people who violate the law and police.”

Dimick, who has both Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association in her corner, has in turn argued, “We have to send messages that we will prosecute violent criminals … With that effort to defund the police, people sent the wrong message.” Dimick would be the state's first Black county attorney.

 VT-Sen (R): First-time candidate Gerald Malloy scored a 43-39 win against former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, who generated some attention when she launched her campaign; Nolan also had the support of Gov. Phil Scott, who is one of the few prominent Republicans in this very blue state. The result makes little difference for the general election, though, because Democratic Rep. Peter Welch should have no trouble winning the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Leahy in a state Biden took 66-31.

VT-AL (D): State Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray 61-37 in the primary to replace Welch as Vermont’s only House member. Balint, who had endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, is now set to end Vermont’s status as the only state in America that has not elected a woman to Congress; Balint would also be the Green Mountain State’s first gay representative.

WI-03 (D): State Sen. Brad Pfaff defeated businesswoman Rebecca Cooke 39-31 in the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ron Kind, who is Pfaff’s former boss and top supporter. Pfaff will now go up against 2020 Republican nominee Derrick Van Orden, who lost to Kind 51-49 in the closest race of the congressman’s career. Trump carried both the old and new versions of this southwestern Wisconsin constituency 51-47.

 WI-AG (R): Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney holds a 37.5-36.9 edge over former state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a contest that the Associated Press has not yet called; 595,000 ballots have been tabulated, and the AP estimates they represent 99% of the total vote. The winner will go up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won his post in a tight 2018 contest.

WI State Assembly (R): Speaker Robin Vos won renomination 51-49 against Adam Steen, who was very much a longshot until Trump endorsed him last week. No Democrats are running for this seat in the Racine area.

Trump made his move after Vos said that the GOP’s master had recently called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Joe Biden's victory in the state—a move the speaker said was legally impossible. Trump retaliated by trashing Vos for using an old photo of the two of them together in his campaign literature as he endorsed the previously little-known Steen.  

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov, GA-LG: Charlie Bailey, who is Team Blue's nominee for lieutenant governor, has released an internal from Research Affiliates that shows his party doing well in competitive contests. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock edges out Republican Herschel Walker 49-46, while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are deadlocked 47-47. Bailey also posts a 43-43 tie in his own race against Republican Burt Jones, who was the rare member of Donald Trump's Big Lie slate to win a statewide primary this year.

OK-Sen-B: The Republican pollster Battleground Connect last week found Rep. Markwayne Mullin leading former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 46-38 ahead of the Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff. This survey, which did not mention a client, is the first poll we've seen of the second round of voting. Mullin outpaced Shannon 44-18 in late June and picked up Trump's endorsement soon after, so it would be a surprise if the runoff is close.

Battleground Connect did depart from the consensus in July when it released a trio of polls in the GOP primary for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat that showed wealthy businessman Jim Lamon narrowly leading the Trump-endorsed Blake Masters at a time when every other firm had Masters well ahead. (Its final poll in late July put Lamon up 30-28.) But that iconoclasm didn't work out well for Battleground Connect or Lamon, and Masters prevailed 40-28 last week.

UT-Sen: Republican incumbent Mike Lee's team has dusted off a WPA Intelligence Poll from July 12-14 that shows him beating independent Evan McMullin 49-35, with 10% going to unnamed other candidates. A survey taken around that same time by Dan Jones & Associates showed Lee up by a considerably smaller 41-36.

Governors

OK-Gov: Oklahoma's Children Our Future, a group that very much does not like Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, has publicized an internal from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows him leading Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister only 42-34. Libertarian Natalie Bruno takes 6% while independent Ervin Yen, who is a former Republican state senator, grabs another 4%.

The memo, which begins, "As scandal after scandal plagues the Kevin Stitt administration," says that the governor posted a 58-32 advantage in an unreleased January poll. The last survey we saw was in early June when the GOP firm Amber Integrated gave Stitt a 47-29 edge over Hofmeister, who left the Republican Party in October.

House

CA-13, OR-04, OR-06: Politico’s Ally Mutnick has obtained a trio of polls sponsored by the NRCC and the seat’s respective Republican nominee that show Team Red in competitive races in constituencies Biden decisively carried:

CA-13: Moore Information (R): Adam Gray (D): 47, John Duarte (R): 43

OR-04: Moore Information (R): Val Hoyle (D): 46, Alek Skarlatos (R): 41

OR-06: Cygnal (R): Mike Erickson (R): 47, Andrea Salinas (D): 40

These are the first numbers we’ve seen from any of these contests.

NY-24: Rep. Claudia Tenney has unveiled an internal from Public Opinion Strategies that has her taking 52% in the Aug. 23 GOP primary while her two opponents, attorney Mario Fratto and perennial candidate George Phillips, grab just 6% each. Trump would have won 57-40 in this constituency, which is based in the Finger Lakes region.

The Trump-endorsed Tenney currently represents less than 6% of this revamped district, but neither of her foes have generated much attention. Fratto did finish June with $230,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, but Tenney was still well ahead with $1 million banked. Phillips, writes The Citizen, "has not been actively campaigning for the seat and did not file a fundraising report."

WA-03: On Tuesday evening Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, conceded last week’s top-two primary one day after she dropped into third place. With 218,000 ballots tabulated Democrat Marie Perez leads with 31% while Trump's candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent, edged out Herrera Beutler 22.8-22.3 for the second general election spot. Trump would have carried this southwestern Washington seat 51-46.

WY-AL: Sen. Cynthia Lummis endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman over the weekend for the Aug. 16 GOP primary almost a year after Donald Trump declared that the senator was already supporting Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney. Lummis' spokesperson said back in September, "While Senator Lummis is not making an endorsement at this time, she believes President Trump has made an inspired choice in backing Harriet Hageman."

secretaries of state

 WA-SoS: The AP has called a special general election between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party. Hobbs, who is the first Democrat to hold this office since the 1964 election, took first in last week’s top-two primary with 40%, while Anderson edged out Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner 13-12 for second. The winner will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.

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Morning Digest: Trump-backed rich guy wins close primary to take on Wisconsin’s Democratic governor

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

 WI-Gov: Self-funding businessman Tim Michels, who had Donald Trump’s endorsement, defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch 47-42 in the Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Michels was last on the ballot all the way back in 2004 when he lost the Senate race to Democrat Russ Feingold 55-44 as John Kerry was only narrowly carrying Wisconsin 50-49. Team Red, though, is counting on a much better performance from him this time against Evers in what will be one of the biggest races of 2022.

Kleefisch, who was Scott Walker’s running mate in each of his campaigns and had his backing for the top job, looked like the clear frontrunner until April when Michels jumped in seemingly out of nowhere. The construction executive, however, immediately used his wealth to reintroduce himself to voters, and he wound up decisively outspending his opponent after investing at least $12 million into his comeback.

Michels went on to earn Trump’s endorsement in June; the GOP's leader reportedly was infuriated about a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of Brian Hagedorn, a conservative state Supreme Court justice who sided against Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election. Kleefisch and her allies began airing negative ads a month before Election Day, but Michels spent weeks insisting he wouldn’t do the same.

As recently as last Monday, the businessman proclaimed, “I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race,” explaining, “And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition.” However, while Michels continued, “And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you,” he decided to risk that disrespect on Thursday by indeed going negative. That belated response, as well as the Club for Growth’s earlier anti-Kleefisch ad campaign, may have made the difference in Tuesday’s close primary.

Election Recaps

Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here.

 CT-Sen (R): Former Ambassador to Chile Leora Levy beat former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides 51-40 for the right to face Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Biden won Connecticut 59-39, and there was little indication that the senator was vulnerable even before the Trump-endorsed Levy took the GOP nomination.

Klarides spent years as a GOP rising star in a state where the party desperately needed one, and she had been widely expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. In January, though, Klarides kicked off a Senate bid instead after wealthy businessman Bob Stefanowski announced that he would seek a rematch with Lamont, who beat him 49-46. However, while Klarides likely believed she’d avoid a tough primary by choosing to go after the entrenched Blumenthal, Levy proved her very wrong.

 MN-01 (special): The Associated Press has not yet called the special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, but Republican Brad Finstad leads Democrat Jeff Ettinger 51-47 with 118,000 votes in; the AP estimates that this is represents 99% of the total vote. Trump carried this southern Minnesota constituency 54-44 in 2020, while Hagedorn won his second and final term that year 49-46

 MN-01 (R): Finstad easily turned back state Rep. Jeremy Munson 76-24 in the Republican primary for a full two-year term, while Ettinger secured the Democratic nod 92-6 against a little-known foe. Trump would have carried the new version of the 1st, which largely resembles the constituency Hagedorn represented, by a similar 53-44 spread.

Finstad beat Munson just 38-37 in the May special primary, and while Munson filed to run for a full term days later, it initially looked like he was just raising money to pay back a $200,000 campaign loan. Munson announced in July that he would indeed try once more to beat Finstad, but that effort badly collapsed on Tuesday.

 MN-04 (D): Longtime Rep. Betty McCollum pulled off a landslide 83-15 win against party operative Amane Badhasso in the primary for this safely blue St. Paul-based seat.

 MN-05 (D): In arguably the biggest surprise of the evening, Rep. Ilhan Omar fended off former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels just 50-48 to win renomination in this heavily Democratic constituency in the Minneapolis area. We’ll take a closer look at this near upset in our next Digest.

MN-AG (R): Attorney Jim Schultz, who earned the state party’s endorsement in May, beat 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow 53-35. Schultz will now take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, who defeated Wardlow 49-45 four years ago.

Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty took first place in the seven-way nonpartisan primary with 36%, while retired judge Martha Holton Dimick edged out state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler 18-16 for the second spot in the November general election.

Both Moriarty and Dimick are Democrats, but they’ve been running very different campaigns. Moriarty, who has the backing of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, has pitched herself as a reformer, saying there needs to be “accountability both for people who violate the law and police.”

Dimick, who has both Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association in her corner, has in turn argued, “We have to send messages that we will prosecute violent criminals … With that effort to defund the police, people sent the wrong message.” Dimick would be the state's first Black county attorney.

 VT-Sen (R): First-time candidate Gerald Malloy scored a 43-39 win against former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, who generated some attention when she launched her campaign; Nolan also had the support of Gov. Phil Scott, who is one of the few prominent Republicans in this very blue state. The result makes little difference for the general election, though, because Democratic Rep. Peter Welch should have no trouble winning the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Leahy in a state Biden took 66-31.

VT-AL (D): State Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray 61-37 in the primary to replace Welch as Vermont’s only House member. Balint, who had endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, is now set to end Vermont’s status as the only state in America that has not elected a woman to Congress; Balint would also be the Green Mountain State’s first gay representative.

WI-03 (D): State Sen. Brad Pfaff defeated businesswoman Rebecca Cooke 39-31 in the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ron Kind, who is Pfaff’s former boss and top supporter. Pfaff will now go up against 2020 Republican nominee Derrick Van Orden, who lost to Kind 51-49 in the closest race of the congressman’s career. Trump carried both the old and new versions of this southwestern Wisconsin constituency 51-47.

 WI-AG (R): Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney holds a 37.5-36.9 edge over former state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a contest that the Associated Press has not yet called; 595,000 ballots have been tabulated, and the AP estimates they represent 99% of the total vote. The winner will go up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won his post in a tight 2018 contest.

WI State Assembly (R): Speaker Robin Vos won renomination 51-49 against Adam Steen, who was very much a longshot until Trump endorsed him last week. No Democrats are running for this seat in the Racine area.

Trump made his move after Vos said that the GOP’s master had recently called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Joe Biden's victory in the state—a move the speaker said was legally impossible. Trump retaliated by trashing Vos for using an old photo of the two of them together in his campaign literature as he endorsed the previously little-known Steen.  

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov, GA-LG: Charlie Bailey, who is Team Blue's nominee for lieutenant governor, has released an internal from Research Affiliates that shows his party doing well in competitive contests. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock edges out Republican Herschel Walker 49-46, while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are deadlocked 47-47. Bailey also posts a 43-43 tie in his own race against Republican Burt Jones, who was the rare member of Donald Trump's Big Lie slate to win a statewide primary this year.

OK-Sen-B: The Republican pollster Battleground Connect last week found Rep. Markwayne Mullin leading former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 46-38 ahead of the Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff. This survey, which did not mention a client, is the first poll we've seen of the second round of voting. Mullin outpaced Shannon 44-18 in late June and picked up Trump's endorsement soon after, so it would be a surprise if the runoff is close.

Battleground Connect did depart from the consensus in July when it released a trio of polls in the GOP primary for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat that showed wealthy businessman Jim Lamon narrowly leading the Trump-endorsed Blake Masters at a time when every other firm had Masters well ahead. (Its final poll in late July put Lamon up 30-28.) But that iconoclasm didn't work out well for Battleground Connect or Lamon, and Masters prevailed 40-28 last week.

UT-Sen: Republican incumbent Mike Lee's team has dusted off a WPA Intelligence Poll from July 12-14 that shows him beating independent Evan McMullin 49-35, with 10% going to unnamed other candidates. A survey taken around that same time by Dan Jones & Associates showed Lee up by a considerably smaller 41-36.

Governors

OK-Gov: Oklahoma's Children Our Future, a group that very much does not like Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, has publicized an internal from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows him leading Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister only 42-34. Libertarian Natalie Bruno takes 6% while independent Ervin Yen, who is a former Republican state senator, grabs another 4%.

The memo, which begins, "As scandal after scandal plagues the Kevin Stitt administration," says that the governor posted a 58-32 advantage in an unreleased January poll. The last survey we saw was in early June when the GOP firm Amber Integrated gave Stitt a 47-29 edge over Hofmeister, who left the Republican Party in October.

House

CA-13, OR-04, OR-06: Politico’s Ally Mutnick has obtained a trio of polls sponsored by the NRCC and the seat’s respective Republican nominee that show Team Red in competitive races in constituencies Biden decisively carried:

CA-13: Moore Information (R): Adam Gray (D): 47, John Duarte (R): 43

OR-04: Moore Information (R): Val Hoyle (D): 46, Alek Skarlatos (R): 41

OR-06: Cygnal (R): Mike Erickson (R): 47, Andrea Salinas (D): 40

These are the first numbers we’ve seen from any of these contests.

NY-24: Rep. Claudia Tenney has unveiled an internal from Public Opinion Strategies that has her taking 52% in the Aug. 23 GOP primary while her two opponents, attorney Mario Fratto and perennial candidate George Phillips, grab just 6% each. Trump would have won 57-40 in this constituency, which is based in the Finger Lakes region.

The Trump-endorsed Tenney currently represents less than 6% of this revamped district, but neither of her foes have generated much attention. Fratto did finish June with $230,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, but Tenney was still well ahead with $1 million banked. Phillips, writes The Citizen, "has not been actively campaigning for the seat and did not file a fundraising report."

WA-03: On Tuesday evening Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, conceded last week’s top-two primary one day after she dropped into third place. With 218,000 ballots tabulated Democrat Marie Perez leads with 31% while Trump's candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent, edged out Herrera Beutler 22.8-22.3 for the second general election spot. Trump would have carried this southwestern Washington seat 51-46.

WY-AL: Sen. Cynthia Lummis endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman over the weekend for the Aug. 16 GOP primary almost a year after Donald Trump declared that the senator was already supporting Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney. Lummis' spokesperson said back in September, "While Senator Lummis is not making an endorsement at this time, she believes President Trump has made an inspired choice in backing Harriet Hageman."

secretaries of state

 WA-SoS: The AP has called a special general election between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party. Hobbs, who is the first Democrat to hold this office since the 1964 election, took first in last week’s top-two primary with 40%, while Anderson edged out Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner 13-12 for second. The winner will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.

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Morning Digest: Georgia Republicans gird themselves for brutal 2022 primary battles

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

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein takes a look at the developing Republican primary contests for U.S. Senate and for governor, which already are shaping up to be ugly affairs. Before we get to the potential candidate fields, though, we'll set the scene with this quip from conservative commentator Martha Zoller: "The Republican Party in Georgia right now is like a Jenga game where someone has pulled out the wrong block," said the 2012 House candidate, explaining, "It's unstable and a mess."

Team Red is hoping to defeat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who will be up for a full six-year term next year, but there's no obvious frontrunner to take him on right now. Bluestein writes that former Sen. David Perdue, who lost to now-Sen. Jon Ossoff last month as Warnock was also unseating appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler, has "essentially frozen" the nomination contest as he deliberates whether to launch a comeback bid.

Bluestein relays that Perdue is "viewed as unlikely to run," but that his advisers haven't dismissed the idea. Indeed, just after the story went live, one of those Perdue advisers confidently tweeted, "He'd clear the field or crush anyone who was dumb enough to run against him in a primary."

Campaign Action

The AJC adds that Loeffler, who lost to Warnock 51-49, is also considering another try. That doesn't sit right with former Rep. Doug Collins, who lost the 2020 all-party primary to Loeffler and is considering another Senate bid, too. "Kelly can either be the person whose boredom costs Republicans the Senate twice or become a 'Jeopardy' answer that no one will remember the question to," said Collins' former spokesperson. Collins has also expressed interest in challenging Gov. Brian Kemp for renomination, but unnamed sources recently said he was leaning towards the Senate race.

Loeffler herself hasn't said if she's interested in trying to reclaim her former seat, but her allies are very interested in relitigating last year's intra-party fight. "Doug getting in the race muddied all that up," argued party operative and Loeffler ally Eric Tanenblatt. "It created a primary in a general election and caused a split in the party."

Bluestein also reports that a few other Republicans are considering entering the Senate race: state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and former Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans. None of this trio appears to have publicly expressed interest in this contest yet.

We'll turn now to the gubernatorial race. Both parties have long anticipated a rematch between 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who has not announced her plans but is universally expected to run again, and Kemp, but the governor has more immediate worries.

Donald Trump torched his old ally last year for not seeking to overturn Joe Biden's victory in Georgia's presidential contest, and Bluestein writes that Kemp's camp is preparing for a tough renomination fight. The AJC adds that one of the possible opponents that Kemp's side is keeping an eye on is Burt Jones, a wealthy state senator and co-captain of the University of Georgia's football team when they won the 2003 Sugar Bowl.

Jones does not appear to have talked publicly about taking on Kemp, and he seems far angrier at the state's number-two. Last month, the aforementioned Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan stripped Jones and two other state senators of their committee chairmanships as punishment for trying to undermine the presidential results. Jones said shortly afterwards that Duncan's actions were "a cowardly way and kind of petty politics," and added, "What comes around goes around in this building."

Finally, Bluestein writes that state GOP leaders are "increasingly concerned" that the notorious Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene could run for statewide office, which echoes a fear that national GOP operatives expressed to the New York Times last month. Greene herself has not said anything yet about a run for Senate, governor, or a different office, though that silence doesn't seem to be calming Republicans who fear she'd bring the Jenga tower crashing down on the party's ticket.

Senate

MO-Sen: In a Thursday appearance on the far-right Newsmax TV, former Gov. Eric Greitens did not rule out a GOP primary bid against Sen. Roy Blunt.

When the disgraced ex-governor was directly asked if he had "any interest in running for Senate someday" (the relevant portion begins at the 3:08 mark), Greitens did not answer the question, but he did take the time to trash his would-be opponent. Greitens castigated Blunt for "criticizing President Trump, criticizing his administration, embracing Joe Biden," and argued that the incumbent didn't reflect Missouri Republicans.

That same day, former Democratic state Sen. Scott Sifton filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential campaign for this seat, though he did not say anything publicly about his plans. Two years ago, Sifton told the media that he was preparing for a bid for governor, but he ultimately deferred to the eventual nominee, state Auditor Nicole Galloway.

OH-Sen: Team Red may be getting its first declared Senate candidate before long, as Jane Timken announced Friday that she was stepping down as chair of the state Republican Party and would reveal her future plans "in the coming weeks." Timken was elected to another term leading the party weeks before Sen. Rob Portman surprised everyone by announcing his retirement, and she soon expressed interest in running to succeed him.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: What does Donald Trump's legal team for his second impeachment trial have to do with next year's races for Senate or governor of Pennsylvania? Everything―if you ask Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a Republican who seems to think one hiring decision is just about hurting him.

Gale told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Bruce Castor, a former Montgomery County commissioner who'd previously served as district attorney, had been brought on to defend Trump at the behest of "the Pennsylvania GOP swamp." Gale argued, "Political insiders are in panic-mode that I will run for Governor or U.S. Senate in 2022," and accused party leaders of "resurrecting" Castor to "offset my growing popularity." Castor himself was mentioned as a potential candidate for either statewide office after he signed on to help Trump, but he doesn't appear to have said anything about the idea yet.

Governors

FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo recently told Politico that she was considering a bid against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Taddeo, who is originally from Colombia, argued the party needed candidates who could appeal to Hispanic voters who swung hard towards Trump last year.

Taddeo herself was on the statewide ballot in 2014 as Democratic nominee Charlie Crist's running mate, but their ticket lost to Republican Gov. Rick Scott 48-47 during that year's GOP wave. Taddeo went on to lose a close primary for the 26th Congressional District, but she flipped a GOP-held state Senate seat in a closely-watched 2017 special election in the Miami area and was re-elected the following year.

A number of other Democrats are eyeing this race including now-Rep. Crist, who'd been elected to a single term as governor in 2006 when he was still a Republican. Crist also told Politico, "I am seriously considering at this point running for governor in 2022," a statement that came days after the congressman said he was merely "opening my brain to the idea a little bit more."

NY-Gov: Republican Rep. Tom Reed trashed Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, but the congressman refused to answer if he was considering a bid against the incumbent. New York hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office since George Pataki won his final term as governor in 2002, and Reed, who served as an honorary state chair of Donald Trump's 2020 campaign, would have a very difficult time breaking that streak.

House

GA-07: 2020 Republican nominee Rich McCormick recently sent out a fundraising email saying that he was considering a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux next year. McCormick told his would-be donors that he expected GOP mapmakers to create "a Republican-favored district," adding, "We are following the process closely and should be in a good position to take back the seat and help take back the Congressional House Majority in 2022."

NY-22: On Friday, Judge Scott DelConte ordered county and state election authorities to certify Republican Claudia Tenney, who leads Democrat Anthony Brindisi by 109 votes, as the winner in the November contest. The legal battle is not over, though, as Brindisi's team said earlier in the day that they would be appealing DelConte's decision to reject several hundred ballots that they're seeking to have tabulated.

Morning Digest: This race could give Texas Democrats their first statewide win in 26 years

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

TX Railroad Commission: As Lone Star Democrats seek their first statewide victory in more than a quarter century, their best hope may be Chrysta Castañeda, who's running for a spot on an agency many people haven't heard of: the Texas Railroad Commission.

Campaign Action

Despite the name, the commission doesn't actually oversee trains, but it does have jurisdiction over something even more important in Texas: the state's energy industry (oversight of the rails was handed to the state's Department of Transportation in 2005). The panel, often known as the "RRC," is made up of three members, each elected statewide for six-year terms.

The last time a Democrat won a seat on the board was in 1990, when former Rep. Bob Krueger beat a Republican opponent by 56-40 margin. Krueger wound up resigning to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate when Lloyd Bentsen became Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary, and Republicans comfortably beat his appointed successor in 1994.

Ever since, the GOP has held all three seats, but Republicans were already preparing for a serious battle this year—which, ironically, might have made their situation even worse. Republican Ryan Sitton, who first won a slot on the RRC in 2014, had stockpiled $2 million in his war chest for the general election, but in March, he lost his primary in an absolute shocker to an unknown named Jim Wright, the owner of an oilfield waste disposal company who had raised less than $13,000.

The 55-45 loss was so inexplicable that some political observers wondered if Wright benefited from sharing a name with the one-time speaker of the House who hailed from Fort Worth, the late Democrat Jim Wright, who died in 2015. It's not such a crazy theory: Perennial candidate Gene Kelly won multiple Texas primaries in the previous decade because voters had him confused with the beloved dancer.

Whatever the explanation, though, Wright's victory has left Republicans with a suddenly open seat and a badly flawed candidate. The RRC—the very body that Wright wants to join—fined him $182,000 for improper storage of hazardous waste in 2017, and he's been sued by his former business partners for fraud stemming from the mess.

Castañeda, an oil and gas attorney, took aim at Wright for his record in her first ad of the race, which went up last month, but the main topic she's focusing on is the issue of "flaring." That refers to the practice of oil producers burning off unwanted natural gas from their wells rather than capturing it for later use, a process that is both environmentally harmful and economically wasteful.

It's also against the law—unless a driller is granted a special permit, of which 7,000 were handed out last year. As Castañeda notes, such permits can only be granted if all three members of the commission agree, meaning she could single-handedly put an end to flaring even if Republicans still hold a nominal 2-1 majority on the board next year.

With this backdrop, The New Republic recently called this race "this year’s most important election for American climate policy." It could also finally put an end to the longest statewide losing streak for Democrats anywhere in the nation, as Texas last voted Democratic for any statewide race in 1994.

3Q Fundraising

IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): $28.7 million raised

WV-Gov: Jim Justice (R-inc): $890,000 raised, $263,000 cash-on-hand; Ben Salango (D): $564,000 raised, $153,000 cash-on-hand

CA-25: Mike Garcia (R-inc): $3.2 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand

CA-48: Michelle Steel (R): $1.8 million raised

MN-03: Kendall Qualls (R): $873,000 raised, $538,000 cash-on-hand

MN-08: Quinn Nystrom (D): $650,000 raised

NH-01: Chris Pappas (D-inc): $700,000 raised, $1.35 million cash-on-hand

NY-02: Andrew Garbarino (R): $771,000 raised

TX-10: Michael McCaul (R-inc): $870,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

GA-Sen-A: A pro-Republican group called Georgia Action Fund says it is spending $5 million on digital ads supposedly aimed at swaying undecided voters in the race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

LA-Sen: Democrat Adrian Perkins narrates much of his first TV ad, which focuses on his biography, including his graduation from West Point and his service in Afghanistan and Iraq that resulted in an award of the Bronze Star. A voiceover notes that after he fought overseas, "Harvard Law and big job offers came." But, says Perkins, "I chose to come home. To serve my community. Now I'm taking our mission to Washington to get things done for you."

At the end, text appears on-screen noting that Perkins has been endorsed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Barack Obama, an effort to consolidate Democratic voters to ensure Perkins makes a December runoff against Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.

NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis' new ad, unsurprisingly, goes after Democrat Cal Cunningham over the intimate text messages he shared with a woman who is not his wife. The spot mostly features clips of newscasters discussing various angles to the story, and during the "I approve this message" segment—not a section we discuss often—Tillis is shown hand-in-hand with his wife. Tillis' allies at the Senate Leadership Fund also recently went up with a similar ad.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the DSCC is adding $3 million to their existing TV ad reservations for the last two weeks of the race.

Polls: If you click each race tag below, such as "MT-Sen," you'll be taken to the Daily Kos Elections poll aggregator for that race, which displays a trendline for all available public polls and the current polling average.

  • MT-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Steve Bullock (D): 48, Steve Daines (R-inc): 46 (49-43 Trump)
  • NC-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Cal Cunningham (D): 50, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 39 (51-44 Biden) (Aug.: 49-41 Cunningham)
  • SC-Sen: GBAO (D) for the DSCC: Jaime Harrison (D): 48, Lindsey Graham: (R-inc): 47, Bill Bledsoe (C): 3 (49-44 Trump)
  • TX-Sen: Crosswind Media (R) and Pulse Opinion Research: John Cornyn (R-inc): 48, MJ Hegar (D): 39 (51-44 Trump)
  • TX-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Cornyn (R-inc): 45, Hegar (D): 42 (47-45 Biden) (Sept.: 40-38 Cornyn)

MT-Sen: While there hasn't been a ton of polling in Montana—and what we have seen has almost all been very tight—Data for Progress' survey is the first to show Steve Bullock with a lead since an early July poll from PPP that had Bullock ahead 46-44.

NC-Sen: A number of polls taken since Labor Day have shown Cal Cunningham up by double digits, but what's notable about about this Data for Progress poll is that it was in the field from Weds, Sept. 30 through Monday, Oct. 5. That means half of it was conducted after news about Cunningham's affair broke on Friday night, Oct. 2.

SC-Sen: The DSCC's poll included Constitution Party candidate Bill Bledsoe, who dropped out of the race and endorsed Lindsey Graham a few days after the survey concluded. However, Bledsoe's name will still appear on ballots.

Gubernatorial

NC-Gov: Dan Forest is just the latest Republican trying to scare voters with ads showing footage of unrest, even starting his latest spot by saying, "Seems like the only people you see in downtown Asheville these days are rioters." Seems like he should try harder: According multiple local office-holders, including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Forest's clips don't show the city at all but instead were shot in other locales. When asked for comment, the Forest campaign didn't dispute the charge.

Polls:

  • WV-Gov: Strategies Unlimited (D) for WV First: Jim Justice (R-inc): 46, Ben Salango (D): 40, Daniel Lutz Jr. (Mountain Party): 5

This is the closest poll of the three we've seen to date in this race. According to the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, WV First is a group opposing Jim Justice's re-election bid, though it does not appear to have any presence the web. The same is true of the pollster, Strategies Unlimited.

House

IN-05: Indiana schools chief Jennifer McCormick has once again stuck her thumb in the eye of her own party by endorsing another Democrat, Christina Hale, who is seeking to flip the open 5th Congressional District. Though elected superintendent of public instruction as a Republican in 2016, McCormick has regularly feuded with the GOP and previously backed Democrat Woody Myers in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, as well as Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel, who is running for state attorney general. McCormick is not seeking re-election this year after Republicans turned her position into an appointed one starting after 2020.

MI-08: Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin's latest ad features footage from a recent debate that went viral after she shredded her Republican opponent, Paul Junge, on healthcare. Junge had sought to make an issue of a lapse in insurance coverage that befell Slotkin's mother, blaming "undue burdens and regulations." Slotkin's scathing response occupies the bulk of the ad:

"Please don't speak about my mother as if you understand what made her health care unaffordable to her. And I think it's crazy that every time we ask you specific details about the thing that really helps people know that they're going to be protected—their kids are going to be protected—you deflect and start attacking me. And raising my mother? Come on, Paul."

NE-02: Former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford has endorsed vulnerable Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who narrowly booted him after one term in the House in 2016. Ashford sought to reclaim his seat in 2018 but lost a tight the Democratic primary that year to nonprofit executive Kara Eastman, who herself lost a close contest with Bacon later that year—a race in which Ashford supported her.

Eastman sought the Democratic nomination again this year and this time handily defeated Ashford's wife, attorney Ann Ferlic Ashford. Ann Ashford angrily refused to endorse Eastman following the May primary, citing comments Eastman had made blaming Ashford's campaign-trail criticisms of her on "bad blood" stemming from her defeat of Ashford's husband two years earlier.

Bacon's past statements about Brad Ashford, however, have been far harsher. Among other things, Bacon accused Ashford of being soft on the Islamic State during their 2016 race, claiming in an ad, "If Brad Ashford doesn't know ISIS is targeting Nebraska, how can we trust him to keep us safe?"

VA-02: Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's newest ad stars a COVID survivor named Fred Herrmann who excoriates Republican Scott Taylor for hosting a campaign event over the summer where attendees were maskless and greeted each other—including Taylor—with intimate hugs. Footage of the disturbing gathering rolls as Herrmann pours out his criticism. "Scott Taylor even compared coronavirus to the flu. It's not the flu," he says. "Mr. Taylor, I couldn't see my family while I thought I was going to die, because this virus is dangerous—and sending you back to Congress would be, too."

Polls:

CA-25: Smith's memo didn't include exact figures for the presidential race, but it did say that Joe Biden "is currently beating Trump by 4 points." That would represent the rare district-level poll where Biden's margin is narrower than Hillary Clinton's was in 2016 (she carried the 25th 50-44).

NY-22: Believe it or not, Siena's poll is the very first we've seen of this race, and the findings are a serious whoa-mama-joe moment for the GOP, particularly as regards the presidential race. Upstate New York's 22nd District was one of those rural white areas where the bottom really fell out for Democrats in 2016: While Barack Obama had lost to Mitt Romney by less than a point here, Trump crushed Clinton 55-39.

There's good reason to believe Siena, too. In 2016, the school's polling accurately forecast the district's big shift to Trump, both in late September and just before Election Day, when it had Trump up 14. If Republicans can't beat Brindisi, who exactly can they beat?

Mayoral

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: The Democratic firm Bendixen & Amandi International's new poll for the Miami Herald gives Democrat Daniella Levine Cava a 45-35 lead over Republican Steve Bovo in next month's officially nonpartisan race, which is an improvement from the 39-32 edge it found last month. Levine Cava also released a Change Research survey in late September that showed her up 45-32, while Bovo's side has yet to publicize its own numbers.

Levine Cava would be the first Democrat to serve as the chief executive of Florida's largest county since Alex Penelas left office in 2004. Penelas himself waged a comeback campaign this year, but he took third in August's nonpartisan primary.

New York City, NY Mayor: Civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, a former counsel to term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio, entered next year's Democratic primary to succeed her old boss on Thursday. Wiley, who is Black, would be the first woman mayor in the city's history. In her kickoff, she took several jabs at the unpopular incumbent. "If I am mayor, you will never have to wonder who's in charge," she said. "You will never have to question ... whether the mayor even wants the job." She also ridiculed de Blasio's hapless presidential bid, saying, "You will never have to wonder whether I'm in Iowa."

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Competitive race to succeed longtime GOP congressman begins to take shape

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

NY-02: This week, the crowded GOP primary to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Peter King in this competitive Long Island seat began to take shape … sort of.

On Thursday, state party chairman Nick Langworthy endorsed Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino in the June primary, a move that came days after Garbarino picked up endorsements from the party chairs of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. However, while the powers that be are lining up behind Garbarino, he’s not going to avoid a primary.

Campaign Action

Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger announced Wednesday that she would run despite failing to get the endorsement of the county party chairs the previous day. Hemendinger has worked in the department for 36 years, and this appears to be her first run for office.

Assemblyman Mike LiPetri also said the following day that he would remain in the race. Another candidate, Suffolk County Board of Elections member Nick LaLota, said Tuesday that he was still deciding whether to keep running after the county chairs backed Garbarino.

Garbarino, whose father is the GOP chair in the large town of Islip, only announced he was running this week. However, he began quietly raising money last quarter, and he ended 2019 with the largest war chest on the GOP side. Garbarino led LaLota in cash-on-hand $218,000 to $145,000, while LiPetri only opened up his fundraising committee on Jan. 1. Another Republican, Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, announced she was running back in November, but she didn’t report raising any money in 2019.

By contrast, there’s only one notable candidate on the Democratic side. Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon began running against King months before he announced his retirement in November, and her fundraising spiked after this became an open seat. Gordon took in $261,000 during the fourth quarter compared to the $76,000 she raised during the preceding three months, and she ended 2019 with $290,000 in the bank. The DCCC recently added Gordon to its Red to Blue list for top candidates, so national Democrats don’t seem to be expecting her to have a serious primary.

King always won re-election with ease during his decades representing this area until his final campaign last cycle, and his departure gives Democrats the chance to finally flip the seat. New York’s 2nd District, which is home to Babylon and most of Islip, swung from 52-47 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but it lurched back to the left in 2018. While Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 60-36 statewide win was very similar to Hillary Clinton's 59-37 victory, Cuomo carried King's seat by a 51-47 margin.  

Senate

MI-Sen: Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is out with his first TV spot, which will run during Saturday's men's basketball game between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. The commercial touts Peters' time in the Navy Reserve and work helping veterans.

NC-Sen: A mysterious new PAC called Faith and Power recently launched what CNN reports is a two week $1.56 million TV buy to aid state Sen. Erica Smith in the March 3 Democratic primary, and there's good reason to think that Republicans are behind it. There's no information about who runs or funds the organization, but The Hill's Reid Wilson reports that Faith and Power is banking with a firm that frequently does business with GOP groups, including Donald Trump's campaign. The ads were also purchased by a media buyer that has plenty of conservative clients.

National Democrats are supporting former state Sen. Cal Cunningham over Smith in the contest to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, and Cunningham also has benefited from millions in spending from VoteVets. Cunningham, who ended December with a lopsided $1.7 million to $95,000 cash-on-hand lead over Smith, also recently began airing commercials, and a new survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling indicates that the pro-Cunningham media campaign is having an impact. PPP finds Cunningham leading Smith 29-10, which is an improvement from his 22-12 edge last month.

Republicans seem to believe that the underfunded Smith would be easier to beat than Cunningham in November, though, and Faith and Power's new ad campaign could give her a boost next month. The commercial begins with a narrator asking, "Who's the Democrat for US Senate endorsed by progressives and unions? Erica Smith." It continues, "Who's got the courage to vote for 'Medicare for All'? Erica Smith. The number one supporter of the Green New Deal? Erica Smith again."

Whoever wins the nomination will be in for an expensive race against Tillis in this light red state. The incumbent, who does not face a serious primary challenger, ended December with $5.3 million in the bank.

Gubernatorial

IN-Gov: On Wednesday, businessman Josh Owens dropped out of the Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb and endorsed former state Health Commissioner Woody Myers. The deadline to turn in signatures to make the primary ballot is on Friday, so it's incredibly unlikely that Myers will face any serious intra-party opposition.

House

CA-16: Rep. Jim Costa has launched his first TV spot against Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, a fellow Democrat who is running to his left in the March 3 top-two primary. The narrator accuses Soria of saying "she's living paycheck to paycheck" when she "gets $96,000 a year from taxpayers and paid perks and benefits."

The narrator goes on to declare that Soria not only gave herself a pay raise but that her "fiancé and business partner received city contracts worth millions." What the ad doesn't mention is that Soria recused herself from the City Council's discussion and votes on matters concerning her significant other, developer Terance Frazier.

While Costa's decision to go negative less than a month before Election Day could be a sign that he's worried that Soria could take enough support to join him in the November general election, she'll still need a lot to go right to advance past the top-two. Costa has been a weak fundraiser in past cycles, but the incumbent outpaced Soria $506,000 to $135,000 during the fourth quarter (Soria self-funded an additional $13,000), and he ended December with a huge $904,000 to $149,000 cash-on-hand lead.

It doesn't help Soria that there's just one Republican, real estate agent Kevin Cookingham, on the top-two ballot, while former Foreign Service diplomat Kim Williams is also running as a Democrat. This seat, which includes Merced and part of Fresno, backed Clinton 58-36, so even though Cookingham has very little money, he will have a good chance to advance to November if he can just consolidate the conservative vote.

FL-13: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed attorney Amanda Makki this week in the crowded August GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist.

Makki had by far the most money in the bank on the Republican side at the end of December, but she still trailed Crist in cash-on-hand by a lopsided $2.8 million to $470,000. This St. Petersburg seat backed Hillary Clinton by a small 50-46 spread, but national Republicans haven't made defeating Crist, a former Republican governor who is utterly detested by his old party, a priority so far.

GA-14: Former state Rep. Bill Hembree and Army veteran Andy Gunther each announced this week that they would join the May GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Gunther, who works as inspector for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, appears to be running for the first time. Hembree, by contrast, has a long history in Georgia politics, though not a lot of local voters may be aware of him.

Hembree was first elected to the lower house in 1992 from a seat in Douglas County, which is located just outside of this northwestern Georgia congressional district. Hembree served for the next two decades, apart from a two-year absence following his unsuccessful 1996 run for the state Public Service Commission, but he gave up his spot to run for a state Senate seat in 2012. Hembree lost the GOP runoff for Senate District 30, which contains a very small portion of the 14th Congressional District, and he was defeated in another primary there two years later.

Former state School Superintendent John Barge also filed to run here this week, but he hasn't said anything publicly yet. Barge was elected statewide in 2010, but he quickly came into conflict with GOP Gov. Nathan Deal by opposing the party leadership's charter school amendment. Barge went on to wage a very longshot primary challenge against Deal in 2014 that went absolutely nowhere: Deal secured renomination with 72% while another candidate led Barge 17-11 for second.

Barge defied his party again months later by endorsing a Democrat over Republican Richard Woods in the contest to replace him as school chief. Woods won the general election, though, and Barge decided to challenge him for renomination in the 2018 primary. This campaign also went badly for Barge, and Woods won 60-40.

While Barge seems to have burnt bridges with almost everyone in Peach State GOP politics, one familiar name is reportedly on his side. The Rome New-Tribune writes that former Rep. Jack Kingston, who now works as a Washington lobbyist and serves as a pro-Trump TV talking head, has been talking to people on Barge's behalf.

IA-01: The conservative Future Leaders Fund, which is supporting GOP state Rep. Ashley Hinson, is out with a mid-January survey from the GOP firm Harper Polling that shows Hinson trailing freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer by a small 44-40 margin. This is the first poll we've seen from this 49-45 Trump seat in northeastern Iowa.

IL-03: Businesswoman Marie Newman is out with her first TV ad ahead of her March 17 Democratic primary rematch against conservative Rep. Dan Lipinski.

The narrator touts Newman's local ties and how she "scrubbed floors to pay for college and went without health insurance when she couldn't afford it." The commercial only mentions the incumbent at the end when the narrator declares, "Now Marie is running for Congress to do what Dan Lipinski won't: raise wages for working people and ensure health care is a right for everyone."

IL-14: State Sen. Jim Oberweis is out with a survey from McLaughlin & Associates that gives him a clear lead in next month's GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. McLaughlin finds Oberweis leading fellow state Sen. Sue Rezin 46-16 in this seat in the western Chicago exurbs, while former Trump administration official Catalina Lauf is at 6%.

McLaughlin has a bad reputation even in GOP circles, but so far, no one has released any other polls here. And while Oberweis has a terrible electoral history, his large financial advantage over his intra-party rivals could help him win the March 17 primary. Oberweis, who has self-funded most of his campaign, ended December with a $1.1 million war chest, while businessman Ted Gradel was well behind with $649,000 in the bank. (Gradel took 2% of the vote in that McLaughlin poll.) Rezin had $329,000 to spend, while Lauf had a mere $32,000 on-hand.

Even if the GOP avoids nominating Oberweis, though, Team Red will be in for a serious fight against Underwood. The incumbent, who flipped this 49-44 Trump seat in an upset last cycle, ended December with $1.7 million in the bank.

IN-05: On Wednesday, just two days before the filing deadline, state Sen. Victoria Spartz announced that she was joining the crowded May GOP primary for this open seat. Originally hailing from Ukraine, Spartz would be one of a handful of immigrants serving in Congress if she were elected.

Spartz's 20th Senate District is located entirely in the 5th Congressional District, but she's never had to face the voters before. In mid-2017, local party officials chose Spartz to fill a vacancy in the Senate (Indiana does not hold special elections for the legislature) for a term that doesn't expire until the end of this year.

NC-01: Back in December, farmer Sandy Smith ditched her extremely longshot GOP primary campaign against Sen. Thom Tillis and filed to challenge veteran Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield. Smith, who spent most of the fourth quarter running for the Senate, raised just $90,000 from donors but self-funded another $170,000, and she ended 2019 with $202,000 in the bank. Butterfield, by contrast, had $566,000 to spend.

Redistricting moved this inland northeastern North Carolina seat to the right quite a bit: While it supported Hillary Clinton 68-30 under the lines used in 2016 and 2018, the new constituency backed her by a smaller 55-44 spread. However, this is still blue turf that hasn’t voted for a Republican in any federal or statewide partisan election since likely the 1980s, and it will be very difficult for Smith to defeat Butterfield.

NY-22: Former Rep. Claudia Tenney got some good news last week when former Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell dropped out of the GOP primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, and it looks very unlikely that she will face any serious intra-party opposition now.

George Phillips, who lost the 2016 primary to Tenney, ended December with just $57,000 in the bank, while high school teacher Franklin Sager didn't have so much as one cent to spend. As a result, we've removed this contest from our Primaries to Watch spreadsheet and on to a second tab called "Off the list."

Tenney, though, ended last year at a huge financial disadvantage against Brindisi, who narrowly unseated her in 2018. Brindisi outraised Tenney by a massive $903,000 to $297,000 during her opening quarter, and he enjoyed a $1.85 million to $287,000 cash-on-hand edge. However, Democrats can take absolutely nothing for granted this fall in an upstate New York seat that supported Donald Trump 55-39.

Mayoral

San Diego, CA Mayor: On Monday, GOP San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob crossed party lines and endorsed Democratic City Councilwoman Barbara Bry over Republican City Councilman Scott Sherman. Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria very much looks like the most likely candidate to advance past the March 3 nonpartisan primary, while Sherman and Bry appear to be competing for the second spot in the November general election. Sherman may have the chance to pull ahead of Bry if he can consolidate the city's Republican voters, but Jacob's support for Bry could make his task harder.