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.
● NY-19 (special): Democrat Pat Ryan scored a huge special election upset for his party by defeating Republican Marc Molinaro 52-48 in New York’s 19th District, a swing seat in the Hudson Valley that Molinaro appeared poised to flip until polls closed on Tuesday. The win for Ryan, an Army veteran who serves as Ulster County executive and made abortion rights the centerpiece of his campaign, is the latest―and most dramatic― sign that the political landscape has shifted since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade at the end of June.
Joe Biden carried this constituency 50-48 (the special was fought under the old congressional map), but until results started rolling in, both parties had behaved as though Molinaro was the strong favorite. Molinaro, who leads Dutchess County, defeated then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo by a wide 53-42 in the 19th in 2018 even as Cuomo was prevailing statewide in a 60-36 landslide. That strong local performance motivated national Republicans to try to recruit Molinaro to take on Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado in 2020, and while he declined that cycle, he eventually bit on a campaign last year.
But that anticipated Delgado-Molinaro bout was averted in the spring when the congressman resigned after Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed him as lieutenant governor―a career switch Republicans argued was motivated by Delgado’s wariness about his re-election prospects. The unexpected special election seemed to be good news indeed for Molinaro, who began with a months-long head start over his eventual Democratic rival at a time when a GOP wave looked imminent.
Ryan, who had lost the 2018 primary to Delgado, quickly closed much of the financial gap he faced by the end of June, but he still looked like the decided underdog. Even a late June internal poll for Ryan taken days after Roe was repealed showed him down 43-40. However, the same survey found that the Democrat could turn things around by hammering home Molinaro’s opposition to abortion rights. Ryan did just that in ad after ad, while Molinaro and the GOP continued to emphasize inflation and crime while ignoring reproductive rights.
Still, Democrats remained pessimistic about Ryan’s chances. While the NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund spent a combined $1.8 million here, the DCCC limited its involvement to running some joint buys with their nominee. (We won’t know how much the committee spent until new fundraising reports are out in late September.) The progressive veterans group VoteVets, however, dropped $500,000 to help Ryan with an ad campaign declaring that the candidate, who served in Iraq, "sure didn't fight for our freedom abroad to see it taken away from women here at home.”
But it still didn’t seem to be enough: An early August DCCC poll found Molinaro leading 46-43—that same stubborn 3-point margin—while the Democratic firm Data for Progress released its own poll on Election Day giving him an even larger 53-45 edge. Tuesday’s upset, though, validated Ryan’s tight focus on abortion rights―a strategy fellow Democrats have deployed in other races across the country.
Both Ryan and Molinaro will be on the ballot again in November under the new court-drawn congressional map, but they won’t be facing each other this time. The new congressman is Team Blue’s nominee for the redrawn 18th District in the Lower Hudson Valley, turf that, at 53-45 Biden, is several points to the left of the constituency he just won. Ryan, who will represent just under 30% of the new district, will go up against Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt this time.
Molinaro himself will be competing in the new 19th District, a seat in the southeastern part of upstate New York that also would have gone for Biden by a larger spread, in this case 51-47. About 42% of the new 19th’s residents live in the district Molinaro just lost, but importantly, none of his home county of Dutchess is contained in the district. Molinaro’s opponent will be attorney Josh Riley, who claimed Team Blue’s nomination on Tuesday and will have the chance to deal the county executive his second straight defeat of the year in just a few months.
● Election Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of early Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here. Note that New York allows absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if they’re received through Aug. 30, so some of the margins in the Empire State may change.
● FL-Gov (D): Rep. Charlie Crist defeated state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 60-35 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. Crist, who was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican and narrowly lost the 2014 general election to reclaim his prior post following his party switch, will be in for a tough fight against DeSantis, who begins the general election with a massive $132 million war chest.
● FL-01 (R): Rep. Matt Gaetz prevailed 70-24 against Mark Lombardo, a self-funder who ran ads reminding viewers that the incumbent remains under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses. Gaetz will likely be secure in November no matter what happens next in a Pensacola area constituency that Trump would have taken 65-33.
On the Democratic side, businesswoman LaShonda Holloway leads former state Sen. Tony Hill 50.2-49.8 with 58,000 votes counted, which the AP, which has not yet called the race, estimates is 99% of the total. Both of Team Blue’s candidates have struggled to bring in cash here, and neither national party has shown an obvious interest in it.
● FL-07 (R): Army veteran Cory Mills beat state Rep. Anthony Sabatini 34-21 in the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat who decided to retire just before the GOP transfigured her suburban Orlando district from a 55-44 Biden seat to one Trump would have carried 52-47.
Mills notably ran commercials where he bragged that his company’s tear gas was used on what the on-screen text labeled as "Hillary Clinton protesters," "left wing protesters," "antifa rioters," "Black Lives Matter protesters," and "radical left protesters." The Republican nominee will face Karen Green, a state Democratic official who hasn’t raised much money so far.
● FL-10 (D): Gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost won the 10-way primary to replace Democratic Senate nominee Val Demings by defeating state Sen. Randolph Bracy 35-25; two former House members, Alan Grayson and Corrine Brown, took 15% and 9%, respectively. Biden would have won this Orlando-based seat 65-33.
Frost, who is 25, will almost certainly be the youngest member of Congress come January. His primary win also represents a victory for the crypto-aligned Protect Our Future PAC, which spent about $1 million to aid him.
Loomer, a self-described "proud Islamophobe" who is banned on numerous social media, rideshare, and payment services, characteristically reacted to her near-miss by refusing to concede and spreading conspiracy theories about the primary. Trump would have carried this constituency in the western Orlando suburbs, which includes the gargantuan retirement community of The Villages, 55-44.
● FL-13 (R): 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who has the backing of Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, earned the GOP nod again by beating attorney Kevin Hayslett 44-34 after an expensive and nasty contest. The Democratic pick to succeed Rep. Charlie Crist is former Department of Defense official Eric Lynn, who is defending a St. Petersburg-based district that the Republicans transformed from a 52-47 Biden seat to one Trump would have taken 53-46.
● FL-14 (R): Public relations firm owner James Judge trounced self-funding businessman Jerry Torres 53-30 just days after a court rejected a lawsuit that tried to keep Torres off the ballot. Judge will be the underdog against Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in this 59-40 Biden seat in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
● FL-15 (R & D): Former Secretary of State Laurel Lee outpaced state Sen. Kelli Stargel 41-28 in the Republican primary for a new district in the Tampa suburbs that was created because Florida won a new seat in reapportionment. This constituency would have backed Trump 51-48.
The Democratic nominee will be former local TV anchor Alan Cohn, who routed political consultant Gavin Brown 33-22. Cohn lost the 2020 contest for the previous version of the 15th to Republican Scott Franklin 55-45 as Trump was taking that seat by a similar 54-45 margin; Franklin is now seeking the new 18th.
● FL-20 (D): Freshman Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick decisively won her rematch with former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, whom she defeated by all of five votes in last year's crowded special election, 66-29. This constituency, which is located in the inland Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas, is safely blue at 76-23 Biden.
● FL-23 (D): Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz turned back Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Ben Sorensen 61-21. Moskowitz should have no trouble succeeding retiring Rep. Ted Deutch in a Fort Lauderdale-based seat that Biden would have carried 56-43.
● FL-27 (D): State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who had the support of the DCCC and other national Democrats, beat Miami Commissioner Ken Russell 68-26 for the nod to take on freshman Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. The GOP sought to protect the new incumbent by shifting her Miami-area seat to the right: While Biden carried the old 27th 51-48, Trump would have taken the new version 50-49.
Mullin will be the frontrunner against former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in the general election to succeed Sen. Jim Inhofe, whose resignation takes effect at the end of this Congress, in one of the reddest states in the nation. (That’s not entirely welcome news to Inhofe, who recently told Read Frontier, “Markwayne and I, we have problems.”) Mullin, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, would be the first Native American to serve in the Senate since Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Colorado Democrat turned Republican, retired in 2005.
● OK-02 (R): Former state Sen. Josh Brecheen edged out state Rep. Avery Frix 52-48 after a very expensive GOP runoff to succeed Markwayne Mullin in this dark red Eastern Oklahoma seat. A PAC affiliated with the Club for Growth spent over $3.4 million to promote Brecheen, who is a former Club fellow, while Frix had extensive support from his own outside group allies.
● NY-01 (R): Nick LaLota, who serves as chief of staff of the Suffolk County Legislature, beat cryptocurrency trader Michelle Bond 47-28 in the primary to replace Rep. Lee Zeldin, the GOP nominee for governor. The wealthy Bond and her allies (including a PAC that just happens to be funded by her boyfriend, crypto notable Ryan Salame), far outspent LaLota, but he had the support of the county’s Republican and Conservative parties.
LaLota will now go up against Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who had the Democratic primary to herself. While Trump won the old 1st 51-47, Biden would have carried the new version of this eastern Long Island constituency by a narrow 49.4-49.2.
● NY-02 (R): Freshman Rep. Andrew Garbarino turned in an unexpectedly weak 54-38 victory over an unheralded Army and Navy veteran named Robert Cornicelli. The challenger eagerly embraced the Big Lie, and he used his limited resources to remind voters that Garbarino voted for a Jan. 6 commission. Garbarino also supported the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill as well as legislation protecting same-sex and interracial marriage, which may have further damaged his standing with the base.
Garbarino will now face a rematch against Democrat Jackie Gordon, an Army veteran he defeated 53-46 in 2020 as Trump was taking the old 2nd 51-47. The redrawn version of this seat, which is based in the south shore of Suffolk County, would have gone for Trump by a smaller 50-49 margin.
● NY-03 (D): DNC member Robert Zimmerman, a longtime party fundraiser who would be Long Island’s first gay member of Congress, beat Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman 36-26 in the primary to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi, who left to unsuccessfully run for governor in June. Another 20% went to Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who had Suozzi’s endorsement and benefited from spending by Protect Our Future PAC.
Zimmerman, who lost a race for Congress all the way back in 1982, will go up against 2020 Republican nominee George Santos. Suozzi last time held off Santos 56-43 as Biden was carrying the old 3rd 55-44; the new version of this seat, which is based in northern Nassau County, would have supported the president by a smaller 53-45 spread.
● NY-04 (D): Former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen defeated Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages 63-24 in the primary to replace retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice, who supported Gillen. The GOP is fielding Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D'Esposito for a southern Nassau County district that Biden would have won 57-42.
● NY-10 (D): Daniel Goldman, a self-funder who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Trump's first impeachment, beat Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou 26-24 in the busy primary for this safely blue seat in Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn; Rep. Mondaire Jones, who currently represents the 17th District well to the north of the city in the Hudson Valley, took third with 18%.
● NY-11 (D): Former Rep. Max Rose will get his rematch against freshman GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis following his 75-21 primary victory over Army veteran Brittany Debarros. The court-drawn version of this seat, which retains all of Staten Island, would have supported Trump 53-46, while he prevailed 55-44 in the old boundaries; Malliotakis herself unseated Rose 53-47 last cycle.
● NY-12 (D): Rep. Jerry Nadler won the final incumbent vs. incumbent primary of the cycle by convincingly defeating fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney 55-24 in a revamped safely blue seat that’s home to Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side.
● NY-17 (D): Incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney, who heads the DCCC, beat state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi 67-33 in this lower Hudson Valley seat. Maloney will go up against Republican Assemblyman Michael Lawler, who won his own primary 76-12, in a constituency Biden would have taken 54-44.
● NY-19 (D): Attorney Josh Riley outpaced businesswoman Jamie Cheney 64-36 in a southeastern upstate New York district. Riley will now go up against Republican Marc Molinaro, who lost Tuesday’s special election for the old 19th, for a redrawn seat that would have favored Biden 51-47.
● NY-22 (R & D): The GOP establishment got some unwelcome news when Navy veteran Brandon Williams defeated businessman Steve Wells 58-42 in the primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Rep. John Katko, for a district located in the Syracuse and Utica areas. The Congressional Leadership Fund evidently believed that Wells was the better bet for this 53-45 Biden seat because the super PAC spent close to $1 million on an unsuccessful effort to get him across the finish line.
On the Democratic side, Navy veteran Francis Conole beat Air Force veteran Sarah Klee Hood 39-36. Conole far outspent the entire field, and he benefited from over $500,000 in aid from Protect Our Future PAC.
● NY-23 (special): Steuben County Republican Party Chair Joe Sempolinski held off Air Force veteran Max Della Pia only 53-47 in a special election to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed in a 55-43 Trump seat. Sempolinski isn’t running for a full term anywhere, while Della is competing for a full term in the revamped 23rd.
● NY-23 (R): State GOP chair Nick Langworthy scored a 52-48 upset over developer Carl Paladino, the proto-Trump who served as the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, in the contest to succeed departing GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs. Langworthy will take on Air Force veteran Max Della Pia in a seat in the Buffalo suburbs and southwestern upstate New York that would have gone for Trump 58-40.
Paladino, who used his vast wealth to far outspend Langworthy, has a long and ongoing history of bigoted outbursts. But that didn’t stop Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents the neighboring 21st District and serves as the number-three Republican in the House, from backing Paladino, a move that one unnamed House Republican griped was “baffling” and “off-putting.” The gamble, though, very much didn’t pay off for Stefanik or Paladino.
● NY-24 (R): Rep. Claudia Tenney beat back attorney Mario Fratto by an underwhelming 54-40, though she should have no trouble in the general for a 57-40 Trump seat in the Finger Lakes region. Tenney had the support of Trump as well as a huge financial lead over Fratto, but she currently represents a mere 6% of this revamped district.
● MO-Sen: Independent John Wood announced Tuesday he was dropping out of the general election, a move that came after a super PAC affiliated with former GOP Sen. John Danforth spent $3.6 million on his behalf.
Wood sent out an email to his supporters saying he'd decided to run at a time when disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens was a serious contender for the Republican nomination, saying, "That would have been unacceptable, embarrassing, and dangerous for my party, my state, and my Country." Greitens, though, lost the Aug. 2 GOP primary to Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Wood acknowledged, "It has become evident that there is not a realistic path to victory for me as an independent candidate."
● NH-Sen: State Senate President Chuck Morse has earned the backing of the NRA ahead of the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan. The organization, as we've written before, has dramatically diminished in recent years and it rarely spends much in primaries, but its stamp of approval can still give Republican office seekers a boost with conservatives.
● NV-Sen: Adam Laxalt is using his coordinated buy with the NRSC to air his very first TV spot since the mid-June primary, and he's far from the only Senate Republican candidate to only return to the airwaves months after winning the nomination. Pennsylvania's Mehmet Oz began running commercials in late July, while North Carolina's Ted Budd and Ohio's J.D. Vance, who also cleared their primaries in May, went up with general election spots this month; all three of these inaugural ads were also joint buys with the NRSC.
This Laxalt spot, reports NBC, has only $95,000 behind it, though that's still more than than the $65,000 he'd spent through Monday on general election digital and radio ads. Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, by contrast, has dropped $6.5 million on advertising, while Democratic outside groups have outspent their GOP counterparts by a smaller $12.1 million to $10.9 million margin here.
Laxalt's commercial comes days after Cortez Masto portrayed the Republican as a spoiled outsider in a spot of her own that emulated the TV show "Succession." Laxalt tries to get his own narrative about his life across by telling the audience, "I was raised by a single mom with no college education. And as a kid, I didn't know who my father was." (His late father was New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, who was married to another woman when Laxalt was conceived and had little presence in his life.) The candidate's wife also declares, "Everything he had to overcome helped make him a good man."
● MS-Gov: Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who is one of the most prominent Democrats in this dark red state, didn't rule anything out when Mississippi Today asked about his interest in challenging Republican Gov. Tate Reeves next year. Presley, who is also up for re-election in 2023, instead talked about his current role, saying, "I am concentrating on trying to get internet to every household in the state, trying to keep utility rates affordable during this time of high inflation."
The DCCC's spot attacks former Homeland Security official Paul Junge, the Republican nominee in Michigan's 8th Congressional District, on the number one issue of the midterms: abortion. The commercial, however, avoids the word. Instead, a series of female narrators castigates Junge: "I thought I'd always have the right to make my own health care decisions," the voiceover says. "But if Paul Junge gets his way … I won't." Saying that Junge opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest, the narration continues, "I couldn't imagine a pregnancy forced on me after something horrible like that. But thanks to Paul Junge, I have to."
Junge is challenging five-term Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, who saw his district in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas take on some new turf and grow a bit redder in redistricting. It also changed numbers: Biden won Kildee's old 5th by a 51-47 margin, but the redrawn 8th would have backed the president just 50-48. This part of the state has also moved sharply to the right on the presidential level over the last decade—in 2012, Barack Obama won the 5th District by more than 20 points—which is why it's a prime target for Republicans this year.
Democrats know this as well, which is why they're stepping in to aid Kildee. We don't yet know how much the DCCC is spending in this initial foray, but we will soon: Any group that makes an independent expenditure on behalf of a federal candidate must file a report with the FEC detailing its spending within 48 hours—and from Oct. 20 onward, within 24 hours. Those filings are all made available on the FEC's website.
That site will get plenty of clicks, because from here on out, we can expect hundreds of millions of dollars more in independent expenditures on House races, from official party organizations like the DCCC and NRCC, massive super PACs like the Democrats' House Majority PAC and the GOP's Congressional Leadership Fund, and a whole bevy of groups large and small. But with the parties themselves now going up on TV, we can consider this the beginning of the end of the midterms.
● TN-05: Democratic state Sen. Heidi Campbell has publicized an internal from FrederickPolls that gives her a 51-48 lead over her Republican rival, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, in a newly-gerrymandered constituency that Democrats are very pessimistic about holding. Democratic incumbent Jim Cooper decided to retire here after the GOP legislature transmuted his seat from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency by cracking the city of Nashville, and no major outside groups on either side have reserved any ad time here.
● Los Angeles County, CA Sheriff: UC Berkeley, polling for the Los Angeles Times, finds former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna leading conservative Sheriff Alex Villanueva 31-27 in the November nonpartisan primary to serve as the top lawman for America's most populous county. This is the first survey we've seen since early June, when Villanueva outpaced Luna 31-26.
Villanueva made history in 2018 when he became the first Democrat to hold this office in 138 years, but while he still identifies as "a Democrat of the party of JFK and FDR," he's established a very different image in office. Villanueva instead has become a Fox News regular who, among many other things, has raged against the "woke left." The sheriff's department also has been at the center of numerous scandals, including allegations that deputies have organized themselves into violent gangs.
Luna, for his part, changed his voter registration from Republican to no party preference in 2018 before becoming a Democrat two years later. The county Democratic Party has endorsed the former Long Beach police chief for the general election after declining to back anyone for the first round, and all five members of the Board of Supervisors are also in his corner; Luna also has the endorsement of Eric Strong, a progressive who took third with 16%. The challenger has faulted the incumbent for having "mismanaged" the department and argued that he'll "modernize" it.
Despite his second-place showing, however, UC Berkeley finds that Luna is a blank slate to most voters. Respondents give Luna a 31-11 favorable rating, but a 59% majority says they don't have an opinion of the challenger. Villanueva, by contrast, is underwater with a 30-39 score, though 31% still weren't sure how they feel about him.
- GA-Sen: One Nation - anti-Raphael Warnock (D-inc)
- NV-Sen: One Nation - anti-Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc)
- OH-Sen: One Nation - anti-Tim Ryan (D)
- PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D)
- WA-Sen: Patty Murray (D-inc) - anti-Tiffany Smiley (R)
- WI-Sen: One Nation - pro-Ron Johnson (R-inc)
- FL-Gov: Ron DeSantis (R-inc)
- NM-Gov: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-inc)
- RI-Gov: Dan McKee (D-inc)
- IA-01: Christina Bohannan (D)
- IA-02: Liz Mathis (D)
- IA-03: Zach Nunn (R)
- MT-01: Monica Tranel (D)