Morning Digest: Trump makes new Arizona endorsement in bid to install election deniers in key posts

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

Leading Off

AZ-AG: Donald Trump's Big Lie slate in Arizona expanded on Thursday when he endorsed former prosecutor Abe Hamadeh in the six-way August primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking the GOP nod for U.S. Senate. The attorney general, governor, and secretary of state are the three offices involved in certifying election results in the Grand Canyon State, and as we'll discuss, Trump is also supporting candidates for those two other open seats who also deny that Joe Biden won in 2020.

Hamadeh, for his part, also told the Arizona Republic last month that he didn't believe Biden had carried the state. "No, the 2020 election was rotten, rigged, and corrupt," he insisted, continuing, "Never again will we sit by as the media, activist judges, and big tech openly work to rob a sitting president of an election." The candidate added, "As AG I will prosecute the election fraud of 2020 and secure the 2024 election so when Donald Trump runs and wins again in 2024, everyone will know it's legitimate." In a separate appearance with a local tea party group, Hamadeh argued, "I think we need to get tough on crime. Don't be picking on the little guy—but get tough on serious crime and not go after Kyle Rittenhouse."

While Trump has suffered some major losses in recent primaries, his support for Hamadeh could nonetheless give him a lift in a crowded contest that has lacked an obvious frontrunner. Hamadeh's intra-party foes are Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran; Rodney Glassman, a former Democrat who now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar; former prosecutor Lacy Cooper; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove. The winner will go up against former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes, who has no opposition in the Democratic primary.

Trump threw his backing behind Hamadeh months after he endorsed like-minded election deniers for governor and secretary of state, and the former prosecutor very much fits right in with the rest of the bunch.

Trump's candidate to replace termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey is Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist who has called for Arizona to take the legally impossible step of decertifying its 2020 results. And in the race to succeed Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is Team Blue's frontrunner for governor, Trump is all-in for state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Biden's victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Lake and Finchem, like Hamadeh, face several opponents in their respective primaries.

The Downballot

No state regularly hosts as many hotly contested elections as Wisconsin, which is why we're talking to state Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler about all of this year's key races on this week's episode of The Downballot. He tells us about everything his organization does to ensure year-round investment in Democratic infrastructure; details the state of play in the battle to defeat Sen. Ron Johnson and re-elect Gov. Tony Evers; and previews a critical race for the state Supreme Court next year that could flip control from conservatives to progressives.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap several recent elections, including Sarah Palin's first-place finish in the special primary for Alaska's lone House seat, the defeat of a pro-impeachment Republican congressman in South Carolina, and a special election where the GOP picked up a Democratic-held House seat in heavily Latino south Texas.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: East Carolina University is out with the first general election polls of Georgia's marquee races since the primary three weeks ago, finding Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker tied 46-46 while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp leads Democrat Stacey Abrams 50-45.

The Senate numbers were released hours before the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger reported that Walker, who has been on the receiving end of a seemingly never-ending string of critical stories about his past, has a 10-year-old son he'd never publicly acknowledged. Walker's team confirmed the accuracy of the report about the candidate, who said in 2020, "I want to apologize to the African American community, because the fatherless home is a major, major problem."

Sollenberger writes that Walker, who was ordered to pay child support in 2014, "sends Christmas and birthday presents, [but] he otherwise has not played an active parental role in raising his second son." Sollenberger also says that this child has never spoken to Christian Walker, the candidate's 22-year-old son who has played an active role in the Senate race.

NC-Sen: SurveyUSA, working on behalf of WRAL, gives Democrat Cheri Beasley a 44-40 edge over Republican Ted Budd in its first look at North Carolina's crucial Senate race. That's a bit different than what two other pollsters found in the days following last month's primaries: East Carolina University put Budd ahead 49-42, while the Republican posted a smaller 44-42 edge in a Cygnal survey for the conservative Civitas Institute and John Locke Foundation.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Suffolk University's new poll for USA Today shows Democrat John Fetterman leading Republican Mehmet Oz 46-37 in race for U.S. Senate, while Democrat Josh Shapiro posts a smaller 44-40 advantage over QAnon ally Doug Mastriano in the contest for governor. This is the first look we've gotten at a Fetterman-Oz matchup since December of last year, as well as the very first public survey of the gubernatorial race.

Governors

FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo endorsed Rep. Charlie Crist a week after she ended her own campaign for governor in favor of running for Congress. Taddeo was Crist's running mate when he last ran for governor in 2014 and lost narrowly to Republican Rick Scott.

LA-Gov: Former U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington, a Republican who previously served as western Louisiana's U.S. attorney, tells LA Politics' Jeremy Alford that he's considering competing in next year's all-party primary for governor. Washington would be the first Black person elected statewide since Reconstruction. Two of those 19th century officeholders, Lt. Govs. Oscar Dunn and P. B. S. Pinchback, were the first African Americans to serve as acting governor of any state, though only Pinchback is usually credited as America's first Black governor.

NV-Gov: The hard-right Club for Growth has published an early June internal from WPA Intelligence that shows Joe Lombardo, who won the GOP primary Tuesday, edging out Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak 48-47. That's quite a bit better for Lombardo than the 43-31 deficit the University of Nevada, Reno gave him last month, though as we wrote then, that huge gap was likely due to Sisolak's greater name recognition.

NY-Gov: New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul two weeks ahead of the Democratic primary, a contest where Hochul has been the favorite all year.

OR-Gov: Political consultant Bridget Barton, who took third place with 11% in last month's Republican primary, announced this week she would back independent Betsy Johnson rather than support GOP nominee Christine Drazan. Barton explained her decision by declaring that, while Johnson will "stand up to Democrats," Drazan "tends to run away from conflict." Barton also argued that Johnson has a better chance to prevent Democrat Tina Kotek, whom she called "a woman who is dangerous," from winning the governorship.

TX-Gov: Quinnipiac's first Texas poll all year shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke just 48-43, a huge change from his 52-37 advantage in December. The school notes that this shift occurred following last month's school massacre in Uvalde, which is also reflected in the fact that respondents say they trust Abbott over O'Rourke on "gun policy" by a 47-43 margin—an even bigger drop from 60-33 lead on this topic in Quinnipiac's previous survey. These newest horserace numbers are also dramatically different than the 56-37 Abbott landslide that the Democratic firm Blueprint Polling recently found.

House

FL-01: Former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo said Wednesday that he would challenge far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz, who reportedly remains under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses, in the August Republican primary, adding that he'd spend $1 million of his own money on the effort. Lombardo, who like many in this military-heavy area is a veteran, argued, "Washington is broken because of people like Matt Gaetz. If you want to change Washington, send a Marine. I'll get the job done."

Lombardo didn't hold back on explaining why he believes Republican voters in this safely red constituency should eject Gaetz. "The people of Northwest Florida need a Congressman who will put them first," the challenger said in a statement that continued, "Matt Gaetz is a professional politician who has dishonored his constituents with unnecessary drama, childish gimmicks, and is reportedly entangled in a federal investigation for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old girl to the Bahamas." He added, "Displaying the highest level of arrogance imaginable, he hired pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's attorneys and used the money from his hard-working America-first donors to pay the bill."

FL-04: State Rep. Jason Fischer announced Tuesday that he was leaving the Republican primary for the 4th District and returning to the 2023 contest Duval County property appraiser, an office he'd been seeking before the new GOP gerrymander created an open seat in the Jacksonville area. Fischer quickly earned an endorsement for his resurrected campaign for appraiser from Gov. Ron DeSantis; Politico's Matt Dixon suggests that the governor had been instrumental in pressuring Fischer to get out of the House race in order to help another contender, state Sen. Aaron Bean. DeSantis, however, has not yet publicly taken sides in the race for the 4th.

FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna has released an internal from Spry Strategies giving her a 36-16 edge over attorney Kevin Hayslett in the August GOP primary for this Democratic-held open seat.

GA-10: We have less than a week to go before the Republican runoff for this safely red seat in northeastern Georgia and, even by 2022 standards, it's a truly nasty contest.

Businessman Mike Collins recently sent out mailers describing former state Rep. Vernon Jones, the Trump-backed former Democrat who would be the first Black Republican to represent Georgia in the House since Reconstruction, as a "RADICALLY ANTI-WHITE RACIST." Collins has also continued to attack Jones, who never represented any part of the 10th District in previous elective posts he's held, as an interloper and a phony. Jones, for his part, has run commercials depicting his rival, whose late father ​did ​previously represent the area, as a little boy whose only rationale for running is, "My daddy was in Congress."

Things escalated even further this week when Collins sent out a tweet that featured a picture of a rape whistle emblazoned with the web address for an anti-Jones site, an item that references an accusation of rape leveled against Jones in 2004​ (he was never charged), alongside an image of a gun. "Although some use a rape whistle for protection against sexual assault, a 9mm is the more preferred form of protection," wrote Collins. Jones in response filed a report with police in Morgan County arguing that his rival was encouraging "violence against me." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, "Authorities say they will not investigate."

Collins outpaced Jones 26-22 in the first round of voting last month, and we've seen no polls since then.

IL-03: Politico's Shia Kapos reports that VoteVets, which is supporting Chicago Alderman Gil Villegas in the June 28 Democratic primary, is spending $430,000 on a new ad that opens with the sound of gunfire before the narrator accuses state Rep. Delia Ramirez of wanting to "defund the Chicago Police Department immediately."

Kapos explains that this line of attack is based on a 2020 letter Ramirez signed accusing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot of using the force "to beat, arrest, and terrorize the demonstrators and journalists gathered in Grant Park tonight." That missive concluded, "We are ready to work to defund the Chicago Police Department immediately, and we call on our colleagues of conscience to join us." Ramirez this April said, "I'm not the 'Defund the police' candidate. I actually helped secure $200 million for violence prevention and pension benefits for police and firefighters."

MO-04: The influential Missouri Farm Bureau has endorsed cattle farmer Kalena Bruce in the August Republican nomination contest, which the Missouri Times says makes this the first time the group has ever taken sides in a primary for an open House seat. The move comes a week after Gov. Mike Parson also threw his backing behind Bruce.

WY-AL: The Club for Growth announced this week that it was backing attorney Harriet Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney in the August GOP primary and had launched a $300,000 ad campaign to support the challenger. The commercial reminds viewers that Donald Trump, whose relationship with the Club has soured in recent months, is supporting Hageman, and it features footage of Trump praising her as "a true champion for the people of this state."

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Maine:

ME-SD-07: Democratic state Rep. Nicole Grohoski held this Ellsworth-based seat for her party by defeating former GOP state Sen. Brian Langley 64-35 in a closely watched race, a margin that exceeded Joe Biden's 57-40 performance here. Democrats return to a 22-13 majority in the chamber ahead of Grohoski and Langley's rematch in November.

Election Recaps

SC-Gov: Former Rep. Joe Cunningham defeated state Sen. Mia McLeod 57-31 to win the Democratic nomination to take on Republican incumbent Henry McMaster. The governor will be the favorite in a state where Team Blue last won a statewide race in 2006.

ME-02: Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin will get his rematch with Democratic incumbent Jared Golden, but Poliquin's 60-40 win in the Republican primary against Liz Caruso, an underfunded member of the Board of Selectman for the tiny community of Caratunk, was surprisingly underwhelming for such a well-known politician.

It's possible that a significant number of Republicans are just tired of Poliquin, who lost re-election to Golden in a tight 2018 contest whose outcome he still refuses to recognize, but Caruso also had some important connections. Most notably, she was the spokesperson for the high-profile 2021 ballot initiative that succeeded in blocking the Central Maine Power hydropower corridor project. Caruso also spent the evening before the primary on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show; Carlson, notes the Bangor Daily News, is a part-time Maine resident and a fellow corridor foe.

NV-01: The Associated Press has called the Republican primary for Army veteran Mark Robertson, who defeated conservative activist David Brog 30-17. Robertson will now go up against Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in an eastern Las Vegas area where legislative Democrats—much to the frustration of the congresswoman—slashed Biden's margin from 61-36 to 53-45 in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer.

NV-04: The AP has also called the GOP primary for Air Force veteran Sam Peters, who beat Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41 in this constituency in the northern Las Vegas area. Peters lost the 2020 GOP primary to former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, a fellow Big Lie enthusiast who is now the party's nominee for secretary of state, but he'll now get his chance to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a redrawn seat that would have supported Biden 53-45.

SC-04: While sophomore Rep. William Timmons secured renomination in his safely red Greenville-area constituency, his 53-24 GOP primary victory over unheralded far-right foe Mark Burns left him surprisingly close to being forced into a runoff. (Burns took just 2% here when this seat, which barely changed following redistricting, was last open in 2018.) Timmons, unlike many other vulnerable Republican House members, had Trump's endorsement, and he doesn't appear to have taken any votes that would alienate a significant portion of the base.

However, the Greenville News notes that the congressman's opponents argued he was absent from his job. Timmons pushed back by citing his duties as a JAG officer in the South Carolina Air National Guard, but that explanation seems to have left a sizable minority of primary voters cold.  

NV-AG, NV-SoS: Two Big Lie promoters won their respective primaries for two crucial downballot offices in Nevada, attorney general and secretary of state. Attorney Sigal Chattah outpaced Tisha Black, who founded a cannabis industry trade group, 51-40 for the right to take on Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford, while in the race to succeed termed-out GOP Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant beat out developer Jesse Haw 38-20. Marchant will go up against former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar, who had no Democratic opposition.

Chattah has sued to undermine the state's pandemic response measures and has complained that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations. Team Blue very much wanted her as Ford's opponent, though, as a Democratic group ran radio ads slamming Black over her 2015 donation to now-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak while calling Chattah a "MAGA conservative." (Unlike similar efforts by Democrats elsewhere seeking to choose their opponents, these ads didn't merely "attack" Chattah in a backhanded way but openly called for her election.)

Marchant has been an even more full-throated Big Lie enthusiast, as the QAnon ally has insisted he would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 victory. Marchant also said on the campaign trail, "Your vote hasn't counted for decades. You haven't elected anybody," an amusing claim that makes you wonder how he himself was elected to the legislature.

During the race, he attracted notoriety by allying with conspiracist candidates in other states running to become chief election officials. Marchant was last on the ballot in 2020 when he was Team Red's nominee against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford last cycle in the 4th District, and he characteristically responded to his 51-46 defeat by baselessly claiming he was the "victim of election fraud" and unsuccessfully sued to overturn the results.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who unexpectedly decided not to seek re-election last year, has joined the Biden administration as a senior adviser and head of the White House Office of Public Engagement. The latter post was previously headed by Cedric Richmond, a former Louisiana congressman who left the White House in April.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Primary season marches on with another big night across the South

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

Primary Night: You Kemp Lose If You Don't Play: We have another big primary night in store on Tuesday as voters in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia head to the polls. That's not all, though, as Texas is holding runoffs for races where no one earned a majority of the vote in the March 1 primary. On top of that, both Democrats and Republicans in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District will pick nominees for an Aug. 9 special election to succeed Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February. And as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.  

Perhaps the biggest race on the calendar is the Democratic runoff for Texas' 28th Congressional District where Henry Cuellar, who is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House, is trying to fend off progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros. The Lone Star State is also hosting the GOP runoff for attorney general between incumbent Ken Paxton, who has spent almost seven years under indictment with no trial date in sight, and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Meanwhile, although Donald Trump's efforts to torpedo Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp seems to be about to spectacularly flame out, he may have more success going after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, two other statewide Republicans who declined to enable the Big Lie. Over in the 7th District in the Atlanta area, we have an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath, though this one may need to be resolved in a runoff. There's plenty more to watch in all five states, and you can find more in our preview.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections when polls close in Georgia. 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 for primaries in all 50 states.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has conducted a poll testing hypothetical general election matchups in Arizona that finds Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly with double-digit leads over three of his prospective Republican foes; there's no word as to who, if anyone, is their client. Kelly beats businessman Jim Lamon 48-34, outpaces state Attorney General Mark Brnovich 50-33, and prevails 49-32 over former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters. These numbers are the best we've seen for Kelly by anyone this cycle, though few pollsters have released surveys here so far.

NC-Sen: The Democratic-affiliated Senate Majority PAC has launched a new TV ad supporting former Democratic state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley as part of a $1.4 million buy over the next three weeks, which is notable after SMP previously omitted North Carolina when it revealed its fall ad reservations back in April. The ad hits back against unmentioned GOP attacks by trying to portray Beasley as tough-on-crime and noting that she even applied the death penalty in a case where a man killed a child.

Meanwhile, a new East Carolina University poll finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd holding a 47-39 lead over Beasley after the two won their respective parties' primaries last week.

OH-Sen: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has debuted his first ad following his primary win earlier this month, and it continues his focus on bringing well-paying blue collar jobs to Ohio. The spot attacks GOP nominee J.D. Vance over a past statement where he said we may have to just accept that "a 55-year-old worker in Dayton, Ohio who spent his entire life in manufacturing ... may not be able to find a good paying job for the rest of his working life."

UT-Sen: A new Dan Jones & Associates poll of the June 28 Republican primary on behalf of the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics shows GOP Sen. Mike Lee ahead by 49-19 over former state Rep. Becky Edwards, while businesswoman Ally Isom takes just 6%. Both Edwards and Isom are challenging the incumbent for being too extreme.

Governors

GA-Gov, GA-Sen, GA-AG, GA-SoS: The GOP firm Landmark Communications has conducted its final poll ahead of Tuesday's Republican primaries, and there was no indication who, if anyone, was their client. The survey finds Gov. Brian Kemp poised for a 60-30 blowout win over former Sen. David Perdue, while former NFL star Herschel Walker sports an even larger 60-12 edge over banking executive Latham Saddler in the Senate race.

Further downballot in the primary for attorney general, incumbent Chris Carr is ahead by 49-24 over Big Lie proponent John Gordon, while the secretary of state's race sees incumbent Brad Raffensperger trailing by 39-38 against Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump's endorsement and is also campaigning on the Big Lie. However, with 9% going to former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and 2% to another candidate, Hice's lead isn't large enough to avoid a June 21 runoff.

MA-Gov: Massachusetts Republicans held their state party convention on Saturday, and former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who has Trump's backing and lost by a wide margin as the GOP's 2018 Senate nominee, won the party endorsement 71-29 over businessman Chris Doughty, who has pitched himself as a moderate. Diehl will still have to face off with Doughty in the September primary, however, because Doughty cleared the 15% threshold needed to advance to the primary ballot.

MI-Gov: Billionaire Dick DeVos has announced that he and his family are endorsing conservative radio host Tudor Dixon and that they intend "to provide support for her financially" in the GOP primary for governor this August. The DeVos family is very well connected in state GOP politics, with Dick DeVos having been the 2006 nominee for governor; his wife Betsy DeVos served as education secretary in the Trump administration and previously chaired the state party. The Detroit News noted that the DeVos family was Michigan's top donor in the 2018 election, having given more than $11 million that cycle according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network nonprofit.

Dixon faces a crowded August primary where former Detroit Police Chief James has appeared to be the frontrunner since last summer. There have been signs in recent months that Craig's lead is vulnerable, and Dixon had previously won endorsements from Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain, along with praise from Trump that stopped just short of an endorsement, but that support has so far failed to translate to the polls. The only recent poll we have here from a reliable firm was a Glengariff Group survey that gave Craig a 23-8 lead over chiropractor Garrett Soldano, while Dixon took just 2%. However, with only 17% of Republicans in that poll having heard of her, Dixon's support may increase if she can effectively get her message out.

NM-Gov: A new Research & Polling Inc. survey of the June 7 GOP primary for the Albuquerque Journal finds former TV meteorologist and 2020 Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti leading by 45-17 over state Rep. Rebecca Dow, with retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti taking 9% and Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block earning 8%. Marchetti's advantage in this latest poll is similar to a SurveyUSA poll from earlier this month that showed him up 44-12 over Block while Zanetti and Dow were close behind in third and fourth, respectively.

PA-Gov: Put Pennsylvania First, a PAC supported by the Democratic Governors Association, Planned Parenthood, and other Democratic-affiliated groups, has announced it is putting $6 million behind a campaign that includes $3 million for TV ads and $1 million for digital ads, with the rest going to voter outreach. The TV spot warns how the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and attacks newly minted GOP nominee Doug Mastriano for supporting a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.

WI-Gov: Republicans at the state GOP convention on Saturday opted not to endorse a candidate after former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch won the support of just 55% of delegates, which was shy of the 60% needed to earn the state party's backing. While party endorsement conventions in Wisconsin only began in the 2010 cycle and aren't nearly as important as in neighboring Minnesota, where rivals of endorsed candidates will often drop out instead of fight on to the primary, the Associated Press noted that winning the Wisconsin GOP's endorsement would have allowed the party to spend as much as it wanted on the victor.

House

CA-40: Physician Asif Mahmood is the latest in a string of Democrats this year who are trying to pick their opponents, but in a bit of a twist, he's also trying to prevent an incumbent from reaching the general election.

Mahmood is airing a new ad that calls out Republican Greg Raths for his hostility to abortion rights, calling him "too right-wing for Orange County"—exactly the kind of message that would excite conservative voters, of course, and one aimed at boosting Raths past Rep. Young Kim in next month's top-two primary. Kim also opposes abortion rights but Mahmood would unquestionably rather face the more vocally MAGA-fied Raths in November.

For Mahmood to be successful, Kim would have to come in third in the primary, a fate that's never befallen an incumbent in the decade since California adopted its current top-two system. However, Kim's incumbency is as thin as it gets: Thanks to redistricting, she represents just 20% of the redrawn 40th District. Raths, meanwhile, ran against Rep. Katie Porter last cycle in the old 45th District, which makes up almost two-thirds of the new 40th, though he lost 53-47.

IL-06: A new internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang for Rep. Sean Casten finds the congressman leading his rival in next month's primary, fellow Rep. Marie Newman, by a 36-27 margin, with 2% going to perennial candidate Charles Hughes and, presumably, 35% undecided. GHY's memo also says that "the race was even" when it last polled in January, though actual toplines for that older survey are not included. The only other poll of the contest was a Newman internal from February that had the two incumbents tied at 37 apiece.

MO-07: Former state Sen. Jay Wasson has released a new poll of the Aug. 2 Republican primary for Missouri's open 7th District, conducted by American Viewpoint, that shows him leading state Sen. Mike Moon 21-17, with state Sen. Eric Burlison at 15 and all other candidates in single digits; 31% were undecided. We've seen just one other survey here, from Republican pollster Remington Research on behalf of the tipsheet Missouri Scout all the way back in January, that had Burlison leading Moon 21-12, with Wasson at 9.

NY-10: New York's radically reconfigured 10th District in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn has already attracted a trio of prominent Democratic contenders, but a whole bunch more are considering the race for this newly open and safely blue seat. The potential candidates who've publicly stated their interest include:

  • state Sen. Simcha Felder, who spent many years caucusing with Republicans
  • former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who represented a different part of Brooklyn in the 1970s and is now 80 years old
  • Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon
  • attorney Dawn Smalls, who took 4% in the 2019 special election for New York City public advocate

Several others are reportedly interested:

  • attorney Daniel Goldman, who was chief Democratic counsel for Donald Trump's first impeachment
  • City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who filed paperwork with the FEC
  • former City Comptroller Scott Stringer, though he's reportedly planning to seek an open state Senate seat in Manhattan
  • former City Councilman David Yassky, according to Councilwoman Gale Brewer

Already running are former Mayor Bill de Blasio, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, and Hudson Valley Rep. Mondaire Jones. Assemblyman Robert Carroll, however, is a no. The 10th District is open because the state's new court-drawn map moved Rep. Jerry Nadler's Upper West Side base into the 12th District, where he'll face off against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary.

NY-12: Attorney Suraj Patel, who was waging a third straight primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney after coming up just shy in 2020, says he's continuing his campaign despite the fact that he'll now be going up against Rep. Jerry Nadler, too. Another candidate who'd been taking on Maloney, community organizer Rana Abdelhamid, does not appear to have commented on her plans since the state's new court-drawn map was adopted over the weekend.

NY-17, NY-03: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who'd been running for New York's open 3rd Congressional District, announced on Monday that she would instead challenge DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney in the 17th.

Biaggi, who represents a slice of Westchester and the Bronx in the legislature, was originally drawn into the 3rd District in the map she and her colleagues passed in February. However, the new court-imposed boundaries returned the 3rd to an all-Long Island configuration similar to the way it had looked for the previous decade. That left Biaggi well outside the new 3rd, facing off against a squadron of Long Island natives across the sound.

However, Biaggi doesn't have any obvious ties to the 17th District, either. She lives in the Westchester town of Pelham on the Bronx border, and even the northernmost tip of her Senate district is still well south of the 17th, which includes northern Westchester, all of Rockland and Putnam counties, and the southern reaches of Dutchess County.

But Maloney's been roundly lambasted, including by several House colleagues, for his own debatable connections to the 17th. Maloney immediately announced after the court-appointed special master published a draft map last week that he'd abandon the 18th to instead run one district to the south, despite representing just a quarter of the 17th and 71% of the 18th. He justified the decision by arguing his home is in the 17th, but in switching districts, he not only left the 18th more vulnerable, he forced fellow Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones out of the 17th, even though he represented 73% of the district. (Jones is instead seeking an open seat in New York City.)

Biaggi specifically cited Maloney's move in explaining her decision to run, saying, "What hurt the party was having the head of the campaign arm not stay in his district, not maximize the number of seats New York can have to hold the majority." She also has experience defeating well-funded senior party leaders: In 2018, she unseated powerful state Sen. Jeff Klein, who for years had allowed Republicans to maintain control of the Senate through an alliance with his caucus of renegade Democrats known as the IDC, or Independent Democratic Conference. Biaggi now has three months to find out whether she can play the role of political giant-slayer once more.

NY-18: Shortly after draft maps were released last week, Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis said that he was considering a bid for New York's 18th District, which is open because of the DCCC's Sean Patrick Maloney's selfish decision to seek the 17th instead. However, Skoufis hasn't said anything since the map was finalized.

NY-19 (special): Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Monday that Rep. Antonio Delgado would be sworn in as her new lieutenant governor on Wednesday, allowing her to consolidate the special election for Delgado's House seat with the Aug. 23 primary for U.S. House and state Senate races. A new state law says that the governor has 10 days after a congressional vacancy to schedule a special election, which must take place 70 to 80 days thereafter. That gives Hochul a maximum window of 90 days, which is why Delgado has delayed his departure from Congress, even though his appointment was announced several weeks ago.

NY-23 (special): Democratic county chairs in New York's 23rd Congressional District have selected Air Force veteran Max Della Pia to run in the upcoming special election to replace former GOP Rep. Tom Reed. Republicans have yet to pick their nominee for the special, which will take place under the old district lines. Della Pia, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, says he will also run in November for the new 23rd District. The old district voted for Donald Trump 55-43; the new version would have backed him 58-40.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has yet to schedule the special, though it will likely be consolidated with the Aug. 23 primary for U.S. House and state Senate races. But while Reed announced that he would resign effective immediately on May 10, state officials say they have yet to receive a letter from the congressman informing them of a vacancy. Reed may be delaying transmission of such a letter for the same reason Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado has likewise not yet vacated his seat—see our NY-19 item just above. It's less clear, however, why Reed might wish to make election administration easier for Hochul, a Democrat, though he has sometimes dissented from GOP orthodoxy.

OR-06: We now know how much it costs to bend a top Democratic super PAC to your will: $5 million.

As we learned late on Friday night, cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried donated $6 million to the House Majority PAC on April 4, just days before HMP began spending $1 million to boost first-time candidate Carrick Flynn in the Democratic primary for Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District.

The move infuriated countless Democrats, who demanded to know why HMP, which had never before involved itself in a primary like this in its decade-long existence, had chosen this race to break with past practice. It particularly enraged the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which was backing state Rep. Andrea Salinas and had given the PAC more than $6 million since 2012 in order to defeat Republicans, not fellow Democrats.

The group's only explanation was transparent bullshit: "House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022," a spokesperson said, "and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal." No one believed that, prompting widespread speculation, as a campaign manager for a rival campaign put it, "that promises have been made."

HMP's financial report for the month of April, however, was not due at the FEC until May 20—three days after the primary. That's why we're only now finding out exactly what that promise appears to have been.

Bankman-Fried himself spent far more heavily on Flynn through his own super PAC, Protect Our Future, which ultimately shelled out an astonishing $11.4 million directly—some of which even went to attack Salinas—as well as nearly a million dollars more indirectly. Bankman-Fried's interest in Flynn was never clear, however. Supporters claimed that Bankman-Fried was drawn to Flynn because of a shared interest in pandemic preparedness, but Bankman-Fried was publicly silent about the race until just days prior to the election, and Flynn didn't campaign on the issue.

(Flynn had denied knowing Bankman-Fried, but his wife had once worked at the same organization as his benefactor, and Flynn acknowledged he was friends with Bankman-Fried's brother, Gabriel, who's heavily involved in the family's political giving. Campaigns and super PACs, by law, are not allowed to coordinate their activities.)

What's even less clear is why Bankman-Fried would bother making his arrangement with House Majority PAC in the first place. Given his apparently limitless resources, he could have easily sent another million bucks to Protect Our Future had he wanted to. Instead, he spent six times that amount to net just a $1 million boost for his preferred candidate. You don't need to be a titan of finance to know how appalling that rate of return is, unless your actual aim is to prove you can make a major arm of the Democratic Party do your bidding.

In the short term, at least, Bankman-Fried's efforts on behalf of Flynn—and HMP's decision to sell out on his behalf—were a debacle. Salinas doubled up Flynn, winning the nomination 36-18, and Flynn's final cost-per-vote will likely exceed $1,000—another terrible return on investment. HMP will also have some serious relationship-mending to do, especially with the CHC.

But even though Bankman-Fried failed to buy a congressional election, he was able to buy the most important super PAC devoted to winning House races for Democrats. For a system already awash in dark money, it's a dark sign for the future.

PA-12: On Friday evening, the Associated Press called the extremely close Democratic primary in Pennsylvania's open 12th District for state Rep. Summer Lee, who defeated Steve Irwin, a former head of the state Securities Commission, by a 41.8 to 41.1 margin. Lee, who presented herself as the more progressive option, would be the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress. Lee will be the heavy favorite in this Pittsburgh-based district, which would have voted for Joe Biden 59-40, against Plum Borough Councilman Mike Doyle, a Republican who happens to share the same name as the retiring Democratic incumbent.

VA-10: Navy veteran Hung Cao won the GOP nomination for Virginia's 10th Congressional District in a major upset on Saturday, defeating the better-known and better-funded Jeanine Lawson, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, by a 52-34 margin in the seventh and final round of an instant runoff. Rather than rely on a traditional state-run primary, Republicans used a party-run "firehouse primary" that saw a total turnout of about 15,000 voters. By contrast, the last contested primary in this district in a midterm year saw 53,000 people turn out to vote in the Democratic nominating contest in 2018, which then-state Sen. Jennifer Wexton won easily.

Wexton went on to oust Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock by a wide 56-44 margin that November in a northern Virginia district that's rapidly moved to the left in recent years and won re-election by a similar spread. Under the new lines, the 10th would have voted for Joe Biden 58-40, according to Dave's Redistricting App, which is very similar to the president's performance in the previous version of this seat. However, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin lost the 10th just 52-47 in his successful bid for governor last year, per OurCampaigns.

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Morning Digest: In primary delayed by chaos, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood party dumps governor

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

PR-Gov: Puerto Rico's gubernatorial primaries finally came to an end on Sunday, and former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi ousted Gov. Wanda Vázquez 58-42 to win the nomination of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Vázquez did not endorse Pierluisi, declaring instead, "I say to Pedro Pierluisi, that it is the thousands and thousands of people who supported me, and gave me their vote ... it is those people whose endorsement he should be seeking." Pierluisi, for his part, said that statehood would be one of his top goals if elected.

Meanwhile, Isabela Mayor Carlos Delgado decisively won the contest to lead the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party by defeating Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia 63-24. Pierluisi and Delgado will face off in the November general election for a four-year term along with Alexandra Lúgaro of the Citizens' Victory Movement, a party that NPR describes as "promoting anti-colonialism and a constitutional assembly to make a final decision on Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States."

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The primary was originally set for June, but Vázquez signed legislation postponing it to Aug. 9 because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, ballots arrived late, or did not arrive at all, at a majority of voting centers that day, and the commonwealth's major political parties postponed voting a week. On Thursday, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that voting would take place on Sunday in any precinct that was not open for the legally required eight hours last week.

The second round of voting mostly proceeded as planned, but not everyone who wanted to vote ended up being able to cast a ballot. Many people left closed polling places on Aug. 9 only to eventually learn that their precinct had opened later in the day for the prescribed eight hours, but that it was now too late for them to vote.

Pierluisi, who represented Puerto Rico in the U.S. House as a non-voting member from 2009 to 2017, briefly served as governor last year under some very unusual circumstances. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who had narrowly defeated Pierluisi in the 2016 primary, was badly damaged after a series of online chats between the governor and his allies leaked in which participants lobbed violent, misogynist, and homophobic insults at their enemies and joked about Puerto Ricans who died during Hurricane Maria. Mass protests soon broke out calling for Rosselló to quit, and the legislature began laying the groundwork to impeach him.

After two weeks of protests, Rosselló announced on July 24 that he would resign nine days hence, but it was unclear who would succeed him. Normally the commonwealth's secretary of state would take over, but Luis Rivera Marin had previously resigned from that very post because of his own role in the chat scandal. Vázquez, who was justice minister, was next in the line of succession, but she said on July 28―less than a week before Rosselló's Aug. 2 departure―that she hoped that Rosselló would pick a new secretary of state, and that this new person would be governor instead of her.

Rosselló tried to do just that, and he announced on July 31 that he was appointing his old rival Pierluisi. However, the commonwealth's constitution requires the secretary of state to be confirmed by both Puerto Rico's House and Senate, but Pierluisi was sworn into that job that very evening before any legislators had a chance to vote.

The House gave Pierluisi an affirmative vote on Aug. 2 about an hour before Rosselló's departure took effect, but the Senate postponed their own hearings until the following week. However, that didn't stop Pierluisi from being sworn in as governor right after Rosselló left office. Pierluisi cited a 2005 law that said that the secretary of state didn't need to have received legislative confirmation from both chambers if they need to take over as governor to make his case that he was indeed Puerto Rico's legitimate leader.

However, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that this provision was unconstitutional days later in the decision that ousted Pierluisi from the governor's office and put Vázquez in charge. While Vázquez said she hadn't wanted to be governor, she soon quashed speculation that she would only stay long enough to appoint a new secretary of state who would then take over as the commonwealth's leader, and she announced in December that she'd seek a full term.

Pierluisi argued during his campaign that Vázquez wasn't fixing mistakes made by her administration during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the special independent prosecutor's office announced that it had launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Vázquez and her administration had mismanaged emergency supplies after Puerto Rico was struck by earthquakes in January.

Primary Preview

Primary Night: The One Where Ross Tries Not To Get Fired: Primaries are concluding on Tuesday in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming for congressional and state offices, and as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the GOP primary for Florida's 15th District, where freshman Republican Rep. Ross Spano, who is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, faces a serious intra-party threat from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. We'll also be watching the GOP primaries for the open 3rd and 19th Districts, as well as the contest to face Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in the 13th District.

And the action isn't confined to the Lower 48. In Alaska, national Republicans are spending to deny renomination to members of the Democratic-led cross-partisan coalition that runs the state House. Check out our preview for more on these contests.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET Tuesday night at Daily Kos Elections when the polls close in most of Florida. 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 cycle's remaining down-ballot primaries, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.

Senate

CO-Sen: Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has long had a dismal record on climate issues, is continuing to pitch himself as a supporter of the environment in his advertising campaign. Gardner's newest commercial features two conservationists praising him for securing "permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund."

GA-Sen-A, IA-Sen, MT-Sen: The Democratic group Duty and Honor is out with ads against three Republican incumbents:  Georgia's David Perdue, Iowa's Joni Ernst, and Montana's Steve Daines.

While Perdue has been running spots claiming he wants to cover pre-existing conditions, Duty and Honor takes him to task for trying to take those protections away. The Iowa commercial, meanwhile, goes after Ernst for "calling for Iowa schools to reopen, trying to score political points instead of prioritizing our kids' health and safety."

Finally, the Montana ad argues that Daines voted to give drug companies huge tax breaks when they're causing the opioid crisis and "raised their prices so high that nearly two-in-five Montanans can't afford their prescriptions."

GA-Sen-B: Sen. Kelly Loeffler uses her newest commercial to accuse Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow Republican, of working with Democrats to undermine her. The narrator begins, "The Trump Justice Department says Kelly Loeffler did nothing wrong," a reference to how the DOJ dropped its investigation into her sale of millions in stock just before the markets tanked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ad then goes on to say that Collins "voted with Stacey Abrams in the legislature and Nancy Pelosi in Congress," though it doesn't actually mention anything that Collins saw eye-to-eye with either Democrat on. The spot later features a clip of Donald Trump praising Loeffler for being "so supportive of me and the agenda." Trump hasn't taken sides in the November all-party primary, and he's also talked up Collins.

IA-Sen: The conservative group One Nation's newest commercial declares, "As an assault survivor and military veteran herself, Sen. Joni Ernst is standing up to sexual assault in the military." It goes on to show a clip of Ernst saying, "Abuse is not something you can simply forget."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: East Carolina University has released a new survey of its home state:

  • NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 44, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 40 (June: 41-41 tie)
  • NC-Gov: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 52, Dan Forest (R): 38 (June: 49-38 Cooper)

The sample finds a 47-47 tie in the presidential race, which is a very small shift from Joe Biden's 45-44 edge in June.

TX-Sen: YouGov has released a new survey for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice University that finds Republican Sen. John Cornyn leading Democrat MJ Hegar 44-37, while Donald Trump holds a 48-41 edge in Texas. YouGov's July survey for CBS, which was taken just before Hegar won the Democratic primary runoff, had Cornyn up by a similar 44-36 margin, though Trump was ahead only 45-44.

WY-Sen: Last week, Donald Trump backed former Rep. Cynthia Lummis in Tuesday's GOP primary for this open seat. The former congresswoman has a few intra-party opponents in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi in this extremely red state, but none of them appear to be very strong.

Lummis' most notable foe is Converse County Commissioner Robert Short, a self-described "centrist Republican." Lummis outspent Short, who has self-funded almost his entire campaign, $725,000 to $255,000 from July 1 to July 29, which is the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The Republican firm Remington Research's newest poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter finds Republican incumbent Mike Parson leading Democrat Nichole Galloway 50-43, which is a small shift from Parson's 50-41 edge in June. The release did not include presidential numbers.

VT-Gov: Attorney John Klar announced Friday that he was endorsing Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who defeated him 73-22 in last week's primary, and would not run as a conservative independent in the general election.

House

MA-01: Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has released a new survey from Beacon Research that finds Rep. Richie Neal, his opponent in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, ahead by just a 46-41 margin. The poll was conducted over the weekend, after Morse accepted an apology from the Massachusetts College Democrats for the harm that followed the release of the organization's letter accusing Morse of inappropriate conduct toward students.

Meanwhile, the Justice Democrats, which said late last week that it was resuming its support for Morse, is spending another $150,000 on TV ads attacking Neal. Their newest spot says that "last year, Neal took more money from corporations than any other member of Congress—almost $2 million" while at the same time he "hasn't held a town hall in years."

MA-04: Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell is airing her first TV spot ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. Mermell, who appears to be recording the ad using her smartphone, says that voters struggling to pick between the many candidates could opt for "the one who protected abortion and birth control coverage at Planned Parenthood."

To underscore just how crowded the race is, the audience sees several other copies of Mermell gradually appear in the shot to talk about her support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal and her endorsements from "[Rep.] Ayanna Pressley, [state Attorney General] Maura Healey, Planned Parenthood, Mass Teachers, Mass Nurses, SEIU." Mermell, who by this time has three other images of herself behind her, concludes, "We approve this message because you got some good options, but one clear choice."

Meanwhile, businessman Chris Zannetos is trying to distinguish himself from his rivals by running to the center. In his new commercial, the narrator touts Zannetos as the one candidate opposed to "eliminat[ing] private health insurance." Zannetos goes on to say he backs Joe Biden's plan and says, "Let's expand Obamacare and lower the cost of prescription drugs."

MO-02: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows Democrat Jill Schupp leading Republican Rep. Ann Wagner 48-45. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 48-46 in a suburban St. Louis seat that supported Donald Trump 53-42 but has been moving to the left in recent years. This is the first survey we've seen here since February, when the GOP firm Remington Research's poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter had Wagner up 50-40.

NH-01: On Monday, former state GOP vice chair Matt Mayberry earned an endorsement in the Sept. 8 Republican primary from former Sen. John Sununu, who represented a previous version of this seat before he was elected to his one term in the Senate in 2002.

Mayberry faces a challenging battle against former White House aide Matt Mowers, who has Donald Trump's backing, for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in this swing seat. Mowers ended June with a wide $440,000 to $73,000 cash-on-hand lead over his intra-party rival, while Pappas had a far-larger $1.5 million campaign account.

NJ-07: In his opening commercial, freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski decries, "Some people just want to divide us, even over wearing a mask. It's exhausting." Malinowski goes on to call for "getting things done" instead, and continues, "I passed a bill to fix America's stockpile of critical medical equipment."

Other Races

Broward County, FL State's Attorney: Eight Democrats are competing in Tuesday's primary to succeed Mike Satz, who is retiring after 44 years as Broward County's top prosecutor, and most of the outside money has favored one candidate.

George Soros, the billionaire progressive donor who has poured millions into backing criminal justice reformers in many recent key races around the country in recent years, has been funding a group called the Florida Justice & Public Safety PAC that has raised $750,000 to support defense attorney Joe Kimok. Kimok, who had planned to challenge Satz before the incumbent decided not to seek re-election, is the one candidate who has pledged not to seek the death penalty if elected.

Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that a group known as Victims Have Rights has raised a considerably smaller $110,000 to help veteran prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy, who has Satz's endorsement. The PAC has run mailers against Kimok and another contender, Coconut Creek City Commissioner Joshua Rydell.

Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State's Attorney: State Attorney Aramis Ayala is retiring as state's attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County, and four fellow Democrats are competing in Tuesday's party primary to succeed her. No Republicans are running in the November election, and the winner will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

The Appeal's Samantha Schuyler writes that the one candidate who has pledged to keep Ayala's criminal justice reforms in place is former defense attorney Monique Worrell, and she's getting some major late support from like-minded allies.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Our Vote Our Voice, a group funded in part by a group founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, launched a $1.5 million ad campaign in the last two weeks in the contest to help Worrell. Some of the group's commercials have gone towards promoting Worrell while others have gone after attorney Belvin Perry, who served as the judge during the high-profile Casey Anthony murder trial that took place here in 2011.

The other two Democratic candidates are Deb Barra, who serves as chief assistant state attorney, and former prosecutor Ryan Williams. Ayala initially backed Barra, but the incumbent later threw her support to Worrell after she launched her own campaign.

Barra, Perry, and Williams are all arguing that Ayala's decision never to seek the death penalty has harmed the office; Williams even resigned in 2017 over this policy. This trio has pointed to Ayala's struggles against the GOP-led state government to make their case. After Ayala announced that her office would not seek the death penalty, then-Gov. Rick Scott transferred 23 first-degree murder cases to a considerably more conservative state's attorney in another jurisdiction. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott after Ayala sued over this, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to remove first-degree murder cases from her jurisdiction.

Worrell herself has said of the Republican governors' actions, "It put me on notice that the rules of the game have changed significantly … And those opposed [to criminal justice reform] will use any means necessary." However, Schuyler writes that even Worrell "is running on a platform that is significantly less assertive than Ayala's and has backed away from Ayala's death penalty position."

Election Changes

 Indiana: Republicans on the Indiana Election Commission have blocked a proposal by Democrats that would have allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot for the November general election without needing an excuse. The measure failed after the bipartisan panel deadlocked, with both Republican members voting against the plan and both Democrats voting for it. The Commission had unanimously waived the excuse requirement for the state's June primary.

Voting rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging the requirement in late April, and briefing on their request concluded at the end of last month, so a ruling may be imminent.

 Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams have reached an agreement that will permit Kentucky voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus to request an absentee ballot for the November general election.

Beshear had wanted to waive the excuse requirement altogether, as the state had done for its June primary. However, a law passed earlier this year by Kentucky's Republican-run legislature required the governor to obtain approval for such a change from Adams, who had resisted a wider expansion of mail voting. The difference may nonetheless be minimal, as many other states have relaxed their own excuse requirements by allowing concerns about COVID to qualify and seen a surge in mail ballots.

 Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed a plan to Louisiana's Republican-run legislature that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot and would expand eligibility only to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a plan put forth by Ardoin that offered a limited expansion of absentee voting for the state's July primary for those at heightened risk from the coronavirus after Republicans rejected a broader proposal.

Legislators are slated to take up Ardoin's latest plan this week, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he is reviewing it. Before it was released, Edwards said he hoped it "would look substantially similar to the one" put in place for the primaries. However, that earlier plan did not require the governor's approval, nor does the new one. Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP, filed a suit challenging Louisiana's excuse requirement in federal court earlier this month.

 New York: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will sign a measure passed by New York's Democratic-run legislature to allow all voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus in order to request an absentee ballot. Cuomo had signed an executive order earlier this year making the same allowance ahead of the state's June primary.

Last month, lawmakers passed several other bills to improve voting access, which the governor must sign or veto soon. Another measure that would allow county election officials to deploy ballot drop boxes has yet to come up for a vote, but Cuomo says he supports the idea.

grab bag

 Deaths: Former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, a moderate Republican whose tenure from 1977 to 1991 was the longest in state history, died Friday at the age of 84. We take a look at his lengthy and eventful career in our obituary, which features appearances by Spiro Agnew, Lyndon LaRouche, the founder of Weight Watchers, and Lenny Bruce.

Thompson successfully won four terms as governor, but his last two campaigns were quite eventful. In 1982, Thompson defeated former Democratic Sen. Adlai Stevenson III by just over 5,000 votes in a contest that wasn’t resolved until days before he was inaugurated for a third term.

Thompson and Stevenson faced off again four years later in a rematch that became infamous for reasons that had nothing to do with either man. While Stevenson easily earned the nomination, a candidate affiliated with the fringe political activist Lyndon LaRouche won the primary to become his running mate. Stevenson opted to run as an independent rather than “run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche.” You can find out more about this campaign, as well as the rest of Thompson’s career, in our obituary.

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