Morning Digest: Trump’s guy won the Ohio Senate primary—and no, it wasn’t J.P. Mandel

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

OH-Sen: The Republican primary for Ohio's open Senate seat—which weighed in at nearly $75 million—finally concluded on Tuesday with a win for Trump's endorsed candidate, venture capitalist J.D. Vance. Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy author and one-time vociferous Trump critic, reinvented himself as a MAGA diehard and defeated former state Treasurer Josh Mandel 32-24 for the nod to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Vance will take on Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who won his own primary 70-18 against former Treasury official Morgan Harper, in a longtime swing state that has lurched hard to the right in recent years.

Just a few months ago, Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC funded by megadonor Peter Thiel, warned that the candidate's poll numbers were in "precipitous decline." The group highlighted the previous fall’s assault by the Club for Growth, which supported Mandel and had run a barrage of ads using 2016 footage of Vance saying, "I'm a Never Trump guy," an offensive that persuaded many voters that Vance could not be trusted.

Thiel's group responded with new advertisements that rebranded Vance as a Trump loyalist, a maneuver that seems to have at least kept him in contention. Vance was also able to keep going because none of his four major rivals were able to establish a meaningful lead—either in the polls or in the contest to win Trump's endorsement. (Only state Sen. Matt Dolan, who criticized Trump as recently as last year, didn't seek it.) The financier also had a powerful ally in Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whom Rolling Stone reported played a key role in winning Trump over to Vance's side.

Carlson reportedly not only made the case that Vance's anti-Trump days were long behind him, he also argued that Mandel's main benefactor, Club president David McIntosh, was untrustworthy because of what the story calls an "an embarrassing and 'chronic' personal sexual habit." The magazine refused to provide any details about this salacious claim, but it relayed that Trump "spent a notable amount of time gossiping and laughing about the prominent Republican's penis." (Can't believe you just had to read that sentence? We can't believe we had to write it, either.)

No matter what ultimately convinced Trump, though, he went on to give his stamp of approval to Vance less than three weeks ahead of the primary. Trump excused Vance's past disloyalty at a recent rally, saying that while his new favorite had indeed "said some bad shit about me," each of his rivals "did also."

The Club hoped that voters wouldn't be so forgiving, and it even ran a commercial questioning Trump's judgment—a shocking gambit given the GOP's obeisance to its supreme master. Even Trump himself managed to give Vance a humiliating round of headlines just two days before Election Day when he told an audience, "We've endorsed—JP, right? JD Mandel, and he's doing great." But while Trump couldn't remember Vance's name, enough Republican primary voters could.

We'll be recapping all of Tuesday's results in Ohio and Indiana in the next Morning Digest, though if you don't want to wait that long, join us on Wednesday at Daily Kos Elections and follow along as we provide updates in our Live Digest.

Senate

 NV-Sen, NV-Gov, NV-04: Former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt has publicized an internal from WPA Intelligence that gives him a 57-20 lead over Army veteran Sam Brown ahead of the June 14 Republican primary. Back in mid-March, WPA's survey for Laxalt's allies at the Club for Growth found him ahead by an almost-identical 57-20 margin.

The central committee of the Nevada Republican Party, though, spurned the Trump-backed frontrunner over the weekend by voting to endorse Brown. The party's leadership also threw its support behind attorney Joey Gilbert, who has bragged that he was "definitely on the Capitol steps" on Jan. 6, in the primary for governor; the decision came days after Trump endorsed another candidate, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Additionally, the state GOP went for Air Force veteran Sam Peters in the GOP contest to face 4th District Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford.

Governors

 NY-Gov: The state Board of Elections ruled Monday that both 2014 nominee Rob Astorino and former Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani had submitted enough valid signatures to appear on the June Republican primary ballot despite a challenge by one of their intra-party rivals, Rep. Lee Zeldin. The field also includes wealthy businessman Harry Wilson, whose petitions were not contested by anyone.

 RI-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in covering the first quarter of 2022, and WPRI has rounded up the totals for all the notable Democratic contenders:

  • former CVS executive Helena Foulkes: $900,000 raised, additional $400,000 self-funded, $1.5 million cash-on-hand

  • Gov. Dan McKee: $427,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand

  • Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea: $378,000 raised, $896,000 cash-on-hand

  • former Secretary of State Matt Brown: $110,000 raised, $79,000 cash-on-hand 

Businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who is the only major Republican contender, took in a mere $13,000 from donors but self-funded another $500,000, which left her with $410,000 available at the end of March.

House

 FL-15, FL-14: Jay Collins, who lost a leg as a combat medic in Afghanistan, announced Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the new and open 15th District. Collins had been running against Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in the neighboring 14th District, which remains safely blue turf under the GOP's new gerrymander, and he ended March with $339,000 on hand that he can use for his new campaign.

On the Democratic side, Alan Cohn, who was the party's 2020 nominee against now-Rep. Scott Franklin in the old 15th, says he's also "seriously considering" running for the open seat. (Franklin himself is running for the renumbered 18th District.)

 NY-LG, NY-19: Gov. Kathy Hochul named Rep. Antonio Delgado as her new lieutenant governor on Tuesday, the day after state legislators passed a new law at Hochul's behest allowing former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin's name to be removed from the ballot following his resignation last month.

The legislation also allowed a seven-member committee of Democratic leaders to swap Delgado in for Benjamin, who prior to the new law's enactment could only have been taken off the ballot had he died, moved to another state, or been nominated for another office; now, anyone charged with a crime can be removed as well.

Delgado, a moderate representing the swingy 19th District in Upstate's Hudson Valley, was facing a difficult re-election campaign that was likely about to get more so: While his fellow Democrats had sought to make his seat bluer in redistricting, that map was recently thrown out by the state's highest court, so the next iteration of the 19th—which will be drawn by an independent expert—could well be tougher.

But Delgado's new path is still fraught. In New York, candidates run in separate primaries for governor and lieutenant governor, with the winners merged onto a single ticket on the November ballot. That system typically prompts pairs of candidates to forge alliances in the hopes of avoiding an unwelcome "shotgun wedding" for the general election, but even if Hochul defeats her two opponents on June 28 (as all polls have indicated she will), there's no guarantee Delgado will do the same.

In fact, after Benjamin's arrest on bribery charges, a number of progressive leaders had rallied around activist Ana Maria Archila, who's allied with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. (The only other alternative, former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna, is running alongside Rep. Tom Suozzi, who's positioned himself well to Hochul's right.)

Delgado will benefit from Hochul's powerful perch and massive war chest, but he may be hurt by accusations that the governor sought to change the rules mid-stream in order to benefit herself—a concern that led a sizable number of Democratic senators to oppose the bill in a rare show of dissent.

And no one knows better that being linked with a powerful, deep-pocketed governor is no guarantee of victory than Hochul herself. In 2018, on the same day that then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo romped to an easy 66-34 victory over actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, Hochul only narrowly defeated the little-known Williams, at the time a member of the City Council, by just a 53-47 margin.

Once Delgado is sworn in to his new post—no legislative confirmation is required—Hochul will have 10 days to call a special election under a law passed last year requiring such elections be held in a much timelier manner than they had been in the past. (Cuomo had been notorious for repeatedly dragging his feet on calling specials when it didn't suit him to do so, thanks to a huge gap in state law that gave him wide discretion.) The election must then be held within 70 to 80 days.

While redistricting is still up in the air, the special will take place under the old lines. Recent trends had been favorable for Democrats in the 19th: Joe Biden flipped the district in 2020, carrying it by a slender 50-48 margin four years after Donald Trump won it 51-44; Delgado, meanwhile, unseated one-term Republican Rep. John Faso 51-46 in 2018 and then defeated an unheralded GOP foe 54-43 two years later.

In New York, local party committees, rather than primary voters, pick nominees for special elections, but there isn't much suspense as to whom Republicans will choose. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has been running for the 19th since September without any serious intra-party opposition, and he quickly confirmed he would campaign in this summer's contest.

Things are far more uncertain on the Democratic side, though a couple of names have already surfaced. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, who took second place to Delgado in the 2018 primary, said he was considering, while an unnamed source told the New York Times that state Sen. Michelle Hinchey is looking at the contest as well. Hinchey is the daughter of the late Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who represented a sizable portion of this district from 1993 to 2013.

 OR-05: Journalists at Sludge report that Mainstream Democrats PAC, a new group with the stated purpose of thwarting "far-left organizations" that want to take over the Democratic Party, will spend $800,000 in ads to help moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader fend off attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the May 17 primary.

The first spot from the super PAC, which is funded in part by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, uses footage of the Jan. 6 attack and warnings about Team Blue's prospects in the midterms to argue, "We need proven leaders who can beat Trump Republicans." The narrator goes on to declare that McLeod-Skinner, who lost both the 2018 general election for the safely red 2nd District and 2020 primary for secretary of state, "just can't do it," while Schrader "beats every Republican every time." The commercial continues by arguing that the incumbent shares "our Democratic values" and reminding the audience that he's President Joe Biden's endorsed candidate.

 TN-05: Music video producer Robby Starbuck has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state GOP's decision to keep him off the August primary ballot for failing to meet the party's definition of a "bona fide" Republican. Starbuck, who moved to the state three years ago, was rejected because he had not voted in three of the last four statewide primaries, which his suit dubbed an unconstitutional "camouflaged residency requirement."

Former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who was Trump's endorsed candidate, also failed to pass the bona fide test for the same reasons, but she says she will not challenge the decision. Businessman Baxter Lee, the third candidate kicked off the ballot, does not appear to have said what he'll do. It may not matter, though, as NBC notes that "courts, including those in Tennessee, have given broad deference to political parties in such disputes" as this one.

Prosecutors

 Baltimore, MD State's Attorney: Prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah last month released a mid-April GQR poll that shows him trailing incumbent Marilyn Mosby 35-32 in the July Democratic primary to serve as Baltimore's top prosecutor, with defense attorney Ivan Bates at 13%. It takes only a simple plurality to secure the Democratic nod, which is tantamount to election in this reliably blue city.

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Morning Digest: Trump’s ‘bro’ now frontrunner following Ohio Republican’s unexpected retirement

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

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Leading Off

OH-07: Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs said Wednesday that he was ending his re-election bid for Ohio's 7th Congressional District, a surprising announcement that came well after candidate filing closed and days following the start of early voting for the state's May 3 primary. The six-term congressman's abrupt retirement leaves former Trump aide Max Miller as the frontrunner to claim a seat in the Canton area and Akron suburbs that Trump would have carried 54-45. Gibbs' name will remain on the ballot, but the secretary of state's office says that any votes cast for him will not be counted.

Gibbs used his statement to express his anger at the state Supreme Court, which is not scheduled to rule on the fate of the new GOP-drawn congressional map until well after the primary. "It is irresponsible to effectively confirm the congressional map for this election cycle seven days before voting begins," said the incumbent, "especially in the Seventh Congressional District, where almost 90 percent of the electorate is new and nearly two-thirds is an area primarily from another district, foreign to any expectations or connection to the current Seventh District." To put it another way, a mere 9% of the residents of the new 7th are already Gibbs' constituents, so he would have been campaigning in largely unfamiliar turf.

Miller, by contrast, began the cycle by running against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in a primary for the old 16th District, which makes up 65% of the new 7th. Miller, who was one of Trump's favorite aides (an unnamed source told Politico that the two "had … kind of a unique 'bro' relationship") received his old boss' backing last year against Gonzalez, who voted for impeachment and later decided to retire.

Miller ended up taking on Gibbs, who was far more loyal to the MAGA movement, after redistricting led them to seek the same seat, and Trump's spokesperson said last month that the endorsement carried over to Miller's new campaign. Miller last year also filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, after she accused him of physically attacking her in 2020.

Gibbs himself got his start in elected office in 2002 when he won a seat in the Ohio state House, and he won a promotion six years later to the state Senate. Gibbs in 2009 set his sights on challenging Democratic Rep. Zack Space in the now-defunct 18th Congressional District, a historically red area in the eastern part of the state that had favored John McCain 52-45, but he had to get past seven fellow Republicans in the following year's primary first.

Gibbs (who happened to share a name with the Obama White House's first press secretary), had the support of the party establishment, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, and he benefited after tea party activists failed to back a single alternative. The state senator ultimately beat 2008 nominee Fred Dailey, who had lost to Space 60-40, in a 20.9-20.7 squeaker, though it took another month to confirm Gibbs' 156-vote victory.

The general election turned out to be a far easier contest for Gibbs in what was rapidly turning into a GOP wave year. Space went on the offensive early by portraying his opponent as a tax hiker and a supporter of free trade agreements, but Gibbs ended up unseating him in a 54-40 landslide. Redistricting two years later left the freshman congressman with a new district, now numbered the 7th, that was largely unfamiliar to him, but unlike in 2022, he faced no serious intra-party opposition in this red constituency. Democrats in 2018 hoped that well-funded Navy veteran Ken Harbaugh could give Gibbs a serious fight, but the incumbent decisively turned him back 59-41.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we're joined by Ali Lapp, the founder of the House Majority PAC—the largest super PAC devoted to helping Democrats win House races nationwide. Lapp discusses HMP's role in the broader Democratic ecosystem, how the organization decides which districts to target, and promising research showing the positive impacts of a new ad touting Democrats' record on the economy.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap elections this week in California and Wisconsin; explain why Republicans are finally turning on Madison Cawthorn (it's not really about cocaine and orgies); pick apart a huge blunder that led to the first attack ad in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary for Senate getting yanked off the air the very day it debuted; and provide updates on international elections in Hungary and France. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you'll find a transcript right here by noon Eastern Time.

1Q Fundraising

Senate

AL-Sen: The first half of Army veteran Mike Durant's ad details his near-death experience during the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia, with the narrator declaring, "Mike Durant was saved by his brothers. His life spared by the grace of God." The spot then abruptly changes tone as the voice says the GOP primary candidate "believes the unborn deserve the same."

GA-Sen: Banking executive Latham Saddler is using his opening spot to contrast his service in the military with GOP primary frontrunner Herschel Walker's time as a football star. Saddler begins by acknowledging, "Herschel Walker was my childhood sports hero," before continuing, "I also wore a uniform: I ran on the battlefield as a Navy SEAL." He concludes that he's in the race "so that you can choose between a war fighter and a celebrity."

NC-Sen: The Republican firm Cygnal, which did not identify a client, has a new general election survey that finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd leading Democrat Cheri Beasley 45-43 as former Gov. Pat McCrory ties her 41-41.

NH-Sen: The NH Journal's Michael Graham writes that many GOP insiders believe that two-time New York Senate nominee Wendy Long will join the Republican primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan, though there's no word from her. Long earned just over one-quarter of the vote back in the Empire State against Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and she's since moved to New Hampshire. Those showings didn't impress many people except perhaps off-and-on Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski, who has claimed with "100%" certainty that an unnamed woman will join the primary to take on Hassan.

Graham adds that Vikram Mansharamani, who is an author and lecturer at Harvard, "has been making media appearances and is reportedly speaking with potential campaign strategists and advisors," though he also hasn't said anything about his 2022 plans. The filing deadline isn't until June 10.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have released a new poll from Fabrizio Lee & Associates that shows an 18-18-18 deadlock between Vance, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and businessman Mike Gibbons in the May 3 GOP primary, with former state party chair Jane Timken at 9%. The firm warned back in January that Vance's numbers were in a "precipitous decline," but they're now crediting the PAC's ad campaign with propelling him forward.

Timken, for her part, has dropped a Moore Information survey that finds Gibbons leading Mandel 20-16, with her just behind at 15%; state Sen. Matt Dolan takes 13%, while Vance brings up the rear with 10%.  

PA-Sen: TV personality Mehmet Oz has publicized a survey from Basswood Research that shows him edging out former hedge fund manager David McCormick 25-22 in the May 17 GOP primary, with former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands at 13%. Oz released the poll on Trump's disastrous Truth Social platform, which may make him its most prolific user by default.

Governors

MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson's new spot for the August GOP primary blames Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, Joe Biden, and the state's former governor, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, for high gas prices. The narrator goes after Whitmer for wanting to close Enbridge Line 5, which The Washington Post explains is "a 69-year old petroleum pipeline that runs under the Great Lakes" that is in danger of spillage.

PA-Gov: The very first negative TV ad of next month's packed GOP primary comes from former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, who manages to fit in attacks on wealthy businessman Dave White, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, and former Rep. Lou Barletta into just 30 seconds. The spot does not mention state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman or any of McSwain's other four opponents.

The narrator begins by declaring that White, who is a former member of the Delaware County Council, "is a career politician who voted to raise property taxes." She then goes after Mastriano for supporting what she calls "the unconstitutional mail-in voting law," which passed in 2019 before Trump and his allies started to wage war on vote-by-mail: The Philadelphia Inquirer explains that a state judge ruled the legislation unconstitutional earlier this year, but that the state Supreme Court has stayed the decision.

Finally, the narrator argues Barletta "supported higher gas taxes and approved Obama's budgets." The rest of the commercial touts McSwain as a "Trump-appointed prosecutor" who has "never run for office and will permanently cut the gas tax."

House

CA-22 (special): Former Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway took first place in Tuesday's special all-party primary to succeed her fellow Republican, former Rep. Devin Nunes, but she may need to wait a while to learn the identity of her opponent in the June 7 general election. (Whether Nunes will still have his gig running Trump's disastrous social media platform by June is a separate question.) With 64,000 votes counted Conway leads with 35%, while Democrat Lourin Hubbard, who is an official at the California Department of Water Resources, is in second with 20%; just behind with 15% each are GOP businessman Matt Stoll and another Democrat, Marine veteran Eric Garcia.

It is not clear how many votes are left to tabulate, but the Los Angeles Times says that any mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday have until April 12 to arrive. Neither Conway nor Hubbard are running for a full term in Congress anywhere, while Stoll and Garcia are challenging Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in the new 21st District.

CO-07: State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who already had the backing of retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter and the rest of the state's Democratic delegation, will have the June Democratic primary to herself following her decisive win against minor opposition at Tuesday's party convention.

Colorado, as we've written before, allows candidates to advance to the primary either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by taking at least 30% of the vote at their party convention, and no other Democratic contenders successfully pursued either route. Republicans, who are the underdogs in a seat that Biden would have carried 56-42, have not yet held their party gathering yet.

CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo became the sole Democratic contender for this new swing seat on Tuesday, while at least four Republicans will be competing in the June party primary. Caraveo took 71% of the delegate votes at her party's convention (also known as the party assembly), while Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco fell just short of the 30% he needed to appear on the primary ballot. Tedesco, like Caraveo, had originally planned to both collect signatures and take part in the assembly, but because he failed to turn in enough petitions ahead of last month's deadline, his showing Tuesday marked the end of his campaign.  

On the other side, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine was the only major candidate to compete at Team Red's assembly on Saturday, and her easy victory earned her the top spot on the June ballot. Republican conventions often favor extreme contenders, and Saine offered just that with a video where she declared she "ran to expose, stop, and destroy the anti-family, anti-America, anti-God agenda" the Democrats presented; she also used her message to decry "weak, whiney moderates" in the GOP.

Unlike Caraveo, though, Saine's convention win doesn't ensure her the nomination. That's because state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, and retired Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn previously turned in the requisite 1,500 signatures they needed to make the ballot, so they did not need to take part in the assembly. A fifth Republican, business owner Jewels Gray, is still waiting to hear from election officials if she submitted enough petitions to make the ballot after she failed to win 30% of the vote at the convention. Biden would have carried this new seat, which includes Denver's northern suburbs, 51-46.

FL-22: Commercial airline pilot Curtis Calabrese announced this week that he would join the August Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch. Calabrese, who is a first-time candidate, will take on Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, who had the field to himself up until now. Calabrese, who would be the state's first openly gay member of Congress, served as a Navy combat aviator before working for the FAA, including as a labor official. Florida Politics writes it was in that capacity that he made several media appearances, including on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," to explain how the 2018-2019 government shutdown was impacting him and his colleagues.

GA-07: Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath has earned the support of the American Federation of Government Employees for next month's primary against fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux.

IL-15: Politico reports that the anti-tax Club for Growth is spending $400,000 on an ad campaign touting Mary Miller ahead of her June Republican primary showdown against fellow Rep. Rodney Davis. The commercial reminds viewers that Miller is Trump's choice and pledges she'll "never compromise on election integrity."

NJ-02: Monday was the filing deadline for New Jersey's June 7 primary, and the state has a list of contenders for the U.S. House available here.

Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew won a competitive re-election campaign in 2020 the year after he defected from the Democratic Party, and the state's new congressional map extended Trump's margin of victory in this South Jersey shore seat from 51-48 to 52-47. Civil rights attorney Tim Alexander has the backing of the local Democratic establishment and faces no serious intra-party opposition, but he struggled to raise money during 2021.

NJ-03: Redistricting transformed Democratic Rep. Andy Kim's South Jersey seat from a constituency Trump narrowly carried to one that Biden would have won 56-42, though it's possible this district could still be in play in a tough year for Team Blue. The most serious Republican contender appears to be wealthy yacht manufacturer Robert Healey, who is also a former punk rock singer.

NJ-05: Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who is one of the most prominent moderate Democrats in the House, got some welcome news when filing closed and he learned he had no primary opposition in this North Jersey constituency. Five Republicans, though, are competing here even though the new map extended Biden's margin from 52-47 to 56-43.

The most prominent challenger appears to be Marine veteran Nick De Gregorio, who has the influential GOP party endorsement in populous Bergen County. (We explain the importance of county party endorsements in New Jersey here.) Also in the mix are 2020 nominee Frank Pallotta, who lost to Gottheimer 53-46, and businessman Fred Schneiderman, who recently began airing his opening TV ad.

NJ-06: Longtime Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone faces his first notable Republican opposition in some time in the form of Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley, but she's still very much the underdog in a seat that would have backed Biden 59-40. (Redistricting even made this seat, which includes northern Middlesex County and the northern Jersey Shore, slightly bluer.) A few other Republicans are also in including former RNC staffer Tom Toomey and Rik Mehta, who was Team Red's doomed 2020 Senate nominee.

NJ-07: Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is defending a North Jersey seat where redistricting shrunk Biden's margin of victory from 54-44 to 51-47, and he's likely to face a familiar opponent in the fall. Former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. is running again after losing to Malinowski just 51-49 in 2020, and he has the influential party endorsement in all six of the district's counties. Kean's most notable intra-party foe is Assemblyman Erik Peterson, but there are five other candidates, including Fredon Mayor John Flora and 2021 gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo, who could split whatever anti-Kean vote there is.

NJ-08: Democratic leaders responded to Rep. Albio Sires' retirement announcement in December by immediately consolidating behind Port Authority Commissioner Robert Menendez Jr., who is the son and namesake of New Jersey's senior U.S. senator. Four other Democrats are running in this safely blue seat in the Jersey City area, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of giving Menendez a serious fight.

NJ-11: The state's new congressional map augmented Biden's margin in this North Jersey seat from 53-46 all the way up to 58-41, but five Republicans are still hoping that Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill is vulnerable. The frontrunner looks like Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen, who sports important GOP county party endorsements; also in the race are Army veteran Toby Anderson and former prosecutor Paul DeGroot.

OR-06: Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she was endorsing state Rep. Andrea Salinas in the crowded May 17 Democratic primary for this new seat.

TX-34 (special): Former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez announced Wednesday that he was entering the June special all-party primary with endorsements from former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela and 15th District Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is Team Blue's nominee for a full term in the new version of the 34th.

Attorneys General

MD-AG: Former Judge Katie Curran O'Malley has picked up the support of former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who served from 1987 until 2017, for the July Democratic primary for this open seat. Rep. Anthony Brown, meanwhile, has received endorsements from 32BJ SEIU, which represents property service workers, and 1199SEIU, which is for health care employees: Maryland Matters writes that these groups represent a total of 30,000 Marylanders.

Legislatures

Special Elections: We have a recap of Tuesday's all-party primary in Georgia followed by a preview of a rare Thursday contest in New York:

GA HD-45: A runoff will take place May 3 between Republican Mitch Kaye and Democrat Dustin McCormick for the final months of former GOP state Rep. Matt Dollar's term. Kaye led McCormick 42-40, while the balance went to two other Republicans. Kaye is not running for a full term, while McCormick faces no intra-party opposition in the regular May primary to take on Republican state Rep. Sharon Cooper in the new version of HD-45.

NY AD-20: We have a special election in Nassau County to succeed Republican Melissa Miller, who resigned in February after she was appointed to the Hempstead Town Board, in a seat Trump carried 52-47 in 2020. The GOP is fielding Cedarhurst Deputy Mayor Eric Ari Brown while the Democratic nominee is David Lobl, a former advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Mayors

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson decisively won Tuesday's special election to succeed his fellow Democrat, Tom Barrett, by beating conservative Bob Donovan 72-28. Johnson, who made history as the first Black person elected to lead Milwaukee, will be up for a full four-year term in 2024. He could also be in office for quite a long time to come, as Johnson is now only the fifth person elected to this post since 1945.

Morning Digest: MAGA House hopeful bails after Trump memory-holes endorsement and backs someone else

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

Check out our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

MI-04: State Rep. Steve Carra on Tuesday ended his August Republican primary campaign against Reps. Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton days after he learned the hard way that Donald Trump's "Complete and Total Endorsement" isn’t actually complete and total when redistricting is involved. Carra on his way out joined Trump in supporting Huizenga's intra-party bid against Upton, who voted to impeach Trump and still hasn't confirmed if he'll even be running for a 14th term.

Carra last year had picked up Trump's backing when he was taking on Upton in the old 6th District, but that was before the new map ensured that Huizenga and Upton would be running for the same new 4th District if they each wanted to remain in the House. Carra himself eventually decided to run for the 4th even though it didn't include a shred of his legislative seat, and for more than a month he was able to take advantage of the GOP leader’s silence about where things stood post-redistricting and continue to run as the only Trump-backed candidate.

Huizenga himself acknowledged weeks ago that he wasn’t sure if Trump’s earlier endorsement of Carra in the 6th still applied, saying, “I'm aware that there are people within the organization that are looking at it and are trying to figure that one out.” Those calls seemed to have worked because on Friday, Trump announced that Huizenga was his man in southwestern Michigan. Carra, who is now seeking re-election, said Tuesday that he’d spoken to Trump’s people and learned that "[t]he key decision maker that led to this was the fact that I don't live in the district."

Upton, for his part, began a $213,000 ad campaign last month that seemed to confirm he'd be running again, but his camp insisted at the time that he still hadn't made a decision. We don't know if Upton was just being cute or really is still making up his mind, though prolonged public deliberations from him are nothing new. Last cycle the longtime congressman kept everyone guessing about his plans even after he handed out "Upton 2020!" buttons at a September 2019 party gathering; it was only the following February that he finally said he'd be running again.

We'll finally have our answer for 2022 before too long, though. Michigan's filing deadline is April 19, and since House candidates need to turn in at least 1,000 valid signatures to make the primary ballot, Upton would need to get moving before then if he's to go up against Huizenga. How long it would take for "Upton 2022!" buttons to roll off the printer, though, we can't say.

Redistricting

KS Redistricting: Kansas' Republican-run state House has introduced a new map for its own districts, following the same action in the upper chamber the other day. Just two states have failed to unveil any sort of legislative maps at all: Mississippi and Montana.

Senate

OH-Sen: Former state GOP chair Jane Timken's latest commercial for the May primary has her proclaiming that "border security is national security" and dubbing herself "the real Trump conservative." The spot ends with old footage of Trump, who is still making Timken and her many opponents grovel for his endorsement, calling her "unbelievable."      

OK-Sen-B: Former Rep. Kendra Horn, who represented Oklahoma's 5th District for one term, announced on Tuesday that she'll run in the November special election to replace departing GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe. Horn's entry gives Democrats an unusually credible candidate for a Senate race in Oklahoma, but it's still … Oklahoma. Democrats haven't prevailed in a race for statewide office since 2006, and they haven't won a Senate contest since David Boren's last re-election campaign in 1990 (which saw him romp in a remarkable 83-17 landslide).

Horn won the most astonishing upset of the 2018 midterms when she unseated Republican Rep. Steve Russell in a 51-49 squeaker for an Oklahoma City-based district that Donald Trump had carried by a wide 53-40 spread two years earlier. Russell had run a disastrous campaign—after his loss, he compared the people who'd voted him out to "a dog lapping up antifreeze"—but long-term suburban trends and outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin’s horrible numbers in the area were also working against him.

Unfortunately for Horn, though, those trends weren't enough to keep her in Congress: Even though Trump's margin shrank to 51-46, she lost her bid for a second term to Republican Stephanie Bice 52-48. And to win statewide, especially in a difficult midterm environment, would require an even more herculean feat than the one Horn managed four years ago, seeing as Trump carried Oklahoma 65-32 in 2020, making it his fourth-best state in the nation.

That makes Inhofe's seat a particularly attractive prize to Republicans, though one potential contender is reportedly staying out. Politico says that Rep. Kevin Hern, who had been considering a bid, won't run, though Hern himself has not yet confirmed the news.

Governors

GA-Gov: While Stacey Abrams faces no competition in the May Democratic primary, the once and future nominee is launching its opening $1 million TV and digital ad buy. The first spot features Abrams saying, "When I didn't win the governor's race, not getting the job didn't exempt me from the work. And so I didn't quit." She continues by talking about how her organization last year "paid off the medical debt of 68,000 Georgians," and how she aided small businesses. "I was raised that when you don't get what you want, you don't give up," Abrams says, "You try again. You try because it's how things get better, it's how the world moves forward."

IL-Gov: Candidate filing closed Monday for Illinois' June 28 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Not everyone who filed may make the ballot, though, because it's very common for candidates in the Prairie State to challenge their opponents' petitions to try to get them disqualified. Indeed, Barack Obama himself won his state Senate seat in 1996 by getting all his Democratic primary foes—including incumbent Alice Palmer—thrown off the ballot for a lack of sufficient signatures.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is seeking a second term in this very blue state, but Republicans are hoping they'll still have an opening in the fall. A total of eight GOP contenders are running, and the best-funded will almost certainly be Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Irvin, who would be the state's first Black governor, has the support of billionaire Ken Griffin, and the state's wealthiest man has already given him $20 million. (Illinois has notoriously lax campaign finance regulations.) The mayor, though, has participated in several Democratic primaries in the past and has sometimes voiced moderate views, which could be a big liability in the primary.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, meanwhile, has received $1 million from a different conservative megadonor, Richard Uihlein, and he also has the backing of far-right Rep. Mary Miller. Another well-connected contender is venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who launched his bid over the summer with $11 million in donations mostly from four California tech titans. Businessman Gary Rabine and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, who badly lost the 2014 general election for attorney general, are also in, but they haven't attracted much outside support yet.

NH-Gov: State Sen. Tom Sherman announced a bid against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu this week, making him the first notable Democrat to join the race. After serving two terms in the state House, Sherman, a physician, challenged Republican state Sen. Dan Innis in 2016 but lost 52-46. Two years later, he tried again, this time prevailing 53-47; he went on to win re-election in 2020. Sununu is seeking to become just the second person to win a fourth two-year term as governor in state history, following Democrat John Lynch, who left office in 2013.

OH-Gov: Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is spending $280,000 on his opening spot for the May Democratic primary. The candidate is shown inspecting an abandoned factory as he declares that "Ohio deserves a comeback. I know it won't be easy, but I've faced long odds before." Cranley continues, "When we started the Ohio Innocence Project, they said it was impossible. It has freed 34 innocent people. When I became mayor of Cincinnati, they said the city would never grow again. We defied the odds."

House

FL-07: Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Florida's open 7th Congressional District, announced on Tuesday that she'd seek re-election to the legislature.

FL-15: Former Rep. Dennis Ross announced Tuesday that he'd try to return to the House after a four-year absence by seeking the Republican nomination for the newly drawn 15th District in the Tampa area. GOP state Rep. Jackie Toledo is also campaigning for what would be an open seat even though Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to veto the congressional map that she and her colleagues passed.

Ross was elected in the 2010 tea party wave to succeed Adam Putnam, a fellow Republican who left to successfully run for state agriculture commissioner (he later lost the 2018 primary to none other than DeSantis) in what was then numbered the 12th District. Ross, whose reliably red constituency was redubbed the 15th two years later, rose to become senior deputy majority whip, but he rarely attracted much attention otherwise; indeed, national observers sometimes referred to him as the other Dennis Ross when they referred to him at all.

The congressman unexpectedly announced in 2018 that he would not seek a fifth term, though characteristically, his declaration was vastly overshadowed by Speaker Paul Ryan's own retirement that same day. (The Florida Man said he learned of Ryan's parallel departure as he was telling his own staff about his decision and happened to look at a TV tuned to Fox.) Ross explained his decision by saying, "Eight years takes its toll on you. When you feel like a stranger in your hometown, it's time to say, 'There's got to be an exit strategy at some point.'"

However, Ross now very much is looking for a re-entry strategy, declaring, "Seeing what's happened in the last few years has just forced me to get off the sidelines and get back in the game, and that's exactly the way I feel. And I feel compelled to do that in, I think, a very statesmanlike fashion (that) I think the voters are craving for."

GA-10: Marine veteran Mitchell Swan earned a mere 4% in the 2014 Republican primary for a previous version of this seat, but he seems to have decided that anti-trans bigotry will help him stand out this time. Swan is running a TV spot for the May primary where he declares, "I oppose transgenders in our ranks."  

IL-01: Rep. Bobby Rush is retiring after 15 terms, and a massive field of 20 fellow Democrats have filed to succeed him in a safely blue seat based in the South Side of Chicago and the city's southwestern suburbs. Rush himself is supporting Karin Norington-Reaves, who is a former CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. Another well-connected contender is construction contracting firm owner Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and the brother of former 2nd District Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The race also includes two sitting elected officials, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins and Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell. Another notable name is former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams, who lost a 2018 primary for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Also in the mix is businessman Jonathan Swain, real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff, and activist Jahmal Cole, who was running a long-shot campaign against Rush before the incumbent retired; it's possible one of the other 12 candidates could also attract attention in the two-and-a-half weeks ahead of the primary.  

IL-03: Legislative Democrats created a new seat based in heavily Latino areas in southwestern Chicago and the western suburbs, and four Democrats are competing for this safely blue constituency. The two frontrunners appear to be Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, a Marine veteran backed by VoteVets, and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has EMILY's List in her corner. Ramirez has earned the backing of several progressive groups while Villegas, who has emphasized public safety, is campaigning more as a moderate.

Villegas ended 2021 with a wide cash-on-hand lead, while Ramirez has since picked up the support of 4th District Rep. Chuy Garcia, who currently represents 43% of the new 3rd. The only poll we've seen was a recent Lake Research Partners survey for the pro-Ramirez Working Families Party that showed her leading Villegas 19-11; a mere 1% went to Iymen Chehade, a history professor at the center of an ethics probe involving Rep. Marie Newman (who is seeking re-election in the 6th District). A fourth candidate, Juan Aguirre, has attracted little attention.

IL-06: Redistricting has led to an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Marie Newman and Sean Casten in a seat in Chicago's western inner suburbs that would have favored Joe Biden 55-44.

Newman's existing 3rd District makes up 41% of this new seat while Casten's current 6th District forms just 23%. However, Newman also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The only poll we've seen was a mid-February Newman internal from Victoria Research that showed a 37-37 deadlock.

Six Republicans are also campaigning here including two mayors of small communities: Keith Pekau of Orland Park and Gary Grasso of Burr Ridge, who has the support of state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin.

IL-07: Longtime Rep. Danny Davis faces a rematch against anti-gun-violence activist Kina Collins, whom he beat 60-14 in the 2020 Democratic primary for this reliably blue seat. Two other Democrats have also filed for this district, which includes Chicago's West Side and downtown.

IL-08: There's little indication that Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has much to worry about in his primary, but he does face a notable intra-party opponent in the form of Junaid Ahmed, who runs a technology consulting firm. Ahmed, who is portraying himself as a progressive alternative to the incumbent, ended 2021 with $421,000 on hand, a credible sum that was still utterly dwarfed by Krishnamoorthi's $11.55 million war chest. No other Democrats filed for this seat in the Chicago western outer suburbs, which would have supported Biden 57-41.

IL-13: Republican Rep. Rodney Davis decided to run in the 15th District after Democratic mapmakers transformed the 13th into a seat that now stretches from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana and would have backed Biden 54-43.

Three Democrats are campaigning here, but former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski quickly emerged as the clear frontrunner after raising a serious amount of money and consolidating support from Sen. Dick Durbin, much of the state's House delegation, and several unions. The field also includes financial planner David Palmer and progressive activist Ellis Taylor, but neither of them have picked up any major endorsements yet.

Four Republicans are campaigning here with the hope that the new 13th isn't as blue as it looks. The two main contenders seem to be former federal prosecutor Jesse Reising and activist Regan Deering, whose family ran the agribusiness giant Archer-Daniels-Midland for more than 40 years.

IL-14: Democratic mapmakers sought to protect Rep. Lauren Underwood in this seat in Chicago's western exurbs by augmenting Biden's margin of victory from 50-48 to 55-43, but six Republicans are still betting she's vulnerable. Team Red's field includes Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder, former Kane County Board member Susan Starrett, and conservative radio host Michael Koolidge.  

IL-15: Republican Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are facing off in a safely red seat in rural central Illinois, and both have powerful allies.

Donald Trump and the anti-tax Club for Growth are pulling for Miller, a far-right extremist who declared last year during her first days in office, "Hitler was right on one thing. He said, 'Whoever has the youth has the future.'" Davis, who has to present himself as a moderate in order to win under the previous map, has the Illinois Farm Bureau on his side, and he also ended 2021 with a huge financial edge. Miller's current 15th District makes up 31% of this constituency, while Davis' existing 13th forms 28%.

IL-17: Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos announced her retirement months before her party transformed this constituency in the state's northwest corner from a 50-48 Trump seat to one that would have favored Biden 53-45, and seven fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed her.

Team Blue's field consists of Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann; Rockford Alderwoman Linda McNeely; Rock Island County Board member Angie Normoyle; former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen; former state Rep. Litesa Wallace; and two others. A January survey from Public Policy Polling for 314 Action, which has since endorsed Sorensen, gave him a 13-11 edge over Wallace in a race where most respondents were undecided. Things are far clearer on the Republican side where 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos 52-48, faces just one unheralded opponent.

MT-01, MT-02: Filing also closed Monday for Montana's June 7 primary, and the state has its list of candidates here. Big Sky Country has regained the second congressional district it lost after the 1990 Census, and all the action this year will almost certainly be in the new 1st District, a seat in the western part of the state that would have supported Trump 52-45.

The frontrunner among the five Republicans very much looks like Ryan Zinke, who resigned as the state's only House member in 2017 to serve as secretary of the interior. Trump endorsed Zinke's return to Congress last summer, a development that came about two and a half years after Trump reportedly pressured him to leave the cabinet in the face of 18 federal investigations.

Zinke since then has earned bad headlines over how much more time he's spent in Santa Barbara, California compared to his home state. Last month, federal investigators also released a report concluding that he violated federal ethics rules while in the cabinet by taking part in talks with developers about a project involving land owned by his foundation and then lying about his involvement in the negotiations. And while most of the probes into Zinke ended after investigators concluded he hadn't committed wrongdoing or because Interior Department staffers didn't cooperate, one matter looking into whether he lied about why he denied two tribes permission to operate a casino in Connecticut is still unresolved.

However, it remains to be seen if any of Zinke's four intra-party foes are strong enough to take advantage of his problems. The most notable of the group appears to be former state Sen. Al Olszewski, but he finished last in both the four-way primary for Senate in 2018 and the three-way nomination fight for governor two years later.

Meanwhile, three Democrats are campaigning here, all of whom also unsuccessfully sought office in 2020. Public health expert Cora Neumann left the Senate primary when then-Gov. Steve Bullock launched his bid, while attorney Monica Tranel, who rowed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, lost a close general election for a seat on the Public Service Commission. The third contender is former state Rep. Tom Winter, who ran for the at-large U.S. House seat that year but lost the primary to 2018 nominee Kathleen Williams in a 89-11 landslide; Williams went on to lose to Republican Matt Rosendale.

Rosendale, for his part, is running in the new 2nd, a 62-35 Trump seat in the eastern portion of the state, and there's no indication that any of his three intra-party foes are ready to give him a serious fight.

NC-13: Donald Trump has joined his one-time enemies at the Club for Growth in endorsing Bo Hines, a 26-year-old law student who previously played as a wide receiver at North Carolina State in 2014 before transferring to Yale, in the packed May primary for this competitive open seat in Raleigh's southern suburbs.

OR-05: Moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader is spending a reported $200,000 on his first TV ad for the May Democratic primary, which features the seven-term incumbent talking about his veterinary career while surrounded by cute animals. "In Congress, I'm making a real difference for their owners too," he says, before he talks about working to lower insulin costs and drug prices.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco announced hours before candidate filing ended on Tuesday that he was abandoning his week-old campaign for the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. DeMarco cited his duties as county party chair and argued that it "needs a full-time chairman who will devote himself 24/7 to making certain that the Republicans recapture the office of governor, secure a U.S. Senate seat and maintain control of the general assembly."

Morning Digest: How a brazen campaign finance scandal led to this Florida Republican’s downfall

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.

Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming held their primaries on Tuesday. You can find current results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.

Leading Off

FL-15: Republican primary voters in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Tuesday denied renomination to freshman Rep. Ross Spano, who has been under investigation by the Justice Department since last year due to a campaign finance scandal, and instead gave the GOP nod to Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin.

With all votes apparently counted, Franklin defeated Spano 51-49. Franklin’s next opponent will  be former local TV news anchor Alan Cohn, who beat state Rep. Adam Hattersley 41-33 for the Democratic nomination.

Campaign Action

This central Florida seat, which includes the mid-sized city of Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, moved from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, and Franklin is favored to keep it in Republican hands. Still, the general election could be worth watching: In 2018, before news of Spano’s campaign finance scandal broke, he won by a modest 53-47 margin.

Spano’s defeat ends a short, but unfortunately for him quite eventful, congressional career. Spano, who was elected to the state House in 2012, had been waging a campaign for state attorney general in 2018 until Republican Rep. Dennis Ross surprised everyone by announcing his retirement. Spano switched over to the contest to succeed Ross, which looked like an easier lift, but he nonetheless faced serious intra-party opposition from former state Rep. Neil Combee.

Spano beat Combee 44-34 and went on to prevail in the general election, but he found himself in trouble before he was even sworn into Congress. That December, Spano admitted he might have broken federal election law by accepting personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then turning around and loaning his own campaign $170,000. That's a serious problem, because anyone who loans money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign still has to adhere to the same laws that limit direct contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.

The House Ethics Committee initially took up the matter but announced in late 2019 that the Justice Department was investigating Spano. The congressman variously argued that he'd misunderstood the law governing campaign loans but also insisted his campaign had disclosed the loan "before it became public knowledge" in the financial disclosure forms all federal candidates are obligated to file.

That latter claim, however, was flat-out false: As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno explained, Spano had failed to file those disclosures by the July 2018 deadline, only submitting them just before Election Day—after the paper had asked about them. Only once those reports were public did the paper learn that the money for Spano's questionable loans came from his friends.

Despite his scandal, most of the party establishment, including Sen. Marco Rubio and most of the neighboring Republican congressmen, stood by Spano. However, he had trouble bringing in more money, and Franklin used his personal wealth to decisively outspend the incumbent. The anti-tax Club for Growth dumped $575,000 into advertising attacking Franklin, but it wasn’t enough to save Spano from defeat on Tuesday.

P.S. Spano is the fifth House Republican to lose renomination this cycle, compared to three Democrats. The good news for the rest of the GOP caucus, though, is that none of them can lose their primaries … because the remaining states don’t have any Republican members. (Louisiana does host its all-party primaries in November, but none of the state’s House members are in any danger.)

Senate

AL-Sen: In what appears to be the first major outside spending here on the Democratic side, Duty and Honor has deployed $500,000 on an ad buy praising Sen. Doug Jones. The commercial extols the incumbent for working across party lines to protect Alabamians during the pandemic and "fighting to expand Medicaid to cover Alabama families who need it." The conservative organization One Nation, meanwhile, is running a spot hitting Jones for supporting abortion rights.

GA-Sen-A: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is running an ad going after a Georgia Republican senator's stock transactions … just not the senator you might expect. The commercial begins, "Jan. 24, the U.S. Senate gets a private briefing on the coronavirus. Georgia Sen. David Perdue gets busy." The narrator continues, "That same day, he buys stock in a company that sells masks and gloves. Then sells casino stocks and winds up buying and dumping up to $14.1 million dollars in stock."

Perdue, like homestate colleague Kelly Loeffler, has argued that these trades were made by advisers who acted independently. Perdue has also said that he was not part of that Jan. 24 briefing.

Meanwhile, SMP's affiliated nonprofit, Duty and Honor, is airing a spot that uses Perdue's own words to attack his handling of the pandemic. "Very, very few people have been exposed to it," the audience hears Perdue say, "The risk of this virus still remains low." The narrator continues, "No wonder Perdue voted against funding for more masks, gloves, and ventilators. And voted to cut funding at the CDC to combat pandemics."

GA-Sen-B: Georgia United Victory, which supports Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is airing another commercial attacking Republican Rep. Doug Collins, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that its total buy now stands at $6 million.

As pigs fill the screen, a truly bored-sounding narrator begins, "Another talking pig commercial? Good grief. We all know pigs are wasteful." She goes on to ask, "Is that the best comparison to Doug Collins? Oh sure. Collins loves pork for things like wine tasting and the opera." She goes on to say the congressman is too close to lobbyists and concludes, "He's laid quite a few eggs. Ever seen a pig lay an egg? Didn't think so." We really don't understand why this spot decided to go into the details of pig reproduction for no apparent reason, but ok.

IA-Sen, NC-Sen: Politico reports that Everytown for Gun Safety is launching an ad campaign this week against two Republican senators: The group will spend $2.2 million against Iowa's Joni Ernst (here and here), and $3.2 million opposing North Carolina's Thom Tillis (here and here).

Both ads argue the incumbents are too close to special interests, including the "gun lobby" and the insurance industry. The Iowa commercials also reference Ernst's infamous 2014 "make 'em squeal" spot by arguing, "She said she'd go to Washington and make them squeal. Joni Ernst broke that promise to Iowa and made the special interests her top priority." The narrator concludes that Ernst has actually left Iowans to squeal.

MA-Sen: Priorities for Progress, a group that the Boston Globe says is affiliated with the pro-charter school and anti-teachers union organization Democrats for Education Reform, has released a SurveyUSA poll that shows Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey narrowly leading Rep. Joe Kennedy 44-42 in the Democratic primary. Neither group appears to have taken sides in the Sept. 1 contest.

This is the third poll we've seen in the last month, and the others have also shown Markey in the lead. However, while the Republican firm JMC Analytics gave the incumbent a similar 44-41 edge in an early August crowdfunded survey, a YouGov poll for UMass Amherst and WCVB had Markey ahead 51-36 last week.

MI-Sen: Republican John James has publicized a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Gary Peters "just" 49-44; the survey, like most Republican polls this cycle, did not include presidential numbers.

There isn't any ambiguity about why James' team is releasing this survey, though. The memo noted that, while the Democratic group Duty and Honor has been airing commercials for Peters, there has been "no corresponding conservative ally on the air against Gary Peters," and it goes on to claim the Republican can win "[w]ith the proper resources." Indeed, as Politico recently reported, major Republican outside groups have largely bypassed this contest, and neither the NRSC or Senate Leadership Fund currently has any money reserved for the final three months of the campaign.

James is getting some air support soon, though. Roll Call reports that One Nation, a nonprofit affiliated with SLF, will launch a $4.5 million TV and radio ad campaign against Peters on Wednesday.

NC-Sen: While most Republican downballot candidates have largely avoided tying their Democratic opponents to Joe Biden, Sen. Thom Tillis tries linking Democrat Cal Cunningham to Biden in a new spot.

Polls: The progressive group MoveOn has unveiled a trio of new Senate polls from Public Policy Polling:

  • GA-Sen-A: Jon Ossoff (D): 44, David Perdue (R-inc): 44 (June: 45-44 Ossoff)
  • IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): 48, Joni Ernst (R-inc): 45 (June: 45-43 Greenfield)
  • ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): 49, Susan Collins (R-inc): 44 (July: 47-42 Gideon)

The releases did not include presidential numbers.

House

OH-01: Democrat Kate Schroder is running a TV commercial about the truly strange scandal that engulfed Republican Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign last year. The narrator accuses the incumbent of lying about Schroder to draw attention away from his own problems, declaring, "Chabot is facing a grand jury investigation for $123,000 in missing campaign money."

The ad continues, "After getting caught, Chabot blamed others. And his campaign manager went missing." The narrator concludes, "We may never learn the truth about Shady Chabot's missing money, but we do know that 24 years is enough. (Chabot was elected to represent the Cincinnati area in Congress in 1994, lost a previous version of this seat in 2008, and won it back two years later.)

As we've written before, Chabot's campaign was thrown into turmoil last summer when the FEC sent a letter asking why the congressman's first-quarter fundraising report was belatedly amended to show $124,000 in receipts that hadn't previously been accounted for. From there, a bizarre series of events unfolded.

First, Chabot's longtime consultant, Jamie Schwartz, allegedly disappeared after he shuttered his firm, called the Fountain Square Group. Then Schwartz's father, Jim Schwartz, told reporters that despite appearing as Chabot's treasurer on his FEC filings for many years, he had in fact never served in that capacity. Chabot's team was certainly bewildered, because it issued a statement saying, "As far as the campaign was aware, James Schwartz, Sr. has been the treasurer since 2011." Evidently there's a whole lot the campaign wasn't aware of.

The elder Schwartz also claimed of his son, "I couldn't tell you where he's at" because "he's doing a lot of running around right now." Well, apparently, he'd run right into the arms of the feds. In December, local news station Fox19 reported that Jamie Schwartz had turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney's office, which, Fox19 said, has been investigating the matter "for a while."

Adding to the weirdness, it turned out that Chabot had paid Schwartz's now-defunct consultancy $57,000 in July and August of 2019 for "unknown" purposes. Yes, that's literally the word Chabot's third-quarter FEC report used to describe payments to the Fountain Square Group no fewer than five times. (Remember how we were saying the campaign seems to miss quite a bit?)

We still don't know what those payments were for, or what the deal was with the original $124,000 in mystery money that triggered this whole saga. Chabot himself has refused to offer any details, insisting only that he's been the victim of an unspecified "financial crime."

There haven't been any public developments since December, though. The Cincinnati Inquirer's Jason Williams contacted Schwartz's attorney last week to ask if Schwartz had been informed of any updates, and the reporter was only told, "No, not yet." Unless something big changes in the next few months, though, expect Democrats to keep pounding Chabot over this story.

OK-05: State Sen. Stephanie Bice is going up with a negative commercial against businesswoman Terry Neese just ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in what will be a competitive contest for this Oklahoma City seat.

Bice accuses Neese of running "the same fake news smears she always sinks to." Bice continues by alluding to Neese's unsuccessful 1990 and 1994 campaigns for lieutenant governor by declaring that in her 30 years of running for office Neese has been "mastering the art of dirty politics but never beating a single Democrat." (Neese badly lost the general election in 1990 but fell short in the primary runoff four years later, so she's only had one opportunity up until now to beat a Democrat.) Bice then sums up Neese by saying, "Appointed by Clinton. Terrible on gun rights. Neese won't take on the Squad, because she can't beat Kendra Horn."

Neese outpaced Bice 36-25 in the first round of voting back in late June, and Neese' allies have a big financial advantage going into the runoff. While Bice did outspend Neese $290,000 to $210,000 from July 1 to Aug. 5 (the time the FEC designates as the pre-runoff period), the Club for Growth has deployed $535,000 on anti-Bice ads this month. So far, no major outside groups have spent to aid Bice.

SC-01: The NRCC has started airing its first independent expenditure ad of the November general election, a spot that seeks to attack freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham on the issue that powered his upset victory in 2018: offshore drilling. The ad tries to question Cunningham's commitment to opposing such drilling in a move straight from Karl Rove’s dusty playbook, but given how closely his image is tied to the cause—he defeated his Republican opponent two years ago, Katie Arrington, in large part because of her support for offshore oil extraction—it's a tough sell.

And while Nancy Mace, his Republican challenger this year, might welcome the committee's involvement, the move doesn't come from a position of strength. In fact, the NRCC's own ad seems to acknowledge this at the outset, with a narrator saying, "Your TV is full of Joe Cunningham" as three images from prior Cunningham spots pop up on the screen. It's not wrong: The congressman has been advertising on television since the first week in July, and he recently released his fifth ad.

Cunningham's been able to blanket the airwaves because of the huge financial advantage he's locked in. Mace raised a prodigious $733,000 in the second quarter of the year, but Cunningham managed to beat even that take with an $845,000 haul of his own. It's the campaigns' respective bank accounts that differ dramatically, though: Cunningham had $3.1 million in cash-on-hand as of June 30 while Mace, after a costly primary, had just $743,000.

As a result, she hasn't gone on the air yet herself, which explains why the NRCC has moved in early to fill in the gap. Interestingly, the committee didn't bother to mention that this is its first independent expenditure foray of the 2020 elections in its own press release, whereas the DCCC loudly trumpeted the opening of its own independent expenditure campaign in New York's 24th Congressional District a month ago.

TX-21: Both Democrat Wendy Davis and the far-right Club for Growth are running their first commercials here.

Davis talks about her life story, telling the audience, "[M]y parents divorced when I was 13. I got a job at 14 to help mom. And at 19, I became a mom." Davis continues by describing her experience living in a trailer park and working two jobs before community college led her to Texas Christian University and Harvard Law. She then says, "As a state senator, I put Texas over party because everyone deserves a fair shot."

The Club, which backs Republican Rep. Chip Roy, meanwhile tells the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek that it is spending $482,000 on its first ad against Davis. The group has $2.5 million reserved here to aid Roy, who ended June badly trailing the Democrat in cash-on-hand, and it says it will throw down more.

The Club's spot declares that Davis is a career politician who got "busted for using campaign funds for personal expenses," including an apartment in Austin. However, while the narrator makes it sound like Davis was caught breaking the rules, Svitek writes, "Members are allowed to use donors' dollars to pay for such accommodations—and it is not uncommon."

This topic also came up during Davis' 2014 campaign for governor. The campaign said at the time that legislative staffers also stayed at the apartment, and that Davis followed all the state's disclosure laws.

Polls:

  • AZ-06: GQR (D) for Hiral Tipirneni: Hiral Tipirneni (D): 48, David Schweikert (R-inc): 45 (50-48 Biden)
  • MT-AL: WPA Intelligence (R) for Club for Growth (pro-Rosendale): Matt Rosendale (R): 51, Kathleen Williams (D): 45
  • NJ-02: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jeff Van Drew (R-inc): 42, Amy Kennedy (D): 39
  • NY-01: Global Strategy Group (D) for Nancy Goroff: Lee Zeldin (R-inc): 47, Nancy Goroff (D): 42 (46-42 Trump)
  • WA-03: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-inc): 44, Carolyn Long (D): 40

The only other numbers we've seen from Arizona's 6th District was an early August poll from the DCCC that had Republican Rep. David Schweikert up 46-44 but found Joe Biden ahead 48-44 in this Scottsdale and North Phoenix constituency; Donald Trump carried this seat 52-42 four years ago, but like many other well-educated suburban districts, it's been moving to the left in recent years.

The Club for Growth's new Montana survey comes a few weeks after two Democratic pollsters found a closer race: In mid-July, Public Policy Polling's survey for election enthusiasts on Twitter showed a 44-44 tie, while a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had Republican Matt Rosendale ahead 49-47 a few days later. PPP and Civiqs found Donald Trump ahead 51-42 and 49-45, respectively, while the Club once again did not include presidential numbers.

U.S. Term Limits has been releasing House polls at a rapid pace over the last few weeks, and once again, they argue that Democrats would easily win if they would just highlight the Republican incumbents' opposition to term limits; as far as we know, no Democratic candidates have tested this theory out yet. These surveys also did not include presidential numbers.

The only other poll we've seen out of New York's 1st District on eastern Long Island was a July PPP internal for Democrat Nancy Goroff's allies at 314 Action Fund. That survey gave Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin a 47-40 lead, which is slightly larger than what her poll finds now, though it showed the presidential race tied 47-47. This seat has long been swing territory, though it backed Trump by a 55-42 margin in 2016.

Mayoral

Honolulu, HI Mayor: Former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who finished a close third in the Aug. 8 nonpartisan primary, announced Monday that she was endorsing independent Rick Blangiardi over fellow Democrat Keith Amemiya. Blangiardi took 26% in the first round of voting, while Amemiya beat Hanabusa 20-18 for second.

ELECTION CHANGES

Minnesota: Republicans have dropped their challenge to an agreement between Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon and voting rights advocates under which Minnesota will waive its requirement that mail voters have their ballots witnessed and will also require that officials count any ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within a week.

In dismissing their own claims, Republicans said they would "waive the right to challenge [the agreement] in any other judicial forum." That likely moots a separate federal case in which Republicans were challenging a similar agreement that a judge had refused to sign off on.

North Dakota: An organization representing county election officials in North Dakota says that local administrators are moving forward with plans to conduct the November general election in-person, rather than once again moving to an all-mail format, as they did for the state's June primary.

South Carolina: Republican Harvey Peeler, the president of South Carolina's state Senate, has called his chamber in for a special session so that lawmakers can consider measures to expand mail voting. Legislators passed a bill waiving the state's excuse requirement to vote absentee ahead of South Carolina's June primary, and Peeler says, "I am hopeful we can do it again."

However, Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas is refusing to convene a special session for his members, who are not due to return to the capitol until Sept. 15. That would give the state significantly less time to prepare for a likely influx of absentee ballot requests should the legislature once again relax the excuse requirement.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: After abrupt postponement of March’s election, Ohio’s primary is finally here

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

Primary Night: The Buckeye stops here: Ohio goes to the polls Tuesday for its presidential and downballot primaries … finally. The election was originally scheduled for March 17, but GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, citing the coronavirus pandemic, haphazardly canceled it hours before it was to begin. DeWine eventually signed a bill into law that moved the election to April 28 and all but eliminated in-person voting.

We've put together our preview of the downballot contests to watch. The biggest race will be the Democratic contest to take on GOP Rep. Steve Chabot in the 1st Congressional District, a Cincinnati-area seat that Donald Trump carried 51-45. We'll also be watching the safely blue 3rd District in Columbus, where Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty faces a challenge from former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advisor Morgan Harper.

Our live coverage will begin at 7:30 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the presidential and downballot primaries in all 50 states, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill says she's considering sending absentee ballot applications to all registered Democrats and Republicans ahead of Connecticut's Aug. 11 primaries (the state only allows party members to vote in primaries). Merrill had previously planned to send ballot applications to voters for the state's presidential primary, but that election was postponed from June 2 to Aug. 11 and consolidated with Connecticut's downballot primaries.

Because the state currently requires voters to present an excuse to request an absentee ballot, Merrill has encouraged Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont to issue an executive order allowing all voters to cite the coronavirus pandemic as an acceptable excuse. On Friday, Lamont refused to say whether he would sign such an order, saying only, "We’re working on that right now as we speak." Three weeks ago, Lamont's top counsel said the governor's office was researching whether the excuse requirement could be relaxed.

Missouri: Republican State House Speaker Elijah Haahr says he supports relaxing Missouri's excuse requirement to vote absentee and says that the legislature will hold a hearing on election-related issues sometime during its session over the next three weeks. Many county clerks have advocated for waiving the requirement, but Republican Gov. Mike Parson has opposed the idea. A lawsuit seeking to allow voters to cite the coronavirus pandemic as a valid excuse is pending in state court.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says he still has not made a decision about whether to conduct New Jersey's July 7 primaries by mail. Three weeks ago, the last time Murphy addressed the matter, the governor said the state would have to decide in "a number of weeks."

New York: New York's Board of Elections, a bipartisan panel whose members are all appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has canceled the state's June 23 presidential primary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had asked that the Democratic primary go forward, but a Democratic board member, Douglas Kellner, said, "What the Sanders campaign wanted is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous."

However, the state's downballot primaries, which are taking place the same day, will proceed as planned, meaning the only way public safety might be enhanced is if turnout is lower as a result. According to the New York Times, about one third of New York counties have no other races on the ballot and therefore will not hold an election. However, it is not clear what proportion of the state's actual electorate would be affected.

Separately, Cuomo canceled the June 23 special election for Queens Borough President, an all-party race that would have allowed the winner to serve out the current calendar year. However, a second, separate special election for the final year of now-Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz's term will still go forward. This will be a traditional race, with party primaries on June 23 and a general election in November. There will then be still another election next year for the borough presidency's regular four-year term.

Cuomo also canceled several state legislative special elections, instead leaving those seats vacant until the November general election. The special election for New York's 27th Congressional District in the Buffalo suburbs will still proceed on June 23.

Virginia: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has postponed Virginia's May 5 local elections to May 19, the longest delay he is permitted to unilaterally impose under state law. Last week, the Democratic-run legislature rejected Northam's proposal to consolidate local races with the November general election.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Democrat Mark Kelly has debuted two new TV ads that showcase the candidate talking directly to viewers. The first spot highlights his background as a former Navy pilot and touts his political independence, while the second one focuses on the coronavirus pandemic and the need to both provide healthcare workers with the resources they require and to ensure everyone can access life-saving care without going bankrupt.

CO-Sen: Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced Friday that she would appeal a state judge's decision to place businesswoman Michelle Ferrigno Warren on the June Democratic primary ballot.

Judge Christopher Baumann wrote that, while Ferrigno Warren had only submitted about half of the 10,500 petitions needed, she "had to collect petition signatures in the shadow of a global pandemic and looming public health emergency." Baumann also said that the candidate's ability to collect about 5,400 petitions "suggests Ms. Ferrigno Warren has a 'significant modicum' of support for her candidacy." Griswold's team, though, argued that the decision was unfair to the contenders who had met the requirements as well as to candidates who had fallen short but hadn't sued to get on the ballot.

Gubernatorial

Utah: Both parties held their conventions on Saturday as virtual events, and the lineup for Utah's June 30 primaries is now set.

As we've written before, Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by competing at their party conventions, though contenders had the option to try both methods. Any candidate who handed in enough petitions was guaranteed a spot in the primary no matter how well or poorly they did at their convention on Saturday.

Both Republicans and Democrats used ranked-choice ballots at this year's conventions in contests with more than two candidates. If one contender took more than 60% of the delegate vote, they would be the only candidate to advance to the primary ballot. If, however, no one hit this threshold, then the two competitors left standing would make it to the primary.

UT-Gov: The GOP field to succeed retiring Republican Gov. Gary Herbert went from seven candidates to just four after Saturday's convention.

While Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox had already turned in enough signatures to advance to the primary, he still took the top spot at the party gathering by winning 53% of the delegates. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, who was only pursuing the convention route, grabbed the second spot with 43%. Saturday was game over, though, for wealthy businessman Jeff Burningham, Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton, and perennial candidate Jason Christensen.

Former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, who preceded Herbert as governor, and former state party chair Thomas Wright each had already earned a spot on the the primary ballot by turning in enough signatures. Early polls show Huntsman and Cox, who has Herbert's support, far ahead of the other candidates, but that could change now that the field has been reduced to four contenders. Cox, however, does begin the contest with a big financial advantage: The lieutenant governor led Huntsman in cash-on-hand $703,000 to $336,000 on April 15, while Wright and Hughes had $222,000 and $164,000 to spend, respectively.

The Democrats, by contrast, avoided a primary altogether. All six of Team Blue's candidates ended up pursuing only the convention route, and University of Utah law professor Chris Peterson won the event with 88% of the vote. Democrats haven't won a statewide race in Utah since Jan Graham was re-elected as attorney general back in 1996, and we rate the gubernatorial contest as Safe Republican.

House

Florida: Filing closed Friday for congressional candidates running in Florida’s Aug. 18 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. The deadline for candidates for the state legislature is not until June 19, even though the primary is the same date.

FL-03: Far-right Rep. Ted Yoho is retiring, and 10 fellow Republicans are running to succeed him. This north-central Florida seat, which includes Gainesville and Ocala, backed Donald Trump 56-40, and the GOP nominee should have no trouble holding it.

Physician James St. George, who has self-funded about half of his campaign, led the field with $336,000 in the bank on March 31. Just behind was another self-funder, 2018 candidate Judson Sapp, who had $310,000 available. Sapp lost to Yoho 76-24 last cycle in a campaign that attracted very little attention, but this time, Sapp has the support of neighboring Rep. John Rutherford.

Another candidate to watch is Kat Cammack, who served as Yoho’s campaign manager during his upset 2012 win and later worked in his congressional office. Cammack ended March with $166,000 in the bank, which was a little more than the $137,000 that former Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase had available. Two other contenders, businessman Ryan Chamberlin and Clay County Commissioner Gavin Rollins, had $97,000 on-hand, while none of the other candidates had more than $25,000 to spend.

FL-05: While Democratic Rep. Al Lawson’s weak fundraising early last year had us wondering if he’d retire, the two-term congressman filed to run again. Lawson doesn’t face any serious intra-party opposition for this safely blue seat in the northern part of the state.

FL-07: Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is defending a seat in the northern Orlando suburbs that backed Hillary Clinton 51-44 four years after Barack Obama won it by an extremely narrow margin, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be a major GOP target this year.

While a number of Republicans launched bids here, the only two who ended up filing were physician Leo Valentin and mortgage broker Richard Goble. Valentin, who has self-funded a portion of his campaign, had $276,000 to spend at the end of March, while Goble had only $13,000 on-hand. Murphy, who turned back a touted opponent 58-42 last cycle, had $1.32 million in the bank.

FL-13: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who served as Florida’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, is seeking a third term in a St. Petersburg seat that moved from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton. Crist had a hefty $2.94 million in the bank at the end of March, and it remains to be seen if national Republicans will target his seat after ignoring it last cycle.

Five Republicans filed to challenge Crist, and attorney Amanda Makki looks like the frontrunner. Makki, who has the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, ended March with $613,000 on-hand, while Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna was a distant second with $147,000 in the bank. 2018 nominee George Buck, who lost to Crist 58-42 last time, had just $59,000 available; the NRCC also cut ties with Buck last year after he sent out a fundraising email calling for Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar to be hanged for "treason." The other two Republicans had less than $7,000 to spend.

FL-15: Freshman GOP Rep. Ross Spano is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, and he faces notable primary and general opposition. This seat, which includes Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, went from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, but Spano won it by a modest 53-47 before his scandal fully came out.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin announced last month that he’d challenge Spano for the GOP nod, and he quickly raised $107,000 and self-funded an additional $160,000. Spano took in $229,000 during this time, but he held only a $293,000 to $266,000 cash-on-hand lead over Franklin at the end of March.

Three Democrats are also competing here. State Rep. Adam Hattersley ended last month with a $231,000 to $90,000 cash-on-hand lead over Alan Cohn, a former local TV news anchor who lost a 2014 primary for a previous version of this seat. The third candidate, Iraq War veteran Jesse Philippe, has not reported raising any money yet.

FL-16: GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan turned back a credible Democratic foe 55-45 last cycle, and he faces another expensive race.

State Rep. Margaret Good, who won her seat in a 2018 special by defeating the congressman’s son, faces no opposition in the Democratic primary. Good has been a strong fundraiser, though the wealthy and well-connected Buchanan ended March with a $1.18 million to $737,000 cash-on-hand lead. This Sarasota-area seat went from 54-45 Romney to 54-43 Trump.

FL-18: GOP Rep. Brian Mast won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and Democrats don’t seem to be making a play for this seat this time.

Mast ended March with a huge $1.52 million to $98,000 cash-on-hand lead over Oz Vazquez, a former state deputy solicitor general. Pam Keith, who lost the 2018 primary 60-40, also recently entered the Democratic primary. This seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, moved from 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump.  

FL-19: GOP Rep. Francis Rooney is retiring from this safely red district in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area after only two terms, which means that we have our fourth open seat contest here in just 8 years. Ten Republicans are running here, and it’s already turning into an expensive fight.

Wealthy businessman Casey Askar, who only entered the race last month, quickly raised $506,000 and self-funded $3 million, which left him with a massive $3.48 million war chest. Urologist William Figlesthaler, who has also been doing some heavy self-funding, had a significant $1 million to spend as well.

Three state representatives are also in. Dane Eagle, who serves as majority leader, held a $334,000 to $221,000 cash-on-hand lead over Byron Donalds, while Heather Fitzenhagen was far behind with $90,000. Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson and former Minnesota state Rep. Dan Severson had $69,000 and $62,000 to spend, respectively, while the rest of the field was even further behind.

FL-26: Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell won this district 51-49 in a very expensive 2018 race, and the new incumbent will be a top GOP target this cycle. This seat, which includes the southwestern Miami area and the Florida Keys, went from 55-44 Obama to 57-41 Clinton, but Republicans still do well downballot here.

National Republicans, including Donald Trump, are supporting Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, and he starts with a strong geographic base. About 90% of this seat is located in Miami-Dade County (the balance is in neighboring Monroe County), and Giménez has consistently been in the news during the coronavirus pandemic. Mucarsel-Powell, though, ended March with a strong $2.2 million to $405,000 cash-on-hand edge over Giménez, who entered the race in late January. The only other Republican, firefighter Omar Blanco, had just $59,000 in the bank.

FL-27: Democrat Donna Shalala won an open seat race last cycle 52-46 against former Spanish-language TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, and the Republican is back for a rematch. This seat, which includes the southern Miami area and Coral Gables, went from 53-46 Obama all the way to 59-39 Clinton, though this is another district where the GOP does better downballot. Shalala ended March with a $1.45 million to $895,000 cash-on-hand lead.

NM-02: Oil businesswoman Claire Chase has launched a Republican primary ad accusing 2018 GOP nominee Yvette Herrell of having "undermined Trump's campaign" and breaking a promise not to vote to raise taxes. The spot repeatedly labels Chase as the "pro-Trump" conservative instead.

Meanwhile, Herrell has launched a TV spot of her own attacking Chase over the latter's old anti-Trump Facebook posts. As a cutout of Chase appears on screen, speech bubbles pop up with posts such as "(Donald Trump)'s an a**hole unworthy of the office... of the President." Lastly, Herrell is airing another spot that features Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who previously led the House's far-right Freedom Caucus, praising her candidacy.

UT-01: The Republican field to succeed retiring Rep. Rob Bishop, who is running for lieutenant governor on former state GOP chair Thomas Wright's ticket, was dramatically cut from 12 to four after Saturday's convention. This seat, which includes Ogden and northern Utah, is safely red turf, and whoever emerges with the GOP nod on June 30 should have no trouble holding it.

Former Utah Commissioner of Agriculture Kerry Gibson took first place at the convention with 53%, while former U.S. Foreign Service officer Blake Moore grabbed second with 40%. Two other contenders, Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, had already made the primary ballot by turning in signatures. It's game over, though, for Morgan County Councilor Tina Cannon, Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd, and six other contenders.

There's no obvious frontrunner here, and none of the candidates had a large amount of money to spend on April 5. (Because the party convention came so close to the April 15 quarterly reporting deadline, Utah congressional candidates' reports cover the period of Jan. 1 through April 5.) Gibson led Moore in cash-on-hand $102,000 to $84,000, while Stevenson had $65,000 in the bank. Witt, though, was far behind with just $9,000 to spend.

UT-04: The GOP field to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams was reduced from seven to four at the weekend's convention. State Rep. Kim Coleman secured a spot in the primary by taking 54% of the delegates, while former NFL player Burgess Owens, who had already successfully petitioned his way onto the ballot, took 45%.

Coleman and Owens will also face former radio host Jay Mcfarland and Trent Christensen, who served as a regional finance director for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, on June 30. However, party activist Kathleen Anderson, nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger, and businesswoman Cindy Thompson all failed to make the ballot.

This suburban Salt Lake City-area seat is likely to be a top GOP target, but none of the Republicans had much money on April 5. Coleman led Owens $115,000 to $93,000 in cash-on-hand, while Mcfarland had $33,000. Christensen, who only entered the race in mid-March, had a mere $4,000 in the bank, though he may have the connections to haul in more. McAdams, who has no intra-party opposition, had a hefty $2.2 million to spend.

Other Races

UT-AG: GOP incumbent Sean Reyes, who picked up an endorsement from Donald Trump on Thursday evening, will face Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in the June 30 primary. Reyes outpaced Leavitt 56-42 at Saturday's convention after the third candidate, former Attorney General John Swallow, was eliminated from contention in the first round of balloting. The Democrats are fielding defense attorney Greg Skordas, who lost the 2004 general election 68-28.

Leavitt, who is the the brother of former Gov. Mike Leavitt, has pitched himself as a reformer and focused his campaign on lowering the state's incarceration rate. Leavitt has also argued that Reyes is "shameless" for keeping large donations from an energy company whose leaders were convicted of fraud in federal court. Reyes, who is running as an ardent Trump ally, held a $128,000 to $23,000 cash-on-hand lead in mid-April.

Morning Digest: After years of high-profile defeats, Illinois GOP nominates Jim Oberweis once more

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

IL-14: Whether national Republicans like it or not, state Sen. Jim Oberweis is once again their nominee. Oberweis defeated fellow state Sen. Sue Rezin 26-23 in the crowded primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood; while the Associated Press has not called the race as of Wednesday afternoon, Rezin conceded on election night.

This seat in Chicago's western exurbs moved from 54-44 Romney to 49-45 Trump, and Underwood unseated GOP incumbent Randy Hultgren two years later in an upset. Oberweis, who self-funded $1 million through late February, does give Team Red a nominee with access to plenty of money against the well-funded Underwood, but his electoral history is … not good.

In fact, the wealthy dairy magnate has unsuccessfully run for the House or statewide office a grand total of six times beginning with his 2002 primary defeat to take on Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. We're even going to be nice and not count Oberweis' accidental 2020 Senate campaign against him.

Campaign Action

Oberweis' most prominent loss came in 2008, which came after three failed statewide primary campaigns. That year, Oberweis was the GOP nominee in a high-profile special election to succeed former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. That district, which was also numbered the 14th (but only shared about 40% of the same territory as the seat he's now running for), had been reliably red turf for a long time. George W. Bush carried the seat 55-44 in 2004 and Hastert (whose awful past would not be revealed until 2015), had always won re-election easily.

However, the contest between Oberweis and Democrat Bill Foster was a competitive affair, and Foster's 52.5-47.5 victory was a strong and early sign that 2008 was going to be a very good year for Democrats. Oberweis and Foster had won their primaries for the regular November contest months before the special was decided, and Republicans reportedly tried to convince their nominee to drop out.

Then-state Rep. Aaron Schock, who was the GOP nominee for a congressional seat to the south, loudly threw Oberweis under the bus for his defeat, declaring, "Anybody in Illinois who knows Jim Oberweis knows that was not a referendum on the Republican Party; it was a referendum on Jim Oberweis." Schock, whose own congressional career would self-destruct the next decade, also volunteered that when it came to Oberweis, "The people that knew him best, liked him least." Oberweis didn't listen, and he lost to Foster again 58-42.

Things finally changed in 2012 when Oberweis won both the primary and the general election for an open state Senate seat. But some habits can't be broken: The next year, he launched a second longshot bid against Durbin, which characteristically ended in defeat. Still, Oberweis was re-elected the following cycle 55-45 even as his state Senate seat was swinging from 53-45 Romney to 48-45 Clinton, so it's possible that he's developed some better campaigning skills in the last few years.

Oberweis announced in 2019 that he would challenge Underwood, but strangely, he didn't rule out running for Congress in Florida later that year. Oberweis owns a home in retiring GOP Rep. Francis Rooney's seat in the Naples area, and he's benefited in the past from a homeowner's tax exemption by listing it as his "primary" residence. In October, an Oberweis spokesman acknowledged to Politico, "There's a push from Republicans in that district" for him to run, and he continued, "All he'd have to do is move down there and he'd win."

Oberweis did not move down there and win, though. Instead, he now has another chance to avenge his last six defeats in Illinois in November by taking on Underwood in what will likely be a very competitive race for a seat the GOP very badly wants to take back.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our 2020 calendar, which we will continually update as any changes to election dates are finalized.

Alabama: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has moved Alabama's March 31 primary runoffs to July 14, and Republican Secretary of State John Merrill says that voters can cite the coronavirus outbreak as a reason for asking for an absentee ballot, regardless of whether they themselves have contracted the disease. Democrats in the legislature have introduced bills to remove the excuse requirement entirely, but Ivey claimed to the Montgomery Advertiser that she was unaware of any discussions about such a move.

Arizona: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has asked Arizona's GOP-run state legislature to implement all-mail balloting for the November general election, but one key Republican is opposed. Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who might challenge Hobbs in 2022, told the Associated Press, "If they want to receive it by mail they can. So why would you mandate it?" Currently, about 75% of Arizona citizens vote by mail.

Kansas: Kansas Democrats are proceeding with their party-run presidential primary on May 2 but will send every registered Democrat in the state a mail-in ballot at the end of the month. Party officials are encouraging all voters to cast mail ballots, which must be postmarked by April 24.

Minnesota: Minnesota Republicans had previously said they'd postpone their upcoming local conventions but have instead decided to hold them online. However, the party hasn't yet decided what to do about its mid-May statewide convention or its congressional district conventions, which are set to begin in the middle of next month.

The conventions will award the GOP's formal endorsement to delegates' preferred candidates, which will be of greatest importance in the 2nd District. There, several Republicans are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, and at least two have said they won't continue on to Minnesota's Aug. 11 primary if they fail to secure the party's backing.

Missouri: Republican Gov. Mike Parson has moved Missouri's April 7 municipal elections to June 2. Missouri has already voted in the presidential primaries, and its statewide primaries for downballot office are not until Aug. 4.

Montana: Several candidates seeking statewide office in Montana this year, including a Democrat and a Republican both running for secretary of state, have called for the state's June 2 primary to be conducted entirely by mail, but a spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock says the governor has not made any decisions and is "considering all options." Bullock is himself a candidate in the primary, where he faces Navy veteran John Mues for the right to take on Republican Sen. Steve Daines in the fall.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire's secretary of state's office says it is considering loosening the excuse requirement for voting absentee. However, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan wrongly told NHPR that states that have adopted no-excuse absentee voting or voting by mail "have actually shown a decline in their participation in voter turnout." Studies show the exact opposite: Allowing people to vote at home increases turnout by making it easier to vote.

New Jersey: The New Jersey Globe reports that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is considering moving to all-mail balloting for the state's June 2 primaries for the presidential race and downballot offices, though Murphy's staff declined to comment on the matter. One difficulty posed by such a change involves independent voters, who are permitted to vote in either party's primary. Such voters would have to be sent two ballots, with instructions to return no more than one, as anyone attempting to vote in both primaries would have both ballots rejected.

Ohio: The date of Ohio's presidential and downballot primary remains uncertain following Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's last-minute decision to cancel in-person voting, which had been set to take place on March 17. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who late on Monday issued a memo saying the primary would now take place on June 2, said on Tuesday that he anticipates litigation over the date—and indeed, a lawsuit was filed later that same day by the Ohio Democratic Party.

The party's suit asks the Supreme Court to rescind LaRose's directive regarding a June 2 primary and instead require the state to extend the deadline for requesting absentee ballots until April 25; to allow voters to cast absentee ballots as long as they're postmarked by April 28; and to require the state's Board of Elections to count any such ballots that are received by May 8. Notably, the plaintiffs have not asked for a new date for in-person voting.

Legislative leaders are also unhappy with DeWine and LaRose. Republican State House Speaker Larry Householder issued a statement saying that "the legal authority to change the date [of the primary] rests with the Ohio General Assembly – not the courts and not via executive fiat." He said that lawmakers will address the matter when they reconvene as scheduled next week, but so far, Householder has only said that he'll "consider an extension of absentee voting." Much like the Democratic Party, he has not called for a reinstatement of in-person voting (at least, not yet).

Rhode Island: Rhode Island's Board of Elections voted to ask Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo to reschedule the state's April 28 presidential primary to June 2, and a Raimondo spokesperson said the governor "is open to the idea." Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has said she thinks the state should stay with its current calendar and instead prefers a "predominantly mail ballot" election.

Texas: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has signed an order allowing local governments to delay their May 2 elections until Nov. 3, the date of this year's general election. Abbott previously promised an announcement later this week about any adjustments that might be made to Texas' May 26 primary runoffs.

Virginia: Virginia's Department of Elections says that all voters will be allowed to cast absentee ballots in the state's May 5 local elections. However, the Virginia Mercury reports that no such decision has yet been made regarding the state's June 9 congressional primaries.

Washington: Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman has asked Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to postpone Washington's April 28 special elections and suggested they be consolidated with either the state's Aug. 4 downballot primaries or the Nov. 3 general election. These elections do not involve any candidates but instead feature proposed bonds and levies.

Notably, Washington already conducts all of its elections entirely by mail. However, Wyman wrote to Inslee, "circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible" for local election officials to perform their required duties, citing the possibility of "courthouse closures," "workforce reductions of election staff [or] postal staff," and "disruptions with vendors who support election operations."

West Virginia: Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner says there are no plans for West Virginia to delay its May 12 presidential and downballot primary, but all voters will be allowed to request absentee ballots due to the coronavirus.

Wisconsin: Despite growing calls for Wisconsin to delay its April 7 elections, such a move seems unlikely: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers reiterated his opposition to the idea on Tuesday, and Republican Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald also said he thinks the election should not be postponed. The marquee contests on the ballot are the presidential primaries and a key race for the state Supreme Court, but Evers noted that many nonpartisan local and county-level offices are also up for election. While the term for the Supreme Court post does not begin until August, many terms for local office start in April.

Senate

AZ-Sen: GOP Sen. Martha McSally announced on Wednesday that she was suspending her TV ad campaign for at least 30 days due to the coronavirus situation.

GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: End Citizens United has endorsed 2017 House candidate Jon Ossoff in the May Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. The group has also thrown its support behind another Democrat, pastor Raphael Warnock, in the November all-party special election primary for Georgia's other U.S. Senate seat.

IA-Sen: Politico reports that the conservative group One Nation is spending $970,000 on a TV, radio and digital ad campaign praising GOP Sen. Joni Ernst for working to lower prescription drug costs.

ME-Sen: GOP Sen. Susan Collins is using a campaign ad to tell voters how she's "suspending traditional campaign events" because of the Coronavirus.

House

FL-15: Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin announced on Tuesday that he would challenge scandal-tarred Rep. Ross Spano in the August GOP primary. Franklin is the head of a regional insurance agency, so he may have access to money. The city commissioner is the first notable candidate to launch an intra-party bid against Spano, who is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful bid for the House in Florida's 15th District.

As we've written before, Spano admitted in December of 2018, before he even took office, that he might have broken federal election law by accepting personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then turning around and loaning his own campaign $170,000. That's a serious problem, because if you loan money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign, you have to adhere to the same laws that limit direction contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.

Spano, who was running for state attorney general before he launched his bid for Congress, argued last month that he'd misunderstood this law. Spano also insisted his congressional campaign had disclosed the loan "before it became public knowledge" in the financial disclosure forms all federal candidates are obligated to file.

That, however, is flat out false: As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno explained, Spano had failed to file those disclosures by the July 2018 deadline, only submitting them just before Election Day—after the paper had asked about them. Only once those reports were public did the paper learn that the money for Spano's questionable loans came from his friends.

Florida's 15th District, which includes Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, went from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump. Spano, though, won the seat by a modest 53-47 before his scandal came out, and the GOP could have trouble again especially if Spano wins after a bruising primary.

TX-02: Navy veteran Elisa Cardnell announced Wednesday that she'd withdrawn her name from the May Democratic primary runoff ballot, a move that makes attorney Sima Ladjevardian Team Blue's nominee against GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw. Cardnell had announced last week that she was ending her campaign, but she didn't commit to taking her name off the ballot at the time.

TX-17: Former 32nd District Rep. Pete Sessions picked up an endorsement this week for the May GOP runoff from rocket scientist George Hindman, who took third place in the March 3 runoff. Sessions led that contest with 32% of the vote, while businesswoman Renee Swann beat Hindman 19-18 for the other runoff spot.

Legislative

Special Elections: Republicans won a trio of special election for the Pennsylvania state House on Tuesday night, all in seats the party held, including a contested 18th District in the Philadelphia suburbs that Democrats had hoped to flip.

There, Republican KC Tomlinson, a funeral director and daughter of local state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, defeated her Democratic opponent, union plumber Howie Hayes, by a 55-45 margin. Bucks County officials had asked a judge to delay the election because Gov. Tom Wolf has asked residents in a large swath of the state to stay home to combat the spread of the coronavirus, but their request was denied. According to unofficial returns, 8,145 voters participated, which was on the lower side for a competitive state House special election in Pennsylvania in recent years.

The 18th had looked promising for Democrats, as Hillary Clinton carried it 53-44 in 2016 and Wolf won it 62-37 two years ago, but it's long supported Republicans further down the ballot—a tradition it continued Tuesday night. However, Hayes has the chance to reverse the result in November, when the two will face off again and when turnout will likely be far higher.

Meanwhile, Republican Eric Davanzo beat Democrat Robert Prah 53-41 in the 58th District, with Libertarian Kenneth Bach taking 7%. And in the 8th District, Republican Timothy Bonner easily defeated Democrat Phil Heasley 75-25. The results mean that the GOP maintains a 110-93 majority in the chamber.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former Treasury official Mary Miller released a poll from GQR just before GOP Gov. Larry Hogan moved the state's presidential and downballot primary from April 28 to June 2. Miller's survey found Former Mayor Sheila Dixon leading City Council President Brandon Scott 18-17 in the Democratic primary, while Miller was in third with 12%. An unreleased January poll showed Miller at just 2%.

Election Result Recaps

IL-07: Longtime Democratic Rep. Danny Davis decisively won renomination on Tuesday against attorney Kristine Schanbacher, who raised a notable amount of money. With 75% of precincts reporting, Davis leads Schanbacher 66-12 in this safely blue Chicago seat.

IL-11: Democratic Rep. Bill Foster defeated Will County Board member Rachel Ventura 59-41 in a primary that attracted almost no attention before Election Day. Ventura criticized Foster from the left when she launched her campaign in July, but she raised very little money and didn't attract any major outside support. Foster shouldn't have any trouble winning the general election in this 59-35 Clinton seat in the southwestern Chicago suburbs.

IL-15: Farmer Mary Miller decisively beat Vermilion County Treasurer Darren Duncan 57-22 in the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Shimkus in this safely red seat in downstate Illinois. There are currently only 13 women in the House Republican caucus, and Miller's win gives Team Red a better chance to at least maintain that small number.

Cook County, IL State’s Attorney: Incumbent Kim Foxx won the very expensive Democratic primary by defeating attorney Bill Conway 50-31. Foxx, whose 2016 win was a huge victory for criminal justice reform groups, should have no trouble in the fall in heavily Democratic Cook County.

Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: While there are still some ballots to be counted from the March 3 nonpartisan primary, there's no question anymore that incumbent Jackie Lacey has been forced into a November general election against former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Lacey, as of Tuesday evening, is at 48.8% of the vote, which is just shy of the majority she needed to win outright, while Gascón leads public defender Rachel Rossi 28-23 for second.

The Los Angeles Times reported after Tuesday's tabulations that Lacey would need to win 53,000 of the 64,000 ballots that still needed to be counted in order to get a majority of the vote, which is almost certainly not going to happen. The paper also notes that, even if Rossi won every single remaining vote, she'd still be in third place. Both Gascón and Rossi have been running to Lacey's left, so Gascón may be able to pick up most of Rossi's supporters for the fall campaign.

Morning Digest: Progressive Marie Newman unseats anti-choice Rep. Dan Lipinski in Democratic primary

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

Illinois held its downballot primaries on Tuesday, and you can find the results here. We’ll have a rundown in our next Morning Digest.

Leading Off

IL-03: In a huge win for progressives, businesswoman Marie Newman defeated eight term Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has long been one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus. With 99% of precincts in, Newman’s lead stands at 47-45 in their expensive primary rematch in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. While Newman had to fight hard to beat the powerful incumbent on Tuesday after narrowly losing to him two years ago, she shouldn’t have any trouble prevailing in the general election in this 55-40 Clinton seat in the Chicago area.

Lipinski made a name for himself during his nearly 16 years in Congress as a loud opponent of abortion rights and same sex-marriage, but he proved to be very tough to dislodge. Lipinski’s father, Bill Lipinski, represented this area from 1983 until 2005, and plenty of primary voters still supported the family and shared their conservative views. The younger Lipinski received the Democratic nomination in 2004 from party leaders after his father dropped his re-election campaign after winning the primary, and much of the old Chicago machine remained loyal to him throughout the years.

Lipinski turned back a well-funded primary challenge in 2008 by a 54-25 margin, and he didn’t face another serious threat for the next decade. During that time the congressman repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthoodopposed the Affordable Care Act, and refused to endorse Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012—despite the fact that his district is solidly blue.

Newman challenged Lipinski from the left in 2018, and while she looked very much like a longshot against the well-funded and entrenched incumbent for most of the race, she ended up holding him to a 51-49 win. Lipinski, though, quickly proved that he wasn’t going to change his conservative ways after that near-loss by headlining the anti-abortion “March for Life” in early 2019, an event he’d skipped the previous year when he was fighting to win renomination. Lipinski also signed onto an amicus brief alongside more than two hundred Republican Congress members asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Newman launched her second bid for this seat in May of 2019, and this time, it was clear to everyone from the beginning that she was a serious threat to Lipinski. While the incumbent enjoyed a massive financial advantage during his last campaign, the two candidates ended up spending a comparable amount this time. EMILY’s List also deployed $1 million on Newman’s behalf, while major outside groups didn’t do much to help Lipinski this time. Newman also picked up a high-profile endorsement in February from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who memorably took Lipinski to task by declaring, “[I]f it were up to Dan Lipinski, I wouldn't be able to marry my wife.”

Still, Lipinski had some strong advantages for his second campaign. The congressman still enjoyed the support of much of the Chicago Democratic establishment, including powerful state House Speaker Mike Madigan, and many labor unions. Two other candidates, activist Rush Darwish and underfunded perennial candidate Charles Hughes, were also on the ballot, and there was a real possibility that they could take enough support from Newman to allow Lipinski to win with just a plurality of the vote. However, this time it was Newman who ended the primary night as the victor.

Election Changes

Alaska: Alaska Democrats had already switched to mail balloting for their April 4 presidential primary before the coronavirus outbreak, so the election is proceeding as planned. Party officials say they haven't yet changed their plans to offer in-person voting at a limited number of sites, but they're exhorting voters to postmark their ballots by the March 27 deadline in case that changes.

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill says discussions are underway about delaying the state's April 28 presidential primary, which the CT Mirror says Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has the power to unilaterally move. Merrill says she will issue a recommendation to Lamont but added, "We don’t need to make that decision now." In addition, because Connecticut's constitution requires voters to have an excuse to vote absentee, Merrill has asked Lamont to declare that all voters may request an absentee ballot due to the pandemic. While lawmakers have passed an amendment to change this provision, they need to do so a second time after 2020 before it can come into an effect.

Delaware: Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence, an appointee of Democratic Gov. John Carney, says there's no provision in state law allowing Delaware to postpone its April 28 presidential primary, though presumably the legislature could pass a bill changing the date. Delaware's constitution also currently requires an excuse to vote absentee. While lawmakers have passed an amendment to change this provision, they need to do so a second time after 2020 before it can come into effect like in Connecticut.

Florida: A federal judge rejected a last-minute request filed late on Monday night to extend the absentee deadline for Florida's presidential primary, which took place on Tuesday, until March 27. However, the judge did not rule on the underlying merits of the lawsuit but rather on plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order, so it's possible absentee balloting could be re-opened when a final ruling is issued.

Georgia: Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says his office is contemplating a plan to mail absentee ballot applications to the 2 million Georgia voters over the age of 60, and possibly to all 7.2 million registered voters regardless of age. Voting rights advocates, however, want Raffensperger to skip the application step and instead simply mail out ballots to all voters, but the secretary of state's office claims it cannot afford to administer an all-mail election.

Hawaii: Like their counterparts in Alaska, Hawaii Democrats are conducting their April 4 presidential primary largely by mail, but party officials say the fate of 21 in-person polling locations remains uncertain at this time.

Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has moved the date of Maryland's presidential and downballot primaries from April 28 to June 2. The special election for the state's vacant 7th Congressional District will still go forward on April 28, but it will be conducted entirely by mail.

Minnesota: Democrats in Minnesota have canceled their upcoming local and congressional district-level conventions, which had been scheduled throughout April and May, and will instead issue endorsements by online vote. No decision has yet been made about the party's statewide convention, which is set for May 30-31. Republicans, meanwhile, have postponed their local and district-level conventions through April 15.

Minnesota's primary for downballot offices is not until Aug. 11, and party conventions don't impact ballot access. However, candidates who fail to win their party's official endorsement during convention season often drop out rather than continue on to the primary.

New Mexico: Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she plans to conduct "a heavy push toward absentee balloting" ahead of New Mexico's June 2 primary for the presidential race and downballot offices. She also says that any adjustments to in-person polling sites are "still under consideration," but it doesn't sound like a discussion of changing the date of the election is underway.

Texas: According to the Houston Chronicle, election officials in Texas are exploring a move to all-mail balloting for the state's May 26 runoffs, though the secretary of state's office would not confirm whether it's considering the idea.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Politico reports that the conservative group One Nation is spending $700,000 on a TV, radio, and digital ad campaign that commends GOP Sen. Martha McSally's work to expand mental health care for veterans.

GA-Sen-A: On behalf of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the University of Georgia is out with the first poll we've seen of the May Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. 2017 House nominee Jon Ossoff is in first with 31%, while former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson edges out 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico 16-15 for the second spot in a likely July runoff.

Maine: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Maine's June 9 party primaries, and the state has a list of contenders that can be downloaded on this page. Both the primary and general elections for downballot offices will be held using instant-runoff voting.  

ME-Sen: GOP Sen. Susan Collins easily won re-election in 2014, but her bid for a fifth term has already turned into a very expensive affair. The Bangor Daily News reports that, in the past week alone, Senate Majority PAC spent $600,000 against Collins, while the conservative 1820 PAC deployed $1 million against Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will also benefit from about $4 million that several organizations, including Daily Kos, raised after Collins became the decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

Four Democrats filed to take on Collins, who does not face an intra-party challenger. Gideon has the support of prominent national Democratic groups, including the DSCC, and she's raised far more money than any of her primary rivals. Former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse has been doing some self-funding, though, and he launched a $200,000 ad buy at the start of March. The other two candidates are 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman.

This will almost certainly be the most competitive re-election contest of Collins' career, and even the senator didn't dispute the idea that her once mighty approval rating had taken a dive when she was asked about it back in July. Polling has been infrequent, though, so we don't fully know the extent to which Collins has damaged her reputation with swing voters. Maine also moved sharply to the right in 2016 thanks to its large population of white voters without college degrees. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican, but this is one we'll be watching closely.

Gubernatorial

NJ-Gov: Assemblyman Jamel Holley said on Friday that he'd been approached about challenging Gov. Phil Murphy in next year's Democratic primary by unnamed "[e]lected officials, community-based people, clergy." Holley continued, "I have no immediate plans. I haven't considered it. I haven't given any thought to it. But there are conversations."

Holley has been a prominent opponent of an unsuccessful bill to remove religious exemptions for school vaccinations. This attracted the attention of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is notorious for spreading misinformation about vaccines, and he headlined a fundraiser for the assemblyman in January. While scientists overwhelmingly agree that vaccines are safe, Holley argued in February that he'd seen children who had been "injured from vaccines."

WV-Gov: On Tuesday, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango received an endorsement from Sen. Joe Manchin, who is the most prominent Democrat in West Virginia politics. Salango is competing in the May primary to take on GOP Gov. Jim Justice.

House

CA-50: Former GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison on Tuesday, and he was ordered to surrender to the authorities by May 29. Hunter pleaded guilty last year to a single charge of conspiracy to convert campaign funds to personal use, and he resigned from Congress in January. Hunter's wife and former campaign manager, Margaret Hunter, pleaded guilty to her role in the scandal several months before as part of a deal with prosecutors, and she is set to be sentenced in April.

When prosecutors first indicted the Hunters, they alleged the couple had spent a total of $250,000 in campaign money on tuition to their children's private school, oral surgery, and vacations in Italy and Hawaii. In a later filing, however, they also said the congressman had used campaign cash to "pursue a series of intimate personal relationships" with at least five different women, including lobbyists and congressional aides. Margaret Hunter also admitted in her guilty plea that over $500 in campaign funds had been used to fly a pet rabbit on a plane.

FL-15: On Monday, Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential campaign against freshman Rep. Ross Spano in the August GOP primary. Spano is under federal investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his 2018 primary.

House

ME-02: Three Republicans are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in a northern Maine seat that swung from 53-44 Obama to 51-41 Trump.

The Republican with the most money at the end of 2019 was 2018 Senate nominee Eric Brakey, a former state senator who has the endorsement of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Also in the contest are former state Rep. Dale Crafts, who has the support of former Gov. Paul LePage, and real estate agent Adrienne Bennett. A fourth Republican, Penobscot County Treasurer John Hiatt, entered and exited the race in December.

Brakey ended 2019 with a $252,000 to $134,000 cash-on-hand lead over Crafts, while Bennett had just $37,000 to spend. Golden had $1.3 million available to defend this seat.

Mayoral

San Diego, CA Mayor: On Monday evening, Democrat Barbara Bry took a 9-vote lead over Republican Scott Sherman, a fellow member of the City Council, for the second-place spot in the November general election. More ballots were counted the following night, and Bry’s advantage widened to 169 votes. Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria secured first place in the March 3 nonpartisan primary, so if Bry maintains her edge over Sherman, Team Blue would be guaranteed to pick up this mayor's office.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former GOP Rep. Richard Hanna, who represented a seat in upstate New York from 2011 until 2017, died Sunday at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer. Hanna was one of the few relatively moderate Republicans in the caucus during his tenure, and he famously endorsed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

Hanna, who had become wealthy in the construction business, sought elected office for the first time when he challenged freshman Democratic Rep. Michael Arcuri in 2008 in what was then numbered the 24th District. While Barack Obama only ended up carrying the historically red seat 51-48, it was still a surprise when Hanna held Arcuri to a surprisingly small 52-48 win in what was a terrible year for the GOP.

Hanna sought a rematch the following cycle and unseated Arcuri 53-47. However, the new congressman quickly proved to be very different than his many tea party-aligned fellow freshman. At a 2012 rally supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, Hanna notably advised women to donate to Democrats, saying, "Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side—my side—has a lot of it." Hanna was also the rare congressional Republican to support same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Hanna had no trouble winning in 2012 in the redrawn 22nd District, but he faced a serious primary challenge from the right two years later from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. Hanna decisively outspent Tenney and received air support from a group dedicated to electing pro-same-sex marriage Republicans, but he only turned her back by a modest 54-46 margin.

Hanna announced in December of 2015 that he would not run for a fourth term, a move he insisted had nothing to do with Tenney's decision to seek a rematch a few weeks earlier. Tenney won the GOP nod this time against a candidate backed by Hanna, and the outgoing congressman never supported her for the general election. Hanna later mulled a 2018 run for governor or an independent bid for his old seat, but he ended up endorsing Democrat Anthony Brindisi's successful bid to oust Tenney.

Voter Registration: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc with the administration of U.S. elections, experts are exhorting states to switch to voting by mail to keep the public and poll workers safe—and to ensure democracy carries on.

For safety’s sake, it’s also critical that every state offers residents the opportunity to register to vote online, or to update their existing registration records. However, as the map seen here shows, 10 states currently do not allow online registration for the November general election:

Arkansas Maine Mississippi Montana New Hampshire North Carolina Oklahoma (passed by lawmakers but still not fully implemented) South Dakota Texas Wyoming

Collectively, these 10 states account for 17% of the U.S. population, or one in six Americans. Americans must have the option to register safely and securely online when in-person opportunities will be limited for the foreseeable future. Each of these states must immediately enact online voter registration. If they do not, Congress has the power to mandate and fund the shift to online voter registration to ensure the November general elections can still proceed amid this historic global crisis.