Morning Digest: Why an attack ad is sometimes just an attack ad

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MI-Gov: With less than a week to go before the primary, a DGA-backed group is spending a reported $2 million to attack Republican Tudor Dixon, but the effort doesn't appear to be the sort of now-common Democratic meddling in GOP nominating contests for a few reasons.

For starters, the ads that Put Michigan First is running are legit attacks—they hammer Dixon for a plan to cut the state's income tax that would mean "less cops on the street"—not the "Joe Schmendrick is too conservative!" subterfuge you typically see. There's also nothing to suggest that Dixon's chief rival, businessman Kevin Rinke, is more problematic and less electable. In fact, he's the only Republican candidate who hasn't fully embraced the Big Lie, and an independent survey earlier this month showed Rinke and Dixon turning in virtually identical—and equally poor—performances against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Put Michigan First has also hit Dixon before, as part of an ad savaging every candidate in the field, Rinke included: Dixon was dinged as "an actress in low-budget horror movies"—one film "featured two people having sex in a bathroom stall and a zombie biting a man's genitals"—while Rinke was branded "a car salesman sued for harassment"; more on that here.

The DGA ran a similar campaign in Nevada tagging frontrunner Joe Lombardo as weak on crime before his primary, a move that was widely interpreted at the time as Democrats once again trying to pick their opponent. But as in Michigan, the DGA didn't try to elevate a specific alternative. One unnamed insider said of Lombardo, "If he doesn't make it through the primary, then we've knocked out what is seen as the front-runner," suggesting that there was still a benefit to the gambit even if Lombardo prevailed—by weakening the ultimate nominee with an attack that would speak to a broad range of the political spectrum.

So too with Dixon, who's the closest thing Michigan Republicans have to a frontrunner of their own after an extremely messy race that saw multiple major contenders booted off the ballot for petition fraud. Recent polls have given Dixon a small lead over Rinke, including a brand new one from Republican pollster Mitchell Research for MIRS News that has her up 28-22, and the powerful DeVos family is in her corner. Donald Trump has also praised her in the past, and the Detroit News recently reported that she's "viewed as the top contender for Trump's possible endorsement," though he hasn't backed her yet.

Democrats may therefore be seeking to bang up Dixon chiefly to wound her if she does win the primary, but if they cause her to stumble and hand the nomination to Rinke or another wannabe, so much the better.

The Downballot

 Whoa, mama! August has so, so many juicy primaries on tap, which is why we've brought Daily Kos Elections Editor Jeff Singer back to discuss all the best races for this week's edition of The Downballot. There's the GOP battle for Arizona's governorship, where Trump's pick has been absolutely slayed by her drag queen ex-friend; two pro-impeachment Republicans in Washington state trying to keep their political careers alive; a heavyweight battle between two 30-year veteran incumbents in New York City; and lots, lots more.

Co-host David Nir recaps the back-to-back dropouts in Wisconsin's Democratic primary for Senate that have solidified Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes as the undisputed frontrunner. He also criticizes the handwringing over Democrats' meddling in a Michigan primary, saying it's not the Democratic Party's responsibility to make sure Republicans nominate sensible candidates—that's the GOP's job (if it even cares to). David Beard, meanwhile, previews the snap election just called in Italy, where the right looks set to perform well.

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

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: The University of Georgia and SurveyUSA each find Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp ahead, though they very much disagree how close the two contests are. UGA’s poll for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows Warnock edging out Republican Herschel Walker 46-43, while Kemp defeats Democrat Stacey Abrams 48-43. SurveyUSA’s numbers for WXIA-TV, though, are far better for Democrats: Warnock leads 48-39, while Kemp is only up 45-44.

Other polls taken in July have universally agreed that Warnock is running ahead of Abrams, but they’ve also painted very different pictures on the state of the two races. Numbers from early in the month from the Democratic firm Data for Progress had Walker and Kemp up 49-47 and 53-44, respectively. A short time later, AARP dropped a survey from a bipartisan pair of pollsters that put Warnock ahead 50-47 as Kemp posted a wider 52-45 advantage. A Kemp internal from Cygnal, which did not include Senate numbers, also gave the governor a 50-45 edge.

OK-Sen-B: Former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn is airing her first TV ad of the race, and despite running in dark-red Oklahoma, she makes abortion the centerpiece. She says that the state "now has the most extreme abortion ban in the country, which puts all of us at risk" and warns that the likely GOP nominee, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, "promises to make this ban federal law." Horn also notes that Oklahoma "has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate," making it one of 17 states in this ignominious club. Mullin still faces a runoff with former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon on Aug. 23, but he's the heavy favorite after leading the first round by a 44-18 margin last month.

WI-Sen: In an unexpected development two weeks ahead of Wisconsin's primary, former Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry abandoned his bid for Senate and endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, saying "it was clear there was no path forward for us to be able to win." The move came two days after Outagamie Executive Tom Nelson did the same thing, making Barnes the undisputed frontrunner for the nomination.

One other notable Democrat, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, remains in the race, and she insisted on Wednesday that would not quit. But Barnes also released a poll from Impact Research taken before both Nelson and Lasry dropped out showing him with a 39-25 lead on Lasry, with Godlewski far back at 12 and Nelson at 5. Every other public poll of the race has likewise found Barnes in front while Godlewski has never rated higher than third place.

Governors

IL-Gov: Politico reports that conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, who helped bankroll far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey's June victory in the Republican primary, has contributed another $5 million to the candidate this month. Uihlein has also made a larger $15 million donation to Bailey's allied PAC, People Who Play By The Rules.

MA-Gov: Suffolk University's newest survey for the Boston Globe shows Attorney General Maura Healey, who has the Democratic primary to herself, posting huge leads over both of her prospective Republican foes. Healey beats out former state Rep. Geoff Diehl 54-23, while she enjoys a nearly-identical 54-22 advantage over self-funding businessman Chris Doughty.

ME-Gov: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills continues to maintain a large financial edge ahead of her general election battle with her predecessor, Paul LePage. Mills outraised the Republican $600,000 to $310,000 during the period covering June 1 to July 19, and she finished with a $2.7 million to $1.1 million cash-on-hand lead.

Several past Maine statewide contests, including LePage's 2010 and 2014 victories, featured at least one prominent independent or third-party candidate, but that won't be the case this time. The only other contender on the ballot is independent Sam Hunkler, who had just over $600 to spend.

WI-Gov: While the Club for Growth has not endorsed anyone in the Aug. 9 Republican primary, NBC reports that the anti-tax group has dropped $1.1 million into a TV and radio campaign to defeat former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The TV spot argues that in office, Kleefisch "used taxpayer resources, traveling across the globe on junkets hosted by foreign interests," a statement that's accompanied by a huge flag of China.

House

CA-40: Republican Rep. Young Kim and the NRCC have jointly released a mid-July poll from Public Opinion Strategies that shows the congresswoman beating her Democratic opponent, physician Asif Mahmood, by a 51-35 margin. This is the first poll of the race, but its 16-point spread is similar to the overall margins of June's top-two primary, when a trio of Republican candidates, including Kim, combined for 59% while Mahmood took 41%. Joe Biden would have carried this redrawn district in eastern Orange County by a 50-48 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App.

VT-AL: The University of New Hampshire, polling on behalf of WCAX, finds state Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beating Lt. Gov. Molly Gray by a lopsided 63-21 in the first survey we’ve seen of the Aug. 9 Democratic primary since filing closed in the spring. Either candidate would end Vermont’s status as the only state to never elect a woman to Congress, while Balint would also be the first gay person to represent the Green Mountain State in D.C.

Balint, who has Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, and Gray have each raised comparable amounts in the contest to succeed Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for Vermont’s other Senate seat. However, a trio of organizations―the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Equality PAC, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC―have spent a total of just under $850,000 to promote Balint, while there have been no independent expenditures for Gray. VTDigger notes that this sort of outside spending is rare in state politics, though not unheard of: In 2016, notably, the RGA spent $3 million on the successful effort to elect Phil Scott governor.

WA-03, WA-04: Outside groups are continuing to spend serious money ahead of Tuesday's top-two primary on separate efforts to boost a pair of Republicans who voted for impeachment, 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse, against their Trump-backed rivals.

In the 3rd in southwest Washington, a group called Conservatives for A Stronger America has deployed close to $400,000 on a TV buy that argues Army veteran Joe Kent wants to defund the police. The commercial features clips of the candidate saying, "Federal law enforcement grants, I would cut that off cold," and, "Also, cutting off federal law enforcement funding." Kent himself has made news for his ties to far-right extremists, though the ad unsurprisingly doesn't mention that.

This PAC made news a little while ago when it dropped another $740,000 into efforts to promote a different Republican, evangelical author Heidi St. John, a move Kent argued was intended to "prop up a spoiler candidate and split the vote so they can re-elect the Establishment's RINO incumbent, Jaime Herrera Beutler."

Kent himself, though, has also tried a similar maneuver, though on a much smaller scale. Last week, the Washington Observer's Paul Queary reported that Kent sent out mailers ostensibly attacking one of the two Democratic candidates, auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, for being the one "pro-choice candidate for Congress."

Queary noted that Kent was trying to influence Democrats to support Perez instead of Herrera Beutler, whose own messaging has been aimed at winning over middle-of-the-road voters, in an attempt to stop the incumbent from advancing to the general election. Trump would have carried this district 51-46, so it's quite possible Perez will reach the second round instead of Herrera Beutler or Kent. (The other Democrat on the ballot, 2020 candidate Davy Ray, hasn't reported bringing in any money.)

And while Kent sports Trump's backing, he's raised far less cash than Herrera Beutler and doesn't have any major outside groups spending on his behalf. The congresswoman, by contrast, has benefited from $1 million in support from Winning For Women Action Fund, a super PAC funded in part by the Congressional Leadership Fund.

The dynamics are similar one seat to the east in the 4th, where Defending Main Street has so far deployed $1.2 million to support Newhouse or attack Trump's choice, 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp. One of the establishment-aligned PAC's new spots accuses Culp of being a tax dodger who was "caught enriching himself with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations," while others praise the congressman for "standing up to China" and fighting to protect the Snake River dams.

Culp has badly struggled with fundraising, and like Kent, he's also received no serious outside support. Five other Republicans are campaigning here including self-funding businessman Jerrod Sessler and state Rep. Brad Klippert, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat running for this 57-40 Trump constituency.

Secretaries of State

GA-SoS, GA-AG: The University of Georgia finds Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger beating Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen by a wide 46-32 margin, while SurveyUSA gives the Republican a smaller 40-33 edge. SurveyUSA also checked out the race for attorney general and found GOP incumbent Chris Carr turning back Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan only 38-34

Ad Roundup

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

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

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

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

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

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections when polls close in Georgia. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates, and you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several others are reportedly interested:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Morning Digest: After surprise disappearance, lying liar Josh Mandel is back for a third Senate bid

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

OH-Sen: Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is one of our very least-favorite Republican Senate candidates from yesteryear, on Wednesday became the first major candidate to announce a bid to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. This will be Mandel's third bid for the upper chamber following his unsuccessful 2012 run against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and his aborted 2018 rematch attempt.

Mandel was elected state treasurer during the 2010 GOP wave after waging a campaign that included blatantly Islamophobic messaging. Mandel had little interest in the job he had just won, though, and he almost immediately began plotting a run against Brown.

The Republican ran one of the most revoltingly mendacious campaigns of the cycle: In March of 2012, PolitFact published an article highlighting how "whoppers are fast becoming a calling card of his candidacy," and Mandel utterly shed himself of any semblance of honesty over the following months. This time, though, it didn't work, as Brown turned back Mandel 51-45 while Barack Obama was carrying the Buckeye State by a smaller 51-48 spread.

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Mandel had the good fortune to seek and win re-election in 2014 during another Republican wave, when he performed the worst among the whole GOP ticket, but few politicos thought that he was interested in focusing on his nominal day job. Instead, he announced just a month after the 2016 election that he'd be running against Brown again two years hence, and he immediately emerged as the heavy favorite to win the nomination once more.

Mandel spent the next year running yet another despicable campaign. The treasurer, who wasted little time attacking Muslims again, also defended the men promoting "Pizzagate," the breathtakingly psychotic conspiracy theory that a Washington, D.C. pizzeria housed a child sex ring frequented by top Democrats.

In January of 2018, though, Mandel shocked the political world when he suddenly announced that he was dropping out of the race because of a health problem affecting his then-wife. (The two divorced last year.) Mandel's departure left national Republicans scrambling to find an alternative, and the man they ended up with, Rep. Jim Renacci, went on to lose to Brown that fall. Mandel was termed out as treasurer early in 2019, and Cleveland.com's Seth Richardson writes that he spent the next two years keeping "a relatively low profile, including quietly scrubbing all of his social media in 2019."

But Mandel is back now, and true to form, he's launched his latest Senate bid with a statement blaring, "It's sickening to see radical liberals and fake Republicans in Washington engage in this second assault on President Donald Trump and the millions of us who supported him." (It won't surprise you to learn that it doesn't mention the actual assault on the Capitol that led to this second impeachment.)

Mandel begins the campaign with $4.4 million on-hand from his 2018 effort that he can use for his newest campaign, but, as Richardson notes, also plenty of enemies within the party. Mandel will likely have several serious primary rivals: Jane Timken recently stepped down as state party chair ahead of a likely bid for the Senate, and a number of other Republicans are considering getting in as well.

Senate

IL-Sen, IL-Gov: Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger did not quite rule out a statewide bid in 2022 on Tuesday, but he sounded very unlikely to go for it. "It's not my intention to run for anything statewide," the congressman said, adding, "I think there's probably less of that chatter."

Kinzinger also alluded to his vote to impeach Donald Trump last month when discussing his future. Kinzinger said that people who "speculate that I was taking the positions I was taking to set myself up to run statewide" don't know him and also "probably don't know something about politics if you think I can get through a primary pretty easily."

NC-Sen: Former Rep. Mark Walker earned an endorsement on Wednesday from Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who is one of the most notorious Republican extremists in the freshman class. Walker is the only notable GOP politician who has announced a bid to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr so far, but a number of others are considering getting in.

Governors

MA-Gov: Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Trump supporter who was Team Red's 2018 Senate nominee, said this week that he'd decide on a gubernatorial bid "in the next few months." Diehl had previously expressed interest in waging a primary campaign against Gov. Charlie Baker, who has not yet announced his 2022 plans.

On the Democratic side, political science professor Danielle Allen told WGBH that she expected to remain in exploratory mode at least through the spring. Allen, who would be the first Black woman elected governor of any state, formed an exploratory committee in December.

House

CA-22: This week, Marine veteran Eric Garcia announced that he would run as a Democrat against Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who is one of the most notorious Trump sycophants in a caucus full of them. Garcia campaigned as an independent two years ago but took last place with just 3% in the top-two primary. Democrat Phil Arballo, who went on to lose to Nunes 54-46 as Trump was carrying this seat by a slightly smaller 52-46 margin, is also seeking a rematch.

MD-05: Activist McKayla Wilkes announced this week that she would seek a rematch against House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who defeated her 64-27 in last year's Democratic primary. Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd is already challenging Hoyer from the left, but he and Wilkes each affirmed that only one of them will be on the 2022 ballot. "I had a conversation with him, and we do plan on consolidating at one point," Wilkes told Maryland Matters. "The main focus is to have a progressive emissary, whether that's Colin or myself."

NC-11: 2020 Democratic nominee Moe Davis said in a recent fundraising email that he was considering seeking a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Davis raised $2.3 million last year but lost 55-42 as Donald Trump was carrying this western North Carolina seat by a similar 55-43 margin.

NM-01: Two Democratic state legislators have introduced a bill that would require parties to select their nominees for special elections to the House using a traditional primary rather than through a party central committee meeting, but it faces a number of hurdles.

The Albuquerque Journal writes that the legislation would need the support of two-thirds of each chamber in order to go into effect in time for the likely special election to succeed Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, who is Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of the interior. One of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. Daymon Ely, is also worried that the committee hearing process is moving so slowly that his proposal could be "killed by delay."

NY-22: In an interview that took place one day after he conceded defeat in the extremely tight November election, former Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi did not close the door on a 2022 campaign to return to the House. Brindisi told Syracuse.com, "I certainly have not ruled anything off the table yet. But right now, things are a little too raw and early for me to decide."

Brindisi and Republican Claudia Tenney, who will be sworn in on Thursday, have already faced off in two competitive elections. In 2018, Brindisi denied Tenney a second consecutive term in the House by beating her 51-49 during that year's Democratic wave. Tenney, however, came back last year and unseated Brindisi by 109 votes, though the defeated incumbent still ran well ahead of his party's ticket. According to new data from Daily Kos Elections, Donald Trump carried this seat, which includes the Binghamton and Utica areas upstate, 55-43.

TX-24: The National Journal's Mini Racker reports that 2020 Democratic nominee Candace Valenzuela is considering seeking a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Beth Van Duyne. This historically red seat in the Dallas Fort Worth suburbs was swung hard from 51-44 Trump to 52-46 Biden but Van Duyne, like almost all Texas Republicans running in competitive House races, ran well ahead of the ticket and prevailed 49-47.  

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: The lobbying group Fontas Advisors, which Politico says is not working with any candidate, has released what it says will be the first of a "recurring series" of polls of the June instant-runoff Democratic primary from Core Decision Analytics. 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang leads Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 28-17, while the only other candidate to hit double digits was City Comptroller Scott Stringer with 13%. The survey did not ask about respondents' second-choice preferences.

The only other poll we've seen was a mid-January survey for Yang from Slingshot Strategies that gave him a similar 25-17 edge against Adams. That poll went on to simulate the instant runoff process and found Yang defeating Adams 61-39 on the 11th and final round of voting.

There's a long while to go before the primary, though, and this week, the New York Times reported that former White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan became the first contender to launch a "television ad campaign of any significance in the contest."

The spot begins with footage of Barack Obama declaring, "Shaun's just one of those people where he sees a problem, and he will work to solve it." Donovan then appears and tells the audience, "I represent real change. But a change candidate usually has the least experience. I actually have the most." The commercial also features more pictures of the candidate with Obama and Joe Biden.

San Antonio, TX Mayor: Former conservative City Councilman Greg Brockhouse announced over the weekend that he would seek a rematch against Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Nirenberg, a progressive independent, won a second term in 2019 by beating Brockhouse by a narrow 51-49 margin. (San Antonio is the largest city in America to elect its mayors to terms lasting for two years rather than four.)

Back in December, Brockhouse previewed his strategy to once again rally Republican voters in this Democratic-leaning city. The former city councilman said that Donald Trump's defeat meant that "[c]onservatives and faith-based people lost their champion," but insisted that anger with the new national status quo would inspire them to turn out in 2021. Brockhouse also refused to acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect and attacked Nirenberg as a "fearmonger" for his COVID-19 briefings.

Seven others have entered the race ahead of Friday's filing deadline, but there's little question that Brockhouse will once again be Nirenberg's main opponent. The officially nonpartisan primary will take place on May 1, and if no one captures a majority of the vote, a runoff would be held on a later date.

Grab Bag

History: Plenty of governors go on to serve in the Senate but, as we recently noted, it's much more uncommon for members of the upper chamber to try the opposite career switch, and a new report from the University of Minnesota shows just how comparatively rare these senators-turned-governors are.

As Eric Ostermeier writes, "Since 1900, just 21 sitting or former U.S. Senators have been elected governor while 153 sitting or former governors were elected or appointed to the U.S. Senate." Ostermeier adds that six additional people during this time went from the governor's office to the Senate and later back to the governorship.

As we've written before, there's likely a good reason why relatively few senators are looking to trade their Capitol Hill digs even for what's usually a much shorter commute to their statehouse. While many states have term limits that will eventually force their chief executives out of the governor's office, senators can stay in office for decades as long as voters keep re-electing them.

And while some states do allow their governors to seek term after term in office, few have ever enjoyed anything like the longevity that many senators become accustomed to. The longest serving governor in American history is Iowa Republican Terry Branstad, who totaled a little more than 22 years in office during his two stints in charge―a milestone that's less than the length of four Senate terms.

Still, some senators do like the idea of leading their state rather than continuing on as just one member of a 100-person body, and a few do end up running for governor. Ostermeier reports that four sitting senators over the last two decades have competed in a gubernatorial general election, and three prevailed: Alaska Republican Frank Murkowski and New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine won their sole terms in 2002 and 2005, respectively, while Kansas Republican Sam Brownback would be elected to lead Kansas in 2010 and 2014.

The fourth member of this group was Louisiana Republican David Vitter, who lost to Democrat John Bel Edwards in a 2015 upset. (At least one other sitting senator during this time period, Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, also ran for governor during this time, but her campaign ended in the primary.)

We may see a few current or former senators try to claim the governorship this year, though. The Omaha World-Herald recently reported that Republican Sen. Deb Fischer is considering a run to lead Nebraska, while former GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte has been mentioned as a possible successor for New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu should he run against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan―who made the jump from governor to senator in 2016 by beating Ayotte.