Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

Campaign Action

While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

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.