Republicans run into early headwinds in two critical Senate races

Last year, Senate Republicans were already feeling so desperate about their upcoming midterm prospects that they rushed to wish Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa a speedy and full recovery from COVID-19 so that he could run for reelection in 2022. The power of incumbency is a huge advantage for any politician, and Republicans were clinging to the idea of sending Grassley—who will be 89 when the '22 general election rolls around—back to the upper chamber for another six-year term.  

GOP fortunes have improved slightly since then, with historical trends improving their midterm prospects since Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress. But the Senate map is still a long ways away from a gimme for Republicans, and several recent developments have brought good news for Democrats. 

The first of those is a new poll from the Des Moines Register showing that nearly two-thirds of Iowa voters (64%) believe "it's time for someone else" to hold Grassley's seat versus the 27% who want to see the octogenarian reelected to an eighth term. Women voters were especially brutal, with seven out of ten saying they were ready to give Grassley the heave-ho.

Grassley's numbers with GOP voters lagged too, with just 51% committing to supporting him again, while just 7% of Democrats and 23% of independents agreed. Grassley's overall job approval clocked in at a meager 45%; it's his lowest level since 1982.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., upends Republican thinking that another Grassley run could help safeguard the seat. In fact, Grassley may be a liability in the general election, or GOP primary voters may choose an alternative. In any case, Iowa's Senate race could prove more competitive than Republicans had hoped. 

Meanwhile, the GOP primary race for North Carolina's open Senate seat has been scrambled by Donald Trump's surprise endorsement of hard-right Congressman Ted Budd, according to Politico. Following Trump's input at the state party convention earlier this month, former North Carolina governor-turned-Senate candidate Pat McCrory rushed to dismiss the endorsement as falling "flat" in the room.

Now, retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr is coming to McCrory's rescue, reportedly arguing both publicly and privately that he is "the only one in the race" who can win the seat statewide. “Pat McCrory has a commanding advantage," Burr told Politico.

Burr, one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump of impeachment charges, also took a swipe at Trump's rationale, or lack thereof.

“I can’t tell you what motivates him," Burr said of Trump. "I’ve never seen individuals endorse a candidate a year before the primary. That’s unusual.”

Judging by Budd's own internal polling, Burr has a point. McCrory enjoys far higher statewide name recognition, and he's leading Budd by about two dozen points, 45%-19%. Another Republican contender, former Rep. Mark Walker, garners just 12% of the vote, with 23% still undecided. 

McCrory, who has been meeting with GOP senators to make his case, is running as an establishment Republican. Budd obviously occupies the Trump lane now. It's a scenario that could easily leave one side or the other feeling resentful depending on which Republican prevails, and any result on the GOP side could wind up depressing at least some general election turnout among Tar Heel Republicans.

But that’s the least of the GOP’s worries, according to McCrory’s camp, which is intent on catastrophizing the ultimate result of a Budd primary win.

“If Republicans want a majority in the U.S. Senate, they will nominate Pat McCrory,” said McCrory adviser Jordan Shaw. “Otherwise, Democrats are going to take this seat and keep the majority."

Voting Rights Roundup: Georgia Senate wins pave way for Democrats to pass historic election reforms

Leading Off

Congress: With victories in Georgia's Senate runoffs, congressional Democrats now have the opportunity to pass the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. These reforms face a challenging path to passage given Democrats' narrow majorities, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attacks upon it by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress.

Chief among these proposals is the reintroduction of H.R. 1, the "For the People Act," which House Democrats passed in 2019 and would enact groundbreaking reforms by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

Democrats have also called for enacting a new Voting Rights Act, which the House passed in 2019 and subsequently named after the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement who died last year. Finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to bring a bill to the floor to finally end the disenfranchisement of 700,000 Americans by making Washington, D.C. a state, which House Democrats also approved last year. We'll detail each of these major reforms below.

Pelosi has indicated that passing H.R. 1, symbolically named as the first bill of the session, will be a top priority for the new Congress. This bill would adopt the following reforms for federal elections:

  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting (likely not until 2030);
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, meanwhile, would restore the protections that the Supreme Court's conservatives eviscerated in an infamous 2013 decision. That ruling removed a requirement for a number of largely Southern states and localities with a pervasive history of racial discrimination to "preclear" all efforts to change voting laws and procedures with the Justice Department. The VRAA would establish new criteria for deciding which jurisdictions would fall under the preclearance requirement after the 2013 court ruling struck down the old formula.​

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​Under the new setup, any state where officials have committed at least 15 voting rights violations over a 25-year period would be required to obtain preclearance for 10 years. If the state itself, rather than localities within the state, is responsible for the violations, it would take only 10 violations to place it under preclearance. In addition, any particular locality could individually be subjected to preclearance if it commits at least three violations.

Based on this formula, the VRAA would put 11 states back under preclearance: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. While most of these states are still in the South (and also under Republican control), the list also includes the two largest Democratic-leaning states in the country, California and New York.

Lastly, the bill to grant statehood to D.C. would shrink the federal District of Columbia down to a handful of important federal buildings surrounding the National Mall while admitting the rest of the district as a new state. All but one House Democrat (who is now no longer in Congress) voted for D.C. statehood last summer, and 46 of the 50 incoming members of the Democratic Senate caucus either sponsored last year's bill or have expressed public support, while the remaining four have yet to take a firm position.

While Democrats winning full control of Congress and the presidency makes it possible to pass the above reforms, their success is far from guaranteed. For starters, Democrats would need unanimous support in the Senate and near-unanimous backing in the House given that every Republican is likely to oppose these reforms.

The most important hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster, and the fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely following the Georgia victories, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority on any of these measures.

Voting Access

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill and legislative Democrats are pushing to pass a series of voting reforms, including the adoption of no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and automatic voter registration. Last year, lawmakers passed a statute to temporarily expand the definition of illness to allow all voters to cast absentee ballots without needing a specific excuse, and Democrats are considering passing similar legislation this year for upcoming local and special elections with the pandemic still ongoing.

Democrats may also try to permanently remove the excuse requirement by passing a constitutional amendment, as well as once again approving an amendment they passed in 2019 to allow up to three days of early voting. Unless the GOP has a change of heart and supplies enough votes for a three-fourths supermajority, amendments must pass in two sessions with an election in between before going to a voter referendum.

Delaware: Democratic lawmakers in Delaware have introduced two constitutional amendments to expand voting rights: The first would remove the excuse requirement to vote absentee by mail while the second would enable same-day voter registration. Last year, the state temporarily waived the excuse requirement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amendments in Delaware must pass the legislature with two-thirds supermajorities in two consecutive sessions, so lawmakers could enact the no-excuse absentee voting amendment this session since they passed it the first time in 2020. (The same-day registration amendment could not go into effect until the 2024 elections at the earliest.) However, since Democrats are just shy of the two-thirds mark in the state House, they will need at least two GOP votes in support. Uniquely among the 50 states, Delaware does not require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters.

District of Columbia: In late November, the Democratic-run Washington, D.C. Council advanced a bill to make permanent a measure temporarily adopted in 2020 that let voters cast ballots at any "vote center" citywide in 2020 instead of just their local polling place. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser has yet to sign the bill, which also requires a polling place at the city jail, into law.

Hawaii: Hawaii election chief Scott Nago plans to ask the Democratic-dominated legislature to pass legislation giving voters more time to complete their ballots and to expand the number of in-person "vote centers," where any voter in a county can cast their ballot, to better accommodate voters who can't readily vote by mail or don't want to.

Additionally, voting rights advocates have announced that they will renew their push to ask lawmakers to adopt a bill enacting automatic voter registration through the state's driver's licensing agency and potentially other state agencies, too. The state Senate and House each passed separate bills to adopt automatic registration in 2019, but the proposal failed to become law after the two chambers couldn't agree on a single version.

Illinois: State House Democrats have passed legislation in committee that would make permanent some of the reforms lawmakers adopted in 2020 due to the pandemic, including: counting absentee mail ballots without postage; allowing officials to set up drop boxes for mail ballots; and continuing curbside voting for mobility-limited voters. However, the bill wouldn't extend the practice of sending applications for mail ballots to all voters who have cast ballots in recent election years.

Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed an emergency voting plan for lawmakers to approve for upcoming local elections and the March 20 special elections for the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts. Committees in the state Senate and House both advanced the proposal to their respective full chambers earlier this month.

The plan would let voters cast absentee ballots by mail if they are at higher risk for COVID-19, seeking a diagnosis for it, or are subject to a physician's isolation order or caring for someone under isolation. However, it would not waive the excuse requirement for all voters or expand the number of early voting days.

Maine: Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who was elevated to the post by Maine's state legislature last month, will push for lawmakers to adopt online voter registration and prepaid absentee ballot postage. Meanwhile, several Democratic legislators have introduced various bills to codify the use of drop boxes, implement a system for letting voters track their absentee ballots, and let absentee ballots be counted earlier.

Maryland: Maryland Democrats have introduced legislation intended to strengthen voting access on college campuses, military bases, retirement homes, and other "large residential communities." Sites like these would be able to request an in-person voting location, and colleges would also be required to establish voter registration efforts on campus and give students an excused absence to vote if needed. The bill would let military service members register online using their identification smart cards issued by the Defense Department.

New Jersey: Committees in both chambers of New Jersey's Democratic-run legislature have declined to advance a measure that would have adopted two weeks of early voting for this year's state-level general elections and some municipal races in May. The New Jersey Globe reported that it was unclear why the bill failed to move forward but also noted that legislative leaders have yet to reach an agreement on the specifics of early voting, including whether to extend it to primaries, despite supporting the idea in principle. Committees in both chambers also passed early voting bills last year, but they did not advance further in 2020.

New York: The past three weeks have been a busy period for voting rights expansions in New York, beginning when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law an automatic voter registration measure that will involve a variety of different state agencies. Democratic state senators also passed several other reforms this week, including measures to:

The proposals to enact same-day registration and permanently remove the absentee excuse requirement are constitutional amendments that previously passed both legislative chambers in 2019 and must pass again before they can appear on this November's ballot, while the other measures are all statutory and can become law if the Assembly and Cuomo sign off on them.

Oregon: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has called for several voting reforms in her budget proposal to the Democratic legislature, including reinstituting same-day voter registration; counting mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day instead of only those received by Election Day; increasing the number of mail ballot drop boxes; and expanding Oregon's automatic voter registration system from just the DMV to include other agencies.

Same-day voter registration would likely require lawmakers to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot thanks to an especially bizarre chapter in state history. Oregon previously offered same-day registration, but lawmakers amended the constitution to repeal it in 1986 after a religious cult called the Rajneeshees attempted large-scale voter fraud in concert with biological warfare that left hundreds of residents poisoned in their unsuccessful plot to take over rural Wasco County's commission in 1984. However, 21 states and D.C. use same-day registration today without problems.

Vermont: Both chambers of Vermont's Democratic-run legislature have passed a bill that lets municipalities decide whether to mail every active registered voter a ballot for the upcoming March 2 "Town Meeting Day" or let them postpone the elections to the spring if needed due to the pandemic. Town meetings are a form of direct democracy unique to New England, during which localities can hold public votes on budgetary and other matters.

Virginia: Virginia Democrats have introduced several major voting reforms, which would expand on the sweeping changes they passed in 2020. This year's measures include:

Democrats have full control of state government, but constitutional amendments must pass both legislative chambers in two consecutive sessions with a state election taking place in between before going to a voter referendum. The felony voter reforms, therefore, could not become law before 2022 at the soonest. While civil rights groups and progressive Democrats support the amendment that would outright abolish felony disenfranchisement, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam backs the competing amendment that would keep those who are in prison, on parole, or on probation unable to vote.

Voter Suppression

Georgia: Republican state House Speaker David Ralston says he is open to considering removing oversight of Georgia's elections from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office, and Ralston claims he wouldn't need a constitutional amendment to do it.

Raffensperger recently incurred the ire of fellow Republicans after he refused to go along with Trump's illegal efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, prompting Raffensperger to release a recording of an incriminating phone call early this month during which Trump had pressured him to "find" 12,000 fake votes that would allow Trump to claim victory. The New York Times reported on Friday that state prosecutors are increasingly likely to open a formal criminal investigation into Trump over the incident.

Separately, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has called for adding a voter ID requirement to absentee voting, which Republicans exempted when they initially adopted a voter ID law in the mid-2000s. Up until 2020, absentee voting was disproportionately used by elderly Republican voters, but the GOP's push for new voting restrictions on the practice comes after mail voting heavily favored Democrats, both in November and the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

Many Georgia Republicans also want to reinstate the requirement that voters present an excuse in order to request an absentee ballot, along with calling for banning mail ballot drop boxes and restricting who can send ballot applications to voters. Ralston, however, says he opposes eliminating excuse-free absentee voting.

Kansas: The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to take up Kansas Republicans' appeal of a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year that had struck down a law requiring voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, effectively dooming the measure. The law was the signature legislative achievement of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who rose to national notoriety as the leader of Trump's bogus "voter fraud" commission.

By the time it was blocked in 2016, the Kansas law had led to one in seven new voter registrations being suspended for lack of documentation, affecting 30,000 would-be registrants in total—a group that was disproportionately young and Latino. The lower court that eventually struck down the law also eviscerated Kobach's credibility and seriously undermined his reputation even among Republicans.

Separately, Kobach's successor as secretary of state, fellow Republican Scott Schwab, reportedly won't implement a bipartisan 2019 voting reform until 2023. That law allows counties to replace traditional local polling places with countywide "vote centers" where any voter in a county may cast their ballot. A provision of the law requires it to first take effect for odd-year local elections before it can be implemented for even-year federal and state elections, so if Schwab's foot-dragging delays it past this year, it couldn't take full effect until 2023.

North Carolina: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in December unanimously overturned a lower federal court ruling that had temporarily blocked a voter ID statute passed by North Carolina Republicans from taking effect last election cycle while the case proceeded on the merits. The appellate judges ruled that the lower court had "abused its discretion" by blocking the law.

The lower court had found that there were significant similarities between this law, which Republicans approved in a 2018 lame-duck session, and one they passed in 2013, which another federal court had struck down in 2016 for being part of a package of voting restrictions that they deemed had targeted Black voters "with almost surgical precision."

The 4th Circuit, however, held that the lower court had erred by not presuming that lawmakers had acted in "good faith" when passing the laws, despite the many times that Republican legislators have had their voting laws struck down in court for discrimination. The plaintiffs are in the process of filing a petition to ask the entire 4th Circuit to rehear their case over the preliminary injunction while the case proceeds on the merits.

However, even if they succeed at the 4th Circuit, there's a strong risk of the U.S. Supreme Court eventually reversing them, which is why voting rights advocates may have better odds of blocking the voter ID law in state court instead. Last year, in fact, a state court issued its own preliminary injunction that blocked the law for the November election, and that case is also still ongoing.

Unfortunately for voting advocates, though, the 2020 elections complicated their odds of success at the state level. Democrats suffered three close losses in last November's state Supreme Court elections, leaving them with a slim 4-3 advantage on the bench

The contest for control of the court and the narrowing of Democrats' majority may have implications not only for the voter ID dispute. It could also play a role in the resolution of ongoing litigation over a separate constitutional amendment that authorized the voter ID statute, as well as with cases over North Carolina's felony voter disenfranchisement law, and upcoming lawsuits over redistricting, where the court is the lone bulwark at the state level against renewed GOP gerrymandering.

Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority has refused to take up state Democrats' appeal in a lawsuit that sought to overturn a Republican-backed restriction that's used in Texas and several other red states to require that only voters under the age of 65 must have an excuse to vote absentee by mail. By refusing to take up the case, the high court left in place a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the Texas law in defiance of the 26th Amendment's ban on age discrimination by using logic that if applied to race would effectively result in the revival of Jim Crow voting laws.

Meanwhile, in the Texas state Senate, several GOP senators have introduced a bill that would ban the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballots applications. Populous Democratic-run counties such as Houston's Harris County sought to send applications to all voters in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Republicans convinced the GOP-dominated state Supreme Court to block them.

Existing Senate rules required 19 votes to bring bills to the floor, but after Republicans were reduced to just 18 seats following the November elections, they lowered that threshold for the third time in recent years so that they can overcome Democratic objections and pass new voting restrictions and gerrymanders.

Post Office: One key consequence of Joe Biden's victory and Democrats winning the Senate is that Biden will be able to appoint members of his choosing to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, who in turn could fire Donald Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who was instrumental in Trump's attempt to sabotage mail voting last year. With Mitch McConnell unable to block him, Biden can now fill three vacancies on the nine-member board, which currently has four Republicans and two Democrats, thereby giving it a new Democratic majority that could sack DeJoy.

Felony Disenfranchisement

Alabama: Federal District Judge Emily Marks, a Trump appointee, granted Republican defendants' motion for summary judgment in December in a lawsuit where the plaintiffs had sought to strike down a state law that serves as a de facto poll tax by requiring people with felony convictions who have served their sentences to also pay off any court fines and fees before regaining the right to vote. The plaintiffs say they are considering whether to appeal.

Minnesota: The ACLU is now asking a state appellate court to overturn a lower court's dismissal last August of their lawsuit that sought to strike down Minnesota's ban on voting for people serving out parole or probation for a felony conviction. If the effort succeeds, only people who are currently incarcerated would remain unable to vote.

Tennessee: Voting rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to simplify Tennessee's cumbersome process for people with felony convictions who have completed their sentences to regain their voting rights. Plaintiffs in particular object to the GOP's de facto poll tax requirement that requires affected individuals to first pay off all court fines and fees, which they argue violates state law.

Redistricting and Reapportionment

Illinois: Democratic legislators have passed a bill in both chambers that will end the practice of "prison gerrymandering" for state legislative redistricting, sending it to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The bill would count incarcerated people for redistricting purposes at their last known address instead of where they are imprisoned.

Iowa: The liberal blog Bleeding Heartland reports that top-ranking GOP state legislators won't rule out using their power to implement gerrymanders by amending the maps submitted to lawmakers by Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting agency. Republicans are in a position to do so because they hold unified control of state government in a redistricting year for the first time since the 1980s, when the nonpartisan agency first came into place.

Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has issued an executive order to create an advisory commission that will propose new congressional and legislative maps for the upcoming round of redistricting. The nine commissioners will include three Democrats, three Republicans, and three independents, three of whom will be chosen by Hogan while the other six will be ordinary citizens who can apply here.

Hogan has the power to submit legislative maps to the Democratic-run legislature at the start of the legislative session, but if Democrats pass their own maps within 45 days, Hogan can't veto them. The commission's congressional map, meanwhile, would be strictly advisory in nature. While Hogan could veto new congressional districts, Democrats have the numbers to override him. The commission's proposal could nevertheless influence a court in the event of litigation.

New York: In addition to the voting access measures in our New York item above, Senate Democrats also passed a third constitutional amendment that would make it easier for Democrats to gerrymander new maps next year by lowering the threshold for overriding the state's new bipartisan redistricting commission from a two-thirds supermajority to just three-fifths. Democrats already passed this amendment in 2020, and it would also appear on the November ballot if Assembly Democrats again follow suit. However, it's possible that the lowered threshold won't even matter for the upcoming round of redistricting, since Senate Democrats gained a two-thirds supermajority in November.

The amendment also includes some nonpartisan redistricting reforms, including enshrining in the constitution an existing statutory ban on "prison gerrymandering"; freezing the number of state senators at 63; sharply limiting how cities can be split among Senate districts to prevent a repeated of the anti-urban gerrymandering that occurred when the GOP drew the lines after 2010; and authorizing state to conduct its own census if the federal count is tainted.

Pennsylvania: State House Republicans have passed a constitutional amendment out of committee by a single vote that would effectively gerrymander the state Supreme Court and Pennsylvania's two intermediate appellate courts by ending statewide judicial elections and replacing them with elections based on districts that GOP legislators would draw.

This move comes as retaliation for the state Supreme Court's Democratic majority striking down the GOP's congressional gerrymander in 2018 and protecting voting rights in 2020. Republicans could place it on the May primary ballot if it passes in both chambers for the second required time after the GOP approved the amendment in 2020.

2020 Census: The Trump administration has confirmed in federal court amid ongoing litigation that it will not release key data needed for Donald Trump to implement his attempt to unconstitutionally remove undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census population counts that will be used to reapportion congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states. The Census Bureau said that it had in fact stopped work on producing those counts altogether.

Instead, the bureau won't compile that data until at least after Biden is sworn in, meaning the incoming president will have a chance to reverse Trump's memo ordering its production and release. The U.S. Supreme Court in December had overturned one of the three lower federal court rulings that had blocked Trump's executive memo, holding that it wasn't yet ripe for adjudication, but the delays will likely moot that litigation.

In addition to the postponed release of reapportionment data, the more granular data needed to conduct actual redistricting itself will likely be delayed past the existing March 31 deadline set by federal law. That could in turn cause several states to delay or even entirely postpone redistricting for elections taking place this year. Some states, however, have deadlines for redistricting written into their constitutions, meaning that late-arriving data could cause unpredictable legal havoc.

Electoral College

Electoral College: Republicans in three key states have proposed altering how their states allocate Electoral College votes in different ways that would have each given Donald Trump more electoral votes in 2020. It's unclear whether these plans have widespread GOP support, and two of them face long odds of passage, but they're by no means the first time that Republicans have floated efforts to manipulate the Electoral College for short-term partisan advantage, and they raise the specter that the GOP will one day go through with it.

In Michigan, GOP Congressman Bill Huizenga called for switching his state from winner-take-all to allocating electoral votes by congressional district, which of course happens to be gerrymandered by the GOP in a way that would have resulted in an 8-8 split in 2020 despite Joe Biden winning the state (Michigan Democrats in fact did this very same scheme way back in the 1892 election cycle). Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could veto such a proposal if the GOP actually tries to pass it, but she faces a potentially competitive re-election contest in 2022 that could leave the GOP with full control of the state heading into the 2024 presidential election.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Gary Tauchen went further and actually introduced a bill that would similarly assign electoral votes by congressional districts that were gerrymandered by Republicans, a bill that would have given Trump a 6-4 majority in November even though Biden carried the state. As in Michigan, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could veto the bill if the GOP were to make a serious push to pass it, but he could also be defeated next year, leaving Republicans with unfettered power.

Lastly, Republican state Sen. Julie Slama introduced a bill that would move Nebraska in the opposite direction by abolishing the allocation of electoral votes by congressional district after Joe Biden won the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District and its lone electoral vote. Unlike in the other two states, Republicans already have full control over state government, but they narrowly lack a filibuster-proof two-thirds supermajority. However, the GOP could eliminate the filibuster rule with a simple majority.

These schemes may or may not work as intended and could even backfire on Republicans in the long term, especially if Wisconsin and Michigan one day turn reliably red. However, these proposals are all motivated solely by partisan self-interest rather than any good-faith concerns about the fairness of the Electoral College.

This is in fact the third straight election to which Republicans have reacted by putting forth plans to tilt the Electoral College in their favor, even though they benefited more from its skew in both 2016 and 2020 than in any elections in a century, according to one analysis.

Two-thirds of Republicans in the U.S. House and several in the Senate unsuccessfully voted last week to overturn Biden's Electoral College victory and steal the 2020 election for Trump mere hours after far-right insurrectionists incited by Trump ransacked the Capitol building itself. That followed an unsuccessful effort by Trump and his allies to agitate for disenfranchising countless voters by asking state legislatures to reject Biden's win and use their gerrymandered majorities to directly install a slate of Trump electors instead.

If the GOP entirely gives up on trying to win the popular vote and instead focuses exclusively on translating its minority support into an Electoral College majority, it's likely only a matter of time before Republicans successfully overturn a Democratic presidential victory, whether through a vote in Congress or state-level schemes to manipulate electoral vote allocation even when Democrats win the popular vote. Doing so risks sparking a far worse crisis than the one America has been living through this past month.

Electoral Reform

Alaska: The Alaska Independence Party, a right-wing fringe party that advocates for the state to secede from the union, filed a lawsuit in state court last month seeking to overturn a statute enacted by voters at the ballot box in 2020 that replaces traditional party primaries with a "top-four" primary and instant-runoff general election. Republicans are considering whether to join the legal challenge.

New York City, NY: A state court rejected issuing a temporary restraining order last month that would have blocked the use of instant-runoff voting ahead of an upcoming City Council special election after opponents of the new law, approved in 2019, filed a lawsuit in early December. The plaintiffs have announced that they will appeal, arguing that the law will lead to confusion that disenfranchises voters in communities of color unless changes are made, a charge that other candidates of color dispute.

Elections

Pennsylvania: Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster was finally seated by the Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority after federal District Judge Nicholas Ranjan, a Trump appointee, upheld Brewster's narrow victory last year. Republicans sparked outrage after they had refused to let Brewster take the oath of office for another term even though election officials had certified his victory and the state Supreme Court had upheld it. GOP lawmakers even ejected Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman from presiding over the chamber after he had objected to their power grab.

Republicans rejected the legitimacy of several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on the outer envelope, even though the Supreme Court said they were otherwise valid and should be counted. Mail ballots favored Democrats by a lopsided margin thanks to Trump's demagoguery against mail voting, even though it was Republican lawmakers who pushed for a state law that, among other things, removed the excuse requirement to vote by mail in 2019.

This ordeal is an example of state-level Republicans following the lead of Trump and their congressional counterparts in trying to reject the outcome of elections after they've lost. Particularly worrisome for the rule of law is that the GOP refused to abide by the decisions of Democratic state Supreme Court justices and election officials and only capitulated after a Trump-appointed judge rejected their ploy.

He’s a monster. He’s their monster. But suddenly Senate Republicans have never heard of him

Donald who, now? Oh yeah—that crazy loon. Cut him from my ad rotation months ago.

That's what nearly every Senate Republican in a dogfight for their seat could say right now when it comes to Donald Trump, the president they all coddled and refused to criticize and even acquitted of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness.

Let’s give Senate Republicans the heave-ho! They sold out the American people—give $2 right now to take back the Senate.

In seven states where incumbent GOP senators are either trailing their Democratic opponent or running neck and neck, the Republican senator has failed to give Trump so much as a mention in any single TV ad over the past week, according to The New York Times. That's 48 ads across Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and zero Trump mentions.

It's almost like they're embarrassed or something about the guy to whom they handed their spines after they had them surgically removed. And whether they say it or not, almost all of them are trying to overcome the deficit of voting to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without any viable path to maintaining preexisting conditions coverage. Here's a brief look at what these Senate Republicans are throwing at voters in hopes of Trump mercifully fading from memory. Ha! As if—we could all do with a few less ALL CAPS tweets. Oh, and much of what these GOP senators are selling are bold-faced lies.

Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona: The ad her campaign has run most consistently claims she has “always supported protecting anyone with a pre-existing condition, and I always will.” Lie. As the Times points out, "The only national law that protects people with pre-existing conditions is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and Ms. McSally voted to repeal it." Lie away, McSally—the jig is likely up for you.

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana: Daines is almost identically claiming that he has “always fought to protect Montanans with pre-existing conditions, and I always will.” Lie. Daines also voted to repeal the ACA without providing any alternative plan to protect people with preexisting conditions. Yet he says Gov. Steve Bullock is unfairly attacking that vote. Truly, these people have no conscience whatsoever—first voting to strip the protections, then flat-out lying about it after the fact. For that very reason, Bullock does have a chance of unseating Daines if Democrats have a big night on Election Day.

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina: Tillis is hoping a texting scandal that has beset his Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham can salvage his ailing bid for reelection. He has leaned most heavily on an ad that edits together press reports concerning Cunningham's flirtatious texts with a woman who isn't his wife. The best that can be said for Tillis, who was getting trounced due to his wanting record on the pandemic, is that he didn't lie through his teeth about his record like Daines and McSally. Cunningham, however, has maintained his lead in recent polling.

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado: Gardner also hopes to capitalize on a misstep by his Democratic opponent John Hickenlooper, who skirted ethics laws by his use of a private jet and some other perks. Gardner personally recounts those reports in an ad that closes with, “You and I may not always agree, but you know I honestly work hard for Colorado.” Except for his votes to repeal the ACA, cut taxes for the wealthy and giant corporations, and clear Trump after he tried to steal the election with help from a foreign government. The polls still heavily favor Hickenlooper, the former governor of the state.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: Graham, who is getting absolutely crushed in fundraising, is slamming his Democratic opponent Jamie Harrison for being "too liberal" in ads heavily studded with appearances by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But it’s telling that Graham, who has become Trump’s chief bootlicker, isn’t playing up the alliance he very actively cultivated with Trump. Polls have shown Harrison in striking distance of unseating Graham in what has traditionally been a very conservative state.

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa: Ernst is featuring an ad in which a supposedly former Democrat rants about "the radical left," says he wants "nothing to do with [Democrats] anymore," and claims Democrat Theresa Greenfield is a pawn of the left. Ernst is also trying to paper over her vote to repeal the ACA and kill preexisting conditions coverage with an ad in which Ernst's sister, who has diabetes, talks up Ernst's loyal support for her. The race has been tight, but Greenfield appears to have built a several-point edge

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine: Collins is leveraging the reputation of a retired TV personality, Bill Green, to account for her record of consistently enabling Trump, who is deeply unpopular in the state. Green calls attacks against Collins a "ridiculous smear campaign" and then encourages voters to split their ticket. “No matter who you are voting for for president, Susan Collins has never been more important to Maine," says Green, who recently hung up the reins after a 47-year career as a broadcast journalist in the state. Democrat Sara Gideon has been maintaining a several-point edge in the state and appears poised to capitalize on Trump's unpopularity there.

A Democratic wave pickup of 10 Senate seats is a real possibility

Early in the cycle, the big question was wether Democrats could pick up the net-four seats they needed to get control of the U.S. Senate (assuming they won the presidency, and the tie-breaking vote). It was a tall order, given that only one top pickup opportunity (Colorado) was in a 2016 blue state. But Donald Trump’s disastrous and deadly presidency hasn’t just crushed his own reelection chances, but is now threatening Republican Senate seats no one would’ve ever thought would be at risk, even in some solidly red states. 

Welcome to my inaugural ranking of Senate races, by most likely to flip. 

TIER ONE (expected to switch)

1. AlabamaDoug Jones (D)

Our two-year Democratic rental, thanks to a narrowly won special election against a child predator, should come to an end this November as Alabama’s strong Republican lean and a run-of-the-mill Republican challenger ends Jones’ term. No regrets. It was great while it lasted. 

2. Colorado, Cory Gardner (R)

Joe Biden will win Colorado by double-digits. There’s no way Gardner overcomes that margin, and especially not against former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who remained popular throughout his two terms in office. In fact, Gardner has acted as someone vying for a spot on a second Trump term, reliably defending his president during the impeachment proceedings, rather than a blue-state senator trying to differentiate himself from the top of the ticket. 

3. Arizona, Marth McSally (R)

McSally narrowly lost in the Democratic wave in 2018, and since appointed to fill Sen. John McCain’s seat after his death, she is headed toward another defeat at the hands of Democrat Mark Kelly, an astronaut and husband to former congresswoman and gun violence victim Gabby Giffords. Polling is showing both Biden and Kelly pulling away, in a state in which resurgent Latino voters and suburban white women are heavily engaging. 

4. North Carolina, Thom Tillis (R) 

Democratic Iraq and Afghanistan war vet Cal Cunningham has proven a surprisingly strong challenger to first-term Republican Thom Tillis, handily leading him in all recent polling. It’s not even looking close, in a state in which Biden has also led (albeit more narrowly). Tillis runs weakly against Republicans, who see him as a traitor to Trump’s cause. And the double-whammy of Trump losing the state, and Tillis losing Trump voters, looks too much to overcome. 

5. Maine, Susan Collins (R)

Collins survived decades as a Republican in blue Maine by pretending to be a “moderate” independent-minded legislator. The Trump years have torn that facade away, as she’s sided with the wannabe despot in both his Supreme Court nominations, and in voting to acquit him during the impeachment proceedings. Democrat Sara Gideon, Speaker of the Maine House, is leading in all recent polling, and would be the first woman of color (Indian American) elected in Maine. 

These five races would net Democrats the +3 seats they need for a 50-50 Senate, with Biden’s vice-president casting the tie-breaking vote. But what a nightmare that would be, right? We’d have the nominal majority, but well-short of the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and without the Democratic votes needs to eliminate that stupid filibuster. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has already declared he’d vote against any such efforts. So it is imperative that Democrats pad their majority in order to have the votes to get rid of the filibuster and push through critical legislation like statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico (if its residents vote for it), voting right protections, economic stimulus, police reforms, measures to address climate change, and other Democratic priorities. 

TIER TWO (toss-ups)  

6. Montana, Steve Daines (R)

How can Democrats be competitive in a state which Trump won by over 20 points? First, convince popular Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to run, then watch Trump’s numbers collapse to the point that Biden is actually competitive. Recent polling in this hard-to-poll state show Republicans with the narrow edge, but it’s narrow. 

7. Iowa, Joni Ernst (R) 

This wasn’t a state that was supposed to be competitive, with Trump winning by nine points in 2016. Yet Trump disastrous trade wars decimated Iowa farmers, and the coronavirus pandemic has only added to anti-GOP sentiment. So this state of rural non-college whites—the core base of the modern Republican Party—is suddenly flirting with voting Democratic. Most recent polling shows Trump leading by a hair, the same as Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. 

8. Georgia, Kelly Loeffler (R)

Georgia has a racist Jim Crow-era election system, in which candidates require 50% in the first round, otherwise the race moves to a January runoff. This is a special election, thus features a “jungle primary” in which all candidates, of all parties, run on the same ballot. If none reaches 50% (and none will), this gets decided January next year. Democrats are running several candidates, and would be best served if they rallied around Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (where Dr. Rev, Martin Luther King preached). 

While Democrats have traditionally suffered turnout woes during the runoff elections, I doubt that’ll be an issue this cycle. January will be HOT in Georgia. 

9. Georgia, David Perdue (R)

Same as above, except that there’s no jungle primary. Democrats nominated Jon Ossoff to take on the incumbent. Polling has been mixed in this race, with some showing a tied race, and others showing Perdue close to 50%. But at the same time, almost all polling is showing a competitive presidential contest. If Biden can extend his lead in this coronavirus-stricken state, he could very well pull Democrats across the line with him, at least into January runoffs where defeated and demoralized Republicans might just sit things out. 

TIER THREE (lean Republican)

These solidly Republican states shouldn’t be competitive at the Senate level, yet amazingly, they are! 

10. Kansas, Open (R)

The conventional wisdom is that if Republican nominate crazed right-winger Kris Kobach, that this seat in this +20 2016 Trump state becomes far more competitive in November. That would make sense, since Kobach cost Republicans the governorship in 2018. Our own Civiqs polling, actually, found Democrat Barbara Bollier competitive no matter who Republicans nominate. A tough state, for sure but Kansas is one of the few remaining Republican states with high educational attainment (the other being Utah). Given the nation’s partisan stratification based on college education, we can expect Biden to narrow the gap from 2016, improving Bollier’s chances down the ballot. And if Republicans nominate Kobach? That can’t hurt, either. 

11. Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R)

Alaska is competitive at the presidential level (more here), despite the fact that Trump won it by 15 in 2016. No polling has shown the Senate race competitive, but that’s because 1) there is no Democratic nominee—an independent is filling that slot, and 2) that nominee, Al Gross, has a name ID of about zero percent. Gross is now up in the air, and that should boost that name ID in this cheap state. Also, Democrats will now learn that he is their guy, and will answer accordingly the next time they’re polled. 

Without strength at the presidential level, this seat isn’t in play, but Alaska has been trending Democratic for several cycles now, and this year may be the year when that vast swath of land is painted in glorious blue. 

12. South Carolina, Lindsey Graham (R)

Pinch me I must be dreaming. Infamous Trump bootlicker Lindsey is vulnerable? Yes. Yes he is. The polling has shown the state tightening at the presidential level, and the pandemic is hitting South Carolina hard, further weakening the state’s dominant Republican Party. Democrats have an awesome candidate in Jaime Harrison. His problem has been that while he’s running even with Graham, most undecideds in the race are conservative voters. It’s a tough hill to overcome. But this is happening: 

Every point Trump falls is a point that could cost him in the presidential election, and every point that presidential race narrows is one point less Harrison needs to overcome to win the Senate seat. The play here isn’t for Biden to win, he doesn’t need South Carolina (as nice as it would be!). We need it close enough to give ourselves a chance down ballot. 

This is a long-shot, by all means, but it’s a real shot. And Harrison has raised record amounts of cash and has the resources to wage a real campaign in this final three-month sprint to Election Day.  

13. Texas, John Cornyn (R)

The big question in Texas is whether it is competitive at the presidential level or not. It’s clear where the state is trending, and no doubt in a cycle or two it will be legitimately purple. But polling is mixed on whether this is the year. And that will inform whether the Senate race is flippable. On its merits, Cornyn should be cruising to reelection. He has none of the baggage Sen. Ted Cruz had in 2018, where he held on to his seat by just 2% of the vote. But if Texas Democrats can get the state’s chronically underperforming Latino vote to activate, then all bets are off—at both the presidential and senate levels. 

CONCLUSION

Of the 13 Senate seats currently in play, 12 of them are held by Republicans. The odds of Democrats picking up 10 or 11 seats are currently low, but the trends just keep getting worse and worse for the GOP. The toll of the pandemic isn’t just worsening nationwide, it’s currently disproportionately affecting some of the very states discussed above, like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Meanwhile, Trump is doing nothing to reverse his precipitous collapse in his national standing, while also refusing to allow Republicans to distance themselves from him. 

So can we get to a double-digit pickup in the Senate? Not today, we wouldn’t, but Republicans still have three months to fall. 

Morning Digest: Virginia GOP congressman who officiated same-sex wedding gets denied renomination

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

VA-05: Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good won the Republican nomination on Saturday by defeating freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman at the party convention by 58-42, a result that ends Riggleman’s brief career in Congress. While Riggleman had Donald Trump’s endorsement, Good and his allies portrayed the congressman as insufficiently conservative. Riggleman notably pissed off the base last summer when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers, a move that quickly led to a homophobic backlash at home.

Good will now be Team Red’s standard bearer in a district which includes Charlottesville and south-central Virginia, and that moved from 53-46 Romney to 53-42 Trump. Riggleman, though, only won 53-47 in 2018, and Good could be vulnerable in the fall. Democrats, who opted to hold a traditional party primary, will choose their nominee to take on Good on June 23 in a contest that features several well-funded contenders. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this contest as Likely Republican.

Campaign Action

Riggleman’s loss comes after a short and at times bizarre career in politics that began with a 2017 run for governor. Riggleman, a distillery owner and former Air Force intelligence officer, pitched himself as an aggravated outsider and focused his anger at the utility giant Dominion Energy, which had tried to route a natural gas pipeline through his property. However, Riggleman dropped out of the contest after a few months of weak fundraising, declaring that he'd sadly learned that "money seems to be the most important part of a campaign."

Riggleman surprisingly got another chance to run for office the following year, though, after first-term GOP Rep. Tom Garrett unexpectedly dropped out in bizarre fashion after winning renomination. The 5th District Republican Committee was tasked with picking a new nominee, and Riggleman ended up defeating Republican National Committee member Cynthia Dunbar, who had lost a convention for the neighboring 6th District just weeks prior, on the fourth and final ballot.

This race always looked like a longshot for Democrats, but the contest attracted national attention. Riggleman’s opponent was journalist Leslie Cockburn, the mother of actress Olivia Wilde, and Cockburn ended up raising a credible amount of money. And perhaps more importantly, Riggleman himself turned out to be an aficionado of Bigfoot erotica.

National Republicans ended up spending $600,000 in the final weeks of the campaign to aid Riggleman, which was a costly rescue mission at a time when the GOP was on the defensive in numerous other House seats. Riggleman won, though, and he showed up to his first day in Congress wearing … Bigfoot socks.

Riggleman soon had a more human political concern, though. After the congressman officiated a same-sex wedding over the summer, local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions. Good, who worked as an athletics official at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, soon launched his campaign against Riggleman, whom he'd describe as “out of step with the base of the party on life. He's out of step on marriage. He's out of step on immigration. He's out of step on health care.”

Falwell himself backed Riggleman, but local party leaders weren’t so supportive. The 5th District Committee voted to decide its nominee through a convention, a gathering that tends to be dominated by conservative activists, rather than a primary. It also didn’t escape Riggleman’s attention that the convention was taking place at Good’s own church.

Riggleman himself publicly bashed the 5th District Committee’s handling of the nominating contest, especially after the coronavirus pandemic indefinitely delayed the convention. Chairman Melvin Adams also didn’t hide his frustration with the congressman, telling Roll Call, “I know the congressman and some of his staff and other people have been putting out false information, or at least implying this committee is trying to rig things. This committee is not trying to rig things.”

The party ended up holding its convention in the parking lot of Good’s church, an event that allowed 2,537 delegates to eject Riggleman from Congress from the comfort of their cars. Riggleman claimed that “[v]oting irregularities and ballot stuffing” took place, insinuating that it decided the outcome, and he said his campaign is evaluating its options, which could include legal action.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete compilation of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to election and voting procedures.

Iowa: Iowa's Republican-run state House has almost unanimously approved a bipartisan compromise that would require Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate to seek approval from a special panel of lawmakers to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. A day earlier, the state Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans, passed a bill that would forbid Pate from sending out applications altogether, as he did before the state's June 2 primary.

Under the House measure, Pate would have to get the sign-off of Iowa's Legislative Council, which describes itself as a "steering committee" that, explains the Quad-City Times, is empowered to act on behalf of the full legislature when it's not in session. The 20-member panel includes 11 Republicans and nine Democrats. It would have to approve any emergency changes Pate might propose, including mailing applications or altering the absentee voting period (something Pate also did before the primary, increasing it from 29 days to 40).

It's not clear whether the Senate will concur with the House, though, and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has not expressed a view on either bill.

North Carolina: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a bill that will make mail voting easier by reducing the requirement that voters have two witnesses or a notary sign their ballots, instead requiring just a single witness. However, the legislation also prevents local election officials from conducting all-mail elections, and it contains a provision that could help Republicans revive their voter ID law, which two separate courts have blocked from taking effect.

Tennessee: A state court judge warned Tennessee officials that they could be held in criminal contempt for their refusal to follow an order she recently issued instructing them to provide absentee ballots to all voters during the pendency of the coronavirus pandemic. "Shame on you for not following that procedure and just taking matters into your own hands," Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle told the defendants, who emailed local officials after Hobbs' initial ruling and told them to "hold off" on sending out absentee applications.

A spokesperson for Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the office was "working on complying" with Lyle's latest instructions, according to Courthouse News Service.

Vermont: Vermont's Democratic-run legislature has passed a bill that would remove Republican Gov. Phil Scott's power to block Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos from ordering that the November general election be conducted by mail. Scott has said that he doesn't oppose the measure, which passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities. Condos has for months promoted a plan for holding nearly all-mail elections this year.

Senate

NH-Sen, NH-01: Donald Trump has waded into two Republican primaries in New Hampshire, which doesn't hold nominating contests until Sept. 8. In the race to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Trump's given his backing to wealthy attorney Corky Messner, despite the fact that retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc has claimed the NRSC supports his candidacy (the committee has, however, declined to confirm).

Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional District, where the GOP is trying to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, Trump has endorsed Matt Mowers—an unsurprising move, given that Mowers previously worked as a Trump aide. Mowers faces former state party vice chair Matt Mayberry in the primary. Republicans are underdogs in both contests: Daily Kos Elections rates the Senate race as Likely Democratic and the 1st District as Lean Democratic.

House

GA-13: The Associated Press has now called the Democratic primary in Georgia's 13th District for Rep. David Scott outright, after first saying that Scott had been forced into an Aug. 11 runoff but then later retracting that call. Scott was leading former state Rep. Keisha Waites 51-27 on Friday afternoon, just over the 50% mark needed to avoid a second round. Waites entered the race late and spent virtually nothing, suggesting that the veteran Scott could be very vulnerable to a more aggressive challenger if he seeks another term in 2022.

NY-01: A Global Strategy Group poll for chemistry professor Nancy Goroff finds her trailing businessman Perry Gershon by a small 29-27 margin ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary in New York's 1st Congressional District, with Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming at 17. GSG says that the numbers represent a substantial shift from a previously unreleased early April survey that gave Gershon, who was the party's 2018 nominee against GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, a 33-16 lead over Fleming, with Goroff at just 11.

Thanks to a $1 million personal loan, Goroff was able to outspend Gershon $1.1 million to $453,000 during April and May (Gershon self-funded extensively last time but hasn't materially done so this cycle). Fleming was not far behind, spending $405,000 in the same timeframe. Goroff had a large $758,000 to $190,000 cash edge over Gershon for the final three weeks of the race, with Fleming sitting on $112,000, though presumably the wealthy Gershon could once again dip into his own bank account if he wanted to.

NY-16: Former principal Jamaal Bowman outraised Rep. Eliot Engel during April and May in new reports filed with the FEC, though Engel held a cash edge as of June 3, the close of the "pre-primary" filing period. Bowman brought in $431,000 versus $389,000 for Engel, but Engel had $826,000 left to spend in the final weeks compared to $345,000 for his challenger. However, Bowman finished the period strong, thanks to Engel's viral "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care" blunder on June 2, and that surge appears to have continued past the FEC's reporting deadline, as the Bowman campaign says it raised $345,000 in the week following the gaffe.

Bowman has sought to further capitalize on Engel's misstep. A few days ago, Bowman released his first TV ad, which features a clip of Engel's now-infamous gaffe. The second half is more positive and shows images of Bowman alongside his would-be constituents, while a voiceover of the candidate himself proclaims, "We need a representative that cares about our communities year-round, not just during election season."

NY-17: End Citizens United, which has a track record of both spending and fundraising for its endorsees, has backed attorney Mondaire Jones in the June 23 Democratic primary for New York's open 17th Congressional District. Candidates also just filed so-called "pre-primary" fundraising reports with the FEC on Thursday, covering the period of April 1 through June 3. During that timeframe, Jones reported raising $295,000 and spending $500,000, leaving him with $339,000 for the stretch run.

In terms of spending, which is probably the most important metric at this late stage of the campaign, that puts Jones in the middle of the pack among notable contenders:

  • Adam Schleifer: $62,000 raised (plus $2.1 million loan), $3.3 million spent, $369,000 cash-on-hand
  • Evelyn Farkas: $340,000 raised, $787,000 spent, $242,000 cash-on-hand
  • David Buchwald: $47,000 raised (plus $300,000 loan), $329,000 spent, $514,000 cash-on-hand
  • Allison Fine: $53,000 raised, $100,000 spent, $29,000 cash-on-hand
  • David Carlucci: $89,000 raised, $86,000 spent, $101,000 cash-on-hand

UT-01: A poll of the GOP primary from Dan Jones & Associates on behalf of former U.S. Foreign Service officer Blake Moore in Utah's open 1st Congressional District finds an unsettled race, with Moore tying Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson at 16 apiece, former state Agriculture Commissioner Kerry Gibson taking 13, and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt bringing up the rear with 7. That leaves a giant 48% undecided ahead of the June 30 primary.

Oddly, Moore is an employee of the consulting firm Cicero Group, which just so happens to be the parent company of Dan Jones. A memo from Dan Jones says that Moore was not involved "in poll gathering," but unsurprisingly, rival campaigns took shots at Moore over his connection to the pollster and questioned the results, though none offered alternate numbers.

Ad Roundup

Trump’s polling collapse puts Ohio back on the map

Once upon a time, Ohio was the ultimate swing state. President Barack Obama won it as recently as 2012! But then, non-college whites turned sharply in favor of bunker-hiding Donald Trump, and Ohio was both (82% non-Hispanic white, and ranked 35th in college graduates). Trump won it easily by over 8 points.

So Ohio wasn’t included in the early tally of 2020 battleground states. Early polling wasn’t encouraging for Democrats, and there were seven other states that would clearly decide the November contest: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

But, you can now officially add Ohio to that list.

As I wrote in my last story, we’re seeing clear correlation between Trump’s personal ratings, and his head-to-head matchups. In other words, whatever his favorability rating is, that’s what he’s pretty much getting against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Here are the four last Civiqs state polls:

STATE TRUMP FAVORABLES TRUMP vs. BIDEN GEORGIAKANSASNORTH CAROLINASOUTH CAROLINA
47-51 47-48
51-47 52-40
45-53 46-49
51-47 52-42

Also, in the last story, I wrote about Trump’s overall collapse in his personal approval ratings. Well, Ohio has had a more exaggerated collapse compared to the country at large. 

During impeachment, Trump had a +4 favorability rating in Ohio, or 51-47. That’s important because it meant he was likely over 50% in head-to-heads against Biden. We were right to keep the state off the battleground map. 

However, those approvals have dropped a net total of 12 points, to an anemic 45-53. So what other states have approval ratings in that -8 range? 

APPROVALS NET APPROVAL Iowa Florida Ohio Georgia North Carolina Wisconsin Pennsylvania MICHIGAN Arizona
45-52 -7
45-52 -7
45-53 -8
44-53 -9
43-54 -11
43-54 -11
42-54 -12
42-56 -14
40-57 -17

We know Florida is tied because not only the polling says so, but, you know, it’s Florida. (Actually, the polling gives Biden a small lead in Florida, but it’s Florida. So it’s tied.) 

Trump’s ratings in Ohio are a hint worse. Trump’s Ohio ratings are still better than they are in Georgia and North Carolina, two states we know that he is narrowly losing. But they’re all in the same range, with Trump getting roughly 45-46% of the Trump versus Biden vote. He’s slipped away from that 50% mark. The state is in play. And it makes that Fox News poll last week showing Biden leading in Ohio 45-43 make plenty of sense. 

Now Ohio won’t be deciding this election. If Biden wins the state, it’s because he already won the other seven battlegrounds. There is no scenario imaginable in which Ohio casts any deciding Electoral College votes. (Iowa and Texas are in a similar situation, as well as Minnesota and Nevada for Trump. If he wins those last two states, he’s already won the election.) 

What it means is that a panicking Trump campaign is already spending money trying to shore up the state. 

Over the past few weeks, the president’s operation has spent about $1.7 million on advertising in just three states he carried in 2016 — Ohio, Iowa and Arizona — that it had hoped would not be competitive at all this year. Much of that sum went to a concentrated two-week barrage in Ohio [...]

As I wrote last week, this spending is proof that Trump’s campaign is either being driven by Trump’s whims—he likely hates the idea that he’s losing Ohio, or his campaign manager Brad Parscale is utterly incompetent. Again, if they lose Ohio, they already lost the election, so why waste money there when Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have all fallen seemingly out of reach?

(To spare you the math, picking up just those four states—Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin is a 289-249 Biden victory. Including North Carolina, which also has a Trump double-digit approval deficit, makes it 304-234 Biden.)

But whatever the motivation to piss away millions in Ohio, it again proves that the state is in serious play. And that is, quite simply, remarkable. There’s nothing about the state that suggests it should be competitive. It seemed headed into Missouri territory—a once competitive state relegated by demographics to solid red status. And yet, here we are. 

Ohio, welcome back to swing-state status!

Democrats will win the Senate (only question is by how much)

No one should count their chickens before they hatch. This is not what I’m doing. What I’m saying is that if we keep doing what we’re doing, and that guy cowering in the bunker in the White House keeps doing what he’s doing, and Senate Republicans keep carrying water for the guy in the bunker … then yeah, Democrats will pick up the Senate. And I’m not going out on a limb in saying so. 

The big picture: Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Trump is going to lose. Therefore, Democrats need to pick up a net three seats to get to 50 seats, with the vice presidential tiebreaker putting the chamber in Democratic hands. 

We are probably going to lose the Senate seat in Alabama. That was a temporary gift won in a special election against a child molester. And we still barely won. In a normal year, against a normal Republican, with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket? If Democratic Sen. Doug Jones wins reelection, we’ve got a 60-seat majority landslide. So we assume he loses. 

The Daily Kos Elections crew just moved Arizona into “lean Democratic,” but that is probably still too kind.  

McSally (R) Kelly (D) Fox News (5/30-6/2) Highground (5/18-5/22) OH Predictive Insights (5/9-11)
37 50
41 51
38 51

Appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally already lost in 2018, and the whole state of Arizona seems to be moving strongly against Republicans. In that Fox News poll, Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden is leading 46-42. 

In Colorado, no one is pretending that Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has any chance. Even he realizes it—he spent his impeachment time aggressively defending Trump in a state in which Trump will lose by double digits. And so will Gardner. Two polls in early March had former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper leading by 17 and 18 points. No one has wasted time polling there ever since. 

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins saw her “moderate” veneer shorn off after voting both to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, and voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. A poll last month had Democratic candidate Sarah Gideon with a 51-42 lead. The race has been underpolled, but Collins ranks amongst the most unpopular senators in the country in a state that will solidly go blue this fall. She can’t count on ticket splitters anymore. 

And in North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis is looking weak, weak, weak:

Tillis (R) Cunningham (D) PPP (6/2-3) Meeting Street Insights (5/9-13) Civiqs (5/2-4) Meredith College (4/27-28)
41 43
44 46
41 50
34 44

Any incumbent below 45% is generally considered to be toast. People are looking for an alternative. 

Losing Alabama but winning Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina gets us to a 50-50 Senate. At this stage of the cycle, given current trends, this is the most likely outcome. 

TIER TWO RACES

These are races in which Republicans currently have the edge, but are in play. 

Georgia has two Senate seats in play: a regular election and a special one. The only recent polling is courtesy of Civiqs, which found both Senate seats effectively tied. The reason the GOP has the edge is that Georgia has a Jim Crow-era law that requires candidates to win with 50% of the vote. If none get it in November, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election in January. 

Historically, the GOP has done much better in those runoff elections. I suspect this time will be different, but gut feelings don’t trump history. This is a true tossup for both seats. 

Montana pits an incumbent Republicans against the current popular Democratic governor. Montana is notoriously difficult to poll, but the only one to try recently—a sketchy-looking Montana State University effort—had Democrat Steve Bullock ahead 46-39. Trump will win the state, so we’re relying on ticket splitters to carry the day. Luckily, 1) Montana has a long history of split tickets—it currently has a Democratic governor and Democratic U.S. Senator despite being solidly red at the presidential level, and 2) Trump’s approvals in Montana have been in a steady decline over the last 12 months, from a net +12, to +4 today. And the worse Trump does in the state, even if he wins it, the fewer crossover votes Bullock needs to win. 

Depending on how these two states shake out, the Democrats can end up anywhere from the barest 50-50 majority to a better-looking 53-47 one. 

TIER THREE RACES

Incumbent Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst had appeared relatively safe earlier this year. Lily-white Iowa looked like another 10-point Trump win, and Ernst seemed to be doing whatever it was that was necessary to cruise to reelection. But the coronavirus has hit Iowa hard, and the trade wars with China have hammered its farmers. And now, any hope of a positive resolution has evaporated as Trump has decided to blame China for his own failures. In fact, Trump’s approvals are underwater in Iowa 47-50, according to Civiqs’ daily tracker. 

Polling has been scant, but just yesterday Public Policy Polling released a poll showing the Democratic challenger up 45-43. Civiqs has a poll in the field right now and we’ll have results next Tuesday or Wednesday. This one may be soon graduating to the second tier. 

Kansas. Kansas! Yes, Kansas. I explain Kansas here. Botton line: It’s tough, but given Kansas’ high education levels and an ongoing civil war between the state Republican Party’s moderate and crazy wings, we have a shot. 

Texas also gets included in this tier. Incumbent Republican John Cornyn isn't as hated as Ted Cruz, who was almost defeated in 2018. And there is no public polling to give us a sense of the state of this race. But the state is trending blue, and a Public Policy Polling poll released today showed the state a 48-48 tie in the presidential election. Honestly, not sure I buy it, not without additional confirmation. But the demographic trends are certainly in our favor. Have they moved enough to put this Senate seat in contention? I’m hopeful but skeptical.  

TIER FOUR RACES

These are races in which we have great candidates who are raising buttloads of cash, but they are in tough Republican states. 

In Kentucky, odious Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unpopular, but 1) he delivers more bacon than anyone else in the Senate—Kentucky is the ultimate mooch state, and 2) Kentucky gives Trump some of his highest approval ratings in the country (a rough count says seventh highest). 

Those are some pretty strong headwinds to fight no matter how good your candidate is and how much money she has. 

And in the same vein, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is protected by the partisanship of his state—the only one on both coasts that gives Trump a positive approval rating. Civiqs has the race tied 42-42, but undecideds are heavily Republican and the state suffers from extreme racial polarization. Southern whites, in general, just don’t vote Democratic. 

The Senate will be at least 50-50. Our job is to drag as many of these races across the finish line as we can. Can we make it 55-45? Or even more than that? 

Donate to our slate of Senate races. And if you live in any of these states, fight hard! 

Conservative courts order Wisconsin election to proceed—risks to health and democracy be damned

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

Wisconsin: A day of maximal chaos in Wisconsin ended with two conservative courts insisting Tuesday's election go forward and limiting absentee voting, moves that threaten to prevent countless voters from participating and render the results illegitimate.

On Monday afternoon, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order postponing the election—which includes a presidential primary and races for state and local office—to June 9. Republicans, however, have bitterly opposed such a delay and immediately challenged the order before the state Supreme Court. Hours later, the court's four conservatives who heard the case blocked Evers' order, with both liberal justices dissenting. As a result, the state was left with no choice but to proceed with in-person voting Tuesday, despite the serious risks to public health and a crippled elections infrastructure.

Not long thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an order made last Thursday by a lower court, which said that voters could cast absentee ballots so long as election officials received them by April 13, regardless of when they were postmarked. In a 5-4 ruling—which, like the Wisconsin high court's decision, fell along strictly ideological lines—the court's conservatives ruled that all ballots must be postmarked by April 7.

This means that those who have the misfortune to receive their ballots late—a distinct possibility for many, given the huge surge in requests—now face an impossible choice, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in a dissent: They must either risk their health by voting in person on Tuesday, or disenfranchise themselves by not voting at all. The same holds true for anyone who was unable to request a ballot, as well as the many groups of voters who cannot vote by mail, such as those who are without housing.

Campaign Action

And for those who do choose to head to the polls, they face an elections infrastructure in shambles. Due to a shortage of poll workers, Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, was set to open just five polling sites, down from its usual 180. The same problem has plagued jurisdictions across the state. Many voters will therefore be deprived of their right to vote, and efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus will be undermined.

But a deep cynicism motivates the right-wing hostility to letting voters participate in the election safely: With progressives mounting a competitive campaign to unseat an arch-conservative appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker on the state Supreme Court, Republicans appear to be counting on the pandemic to disproportionately suppress votes on the left.

In part that's because social distancing is more difficult in denser urban areas, which make up the bulk of the Democratic vote; voters in more sparsely populated rural areas are likely to be less deterred from voting in person, since they're apt to encounter fewer people at the polls or on their way there. In addition, polling shows Republicans are simply less concerned about the coronavirus in general, meaning they're more willing to ignore the danger to public health (and their own) that in-person voting poses.

And now, after decades of concerted effort, Republicans have succeeded in installing partisan ideologues on the bench—both federally and at the state level—who are only too happy to cloak the GOP's malevolent political goals in the language of legalese and bless them with the authority of the bench. In a searing irony, a message atop the Wisconsin Supreme Court's website explains that the courts are closed due to COVID-19—just above a link to the court's order saying Tuesday's election must take place despite COVID-19.

In his ruling last week delaying the deadline for absentee ballots to be received, Judge William Conley included a pregnant footnote. "The court will reserve," he wrote, "on the question as to whether the actual voter turnout, ability to vote on election day or overall conduct of the election and counting votes timely has undermined citizens' right to vote."

In other words, Conley suggested that he might entertain further challenges after the election if the all-important right to vote has been abridged in some way based on how the election is carried out. As things stand, it's impossible to see how those rights won't be sabotaged, but with the partisans in robes sitting above Conley, it's just as hard to see them permitting any remedy he might fashion to stand.

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.

Iowa: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate says that he's considering the option of conducting November's general election entirely by mail. Previously, Pate said he'd mail absentee ballot applications to every active registered voter ahead of Iowa's June 2 downballot primaries. Pate says he considered making the primary all-mail but opted not to after talking to officials in Washington and Oregon, who described the long timeframes that had been needed to convert their states to mail voting.

Montana: Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says that all 56 Montana counties plan to conduct the state's June 2 presidential and downballot primaries by mail, an option that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock recently made available.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says he'll be "stunned" if the state doesn't postpone its June 2 presidential and downballot primaries, promising a decision "pretty soon."

Virginia: Republicans in Virginia's 7th Congressional District have indefinitely postponed their April 25 convention and have voted to sue the Board of Elections to seek an exemption from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Officials are also considering alternate methods of conducting their convention, such as online or by mail. The committee must pick a nominee by June 9. Republicans in the 5th District, who face the same situation, are meeting on Sunday to discuss their plans.

1Q Fundraising

TN-Sen: Bill Hagerty (R): $1.2 million raised, $5.6 million cash-on-hand (note: Hagerty's campaign would not tell the Associated Press how much of his haul came from self-funding)

IA-03: David Young (R): $400,000 raised

MA-04: Jake Auchincloss (D): $474,000 raised, $947,000 cash-on-hand; Alan Khazei (D): $278,000, $783,000 cash-on-hand raised

NH-01: Matt Mowers (R): $354,000 raised, $315,000 cash-on-hand

TX-07: Wesley Hunt (R): $920,000 raised

TX-24: Kim Olson (D): $370,000 raised; Candace Valenzuela (D): $305,000 raised

Senate

KY-Sen: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently went up with a commercial that praised him for the coronavirus economic bill, and Marine veteran Amy McGrath is now out with a response ad. The narrator declares that McConnell is "already taking a victory lap against the coronavirus in TV ads, even though medical experts say hundreds of thousands of Americans could die." The Democrat's ad also takes McConnell to task for blocking "emergency research until drug companies could overcharge for vaccines."

MI-Sen: The conservative think tank American Principles Project is out with a poll from the GOP firm Spry Strategies that gives Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 42-40 edge over Republican John James.

South Dakota: Candidate filing closed last week for South Dakota's June 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. A primary runoff will take place on Aug. 11 in races where no candidate took more than 35% of the vote.

However, both the primary and the general election should be quiet this year in this very red state. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds faces an intra-party challenge from state Rep. Scyller Borglum, who raised very little cash in 2019. Rep. Dusty Johnson also drew a challenge from former state Rep. Liz Marty May, who narrowly lost re-election last cycle.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: On Monday, the Montana Federation of Public Employees endorsed Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in the June Democratic primary. Cooney's campaign says that this is the state's largest union.

WV-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Ron Stollings is out with a spot ahead of the June primary focused on the coronavirus. Stollings, who works as a physician, appears in his lab coat and tells the audience, "Regarding the coronavirus, I'm so glad we were able to get $2 million in the budget to help fight that. That was my amendment."

Stollings spends the rest of the ad telling the audience to use "good common sense" during the pandemic. He says to "assume everyone has the coronavirus. They don't, but that way, you will socially distance yourself and you'll use hand washing techniques." He also urges the viewer, "Do not go around your loved ones, your older loved ones, if you're sick."

House

CA-25: The DCCC has launched a $1 million ad campaign against Republican Mike Garcia that the Los Angeles Times reports will run until the May 12 special election. Politico reports that $930,000 of this is going to cable TV and another $42,000 will be for Spanish-language commercials, while the balance will be for digital advertising.

The DCCC's opening spot alludes to the coronavirus without mentioning it directly: The narrator says, "More than ever we need a leader who will put our health and safety first." The commercial goes on to say, "But Mike Garcia would let insurance companies deny coverage for pre-existing conditions … and hike up costs for life-saving drugs." The commercial then praises Democrat Christy Smith for refusing to "take a dime from pharmaceutical companies."

The ad comes shortly after the NRCC also began spending here. Politico reports that the committee is deploying $330,000 for broadcast TV in addition to the $690,000 cable buy we noted last week.

FL-19: Physician William Figlesthaler uses his first ad ahead of the August GOP primary to tell the audience that "career politicians from both parties have failed" to handle the coronavirus. The candidate uses an image of Bernie Sanders to represent Democrats who "want socialized medicine," while the late John McCain stands in for the establishment Republicans Figlesthaler says "failed to implement President Trump's aggressive free market health care solutions."

KY-04: GOP Rep. Thomas Massie is up with an ad portraying him as a loyal Donald Trump ally while ignoring that Trump called him "a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky" less than two weeks ago. Massie also doesn't mention Todd McMurtry, who is his opponent in the June primary.

MI-13: Target-Insyght is out with a survey of the August Democratic primary conducted from March 31 to April 2 that gives Rep. Rashida Tlaib a 43-34 advantage in her rematch against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. Back in July, well before Jones kicked off her campaign, the same firm found Tlaib with a far larger 56-19 lead. Jones, who entered the race on March 25, announced on Thursday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 but added she was "not experiencing any of the horrific symptoms associated with the coronavirus."

NM-02: A recently formed super PAC called Citizens United for NM is spending at least $47,000 on a commercial attacking 2018 nominee Yvette Herrell ahead of the June GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. This group was created by Butch Mathews, who owns a trucking company that works in the state's oil and gas industry, and it donated to Herrell's main intra-party foe, oil businesswoman Claire Chase.

The commercial says that in 2016, Herrell sent out emails "to undermine Trump's campaign for president" and also "used taxpayer funds to attend an anti-Trump soiree at a San Diego hotel where they hung a Trump piñata from the ceiling." The commercial comes several months after Chase ran into problems when her old 2016 social media posts attacking Trump surfaced.

Virginia: Candidate filing closed last month for Virginia's June 9 primary, and the state now has a list of contenders.

Virginia allows parties to nominate candidates through party conventions or through a party-run firehouse primary, so not every November matchup will be decided in June. Both parties are holding primaries for Senate, but the situation varies in House seats: The GOP is hosting primaries in only five of the 11 congressional districts, while Democrats are doing primaries everywhere except for the safely red 9th Congressional District.

VA-02: Democrat Elaine Luria unseated Republican incumbent Scott Taylor 51-49 last cycle, and Republicans are hoping to take back this 49-45 Trump seat in the Virginia Beach area.

Taylor initially decided to launch a longshot challenge to Sen. Mark Warner, but he announced in January that he would instead seek a rematch against Luria. Navy veteran and 2010 candidate Ben Loyola was already running, though, and he decided to remain in the contest. Loyola has the support of former Rep. Scott Rigell, who defeated him 40-27 in the primary for an open seat in 2010 and retired in 2016. Navy veteran Jarome Bell is also running, but he didn’t report raising any money during the final months of 2019.

Taylor is the frontrunner to win the GOP nod, but Team Red may still benefit from a different nominee. Taylor’s staff was exposed during the 2018 campaign for forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown (who was booted off the ballot by a judge), and Democrats ran ads slamming Taylor's campaign for its skullduggery.

The story has not gone away since Taylor's defeat. Last month, a former Taylor staffer pleaded guilty for her part in the scheme, and the local prosecutor said the "investigation is still ongoing" and that we're "likely to see more" indictments to come. Taylor himself has consistently denied any knowledge of the scheme, but his staff had previously claimed the congressman was indeed aware of their plans.

VA-05: While the GOP opted to select its nominee through a convention, Democrats decided to hold a primary here instead. This seat, which includes Charlottesville and the south-central part of the state, moved from 53-46 Romney to 53-42 Trump, but Democrats are hoping that the ugly GOP nomination battle between freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman and Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good will give them an opening.

Four Democrats filed to compete in the primary. EMILY’s List is backing Claire Russo, while VoteVets is supporting fellow Marine veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler, who unsuccessfully ran here in 2018. Physician Cameron Webb and Rappahannock County Supervisor John Lesinski are also running.

House: House Majority PAC, which is the second-largest spender on House races among outside groups on the Democratic side, has announced that it's reserved a total of $51 million in fall TV time in 29 different media markets. We've assembled this new data into a spreadsheet, but as you'll see, it's organized by market rather than district, so we've also included our best guesses as to which House seats HMP is specifically targeting or defending.

The reason these buys are organized this way is because advertising can only be booked market by market. The geographic regions served by particular TV stations rarely correspond with political boundaries, and the reverse is true as well.

About half of the nation's 435 congressional districts are contained within a single media market, while the other half cross two or more (sprawling Montana's lone House district reaches into nine different markets, the most in the country). Conversely, all but a couple dozen of the 900-plus media markets in the U.S. overlap with two or more congressional districts; jumbo-sized New York City, for instance, covers all or part of 34 different House seats in four different states. Inevitably, this mismatch means that many TV watchers will wind up seeing ads for districts they don't live in.

Most importantly, these reservations give us an early window into which races HMP expects to be competitive, but they don't tell us everything. As Politico notes, most of these media markets will likely attract hordes of ad money from presidential and Senate campaigns, so HMP is reserving now to lock in cheaper rates before high demand for TV time brings prices up. HMP can afford to wait, though, to book ads in competitive House seats located in markets like Los Angeles and Salt Lake City since there won't be nearly as much competition for airtime there.

As we alluded to just above, HMP included several markets in this first wave of reservations that contain at least a portion of several different competitive House seats, most notably Philadelphia. If you're interested in knowing exactly which media markets cover which congressional districts across the country, naturally we've got all that data for you. It's what we used, in fact, to hone our guesses as to which seats HMP cares about.

However, it's still too early to know how much money the PAC will direct towards each race. Often, major outside groups will change their planning based on how individual contests seem to be shaping up.

In 2018, for instance, the NRCC reserved a large chunk of TV time in the pricey Miami media market but, initially, it only used those bookings to air ads defending Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th District. Late in the cycle, though, the NRCC put some of that reserved airtime to work in an effort to save the open 27th District, which it had previously appeared to give up on.

Around that same time, the committee made the opposite move in the Las Vegas market. The NRCC reserved millions there well before Election Day, and it initially seemed that it would spend to try to flip both Nevada's 3rd and 4th Districts. In October, though, the NRCC decided to direct all its money towards helping former Rep. Cresent Hardy in the 4th District, and it didn't end up spending in the 3rd District at all.

None of these deck chair rearrangements wound up mattering, though: Republicans ultimately lost all four of these races in what was a terrible year for the GOP. But they're a good reminder that TV reservations often do not reveal the entire House battlefield.

Other Races

WA-LG: Retiring Rep. Denny Heck recently filed paperwork with the state to run for lieutenant governor, though the Democrat has not said he’s in yet. The filing deadline for Washington’s August top-two primary is May 15.

Heck surprised political observers in December when he announced that he would not seek a fifth term in his reliably blue seat. In an unusually candid letter, Heck described both the many things he'd loved about serving in Congress but also admitted he'd grown "discouraged," explaining that "countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary." Last month, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib made an unexpected decision of his own when he revealed that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election and would instead leave politics to become a Jesuit.

If Heck goes forward with a campaign to succeed Habib, he’ll be the second retiring House member this cycle to run for a lieutenant governor’s post. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop confirmed back in July that he’d leave the House, and the Republican later announced in January that he’d serve as former state party chair Thomas Wright’s running mate.

However, both Heck and Bishop would be running for office under very different rules. In Utah, Wright and Bishop will either win or lose the June primary together as a ticket; if they clear the primary, they’d also both be elected or defeated together in the general election. In Washington, though, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete separately in both the top-two primary and the general election.

Morning Digest: Ohio cancels in-person voting despite judge denying request to delay Tuesday primary

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

Leading Off

Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Illinois: With the coronavirus pandemic leading to widespread shutdowns, it appears that in-person voting in Tuesday's primary in Ohio will not go forward, though the three other states with elections Tuesday said they would proceed as planned.

On Monday evening, a judge rejected a request supported by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine to postpone the election until June 2, calling the idea a "terrible precedent," but DeWine responded with a defiant statement saying that "it simply isn't possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans." The governor later declared that the director of the state's Department of Health, Amy Acton, would "order the polls closed as a health emergency," which she did shortly before 11 PM ET.

Though the petition to delay the election was unopposed by the state, Franklin County Judge Richard Frye cited a litany of reasons not to postpone the primary. Among other factors, he noted that neither DeWine nor legislative leaders had called an emergency session of the legislature to address the matter. Adding to the confusion, the Republican speaker of the House, Larry Householder, said prior to the governor's last statement on Monday night that he opposed DeWine's efforts and insisted the election would indeed go forward on Tuesday.

Campaign Action

DeWine's decision to ignore Frye's ruling could result in him and other officials, particularly Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, being held in contempt of court. However, as election law expert Ned Foley noted, Frye did not order the primary to proceed but rather denied a request that the election be delayed, meaning that Acton's order might not have defied a judicial command. DeWine also added that LaRose will "seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options."

At this point, if anyone were to succeed in a last-minute attempt to override DeWine and Acton, election administration would unfold disastrously. Many poll workers were mistakenly told to stay home Tuesday while matters were up in the air on Monday, and at least one told the Columbus Dispatch earlier in the evening that she still doesn't plan to open her polling site on Tuesday—and that was before Acton's order came down.

As of this writing just before midnight on Monday night, it appears that in-person voting will not go forward on Tuesday, assuming officials heed Acton's order and no further legal actions are forthcoming. That may not be a safe assumption, though: In response to DeWine's announcement, Republican state Rep. John Cross declared, "We have a constitutional crisis now in Ohio," and warned, "I will be fighting in the AM to keep our polling locations OPEN in the 83rd district with law enforcement as the Ohio Department of Health can not shut down an election."

As another election law expert, Rick Hasen, pointed out, while Acton may have the authority to close polling sites, that does not necessarily give DeWine the authority to reschedule primary day. It's possible this problem could be retroactively resolved, Hasen says, if the legislature were to pass a law setting a new date for in-person voting. If not, Ohio would find itself in the bizarre situation of trying to decide a primary election based solely on absentee votes.

LaRose, however, doesn't seem interested in waiting on lawmakers. He released his own memo in response to Acton's insisting that the primary had in fact been rescheduled for June 2 and forbidding local election officials "from tabulating and reporting any results until the close of polls" (which would be 7:30 PM ET) on that day.

Meanwhile, officials in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois all reiterated on Monday that they would proceed with in-person voting on Tuesday. However, whether the primaries end on Tuesday is a different question: Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in Florida late on Monday asking a federal court to extend the deadline to request an absentee ballot to March 24, and to order that election officials count all such ballots postmarked by that date and received by March 27.

Election Changes

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter life in the United States, we’ve added a new section to the Digest specifically devoted to potential or actual changes to election dates and procedures. As these decisions are finalized, we will update both of our 2020 calendars: one for statewide primary dates and the other for key downballot elections.

AL-Sen, AL-01, AL-02: On Sunday, GOP Secretary of State John Merrill requested an opinion from the state attorney general's office on whether Republican Gov. Kay Ivey could postpone the March 31 primary runoffs due to the coronavirus. Merrill said that Alabama law doesn't explicitly allow anyone to delay an election once it has been scheduled, but that he wanted Attorney General Steve Marshall to issue a legal opinion on whether Ivey had the authority to take this action now that she's declared a state of emergency.

For now, though, the GOP runoffs for the U.S. Senate and the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts are still set for March 31. Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, who is running in the 1st District, said Monday that he was suspending all of his political advertising due to the ongoing situation.

That same day, the anti-tax Club for Growth also announced that it was endorsing former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Senate runoff and 2018 candidate Barry Moore in the race for the 2nd District. The Club threw its support behind former state Sen. Bill Hightower, who is competing with Carl, during the summer of last year.

Kentucky: At the recommendation of Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has issued an executive order postponing Kentucky's primaries both for the presidential race and for downballot office from May 19 to June 23. To effect the change, Beshear and Adams relied on what one report described as a provision of law that had never before been used. Because Kentucky's filing deadline passed in January, it's unaffected by Beshear's order.

New York: Officials in New York are considering postponing the state's presidential primary, which is set for April 28, and consolidating it with the primaries for downballot office that will be held on June 23. Such a move would also include delaying the special election for the state's vacant 27th Congressional District, which is likewise scheduled for April 28. Douglas Kellner, the co-chair of the state Board of Elections, told the New York Times that a decision might not come for another two weeks.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order Monday moving village-level elections that had been scheduled for Wednesday to April 28. Presumably, if the April primary is delayed until June, these village elections would shift with them. Cuomo also reduced the signature requirement to get on the June ballot to 30% of the amount normally required by law and ordered that all petitioning halt as of Tuesday evening.

Pennsylvania: As Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf began weighing whether to delay the state's April 28 primary for the presidential race and downballot offices, a judge in Bucks County denied an emergency request from local officials seeking to postpone a hotly contested special election for the state House set to take place on Tuesday—despite the fact that Wolf has asked residents in southeastern Pennsylvania to stay home.

Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is responsible for scheduling all special elections for his chamber, had refused to change the date. Turzai originally set the race for the 18th House District for March 17 rather than consolidate it with the April election, likely because he anticipated that Democratic turnout would be lower in mid-March with no other races on the ballot than it would be for the presidential primary. Two other special elections for the House in red districts are also taking place Tuesday in western Pennsylvania.

As for the presidential primary, Wolf said that it's "too far out for anyone to make a decision." Like in Wisconsin (see our item below), it's not clear whether the governor would have the power to unilaterally change the date, which is set by state law.

Puerto Rico: As expected, Puerto Rico's Senate passed a bill on Monday moving the commonwealth's presidential primary from March 29 to April 26, though the House apparently will not take it up until next week. According to USA Today, Gov. Wanda Vazquez supports the change.

South Carolina: Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order postponing all local elections in South Carolina that had been slated to take place before May 1. The measure affects 32 different races across the state, a full list of which can be found here. The order does not impact the state's June 23 primary for state and federal office. Officials have said that the filing period, which runs from noon on March 16 to noon on March 30, remains undisturbed, though they've asked candidates to schedule appointments to file their paperwork in order to minimize crowding.

Texas: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said on Monday that he will announce later this week how Texas plans to proceed with its primary runoffs, which are scheduled for May 26. In a large number of primaries, which were held on March 3, no candidate won a majority of the vote, which under Texas law means that a second round of voting between the top two finishers must take place.

UT-Gov: Businessman Jeff Burningham said on Friday that he would no longer collect signatures to make it onto the June GOP primary ballot because of the dangers of the coronavirus and would instead compete at the April 25 state party convention. Both major parties also announced late last week that these state party gatherings would take place online rather than in-person.

Utah allows statewide candidates to reach the primary by turning in 28,000 valid signatures or by taking enough support at their party convention, though candidates have the option to try both methods. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes announced in January that he would only go through the GOP convention route, while Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton said last month that she would do the same thing because of the high cost of gathering petitions.

Former party chair Thomas Wright, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, and former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, though, have each turned in signatures; the state has announced that Wright has submitted enough valid petitions to appear on the primary ballot, while Cox and Huntsman's signatures are still being verified.

Wisconsin: Some Wisconsin politicians are calling for the state to postpone its early April elections, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has so far opposed the idea, saying he's not considering a delay "at this time." Should his position change, experts are divided on whether Evers could act unilaterally, or whether the legislature would have to pass new legislation changing the date. Wisconsin is set to conduct its presidential primary on April 7, as well as general elections in an important race for the state Supreme Court and several other judicial posts.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Two independent polls released on Monday both showed Democrat Mark Kelly leading appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally by margins comparable to what several other recent polls have found. Monmouth gave Kelly a 50-44 advantage, while Marist's survey for NBC had him ahead by a smaller 48-45.

CO-Sen: Former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Monday that the state had verified that he'd turned in enough signatures to appear on the June Democratic primary ballot to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, and that he would no longer compete at the state party convention.

Colorado allows candidates to reach the primary either by turning in enough valid signatures or by winning the support of at least 30% of the delegates at their party's convention, though contenders have the option to try both methods. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is Hickenlooper's only well-funded intra-party opponent, is trying to make the ballot by taking part in the convention.

Iowa: Candidate filing closed Friday for Iowa's June 2 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Iowa has an unusual law that requires party conventions to select nominees in races where no candidate receives over 35% of the vote in the primary.

IA-Sen: Five Democrats are competing to take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, who flipped this seat six years ago. National Democrats, including the DSCC, have consolidated behind real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, who had a large financial advantage over her primary rivals at the end of 2019.

Another contender to watch is self-funder Eddie Mauro, who lost the 2018 primary for the 3rd District to eventual winner Cynthia Axne 58-26. Also in the race are retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken, attorney Kimberly Graham, and real estate agent Cal Woods, though none of them have brought in much money through December.

Iowa took a sharp turn to the right in 2014 and 2016, though Democrats rebounded last cycle. Ernst has done little to distinguish herself from Trump one way or the other, and her fate is likely tied closely to the presidential contest. Daily Kos Elections rates the contest as Likely Republican, but a more competitive presidential race in the state would give Democrats a better chance against Ernst.

Gubernatorial

VT-Gov: Candidate fundraising reports are in covering the period of July 2019 through mid-March of this year, and GOP Gov. Phil Scott has less cash-on-hand than either of his two main Democratic rivals. Scott took in $52,000 during this period, with almost all of that amount coming in during the final month-and-a-half of the fundraising period, and he had $95,000 to spend.

On the Democratic side, former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe raised $378,000 and had $129,000 on-hand. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman took in $156,000 and transferred another $27,000, and he had $104,000 in the bank. Attorney Patrick Winburn self-funded almost all of the $106,000 he brought in, and he had $35,000 left after an opening advertising campaign.

WV-Gov: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango in the May Democratic primary to face GOP Gov. Jim Justice.

House

IA-01: Democrat Abby Finkenauer flipped this northeast Iowa district last cycle, and national Republicans quickly consolidated behind state Rep. Ashley Hinson to try to get it back. Hinson's only intra-party opponent is businessman Thomas Hansen, who has raised very little money. This seat swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump.

IA-02: Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack is retiring from a southeast Iowa seat that swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump, and former state Sen. Rita Hart faces no opposition in the Democratic primary to succeed him.

On the GOP side, state Republican officeholders have consolidated behind state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was Team Red's nominee against Loebsack in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Miller-Meeks' main intra-party foe is former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, who was elected to his one term in Congress in a seat located just across the Mississippi River in 2010; Schilling lost re-election two years later to now-DCCC chair Cheri Bustos, and she decisively defeated him in their 2014 rematch. Schilling has struggled to raise money for his first campaign in Iowa, and he hasn't attracted any help from major outside groups so far.

Three other Republicans are also in, but none of them appear to be running credible campaigns.

IA-03: Democrat Cynthia Axne unseated GOP incumbent David Young 49-47 last cycle, and Young is running to try to reclaim this Des Moines-area district. Young's only primary foe is Army veteran Bill Schafer, who has raised very little money and doesn't appear to be a threat. This seat swung from 51-47 Obama to 49-45 Trump.

IA-04: GOP Rep. Steve King had been safe for years in a red northwestern Iowa seat that moved from 53-45 Romney all the way to 61-34 Trump, but he now faces both a competitive primary and general election campaign.

King only narrowly beat Democrat J. D. Scholten 50-47 last cycle after voters learned about a week before Election Day that the congressman was rubbing shoulders with international white supremacist candidates and hate groups, and Scholten is running again. Scholten, who has no primary opposition, didn't attract much outside attention until late in the campaign, but he ended December with a credible $540,000 on-hand.

King also picked up four intra-party challengers after he was stripped of his committee assignments early last year for musing to the New York Times, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?" State Sen. Randy Feenstra ended 2019 with a huge $489,000 to $32,000 cash-on-hand lead over King, while self-funding Army veteran Bret Richards had $100,000 to spend.

Two other Republicans, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and real estate developer Steven Reeder, didn't have much money, but they could make it more difficult for anyone to take the 35% of the vote needed to win outright.

While King has little money or outside support, he very well could win another term. Voters in this seat have long tolerated his racism, and the congressman could benefit as memories of his January 2019 comments fade. There's also no telling what would happen if this nomination goes to a convention.

Idaho: Candidate filing closed Friday for Idaho's May 19 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. We're not expecting much action in the Gem State this year, though: GOP Sen. Jim Risch and Republican Reps. Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson don't face any serious primary opponents, and they're very unlikely to have trouble in November in their deep-red constituencies.

Nevada: Candidate filing closed Friday for Nevada's June 9 primaries, and the Nevada Independent has put together a list of contenders here.

NV-02: While there was serious talk throughout 2019 that Rep. Mark Amodei could face a serious GOP primary challenger in this reliably red northern Nevada seat, it doesn't appear that the congressman will have much to worry about now that filing has closed. Amodei's only intra-party foe is Joel Beck, who challenged him two years ago and took third place with just 8%.

NV-03: Six Republicans filed to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a seat in the Las Vegas suburbs that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump very narrowly carried, but only two of them look noteworthy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is backing former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer, a World Wrestling Entertainment alum who was accused of assault three different times from 2010 to 2013; Rodimer pleaded guilty to battery in one of those incidents, while no charges were filed in the other two. The other candidate worth watching is former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who has been self-funding almost his entire campaign.

Both men lost primaries last cycle: Rodimer lost a contest for a competitive state Senate seat by a narrow 40-38 margin, while Schwartz took on establishment favorite Adam Laxalt in the race for governor and went down by a brutal 72-9 margin.

NV-04: Eight Republicans are running against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who is defending a seat in the northern Las Vegas area that moved from 54-44 Obama to 50-45 Clinton. Horsford ended last year with $1 million on-hand, which was far more than any of his Republican rivals.

The candidates with the most money at the end of 2019 were former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who lost re-election in 2018 after one term, and insurance agency owner Samuel Peters. Both men have been self-funding much of their campaigns, and Marchant held a small $209,000 to $206,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of 2019. Just behind was businesswoman Lisa Song Sutton, who had $187,000 to spend.

Businesswoman Randi Reed and Charles Navarro, a former district director for former Rep. Cresent Hardy, each were well behind with just under $35,000 on-hand. Also in the contest are Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo and two other Republicans who each had less than $10,000 to spend.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: State Sen. Mary Washington announced Monday that she was suspending her campaign for the Democratic nod so she could focus on her work in the legislature as the coronavirus emergency continues. It doesn’t sound like Washington plans to rejoin the April 28 primary since she referred to her campaign in the past tense and added, “We will work to ensure the next Mayor is held to the standards we deserve, and push them relentlessly to do the hard, bold work this city needs.”

Special Elections

Special Elections: There are three special elections set for Tuesday in Pennsylvania, including an important pickup opportunity for Democrats in the suburbs of Philadelphia. However, a judge rejected a last-minute request to postpone this hotly contested race, even though Gov. Tom Wolf has asked residents in southeastern Pennsylvania to stay home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, so turnout could be very low and election administration could suffer. See our Pennsylvania item in the "Election Changes" section above for more on these developments.

PA-HD-08: This is a Republican district in the Mercer area that became vacant when former Rep. Tedd Nesbit became a member of the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas. The Democratic candidate is businessman Phil Heasley and the Republican is Grove City College professor Tim Bonner. This is a strongly Republican district that voted for Donald Trump 71-24 and Mitt Romney 67-32

PA-HD-18: Democrats have a big pickup opportunity in the Philadelphia suburbs, where the 18th District district became vacant after former GOP Rep. Gene DiGirolamo was elected Bucks County commissioner last year.

The Democratic candidate for this seat, which is located entirely in the city of Bensalem, is union plumber Howie Hayes while the Republican is funeral director KC Tomlinson. Hayes has the backing of multiple unions, including the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers. Tomlinson is from a prominent local family and her father, state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, is well-known in the area. The elder Tomlinson represented this district for two terms immediately before DiGirolamo, and his current Senate district contains all of the 18th House District.

On paper, this seat looks favorable for Team Blue, since it's been solidly Democratic at the presidential level, backing Hillary Clinton 53-44 and Barack Obama 58-41. However, it's been much more amenable to supporting Republicans downballot: DiGirolamo had held this seat since he was first elected in 1994, and thanks to his well-known personal brand in the area, won his last re-election effort 57-43 in 2018 despite the blue wave.

For Democrats, flipping this seat has higher stakes than a typical pickup opportunity. This chamber is a top target for Democrats in the fall and a win here would lower the number of seats Democrats need to flip to take control of the Pennsylvania House from nine to eight.

PA-HD-58: This is a Republican district in the Jeannette area, east of Pittsburgh. This seat became vacant when former Rep. Justin Walsh became a judge in Westmoreland County last year. The Democratic candidate is Army veteran Robert Prah Jr. and the Republican is union carpenter Eric Davanzo. There is also a Libertarian in the running, businessman Ken Bach. This is a solidly Republican district that supported Trump 63-34 and Romney 55-43.

These three seats are the only vacancies in this chamber, which Republicans control 107-93.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: It just wouldn't be an election cycle in Nevada without wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian on the GOP primary ballot. Tarkanian moved to Douglas County in northern Nevada following his 2018 defeat in the 3rd Congressional District in suburban Las Vegas, and he filed on Friday to challenge County Commissioner Dave Nelson, a fellow Republican. Tarkanian has unsuccessfully sought various elected offices a total of six times from 2004 through last cycle, and we'll see if his seventh time is a charm.

Matt Gaetz Confronts Joy Behar – Asks If She’s In Mourning Over Death Of Democratic Party As ‘Venezuela Wing’ Takes Over

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL., appeared on the ABC talk show “The View” on Thursday morning, and chaos quickly ensued when he got into a verbal altercation with liberal cohost Joy Behar.

“I was just wondering if you were wearing black as a consequence of, like, the death of the political left in the debate last night,” Gaetz asked Behar, who fired back by telling the congressman not to “count the dead yet.”

This came after Behar had predicted that former Vice President Joe Biden would be the nominee, saying that former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg killed his own chances at last night’s debate. Gaetz disagreed with her, however, saying that Biden should be counted out of the race as well.

MORE NEWS: Buttigieg invokes scripture to slam Trump, but nobody is buying it

“What states is he going to win?” Gaetz asked, adding that the whole “premise of the Biden campaign” was his electability, yet he didn’t win in New Hampshire or Iowa.

“So, now you have socialist Bernie Sanders against billionaire Michael Bloomberg,” he said, going on to argue that Democrats will not nominate an actual Democrat.

“They’re either going to nominate a socialist or someone who some time ago was a Republican,” Gaetz continued.

Later on, the Florida congressman slammed what he described as the “Venezuela wing of the Democratic Party.”

“Oh, c’mon, the Venezuela wing!” an exacerbated Behar exclaimed.

One of the best moments of the show came when the panel talked about President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Ambassador Richard Grenell to serve as acting director of national intelligence. When Behar claimed that Germany sees Grennel as “thin-skinned,” Gaetz fired back by insulting the talk show.

MORE NEWS: What if Biden drops out?

“Well, this is ‘The View,’ aren’t we all?” he asked, as Behar vehemently denied his statement.

Behar and her fellow liberals on “The View” are typically only challenged by Meghan McCain, the sole conservative on the show, so it was satisfying to see another conservative step in to show them who’s boss. In the end, Gaetz exposed Behar as the ignorant liberal sheep that she is, and viewers of “The View” won’t be forgetting that anytime soon.

This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Trump and Barr pull a classic con on Democrats
Cher comes unglued—claims Trump is going to shoot someone in New York City
Nancy Pelosi interrupts CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to claim Trump was never acquitted in impeachment trial

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