More Republicans look to join the House ‘What coronavirus threat?’ caucus

Donald Trump isn’t the only Republican downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic. He’s joined in that disregard for human life by many Republican lawmakers—and by many of the Republican candidates who hope to reclaim some ground in the House in 2020. That’s both because this is Trump’s party and because Republicans have long put their version of the economy (the economy of the rich and corporations) above the health and lives of working people.

Missouri’s Rep. Ann Wagner, for instance, went out on March 7 and, insisting on her knowledge of the situation—“We have had multiple, multiple briefings at the federal level for some time”—went on to assure the public, “As I said, this is, it's clear that the risk to our US public is low.” 

Let's turn it all blue. The whole government, at every level. Can you give $1 to each and every one of these Daily Kos-endorsed candidates? If you can't, how many can you help?

Former Democrat Jeff Van Drew, who became a Republican over the impeachment of Donald Trump, also downplayed the threat, insisting that “This is not mass destruction. This is not 9-11. This is a terrible situation that has happened. But at the same time, we know that we deal with the flu every year.” That was on March 11. Van Drew is from New Jersey, which has now lost more than 16,000 people to COVID-19—more than five times the death toll of 9/11 as a whole.

Other congressional Republicans have postured against public health restrictions, like Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who encouraged a church to hold services despite a police order not to do so. “Hold the services anyway, using common sense spacing, separation, etc. ... encourage elderly to stay home. But this kind of authoritarian nonsense must be challenged. #SicSemperTyrannis,” Roy tweeted. The church was in Virginia, far from Roy’s home state.

Wagner, Van Drew, and Roy are not alone in downplaying the threat or opposing public health restrictions—and if the Republican Party has its way, they’ll get a whole lot more company after November’s elections.

Company like Michelle Steel, challenging Rep. Harley Rouda in California’s 22nd Congressional District, who sounded a lot like Trump on March 22 when she said “hopefully the weather gets better this will all disappear.” At the end of April, she complained that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close crowded beaches was “a clear example of unnecessary government overreach,” unnecessary because “Orange County has been successful in flattening the curve.” At the time, Orange County had reported 2,400 COVID-19 cases. That number has risen to more than 50,000.

In South Carolina, Nancy Mace is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham. On June 8, she said “Our health has not been adversely affected in the way we were told it was going to be. We should have opened up sooner.” COVID-19 cases had already started rising in South Carolina at that point, and would be over 1,000 new cases a day for most of the following two months.

In Texas, Sheriff Troy Nehls, who is competing against Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni for an open seat, has squawked loudly about mask rules, insisting “this government MANDATE from Harris County is unnecessary, unconstitutional, and unAmerican. It’s an unprecedented overreach which looks more like a communist dictatorship than a free Republic.” That was April 22. Texas, of course, went on to have a major spike.

Right now it’s impossible to pick apart how much Republicans downplay coronavirus and rail against restrictions aimed at slowing its spread because that’s what Donald Trump does, and how much it’s because they themselves, independently, think if they clap loud enough it will just go away. Either way, though, Republicans join Trump in owning the United States’ pandemic failures. And they must not get the power to make things even worse.

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

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The releases did not include presidential numbers.

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polls:

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

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

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

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

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

Mayoral

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

ELECTION CHANGES

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: ‘The fix is in’: Bitter charges follow GOP’s choice to succeed convicted congressman

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

NY-27: On Saturday, Republican leaders in the eight counties that make up New York's 27th Congressional District awarded the party's nomination for the upcoming special election to state Sen. Chris Jacobs. The GOP did not release vote totals for the meeting, though The Buffalo News' Robert McCarthy reports that Jacobs prevailed after "what was termed a close call" over fellow state Sen. Robert Ortt. Jacobs also beat out attorney Beth Parlato, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, and White House aide Jeff Freeland to claim the nomination.

Campaign Action

Democrats have not yet picked a candidate in the race to replace former GOP Rep. Chris Collins, who was sentenced to 26 months in prison earlier this month on charges related to insider trading. However, McCarthy says that Team Blue's leaders are expected to choose 2018 nominee Nate McMurray "in coming days." Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet scheduled the special, though the state attorney general's office told a court that Cuomo intends to set the date for April 28, which is the same day as New York's presidential primary.

While a competitive presidential primary will likely bring out Democratic voters in disproportionate numbers, it's still going to be tough to beat Jacobs in this suburban Buffalo seat, which backed Donald Trump 60-35. However, Jacobs won't be able to rest even if he wins in April. Parlato, who is also a Fox News contributor, said Saturday that she would run in the late June primary for the full two-year term.

Ortt, Mychajliw, and Freeland also each said that they were considering their options, with Mychajliw sounding particularly pissed with how things went down over the weekend. The comptroller pointed out that state GOP chair Nicholas Langworthy's wife is doing fundraising work for Jacobs, saying, "The process is compromised by the fact that the state chairman's wife is on the payroll of one of the candidates …. A reasonable person could infer the fix is in." Mychajliw also took issue with GOP leaders keeping the location of their meeting a secret even from the candidates until the morning of their deliberations.

The filing deadline for the regular term is April 2, so all of Jacobs' would-be foes will need to decide what they're doing before the special election. However, Jacobs will have the advantage in the June primary as long as he wins in April: No member of Congress has won a special election and then immediately lost their first primary in a traditional election since New York Democrat Alton Waldon in 1986.

And while Jacobs' intra-party critics, including Collins and the extremist Club for Growth, have attacked him for refusing to publicly support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016, Jacobs will have several months to proclaim his fealty to the White House (and possibly earn a coveted Trump tweet). Jacobs also won't need to worry about money either. His family founded and still owns the food service giant Delaware North, allowing him to self fund $425,000 through the end of September.

P.S. By nominating Jacobs, GOP leaders are opening up a state Senate seat that supported Clinton 50-45. However, Team Red has for some time given up hope of reclaiming power in a chamber that they controlled almost nonstop from just after World War II until the end of 2018 but where Democrats now hold a 40-22 majority. Eight Republicans, including Jacobs, have announced their retirement, while another GOP seat is vacant.

4Q Fundraising

CA-48: Michelle Steel (R): $520,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand

FL-18: Oz Vazquez (D): $185,000 raised

IN-05: Christina Hale (D): $269,000 raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand

KS-03: Amanda Adkins (R): $208,000 raised, $383,000 cash-on-hand

MN-07: Collin Peterson (D-inc): $157,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

NJ-05: Mike Ghassali (R): $60,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $728,000 cash-on-hand; Frank Pallotta (R): $52,000 raised, additional $215,000 self-funded, $382,000 cash-on-hand

NV-03: Dan Schwartz (R): $50,000 raised, additional $250,000 self-funded, $447,000 cash-on-hand

TX-10: Michael McCaul (R-inc): $500,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

GA-Sen-A: Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry announced Sunday that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue and would instead run for a seat on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. Terry acknowledged that he was switching races in large part because he wasn't raising enough money for Senate.

TN-Sen: Former Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty is out with his first TV spot ahead of the August GOP primary for this open seat. The ad begins with a narrator blasting impeachment before Hagerty appears to tell the audience that he has Donald Trump's endorsement.

House

AL-02: Former state Attorney General Troy King's first TV spot for the March GOP primary stars the candidate and his mother talking about why liberals don't like him. (Spoiler alert: It's because of guns and abortion.) King concludes by telling the audience that liberals in Alabama have never liked him, to which his mom responds, "That's okay, honey. The liberals in Washington are not going to like you either."

Another GOP candidate, businessman Jeff Coleman, is also up with a commercial starring a family member. The candidate's wife, Tiffany, tells the audience that her first reaction to calls for him to run for office was "absolutely not," but that she came to realize that campaigning "seems like that's where God's calling us." Tiffany adds that this is "terrifying ... but I'm for it."

CA-16: On Saturday, the California Labor Federation endorsed Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria over Rep. Jim Costa, a fellow Democrat, in the March top-two primary.

IL-03: Conservative Rep. Dan Lipinski is out with a poll from the Democratic firm Expedition Strategies that shows him leading 2018 opponent Marie Newman 50-27 in the March Democratic primary, while activist Rush Darwish takes just 2%. Lipinski beat Newman by a narrow 51-49 last year, and this is the first survey we've seen looking at their second bout.

MD-04: Candidate filing closed Friday for Maryland's April 28 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here.

Attorney and Marine veteran Sheila Bryant kicked off her Democratic primary bid against Rep. Anthony Brown last year in this safely blue seat, but she doesn't appear to have gotten much traction. Bryant hasn't announced her fundraising for the final three months of 2019 yet, but she had just $18,000 on-hand at the end of September.

MD-05: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has never had trouble winning renomination in this safely blue seat, and he once again looks like the heavy favorite.

Mckayla Wilkes, who works as an administrative assistant at the Pentagon, has attracted some national attention, but she had a mere $63,000 in the bank at the end of September. That's actually considerably more money than what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had at that point in her ultimately successful primary campaign against incumbent Joe Crowley, but AOC had one big advantage Wilkes doesn't have: While Ocasio-Cortez was Crowley's only primary foe, three other Democrats are running against Hoyer.

MD-06: Freshman Democratic Rep. David Trone faces a challenge from GOP Del. Neil Parrott, but he shouldn't have much trouble defending this 55-40 Clinton seat.

As we've noted before, this seat has been solidly blue since the current Democratic-drawn map took effect in 2012 save for one election—the 2014 GOP wave. That year, former Democratic Rep. John Delaney survived a challenge from Republican Dan Bongino (who went on to become a looney tunes Fox commentator) by just a single point. Barring a similar wave, the wealthy Trone should have no problem winning a second term.

MD-07: The filing deadline to run for the regular two-year term representing this safely blue seat passed on Friday, but the special primary to fill the final months of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings' term won't take place until Feb. 4. This means that whoever wins the Democratic nod next week will need to compete for it again on April 28, which is the same day as the special general election. However, it's possible that some of the candidates who end up losing next Tuesday will decide to stop campaigning if they don't think they'll be able to win in April.

One of the many people running here, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, earned an endorsement over the weekend from the state AFL-CIO.

NJ-02, NJ-03: Wealthy businessman David Richter announced Monday that he was ending his GOP primary bid against party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District and would instead challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim in the neighboring 3rd District. Richter also endorsed Van Drew as he swapped races.  

Richter was the only notable Republican challenging Van Drew, and it looks very unlikely that the incumbent will face any serious opposition in the June primary. While local Republican leaders initially sounded reluctant to support Van Drew, who spent 17 years in the state legislature as a Democrat before he was elected to Congress in 2018, they started to warm up to him after Donald Trump endorsed the defector.

Richter, who began running while Van Drew was still a Democrat, spent another month arguing that he was the true conservative in the race, but both national and local Republicans made it clear that they wouldn't tolerate any opposition to Trump's chosen candidate.

By challenging Kim in the 3rd District, though, Richter is entering a very different race. The primary frontrunner, at least until Monday, was former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs, who has the support of party leaders in her home county. Gibbs told the New Jersey Globe just ahead of Richter's announcement that she wouldn't be dropping out, saying, "Anyone who thinks they can push me around doesn't know anything about South Jersey women."

However, Gibbs had a mere $138,000 on-hand at the end of December after five weeks in the race, which is an especially underwhelming war chest in a district that's split between the pricey Philadelphia media market and the ultra-expensive New York City market. Richter, by contrast, had a considerably larger $515,000 to spend, though almost all of that was self-funded. Barnegat Township Mayor John Novak and former Hainesport Mayor Tony Porto are also seeking the GOP nod.

One major test for Richter is whether he'll be able to do what he failed to do in his race against Van Drew and win the important support of local party leaders. In New Jersey primaries, a candidate endorsed by the county party appears in a separate column on the ballot along with other party endorsees, a designation known colloquially as the "organization line." Leaders in Ocean County, which is home to 55% of the 3rd District's 2016 Trump voters, have not yet awarded their organization line, and county chair Frank Holman says this won't happen until the March party convention.

Holman told the New Jersey Globe last week that he was open to supporting Richter, but he didn't commit to anything. However, if Richter can claim the Ocean County GOP line, it will give him a geographic edge over Gibbs, whose Burlington County base contains a smaller 45% share of the seat's prior Trump voters.

The 3rd District backed Trump 51-45, but Kim very much has the resources to defend this expensive district. The incumbent is a very strong fundraiser, and he ended 2019 with a $2.2 million war chest.

TX-28: On Sunday, the state AFL-CIO endorsed immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros over conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar in the March Democratic primary. The AFL-CIO also took sides in several other primaries:

TX-02: Sima Ladjevardian TX-10: Mike Siegel TX-22: Sri Preston Kulkarni TX-31: Donna Imam

TX-28: Texas Forward, a PAC affiliated with EMILY's List, is spending $34,000 on advertising in Texas' 28th Congressional District, where EMILY has endorsed attorney Jessica Cisneros over Rep. Henry Cuellar in the March Democratic primary. According to paperwork filed with the FEC, the advertisement will both support Cisneros and oppose Cuellar. Texas Forward's filing does not indicate what media this buy will air on, and the group does not appear to have a website or any social media presence.

Legislative

Special Elections: There are four special elections on tap for Tuesday, headlined by a high-profile race in the Houston suburbs.

TX-HD-28: All eyes will be on Fort Bend County on Tuesday, where we'll get our first look at the upcoming battle for control of the Texas state House. This chamber is the top legislative target for Democrats in 2020, as winning it would give Democrats a significant role in redistricting in the nation's second-largest (and one of the fastest-growing) states.

While the 28th District isn't one of the top pickup opportunities for Democrats in the Texas House—the Texas Democratic Party ranked it 16th out of the 22 seats that it's targeting in November—it's still a compelling target. It fits the now-classic mold of a suburban seat that lurched leftward in the Trump era: Mitt Romney won by a wide 65-34 spread, which was shaved to a 53-43 win for Trump four years later.

Ted Cruz would go on to to carry this district by an even smaller 51-48 clip over Beto O'Rourke in 2018. Democrats can win this chamber without this district, especially since there are nine other GOP-held seats that O'Rourke carried, but a win here Tuesday would whittle the number they need to take the House down to eight.

This special election came about when former Rep. John Zerwas resigned last year to take a position at the University of Texas, following the closest election of his career. Democrat Eliz Markowitz and Republican Gary Gates will face off in what has become a hotly contested special election. Markowitz was the only Democrat in the Nov. 5 all-party primary and led the way with 39% of the vote. Gates took 28% and finished ahead of five other GOP candidates. Overall, however, Republicans led in the first round of voting 61-39.

The runoff has attracted national attention, as Markowitz has been endorsed by 2020 presidential candidates Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, and Elizabeth Warren. Her most visible supporter, though, has been O'Rourke, a former presidential candidate himself who has appeared alongside Markowitz several times and backed her during the first round of voting. Gates has the support of high-level Texas Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, though Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick only offered a tepid endorsement.

Both sides have made serious investments in this race. In addition to strong fundraising, Markowitz has received significant financial support from outside groups such as the DLCC and Forward Majority, who have been running TV ads on her behalf. O'Rourke has continued to lend vigorous support to Markowitz, and he's been joined by another former presidential candidate, Julián Castro, on the campaign trail.

Gates has run a comparatively low key race but has dumped hundreds of thousands of his own money into the campaign, in part to defend himself against negative ads launched by Forward Majority that have hammered him over an incident when his 13 children were removed from his home over allegations of child abuse.

The increased attention and piles of money that have flowed into this race appear to have had an impact: Early voting for the runoff outpaced the clip in the primary 16,332-14,270, even though the time period and voting locations were more limited for the second round.

The current makeup of the Texas state House stands at 82-64 in favor of Republicans with this seat and two others vacant (both of which we preview below).

TX-HD-100: This is a Democratic district in Dallas, which became vacant when former Rep. Eric Johnson won election as mayor of Dallas last year. This district is safely Democratic, having supported Hillary Clinton 77-19 and Barack Obama 78-21, and, unsurprisingly, the two candidates on the ballot are Democrats.

Community advocate Lorraine Birabil and businessman James Armstrong will face each other after emerging as the leading vote-getters in the all-party primary, with 33 and 21% respectively. Armstrong earned the right to advance by edging out third-place finisher Daniel Clayton by just five votes.

TX-HD-148: This is a Democratic district in Houston, which became vacant when former Rep. Jessica Farrar resigned last year after 25 years in office. Democrat Anna Eastman and Republican Luis LaRotta will face each other after leading the way in a very crowded 15-candidate all-party primary. Democratic candidates collectively outpaced Republicans 69-27 in the first round, with an independent taking 4%.

As the first round of voting indicates, this is a solidly Democratic district that backed Clinton 64-35 and Obama 57-41.

GA-HD-171: This is a Republican district in south Georgia, centered around the Bainbridge area. This seat became vacant after former Rep. Jay Powell died last year. Three candidates are competing for this seat; farmer Tommy Akridge and businessman Joe Campbell are the Republicans, and retired educator Jewell Howard is the lone Democrat. Howard ran for this seat once before in 2012, falling to Powell 59-41.

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 62-37 in 2016. If no candidates take a majority of the vote in this election, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on Feb. 25. The current makeup of the Georgia State House is 104-74 in favor of Republicans with two seats vacant, including this one.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Jack Young was elevated from City Council president to mayor last May after Catherine Pugh resigned in disgrace, and he's seeking a full four-year term in the April Democratic primary. It only takes a plurality of the vote to win the Democratic nod, and the winner should have no trouble in the November general election in this very blue city.

The only poll we've seen of this crowded contest in months was a late December Gonzales Research survey for FOX45 News that showed former state prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah and City Council President Brandon Scott tied 18-18 for first place, while former Mayor Sheila Dixon and Young were just behind with 16% and 15%, respectively. Former police spokesman T.J. Smith took 11% to state Sen. Mary Washington's 8% while another candidate, former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller, entered the contest after this survey concluded.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former Rep. Pete Stark, a California Democrat who represented part of the Bay Area from 1973 until 2013, died Friday at the age of 88. Stark made a name for himself for his work writing healthcare legislation, including the COBRA program and the Affordable Care Act. Stark also made history in 2007 when he became the first member of Congress to publicly identify as an atheist.

Before he ran for office, Stark founded a bank that the Washington Post writes was “reportedly the first in the country to offer free checking.” Stark, who had previously served in the Air Force, also expressed his vehement opposition to the Vietnam War by putting peace signs on both on the bank’s checks and on the building’s headquarters.

In 1972, after selling his bank for millions, Stark challenged 14-term Rep. George Miller (not to be confused with another former California Democratic congressman with the same name) in the primary. Stark, who was 41 at the time, contrasted himself with the 81-year-old incumbent and portrayed himself as the anti-war candidate. Stark won by a lopsided 56-21 margin, and he went on to prevail in the general election 53-47.

While Stark was an influential member of Congress during his 40 years in office, he also became infamous for his temper and insults. Among many other things, Stark said that Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, who was a black doctor, was “as close to being a disgrace to his race as anyone I've ever seen,” called a GOP congresswoman a “whore for the insurance industry,” and said in 2007 that House Republicans wanted to send young people to Iraq “to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.” In 2010, Stark’s behavior likely cost him the chance to chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Stark never faced a close re-election during all of this time in his seat, but that changed in 2012. California’s independent redistricting committee gave Stark a seat, now numbered the 15th District, that included a little less than half of the constituency that he’d represented over the prior decade and included more Republicans and independents. That may not have been a problem if Stark had been able to keep competing in party primaries, but the state’s new top-two system further complicated his re-election prospects.

Most Democrats were content to wait for Stark to retire, but Eric Swalwell, a little-known member of the Dublin City Council and an Alameda County prosecutor, decided to take his chances and challenge the 81-year-old incumbent. Stark quickly drew negative headlines on the campaign trail when he accused Swalwell of taking bribes without providing a shred of evidence and labeled him a “fucking crook.” The two each advanced to the general election, and in a contest where more and more stories about Stark’s behavior kept surfacing, Swalwell won 52-48.

Where Are They Now?: Former Rep. Zack Space, a Democrat who represented part of eastern Ohio from 2007 to 2011 and lost a close 2018 race for state auditor, is running for a seat on the Franklin County Probate Court. Space, like all of the Democratic candidates for this office, doesn't have any primary opposition, so he'll be competing on the November general election ballot. Space didn't represent any of Franklin County in Congress, but The Plain Dealer reports that he now works in Columbus.