Morning Digest: After blocking liberal bills, conservative Dem lawmakers lose New Mexico primaries

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

NM State Senate: Conservative Democrats in the New Mexico State Senate have blocked some important pieces of legislation, but progressives scored several key wins in Tuesday's primaries. Five incumbents lost to progressive challengers: Richard Martinez, Gabe Ramos, and Clemente Sanchez, who lost renomination to opponents who each took more than 60% of the vote; Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, who lost 55-45; and finally Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, the highest-ranking Democratic senator in the chamber, who lost 49-44.

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Republicans may make a play for some of these seats in the fall. Smith's SD-35 in the southwestern corner of the state backed Donald Trump 50-41, while Sanchez and Ramos' districts were very closely divided in the 2016 presidential contest. The other two constituencies, though, were overwhelmingly Democratic, and it would be a huge surprise if Team Blue's 26-16 majority is threatened.

Despite the partisan makeup of the chamber, though, conservatives have stopped progressive legislation supported by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state House, where the party also holds a sizable majority. Conservative Democrats have been blamed for weakening legislation to increase the minimum wage and of blocking efforts to legalize marijuana.  

Perhaps worst of all, though, is the conservatives' actions on abortion rights. Last year, the House passed a bill to repeal a 1969 law that made it a felony to perform an abortion in most cases. However, all five of the aforementioned Senate Democrats, as well as three others, joined with the GOP minority to kill the legislation. The current anti-abortion law is unenforceable thanks to Roe v. Wade, but there's the terrifying possibility that a U.S. Supreme Court decision could make provisions like this one more than just a legal relic.

However, Tuesday's results, as well as a successful showing in November, could give progressives the chance to finally shape the agenda in New Mexico.

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.

California: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an order allowing county election officials to reduce the number of in-person voting sites for the November general election, but in exchange, they must provide at least three days of early voting. Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla also said that there would be at least one in-person polling place for every 10,000 residents.

Meanwhile, a committee in California's Democratic-run state Senate has approved a bill requiring counties to send ballots to all voters for the November election. Newsom previously issued an order instituting the same mandate, but that order has been challenged by two Republican lawsuits that claim Newsom usurped the legislature's powers. If lawmakers pass legislation similar to Newsom's order, that could help insulate the state's vote-by-mail plans from further legal attack.

Michigan: A new federal lawsuit brought by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA on behalf of a pair of civic organizations and three voters is seeking to have the state of Michigan pay for return postage on absentee ballots and accept all ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within 14 days, both for the state's Aug. 4 primary and the November general election.

Currently, ballots must be received by election officials no later than Election Day in order to count. Plaintiffs argue that their unusually long proposed receipt deadline is justified because state law does not require election results to be certified until 14 days after Election Day.

Ohio: Ohio's Republican-led state House is preparing to advance a bill that would eliminate three days of early voting right before Election Day and end the state's practice of sending absentee ballot applications to all active voters. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose and an organization representing election officials both expressed their opposition to the measure, saying it would lead to longer lines at polling places.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Cindy Abrams, claims that cutting early voting would "clarify existing law" and that no longer mailing ballot applications would "save the state money." According to cleveland.com, Ohio spent $1.1 million to send out applications in 2016, the previous presidential election year. The state's most recent annual budget was $78.8 billion.

The legislation's claimed goal is to establish a set of emergency procedures that would allow for an all-mail election during the pendency of a public health crisis like the current pandemic. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine would have to issue a recommendation that the election be conducted by mail at least 60 days before Election Day, and the legislature would have to approve any such recommendation.

However, the state would not send ballots or even ballot applications to voters. Instead, the secretary of state would send postcards to voters explaining how they can request absentee ballots—similar to the heavily criticized procedures the state deployed for its canceled-then-rescheduled primaries earlier this year.

Pennsylvania: On Tuesday, a state court judge ruled that officials in Bucks County could count mail ballots cast in Pennsylvania's June 2 primary so long as they were postmarked by June 1 and are received by June 9. Bucks was not included in a Monday order by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that granted a similar extension to six other counties.

However, one of those counties, Delaware, sought and received further relief in the courts. Officials there had said they would be unable to send out 400 to 500 mail ballots in time for voters to return them and therefore planned not to send them at all. However, after a different state judge ruled that any such ballots could be counted as long as they are received by June 12—regardless of when they are postmarked—Delaware officials decided to send them out. The ruling is potentially subject to challenge since it allows voters to cast ballots after Election Day.

Vermont: Vermont's Democratic-run state Senate 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, a plan Condos has long sought to implement. The state House, which is also controlled by Democrats, reportedly will also approve the measure. Scott has said he does not oppose the effort to remove him from the decision-making process.

Senate

CO-Sen: Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is out with his first TV spot ahead of the June 30 Democratic primary. Romanoff talks about his work improving mental healthcare and declares, "But it shouldn't take a crisis to teach us our healthcare system is broken." Romanoff concludes by saying that "when you're fighting for your life, you shouldn't worry about how to pay for it."

GA-Sen-A: The GOP firm Cygnal is out with a survey of Tuesday's Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. David Perdue that shows investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff very close to the majority of the vote he needs to avoid an August runoff. Cygnal, which conducted a general election poll for the Georgia House GOP Caucus about a month ago, tells us this poll was done for "an interested party," and the firm said it was not involved in this primary.

Cygnal finds Ossoff taking 49% of the vote, while former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson leads 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico 16-8 for second. The only other poll we've seen of this contest was a March University of Georgia survey that had Ossoff at 31%, while Tomlinson edged Amico 16-15. Cygnal also showed Ossoff beating Tomlinson 58-24 in a hypothetical runoff.

MN-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Minnesota's Aug. 11 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

Appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith won the 2018 special election 53-42, and she's now seeking her first full term. Donald Trump and the rest of the party establishment have consolidated behind former Rep. Jason Lewis, who lost his re-election last cycle 53-47 to Democrat Angie Craig and faces minimal intra-party opposition in August.

Lewis, a former conservative radio host who has a long record of racist and misogynist tirades, hasn't attracted much outside help so far, though. Smith ended March with a wide $4.6 million to $714,000 cash-on-hand lead, and no major outside groups on either side have booked airtime here. Trump came surprisingly close to winning Minnesota in 2016, but he'll almost certainly need to flip the state this time for Lewis to have a shot. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.  

MT-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward's new ad declares that GOP Sen. Steve Daines "voted for a $500 billion dollar slush fund to bail out big corporations, even Wall Street, on top of trillions in special tax breaks Daines voted to give them already." The narrator continues, "But Daines voted against paid leave for Montanans and refused to support relief for our hospitals and nurses."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: The GOP firm Harper Polling is out with another survey for the conservative Civitas Institute, and it gives GOP Sen. Thom Tillis a small 38-36 edge against Democrat Cal Cunningham. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also leads Republican Dan Forest 49-37, while the sample favors Donald Trump 47-44. Back in mid-April, Harper showed Tillis and Cooper ahead 38-34 and 50-33, respectively, while Trump held a 49-42 advantage.

House

HI-02: Democratic state Sen. Kai Kahele, who launched his campaign early last year as a challenge to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, now finds himself on a glide path to Congress after Tuesday's candidate filing deadline passed with no serious alternatives entering the race for Hawaii's safely blue 2nd Congressional District.

Gabbard's endless string of apostasies—from cozying up to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to bashing Barack Obama for refusing to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism"—had made her a favorite of Fox News and anathema to progressives. However, she remained popular at home, making her a daunting target for any would-be rivals.

But Kahele, a combat pilot with the Air National Guard who's flown missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, was undeterred. He kicked off a bid in January of 2019, just after Gabbard embarked on a vanity run for president. That created an opening for Kahele, who was able to meet voters across the district while Gabbard was spending time in New Hampshire diners, underscoring a common complaint that Gabbard was more interested in boosting her national profile than in addressing problems at home.

Under Hawaii law, Gabbard was able to both pursue the presidency and seek re-election at the same time, though she long kept the political world guessing as to what she'd ultimately do. Finally, in October, she announced she wouldn't run for a fifth term, though it wasn't until after Tuesday's filing deadline that Kahele could be sure she wouldn't have a last-minute change of heart. (Gabbard of course eventually bailed on her presidential ambitions, too.)

Most surprisingly, in the long stretch from Gabbard's retirement announcement until now, not a single notable Hawaii Democrat joined Kahele in running for what had become an open seat, and few even considered it. Kahele's early start may have played a role, since he'd been able to amass a sizable war chest by the time Gabbard called it quits. He'd also earned support from several key figures in the state's political establishment, a movement that crescendoed in the spring when Hawaii's entire congressional delegation—minus Gabbard, of course—endorsed him.

While several other candidates did enter the race, none have even filed a single fundraising report with the FEC, making Kahele the prohibitive favorite to win the Aug. 8 primary. Assuming he does, he'll also be a lock for the November general election, given that Hillary Clinton carried the 2nd District by a 61-30 margin.

Victory in the fall would make Kahele just the second Native Hawaiian to represent the state in Congress after the late Sen. Dan Akaka. He'd also be he first from Hawaii's more rural Neighbor Islands, the term for every island apart from Oahu, which is home to the capital of Honolulu—and to every U.S. senator and representative the state has ever had.

IA-04: While state Sen. Randy Feenstra is no less extreme than the notorious figure he beat in Tuesday's primary, he does a much better job of saying the quiet parts quietly than soon-to-be-former Rep. Steve King. As such, that makes him what passes for a bog-standard Republican these days: build the wall, ban sanctuary cities, ban abortion, ban gay marriage, and swear undying fealty to Donald Trump—Feenstra's on board with the whole program.

And that in turn makes him a sure fit for Iowa's conservative 4th Congressional District, a heavily Republican area that's only grown more so in the Trump era. King's ability to generate funds for Democrats just by opening his mouth, plus a perception at home that he'd grown more interested in buffing his reputation with international members of the far-right than the concerns of his district, nearly cost him his career against Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2018, when he survived by just a 50-47 margin. That backdrop gave Scholten an opening once again, however slight.

But as the GOP's new nominee, Feenstra, won't trail the top of the ticket, where Trump is sure to dominate. Daily Kos is Elections is therefore changing our rating on this race from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.

MN-01: Republican Jim Hagedorn defeated Army veteran Dan Feehan 50.1-49.7 in a 2018 open seat contest, and Feehan is back for a rematch. Feehan, who faces no primary opposition, ended March with a wide $1.1 million to $787,000 million advantage, and outside groups on both sides have booked TV time in this area.

Despite his tiny win last cycle, though, Hagedorn has the edge this time. This southern Minnesota seat swung from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump, so Feehan will likely need to win over a significant number of Trump voters to win this time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

MN-02: Democrat Angie Craig unseated Republican Rep. Jason Lewis 53-47 in 2018 to flip a suburban Twin Cities seat that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump narrowly carried, and Republicans don't seem to have a strong candidate to try to take it back. The only Republican in the running is Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who ended March with a wide $2 million to $100,000 cash-on-hand deficit in a contest we rate as Likely Democratic.

MN-03: Democrat Dean Phillips unseated GOP incumbent Erik Paulsen 56-44 after an expensive race, but the new incumbent doesn't appear to be in any danger this time.

The only notable Republican in the race is healthcare executive Kendall Qualls, who trailed Phillips $346,000 to $242,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of March. While Phillips didn't have a large war chest for an incumbent, the district's shift to the left will make it hard for Qualls to gain traction: This suburban Twin Cities seat moved from 50-49 Obama to 51-41 Clinton, and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Democratic.

MN-05: Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been one of the most high-profile members of the freshman Democratic class, faces four opponents in the primary for this safely blue Minneapolis seat. Omar's most high-profile foe is attorney Antone Melton-Meaux, who has argued that Omar "appears to be more focused on her own celebrity than on serving the district." Omar ended March with a wide $1.3 million to $200,000 cash-on-hand lead over Melton-Meaux.

MN-07: Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson has held this rural western Minnesota seat for 30 years even as it has become more and more Republican, and he faces his greatest test this fall. The GOP establishment, including Donald Trump, has consolidated behind former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach in this 62-31 Trump seat. A few other Republicans are running including self-funding physician Noel Collis and 2016/2018 nominee Dave Hughes, but it's unlikely they'll be able to stop Fischbach.

Peterson, who chairs the important House Agriculture Committee, ended March with a wide $1.1 million to $312,000 cash-on-hand lead over Fischbach. However, this seat gave Trump the highest vote share of any House district that Democrats currently hold, and with Trump almost certain to easily carry this seat again, it's likely that Republicans will invest plenty of money in their campaign to unseat the longtime incumbent. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.

MN-08: Republican Pete Stauber flipped this seat 51-45 last cycle, and the new incumbent looks secure this time. The Democrats are fielding diabetes research advocate Quinn Nystrom, who is a former member of the Baxter City Council. Stauber ended March with a wide $849,000 to $103,000 cash-on-hand lead in a northeast Minnesota seat that swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump, and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Republican.

NJ-05: Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich, who is challenging Rep. Josh Gottheimer in the July 7 Democratic primary, is out with a survey from Data for Progress that shows her losing 64-17. Kreibich argues that she makes gains when voters learn about her, though she still trails when respondents are exposed to positive and negative messaging about both contenders.  

NY-16: Veteran Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, on his first visit back to his district in months, was caught on camera Tuesday pleading with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for the chance to speak at a press conference, telling Diaz twice, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

While Engel was referring to his lack of a speaking slot at the event, which was convened after a night of looting along the Fordham Road retail corridor, the gaffe was quickly refracted as a commentary on Engel's feelings about his race and his constituents. Engel tried to explain away the remarks, saying, "In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that's why I asked to speak," but his leading opponent, educator Jamaal Bowman, immediately seized on the blunder to call the 16-term incumbent out of touch and said he raised $150,000 in the 24 hours following the incident.

Last month, Engel was the subject of an unflattering profile in the Atlantic highlighting the fact that he had holed up in his DC-area home for the duration of the pandemic, not even returning to New York when the state's first coronavirus epicenter was identified in the city of New Rochelle, which is in his district. (Many other members of New York's delegation, including several fellow committee chairs, had managed to split time between Washington and their home turf.)

Bowman's campaign had in part centered around Engel's alleged absenteeism even before the pandemic, immediately making Tuesday's hot mic comments part of a pre-existing narrative about the race. But Bowman only has three more weeks to make his case ahead of the June 23 primary for the safely blue 16th District, and Engel had a roughly five-to-one cash advantage as of the end of March. However, the financial picture—and the race itself—might now look very different going forward.

P.S. Oddly, the event Engel was attending wasn't even in his district: It was held at an intersection on the border of the 13th and 15th Districts. 13th District Rep. Adriano Espaillat was in attendance, as were a long list of other local politicians. It's understandable, then, why Diaz told Engel, "I cannot have all the electeds talk because we will never get out of here" and snapped back, "Don't do that to me—everybody has a primary" when Engel tried to plead his case.

NY-17: In his second TV spot for the June 23 Democratic primary, attorney Mondaire Jones tells the audience, "I'm grateful to the grocery store workers and delivery people who help us get through this crisis. Don't they deserve affordable healthcare? Doesn't everyone?" Jones talks about growing up on food stamps and declares, "No one should lose their healthcare because they've lost their job." Jones concludes by saying he's the one Democrat in the contest who backs Medicare for All.

NY-27: On Tuesday, Donald Trump implored his Twitter followers to vote for state Sen. Chris Jacobs on June 23. Trump had already endorsed Jacobs in February for the special general election to succeed disgraced Rep. Chris Collins, though the political calendar looked different at the time. Back then, the special was set for late April while the regular primary was in June, but the coronavirus pandemic led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to consolidate the two contests.

Jacobs' primary opponents have insisted that Trump's earlier endorsement only applied to the special, but that's a tougher argument to make now. Trump himself didn't refer to either the special or the primary, though, he simply tweeted, "Chris has my Complete and Total Endorsement! Vote for Chris on June 23!"

TX-10: 2018 Democratic nominee Mike Siegel picked up an endorsement this week from freshman Rep. Veronica Escobar. Siegel faces physician Pritesh Gandhi in the July 14 Democratic primary runoff to take on veteran GOP Rep. Michael McCaul.

Election Result Recaps

Baltimore, MD Mayor: With 80,000 votes counted, former Mayor Sheila Dixon leads City Council President Brandon Scott 30-25 in the Democratic primary for mayor. It's not clear how many votes remain to be counted, though the head of the city's board of elections says that it will resume tabulating mail-in ballots on Thursday. Whoever emerges with the Democratic nomination should have no trouble winning the general election in this very blue city.

Ferguson, MO Mayor: Ferguson elected its first-ever black mayor, as well as its first woman leader, on Tuesday when City Councilwoman Ella Jones defeated colleague Heather Robinett 54-46. Voters in this St. Louis suburb also made history by electing a black majority to the local school board.

Ferguson attracted global attention in 2014 after a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, sparking focus for Black Lives Matter. One big fact stood out amidst the city's botched handling of the protests that followed Brown's death: While Ferguson is two-thirds black and heavily Democratic, this municipality of 21,000 was led by a white Republican mayor, James Knowles. Five of Ferguson's six city councilmembers were also white, as were six of the seven local school board members. In large part because local elections didn't take place the same day as state or federal ones, very low turnout produced a majority-white electorate.

However, reformers made gains the next year when Jones and another black candidate won seats on the City Council in a contest that attracted much higher turnout than normal. Another African American joined the body the next year, which gave it a black majority for the first time. In 2017, though, Jones challenged Knowles for re-election and lost 56-44. But Knowles, who has been in office since 2011, was termed-out this year, and Jones won a three-year term to succeed him.

IA-Sen: Businesswoman Theresa Greenfield won the Democratic nomination to face GOP Sen. Joni Ernst by defeating retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken 48-25. Greenfield had the support of national Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC, which spent close to $7 million on her behalf, and EMILY's List.

Greenfield will be in for a difficult race against Ernst in a state that moved hard to the right in 2014 and 2016, but as SMP's big primary investment demonstrates, this is a contest that outside groups are taking very seriously. The DSCC and SMP have booked $20.4 million to unseat Ernst, while the senator's allies at the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund have reserved a total of $15.2 million to defend her. The only survey we've seen here all year, an early May poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, had Ernst ahead just 43-42. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

IA-02: State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was the party's nominee here in 2008, 2010, and 2014, won the GOP nod for this competitive seat once again by beating former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling 48-37. Miller-Meeks will take on former state Sen. Rita Hart, who had no Democratic primary opposition, in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack.

This southeastern Iowa seat swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump, and it will be one of the House GOP's top targets. However, this terrain has been more difficult for Team Red downballot. Loebsack turned back Miller-Meeks 52-47 during the 2014 GOP wave, and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell, who had Hart on his ticket as his nominee for lieutenant governor, carried the district 51-47 as he was narrowly losing statewide. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

IN-01: In a surprise, North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan defeated Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott 34-29 in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky in this safely blue seat. Mrvan will take on Republican Mark Leyva, who has run here during 10 of the last 12 election cycles and never come close to winning.

McDermott, a self-described moderate who considered challenging Visclosky before the incumbent retired, looked like the frontrunner for this northwest Indiana seat. The mayor deployed the most cash, and he also received a $525,000 boost from third-party groups—mostly from VoteVets and an organization called Democratic Progress, whose treasurer works for a super PAC that backs independent candidates. Another candidate, state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, also benefited from outside support.

Mrvan, meanwhile, raised very little money, though some allied PACs dropped about $110,000 to help him. However, Mrvan had the support of Visclosky and the local branch of the United Steelworkers of America, which is a prominent force in a district with a large steel industry. Mrvan may have benefited from some family name recognition: His father and namesake is local state Sen. Frank Mrvan, who was first elected in 1978 and has served in the legislature almost continuously since then.

IN-05: State Sen. Victoria Spartz won a truly ugly GOP primary to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Susan Brooks in this open seat by defeating businesswoman Beth Henderson 41-18. Spartz will take on former state Rep. Christina Hale, who beat 2018 nominee Dee Thornton 39-28 in a race that didn't attract much outside attention.

Spartz used her personal resources to decisively outspend all of her opponents, while her allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth ran ads attacking Henderson and another candidate, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Henderson, who was backed by Sen. Mike Braun, in turn launched a xenophobic and misogynist ad against the Ukrainian-born Spartz.

This suburban Indianapolis seat was safely red turf until the Trump era, but Democrats are hoping to score a pickup here this fall. This district moved from 58-41 Romney to 53-41 Trump, and former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly narrowly prevailed here 48.4-47.9 in 2018 even though he lost 51-45 statewide. So far, no major outside groups on either side have booked TV time in the Indianapolis media market, which covers the entire district, though there's still plenty of time for that to change. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

MD-07: Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who recently returned to the House after a 24-year absence, beat former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings 78-9 in the primary for this safely blue Baltimore seat. Mfume defeated Rockeymoore Cummings 43-17 back in February in the special primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

MT-Gov: Rep. Greg Gianforte won the GOP primary by defeating Attorney General Tim Fox 53-27, while Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney beat businesswoman Whitney Williams 55-45 to secure the Democratic nod. Gianforte and Cooney will face off in the fall in the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who is Team Blue's nominee for the Senate.

Republicans last won the governorship in Montana in 2000, but that losing streak may finally come to an end in 2020 thanks to the state's increasingly red trend. Gianforte, who threw down $1.5 million of his own money for the primary, also may be able to decisively outspend Cooney. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

However, while Gianforte is the favorite in the fall, he's hardly invincible. The now-congressman was the party's nominee back in 2016, and Democrats ran a barrage of ads portraying the former New Jersey resident as a greedy outsider eager to deny the public access to waterways for fishing and swimming that were located near his "riverfront mansion"—so much so that he in fact went to court. Gianforte ultimately lost to Bullock 50-46 even though Trump carried Montana by a dominant 56-35 margin.

Undeterred by his loss, Gianforte ran in a special election for Montana's lone House seat when Rep. Ryan Zinke temporarily got beamed up to Trump's cabinet. Gianforte made international news the night before Election Day by body-slamming reporter Ben Jacobs after he asked Gianforte a question about Obamacare. Gianforte filed a statement with the police afterwards in which he claimed that Jacobs had provoked the attack—an utter lie, and a particularly shameful one since several witnesses were present and the incident was also captured on audiotape.

Gianforte ended up winning 50-44, but since most voters had already cast their ballots ahead of Election Day, it's not clear how much damage this story did or didn't do to the Republican's political fortunes. A few months after the election, Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. The congressman paid a $385 fine and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service as well as another 20 hours of training for anger management. However, Gianforte was never charged with lying to the police. He and Jacobs also reached a settlement in which Gianforte accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, heading off a lawsuit by Jacobs.

Gianforte faced an expensive re-election contest last cycle against Democrat Kathleen Williams, who ran ads going after the incumbent for his attack on Jacobs. However, one high-profile Republican was very much not bothered by Gianforte's transgressions. Donald Trump ventured to Montana in October and told a rally, "Greg is smart and, by the way, never wrestle him." In case that was too subtle, Trump pantomimed throwing someone to the ground and added, "Any guy that can do a body slam—he's my guy." Gianforte went on to beat Williams by a modest 51-46 margin.

MT-AL: State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who was the GOP's nominee for Senate last cycle, defeated Secretary of State Corey Stapleton 48-33 in the primary for this open seat. Rosendale, who had Donald Trump's endorsement, will take on 2018 Democratic nominee Kathleen Williams, who defeated state Rep. Tom Winter by a lopsided 89-11 margin.

Williams held GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte, who gave up this seat to run for governor, to a 51-46 win last cycle. However, while Rosendale's 50-47 loss against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester shows he can be defeated in this red state, he'll probably be harder for Williams to attack than the notorious Gianforte was. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

NM-02: 2018 GOP nominee Yvette Herrell beat businesswoman Claire Chase 45-32, which earned Herrell a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. This was a truly ugly primary, with both candidates calling one another enemies of Trump; Herrell was even accused of spreading rumors about Chase's first marriage.  

This southern New Mexico seat backed Donald Trump 50-40, but Herrell lost it to Torres Small 51-49 two years later. Team Blue was eager to face Herrell again following that defeat, and the Democratic group Patriot Majority even ran ads during the final weeks of the primary designed to help Herrell against Chase. A GOP establishment-flavored group called Defending Main Street tried to counter with anti-Herrell ads, but it was too little, too late.

Still, while Democrats have the opponent they want, Herrell could still win in a seat this red. Torres Small is a very strong fundraiser, though, and she proved in 2018 that she's able to secure crossover votes. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.

NM-03: Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez won the Democratic primary to succeed Senate nominee Ben Ray Luján in this reliably blue seat by beating former CIA agent Valerie Plame 42-25.

This was a very expensive contest and Plame, who was at the center of a national firestorm that lasted for years during the presidency of George W. Bush after her name was publicly leaked, decisively outspent Leger Fernandez. However, several outside groups, including EMILY's List, spent heavily on ads touting Leger Fernandez's local roots in northern New Mexico.

P.S. Tuesday's primary results mean that all of New Mexico's House seats will almost certainly be represented next year by women of color, which would be a first in American history for a state with more than two districts. Leger Fernandez is Latina, while 1st District Rep. Deb Haaland, who holds a safely blue seat, is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Native American people. Over in the 2nd District, Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, while GOP nominee Yvette Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

PA-01: In a surprise, GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick held off underfunded businessman Andrew Meehan, who was challenging the "anti-Trump, Trump hating RINO" congressman for renomination, just 57-43. On the Democratic side, Christina Finello, who has worked as a Bucks County housing department official, beat businessman Skylar Hurwitz 77-23.

While much of the party base seems quite angry at Fitzpatrick, who has always portrayed himself as a moderate, it remains to be seen if Democrats can exploit his problems. Finello, who became the party's frontrunner after the two most prominent contenders dropped out, raised a total of just around $210,000 through mid-May, and we'll need to see if she can do better now that she's the nominee. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, is a very strong fundraiser who will have all the money he needs to defend himself.  

This seat, which is centered around Bucks County north of Philadelphia, narrowly backed both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but Fitzpatrick won an expensive contest 51-49 during the 2018 Democratic wave. With the cash battle so lopsided, at least for now, Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

PA-07: Businesswoman Lisa Scheller defeated 2018 primary runner-up Dean Browning, who is also a former member of the Lehigh County Commission, 52-48 in the GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. Scheller, who has self-funded much of her campaign, decisively outspent Browning, and she also had the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Scheller picked up an endorsement in the final days of the contest from Donald Trump, a tweet that may have made all the difference in this close race.

This Lehigh Valley district shifted from 53-46 Obama to just 49-48 Clinton, but Wild decisively won an open seat race last cycle after national Republicans abandoned their nominee. Scheller may prove to be a better contender, but Wild has over $1.5 million to defend herself in a race we rate as Lean Democratic.

PA-08: Former Trump administration official Jim Bognet beat former police officer Teddy Daniels 28-25 in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright; Army veteran Earl Granville, who had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement, finished just behind with 24%.

This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung from 55-43 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but Cartwright turned back a self-funding opponent last cycle by a convincing 55-45 margin. However, the incumbent could be in considerably more danger with Trump at the top of the ballot. Bognet, for his part, has made sure to emulate the GOP leader by running racist ad after racist ad declaring that he'll punish China for having "sent us the Wuhan flu."

Bognet raised only about $300,000 from when he entered the race in January through mid-May, though he may attract considerably more attention now that he's the GOP nominee. Democrats are already preparing for an expensive race in any case: House Majority PAC has reserved $1.8 million in fall TV time in the Wilkes-Barre media market, which contains most of this seat, though Republicans have yet to book time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

PA-10: With 38,000 votes counted, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale leads attorney Tom Brier 63-37 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Scott Perry. The Associated Press has not yet called the race, and The Patriot-News reported Wednesday that there are still 40,000 ballots to be counted in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties, while most votes are in for DePasquale's York County base. (This district includes 80% of Cumberland County and all of Dauphin County.)

Brier is leading 66-35 in Dauphin County, while he has a bare majority in Cumberland County, so he'll likely pick up ground as more votes come in. Gov. Tom Wolf's recent executive order requires any mail ballots in Dauphin County that are received by June 9 to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, so we may not have a resolution here until next week.

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's two Massachusetts special elections, including a Democratic flip:

MA-HD-3rd Bristol: Democrat Carol Doherty defeated Republican Kelly Dooner 57-43 to flip this seat for Team Blue. Though this district backed Hillary Clinton 52-42 and Barack Obama 58-40, former GOP state Rep. Shaunna O'Connell routinely won re-election, making Doherty's win a significant downballot shift for this district.

This victory continues Democrats' streak of flips in the Bay State; two weeks ago, Democrats flipped two state Senate districts that were similarly blue at the federal level.

MA-HD-37th Middlesex: Democrat Danilo Sena easily beat Republican Catherine Clark 74-26 to hold this seat for his party. Sena's win was large even for this strongly Democratic district, running well ahead of Clinton's 62-31 win and Obama's 57-41 win here.

The composition of this chamber is 127-31 (with one independent member) with one other seat vacant.

Morning Digest: Dems need four seats to flip Michigan’s House. Our new data shows the top targets

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

Gov-by-LD, Senate-by-LD: Republicans have controlled the Michigan House of Representatives since the 2010 GOP wave despite Democrats winning more votes in three of the last four elections, but Daily Kos Elections' new data for the 2018 elections shows that Democrats have a narrow path to win the four seats they need to flip the chamber this fall.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette 53-44 to become governor and carried 56 of the 110 seats in the lower house—exactly the number that her party needs to take a bare majority. You can see these results visualized for the House in the map at the top of this post (with a larger version available here).

Campaign Action

However, because Republicans heavily gerrymandered the map to benefit themselves, the Democrats’ presidential nominee will need to decisively defeat Donald Trump in the Wolverine State to give their party a chance. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s successful re-election campaign illustrates this hurdle: Even though she beat Republican John James 52-46 statewide, she only took 54 House districts.

The entire state House is up for re-election every two years, and members can serve a maximum of three terms, making Michigan's term limits among the most restrictive in the country. Democrats made big gains in the House last cycle and reduced the GOP majority from 63-47 to 58-52.

Most importantly, four members of the GOP caucus sit in seats that backed Whitmer, making those the four ripest targets for Democrats. At the same time, no Democratic incumbents hold seats won by Schuette. However, three of these GOP-held Whitmer seats also supported Donald Trump when he narrowly carried the state two years before, so sweeping them all be a difficult task.

Team Blue’s best pickup opportunity in the state looks like HD-61 in the Kalamazoo area, which supported Whitmer by a wide 54-43 margin and backed Stabenow by a 53-45 spread. The seat also went for Hillary Clinton 49-45, making it the one GOP-held district in the entire chamber that didn’t back Trump. Republican incumbent Brandt Iden won his third term 51-49 in 2018, but term limits prevent him from running again this year.

Two other Republican seats, both located in Oakland County in the Detroit suburbs, also went for both Whitmer and Stabenow, though Trump carried them both. HD-39 backed Trump 50-46, but it supported Whitmer 53-45 and Stabenow 51-47. Republican Ryan Berman was elected to his first term by a wide 54-42, but that election took place under unusual circumstances: The Democratic candidate, Jennifer Suidan, was charged with embezzlement during the race and was sentenced to five years’ probation after the election.

Nearby is HD-38, which went for Trump 49-46 before supporting Whitmer and Stabenow 52-46 and 51-48. This seat is held by GOP state Rep. Kathy Crawford, who won her third and last term by a narrow 49-48 in 2018.

The fourth and final GOP-held Whitmer seat is HD-45, which is also located in Oakland County, but it supported her just 49.2-48.8, by a margin of 181 votes. Trump took the seat by a wider 51-44 margin, while James defeated Stabenow here 50-49. Republican incumbent Michael Webber won 55-45, but, like Iden and Crawford, he’s termed-out this year.

Democrats have a few potential targets if they fail to take all four of those seats, but they aren’t great. Another five House districts backed Schuette by a margin of less than 2%, but Trump took them all by double digits in 2016. Democrats also will need to play defense in the 10 seats they hold that voted for Trump (though two years later they all went for Whitmer). All of this means that, while Democrats do have a path to the majority, they’ll need essentially everything to go right this fall.

As for the state Senate, it’s only up in midterm years, so the GOP’s 22-16 majority is safe there for almost another three years, barring an unlikely avalanche of special elections. The good news for Democrats, though, is that 2022’s races for the legislature (and Congress) will be held under very different maps than the GOP gerrymanders in force now.

That’s because in 2018, voters approved the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw the new lines in place of the state legislature. These new maps could give Democrats a better chance to win (or hold) the House as well as the Senate, where the GOP has been in control since it successfully recalled two Democratic legislators in early 1984.

P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.

4Q Fundraising

The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is Jan. 31. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available next week.

NC-Sen: Thom Tillis (R-inc): $1.9 million raised, $5.3 million cash-on-hand

VA-Sen: Mark Warner (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $7.4 million cash-on-hand

AZ-06: Karl Gentles (D): $104,000 raised, $80,000 cash-on-hand

CA-25: Christy Smith (D): $845,000 raised, $592,000 cash-on-hand

FL-27: Maria Elvira Salazar (R): $315,000 raised, additional $50,000 self-funded, $717,000 cash-on-hand

IL-17: Cheri Bustos (D-inc): $531,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand

MN-08: Pete Stauber (R-inc): $347,000 raised, $722,000 cash-on-hand

NC-02: Deborah Ross (D): $301,000 raised, $262,000 cash-on-hand

NH-02: Annie Kuster (D-inc): $452,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand

NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $918,000 raised, $7.12 million cash-on-hand

TX-22: Pierce Bush (R): $660,000 raised (in three weeks)

Senate

AL-Sen: The extremist Club for Growth is going back on the air ahead of the March primary with a TV spot they first aired in November against Rep. Bradley Byrne, an establishment-aligned Republican whom they've long hated. The commercial takes aim at Byrne for supporting the Export-Import Bank, which is another favorite Club target.

GA-Sen-B: Pastor Raphael Warnock announced Thursday that he would run against appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler in November’s all-party primary, giving Democrats their first high-profile candidate in Georgia’s special election for the Senate.

Warnock quickly earned an endorsement from 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who was Team Blue’s top choice until she took her name out of the running last year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote earlier this month that national Democrats, as well as Abrams, wanted Warnock to challenge Loeffler, though the DSCC has not formally taken sides.

Warnock, who would be Georgia’s first black senator, is the senior pastor of the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. once held the pulpit. Warnock has never run for office before, but he’s been involved in politics as the chair of the New Georgia Project, a group founded by Abrams with the goal of registering people of color to vote. Warnock has also used his position to call for expanding Medicaid and reforming Georgia’s criminal justice system.

Warnock joins businessman Matt Lieberman on the Democratic side, and another local politician says he’s also likely to run for Team Blue. Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver said Thursday that Warnock’s entry hadn’t changed his own plans to run, adding that he plans to kick off his campaign in the next few weeks.

GOP Rep. Doug Collins also entered the race against Loeffler this week, but legislative leaders quickly dealt him a setback. On Thursday, state House Speaker David Ralston, despite being a Collins ally, announced that a bill that would do away with the all-party primary in favor of a traditional partisan primary would be unlikely to apply to this year’s special election. The legislation cleared the Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this week but was returned to the committee for revisions. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has threatened to veto any measure that would change the rules of this year’s special Senate race.

As we’ve noted before, both Democrats and Collins would almost certainly benefit from the proposed rule change, but it looks like the status quo will persist this year. However, Collins is arguing that he’d still have the advantage in a November all-party primary, though the data he released isn’t especially persuasive. Collins released a poll this week from McLaughlin & Associates showing Lieberman in front with 42% while Collins leads Loeffler 32-11 for the second spot in a likely January runoff.

McLaughlin is a firm that’s infamous even in GOP circles for its poor track record, but this survey is also rather stale. The poll was conducted in mid-December, when Loeffler had just been appointed to the Senate and had little name recognition. But the wealthy senator has since launched a $2.6 million ad campaign, and she’s reportedly pledged to spend $20 million to get her name out.

Lieberman was also the only Democrat mentioned in the poll, but Warnock’s Thursday announcement means he’s now no longer Team Blue’s only candidate, scrambling the picture further. And if Tarver does go ahead with his planned campaign, he could complicate matters even more by potentially splitting the vote on the left three ways and allowing Loeffler and Collins to advance to an all-GOP runoff.

Collins, meanwhile, hasn’t been on the receiving end of any negative ads yet, but that’s about to change. Politico reports that next week, the Club for Growth will start a five-week TV campaign targeting the congressman for a hefty $3 million.

IA-Sen: Businessman Eddie Mauro raised just $73,000 from donors during the fourth quarter of 2019, but the Democrat loaned himself an additional $1.5 million and ended December with $1.4 million in the bank. However, during that same quarter, Mauro repaid himself $850,000 that he'd previously loaned to his campaign. It's not clear why Mauro made this move.

The only other Democrat to release fundraising figures so far, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, previously said she brought in $1.6 million in the final three months of last year and had $2.1 million on hand. Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she raised $1.7 million and had $4.9 million left.

House

FL-27: This week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed 2018 GOP nominee Maria Elvira Salazar's second bid for this Miami-area seat against freshman Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala. Salazar, who lost to Shalala 52-46 last cycle, doesn't face any serious opposition in the August GOP primary.

GA-09: State Rep. Kevin Tanner announced Thursday that he would seek the GOP nod to succeed Senate candidate Doug Collins in this safely red seat. Tanner was first elected to the legislature in 2012, and he serves as the chair of the influential Transportation Committee.

IN-05: Former state Sen. Mike Delph recently told Howey Politics that he would not seek the GOP nod for this open seat.

NY-15: This week, Assemblyman Michael Blake picked up endorsements in the June Democratic primary from SEIU 32BJ and 1199 SEIU, which represent building workers and healthcare workers, respectively. These groups make up two of the "big four" unions in New York City politics along with the Hotel Trades Council and the United Federation of Teachers. The Hotel Trades Council is supporting New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, while the UFT does not appear to have taken sides yet in the crowded primary contest to succeed retiring Rep. Jose Serrano in this safely blue seat in The Bronx.

Last month, Blake also received the backing of District Council 37, which represents municipal workers.