Morning Digest: Freedom Caucus chief loses—just barely—after Trump sought his ouster

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Daily Kos will be off Wednesday in observance of Juneteenth, so there will be no Morning Digest on Thursday. It will return on Friday.

Leading Off

VA-05: State Sen. John McGuire defeated House Freedom Caucus chair Bob Good by the narrowest of margins in Tuesday's Republican primary for Virginia's conservative 5th District, a shockingly close loss—but cold comfort—for an incumbent whose congressional career had looked doomed for quite some time.

The AP had not called the race when we put the Digest to bed, though McGuire declared victory on election night. Good, meanwhile, insisted that he would work to "ensure all the votes are properly counted in the coming days." An unknown number of provisional ballots remain to be tallied, and a recount is possible. However, with McGuire ahead by about 300 votes, a change in the lead would be very unlikely.

McGuire's ultra-tight victory came after Good spent his second and final term infuriating just about every power player in the party, including Donald Trump, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and most of his colleagues. 

The congressman's underdog status seemed cemented when, in early May, McGuire released an internal poll that showed him ahead 45-31. Good's team offered the feeblest of responses: "The only poll that matters is the final count on Election Day," his campaign said in a statement, all but admitting they had no better numbers to counter with.

Trump himself tried to deliver the final blow a short time later by endorsing McGuire. He specifically sought revenge for Good's decision to support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the presidential primary, a move that had put the Virginian crossways with Trump and his legions of adherents.

Allies of McCarthy also worked to punish Good for joining Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz's successful effort to terminate McCarthy's speakership. Other major donors were eager to simply extricate a troublesome rebel from the House. AdImpact says that, all told, a hefty $9 million was spent on ads that either sought to boost McGuire or tear down Good.

But Good's camp, which included the hardline Club for Growth and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's Protect Freedom PAC, never gave up. Collectively, they spent more than $5 million on the airwaves to try to keep him in office.

The final stretch of the race devolved into warring assertions about internal polling, with both sides claiming to be well ahead. But while Good never produced any data of his own, McGuire's arguments were still based on his original poll, by now six weeks old.

As Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin wryly pointed out, both candidates were "wrong by double digits." But even if his final margin of victory was far skinnier than he anticipated, McGuire got to enjoy the last laugh.

Good's loss, as close as it was, makes him only the second member of Congress from either party to lose renomination anywhere in the country this cycle. But while Alabama Rep. Jerry Carl lost to fellow incumbent Barry Moore in March following a round of court-ordered redistricting, Good is the first representative to lose to a challenger.

Good, who spent the last several months backing unsuccessful primary campaigns against several of his colleagues, will at least feel a pang of recognition at his fate, since he earned his ticket to Capitol Hill four years ago by defeating a Republican congressman. Good decided to take on freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman after the incumbent infuriated hardliners by officiating a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers.

The GOP nomination in 2020 was decided not in a primary but at a convention, which just so happened to take place at Good’s own church. Good, an elected official in Campbell County, also benefited from his post as an athletics official at Liberty University, which has long been one of the Christian right's most prominent institutions and is located in the district.

Riggleman fought back with endorsements from Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr. (who would resign in disgrace as Liberty's president two months later), but it wasn't enough. The conclave of some 2,500 delegates favored Good 58-42, though he had a tougher time that fall, managing a surprisingly small 52-47 win over Democrat Cameron Webb in an expensive contest.

(McGuire, who was a member of the state House at the time, lost a convention for the GOP nomination in the old 7th District the following month to fellow Del. Nick Freitas, who in turn lost to Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.)

Good had no trouble winning renomination at the Republican convention in 2022 and handily prevailed in the general election. But he faced a very different battle this time around. A law passed in 2021 required that all absentee voters have the chance to take part in nomination contests, a policy that made it difficult for political parties in Virginia to hold conventions rather than primaries. That shift may have made all the difference.

But while many of Good's colleagues will be overjoyed to see McGuire replace him in the 5th District, which favored Trump 53-45 in 2020, Riggleman may not be entirely enjoying the schadenfreude.

"McGuire might be more dangerous than Bob Good," Riggleman tweeted in March as he shared a picture of the challenger at the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. "McGuire coming at Bob from the RIGHT— a panting sycophant who will do anything to win," Riggleman continued. "A box of hammers with a love of power." The former congressman went on to write last month, "Bob Good could be worst member—McGuire might be worse!"

Election Recaps

GA-03 (R): Brian Jack, a former aide to Donald Trump, outpaced former state Sen. Mike Dugan 63-37 in the Republican runoff to replace retiring GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson. Jack, who benefited from his old boss' endorsement and spending from a group backed by the cryptocurrency industry, should have no trouble in the general election for this dark red constituency in Atlanta's southwestern exurbs.

OK-04 (R): Rep. Tom Cole easily fended off businessman Paul Bondar 65-26 in an unexpectedly expensive primary for this safely red seat in southern Oklahoma. 

Bondar poured over $5 million of his own money into ads attacking Cole, who chairs the powerful appropriations chairman, as an insider who "voted with Democrats for billions in new deficit spending." But the incumbent and his allies spent millions on their own messaging reminding viewers both that Cole had Donald Trump's support and that Bondar had only recently moved to Oklahoma from Texas.

VA-Sen (R): Navy veteran Hung Cao beat Scott Parkinson, a former official at the Club for Growth, 62-11 in the Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Two years ago, Cao held Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton to a modest 53-47 victory in the 10th District, but he'll face a far tougher battle against Kaine in a race that neither national party is treating as competitive.

VA-02 (D): Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal defeated attorney Jake Denton 70-30 for the right to take on freshman GOP Rep. Jen Kiggans in a swing district based in Virginia Beach. Smasal, who lost a competitive race for the state Senate in 2019, had the support of the DCCC and all six members of Virginia's Democratic House delegation for her campaign against Kiggans.

VA-07 (D & R): Former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman and Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson respectively won the Democratic and Republican primaries for Virginia's competitive 7th District based in the southern exurbs of Washington, D.C. The two will face off this fall to succeed Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who decided not to seek reelection so she could focus on her 2025 bid for governor, in a constituency that Joe Biden carried 53-46.

Vindman decisively outpaced his nearest opponent, former Del. Elizabeth Guzman, by a 49-15 margin in a field that also included three sitting local elected officials. The frontrunner, who was a key figure in Donald Trump's first impeachment in 2019, has proven to be one of the strongest House fundraisers in the nation.

Anderson, for his part, defeated former Navy SEAL Cameron Hamilton 46-37 in an expensive race. Anderson had the backing of House Speaker Mike Johnson and his allies, while Rand Paul's network spent big for Hamilton.

VA-10 (D & R): State Sen. Suhas Subramanyam edged out Del. Dan Helmer 30-27 in the 12-way Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton in Northern Virginia 10th District, which favored Joe Biden 58-40 four years ago. Subramanyam's election would make him both Virginia's first Indian American and Hindu member of Congress.

Citing worsening symptoms of a serious neurodegenerative disease, Wexton unexpectedly announced her retirement last year while serving her third term. But the endorsement she gave to Subramanyam was likely a key reason he prevailed over Helmer, who outraised the rest of the field and benefited from over $5 million in outside spending.

Helmer also drew ugly headlines during the final week of the campaign after four current and former officials in the Loudoun County Democratic Committee put out a statement accusing him of engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with an unnamed committee member in 2018. Helmer denied the allegations.

Subramanyam will face attorney Mike Clancy, who defeated 2020 GOP nominee Aliscia Andrews 64-21. However, while Republicans have talked about putting this once competitive seat back in play, it remains to be seen whether they'll devote the hefty resources needed to accomplish this herculean effort.

House

AK-AL, FL-08, UT-02: Donald Trump on Monday evening endorsed three candidates in contested House primaries: Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom for Alaska's at-large seat; former state Senate President Mike Haridopolos in Florida's 8th District; and Rep. Celeste Maloy in Utah's 2nd District.

Dahlstrom faces GOP businessman Nick Begich and Democratic incumbent Mary Peltola in the Aug. 20 top-four primary, and none of them should have trouble securing a spot in the instant-runoff general election. (The fourth spot is all but certain to be claimed by one of the nine minor candidates who are also running.) Begich, however, has promised to drop out if Dahlstrom outpaces him this summer, a move that would delight party leaders who view him as a weak candidate and want to avoid infighting.

Trump is one of them, and he wrote Monday that Begich, who is the rare Republican member of Alaska's most prominent Democratic family, "has Democrat tendencies." Trump continued that "most importantly, he refused to get out of this Race last time, which caused the Republicans to lose this important seat to Mary Peltola."

Haridopolos, meanwhile, already appeared to be on a glide path to replace GOP Rep. Bill Posey, who timed his April retirement announcement so that Haridopolos could avoid serious opposition. The former state Senate leader only faces a pair of unheralded primary foes in this conservative seat in the Cape Canaveral area, and he'll be even harder to beat with Trump's blessing.

Maloy, finally, is fighting for renomination next week against Colby Jenkins, an Army Reserve colonel who has far-right Sen. Mike Lee's endorsement, in a safely red constituency based in southwestern Utah. Maloy, though, has the backing of all three of her colleagues in the state's all-GOP delegation. She also used this week to unveil an ad starring Gov. Spencer Cox, who is one of the party's few remaining Trump critics who still holds a prominent office.

Trump's new endorsements came hours before NOTUS' Reese Gorman published a story detailing the far-right Freedom Caucus' frustration with Trump's picks in contested primaries this cycle, including his drive to oust chair Bob Good in Virginia this week. The acrimony is only likely to intensify because the Freedom Caucus is backing both Begich and Jenkins.

Unsurprisingly, the House GOP leadership is not at all sympathetic. "The real story here is that these guys throw a temper tantrum every time Trump endorses against their preferred candidate," an unnamed senior aide told Gorman, "where most of the time their preferred candidate is a total shitbag."

AZ-01: Businessman Andrei Cherny this week picked up an endorsement from Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, whose city is home to just over 60% of the 1st District's residents, for the July 30 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. David Schweikert.

CO-03: The Colorado Sun reports that both parties have become heavily involved in next week's GOP primary for Colorado's open 3rd District as Republicans try to counter the Democrats' attempts to pick their preferred opponent. The candidate at the center of all this is former state Rep. Ron Hanks, a far-right election denier whom both sides agree would be a weak GOP nominee for this 53-45 Trump district.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the main super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, is spending at least $325,000 on new TV and radio ads attacking Hanks. The TV spot claims Hanks is insufficiently pro-Trump, arguing that Democrats are supporting him to "elect another liberal to Congress" after the Democratic super PAC Rocky Mountain Values has spent $400,000 this month on ads to aid Hanks or attack a rival. (Democrats previously ran ads last cycle to elevate Hanks in his unsuccessful 2022 Senate primary bid.)

Meanwhile, 2022 Democratic nominee Adam Frisch has put at least $100,000 behind a new TV commercial to deter Republicans from nominating a more formidable candidate, attorney Jeff Hurd. Frisch's spot lambastes Hurd for refusing to clarify his positions on abortion, immigration, and whether he supports Trump. The ad continues, "All we really do know about Jeff Hurd is he's financed by out-of-state corporate money."

Hurd is also taking fire from a Republican rival, financial adviser Russ Andrews, who has spent at least $70,000 on ads opposing him. No copy of Andrews' commercial is available yet, but The Sun's description notes it goes after Hurd for inadequate fealty to Trump and being an "Ivy League Lawyer."

Republican chances of holding this district appeared to improve significantly earlier this cycle when far-right Republican incumbent Lauren Boebert switched to run in the redder 4th District after only beating Frisch by a razor-thin margin in the 3rd last cycle. However, Frisch had already taken advantage of his now-former opponent's national notoriety by raising millions of dollars, funding he's now deploying to ensure that Republicans select another deeply flawed nominee.

FL-01: The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday that it was continuing to review allegations that Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz had engaged in a wide variety of wrongdoing, including "sexual misconduct and illicit drug use," accepting "improper gifts," awarding "special privileges and favors" to associates, and obstructing investigations into his alleged misdeeds.

The Committee, however, said it was no longer probing a variety of other accusations, including claims that Gaetz had shared "inappropriate" videos on the floor of the House, put campaign funds to personal use, and accepted a bribe.

The panel released its statement one day after Gaetz tweeted that the Committee was "now opening new frivolous investigations" into the congressman despite supposedly having "closed four probes into me."

The Committee disputed that characterization, saying that its current investigation is the same one that had already been underway. It also said it experienced "difficulty in obtaining relevant information from Representative Gaetz and others."

The Committee initially deferred its inquiry after the Justice Department began its own investigation into Gaetz in 2021 regarding the alleged sex trafficking of a minor and other accusations, but that probe ended last year without charges. The Ethics Committee says that it later "reauthorized its investigation after DOJ withdrew its deferral request."

IL-17: Politico has obtained a recent 1892 Polling internal conducted for the NRCC and former state Circuit Judge Joe McGraw, which finds McGraw trailing 44-35 against freshman Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen with 20% undecided. The sample also shows Biden leading Trump just 39-38 in a district Biden carried 53-45 in 2020.

This is the first publicly available survey of the race for Illinois' 17th District, which includes the communities of Rockford and Peoria, since McGraw won the Republican nomination in March.

NY-16: Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman's allies at Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party are spending $900,000 on a TV ad to support the incumbent in next week's primary against Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who has been the beneficiary of most of the outside spending.

First reported by Politico, the commercial takes "Republican megadonors" to task for contributing millions for ads to "smear" Bowman and elevate Latimer, citing news stories to portray the challenger as opposed to key parts of Joe Biden's agenda. The move comes after the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC has spent weeks running spots arguing that Bowman is the one who has undermined Biden, and its newest spot once again criticizes the incumbent for having "voted against President Biden's debt limit deal."

However, data from AdImpact underscores the lopsided advantage that Latimer's side enjoys in blasting out its preferred narrative. AIPAC has deployed $14 million on Latimer's behalf, and the pro-crypto group Fairshake has dropped another $2 million. By contrast, Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party have spent only $1.5 million to aid Bowman.

UT-03: Sen. Mike Lee endorsed state Sen. Mike Kennedy on Monday ahead of next week's five-way Republican primary to replace Rep. John Curtis, who is giving up the 3rd District to campaign to succeed Mitt Romney in Utah's other Senate seat. Kennedy, who briefly attracted national prominence in 2018 by taking on Romney, is a hardliner who has successfully pushed laws like a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

But while Kennedy won an April party convention dominated by far-right delegates, he's been decisively outspent by a pair of self-funding businessmen who are each hoping to replace Curtis. One of those contenders is Case Lawrence, a former CEO of the trampoline park chain Sky Zone who threw down almost $2.5 million of his own money through June 5. The other is Roosevelt Mayor Rod Bird, who self-funded about $1 million.

The race also includes state Auditor John Dougall, who will be listed on the ballot with his nickname "Frugal." Dougall, who is the only statewide elected official in the contest, has paid for billboards identifying him as "MAINSTREAM NOT MAGA," which is an unusual pitch for today's GOP. The Salt Lake Tribune's Robert Gehrke writes that the auditor is the one contender "to publicly criticize and disavow Trump."

Rounding out the field is attorney Stewart Peay, who has Romney's endorsement. (Peay's wife, Misha, is a niece of Romney's wife, Ann.) Peay, who has dodged questions about whether he backs his party's master, has argued he'd emulate one of his MAGA's prominent GOP critics, Gov. Spencer Cox. "I believe in the civility we’ve seen from Cox, the pragmatism you see from John Curtis, and the bipartisanship you see from Mitt Romney," he told the Deseret News.

There has been no outside spending in this contest, nor have we seen any polls. Whoever wins a plurality in next week's GOP primary should have no trouble in the fall for a safely red constituency based in the Provo area, southeastern Salt Lake City, and rural southeastern Utah.

House: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced its first fall TV ad reservations of the 2024 election cycle on Tuesday, with bookings totaling $16.4 million across 15 different media markets. The committee also said it had reserved $12 million for digital advertising in 21 different states that "represent the majority of the House battlefield."

We've added these new television reservations to our continually updated tracker, which also shows which districts the committee likely plans to target. (As yet, we've seen no surprises.) While the DCCC's initial foray is considerably smaller than the $146 million in TV reservations its allies at the House Majority PAC announced in April, this list will grow as new bookings are announced. (In 2022, the D-Trip spent almost $100 million on 45 different races.)

The committee's move also means that three of the four largest outside groups involved in House races have announced their first round of reservations this year. Early last month, the pro-GOP Congressional Leadership Fund said it had booked $141 million in airtime. The National Republican Congressional Committee, however, has yet to make an appearance.

Poll Pile

  • NC-Gov: Spry Strategies (R): Mark Robinson (R): 43, Josh Stein (D): 39 (48-44 Trump in two-way, 45-37 Trump with third-party candidates)
  • AZ-06: Public Opinion Strategies for Juan Ciscomani: Juan Ciscomani (R-inc): 50, Kirsten Engel (D): 39 (49-45 Trump)

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Trump’s forces take down Rep. Tom Rice in South Carolina, but Nancy Mace holds on

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

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Leading Off

SC-01, SC-07: Two members of South Carolina’s U.S. House delegation went up against Trump-backed Republican primary opponents on Tuesday, but while 1st District Rep. Nancy Mace secured renomination, voters in the neighboring 7th District ejected pro-impeachment Rep. Tom Rice in favor of state Rep. Russell Fry. Mace turned back former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who was Team Red’s unsuccessful 2018 nominee, 53-45, which was just above the majority she needed to avoid a June 28 runoff. Fry also averted a second round in his six-way race by lapping Rice 51-25.

Mace, who was the first woman to graduate from the state’s famed military academy the Citadel, became one of the GOP’s most promising rising stars in 2020 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham in a very expensive race. Mace, however, broke with Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.” She never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with Trump, but the GOP master still decided to repay her by endorsing Arrington, who had denied renomination in 2018 to then-Rep. Mark Sanford, in February.

Arrington, who launched her new campaign by blasting the incumbent as a "sellout" who "sold out the Lowcountry" and "sold out President Trump,” released a poll in early March arguing that her all-Trump all the time strategy would carry her to victory. Those Remington Research Group numbers showed Mace’s 50-35 lead transforming into a 51-33 Arrington advantage after respondents were informed she was the “Trump Endorsed America First Candidate,” which led the pollster to conclude that “there is no path to victory” for Mace.  

The congresswoman, though, worked to frame the primary as anything other than a fight between her and Trump. Shortly after Arrington’s kickoff, Mace posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, “If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that.” The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that didn’t stop Mace from convincingly arguing that Arrington would be electoral Kryptonite against the Democrats’ well-funded candidate, pediatrician Annie Andrews.   

Rice, by contrast, went far further than Mace by actually voting for impeachment last year, a move so shocking that his own consultant initially assumed the five-term congressman had simply hit the wrong button. That vote instantly ensured that Rice, who had been easily renominated every cycle since he’d first won this safely red Myrtle Beach-area constituency in a competitive 2012 primary, would be in for an extremely difficult campaign, and several Republicans soon began challenging him.

Fry, though, cemented his status as the frontrunner after Trump backed him in February, and he soon earned national attention of his own with a truly strange ad depicting the apostate incumbent attending a touchy-feely "Villains Anonymous" meeting with the likes of the Joker, Lucifer, a pirate, Maleficent, and Delores Umbridge of the "Harry Potter" franchise. Rice and his remaining allies fought back by arguing that the congressman was too influential to fire and that Fry wasn't actually the conservative he presented himself as, but it was far from enough.

Rice himself argued to the end that he’d made the right decision by voting to impeach Trump over Jan. 6, saying, “He sat there and watched the Capitol get sacked and took pleasure in that … That’s what a dictator would do.” That didn’t prove to be a very compelling argument, though, and GOP primary voters responded by decisively nominating Fry in his place.

Election Recaps

TX-34 (special): Conservative activist Mayra Flores flipped this Rio Grande Valley constituency to the GOP on Tuesday by taking a majority of the vote in the all-party primary to succeed Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job at a lobbying firm. (Vela announced his retirement last year but hadn’t previously indicated he’d leave Congress early.) Flores outpaced former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, a Democrat who is not running for a full two-year term anywhere, 51-43 after a campaign where Republicans spent over $1 million while Democrats only began airing TV ads in the final week.

Flores was already the GOP nominee for the new version of the 34th District, where Republican mapmakers extended Joe Biden’s margin of victory from just 52-48 to 57-42 in order to strengthen their position in nearby seats. Her opponent will be Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run here because that very GOP gerrymander made his own 15th District more conservative: This will almost certainly be the only incumbent vs. incumbent general election of the cycle other than the race for Florida’s 2nd District between Democratic Rep. Al Lawson and Republican colleague Neal Dunn.

While Flores will be in for a difficult fight in November on more Democratic terrain, though, Republicans are hoping that her win Tuesday proves that the GOP can still secure further gains in heavily Latino areas. Flores also will have a geographic advantage, as she’ll spend the next several months representing 75% of the new 34th District; Gonzalez, by contrast, currently serves the remaining quarter.

Primary Night: Here’s a look at where Nevada’s key races for Senate, governor, and U.S. House stand as of Wednesday morning. Note that, because a large number of ballots remain untabulated, these margins could change before the results are certified:

  • NV-Sen (R): Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt turned back an unexpectedly well-funded campaign from Army veteran Sam Brown by a 56-34 margin. Laxalt, who was the 2018 nominee for governor, will go up against Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto in what will be one of the most competitive Senate races of the cycle.
  • NV-Gov (R): Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who like Laxalt had Trump’s endorsement, defeated attorney Joey Gilbert 38-28 for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, took a distant third with 14%; Heller never lost a race in his long career in Nevada politics until Rosen unseated him four years ago.
  • NV-01 (D): Rep. Dina Titus turned back progressive challenger Amy Vilela in an 82-18 landslide.
  • NV-01 (R): The Associated Press has not yet called this contest but with 89% of the estimated vote in, Army veteran Mark Robertson holds a 30-17 lead over conservative activist David Brog; former 4th District Rep. Crescent Hardy, who raised almost no money for his latest comeback, lags in fourth with just 12%. Democrats in the legislature, much to Titus’ frustration, made this seat in the eastern Las Vegas area considerably more competitive in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, and Biden would have carried the new 1st 53-45.
  • NV-02 (R): Republican Rep. Mark Amodei secured renomination in this safely red northern Nevada seat by beating Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian 54-33. Tarkanian, who was a longtime resident of the Las Vegas area well to the south, finally ended his legendary losing streak in 2020 after moving to Douglas County, but he very much returned to form on Tuesday by failing to win a seat in Congress for the fifth time.
  • NV-03 (R): Attorney April Becker, who was the favored candidate of the GOP establishment, easily defeated self-funder John Kovacs 65-11. Becker will go up against Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a southern Las Vegas area seat where Democrats extended Biden’s winning margin from just 49.1-48.9 to 52-46.
  • NV-04 (R): The AP hasn’t called this GOP primary yet but with 68% of the estimated vote in, Air Force veteran Sam Peters leads Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford, whose constituency in the northern Las Vegas area supported Biden 53-45 under the new map.

Senate

WA-Sen: NBC reports that the Democratic group Future Majority PAC has booked $860,000 for an ad campaign that will start in early July, which will make this the first major outside spending of the contest. Early this month the Northwest Progressive Institute released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling giving Democratic incumbent Patty Murray a 51-40 lead over her likely Republican opponent, motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley.

Governors

IL-Gov: The Republican firm Ogden & Fry's new look at the June 28 GOP primary finds state Sen. Darren Bailey leading Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin 31-17, with venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan at 11%. This is the third poll in a row we've seen showing Bailey defeating Irvin, an outcome that would greatly please Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his allies.  

OK-Gov: Amber Integrated (R): Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 47, Joy Hofmeister (D): 29 (March: 44-30 Stitt)

TX-Gov: The Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling's inaugural survey of Texas shows Republican incumbent Greg Abbott fending off Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke in a 56-37 landslide. This survey, which the firm says was done "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee, or interest group," comes a month after UT Tyler gave Abbott a considerably smaller 46-39 advantage.

House

CA-40: The Associated Press on Monday night projected that Rep. Young Kim had defeated her fellow Republican, Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, for the second spot in the general election despite a late Democratic effort to boost Raths. Democrat Asif Mahmood took first in last week's top-two primary with 41%, while Kim beat Raths 34-23 after she and her allies launched a significant last-minute spending spree to turn back the perennial candidate. Biden would have carried this eastern Orange County constituency 50-48.

FL-10, FL-Sen: Former Rep. Alan Grayson, whom longtime readers will know is one of our least favorite Democrats in America, announced Tuesday that he was abandoning his little-noticed Senate campaign in favor of running to succeed his now-former intra-party rival, Rep. Val Demings, in the safely blue 10th District in the Orlando area. He joins an August primary that includes state Sen. Randolph Bracy; gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost; pastor Terence Gray; and civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson, all of whom, like Demings but unlike Grayson, are Black.

The Orlando Sentinel notes that several Florida Democrats have argued that this area should continue to be represented by an African American. Indeed, Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge notably said in April, "My intent is to try to keep it [a Black] access seat because it is important to our community," though he predicted, "But, you know, someone can show up at noon on the last day of qualifying with 10 grand in their pocket, and boom, they're on the ballot." Grayson himself had just over $240,000 on-hand at the end of March, a paltry sum for a statewide contest but enough to put up a fight in a House race.

IL-06: Rep. Sean Casten's office announced Monday evening that his 17-year-old daughter, Gwen Casten, had died that morning. Fellow Rep. Marie Newman, who is Sean Casten's opponent in the June 28 Democratic primary, said in response that her campaign "is working to cease all comparative paid communications immediately."    

IL-07: The Justice Democrats have launched a $120,000 ad buy supporting gun safety activist Kina Collins' bid against longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the June 28 Democratic primary, which makes this the first outside spending on Collins' side. (A group called Opportunity for All Action Fund has deployed a similar amount for the incumbent.) The spot, writes Primary School, faults Davis for missing House votes as crime and inflation remain a serious problem, and pledges that the challenger would be a more focused representative. Davis fended off Collins 60-14 two years ago in this safely blue Chicago seat.

VA-02: The Democratic group Patriot Majority has launched a commercial designed to help far-right activist Jarome Bell win next week's Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria, which makes this the latest contest where Democrats have tried to pick their opponents. The narrator tells the audience, "Bell is a Navy veteran who calls himself an 'America First conservative' … He supports Trump's election audit in all 50 states, and Bell wants to outlaw abortion." Unsubtly, the narrator concludes, "If Jarome Bell wins, Donald Trump wins too." There is no word on the size of the buy.

Trump himself has not made an endorsement here, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is all-in for one of Bell's intra-party rivals, state Sen. Jen Kiggans. A late May internal for a pro-Kiggans group showed her decisively beating another primary candidate, Air Force veteran Tommy Altman, 43-9, with Bell at 8%.

DCCC: The DCCC has added 11 more candidates to its Red to Blue program, which is the DCCC's top-tier list of races where it plans to be heavily involved this cycle: 

  • AZ-01: Jevin Hodge
  • FL-27: Annette Taddeo
  • NC-01: Don Davis
  • NC-13: Wiley Nickel
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson
  • NY-01: Bridget Fleming
  • NY-22: Francis Conole
  • OR-04: Val Hoyle
  • OR-05: Jamie McLeod Skinner
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas
  • PA-17: Chris Deluzio

Most of these candidates have already won the nomination or face little intra-party opposition, but the DCCC is taking sides in a few contested primaries. In Arizona’s 1st Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, is going up against former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf for the right to take on GOP Rep. David Schweikert. (A third Democrat, environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, failed to collect enough signatures to continue her campaign.)

Taddeo, likewise, has to get past Miami Commissioner Ken Russell before she can focus on Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar in Florida's 27th. Finally, Conole faces Air Force veteran Sarah Klee Hood, Syracuse Common Council member Chol Majok, and former Assemblyman Sam Roberts in the primary for New York's open 22nd District.  

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Morning Digest: The 7th time was finally the charm for ‘Little Tark.’ Will he press his luck an 8th?

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

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Leading Off

NV-02: Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian, a Republican who finally ended his legendary losing streak last cycle, revealed to the Nevada Independent that he's considering challenging Rep. Mark Amodei in the June primary for Nevada's 2nd Congressional District. The congressman quickly responded to the news by telling the site, "[I]t's America. ... If somebody thinks that they've got a better mousetrap, then those are the avenues available to them." The filing deadline is March 18, and whoever wins the GOP nod will be the heavy favorite in a northern Nevada seat that, according to Dave's Redistricting App, would have backed Donald Trump 54-43.

While it remains to be seen what argument Tarkanian might put forward to persuade primary voters to oust Amodei, the congressman's experience last cycle could preview what's to come. In September of 2019, Amodei pissed off conservatives nationwide when he became the first House Republican to identify as impeachment-curious, saying of the inquiry into Trump, "Let's put it through the process and see what happens." Amodei added, "I'm a big fan of oversight, so let's let the committees get to work and see where it goes." Where it went was a firestorm of far-right outrage, with angry conservatives convinced that Amodei had actually called for impeaching Trump.

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Amodei quickly responded by protesting, "In no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment," though even expressing openness to an inquiry was enough to infuriate not only the rank-and-file but top Republicans as well. The Trump campaign soon rolled out its state co-chairs for 2020, and politicos noticed that Amodei, who was and remains Nevada's only Republican member of Congress, was snubbed.

The far-right Club for Growth joined in the fracas by releasing a poll showing former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt beating Amodei in a hypothetical primary, but all of this sound and fury ended up signifying nothing—for 2020 at least. Amodei joined the rest of the GOP caucus in voting against both the inquiry and Trump's first impeachment, and neither Laxalt nor anyone else of stature ended up running against him.

Things played out in a familiar manner right after the Jan. 6 attack when Amodei told Nevada Newsmakers, "Do I think he [Trump] has a responsibility for what has occurred? Yes." The congressman, though, this time used his interview to say upfront that he'd oppose an impeachment inquiry, and he soon joined most of his party colleagues in voting against impeachment. However, as South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace just learned the hard way, Trump is very happy to back primary challenges to members who dared blamed him for the attack on the Capitol even if they sided with him on the impeachment vote.

Tarkanian, for his part, is also a very familiar name in Silver State politics, though not entirely for welcome reasons. Tarkanian himself comes from a prominent family: His late father was the legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, while his mother, Democrat Lois Tarkanian, was a longtime Las Vegas city councilwoman who now serves on the state Board of Regents. The younger Tarkanian—sometimes distinguished from his more famous father with the sobriquet "Little Tark"—was a resident of Las Vegas' Clark County when he lost the:

But while Tarkanian's long string of defeats has made him a punchline to state and national political observers for years, his name recognition, personal wealth, and connections to Nevada's hardcore conservative base mean that he was never just another perennial candidate either party could dismiss. Notably in 2016, Tarkanian overcame $1.6 million in outside spending directed against him in the GOP primary to defeat state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, the choice of then-Gov. Brian Sandoval and national Republicans, by a surprisingly large 32-24 margin. That result might have cost Team Red the swingy 3rd District, but only just: Tarkanian lost to his Democratic foe, now-Sen. Jacky Rosen, 47-46 as Donald Trump was carrying the district 48-47.

Republicans also took Tarkanian seriously in 2017 when he launched a primary challenge to Sen. Dean Heller and a pair of polls showed him winning. Trump, however, managed to redirect Tarkanian just before the filing deadline when he convinced him to drop out and run for the 3rd District a second time, with his endorsement. Tarkanian, though, lost to Democrat Susie Lee by a wide 52-43 spread as Rosen was unseating Heller.

Tarkanian decided soon afterwards that he'd had enough of Vegas and moved to Douglas County, a small rural community located well to the north, near the Reno area. But he was hardly done with politics: Amodei himself suggested in April of 2019, months before his impeachment inquiry flirtations, that Tarkanian could run against him.

Tarkanian didn’t follow through but instead devoted his efforts to denying renomination to an incumbent with a far lower profile, Douglas County Commissioner Dave Nelson. The challenger joined a pro-development slate of candidates seeking seats on the five-member body, and this time, fortune was, at last, just barely on his side: Tarkanian won the nomination 50.1-49.9―a margin of 17 votes―and he had no opposition in the general election. We'll find out in the next five weeks if, now that he's finally an elected official, Little Tark decides to test out his newfound luck by going after Amodei.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Louisiana's GOP-run state House has passed a new congressional map with two independents joining all 68 Republicans to total 70 votes in favor—exactly the number that would be needed to override a veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. However, the plan differs somewhat from the map that the state Senate approved a few days earlier (also with a two-thirds supermajority), so the two chambers will have to iron out their differences. Edwards has indicated he would veto a map that does not create a second Black district, which neither the House or Senate proposals do.

Senate

AL-Sen: Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt's new ad for the May Republican primary is centered around her opposition to abortion.

AZ-Sen: The Republican pollster co/efficient, which tells us they have no client, finds no clear favorite in the August GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Attorney General Mark Brnovich edges out businessman Jim Lamon 17-13, with Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters just behind with 12%. Two other Republicans, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire and state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, barely register with 3% and 1%, respectively. The firm also tests out a scenario in which Gov. Doug Ducey runs and finds Brnovich narrowly outpacing him 14-13 as Lamon and Masters each take 11%.

These numbers are quite a bit different than those another GOP firm, OH Predictive Insights, found a few weeks ago. That earlier survey of the current field had Brnovich leading McGuire 25-11; when Ducey was added, he beat the attorney general 27-12.

OH-Sen: The Republican firm co/efficient has released the very first survey of the May primary that wasn't done on behalf of a candidate or allied group, and it shows businessman Mike Gibbons leading former state Treasurer Josh Mandel 20-18, with state Sen. Matt Dolan in third with 7%; former state party chair Jane Timken takes 6%, while venture capitalist J.D. Vance grabs fifth with 5%.

Gibbons, who badly lost the 2018 primary for Ohio's other Senate seat, also has dropped a Cygnal poll giving him a wider 23-11 edge over Mandel, which is a huge improvement from the 16-13 edge the firm gave him two weeks ago,

Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values, meanwhile, are going up with their first TV spot since mid-November, a move that come days after Politico reported that the Peter Thiel-funded group's own polls showed that "Vance needs a course correction ASAP that will resolidify him as a true conservative." The commercial seeks to do that with clips of the candidate attacking "elites" and concludes with footage of Fox host Tucker Carlson telling him, "You've really, I think, understand what's gone wrong with the country."

Governors

LA-Gov: Republican state Rep. Daryl Deshotel attracted lots of local attention when he recently gave his own campaign $1 million, and he told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser on Thursday, "I'm open to everything, but I honestly don't have a target right now." While much speculation has centered around next year’s open-seat race for governor, Deshotel, who has described himself as "fiscally conservative but more moderate on social issues," didn’t specifically mention the contest, and he didn't even commit to using the money to aid himself. Deshotel instead said, "It may be that I end up using the money to support other candidates who I believe can help the state."

MI-Gov: Blueprint Polling, which describes itself as a "sister company" to the Democratic firm Chism Strategies, is out with a survey showing Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer deadlocked 44-44 with former Detroit Police Chief James Craig. Blueprint, which says it did this survey "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee or interest group," did not release numbers testing Whitmer against any other Republican.

NY-Gov: Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who previously backed Attorney General Tish James during her abortive six-week campaign for governor, has now thrown his support behind Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul.

House

CA-03: Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones received an endorsement from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents an inland San Diego County seat, for the June top-two primary for this open district in Sacramento's eastern suburbs. While Issa's constituency is located hundreds of miles to the south of the new 3rd District, he may have some clout with conservatives more broadly thanks in part to his long history of using his influence in Congress to torment Democrats.

IL-03: State Rep. Delia Ramirez has picked up an endorsement from 14th District Rep. Lauren Underwood ahead of the June Democratic primary.

NJ-07: On Thursday evening, 2020 nominee Tom Kean Jr. narrowly defeated Assemblyman Erik Peterson at the Hunterdon County Republican Convention, which gives him the important party endorsement in the June primary to take on Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. Peterson is a longtime politician from Hunterdon County, which makes up 17% of the population this six-county congressional district, and he's enjoyed the county's support in past bids for local races.

Endorsements from county parties are typically very important in New Jersey primaries on both sides of the aisle. That's because, in many counties, endorsed candidates appear in a separate column on the ballot along with other party endorsees, a big deal in a state where party machines are still powerful. (This designation is known colloquially as the "organization line.")

You can see an example of this on the 2018 Democratic primary sample ballot from Burlington County. Sen. Robert Menendez and 2nd Congressional District candidate Jeff Van Drew, who was still a year away from his infamous party switch, appeared in the column identified as "BURLINGTON COUNTY REGULAR DEMOCRATS," along with party-backed candidates running for other offices. Lisa McCormick, who was challenging Menendez for renomination, was listed on her own in the second column while the three candidates running against Van Drew each had a column entirely to themselves.

Kean will likely have another line before long: The New Jersey Globe writes that he recently received the unanimous support of the Republican Executive Committee in Warren County, which forms another 14% of the 7th District, meaning "he is the favorite to win the county organizational line there as well."

NJ-11: Morris County Surrogate Heather Darling has announced that she'll stay out of the Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill.

PA-18: Nonprofit executive Stephanie Fox, a Democrat who didn't report any fourth quarter fundraising with the FEC, has announced that she'll run for a state House seat rather than continue with her congressional bid.

RI-02: Allan Fung, a former Cranston mayor who twice was the Republican nominee for governor, announced Friday that he'd run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin in the 2nd Congressional District. He joins a September primary that includes state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz and 2020 nominee Bob Lancia, who lost to Langevin 58-42.

The current version of this constituency, which is unlikely to change much when redistricting is finished, moved from 51-44 Clinton to a stronger 56-43 Biden. But in between those presidential contests, according to Dave's Redistricting App, Fung lost this seat by a close 47-43 margin in his 2018 general election against then-Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Fung was decisively elected to lead Rhode Island's second-most populous city in 2008 on his second try, an accomplishment that made him the state's first Chinese American mayor, and he quickly emerged as a Republican rising star in the heavily Democratic Ocean State. Fung went ahead with a long-awaited campaign for governor during the 2014 red wave, and while he lost to Raimondo 41-36 (a hefty 21% went to the late Robert Healey of the Moderate, or "Cool Moose," Party), he remained the state GOP’s biggest name following his near miss.

After easily winning re-election in Cranston, Fung soon launched a 2018 rematch with Raimondo, and it looked like he had a real chance to finish what he'd started. While the national political climate very much favored Democrats, Raimondo had posted unimpressive poll numbers throughout her tenure. That was due in part to her turbulent relationship with progressives ever since she pushed through pension reforms as state treasurer and some bad headlines on a variety of topics while in office.

The incumbent, though, enjoyed a huge fundraising lead over Fung, and she and her allies worked to tie him to the toxic Trump administration―a task the mayor made pretty easy the previous year when he posted a picture on Facebook of him at Trump's inauguration smiling and wearing a Trump wool cap. Things got worse for him when national Republicans began canceling their TV ads weeks ahead of Election Day, while Fung himself had to run commercials warning that conservative independent Joe Trillo's presence on the ballot would make Raimondo's re-election more likely. The governor this time captured the majority that eluded her in 2014 by beating Fung by a decisive 53-37, with Trillo taking 4%.

But Fung, while termed-out as mayor in 2020, was far from finished exerting influence in local politics. On his way out of office, Fung put serious effort into supporting his eventual successor, Councilman Kenneth Hopkins, in both the GOP primary and the general election, while Fung's wife, Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, scored a huge win in November by unseating state House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. (Many Democrats weren't at all sad to see the conservative Mattiello go, since the party easily hung on to its majority.) Fung himself showed some interest in a third run for governor this cycle but seemed far more intent on campaigning for state treasurer, though all that changed when Langevin announced his retirement last month.

TX-28: Democrat Jessica Cisneros' newest ad is narrated by a woman named Esther who says she's lived in Laredo for four decades but complains, "Nothing changes—even the problems stay the same." She goes on to say she "used to like Henry Cuellar," the congressman Cisneros is hoping to unseat in the March 1 primary, but criticizes him for "taking money from big insurance and drug companies" even as the cost of medication and insurance has risen for her. "You ask me, Henry Cuellar's been in Washington too long," she concludes.

The left-wing group Justice Democrats is also reportedly spending $78,000 to air a spot on Cisneros' behalf, attacking Cuellar for living it up as a politician (he "got rides in donors' private jets" and "fixed his BMW with campaign cash"). It also mentions the FBI raid of his home last month. "After 36 years in politics," says the narrator, "Cuellar has changed." The spot concludes with the voiceover saying, "We need someone who works for us" and shows a photo of Cisneros along with her name on screen, but for no clear reason, the narrator doesn't actually say her name aloud.

TX-30: Web3 Forward, a new super PAC with ties to the crypto industry, is out with its first TV spot in support of state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, and the group says it will spend $1 million to aid her in the March 1 Democratic primary. (A different crypto-aligned PAC, Protect our Future, has also pledged to deploy $1 million for Crockett.) The opening ad praises Crockett for leading "the fight to stop voter suppression efforts in Texas" and reminds the audience that she's backed by retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

VA-02: In an email to supporters that begins with the line, "I don't know what I'm doing," former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor says he's giving "serious consideration" to yet another comeback bid in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District.

Taylor's tenure in D.C. was short. In 2016, he easily won election over Democrat Shaun Brown following an unusual series of events that began when a federal court threw out much of Virginia's congressional map for illegally diminishing the political power of Black voters. After the court drew new lines, GOP Rep. Scott Rigell announced his retirement, which prompted another Republican congressman, Randy Forbes, to say he'd seek re-election in Rigell's district, since his own had been made unwinnably blue. But Forbes didn't represent any part of the 2nd District, and Taylor, a former Navy SEAL who'd been elected to the state House in 2013, defeated him in the primary 53-41.

Two years later, however, Taylor ran headlong into the blue wave, as shifting demographics in the Virginia Beach area plus a far stronger Democratic opponent in Navy veteran Elaine Luria combined to give him a difficult race. But in the end, Taylor was likely done in by his own hand: His own staffers conspired to put Brown on the ballot as an independent in order to siphon votes from Luria, but they were busted for forging signatures on her petitions. Taylor disavowed all knowledge, but an investigation into the scandal (which resulted in multiple aides getting indicted) consumed his campaign and was the focus of countless Democratic ads.

Luria wound up unseating Taylor 51-49, then beat him again by a wider 52-46 margin in 2020. (In between those two campaigns, Taylor briefly tried his hand at a bid for Senate.) One favorable development for Taylor since then, though, is the fact that the 2nd became a couple of points redder in redistricting: Under the old lines, it voted for Joe Biden by a 51-47 margin, but the new version would have supported Biden by a slightly narrower 50-48 spread.

Taylor, though, would have to contend with a few candidates who are already seeking the Republican nomination, including state Sen. Jen Kiggans and high school football coach Jarome Bell, both of whom are also Navy vets (Virginia Beach is home to a huge Naval air station). Kiggans raised $251,000 in the fourth quarter and had $342,000 on hand, while Bell, who finished third in the primary last cycle, brought in $112,000 but finished with just $121,000 in the bank. Luria swamped them both, however, with a $672,000 haul and a giant $2.3 million cash stockpile.

WV-02: Republican Rep. Alex Mooney's allies at the Club for Growth have released a new internal poll from WPA Intelligence showing him beating fellow Rep. David McKinley by a 43-28 margin in the May 10 primary. That is similar to a January poll from Mooney's own campaign that had him up 45-32, though a McKinley survey from December featured McKinley leading 40-34.