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: Coronavirus leaves Virginia GOP unsure how to hold House nominating conventions

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.

Public Service Announcement: If you haven't yet filled out the 2020 census, please do so by clicking here to do it online, by mail, or by phone. This way, census workers won't have to come to your door. The Census Bureau advises completing the census now even if you haven't received your 12-digit census ID by mail.

Leading Off

VA-05, VA-07: Republicans in Virginia’s 5th and 7th Congressional Districts had planned to pick their nominees at April 25 party conventions, rather than in June's primary, but Republicans leaders are still deciding how to proceed in light of the coronavirus.

All of this uncertainty is causing plenty of angst in the 5th District, where freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faces a challenge from the right from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good. Riggleman even speculated to Roll Call that, if the process gets out of hand, Team Red won’t even have a nominee in this 53-42 Trump seat. National Republicans will also be keeping a close eye on the 7th District, where plenty of candidates are competing for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Campaign Action

For now, the only things that anyone knows are that the April 25 conventions won’t be happening as planned, but that Republican voters in these two seats still won’t be selecting their candidates through a primary. The 5th District GOP recently posted a memo saying that it's not permissible at this point to switch from nominating candidates at a convention to the state-run primary, which is on June 9.

Ben Slone, who runs the 7th District GOP, told Roll Call’s Stephanie Akin that his group would discuss what to do on Thursday. All he would say about alternatives to the convention, though, was, “We have a set of contingency plans that will be invoked depending on guidance and government health dictates.”

Melvin Adams, who runs the 5th District GOP committee, also told Akin that they would be talking next week about moving the convention date, and he was more forthcoming with his plans. Adams said that he’d hoped to move the event to June 6, which is the weekend before the statewide primary.

However, Riggleman and his supporters say that Adams has been promoting another option if it’s still not safe to hold a convention by then, and it’s not one they like at all. Riggleman said the 5th District Republican Committee, which has fewer than 40 members, could end up picking the party’s nominee, and Adams didn’t deny that this was a possibility. Indeed, this is how Riggleman got chosen as Team Red’s candidate two years ago after Rep. Tom Garrett ended his campaign after winning renomination. That was a very different set of circumstances, though, and an unnamed Riggleman ally on the committee said that, if this ends up happening this year, “I think it would be unfair. It’s a very undemocratic process.”

There’s another huge potential drawback to using this method. Riggleman said that party rules require a candidate to earn the support of at least two-thirds of the district committee, which raises the possibility that no one could end up with the GOP nod. And even if someone claims a supermajority, the congressman argued, it’s possible that the state Republican Party won’t recognize this person as the rightful nominee. Indeed, an unnamed former state party official told Roll Call that the committee only picked the candidate last cycle because their nominee had dropped out, and that “[c]hanging to a process where Republican voters don’t have a voice would be against the party plan and potentially against state law.”

Riggleman himself sounds quite unhappy with this whole state of affairs, saying that he wanted a primary instead of “a convoluted convention process that is collapsing under the weight of this crisis.” Riggleman already had reasons to be wary about party leaders, rather than voters, choosing the nominee here. The congressman infuriated plenty of social conservatives at home in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers. This quickly resulted in a homophobic backlash against him, and local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions. It also didn’t escape notice that the convention was supposed to be held at Good’s church.

Riggleman’s path to a second term could be even more perilous if the 5th District Committee ends up choosing the nominee, especially since its chairman sounds very frustrated with him. “I know the congressman and some of his staff and other people have been putting out false information, or at least implying this committee is trying to rig things,” Adams said. “This committee is not trying to rig things.”

Democrats, by contrast, opted to hold a traditional primary in June, and so Team Blue doesn’t have anything like the mess that’s haunting the 5th District GOP. Democrats have several notable contenders running here, and while it will still be tough to flip a seat that Trump won by double digits, GOP infighting could give the eventual nominee more of an opening.

Election Changes

Alaska: Alaska's Republican-run state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would allow Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer to order that the state's Aug. 18 downballot primaries be conducted entirely by mail. (The lieutenant governor is Alaska's chief election official.) However, Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to require that the state provide dropboxes where voters can return their ballots, an option that is very popular in states that have adopted universal voting by mail, in part because it obviates the need for a postage stamp and avoids the risk of delayed mail return service.

The bill now goes to the state House, which is controlled by a Democratic-led coalition that includes Republicans and independents. The Alaska Daily News says that Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is "expected" to sign the measure "speedily" if both chambers pass it.

Indiana: Indiana's bipartisan Election Commission has unanimously waived the state's requirement that voters who wish to vote absentee in June's presidential and downballot primaries provide an excuse in order to do so.

Nebraska: Election officials in Nebraska say there are no plans to delay the state's May 12 presidential and downballot primaries, but at least half a dozen counties—including the three largest—will send absentee ballot applications to all voters, while a number of other small counties had previously moved to all-mail elections prior to the coronavirus outbreak. In all, more than half the state will either receive absentee applications or mail-in ballots, including all voters in the state's 2nd Congressional District, a competitive district that features a multi-way Democratic primary.

Nevada: Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and local election officials from all 17 Nevada counties have announced plans to conduct the state's June 9 downballot primaries almost entirely by mail. Every active registered voter will be sent a postage-paid absentee ballot that they can return by mail or at an in-person polling site, of which each county will have at least one. Importantly, these voters will not have to request an a ballot. At least one in-person polling place will also be available in each county.

Ballots must be postmarked or turned in by Election Day, though they will still count as long as they are received up to seven days later. Officials will also contact any voter whose ballot has an issue (such as a missing signature), and voters will have until the seventh day after the election to correct any problems. Cegavske's press release wisely cautions that, under this system, final election results will not be known until well after election night, though this is a point that officials across the country will have to emphasize loudly and repeatedly as mail voting becomes more widespread.

One potential issue with Cegavske's plan, though, is that registered voters who are listed as "inactive" on the voter rolls will not be sent ballots. However, as voting expert Michael McDonald notes, these voters are still eligible to vote, and every election, many do. While they can still request absentee ballots on their own, they now face an obstacle that active voters will not. Approximately 14% of Nevada's 1.8 million registered voters are on inactive status.

Ohio: Lawmakers in Ohio's Republican-run legislature unanimously passed a bill extending the time to vote by mail in the state's presidential and downballot primaries until April 28, and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has said he will sign it "soon." There would be limited in-person voting only for people with disabilities or special needs, and voters would also be able to drop off absentee ballots in person on that day, but ballots would have to be mailed by April 27 and be received by May 8 in order to count. However, voting rights groups have expressed serious reservations about the plan and say they may sue.

Under the bill, the state would send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in—they cannot be submitted online. They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots (though these at least would come with a postage-paid envelope).

Voting rights advocate Mike Brickner notes that there is very little time left to carry out this multi-step process, particularly because each piece of mail would be in transit for several days. In addition, printing all of these materials, including the postcards that are designed to kick off this effort, will take considerable time, especially since government offices, the postal service, and print shops "may not be operating optimally," as Brickner observes.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania's Republican-run legislature has unanimously passed a bill to move the state's presidential and downballot primaries from April 28 to June 2. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will sign the measure.

Wisconsin: The city of Green Bay has filed a lawsuit asking that a federal judge order Wisconsin officials to delay the state's April 7 elections until June 2 and to extend its voter registration deadline to May 1. (The deadline for registering by mail has already passed, but voters can still register online through March 30 thanks to an earlier order by a different judge.) Green Bay has also asked that it be allowed to cancel in-person voting and mail ballots to all registered voters.

Senate

MI-Sen: The GOP firm Marketing Resource Group is out with a new survey giving Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 42-35 lead over Republican John James, which is an improvement from the incumbent's 43-40 edge in October. The only other poll we've seen this month was an early March survey from the GOP firms 0ptimus and Firehouse Strategies that gave James a 41-40 advantage.

ME-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward has announced that it's launched a new six-figure ad campaign supporting state House Speaker Sara Gideon. The spot praises Gideon's work securing millions for coronavirus testing, as well as workers and small businesses.

SC-Sen: Democrat Jaime Harrison is out with a poll from Brilliant Corners that shows GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham leading him by a small 47-43 margin. The only other survey we've seen in the last few weeks was a late February Marist poll that showed Graham up 54-37.

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: The GOP firm Medium Buying reports that GOP Gov. Jim Justice launched his first ad of 2020 last week, and we now have a copy of his commercial. The ad begins with a clip of Donald Trump at a rally saying, "My good friend, and your governor, Jim Justice," before the narrator jumps in and praises the incumbent as a conservative Trump ally.

Former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, by contrast, has been running commercials since June of last year, and he's out with another one ahead of the May GOP primary. Thrasher tells the audience that the coronavirus is creating hardships for West Virginia, and that the state "needs to be proactive in terms of its reaction to this crisis, not reactive the way we have been so many other times." Thrasher then lays out his plan for helping the state economically during the pandemic.

Thrasher doesn't mention, much less directly criticize, Justice's handling of the situation, but he still argues that the state isn't doing enough. "Our president is being very proactive in terms of dealing with those issues," Thrasher says, "We need to follow suit and be proactive as well." He concludes, "It's time for the state of West Virginia to get something done."

House

IN-05: In an unusual move, retiring Rep. Susan Brooks' office publicly told businesswoman Beth Henderson to stop saying that Brooks had recruited her or even given her any special encouragement to run at all. "Susan talked with all Republican candidates who called her and expressed an interest in running in the 5th District to share her insights about representing this district," a Brooks aide said. "Some candidates did not call her." Brooks has not taken sides in the crowded June GOP primary to succeed her.

However, Henderson made it sound like the congresswoman was pulling for her back in February when she declared, "Susan Brooks encouraged me to run." The candidate put out a statement this week insisting that she and Brooks "have had a couple conversations regarding the Fifth district. She has been encouraging throughout my campaign, as I imagine she has been with other candidates as well."

The Indianapolis Star also obtained a voicemail from an unidentified person raising money for the Henderson campaign who said, "Susan actually recruited Beth to run for her, and we are working hard to raise funds to ensure that that happened." Henderson's team acknowledged that this person was affiliated with the campaign but insisted that none of that was included in the script that caller was given.

MI-13: Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones announced Wednesday that she would seek a primary rematch against Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the most high-profile members of the House freshman class. Jones, who briefly held this seat for a few weeks in the lame-duck session of the last Congress (more on that later), kicked off her campaign with a video declaring that she was “running for re-election” to this safely blue seat.

While Jones didn’t mention Tlaib in that message, she argued in a new interview with the Detroit News that her opponent has “spent a lot of her energy in places other than the 13th District.” Jones said that, unlike the congresswoman, “I will be totally focused on the 13th District, being the third-poorest district in the United States.”

Jones and Tlaib have a lot of history. Thanks to some very unusual circumstances, they even faced off three separate times in 2018. That August, Michigan held two different Democratic primaries on the same day for this seat: one for a special election for the final months of former Rep. John Conyers' term, and one for the regular two-year term. Jones had the support of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and some unions, but she had trouble raising money. Tlaib, by contrast, didn’t have as many prominent local endorsements, but she decisively outraised each of her many opponents.

Tlaib narrowly beat Jones 31-30 in the six-way primary for the full term. However, there were only four candidates on the ballot in the special election primary, and in that race, it was Jones who edged Tlaib 38-36.

The two candidates who were only on the ballot for the regular term, state Sen. Coleman Young II and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson, took a combined 18% of the vote, so their absence in the special primary likely had an impact. Jones, Young, and Jackson, along with more than half the district's residents, are black, while Tlaib is of Palestinian descent (only 4% of residents identify as Arab American). It's therefore probable that the presence of two additional African American candidates in the regular primary but not in the special primary made the difference between the two close outcomes.

Jones, however, didn't relish the idea of serving just a few weeks in the House and wound up launching a last-minute write-in campaign against Tlaib for the general election. It was a misguided move, though, as she took just 0.32% of the vote. Jones and then-Speaker Paul Ryan ended up working out an apparently unprecedented agreement that allowed Jones to serve a few weeks in the House without resigning as head of the Detroit City Council, letting her take a hiatus from that post until Tlaib was sworn in in January of 2019.

Tlaib immediately earned national attention on her first day in office when she said of Donald Trump, "[W]e're going to impeach the motherfucker," and she’s been in the headlines plenty since then. Most notably, Trump targeted Tlaib and the three other women of color who make up “The Squad” with a racist tweet in July. Thanks to her celebrity, Tlaib has done well in raising money from progressives across the country, ending last year with a hefty $1.2 million on-hand.

Tlaib, who has been a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate, has her share of intra-party critics and recently inflamed some of them when she booed Hillary Clinton at a Sanders campaign event in January in Iowa. Jones, however, has her own issues, particularly as a longtime supporter of Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic head of the Nation of Islam, even sharing the stage with him at a 2017 event in Detroit.

If Jones has any reservations about Farrakhan—whose lowlight reel includes gems like, “The Jewish media has normalized sexual degeneracy, profanity, and all kinds of sin,” and, “In Washington right next to the Holocaust Museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?"—she hasn't put them on display. Rather, just last month, her chief of staff said that Jones was sponsoring a resolution commending Farrakhan’s newspaper, which ran a piece Farrakhan wrote in 2016 saying that the Sept. 11 attacks were “a false flag operation,” for its “truthful articles.” For his part, Farrakhan himself singled Jones out for praise in a speech in Detroit two years ago.

TN-01: State Rep. Timothy Hill announced on Tuesday that he was joining the August GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Hill has served in the state legislature for four terms, and he's risen to become chair of the Commerce Committee.