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.
● 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.
● 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.
● 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.
● 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.
● 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.
● 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%.
- 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.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.
- AZ-Sen: One Nation - anti-Mark Kelly (D-inc)
- GA-Sen: One Nation - anti-Raphael Warnock (D-inc)
- NC-Sen: NRSC - anti-Cheri Beasley (D) (part of $1.7 million buy)
- WI-Sen: Sarah Godlewski (D)
- WI-Sen: One Nation - pro-Ron Johnson (R-inc)
- IL-Gov: Darren Bailey (R)
- IL-Gov: DGA - anti-Richard Irvin (R)
- MI-Gov: Put Michigan First - anti-entire GOP field
- NM-Gov: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-inc) - positive and anti-Mark Ronchetti (R)
- NY-Gov, NY-LG: Kathy Hochul (D-inc) and Antonio Delgado (D-inc) joint ad
- WI-Gov: Tony Evers (D-inc)
- CO-05: Dave Williams (R) - anti-Doug Lamborn (R-inc) ($30,000 buy)
- IA-03: Cindy Axne (D-inc) - anti-Zach Nunn (R)
- IL-13: Protect Our Future PAC - pro-Nikki Budzinski (D) ($263,000 buy)
- IL-17: Jonathan Logemann (D)
- MI-11: Andy Levin (D-inc) ($92,000 buy)
- NY-24: Claudia Tenney (R-inc)