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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Darrell Issa thought he had an easy path to a comeback. A new poll says guess again

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

CA-50: While California Republican Darrell Issa looked like a sure bet to return to the House after he narrowly prevailed in the March top-two primary, a new SurveyUSA poll finds him locked in an unexpectedly close open seat contest with Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar. The poll, which was done for KGTV-TV San Diego and the San Diego Union-Tribune, shows Issa up just 46-45. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the sample finds Joe Biden ahead 48-45 in California's 50th Congressional District, an ancestrally Republican seat in inland San Diego County that backed Donald Trump 55-40 in 2016.

This is the first independent poll we've seen since the top-two six months ago. Last month, Campa-Najjar released numbers from Strategies 360 that found him down 47-43, but his campaign did not mention any presidential results. So far, though, no major outside groups on either side have booked air time here, though that could always change over the next two months.

Campaign Action

Issa infamously decided to run here the cycle after he retired as the congressman from the neighboring and more Democratic 49th District just ahead of the 2018 blue wave, and it's possible that his weak connections to this area are hurting him. SurveyUSA finds Issa with an even 32-32 favorable rating, while Campa-Najjar sports a 37-26 score.

If SurveyUSA is right, though, then there's also been a big shift to the left in this seat over just the last two years. Back in 2018, then-Rep. Duncan Hunter managed to fend off Campa-Najjar 52-48 even though the Republican incumbent was under indictment at the time for misusing campaign money. That was a much better performance than Democrats usually pull off in this area, but the fact that this district still decided to return Hunter to Congress even in a terrible year for Republicans didn't seem to bode well for Campa-Najjar's second campaign, especially after Hunter took a plea deal in late 2019 and resigned.

We'll need to see if more polls find a close race, and we'll also be keeping an eye out to see if major outside groups spend here. However, if this contest is tight, Campa-Najjar will have the resources to run a serious campaign. The Democrat ended June with a $890,000 to $516,000 cash-on-hand, though Issa is more than capable of self-funding if he needs to.

Senate

AK-Sen: A newly formed PAC called Independent Alaska has launched an ad campaign supporting Al Gross, an independent who won the Democratic nomination last month. The commercial touts Gross' time as a fisherman and a doctor and informs the audience, "Dr. Al's father was Alaska's AG [attorney general], and his neighbor and fishing partner growing up was Republican Gov. Jay Hammond." The narrator concludes, "We're in a pandemic. It's time to send a doctor to D.C." There is no word on the size of the buy.

GA-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Doug Collins is running his first ad on broadcast TV, and he begins by saying of the appointed GOP incumbent, "Kelly Loeffler spent $30 million on slick ads telling lies—now it's my turn to tell the truth."

Collins continues, "I'm not a billionaire. I'm a state trooper's kid, a husband, a father, an Air Force chaplain and Iraq War veteran." He adds, "I'm President Trump's top defender against the sham impeachment, and yes, his preferred pick for the Senate." Trump reportedly did very much want Collins to be appointed to this seat, but he hasn't taken sides in the Nov. 3 all-party primary between the congressman and Loeffler.

On the Democratic side, pastor Raphael Warnock, who would be the state's first Black senator, is using his newest commercial to talk about his experiences with systemic racism. The narrator begins, "1982. A 12-year-old is accused of stealing and dragged out a store, told he looks suspicious because his hands are in his pockets." The audience then sees it's the candidate speaking as he continues, "I'm Raphael Warnock and that boy was me."

Warnock goes on, "Back then I didn't understand how much the system works against those without power and money, that the rules were different for some of us. Too often that's still true today, especially in Washington." Warnock ends by saying that it's time for this to change.

MI-Sen: The Glengariff Group's new poll for WDIV and the Detroit News finds Democratic Sen. Gary Peters leading Republican John James 44-41, while Joe Biden is ahead 47-42. Glengariff's last poll was all the way back in January, and it showed Peters up by a similar 44-40 spread.

MN-Sen: Citizens United (yes, the Citizens United) has launched what the National Journal's Dylan Wells reports is a six-figure buy supporting Republican Jason Lewis. The commercial, like Lewis' own ads, promotes Lewis as a supporter of the police and an opponent of violent mobs; both Lewis and Citizens United's spots also ignore racism and police brutality.

NC-Sen: Democrat Cal Cunningham has the first commercial we've seen anywhere focusing on allegations that the Russian government put out a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan. Cunningham says that his fellow veterans are the first ones to answer the call and continues, "So when [Republican Sen.] Thom Tillis fails to act while the Russians pay bounties for dead Americans, something is deeply wrong in Washington."

TX-Sen: Democrat MJ Hegar is airing her first TV ad of the general election as part of what her campaign says is a $1.5 million buy in six media markets that are home to 80% of the state's voters. As faint sounds of explosions are heard, the candidate tells the audience, "It was my third tour in Afghanistan. I was flying a medevac mission when I was shot through the windshield and we went down."

The camera gradually pans out to reveal a smoking helicopter in the canyon behind Hegar as she continues, "So I strapped myself to the skids of the helicopter that rescued us and returned fire on the Taliban as we flew to safety. For that I was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor." The candidate goes on, "I'm MJ Hegar, and we fought like hell to get everyone home safe that day. And I approved this message because my mission isn't over while Texas families are still in danger."

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: Democrat Ben Salango is airing his first TV spot since he won the primary three months ago. As old photos from his childhood fill the screen, the candidate says, "I grew up in a two-bedroom trailer in Raleigh County. It was a big deal when we got our first washer and dryer."

Salango then goes after Republican Gov. Jim Justice, declaring, "My family worked hard to build a business and even harder to pay the bills. Jim Justice is a billionaire who's been sued over 600 times for not paying his bills. And who made a secret deal with the government he controls to give himself tax breaks." Salango concludes, "I mean c'mon. I'll never betray West Virginia like that. I was raised better."

House

CA-25: Democrat Christy Smith is running her first commercial since her defeat in the May special election. Smith talks about how her mother survived domestic violence and "rebuilt our lives" with a nursing degree from the local community college. The candidate says she went on to work three jobs to pay for her education at that same institution and went on to found an education nonprofit.

CA-48: In its opening TV spot for this race, the DCCC declares that Republican Michelle Steel's allies were at the center of a major corruption scandal, but she "voted to defund the anti-corruption unit in Orange County."

The ad is also running in Vietnamese, which makes this one of the very rare examples of an American political commercial that's aired on TV all or mostly in a language other than English or Spanish. Back in 2018, Democrat John Chiang ran a spot entirely in Mandarin in his unsuccessful bid for governor of California, while Republican Ed Gillespie added Korean subtitles to a commercial during his 2017 primary for governor of Virginia.

There have been a few instances of American political ads airing on the radio in a language other than English or Spanish (and obviously, without subtitles.) In 2016, Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick recorded some ads in Navajo, which she speaks, for her unsuccessful Senate bid. That same year, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman's campaign did a Ukrainian radio ad for his re-election campaign.

IA-01: Back in July, Republican Ashley Hinson blamed her campaign staff after the New York Times reported that several op-eds credited to her, as well as material on her campaign site, were full of passages plagiarized from other sources, and the DCCC is using its first TV spot to go after Hinson over this.

The narrator begins, "In tough times, we need leaders we can trust. But Ashley Hinson was caught plagiarizing—word for word—from the Des Moines Register, the New York Times, even her opponent's own policy positions." He then focuses on Hinson's record, declaring, "And Hinson took thousands from the nursing home industry. When the Coronavirus struck—Hinson voted to protect them with special legal immunity. Instead of protecting seniors and workers."

OH-01: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Normington Petts that shows Democrat Kate Schroder leading Republican Rep. Steve Chabot 50-46, while Joe Biden has a tiny 48-47 edge in this Cincinnati-based seat. We've seen a few other polls this year from Schroder and her allies that have found a tight race, while Republicans have yet to drop their own numbers.

HMP is also running a commercial that targets Chabot over the truly strange scandal that engulfed Chabot's campaign last year, a story that Schroder has also focused on in her ads. The spot begins by reminding viewers that Chabot became a member of Congress in 1995 when "[b]aseball was on strike" and "Toy Story debuted. The first one." The narrator continues, "But now, a confirmed FBI investigation into $123,000 missing from Chabot's campaign. And Chabot's campaign paid his son-in-law's company nearly $200,000." The narrator concludes, "Twenty-four years in Congress has taken its toll on Steve Chabot."

PA-01: Democrat Christina Finello's first general election ad focuses on her own struggles with college loans and healthcare. She says that, while she "understands the struggles of the middle class," Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick "votes with Trump. Giving tax cuts to the rich and ending protections for people with pre-existing conditions."

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, uses his own ad to tout his endorsements from groups that usually pull for Democrats like the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters, and Everytown for Gun Safety, as well as the local police and firefighter unions. The congressman's mom also makes it clear she's backing Fitzpatrick.

SC-02: EMILY's List has endorsed Adair Ford Boroughs' campaign against Republican Rep. Joe Wilson.

TX-21: While freshman Republican Rep. Chip Roy has shown absolutely no desire to actually vote or behave like anything other than the far-right Freedom Caucus member that he is, the former Ted Cruz chief of staff is using his opening ad to portray himself as a bipartisan figure. Roy declares he'll "hold my party accountable if they're wrong, and work across party lines when it's right for Texas."

TX-23: Republican Tony Gonzales uses his first general election commercial to talk about how he went from growing up in an abusive home where he was abandoned by his father to the Navy.

Meanwhile, VoteVets has launched a $533,000 ad campaign against Gonzales. The ad stars an injured veteran who tells the audience that Gonzales "supports taking away health coverage from half a million veterans."

UT-04: The Congressional Leadership Fund is running a very rare positive TV commercial promoting Republican Burgess Owens, whom House Majority PAC recently began attacking.

CLF promotes Owens as a "pro-football star, political outsider, conservative, successful businessman, and mentor to troubled kids." As the ad shows footage of a football game, the narrator declares Owens will "heal our nation, tackling a virus and protecting the vulnerable." Those feel good themes are not, shall we say, the type of things that CLF likes to fill its ads with.

VA-02: This week, a third staffer from Republican Scott Taylor's 2018 campaign was indicted for allegedly submitting fraudulent signatures in order to get a former Democrat on the ballot as an independent that year. Special prosecutor John Beamer predicted that he would seek at least one additional indictment, and he said of Taylor, "He's part of the campaign and the whole campaign is under investigation."

Taylor is seeking a comeback against freshman Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who narrowly unseated him in 2018. Last month, Taylor sent a cease-and-desist letter to Luria demanding that she stop making statements claiming that he is under investigation for ballot access fraud only for Beamer to publicly contradict him. Luria soon began running commercials focused on the ongoing scandal.

VA-05: Democrat Cameron Webb is up with two commercials that decry the "lies and dirty tricks" being waged by Republican Bob Good, who recently ran a truly racist spot against Webb.

In Webb's first ad, the narrator declares that the candidate "is not for defunding the police," and adds that "a senior Trump official is praising Webb." The commercial highlights the law enforcement officials backing Webb before the candidate himself appears and talks about his work in the Obama and Trump administrations and support for "free market solutions to bring healthcare costs down."

The second Webb spot stars several former sheriffs as well as Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Hingeley, who praise Webb and implore the audience not to let "Bob Good scare you from electing a good man."

Ballot Measures

CA Ballot: Probolsky Research has released the first poll we've seen of Prop. 15, the so-called "split roll" initiative that would scale back a significant part of the law passed by anti-tax crusaders in 1978, and finds it down 49-41. Probolsky has worked for Republicans in the past, but it says this survey was not done for a client.

The poll was taken just before the pro-Prop. 15 group Schools & Communities First launched its opening TV commercials. One ad declares that wealthy corporate tycoons "think they're entitled to tax handouts. Prop. 15 closes the loopholes." The narrator continues, "The richest 10% of corporate properties provide 92% of the revenue, while homeowners, renters, and small businesses are protected." The second spot argues, "Prop. 15 would raise billions of dollars that our communities and schools need" and would make "wealthy large corporations pay their fair share, while small businesses get a tax break."

As David Jarman has written, Prop. 15 would dramatically alter California's property tax landscape and lead to a massive increase in tax revenue by repealing a portion of 1978's Prop. 13. That measure limits the annual property tax on a particular property to no more than 1% of its assessed value and, most importantly, limits the increase in a property's assessed value to no more than 2% per year—even if its actual market value has soared. This has resulted in municipalities and school districts taking in revenues far smaller than they ought to be.

However, voters finally have their chance this fall to modify the system Prop. 13 set up decades ago. This year's Prop. 15 would essentially split the "roll" of properties every municipality maintains by requiring commercial and industrial properties to be reassessed at actual market value while keeping residential and agricultural properties under Prop. 13's rules.

Mayoral

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: On behalf of the Miami Herald, the Democratic pollster Bendixen & Amandi International is out with a survey that finds Democrat Daniella Levine Cava leading Republican Steve Bovo 39-32 in this November's officially nonpartisan contest. This sample also found Joe Biden ahead 55-38 in a county that supported Hillary Clinton 63-34.

Primary Result Recaps

NH-Sen: Corky Messner, a wealthy attorney endorsed by Donald Trump, beat retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc 51-42 in the Republican primary. Bolduc responded to his defeat by declaring that he wouldn't back Messner in the general election against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. "I will not support a man who is being investigated for fraud by the attorney general," Bolduc said, "No. I will not support him. I will not disgrace my name to support a man like that."

Last month, Mary Mullarkey, a former chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, asked that state's attorney general and secretary of state to investigate the charitable foundation run by Messner, who lived in Colorado until last year. Mullarkey's request came after the Washington Post reported that the Messner Foundation, whose stated purpose is to provide college scholarships to low-income students, had only awarded a grant to one student in its first 10 years of existence. However, despite what Bolduc said, there are no reports that a legal investigation is underway.

No matter what happens with this story, Messner will be in for a difficult race against Shaheen, a longtime figure in New Hampshire politics. A recent poll from the University of New Hampshire found Shaheen beating Messner 54-36, and no major groups have booked ad time here. Messner's ability to self-fund could still give him an opening if Donald Trump performs well in this swing state, though, so Daily Kos Elections is keeping it on the big board at Likely Democratic.

NH-Gov: State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes won the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Chris Sununu by defeating Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky 52-48. On the GOP side, Nobody lost.  

Sununu has polled well during his tenure, and a recent survey from the University of New Hampshire found him beating Feltes 57-33. However, Sununu's allies at the RGA don't seem to think the governor is a lock in this swing state, since they reserved $3.6 million in television time for the general election earlier this year. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

NH-01: Former Trump aide Matt Mowers, who had his old boss' endorsement in the Republican primary, beat former state party vice chair Matt Mayberry 60-26. Mowers will face freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in the fall.

The 1st District, which includes eastern New Hampshire, has been very competitive turf for a long time, and both Barack Obama and Donald Trump only narrowly won it. Pappas, however, prevailed 54-45 during the 2018 blue wave, and he holds a huge financial edge over Mowers with less than two months to go before voting concludes. A recent poll from the University of New Hampshire also showed Pappas up 52-34, though we haven't seen any other numbers here.

Still, Team Blue isn't leaving anything to chance in this swing seat, and House Majority PAC has reserved $2 million for this race; Republicans have not yet booked any air time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

NH State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Former Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes lost Tuesday's Democratic primary for New Hampshire's 15th State Senate District to Becky Whitley, a disability rights attorney, 41-33. This seat backed Hillary Clinton 58-37, and Whitley will be the clear favorite to succeed state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, who is the Democratic nominee for governor.

Ad Roundup

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

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

Leading Off

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

4Q Fundraising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayoral

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

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

Grab Bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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