Morning Digest: Trump’s candidates faceplant again in Georgia’s House runoffs

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

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Leading Off

GA-02, GA-06, GA-10: Georgia held its primary runoffs on Tuesday, and all three of the House candidates endorsed by Donald Trump―including one he backed at almost the last moment―went down in defeat. The bad results for Trump’s contenders came a month after his Big Lie slate of statewide candidates unsuccessfully tried to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Attorney General Chris Carr on May 24 (Georgia requires runoffs in any primaries where no one earned a majority of the vote).

In southwestern Georgia’s 2nd District, Air Force veteran Chris West edged out Army veteran Jeremy Hunt, the recipient of that belated Trump endorsement, 51-49 on Tuesday for the right to take on 15-term Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop. Meanwhile in the 6th District, physician Rich McCormick triumphed 67-33 against former state Ethics Commission Chair Jake Evans in a newly-gerrymandered seat in the Atlanta suburbs. Finally in the open 10th District in the northeastern part of the state, trucking company owner Mike Collins walloped former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a prominent, conservative Democrat-turned-Republican, 74-26 in another safely red constituency.

We’ll start in the 2nd District, where Republicans are hoping that, despite Joe Biden’s 55-44 win here in 2020, Bishop might be vulnerable against the right opponent. Hunt seemed to have a good chance to be that opponent after leading West 37-30 in the first round of voting on May 24. Hunt, who was the subject of a detailed Washington Post profile a day ahead of Election Day titled, “A Black Republican tries to bring in Black voters to the GOP,” also benefited from numerous Fox News appearances as well as outside spending from a super PAC funded by conservative megadonor Ken Griffin.

However, while Hunt largely avoided bringing up Trump on the campaign trail, Trump waded in over the weekend in a truly odd way. The MAGA master used an address at the national Faith & Freedom conference to give a shoutout to Bishop Garland Hunt, who backed him in 2020, by saying, “Bishop Hunt, I know your son, I just endorsed your son and he won big…what a great son.”

That statement left observers scratching their heads both because Trump had made no such endorsement of his son, Jeremy Hunt, and the runoff had not even taken place yet. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that Trump had endorsed Texas’ Wesley Hunt, who did win his GOP primary in March; the two candidates do not appear to be related.) However, Jeremy Hunt’s campaign seized on those confusing words by broadcasting them in a text message, though even his team seemed a little confused by what was happening. “We were just going based on what the President said, speaking about Jeremy’s father, and then we took it as referring to our big win, coming in first place in the primary,” Hunt’s campaign manager said.

West, though, worked hard to portray his opponent as an outsider by attacking his weak ties to southwestern Georgia, saying at one debate that Republicans needed a nominee “who is going to go up and represent middle and southwest Georgia, not someone who has just moved here three months ago, who has been bought and paid for by Washington, D.C., special interests.” West also earned an endorsement from businessman Wayne Johnson, who finished third in the first round with 19% and went on to launch a lawsuit against Fox News for supposedly giving Hunt (whom he’s also suing) an unfair amount of positive coverage.

Trump, meanwhile, went all-in for Evans and Jones well before the May 24 primaries only to see them each wind up in second place: McCormick outpaced Evans last month 43-23 in the 6th, while Collins edged out Jones 26-22. McCormick, who narrowly lost last cycle’s race in the prior version of the 7th District to Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, likely benefited from name recognition from that campaign; Evans, by contrast, had plenty of connections through his father, former Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans, but he wasn’t such a familiar name to voters. It didn’t help that a Club for Growth affiliate spent heavily in the runoff on messaging using Evans’ old writings to portray him as “woke.”

Finally in the 10th, Collins, who picked up an endorsement from Kemp days ahead of Election Day, also had plenty to attack Jones with. While Collins’ late father, Mac Collins, used to serve this area in Congress, Jones never represented any part of this district either in the legislature or as the chief executive of DeKalb County. (The younger Collins also unsuccessfully ran here in 2014 only to lose the runoff to Jody Hice, who gave up this seat to wage a failed bid against Raffensperger.)

Jones earned Trump's support after he ended his long-shot campaign for governor to run here instead, but that hardly stopped Collins from portraying his Black opponent as an outsider and “radically anti-white racist.” Things intensified in the final days when Collins sent out a tweet that featured a picture of a rape whistle emblazoned with the web address for an anti-Jones site, an item that references an accusation of rape leveled against Jones in 2004​ (he was never charged), alongside an image of a gun.

However, while McCormick and Collins each turned back Trump’s candidates, both of them still ran as ardent Trump allies themselves: Collins notably launched his campaign with a video where he drove a truck labeled “Trump Agenda” that sported a Trump bobblehead on the dashboard. The results, while embarrassing for Trump, are another reminder what, while the GOP leader may lose some battles to nominate his favored candidates, Trumpism remains alive and well in the GOP.

election recaps

 Primary Night: We had another busy primary night on Tuesday outside of those three Georgia contests, and below is a summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in the big contests.

  • AL-Sen (R): Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt defeated Rep. Mo Brooks 63-37 in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, who ardently supported her, in this safely red state. Trump himself endorsed Britt ahead of Election Day two months after he abandoned Brooks’ flailing campaign.
  • AL-05 (R): Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong outpaced former Department of Defense official Casey Wardynski 63-37 to claim the GOP nod to succeed Brooks in this heavily Republican constituency in northern Alabama. Wardynski’s allies at the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus ran ads portraying Strong as a politician who "caved to the woke liberals" and "shunned President Trump," but it was far from enough.
  • VA-02 (R): State Sen. Jen Kiggans, who was the candidate of the GOP establishment, scored a 56-27 victory over Big Lie fanatic Jarome Bell despite a late ad campaign from Democrats designed to help Bell capture the Republican nod. Kiggans will go up against Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in a Virginia Beach-based seat where, under the new court-drawn map, Joe Biden’s margin of victory was halved from 51-47 to just 50-48.
  • VA-07 (R): Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, who was backed by the House Freedom Caucus, beat Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson 29-24 in the six-way GOP primary. Vega will now face Democratic Rep. ​​Abigail Spanberger in a constituency that dramatically transformed under the new map from a district anchored in the Richmond suburbs seat to one largely based in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County; Biden would have won the new seat 52-46, compared to just 50-49 under the old lines.
  • GA-SoS (D): State Rep. Bee Nguyen defeated former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler 77-23 for the right to go up against Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
  • Washington, D.C. Mayor (D): Mayor Muriel Bowser won renomination by turning back Councilmember Robert White 50-39, a win that all but guarantees her a third term in this dark blue city.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Louisiana's Republican-run legislature has failed to meet a court-ordered June 20 deadline to draw a new congressional map, meaning a federal judge will now be responsible for crafting her own map that would allow Black voters to elect their preferred candidates in a second district. However, Republicans have asked the Supreme Court to block a recent ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed the case to proceed. Earlier this year, the justices barred a similar decision in Alabama from taking effect.

Senate

AK-Sen: Alaskans for L.I.S.A.—oh, you thought that was just "Lisa," as in Murkowski? nope, it stands for the almost recursive, very nearly tautological "Leadership In a Strong Alaska," and yes, it includes those periodsis spending $2 million to air ads boosting … you'll never believe it … Lisa Murkowski. The super PAC's spot, which is the first outside TV advertising of the race, touts the Republican senator's local roots and her advocacy on behalf of the state. There's no word yet as to whether the Man from U.N.C.L.E. plans to get involved.

FL-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Florida's Aug. 23 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's only serious opponent is Democratic Rep. Val Demings, whose one notable intra-party foe, former Rep. Alan Grayson, announced last month that he'd instead run to succeed her in the House. Demings has been a very strong fundraiser, but she faces a difficult campaign in a longtime swing state that has been trending right in recent years. Major outside groups have also so far avoided reserving ad time on either side in this extremely expensive state.

The most recent survey we've seen was a late May internal for the congresswoman's allies at Giffords PAC, and it gave Rubio a 47-41 edge.

UT-Sen: A new WPA Intelligence poll for Republican Sen. Mike Lee finds him leading conservative independent challenger Evan McMullin by a 52-33 margin, a very different result from a recent independent survey from Dan Jones & Associates that gave Lee just a 41-37 edge. Earlier this year, Utah Democrats declined to put forward their own nominee and instead gave their backing to McMullin in the hopes that an alliance between Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans would give both factions the best chance to boot Lee, a notorious Trump sycophant.

SMP: The Senate Majority PAC and its affiliated nonprofit, Majority Forward, have booked $38 million in airtime to run ads this summer in six key battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire, where Democrats are on defense, as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the party's two best shots to pick up seats. The PAC previously reserved $106 million for the fall, though this is the first time its target list has included New Hampshire, where it now has $4 million in spending planned.

Governors

FL-Gov: St. Pete Polls, working on behalf of Florida Politics, shows Rep. Charlie Crist beating his one serious intra-party foe, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, 49-24 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP incumbent Ron DeSantis. Fried herself recently publicized an internal that founds things far closer, but she still trailed Crist 38-34.

The ultimate winner will be in for an uphill battle against DeSantis. We haven't seen any reliable polling here in months, but the governor and his PAC ended May with a gigantic $112 million at their disposal. Crist, who was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican and narrowly lost the 2014 general election following his party switch, by contrast led Fried $6.3 million to $3.9 million.

NM-Gov: Two new polls of November's race for governor in New Mexico both show a close contest. A survey from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, taken on behalf of the independent news site New Mexico Political Report, finds Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham leading Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti 45-42, with Libertarian Karen Bedonie taking 9% of the vote, while a Ronchetti internal from Public Opinion Strategies has him edging out the incumbent 46-45.

Ronchetti's poll doesn't appear to have included Bedonie, whose share of the vote is unusually high for a third-party candidate but not quite out of the realm of possibility: Former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson took 9% in New Mexico's presidential race in 2016 while running as a Libertarian, then followed that up two years later with a 15% showing in a bid for Senate. Bedonie of course lacks the name recognition of Johnson, and her ultimate Election Day performance is likely to be in the low rather than high single digits, but Democrats will be pleased so long as she draws votes away from Ronchetti.

House

AK-AL: In a surprise development, independent Al Gross announced Monday that he was dropping out of both the special election and regular contest for a two-year term for Alaska's lone House seat, a decision that came a little more than a week after he earned a spot in the Aug. 16 instant runoff special by finishing third with 13% of the vote. But Gross' hopes that his spot might be filled by another candidate were quickly dashed by election officials.

Gross, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee for Senate, urged his supporters to back either former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola or Republican Tara Sweeney, a former state Interior Department official who is in fifth place with most ballots counted in the June 11 top-four primary. Gross did not indicate a preference between the two or even mention either by name, saying only that there are "two outstanding Alaska Native women in this race" and urging his supporters to "consider giving their first-place vote to whichever of them best matches their own values."

However, Gail Fenumiai, Alaska's director of elections, said that state law only allows the fifth-place finisher to replace a candidate who drops out if there are at least 64 days until the general election; in a Tuesday letter to an attorney for second-place finisher Nick Begich, she noted there were only 56 days left. Fenumiai did say that Gross' name would be removed from the ballot, though she urged anyone who might disagree with her decision to "file suit immediately," citing a June 28 deadline to finalize the August ballot for printing.

It’s not clear whether Sweeney intends to challenge Fenumiai's ruling. Sweeney's campaign manager responded to the news late on Monday by saying the candidate had been in an area without cell phone reception and promised that a statement would be "forthcoming once she is back in communication"; Sweeney was still incommunicado on Tuesday afternoon, per her campaign. Gross himself explained Tuesday he'd decided to quit because he'd decided "it is just too hard to run as a nonpartisan candidate in this race."

With most of the votes counted, Sweeney holds a 6-5 edge over North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described "independent, progressive, democratic socialist" who is not running for the full two-year term, for what might be a suddenly important fifth-place spot. Two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and Begich, took first and second place in the top-four primary, respectively, with the Associated Press calling the fourth spot for Peltola late on Friday.

FL-01: Rep. Matt Gaetz, the far-right icon who reportedly remains under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses, has three opponents in the Republican primary for this safely red constituency in the Pensacola area.

Gaetz's most serious foe appears to be former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo, who pledged to spend $1 million of his own money when he launched his bid last week against the incumbent, whom he labeled "a professional politician who has dishonored his constituents with unnecessary drama, childish gimmicks, and is reportedly entangled in a federal investigation for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old girl to the Bahamas." Air Force veteran Bryan Jones and Greg Merk, who took 9% in Gaetz’s uncompetitive 2020 primary, are also in, but they've generated little attention.  

FL-02: Democratic Rep. Al Lawson decided to take on his Republican colleague, Neal Dunn, after the new GOP gerrymander transformed Lawson's reliably blue and plurality-Black 5th District into a very white and conservative constituency. Neither congressman faces any intra-party opposition ahead of what will almost certainly be one of only two incumbent vs. incumbent general elections of the cycle (the other is in Texas' 34th District, where Republican Mayra Flores will take on Democrat Vicente Gonzalez).

The new 2nd, which includes Tallahassee and Panama City, would have supported Trump 55-44. Dunn, for his part, already represents 64% of the redrawn constituency, while another 31% are Lawson's constituents.

FL-04: Three Republicans and two Democrats are campaigning for the new 4th District, an open constituency that includes part of Jacksonville and its western suburbs and would have supported Trump 53-46.

The only elected official on the GOP side is state Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean, who recently began running ads here. Navy veteran Erick Aguilar, meanwhile, earned just 20% of the vote in 2020 when he challenged incumbent John Rutherford in the primary for the previous version of the 4th (Rutherford is now running for the new 5th), but he appears to be running a far more serious operation this time: While Aguilar brought in just $16,000 two years ago, he ended March with $810,000 on-hand thanks to both stronger fundraising and self-funding. The final Republican, Jon Chuba, has raised almost nothing.

The Democratic contest is a duel between former state Sen. Tony Hill and businesswoman LaShonda Holloway. Hill left office in 2011 to take a job in then-Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's administration, while Holloway took 18% of the vote in the 2020 primary against incumbent Al Lawson in the old 5th District.

FL-07: Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced her retirement months before Republicans transformed her suburban Orlando from a 55-44 Biden seat into one Trump would have taken 52-47, and Republicans have an eight-way primary to replace her.

The only sitting elected official in the race is state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a far-right zealot who has a terrible relationship with his chamber's leadership. The field also includes former DeBary City Commissioner Erika Benfield, who lost a competitive state House primary in 2020, and former Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards, who entered the race last week pledging to balance gun safety with respect for the Second Amendment.

There are several other Republicans worth watching. One contender who has been trying hard to get attention is Army veteran Cory Mills, a self-funder who recently aired an ad bragging how his company manufactures the tear gas that's been used on left-wing demonstrators. There's also Navy veteran Brady Duke, whom we hadn't previously mentioned but who has raised a notable amount of money through March. Rounding out the GOP field are former congressional staffer Rusty Roberts; businessman Scott Sturgill, who lost the 2018 primary for the old 7th 54-30; and Al Santos, another businessman who has yet to earn much notice.    

There are four Democrats running here as well. The early frontrunner appears to be party official Karen Green, who has endorsements from a number of local elected officials.

FL-10: Ten Democrats are campaigning to succeed Senate candidate Val Demings in a contest that completely transformed in the final days of candidate filing.

Until then, the frontrunners for this safely blue Orlando constituency were state Sen. Randolph Bracy and gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost, who each ended March with a credible amount of money. Several other candidates, including pastor Terence Gray, have also been running since last year, but they've struggled to bring in cash. Things took a dramatic turn last week, though, when former 9th District Rep. Alan Grayson decided to end his little-noticed Senate campaign to run here, while former 5th District Rep. Corrine Brown jumped in days later. (Brown's launch came about a month after she accepted a deal with federal prosecutors where she pleaded guilty to tax fraud.)

Both former House members have experience running in this area. Grayson, according to political data expert Matthew Isbell, would have carried the new 10th 40-39 in the 2016 Senate primary against national party favorite Patrick Murphy even as the bombastic Grayson was badly losing statewide. (Grayson in 2018 went on to badly lose the primary to take the old 9th back from his successor, Rep. Darren Soto.) And while Brown's longtime base is from Jacksonville, she spent 24 years representing a seat that snaked down about 140 miles south to Orlando.

FL-11: Six-term Rep. Dan Webster faces Republican primary opposition from far-right activist Laura Loomer, a self-described "proud Islamophobe" who has been banned from numerous social media, rideshare, and payment services for spreading bigotry, in a constituency in the western Orlando area that Trump would have won 55-44. Webster only represents 35% of this new district, but he's still a far more familiar presence here than Loomer, who ran a high-profile but doomed 2020 bid against Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel in South Florida. Two other Republicans also filed here.

FL-13: Five Republicans are competing to replace Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who is leaving to try to reclaim his old job as governor, in a newly gerrymandered St. Petersburg-based district that flipped from 52-47 Biden to 53-46 Trump. The frontrunner is 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who sports endorsements from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth for her second try. Team Red's field also includes Amanda Makki, whom Luna beat last time; attorney Kevin Hayslett; and two others. The only Democrat on the ballot, by contrast, is former Department of Defense official Eric Lynn.

FL-15: Each party has five candidates campaigning for a new suburban Tampa constituency that Trump would have won 51-48.

On the GOP side, the two elected officials in the running are state Sen. Kelli Stargel, who is an ardent social conservative, and state Rep. Jackie Toledo, who has prevailed in competitive turf. Another notable contender is former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who recently resigned to run and was previously elected as a local judge before Gov. Ron DeSantis chose her as Florida's top elections administration official. Rounding out the field are retired Navy Capt. Mac McGovern and Demetrius Grimes, a fellow Navy veteran who lost the 2018 Democratic primary for the old 26th District in South Florida.

For the Democrats, the most familiar name is arguably Alan Cohn, who was the 2020 nominee for the previous version of the 15th. Also in the running are political consultant Gavin Brown, comedian Eddie Geller, and two others.

FL-20: Freshman Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick faces a Democratic primary rematch against former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, whom she beat by all of 5 votes in last year's crowded special election, in a safely blue constituency that includes part of the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas. Holness doesn't have the anti-incumbent lane to himself, though, as state Rep. Anika Omphroy is also in.

FL-23: Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch is retiring from a Fort Lauderdale-based seat that's very similar to the 22nd District he currently serves, and six fellow Democrats are running to succeed him in this 56-43 Biden constituency. The frontrunner from the beginning has been Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, a well-connected former state representative who later served in Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration as director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Moskowitz's two main rivals appear to be Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Ben Sorensen and former prosecutor Hava Holzhauer.

FL-24: While former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson announced in March that she'd challenge Rep. Frederica Wilson in the Democratic primary, Edmonson never filed to run here before qualifying closed last week. Wilson now only faces one little-known opponent for renomination in this safely blue Miami-based seat.  

FL-27: Republican map makers did what they could to insulate freshman GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar by shifting her Miami-area seat from a 51-48 win for Joe Biden to a 50-49 margin for Donald Trump, but Team Blue is still betting she's beatable. National Democrats, including the DCCC, have consolidated behind state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who dropped out of the governor's race earlier this month to run here. Taddeo's main intra-party rival is Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who abandoned his own long-shot Senate bid, while progressive activist Angel Montalvo rounds out the field.

FL-28: Freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Giménez picked up a notable Democratic rival just before filing closed Friday when former state Rep. Robert Asencio launched a campaign. Trump would have carried this exurban Miami seat 53-46, which makes it a tad redder than Giménez's existing 26th District.

HI-02: Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda earned an endorsement earlier this month from both the Hawai'i Government Employees Association, which is the largest union in the state, and the AFL-CIO ahead of the August Democratic primary.

IL-01: Two crypto-aligned groups, Protect Our Future and Web3 Forward, are dropping just shy of $1 million total to support businessman Jonathan Jackson in next week's Democratic primary, a crowded contest that saw little outside spending until now. Only the latter's spot is currently available, and it reminds the audience that Jackson is the son of civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. "Jonathan Jackson knows we are in the fight for our lives now," says the narrator. "Jackson is running for Congress to get guns off our streets, tackle inflation, and protect our right to vote."

Meanwhile, another organization called Forward Progress is deploying $160,000 to help former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves, who has retiring Rep. Bobby Rush's backing.

IL-15: Far-right Rep. Mary Miller has publicized an internal from Cygnal showing her edging out fellow incumbent Rodney Davis 45-40 ahead of next week's Republican primary, which is an improvement from their 41-41 tie in an unreleased survey from two weeks ago. We haven't seen any other recent polling of the contest for this dark-red seat in downstate Illinois.

MD-04: The hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC last week began a $600,000 ad campaign against former Rep. Donna Edwards through its United Democracy Project super PAC, which was the first major outside spending of the July 19 Democratic primary. AIPAC, which supports former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, argues that Edwards did a poor job with constituent services during her first stint in the House: The narrator claims, "Her congressional office was widely regarded as unresponsive to constituents who needed help and Donna Edwards was rated one of the least effective members of Congress, dead last among Democrats."

Edwards quickly responded by releasing a video message from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who supports her comeback campaign, praising her as "one of the most effective members in Congress" and someone who "fought hard for Prince George's County—for jobs and investments in her community, to help constituents in need, and to deliver results."

MD-06: Matthew Foldi, a former staff writer for the conservative Washington Free Beacon whom we hadn't previously written about, has unveiled an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy ahead of next month's GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. David Trone.  

Foldi, who previously worked for McCarthy's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund, faces five intra-party opponents including Del. Neil Parrott, the 2020 nominee who lost to Trone 59-39 as Biden was carrying the old 6th 61-38. However, the new map, which the Democratic-dominated legislature passed after their original draft was struck down in state court, halved Biden's margin to 54-44.

TX-15: The Texas Democratic Party announced Friday that a recount has confirmed that businesswoman Michelle Vallejo won the May 24 runoff by defeating Army veteran Ruben Ramirez by 35 votes, which was five more than she started with. Vallejo will now go up against 2020 Republican nominee Monica De La Cruz in a Rio Grande Valley seat that, under the new GOP gerrymander, would have supported Trump 51-48.

WI-03: Former CIA officer Deb McGrath has released an attention-grabbing spot for the August Democratic primary that features the candidate skydiving. McGrath, who is campaigning to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, explains that, as the one woman in her Army jump school, "The guys thought I'd chicken out. I was the first out the door." Following her jump and before deploying her parachute, McGrath explains through a voiceover, "I'm running for Congress because of the sky-high cost of everything. Wisconsin needs a representative who thinks for herself, works with both parties, and fights for women's rights."

Other Races

SD-AG: Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who was impeached in April for fatally striking a pedestrian named Joe Boever with his car in 2020 and lying about the crash to investigators, was convicted on both counts and removed from office on Tuesday. Twenty-four members of the GOP-dominated state Senate—exactly the two-thirds supermajority necessary for conviction—voted in favor of the first count, with 9 opposed, while the second count was backed by a wider 31-2 margin. In addition, in a unanimous 33-0 vote, the Senate barred Ravnsborg, who recently announced he would not seek re-election, from ever holding public office in South Dakota again.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who had long called for Ravnsborg's resignation, will now appoint a replacement. Noem has not yet said whom she might pick, but she previously endorsed former Attorney General Marty Jackley's bid to reclaim his old post. Jackley faces a top Ravnsborg aide, David Natvig, for the GOP nomination, which will be decided at the state party's convention that begins on Thursday.

Mayors

Oakland, CA Mayor: Former City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente announced last week that he was joining November's instant-runoff contest to succeed termed-out Mayor Libby Schaaf, which makes him the 16th candidate to enter the officially nonpartisan race to lead this loyally blue city. De La Fuente, who mulled a 2018 bid against Schaaf, launched his new effort by pledging to hire more police officers and saying he "will not tolerate" homeless encampments.  

De La Fuente ran for mayor twice during his long tenure on the City Council, which spanned from 1992 to 2013, but he badly lost both campaigns to prominent figures. In 1998 he took just 7% in a contest that resulted in former Gov. Jerry Brown beginning his second stint in elected office (Brown reclaimed his old job as governor in 2010). De La Fuente tried again in 2006 but lost 50-33 to former Rep. Ron Dellums; De La Fuente himself left the City Council six years later when he unsuccessfully campaigned for a citywide seat.

The field already included a trio of councilmembers: Loren Taylor, Sheng Thao, and Treva Reid. Schaaf has not yet endorsed anyone, but Taylor has often supported her on key votes. Thao, by contrast, has run to Taylor's left and sports endorsements from several unions and state Attorney General Rob Bonta, while the San Francisco Chronicle identifies Reid as a Taylor ally. Also in the running is Allyssa Victory, who works as an attorney for the regional ACLU and Communications Workers of America Local 9415.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Rep. David Rivera's latest comeback bid may have ended before it could begin, as elections authorities say that he didn't actually qualify for the ballot in state House District 119. Rivera responded Tuesday by insisting that the matter wasn't settled and that he'd "let the lawyers in Tallahassee handle that," though there's no word on what the problem is. The former congressman, though, didn't hold back on attacking the Miami Herald's coverage of the many corruption scandals he's been linked to.

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.

Morning Digest: Seven states host primaries today, including the biggest of them all

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

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Leading Off

Primary Night: The Gregs of Rath: After a brief break, the primary season continues Tuesday with contests in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. As always, we've put together our preview of what to watch starting at 8 PM ET when the first polls close. You'll also want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.

Democrats are going on the offensive in several California contests to try to help weaker Republicans pass more formidable opponents in the top-two primary. One of Team Blue's biggest targets is Rep. David Valadao, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year and now faces two intra-party foes in the Central Valley-based 22nd District.

House Majority PAC has dropped $280,000 to boost one of them, former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, by ostensibly attacking him as "100% pro-Trump and proud," while also promoting Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas. Valadao's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund, though, aren't sitting idly by, as they've deployed a larger $790,000 on messaging hoping to puncture Mathys by labeling him "soft on crime, dangerously liberal."

Orange County Democrat Asif Mahmood is trying a similar maneuver against Republican Rep. Young Kim over in the 40th District by airing ads to boost Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, a Republican who has a terrible record in local congressional races. That's also prompted a furious backlash from the CLF, which is spending $880,000 to stop Raths from advancing. But there's been no such outside intervention to the south in the 49th District, where Democratic Rep. Mike Levin is taking action to make sure his GOP foe is Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez rather than 2020 rival Brian Maryott.

That's not all that's on tap. We'll be watching GOP primary contests in Mississippi and South Dakota, where Reps. Steven Palazzo and Dusty Johnson face potentially serious intra-party challenges. Both parties will also be picking their nominees for hotly contested general election contests, as well as in safe House seats. You can find more on all these races, as well as the other big elections on Tuesday's ballot, in our preview.

Election Night

California: While the Golden State's many competitive House top-two primaries will take center-stage on Tuesday, we also have several major local races to watch. Unless otherwise noted, all of these races are officially nonpartisan primaries where candidates need to win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a Nov. 8 general election.

We'll begin in the open seat race for mayor of Los Angeles, a contest that's largely been defined by a $34 million spending spree by billionaire developer Rick Caruso. However, while some progressives have feared that the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat's offensive could allow him to win outright, a recent poll from UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times shows Democratic Rep. Karen Bass in first with 38%. That survey has Caruso not far behind with 32%, while City Councilman Kevin de León, who ran for Senate in 2018 as a progressive Democrat, lags in third with just 6%.

Over to the north there's a competitive contest to succeed termed-out San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a Silicon Valley community where the major fault lines are usually between business-aligned politicians like Liccardo and candidates closer to labor. The top fundraiser has been Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, a longtime union ally who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2006 and now enjoys the backing of PACs funded by labor, police unions, and even the San Francisco 49ers.  Another prominent contender is Councilmember Matt Mahan, who is supported by Liccardo's PAC even though the mayor himself has yet to endorse. The field also includes two other council members, the labor-aligned Raul Peralez and the business-allied Dev Davis, but they have not received any outside aid. San Jose voters Tuesday will also decide on Measure B, which would move mayoral contests to presidential years starting in 2024.

There are also several competitive district attorney races to watch, including in San Jose's Santa Clara County. Three-term incumbent Jeff Rosen is arguing he's made needed criminal justice reforms, but public defender Sajid Khan is campaigning as the "true, real progressive DA" he says the community lacks. The contest also includes former prosecutor Daniel Chung, a self-described "moderate" who has a terrible relationship with his one-time boss Rosen. Over in Orange County, Republican District Attorney Todd Spitzer is hoping that multiple scandals won't prevent him from scoring an outright win against Democrat Peter Hardin and two other opponents.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has a tough race of his own as he tries to turn back a recall campaign, and several polls find voters ready to eject the criminal justice reformer. If a majority vote yes on the recall question, which is identified as Proposition H, Mayor London Breed would appoint a new district attorney until a special election is held this November. However, SF voters will also be presented with Proposition C, which would prevent Breed's pick from running in that contest and make it extremely difficult to get recall questions on future ballots.    

Back in Southern California we'll also be watching the race for Los Angeles County sheriff, where conservative Democratic incumbent Alex Villanueva is trying to win a majority of the vote against eight foes. Bolts Magazine has details on several more law enforcement contests across California as well.

Finally, we also have the special general election to succeed Republican Devin Nunes, who has amazingly not yet been fired as head of Trump's disastrous social media project, in the existing version of the 22nd Congressional District, a Central Valley seat Trump carried 52-46. The first round took place in April and saw former Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway lead Democrat Lourin Hubbard, who is an official at the California Department of Water Resources, 35-19 in all-party primary where Republican candidates outpaced Democrats 66-34. Neither Conway nor Hubbard are seeking a full term anywhere this year.

Senate

AL-Sen: While Rep. Mo Brooks surprised plenty of observers two weeks ago by advancing to the June 21 runoff with former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt, his allies at the Club for Growth aren't acting at all confident about his chances of actually winning round two. Politico reports that the Club on Thursday canceled more than $500,000 in advertising time meant to benefit Brooks, who trailed Britt 45-29 on May 24.

The congressman got some more disappointing news the following day when Army veteran Mike Durant, who took third with 23%, announced that he wouldn't support or even vote for either Britt or Brooks. While Durant claimed hours before polls closed on May 24 that he'd endorse Brooks over Britt, he now says, "Mo Brooks has been in politics for 40 years, and all he does is run his mouth." Durant also had harsh words for the frontrunner, arguing, "Katie Britt doesn't deserve to be a senator."

CO-Sen: Wealthy businessman Joe O'Dea has publicized a survey from Public Opinion Strategies that gives him a 38-14 lead over state Rep. Ron Hanks in the June 28 Republican primary to face Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. O'Dea has also announced that he's spending $325,000 on a TV and radio campaign against Hanks, who ended March with all of $16,000 in the bank.

MO-Sen: While state Attorney General Eric Schmitt's allies at Save Missouri Values PAC have largely focused on attacking disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens ahead of the August GOP primary, the super PAC is now spending $510,000 on an offensive against a third candidate, Rep. Vicky Hartzler. The spot argues that Hartzler "voted to give amnesty to over 1.8 million illegal immigrants, and she even voted to use our tax dollars to fund lawyers for illegals who invaded our country."

Governors

KS-Gov: Wednesday was the filing deadline for Kansas’ Aug. 2 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here.

While several Republicans initially showed interest in taking on incumbent Laura Kelly, who is is the only Democratic governor up for re-election this year in a state that Donald Trump carried, Attorney General Derek Schmidt has essentially had the field to himself ever since former Gov. Jeff Colyer dropped out in August. The RGA isn’t waiting for Schmidt to vanquish his little-known primary foe, as it’s already running a commercial promoting him as an alternative to Kelly.

MA-Gov: Attorney General Maura Healey won Saturday's Democratic Party convention with 71% of the delegates, while the balance went to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz. Chang-Díaz took considerably more than the 15% she needed in order to secure a spot on the September primary ballot for governor, but she faces a wide polling and financial deficit.

MD-Gov: The first independent poll of the July 19 Democratic primary comes from OpinionWorks on behalf of the University of Baltimore and the Baltimore Sun, and it finds state Comptroller Peter Franchot in the lead with 20%. Author Wes Moore is close behind with 15%, while former DNC chair Tom Perez and former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker take 12% and 7%, respectively; a 31% plurality remains undecided.

While former U.S. Secretary of Education John King snagged just 4%, here, though, his own numbers show him in far better shape. He released an internal from 2020 Insight last month that showed Franchot at 17% as King and Moore took 16%; Perez took the same 12% that OpinionWorks gave him, while 27% were undecided.

OpinionWorks also gives us a rare look at the GOP primary and has former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who is backed by termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan, beating Trump-endorsed Del. Dan Cox 27-21; wealthy perennial candidate Robin Ficker is a distant third with 5%, while a hefty 42% of respondents didn't choose a candidate.

MI-Gov: The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday ruled against former Detroit police Chief James Craig and wealthy businessman Perry Johnson's attempts to get on the August Republican primary ballot after state election authorities disqualified them for fraudulent voter petition signatures, but neither of them is giving up hope of still capturing the GOP nod.

Craig acknowledged last month that he would consider a write-in campaign if his legal challenge failed, and he said Sunday on Fox, "It's not over. We are going to be evaluating next steps." While Craig doesn't appear to have addressed the possibility of a write-in campaign since the state's highest court gave him the thumbs down, he responded in the affirmative when asked, "Are they trying to steal your election?" Johnson, for his part, asked a federal judge the following day to halt the printing of primary ballots.

NY-Gov: Last week was the deadline for independent candidates to turn in the 45,000 signatures they'd need to make the November ballot, and disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not submit any petitions.

House

FL-07: Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine has announced that he'll stay out of the August Republican primary for this newly gerrymandered seat.

KS-03: Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids faces a rematch with former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who faces only minor opposition for renomination. Davids beat Adkins 54-44 in 2020 as Joe Biden pulled off an identical win in her suburban Kansas City seat, but Republican legislators passed a new gerrymander this year that slashes Biden’s margin to 51-47.

MD-04: Former Rep. Donna Edwards has earned an endorsement from AFSCME Maryland Council 3, which is the state's largest government employee's union, as well as AFSCME Council 67 and Local 2250 for the July 19 Democratic primary.

MI-10: Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga has dropped an internal from Target Insyght that shows him leading two-time GOP Senate nominee John James 44-40 in a general election contest in this swing seat, which is similar to the 48-45 edge he posted in January. The firm also gives Marlinga a 40-16 advantage over Warren Council member Angela Rogensues in the August Democratic primary.

NC-13: The DCCC has released an in-house survey that shows Democrat Wiley Nickel with a 45-43 advantage over Republican Bo Hines. This poll was conducted May 18-19, which was immediately after both men won their respective May 17 primaries in this competitive district in Raleigh's southern suburbs; it's also the first we've seen from this contest.

NH-01: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday endorsed 2020 nominee Matt Mowers' second campaign to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas. Mowers lost to Pappas 51-46 as Biden was carrying the district 52-46, and he faces several opponents in the August GOP primary for a seat that barely changed under the new court-ordered map.

NV-01: Former 4th District Rep. Cresent Hardy startled observers when he filed to take on Democratic incumbent Dina Titus right before filing closed March 18, but the Republican still doesn't appear to have gotten around to cluing in donors about his latest comeback attempt. Hardy, mystifyingly, waited until April 15 to even open a new fundraising account with the FEC, and he proceeded to haul in all of $9,000 through May 25 without spending a penny of it.  

Hardy faces intra-party opposition next Tuesday from conservative activist David Brog, Army veteran Mark Robertson, and former Trump campaign staffer Carolina Serrano, all of whom we can accurately say spent infinitely more than him. Titus herself is going up against activist Amy Vilela, who took third place with 9% in the 2018 primary for the 4th District.  

NY-19 (special), NY-23 (special): Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has officially set Aug. 23 special elections to succeed Democrat Antonio Delgado and Republican Tom Reed in the existing versions of the 19th and 23rd Congressional Districts, respectively. Both races will coincide with the primaries for the new congressional and state Senate districts. The 19th supported Biden 50-48, while the 23rd went for Trump 55-43.

In New York special elections, party leaders select nominees, rather than primary voters, and Democrats in the 23rd District picked Air Force veteran Max Della Pia over the weekend. Della Pia, who unsuccessfully ran in the 2018 primary, has also announced that he'll run for a full two-year term to succeed Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs in the new 23rd, which contains much of Reed's now-former constituency.

NY-23: Developer Carl Paladino launched his bid over the weekend to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs, and the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee immediately picked up an endorsement from the House’s third-ranking Republican, 21st District Rep. Elise Stefanik. Paladino won’t have a glide path to the nomination, though, as state party chair Nick Langworthy reportedly will also enter the August primary ahead of Friday’s filing deadline. Trump would have carried this seat in southwestern upstate New York 58-40.

Langworthy hasn’t said anything publicly about his plans, but Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler has abandoned his own nascent campaign to support him. Paladino himself told the Buffalo News he tried to deter the chair from running, but added, “He's all about himself and is using party resources to pass petitions so he can go down to Washington and act like a big shot.”

Both Paladino and Langworthy have longtime ties to Trump, and the two even made an unsuccessful attempt to recruit him to run for governor in 2014. Paladino was all-in for Trump’s White House bid in 2016, and he even dubbed none other than Stefanik a “fraud” for refusing to endorse the frontrunner. (Stefanik has since very much reinvented herself as an ardent Trumpist.) Langworthy himself also was all-in for Trump well before the rest of the GOP establishment fell into line.

Trump’s transition committee condemned Paladino in late 2016 after the then-Buffalo School Board member said he wanted Barack Obama to “catch[] mad cow disease” and for Michelle Obama to “return to being male” and be “let loose” in Zimbabwe; Trump and Paladino, though, have predictably remained buds. Langworthy, for his part, reportedly had Trump’s support in his successful bid to become state party chair.

OH-01: Democrat Greg Landsman has publicized a mid-May internal from Impact Research that shows him deadlocked 47-47 against Republican incumbent Steve Chabot. This is the first survey we've seen of the general election for a Cincinnati-based seat that would have supported Joe Biden 53-45.

TN-05: On Friday night, a state judge ordered music video producer Robby Starbuck back onto the August Republican primary ballot, though the Tennessee Journal predicted, "An appeal appears all but certain." Party leaders ejected Starbuck and two others in April for not meeting the party's definition of a "bona fide" Republican, but the judge ruled that the GOP's decision was invalid because it violated state open meeting law. The deadline to finalize the ballot is Friday.

TX-15: Army veteran Ruben Ramirez announced Monday that he would seek a recount for the May 24 Democratic runoff, a decision he made shortly after the state party's canvas found that he still trailed businesswoman Michelle Vallejo by 30 votes. The eventual nominee will go up against 2020 Republican nominee Monica De La Cruz, who won the Republican primary outright in March, in a Rio Grande Valley seat that Trump would have taken 51-48.

TX-28: Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar's lead over progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros increased from 177 votes immediately following their runoff two weeks ago to 281 with the final county-by-county canvass of votes that concluded on Friday. Cuellar again declared victory, but Cisneros said on Monday that she would seek a recount.

TX-34 (special): The Texas Tribune reports that Republican Maya Flores and her outside group allies have spent close to $1 million on TV ahead of the June 14 all-party primary for this 52-48 Biden seat. By contrast, Democrat Dan Sanchez and the DCCC are spending $100,000 on a joint digital buy, but they don't appear to be on TV yet. One other Democrat and Republican are also on the ballot, which could keep either Flores or Sanchez from winning the majority they'd need to avert a runoff.

Secretaries of State

MA-SoS: Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan outpaced seven-term Secretary of State Bill Galvin 62-38 at Saturday's Democratic convention, but Galvin proved four years ago that he can very much win renomination after being rejected by party delegates. Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim snagged 55% of the convention vote back in 2018 after arguing that the incumbent had done a poor job advocating for needed voting rights reforms only to lose the primary to Galvin 67-32 months later.

Sullivan, who sports an endorsement from 6th District Rep. Seth Moulton, is adopting a similar argument against Galvin this time. The challenger used her convention speech to argue, "Despite record voter turnout in 2020, hear me on this, voters from some of our most vulnerable communities still saw the lowest voter turnout across Massachusetts, leaving behind far too many voices. I'm talking about the voices of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and AAPI folks."

Galvin, though, insisted his presence was more vital than ever, saying, "I am now the senior Democratic election official in the United States and I intend to use that role to make sure that we're able to make sure that citizens throughout our country have the opportunity to vote."

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Longtime congressman will retire rather than face Trump-backed colleague in primary

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

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Leading Off

MI-04: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year, announced Tuesday that he would not seek a 19th term this fall. In an email to supporters, Upton said he believed "it is time to pass the torch," though the person who will most likely be claiming that beacon in the new 4th Congressional District is his colleague and would-be primary foe, Trump-backed Rep. Bill Huizenga.

While it's possible that Upton's departure will entice someone else to run against Huizenga in the August GOP primary, they'd need to collect at least 1,000 valid signatures by the April 19 filing deadline. No notable Democrats have entered the race so far for the new version of the 4th, a southwestern Michigan seat Trump would have carried 51-47 in 2020.

Huizenga announced back in December, right after the state's new congressional maps were completed, that he'd be seeking re-election in the new 4th, and he earned an endorsement from Trump last month. Upton, by contrast, spent months keeping the political world guessing as to whether he'd go up against Huizenga in the primary or retire, though until Tuesday, it seemed that he had one more race in him: In February, Upton launched a $400,000 ad campaign in which he told viewers, "If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy. But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I'm asking for your support."

Upton, though, said at the time that he was still undecided about 2022, and his retirement announcement proves he wasn't just playing coy. On Tuesday, he insisted that redistricting mattered more to him than any backlash from his impeachment vote, saying, "My district was cut like Zorro—three different ways." However, it was Huizenga who, at least on paper, was more disadvantaged by the new map: While about two-thirds of the residents of the new 4th are currently Upton's constituents, Huizenga represents only about a quarter of the seat he's now the frontrunner to claim.

Upton's decision ends a long career in politics that began in the late 1970s when he started working for local Rep. David Stockman, and he remained on his staff when Stockman became Ronald Reagan's first director of the Office of Management and Budget. In 1986, Upton decided to seek elected office himself when he launched a primary challenge to Rep. Mark Siljander, who had succeeded Stockman in the House in 1981, in an earlier version of the 4th District.

Siljander was an ardent social conservative well to the right of even Reagan: Among other things, he'd unsuccessfully tried to torpedo Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1981 because he didn't feel she was sufficiently conservative, and he even threatened to vote against the White House's priorities in an attempt to thwart O'Connor. Siljander, though, had taken just 58% of the vote in his 1984 primary, which suggested that a significant number of primary voters were unhappy with him.

Upton argued that, while both he and Siljander were "conservative Republican[s]," the incumbent had ignored his constituents to focus on international issues. Upton, by contrast, insisted that he'd work better with the party's leadership and seek committee assignments that would allow him to direct his energies to domestic concerns. The race took a dark turn late in the campaign when audio leaked of Siljander telling local clergy members to aid him in order to "break the back of Satan," arguing that his loss "would send a shock wave across America that Christians can be defeated in Congress by impugning their integrity and smear tactics."

Upton ended up dispatching the congressman 55-45, a convincing thumping that both sides attributed to Siljander's comments. Upton's team, while denying that the outcome represented a loss for the religious right, predicted, "Fred's tactics will be much more moderate and more reasonable." Upton easily prevailed in the general election and had no trouble winning for decades; Siljander, for his part, was last in the news in late 2020 when Trump pardoned what an angry Upton described as "a series of federal crimes including obstruction of justice, money laundering and lobbying for an international terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban."

In 2002, Upton easily turned back a primary campaign from state Sen. Dale Shugars 66-32 in what was now numbered the 6th District, but when the burgeoning tea party turned its wrath on establishment figures in 2010, the longtime congressman had become much more vulnerable to intra-party challenges. His opponent that year was former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, who had badly failed in his quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Carl Levin two years earlier but argued that Upton was insufficiently conservative. The congressman outspent Hoogendyk by an 18-to-1 margin but prevailed only 57-43, which enticed Hoogendyk to try again in 2012.

However, while the anti-tax Club for Growth ran commercials this time against Upton, who by now was chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the incumbent worked hard to emphasize his opposition to the Obama administration and won by a larger 67-33 margin. That was the last time he faced a serious primary challenge at the ballot box, but in 2014 he went through his first expensive general election campaign when law professor Larry Lessig directed his Mayday PAC, which he called his "super PAC to end super PACs," to target Upton.

Mayday spent over $2 million to aid a previously unheralded Democrat named Paul Clements, and while Upton didn't come close to losing in that red wave year, Democrats hoped his 56-40 showing meant he could be beaten in a better political climate. Clements sought a rematch in 2016, but Upton won by a 59-36 spread.

In 2018, though, the congressman faced a considerably tougher battle against physician Matt Longjohn at a time when the GOP was on the defensive nationwide. Upton got some surprising help during that campaign when Joe Biden delivered a speech in his district that was paid in part by an Upton family foundation; Biden, who was apparently motivated to praise Upton because of the congressman's work on a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, declared the congressman was "one of the finest guys I've ever worked with" and "the reason we're going to beat cancer." Ultimately, the congressman prevailed 50-46 in what was by far the closest race of his career. Afterwards, Longjohn’s campaign manager said Biden’s involvement was "brutal at the time and stings even more today."

Democrats hoped they could finally take Upton down in 2020, but Upton returned to form and beat state Rep. Jon Hoadley 56-40 as Trump was carrying his district 51-47. Two months later, Upton responded to the Jan. 6 attack by voting for impeachment, a vote that arguably did more than anything else to close out his lengthy time in Congress.

1Q Fundraising

  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $3.1 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-Sen: Kevin Smith (R): $410,000 raised (in nine weeks)
  • FL-07: Rusty Roberts (R): $173,000 raised (in 10 days)
  • MI-12: Janice Winfrey (D): $200,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • OH-13: Emilia Sykes (D): $350,000 raised
  • RI-02: Joy Fox (D): $175,000 raised (in two months)
  • SC-01: Nancy Mace (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for Arizona's Aug. 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. We run down all the major contests in their respective sections of the Morning Digest, starting with the Senate race.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly won a tight 2020 election for the final two years of the late John McCain's term, and he'll be a top GOP target this fall as he seeks re-election. Five Republicans are running to take him on (though Gov. Doug Ducey, to the frustration of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is not one of them), and polls show that a large plurality of primary voters is undecided.

The most prominent contender may be state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, though he attracted heaps of abuse last year from Trump for not doing enough to advance the Big Lie. The only other current elected official is state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, but he's struggled to attract attention. The field also includes self-funding businessman Jim Lamon; former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, whose former boss is heavily financing a super PAC to boost him; and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel are each running commercials for the May 3 Republican primary espousing ultra-conservative ideas as they attack the very idea that their beliefs could be racist.

Vance is pushing that message in what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is his first-ever TV ad, though his allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have already spent over $6 million promoting him. "Are you a racist?" Vance begins as he points right at the camera, "Do you hate Mexicans? The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump's wall." The Hillbilly Elegy author continues by accusing the media of censorship before proclaiming, "Joe Biden's open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country." Mandel, meanwhile, exclaims, "There's nothing racist about stopping critical race theory and loving America."

On the Democratic side, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Morgan Harper has launched what her campaign says is a six-figure opening ad buy. Harper describes her local roots and service in the Obama administration before trying to contrast herself with Rep. Tim Ryan, the frontrunner for the nod, by declaring, "I'm the only Democrat for Senate who's always supported Medicare for All and a $15 living wage, who's always been pro-choice, and supports expanding the Supreme Court to protect women's rights."

PA-Sen: Allies of Rep. Conor Lamb at a super PAC called Penn Progress just dropped the first negative TV ad of Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, but there's a huge problem with the spot.

The narrator begins by asking, "Who can Democrats trust in the race for Senate?" and contrasts Lamb—"a former prosecutor and Marine"—with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, "a self-described democratic socialist." The ad cites an NPR segment from 2020 for that claim about Fetterman, but at the bottom of the piece are not one but two correction notices that both read, "This story wrongly states that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is a 'self-described democratic socialist.' He is not." Citing those corrections, attorneys for Fetterman's campaign sent a letter to TV stations demanding they take down the spot, calling it "false and defamatory."

Penn Progress responded by pointing to other news articles that have also called Fetterman a "self-described democratic socialist," but no one seems to have found a quote from Fetterman actually referring to himself this way. That's because, according to his campaign, no such quote exists. In their letter, Fetterman's lawyers say the candidate "has never described himself as a 'democratic socialist'" and link to a 2016 interview in which Fetterman says, "No, I don't label myself a democratic socialist."

Fetterman's team is seeking to have this advertisement bumped from the airwaves because TV and radio stations can be held liable for defamatory content in third-party ads. (Because they're obligated under federal law to run candidate ads so long as they're paid for, broadcasters aren't liable for the content of such spots.) On Tuesday evening, the Fetterman campaign said that one station, WPVI in Philadelphia, had complied with its request.

Aside from the factual blunder, Lamb's supporters may be making a political mistake as well: Attacking a rival as too liberal in a Democratic primary is rarely a winning move. If Penn Progress' ad gets bounced, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for the super PAC.

Separately, a new poll of the GOP primary from Public Opinion Strategies for Honor Pennsylvania finds hedge funder David McCormick (whom the group is backing) leading TV personality Mehmet Oz 22-16. In a previously unreleased POS poll from January, Oz enjoyed a 31-13 advantage, but both sides—and other candidates as well—have unleashed millions in attack ads since then.

SD-Sen: Candidate filing closed March 29 for South Dakota's June 7 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the fields for any notable 2022 contests now that the Secretary of State's office has had a week to receive "the official certification(s) from county central committees or state political parties"; you can find a list of contenders here. A runoff would be required on Aug. 16 in the races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and governor if no candidate wins at least 35% of the vote, but there aren't enough contenders in any of those races to make this a possibility. Note also that the parties hold nominating conventions (typically later in June) instead of primaries for several offices, including attorney general.

Donald Trump used the last days of his time on Twitter to rant in late 2020 that Republican Sen. John Thune "will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!" but the Senate minority whip's political career seems like it will continue just fine. Only two little-known Republicans, Oglala Sioux tribal administrator Bruce Whalen and rancher Mark Mowry, ended up filing to take him on, despite Thune's long dalliance with retirement, and there's no indication that either poses a threat. Attorney Brian Bengs has the Democratic primary to himself in this very red state.

Ad Reservations: Last week we got preliminary information about the first fall TV bookings from the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC, and AdImpact now has full details about how much money is going into each reservation:

  • Arizona: $22.4 million
  • Georgia: $24.6 million
  • Nevada: $14.1 million
  • Pennsylvania: $25.8 million
  • Wisconsin: $11.7 million

Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are Democratic-held, while SMP is going on the offensive in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These are the first general election reservations we've seen from any major outside groups on the Senate side.

Governors

AL-Gov: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard is running more ads ahead of the May 24 Republican primary arguing that Gov. Kay Ivey is insufficiently conservative. One spot focuses entirely on attacking the governor, including a clip of her saying last year, "It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks." The other commercial tries to use the Big Lie against Ivey, with the narrator proclaiming, "Lindy believes the election was stolen from Trump. Kay Ivey thinks Biden's victory was legitimate."

Ivey, meanwhile, is running her own ads playing up her own far-right credentials. "The fake news, big tech, and blue state liberals stole the election from President Trump," says the governor, "but here in Alabama, we are making sure that never happens. We have not, and will not, send absentee ballots to everyone and their brother."

AZ-Gov: Both sides have competitive primaries to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey in swingy Arizona. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has long looked like the frontrunner on the Democratic side, and she picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers. Her two intra-party foes are former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and former Homeland Security official Marco López, who is a one-time mayor of Nogales.

Republicans, meanwhile, have six contenders. Trump has thrown his endorsement behind Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist. The only current elected official, by contrast, is Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who is backed by former Govs. Jan Brewer and Fyfe Simington.

Another name to watch is former Rep. Matt Salmon, who narrowly lost the 2002 general election to Democrat Janet Napolitano; his second bid has the support of the Club for Growth as well as Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. There's also self-funding businessman Steve Gaynor, who narrowly lost the open-seat race for secretary of state to Hobbs in 2018. Businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen, who founded a biscotti company, also attracted attention earlier this year when politicos learned she'd self-funded $1.2 million, but she hasn't otherwise generated much press. Neither has the sixth GOP candidate, Scott Neely.

NM-Gov: Former Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block uses his first spot for the June Republican primary to proclaim that he was "a day-one supporter of President Donald J. Trump," who badly lost New Mexico twice. The ad goes on to tout Block's conservative ideas, including his desire to "finish the border wall" and "block the COVID mandates," though at times the narrator's message almost gets drowned out by the commercial's loud music.

SD-Gov: Gov. Kristi Noem faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Steve Haugaard, a former state House speaker who, believe it or not, is trying to run to the incumbent's right. Noem, though, has a massive financial edge over the challenger, as well as Trump's endorsement, and there's no indication yet that she's vulnerable. The winner will take on state House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, who faces no opposition in the Democratic primary.

TX-Gov: YouGov's new poll for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 50-42 among likely voters.

House

AK-AL: 314 Action Fund, a group that supported independent Al Gross in his 2020 Senate race, has released a survey from the Democratic pollster Change Research that finds him locked in a close special election against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin in the instant-runoff general election in August.

It's impossible to know which of the 48 candidates competing in the June top-four primary might advance to the general, but we know the final matchup will be different than the one Change polled because one of the candidates it included, Republican state Sen. Lora Reinbold, did not end up running; the survey was also conducted days before either Palin or the final Republican candidate tested, state Sen. Josh Revak, announced they were in.

The firm initially finds Gross leading Palin 33-30 in a hypothetical general election, with Revak and Reinbold at 9% and 8%, respectively. After the instant runoff process is simulated, not much changes, as Gross and Palin tie with 35% apiece, while 30% are undecided. In a separate question pitting the two head-to-head, however, Palin edges out Gross 42-40.

314 Action hasn't made an endorsement yet, but the organization made it clear it wanted Gross to win in its release, saying, "Dr. Al Gross has dedicated his life to improving health outcomes for Alaskans, and if elected to Congress he'll have a platform to craft policy that will do just that."

AZ-01: Republican Rep. David Schweikert is running for re-election in the revamped 1st District, a seat in eastern Phoenix and its eastern suburbs that's changed quite a bit from the 6th District he currently represents: While Trump would have carried his existing constituency 51-47, it’s Biden who would have taken the new 1st 50-49. (We explain the many changes to Arizona's congressional map here.)

Before he can focus on the general election, though, Schweikert needs to get past self-funder Elijah Norton in the primary. Norton has been attacking the ethics of the incumbent, who in 2020 agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, accept a formal reprimand, and admit to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude a two-year investigation. Schweikert, though, has made it clear he'll focus on Norton's turbulent departure from his insurance company. The field also includes Josh Barnett, who badly lost to Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego last cycle in the safely blue 7th District.

Three Democrats are also competing for this competitive seat. The field consists of Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf; and environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, who has the backing of southern Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45, which is a significant shift from Biden's 50-48 win in the 1st District that he currently holds.

Seven Republicans are competing to take him on, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. The two elected officials in the running are state Rep. Walt Blackman and John Moore, the mayor of the tiny community of Williams. Also in the running are Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane; Ron Watkins, the reputed founder of the QAnon conspiracy cult; and three others. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer had announced he was running last month, but his name was not on the state’s final list of candidates.

AZ-04: Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton is defending the 4th District in the southern Phoenix suburbs that, at 54-44 Biden, is considerably less safe than the 9th District it replaces. Six Republicans are competing to take him on, including Tanya Wheeless, who served as a staffer to then-Sen. Martha McSally, and Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez.

AZ-06: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her retirement last year before Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission drew up a new 6th District in the Tucson area that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.3-49.2 margin—a sizable drop from Biden’s 55-44 win in the old 2nd District.

The Democratic contest pits former state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who as an intern helped save then-Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was shot in 2011, against state Sen. Kirsten Engel; a third candidate, engineer Avery Anderson, hasn't earned much attention so far. The GOP frontrunner is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, though it remains to be seen if any of his four intra-party rivals can give him a serious fight.

FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who has Trump's endorsement, has released a Spry Strategies poll that shows her again winning the August Republican primary. The firm gives Luna the lead with 35%, while prosecutor Kevin Hayslett and 2020 candidate Amanda Makki are tied for second with 9% each.

GA-07: NBC reports that Rep. Lucy McBath is spending $74,000 on her first TV ad for the May 24 Democratic primary, which features her visiting the grave of her son, Jordan Davis, as she describes how he was murdered by a gunman. (The commercial features surveillance footage from the gas station where Davis was killed, with someone responding to the sounds of gunfire, "Oh my God. Somebody's shooting!") McBath tells the audience, "My tragedy turned to purpose. In Congress, I'm fighting to protect voting rights, to lower prescription drug costs, and to prevent gun violence."

McBath's longtime allies at Everytown for Gun Safety are also spending $1 million to help her, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says will come in the form of digital and radio ads and a mail campaign. McBath has already benefited from $1 million in advertising from another group, Protect Our Future PAC, while fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux has not yet received any major outside support.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur says she'll continue her campaign for the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Andy Harris even though Trump would have carried the newest version of this seat by a tough 56-42 margin. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden, who is the underdog in the July primary, also made it clear he'd remain in the race.

NH-01: The Associated Press reports that former Trump administration official Matt Mowers, one of the leading GOP candidates for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, voted twice in the 2016 primaries, which would be a violation of federal law.

According to the AP, Mowers cast a ballot in New Hampshire's primary in February, when he was working for Chris Christie's presidential campaign. (Christie finished sixth with just 7% of the vote and quit the race the next day.) Mowers then voted in the June primary in his home state of New Jersey, a month after Donald Trump became the GOP's de facto nominee, though there were other races on the ballot that day as well.

Any statute of limitations has long run out, so Mowers—who has a page devoted to "election integrity" on his campaign website—would be able to evade any legal ramifications. Politically, though, it's a different story, as his rivals for the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas immediately went on the attack. Mowers' campaign has so far declined to respond directly to the story.

SD-AL: Rep. Dusty Johnson faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Taffy Howard, a Big Lie supporter who launched her bid last year insisting, "I believe there was fraud in the last election that needs to be investigated. Our current congressman is not willing to admit that there was an issue." No Democrat ended up filing to run for the state's only House seat.

TX-15: EMILY's List has endorsed businesswoman Michelle Vallejo in the May 24 Democratic primary runoff for this open seat. Vallejo will face Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who led her 28-20 last month in the first round of the nomination contest.

TX-34 (special): Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled the special all-party primary to succeed former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela for June 14, with the filing deadline set for April 13. A runoff date would only be scheduled if no one earns a majority of the vote in the first round.

Attorneys General

AZ-AG: Republicans have a six-way primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking Team Red's nod for U.S. Senate, and this is another nominating contest without an obvious frontrunner. The only Democrat, by contrast, is former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes.

One familiar GOP contender is Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran. Another 2020 loser is Rodney Glassman, who narrowly failed to unseat the Maricopa County assessor in the primary; Glassman was the 2010 Democratic nominee against Sen. John McCain, but he now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar. The field also consists of two former prosecutors, Lacy Cooper and Abe Hamadeh; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove.

TX-AG: YouGov surveys the May 24 Republican primary runoff for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and shows incumbent Ken Paxton fending off Land Commissioner George P. Bush 65-23, which is even larger than the 59-30 lead that CWS Research found in its recent poll for a pro-Paxton group. YouGov also has former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza beating former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski 46-31 for the Democratic nod.

YouGov tests hypothetical general election scenarios as well and finds that, despite his myriad of scandals, Paxton outperforms Bush. The attorney general leads Garza and Jaworski 48-42 and 48-41, respectively, while Jaworski edges out Bush 39-38 and Garza ties him at 39-all.

Secretaries of State

AZ-SoS: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is running for governor, and four Republicans and two Democrats are running to replace her as this swing state's chief elections officer.

Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, has taken a strong interest in this contest and endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Team Red's field also includes state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, who championed a bill that would have allowed the state legislature to decertify the state's presidential results at any point before Inauguration Day, and state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has sponsored some of the most aggressive new voting restrictions in Arizona. The final Republican contender is advertising executive Beau Lane.

Democrats, meanwhile, have a duel between state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and Adrian Fontes, who narrowly lost re-election in 2020 as Maricopa County clerk, the post responsible for election administration in the county.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Prosecutor: Republican incumbent Alistair Adel resigned late last month as the top prosecutor of America's fourth-largest county over serious questions about her ability to manage her office, and one Democrat and three Republicans quickly collected the requisite signatures needed to compete in the special election to succeed her. The partisan primary and general elections will take place on the same days as the state's regularly scheduled statewide contests, and the winner will be up for a full term in 2024.

The only Democrat in the race is 2020 nominee Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel by a close 51-49. The GOP field consists of Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel; City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere; and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whom Senate Republicans hired in 2018 as a "female assistant" to question Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford. A fourth Republican, attorney James Austin Woods, does not appear to have filed.

Morning Digest: A day after being forced into surprise runoff, Texas congressman quits amid scandal

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

Check out our new podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

TX-03: Republican Rep. Van Taylor shocked Texas politicos Wednesday by announcing that he was ending his re-election campaign because of an affair the married congressman had with a woman who had fled her ISIS terrorist husband years ago, a move that came hours after he was forced into a primary runoff against former Collin County Judge Keith Self. Taylor said he would be taking his name off the May runoff ballot, which will automatically make Self the GOP nominee. Self will now be the clear favorite to win the general election in a Plano-based seat the GOP legislature aggressively gerrymandered: While Trump took the old version just 50-49, the new 3rd District would have supported him 56-42.

In the primary that took place only the day before, Taylor took 49% of the vote―just below the majority he needed to win outright―while Self beat out businesswoman Suzanne Harp 27-21 for what turned out to be a very important second runoff spot. Self, who was badly outspent, used the campaign to bash Taylor for voting to accept Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the hours after the attack on the Capitol and for supporting the creation of a Jan. 6 commission, but there was no talk from him about any personal scandal involving his opponent.

Taylor’s allies, including the Congressional Leadership Fund, also didn’t know what was about to come: The groups spent a combined $800,000 in the weeks after a new super PAC called Defeating Communism PAC dropped $435,000 against him, but surprisingly, their intervention wasn’t quite enough to get the not-yet-scandal-ridden incumbent a majority on Tuesday.

However, whispers about the story that would end the two-term congressman's career began to circulate on far-right sites two days before the March 1 primary when the National File posted audio of a Plano resident named Tania Joya, who escaped Syria with her children in 2013 weeks after her now-dead husband brought them there, talking about their affair. The white supremacist site Breitbart published its own account on Monday, but mainstream outlets didn't pick it up before the primary (the Texas Tribune says it wasn't able to independently verify the story).

On election eve, though, Harp insisted the allegations made it "dangerous to have compromised and corrupt representation in Washington," and this wasn't her first encounter with the story. That's because Harp, reports the Dallas Morning News, sent one of her supporters to do the interview with Joya that National File ran days later, after Joya contacted the candidate on Thursday. Joya, who lives in Plano and works to rehabilitate ex-terrorists, said she had met Taylor through her work and the two became "very close" before the relationship, which she said spanned October 2020 through June of last year, ended. Joya also said that, as the affair concluded, she asked Taylor to pay her $5,000 to pay off her bills. She declared, "For him, it was like, 'Okay, on the condition you don't tell anyone.' ... I didn't want to tell anybody anything."

Unfortunately for Taylor, things didn't remain amicable between the two. Joya said she didn't even know his primary was about to take place when she went to Harp, but she grew tired of seeing his face on billboards across her community. "All I wanted was for Suzanne Harp to just say, 'Hey, I know your little scandal with Tania Joya," she said, adding, "'Would you like to resign before we embarrass you?' But it didn't happen like that."

The story only became widely known Wednesday when Taylor emailed his supporters to tell them he was exiting the race. "About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world," he wrote, continuing, "I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life."

Taylor's admission concludes what had been a promising political career. The Republican, who is descended from the founder of the giant Humble Oil, served with the Marines in Iraq and first sought elected office in 2006 by taking on Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in the 17th District, a Waco-based seat located over 100 miles from Plano. Edwards, though, had survived a GOP gerrymander two years before by winning re-election even as George W. Bush was carrying his constituency in a 70-30 landslide, and Taylor struggled to gain traction in what was rapidly turning into an awful year for his party. Edwards went after his opponent for only recently moving to the district and won 58-40, but Taylor was far from done with politics.

Taylor soon relocated to Collin County and won a 2010 runoff against Mabrie Jackson to succeed state Rep. Brian McCall in a state House seat that Democrats weren't contesting. (Edwards that same year lost re-election to Republican Pete Flores.) In a strange set of circumstances, though, McCall resigned early to become chancellor of the Texas State University System, and Jackson beat Taylor in the special election for the final months of his term even though she'd already dropped out. But Taylor still won the special by default and any embarrassment was brief, as he won a promotion to the state Senate in 2014 without any serious opposition.

The same thing happened in 2018 when longtime Republican Rep. Sam Johnson retired and Taylor, who self-funded $3 million, easily prevailed in the primary and general elections for a historically red seat. The incumbent had a tougher fight in 2020 when Democratic attorney Lulu Seikaly ran a credible campaign against him at a time when Team Blue hoped that Trump's toxicity in the suburbs would drag down Republicans like Taylor. But it wasn't enough: While Trump's margin of victory crashed from 55-41 in 2016 to just 50-49, the congressman ran well ahead and prevailed 55-43. The GOP legislature didn't want to take any chances with that trend, however, which is why they implemented an even stronger gerrymander this cycle.

The beneficiary of that new map and Taylor's failure to claim a majority on Tuesday is Self, a hardline conservative who has his own long record in local politics. Self ran for Congress all the way back in 2002 for the 26th District, but physician Michael Burgess beat him 22.5-22.2 to claim the second spot in the runoff (Burgess won the nod in an upset and remains in the House). Self bounced back in 2006 by winning the race for Collin County judge, an executive post that's the rough equivalent of a county executive, and he quickly established a reputation for picking fights with other members of the local government.

Self faced a serious renomination fight in 2010 from Plano School Board member John Muns, who tried to portray himself as the true conservative in the race. The judge, who had his own ardent right-wing support, again made headlines during that campaign when he pushed back on a Muns attack by quoting the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels saying, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." Self defended his actions by insisting that, while he wasn't linking Muns to the Nazis, "I said he was using the method. There's a huge difference. This is one of those things where the PC police immediately go crazy."

Self prevailed 58-42 ahead of an easy general election win (Muns himself was elected mayor of Plano last year), and while he considered running for the 3rd in 2018, he retired that year instead. He looked like a longshot when he announced his own primary bid against Taylor in October, whom he went after for accepting Biden's victory, and he still seemed to be the clear underdog after the incumbent only narrowly failed to win a majority on Tuesday. The congressman's self-destruction, though, now puts Self on a glide path to win a House seat 20 years after his first attempt.

The Downballot

● On the latest episode of The Downballot, David Nir and David Beard recap the action from Texas' Tuesday primaries, including the runoff between conservative Democrat Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros; the demise of Louie Gohmert's political career; and the shocking developments in Texas' 3rd Congressional District, where a scandal derailed an unexpected runoff.

The co-hosts also embark on a deep dive into the world of Democratic open seats in the House, discussing the role of redistricting in prompting retirements and the many ways in which primaries this year have the chance to move the party in a more progressive direction and increase its diversity. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Redistricting

OH Redistricting: Ohio's Republican-dominated redistricting commission passed a new congressional map on a 5-2 party-line vote on Wednesday, but it still faces review by the state Supreme Court, which isn't apt to like it. The map contains 10 safely Republican seats and just three solidly Democratic districts, with two more nominally competitive seats that could easily go to the GOP given the likely midterm environment this year. The justices struck down the GOP's previous map as an illegal partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution for its excessive Republican skew.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon's new spot for the August Republican primary rhetorically asks how Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, who has only been in office since December of 2020, can run "to solve the problems you've created?" The only mention of Lamon is his brief appearance at the beginning giving his required approval to his commercial.

OH-Sen: NBC's Henry Gomez reports that former state party chair Jane Timken, who has mostly directed her TV ads at Fox News until now, is spending six figures on her first broadcast spot for the May Republican primary. The ad dubs Timken "the real Trump conservative" running against the "pretenders" and shows a long clip of Trump praising her. As Gomez notes, "If you didn't know any better, you might think Trump has endorsed her."

OK-Sen-B: A former campaign manager for former Rep. J.C. Watts tells Read Oklahoma that his old boss is considering entering the June Republican primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe. Watts, a one-time University of Oklahoma football star who was one of the most prominent African American Republicans in the nation during his eight years in Congress, retired in 2003, but he's remained an active media presence. That's not necessarily an asset, though, as Politico's Burgess Everett notes that Watts was a vocal Trump critic well into his administration.

UT-Sen: The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights finds Republican Sen. Mike Lee leading independent Evan McMullin by double digits in a pair of hypothetical three-way general election matchups.

Lee bests McMullin 34-24, with Democrat Kael Weston taking 12%. When former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt is substituted in as Team Blue's candidate, Lee's edge over McMullin grows to 36-23, with 11% going to the Democrat. Weston, who was the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District last cycle, is running, while Schmidt, who left the GOP during the Trump era, hasn't shown any obvious interest in getting in since November of 2020. OH Predictive Insights also takes a look at the June GOP primary and shows Lee beating former state Rep. Becky Edwards in a 51-5 landslide.

McMullin, for his part, is going up with what appears to be the first campaign ad anywhere based around Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "As the world rallies around Ukraine, Mike Lee was only one of two senators to oppose sanctions on Putin," says the candidate, "then he flew to the Kremlin and discussed dropping sanctions." He continues, "Lee even opposed arming Ukrainians fighting for their lives." McMullin concludes by talking about his "decade protecting America from dictators and terrorists." Lee ended 2021 with a $2.17 million to $703,000 cash-on-hand lead over McMullin, who ran for president in 2016 as an anti-Trump conservative.

WI-Sen, WI-Gov: Marquette University has released the first independent poll of either the August Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson or the GOP contest to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. In the Senate contest, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes outpaces Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry 23-13, with Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson at 5%; a recent Lasry internal from Normington Petts found him trailing Barnes 35-27.

Over in the GOP gubernatorial primary, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch leads businessman Kevin Nicholson 30-8, while state Rep. Timothy Ramthun grabs 5%. A January Kleefisch poll from the Tarrance Group, which was taken before either of her intra-party foes announced, showed her defeating Nicholson 61-8, while Ramthun was not tested.

Governors

MN-Gov: Former TV and radio host Cory Hepola announced Tuesday that he would run for governor under the banner of the newly established Forward Party. Hepola avoided saying much about his actual political beliefs other than that he's pro-choice, though he volunteered that in 2018 he voted for the man he's now trying to unseat, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, as well as for Joe Biden two years later.

Democrats seem to think Hepola is more of a threat to Walz than to the eventual Republican nominee, as state party chair Ken Martin warned, "A vote for Cory Hepola is a vote to help the GOP cut taxes for the rich, defund public schools, and force their anti-choice agenda on Minnesotans." Republican operatives, by contrast, took to social media to celebrate his entrance.

NY-Gov: Rep. Lee Zeldin earned the support of 85% of delegates at the state GOP convention on Tuesday, making him the only candidate to secure an automatic spot on the June 28 primary ballot. Because the other Republican hopefuls failed to win at least 25% of the vote, they'll all have to collect 15,000 signatures statewide in order to run in the primary. All of them, including businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and former Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, have said they'll do so.

House

CA-40: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who currently represents almost two-thirds of California's new 40th Congressional District, has endorsed physician Asif Mahmood's bid against Republican Rep. Young Kim. Porter is seeking re-election in the neighboring 47th District.

FL-13: EMILY's List has endorsed Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner in her campaign for Florida's open 13th Congressional District.

FL-22: Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says he's considering a bid for Florida's 22nd District, which recently became open after Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch announced he'd resign later this year. Jewish Insider also drops the name of another potential Democrat, former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, though there's no word on whether he's interested. Meanwhile, on the GOP side, former state Rep. George Moraitis says he too is thinking about the race.

MI-13: Former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail, a Democrat who served a single term on the City Council in the 2000s, tells MIRS News in a paywalled report that she's "going to be on the ballot" for the August primary in Michigan's safely blue 13th District. McPhail ran for mayor three times (in 1993, 2005, and 2009) but fared poorly on each occasion. However, a new poll from Target-Insyght taken for the state Democratic Party's Black Caucus shows that she'd start off in first place with 24% of the vote while state Rep. Shri Thanedar takes 12 and former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee is at 11, with all other candidates in single digits and 31% undecided.

MN-01: Former Republican state Rep. Brad Finstad, who'd been mentioned as a possible candidate, confirms he's considering running in the Aug. 9 special election for Minnesota's vacant 1st District.

NC-01: Democratic state Rep. James Gailliard, who had announced a bid for Congress in November after North Carolina Republicans passed their first gerrymander—which was since struck down by the courts and replaced with a much fairer map—has instead filed for re-election.

NY-03: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has endorsed Jon Kaiman, one of his deputy executives, in the Democratic primary for New York's open 3rd Congressional District. Meanwhile, former Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party in 2016, says he won't run.

NY-04: Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages, who recently filed paperwork with the FEC, has announced a bid for New York's open 4th Congressional District.

OK-02: State Sen. Marty Quinn on Wednesday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid to succeed Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a fellow Republican who is giving up this safely red seat in eastern Oklahoma to run for the Senate. The filing deadline is April 15, so other potential contenders have about a month-and-a-half to mull over their options.

OR-06: State Rep. Andrea Salinas has earned an endorsement from 1st District Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who currently represents just over 40% of this new seat, in the May Democratic primary.

PA-10: Carlisle School Board member Rick Coplen, a Democrat who had announced a state Senate bid last week, declared Tuesday that he would instead challenge Republican Rep. Scott Perry. Coplen, who is an Army veteran and professor at the U.S. Army War College, said he made his decision after 2020 nominee Eugene DePasquale said Monday that he wouldn't seek a rematch against Perry, who heads the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus. The redrawn version of this Harrisburg-based seat would have favored Trump 51-47.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Land Commissioner George P. Bush spent the first hours of his Republican primary runoff campaign against scandal-plagued incumbent Ken Paxton by publicly appealing to Donald Trump to unendorse the attorney general ahead of the May 24 second round. The Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek relays that Bush, who is the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, told conservative radio host Mark Davis that he wanted to "re-establish those lines of communication and say, 'Look, Mr. President, I believe you made a mistake on this one.'" The Land Commissioner continued, "There's great conservatives that have also won without the endorsement. I'm giving you a chance to reassess ... because there's a lot at stake here."

Bush tried hard last year to win Trump's support, a charm offensive that famously involved him creating beer koozies dissing his family: That merchandise depicted outlines of Bush and Trump shaking hands above a Trump quote reading, "This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him." But Trump soon demonstrated that he liked Paxton, who spearheaded an unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at overturning Joe Biden's victory, a whole lot more by backing him for renomination.

CNN wrote all the way back in July that even Bush's allies correctly predicted this would happen and "warned him not to publicly play up to the former President because Trump would once again take glee in embarrassing the Bush family." One source even said then that "Trump endorsing Paxton is like Lucy and the football and Charlie Brown." Bush, though, seems to be quite content to take more kicks at the pigskin.  

Paxton, for his part, also previewed his runoff strategy against Bush earlier on Wednesday by telling Davis, "If conservatives unite ... we can end the Bush dynasty." The attorney general added that his opponent "has got personal issues too that I can bring up that I've never brought up. ... I don't want to do that." Paxton didn't hint what he meant, though he predicted that Bush "knows it's gonna change the dynamic of the race."

Paxton outpaced Bush on Tuesday 43-23, with former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert taking 17% each. Neither defeated candidate, though, seems interested in helping Bush unite anti-Paxton voters right now: Gohmert also told Davis, "I see myself just completely staying out of" the runoff, while Guzman put out a statement that didn't mention either runoff contender.  

On the Democratic side, former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza took first place in the primary with 43%, while the second runoff spot has not yet been decided. With 989,000 votes counted, former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski, who is the grandson of Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, held a tiny 19.6-19.5 edge over civil rights attorney Lee Merritt.

Election Recaps

TX-Gov: Gov. Greg Abbott took 66% of the vote in Tuesday's Republican primary, while former state Sen. Don Huffines and former state party chair Allen West were far behind with 12% each. That huge win for the incumbent wasn't a surprise to anyone except maybe West, as the one-time Florida congressman released several polls from Paradigm Partners showing him in contention―including a late January survey that found him beating Abbott 43-34. The governor will face former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the 2018 Senate nominee who easily won his own Democratic primary, in November.  

TX-01: Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran won 63% of the vote in the Republican primary to succeed Rep. Louie Gohmert, who gave up this safely red seat in northeast Texas to wage a failed bid for attorney general. Far behind in second place with 24% was Joe McDaniel, who lives far from the 1st District in Dallas.

TX-04: Republican Rep. Pat Fallon ended up defeating former TV anchor Dan Thomas by an unimpressive 59-30 in this safely red seat in east Texas, though that was more than enough for him to win the primary outright. Thomas, who was fired in October as News 12 anchor for refusing to get vaccinated for what he claimed were health reasons, may have benefited from his existing name recognition even though he raised little for his campaign.

Fallon himself also was waging his very first congressional primary because party leaders awarded him the nod in 2020 when incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned after securing the nomination in order to become Trump's director of national intelligence. The congressman only represents about 55% of this new seat, which may also explain why he didn't do better.

TX-08: With 65,000 votes counted in the 11-way Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady, retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell is in first with 52%, a little over the majority he'd need to win this very expensive race outright, but the AP has not yet made a call. Political operative Christian Collins, who is a former Brady campaign manager, is well behind with 22%. This seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, is safely red.

TX-15: 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz secured the Republican nod again with 57% of the vote in her bid to succeed Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run for the considerably safer 34th District rather than defend a redrawn Rio Grande Valley constituency that would have favored Trump 51-48. De La Cruz sported endorsements from Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and she enjoyed a big financial lead over Mauro Garza, a self-funder who was a distant second with 15%.

On the Democratic side, Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who has Gonzalez's endorsement, took first with 28% of the vote. Businesswoman Michelle Vallejo edged out attorney John Rigney 20-19 for the second runoff spot, and Rigney conceded Wednesday afternoon.

TX-23: Marine veteran John Lira beat social worker Priscilla Golden 56-44 in the Democratic primary, but national Democrats haven't signaled much interest yet in his campaign to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales. The GOP legislature extended Trump's margin of victory in this west Texas seat from 50-48 to 53-46, and Lira so far has struggled with fundraising.

TX-26: Rep. Michael Burgess took 67% in his latest Republican primary for a safely red seat in Fort Worth's northern exurbs, while self-funder Raven Harrison ended up taking last place in the five-way race with just 5%.

TX-27: Republican incumbent Michael Cloud defeated A.J. Louderback, who recently left office as the sheriff of tiny Jackson County, 72-12 in this 60-37 Trump seat in the Corpus Christi area.

TX-28: While the Democratic primary runoff between conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros will generate the most attention on May 24, the Republican contest will also be going into a second round. Cassy Garcia, a former Ted Cruz staffer who is campaigning with his support, took first with 23%. Her opponent will be 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten, who lost to Cuellar 58-39 last time; Whitten took 18% on Tuesday, which put her a few points ahead of four other contenders. None of the Republicans have brought in much money so far, but Team Red is hoping they'll have an opening in a Laredo seat that would have gone for Biden 53-46.

TX-30: State Rep. Jasmine Crockett took first place in the nine-way Democratic primary with 48%, just below the majority she needed to win outright. Party operative Jane Hamilton secured second by defeating Cedar Hill Independent School District Trustee Keisha Lankford 17-8. Crockett has the backing of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who is retiring after 30 years representing a safely blue Dallas district, while two groups affiliated with the cryptocurrency industry together expended a massive $2.15 million to boost her. Hamilton, who didn't benefit from any major outside spending, has the support of neighboring Rep. Marc Veasey and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.

TX-35: Former Austin City Council member Greg Casar took 61% of the vote in the Democratic primary for this open and safely blue seat, which the GOP once again gerrymandered to connect the Austin area with San Antonio by means of a pencil-thin corridor along Interstate 35; two other candidates, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, were far behind with 16% each. Casar, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, enjoyed the support of Mayor Steve Adler as well as a number of prominent national progressive organizations, and he also had a big financial edge over Rodriguez.

TX-37: Rep. Lloyd Doggett had no trouble defeating Donna Imam, who lost to Republican Rep. John Carter in 2020 in the old 31st District, 79-18 in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around his longtime Austin base.

TX-38: Army veteran Wesley Hunt beat former State Republican Executive Committee member Mark Ramsey 55-30 in the Republican primary for this new and reliably red seat in the Houston suburbs. The well-funded Hunt impressed Republican leaders last cycle with his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in the 7th District, which helped make him the overwhelming frontrunner to prevail here.

Tarrant County, TX District Attorney: Tarrant County Criminal Court Judge Phil Sorrells, who picked up Donald Trump's endorsement weeks ahead of the Republican primary for this GOP-held open seat, took first with 41%, while state Rep. Matt Krause edged out Criminal District Court Judge Mollee Westfall 31-29 for the second runoff spot. On the Democratic side, Tiffany Burks won the nomination outright by beating her fellow former prosecutor, Albert John Roberts, 61-29.