Morning Digest: Oregon Republicans threatens suit to overturn election results because of attack ad

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

Leading Off

OR-06: Here's something you don't see often—or ever: Republican Mike Erickson released an internal poll showing him leading his Democratic opponent, Andrea Salinas, the very same day that he filed a lawsuit demanding Salinas take down an attack ad by citing a law that he recently threatened to use to overturn the election should he lose.

To pick apart this strange turn of events, we'll start with Erickson's survey from Cygnal, which shows him beating Salinas 44-39 in Oregon's brand new 6th District, a seat Joe Biden would have taken 55-42. The last polls we saw out of this district, which is based in the Salem area and Portland's southwestern suburbs, were both from mid-August: The GOP firm Clout Research gave Erickson an even larger 43-34 advantage, while a GBAO internal for Salinas had her up 48-45.

Despite these optimistic numbers for Republicans, however, both the Congressional Leadership Fund and the NRCC have so far avoided spending here, even though their opponents at the DCCC and House Majority PAC have together dropped over $1.4 million. Given the district's lean, it's exceedingly unlikely that the GOP's two biggest House groups have steered clear of this race because they feel supremely confident, especially since a conservative organization called Take Back Oregon PAC just launched a $300,000 TV buy this week.

Salinas' side has run several commercials focusing both on allegations that Erickson paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion in 2000—years before Herschel Walker did the same—as well as stories around his 2016 arrest. The latter is the focus of his new lawsuit and a cease and desist notice he recently sent to Salinas. In that letter, Erickson threatened to invoke a state law that the Oregon Capitol Chronicle writes "prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure."

Reporter Julia Shumway explains, "If a judge determines that a candidate made a false statement that cost their opponent an election, the law states that the candidate will be removed as a nominee or elected official." But she adds, "Over several decades, Oregon courts have interpreted that law to exclude opinions or statements that could reasonably be interpreted as true." It's also not clear whether this law has ever been successfully employed to reverse the results of an election, and Erickson's attorney, Jill Gibson, cited no such examples in her letter.

In his newly filed lawsuit, Erickson didn't actually present any demands regarding overturning the upcoming election but instead asked a state court to order Salinas to stop airing the ads in question and "to retract the false statements by airing correction advertisements with the same frequency and broadcast location as the false advertisements." He is also seeking $800,000 in monetary damages, which he claims would cover the cost of "commercials to correct the false statements."

The complaint insists that Salinas' ads are "false" because Erickson "has never been charged with illegal possession of drug." To that end, Gibson's letter cited a recent story from The Oregonian in which Hood River County District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen said that the court documents that those allegations came from were incorrect.

Instead, Erickson's attorney from that case, Tara Lawrence, insisted that she'd made a "mistake" by filing a plea agreement stating that the Rasmussen's office had "agreed to dismiss felony possession of controlled substance upon tender of guilty plea." An attorney for Salinas, however, cited that very statement in support of the ad's truthfulness in a letter and argued that "a charge is a charge, whether or not the DA files it."

Before Erickson filed his lawsuit, Salinas' campaign shrugged off his threats, saying in a statement, "Mike Erickson's threats to overturn the election if he doesn't win should raise major concerns for Oregonians who cherish democracy."

The Downballot

After an eruption of even more scandals among Republican Senate candidates, FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich returns to The Downballot this week to discuss the effect these sorts of scandals can have on competitive races; whether Democrats stand a chance to keep the House; and the different ways pollsters create likely voter models.

Co-host David Beard and guest host Joe Sudbay also discuss Dr. Oz, puppy killer; the GOP's hypocrisy regarding Herschel Walker's ever-growing list of scandals; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s desperate attempts to avoid testifying in an abortion case; and Brazil's presidential runoff, where former President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva remains the favorite despite far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro's better-than-expected first-round showing.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find a transcript for this week's episode right here.

3Q Fundraising

  • CO-Sen: Joe O'Dea (R): $2 million raised, additional $1 million self-funded
  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker (R): $12 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
  • OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $17.2 million raised
  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $22 million raised
  • WI-Sen: Mandela Barnes (D): $20 million raised
  • GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (R-inc): $29 million raised, $15.4 million cash-on-hand
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (R-inc): $1.5 million raised (in September), $12.5 cash-on-hand; Nan Whaley (D): $1.2 million raised (in September), $3.9 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-22: Rudy Salas (D): $1.2 million raised
  • CO-08: Yadira Caraveo (D): $1.5 million raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand
  • FL-15: Alan Cohn (D): $400,000 raised
  • IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $1.25 million raised, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
  • IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D): $1.5 million raised
  • MT-01: Monica Tranel (D): $1.1 million raised
  • NH-02: Annie Kuster (D-inc): $1 million raised, $2.6 million cash-on-hand
  • NM-02: Gabe Vasquez (D): $1.55 million raised
  • NY-18: Pat Ryan (D-inc): $2.25 million raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand; Colin Schmitt (R): $500,000 raised, $500,000 cash-on-hand
  • PA-17: Chris Deluzio (D): $1.4 million raised
  • VA-02: Jen Kiggans (R): $1 million raised
  • VA-07: Abigail Spanberger (D-inc): $2.2 million raised

Senate

CO-Sen: Ron Hanks, a far-right state representative who lost the June Republican primary to Joe O'Dea 54-46, announced this week that he was endorsing Libertarian Brian Peotter as "the only conservative on the ballot." Hanks made it clear exactly what he thought of his former intra-party rival in his statement, declaring, "There is only a fake Republican, a pay-to-play opportunist with no conservative values or agenda. He merits no support, and he's not likely to get much." Hanks added, "Let the COGOP know we will have a party with conservative principles, not squishy candidates with a power fetish."

GA-Sen: While Republican Herschel Walker has spent days insisting that he did he not pay for his then-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009 and that he also doesn't know who his accuser could be, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday night that the woman in question had a child with Walker a few years after her abortion. The woman, whose identity the publication has withheld, said of Walker's denials, "Sure, I was stunned, but I guess it also doesn't shock me, that maybe there are just so many of us that he truly doesn't remember." She continued, "But then again, if he really forgot about it, that says something, too."

The next day, Walker held a press conference where he again denied that he even knew who this woman was. However, the Daily Beast further reported that back in June, when the site first broke the news that Walker was father to three previously undisclosed children, the candidate himself had confirmed she was the mother of one of them.

Just before these latest developments, Walker released an ad against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock that played footage of a Democratic commercial focused on reports that the Republican had threatened to kill his ex-wife. "As everyone knows, I had a real battle with mental health—even wrote a book about it," Walker declared. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski quickly noted that this spot, which was aired "presumably in response to Daily Beast story," mentioned Walker's 2008 memoir, which was published the year before the candidate allegedly paid for the abortion.

NC-Sen: NBC reports that Senate Majority PAC has booked an additional $4 million to help Democrat Cheri Beasley, a move that will bring its total spending here to $10.5 million. The reservation comes at a time when Republican outside groups have been deploying considerably more money here than Democrats: While Politico reported Tuesday that Beasley has outspent Republican Ted Budd by $9 million in advertising, data from OpenSecrets shows that Budd's super PAC allies have outpaced Beasley’s supporters $34.9 million to $7.8 million.

NE-Sen: Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse announced on Thursday that he would resign to become president of the University of Florida, which has named the Republican as the sole finalist for the post. Multiple media outlets report that Sasse's departure will occur before the end of the year, which would allow Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who will leave office in early 2023, to appoint a successor. The Nebraska Examiner says that a special election would take place for the final two years of Sasse's term in 2024, when fellow GOP Sen. Deb Fischer will also be up.

Sasse held the post of president of Midland University in Nebraska when he entered the 2014 primary to succeed Sen. Mike Johanns, a fellow Republican who unexpectedly decided to retire after one term. Sasse had the backing of the deep-pocketed Club for Growth but still looked like the underdog for most of his campaign against former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, a retired Navy pilot who was detained by China in 2001 after his plane collided with a Chinese fighter.

Osborn's bid, however, began to fall apart weeks before the primary after the media reported that he'd distributed a bogus Navy memo to defend his decision to land in China. Sasse soon pulled ahead in the polls, while his allies took action late in the campaign to stop a third contender, wealthy banking executive Sid Dinsdale, from sneaking through. Ultimately, Sasse beat Dinsdale by a convincing 49-22 margin, and he easily won the general election in this red state.

The new senator became a media favorite in D.C., especially after he emerged as a loud Donald Trump critic during the 2016 campaign, saying at one point that "if the Republican Party becomes the party of David Duke, Donald Trump, I'm out." Sasse, though, was anything but out after Trump took the White House, and while he still vocally trashed him at times, the senator nevertheless loyally voted the administration's way.

There was talk in 2020 that Sasse could be on the receiving end of a Trump-inspired primary challenge, but no one serious emerged even before Trump himself endorsed the incumbent. Sasse had no trouble winning a second term, though he went on to become one of seven Senate Republicans to vote to convict Trump the next year following his second impeachment. The Nebraskan, though, still voted the party line on all other major issues.

UT-Sen: Put Utah First, a group funded by Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, has dropped another $900,000 to aid conservative independent Evan McMullin, which takes its total investment here to $2.65 million.

Polls:

  • AZ-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 51, Blake Masters (R): 45
  • IA-Sen: Cygnal (R) for Iowans for Tax Relief: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 54, Mike Franken (D): 40 (July: 52-43 Grassley)
  • NV-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Adam Laxalt (R): 48, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): 46

Governors

OR-Gov: Republican Christine Drazan has debuted a commercial accusing Democrat Tina Kotek of blocking an investigation into sexual abuse allegations, but The Oregonian's Jamie Goldberg writes, "Even by the traditionally loosened standards for political ads, that assertion is untrue, according to independent investigations and news reports."

Drazan's commercial declares that as speaker of the state House, Kotek "blocked an investigation into repeated sexual abuse because she was worried about how it would make her look." The complaints in question were about Republican Jeff Kruse—a member of the state Senate, not the state House. Unsurpirsingly, the speaker noted after the allegations became public that she had no influence over members of the upper chamber and said she did not have knowledge of the complaints against Kruse.

Goldberg writes, "No subsequent news reporting has showed Kotek covered up sexual abuse, although she did provide privacy to some victims who spoke up after 2018 to allege harassment by House members." The speaker was one of several lawmakers who initially refused to comply when the state Labor Bureau issued subpoenas after legislative attorneys argued the requests documents could reveal the identity of Kruse's accusers, but Goldberg says that a court order ultimately led Kotek and others to comply.

Polls:

  • AZ-Gov: SSRS for CNN: Katie Hobbs (D): 49, Kari Lake (R): 46
  • IA-Gov: Cygnal (R) for Iowans for Tax Relief: Kim Reynolds (R-inc): 59, Deidre DeJear (D): 38 (July: 56-41 Reynolds)
  • MN-Gov: SurveyUSA for KSTP: Tim Walz (D-inc): 50, Scott Jensen (R): 40 (Sept.: 51-33 Walz)
  • NV-Gov: SSRS for CNN: Joe Lombardo (R): 48, Steve Sisolak (D-inc): 46

House

FL-13: Progress Pinellas has dropped another $2.2 million to support Democrat Eric Lynn, which takes its total investment here to $6.7 million. The Tampa Bay Times reported in April that the group is funded by hedge fund manager Justin Ishbia, a Lynn cousin who usually contributes to Republicans.

MI-07: The Congressional Leadership Fund is running a new ad attacking Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin over recent reports that she’s been leasing a condo from a donor named Jerry Hollister, who serves as director of government relations for a medical manufacturing company called Niowave. CLF cites a Detroit News story noting that Slotkin had signed a 2020 letter supporting a Department of Energy program that awarded a total of $28 million to Niowave in 2019 and 2021, which the narrator suggests is "shady."

Slotkin's campaign responded to the initial stories by noting that she never mentioned Niowave in that missive, and that the Republican she defeated in 2018, Rep. Mike Bishop, had previously signed a similar letter. Her team declared the congresswoman had "never done anything in Congress that inappropriately benefits his company" and that she was "paying market rate rent to a landlord, just like thousands of mid-Michiganders."

MN-02: The Minnesota Reformer's Deena Winter reported Wednesday that, while Republican Tyler Kistner spent his unsuccessful 2020 campaign suggesting that he'd been in combat, Marine records show that was never the case. Winter notes that Kistner, who is again the GOP nominee, would have received a combat action ribbon had he seen battle, which he's acknowledged he doesn't have.

Two years ago, Kistner was facing off against several fellow Republicans, including Air Force veteran Erika Cashin, ahead of the GOP party convention, where Minnesota nominations are often decided. Kistner said at the time he couldn't turn over documents about his service, but he declared in the lead up to the gathering that he'd put the enemy "six feet under" and had "been on the wrong end of a loaded weapon." The candidate also referenced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said, "I've been in such conflicts."

Cashin said in response at the time, "Tyler Kistner has said he is 'the most decorated military member in this race,' and has made multiple statements needing clarification." She also challenged him to release his records, arguing, "Tyler can put these questions to rest by simply releasing his DD 214 and proving what he has said is true." Kistner, though, won the party endorsement without publicizing those documents, and Cashin and his other foes dropped out afterwards rather than go on to the primary. Kistner ultimately lost the general election to Democratic Rep. Angie Craig 48-46.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is backing Kistner's second bid to unseat Craig, had been airing an ad saying he'd been in "four combat deployments." The progressive group VoteVets, though, asked stations to take down these spots because Kistner had actually served in Japan and Korea, which are not combat zones. CLF, for its part, claims it distributed an "incorrect version of the ad and fixed it ourselves on the same day."

A Kistner consultant named Billy Grant insisted his client had never lied during the 2020 race. Grant told Winter that the "six feet under" line referred to an operation where a "partner force effectively killed more than eight violent extremist organizations in the North African region," where Kistner helped coordinate the evacuation of seven injured soldiers. Grant also argues that Kistner had been telling the truth about being on the "wrong end of a loaded weapon" because he'd gotten into an argument with an allied commander who had pulled a gun on him before the matter was resolved.

NY-11, NY-19: Siena College is out with a pair of surveys for Spectrum News giving each party the lead in a New York House contest.

Over in the 11th District, which includes all of Staten Island and a portion of Brooklyn, freshman Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis enjoys a 49-43 edge in her rematch against Democrat Max Rose. The sample also finds Republican Lee Zeldin with a small 46-42 advantage against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in a constituency Trump would have taken 53-46.

In the Hudson Valley-based 19th, meanwhile, Siena has Democrat Josh Riley beating Republican Marc Molinaro 46-41. The school also finds Zeldin ahead 46-45 in this swingy turf, which would have backed Biden 51-47.

Attorneys General & Secretaries of State

AZ-SoS, NV-SoS: SSRS, polling for CNN, finds election deniers with small leads in a pair of secretary of state races taking place in crucial swing states. Mark Finchem posts a 49-45 edge over Democrat Adrian Fontes in Arizona, while fellow Republican Jim Marchant enjoys a similar 46-43 edge against Cisco Aguilar in Nevada. Last week, the progressive group End Citizens United released internals from GSG showing Fontes ahead 46-44. Fontes is also getting some new outside support, as CNN reports that the Democratic organization iVote will spend $5 million to aid him.

IA-AG: The Republican firm Cygnal's new survey for the conservative Iowans for Tax Relief shows Republican Brenna Bird outpacing longtime Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller 46-43. Back in July, Cygnal found Miller, who is seeking a historic 11th term, ahead by a narrow 45-44 margin.

IN-SoS: IndyPolitics.com recently published a story in which two women charged that Diego Morales, who is the Republican nominee for secretary of state, sexually harassed and groped them. One said the incident took place in 2007, while the other said her encounter with Morales took place a few years later. Morales soon put out a statement saying, "The claims being made against me are false and I unequivocally deny all of them." He faces Democrat Destiny Wells in November.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Trump-backed rich guy wins close primary to take on Wisconsin’s Democratic governor

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

Leading Off

 WI-Gov: Self-funding businessman Tim Michels, who had Donald Trump’s endorsement, defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch 47-42 in the Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Michels was last on the ballot all the way back in 2004 when he lost the Senate race to Democrat Russ Feingold 55-44 as John Kerry was only narrowly carrying Wisconsin 50-49. Team Red, though, is counting on a much better performance from him this time against Evers in what will be one of the biggest races of 2022.

Kleefisch, who was Scott Walker’s running mate in each of his campaigns and had his backing for the top job, looked like the clear frontrunner until April when Michels jumped in seemingly out of nowhere. The construction executive, however, immediately used his wealth to reintroduce himself to voters, and he wound up decisively outspending his opponent after investing at least $12 million into his comeback.

Michels went on to earn Trump’s endorsement in June; the GOP's leader reportedly was infuriated about a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of Brian Hagedorn, a conservative state Supreme Court justice who sided against Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election. Kleefisch and her allies began airing negative ads a month before Election Day, but Michels spent weeks insisting he wouldn’t do the same.

As recently as last Monday, the businessman proclaimed, “I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race,” explaining, “And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition.” However, while Michels continued, “And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you,” he decided to risk that disrespect on Thursday by indeed going negative. That belated response, as well as the Club for Growth’s earlier anti-Kleefisch ad campaign, may have made the difference in Tuesday’s close primary.

Election Recaps

Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here.

 CT-Sen (R): Former Ambassador to Chile Leora Levy beat former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides 51-40 for the right to face Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Biden won Connecticut 59-39, and there was little indication that the senator was vulnerable even before the Trump-endorsed Levy took the GOP nomination.

Klarides spent years as a GOP rising star in a state where the party desperately needed one, and she had been widely expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. In January, though, Klarides kicked off a Senate bid instead after wealthy businessman Bob Stefanowski announced that he would seek a rematch with Lamont, who beat him 49-46. However, while Klarides likely believed she’d avoid a tough primary by choosing to go after the entrenched Blumenthal, Levy proved her very wrong.

 MN-01 (special): The Associated Press has not yet called the special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, but Republican Brad Finstad leads Democrat Jeff Ettinger 51-47 with 118,000 votes in; the AP estimates that this is represents 99% of the total vote. Trump carried this southern Minnesota constituency 54-44 in 2020, while Hagedorn won his second and final term that year 49-46

 MN-01 (R): Finstad easily turned back state Rep. Jeremy Munson 76-24 in the Republican primary for a full two-year term, while Ettinger secured the Democratic nod 92-6 against a little-known foe. Trump would have carried the new version of the 1st, which largely resembles the constituency Hagedorn represented, by a similar 53-44 spread.

Finstad beat Munson just 38-37 in the May special primary, and while Munson filed to run for a full term days later, it initially looked like he was just raising money to pay back a $200,000 campaign loan. Munson announced in July that he would indeed try once more to beat Finstad, but that effort badly collapsed on Tuesday.

 MN-04 (D): Longtime Rep. Betty McCollum pulled off a landslide 83-15 win against party operative Amane Badhasso in the primary for this safely blue St. Paul-based seat.

 MN-05 (D): In arguably the biggest surprise of the evening, Rep. Ilhan Omar fended off former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels just 50-48 to win renomination in this heavily Democratic constituency in the Minneapolis area. We’ll take a closer look at this near upset in our next Digest.

MN-AG (R): Attorney Jim Schultz, who earned the state party’s endorsement in May, beat 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow 53-35. Schultz will now take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, who defeated Wardlow 49-45 four years ago.

Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty took first place in the seven-way nonpartisan primary with 36%, while retired judge Martha Holton Dimick edged out state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler 18-16 for the second spot in the November general election.

Both Moriarty and Dimick are Democrats, but they’ve been running very different campaigns. Moriarty, who has the backing of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, has pitched herself as a reformer, saying there needs to be “accountability both for people who violate the law and police.”

Dimick, who has both Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association in her corner, has in turn argued, “We have to send messages that we will prosecute violent criminals … With that effort to defund the police, people sent the wrong message.” Dimick would be the state's first Black county attorney.

 VT-Sen (R): First-time candidate Gerald Malloy scored a 43-39 win against former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, who generated some attention when she launched her campaign; Nolan also had the support of Gov. Phil Scott, who is one of the few prominent Republicans in this very blue state. The result makes little difference for the general election, though, because Democratic Rep. Peter Welch should have no trouble winning the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Leahy in a state Biden took 66-31.

VT-AL (D): State Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray 61-37 in the primary to replace Welch as Vermont’s only House member. Balint, who had endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, is now set to end Vermont’s status as the only state in America that has not elected a woman to Congress; Balint would also be the Green Mountain State’s first gay representative.

WI-03 (D): State Sen. Brad Pfaff defeated businesswoman Rebecca Cooke 39-31 in the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ron Kind, who is Pfaff’s former boss and top supporter. Pfaff will now go up against 2020 Republican nominee Derrick Van Orden, who lost to Kind 51-49 in the closest race of the congressman’s career. Trump carried both the old and new versions of this southwestern Wisconsin constituency 51-47.

 WI-AG (R): Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney holds a 37.5-36.9 edge over former state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a contest that the Associated Press has not yet called; 595,000 ballots have been tabulated, and the AP estimates they represent 99% of the total vote. The winner will go up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won his post in a tight 2018 contest.

WI State Assembly (R): Speaker Robin Vos won renomination 51-49 against Adam Steen, who was very much a longshot until Trump endorsed him last week. No Democrats are running for this seat in the Racine area.

Trump made his move after Vos said that the GOP’s master had recently called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Joe Biden's victory in the state—a move the speaker said was legally impossible. Trump retaliated by trashing Vos for using an old photo of the two of them together in his campaign literature as he endorsed the previously little-known Steen.  

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov, GA-LG: Charlie Bailey, who is Team Blue's nominee for lieutenant governor, has released an internal from Research Affiliates that shows his party doing well in competitive contests. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock edges out Republican Herschel Walker 49-46, while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are deadlocked 47-47. Bailey also posts a 43-43 tie in his own race against Republican Burt Jones, who was the rare member of Donald Trump's Big Lie slate to win a statewide primary this year.

OK-Sen-B: The Republican pollster Battleground Connect last week found Rep. Markwayne Mullin leading former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 46-38 ahead of the Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff. This survey, which did not mention a client, is the first poll we've seen of the second round of voting. Mullin outpaced Shannon 44-18 in late June and picked up Trump's endorsement soon after, so it would be a surprise if the runoff is close.

Battleground Connect did depart from the consensus in July when it released a trio of polls in the GOP primary for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat that showed wealthy businessman Jim Lamon narrowly leading the Trump-endorsed Blake Masters at a time when every other firm had Masters well ahead. (Its final poll in late July put Lamon up 30-28.) But that iconoclasm didn't work out well for Battleground Connect or Lamon, and Masters prevailed 40-28 last week.

UT-Sen: Republican incumbent Mike Lee's team has dusted off a WPA Intelligence Poll from July 12-14 that shows him beating independent Evan McMullin 49-35, with 10% going to unnamed other candidates. A survey taken around that same time by Dan Jones & Associates showed Lee up by a considerably smaller 41-36.

Governors

OK-Gov: Oklahoma's Children Our Future, a group that very much does not like Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, has publicized an internal from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows him leading Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister only 42-34. Libertarian Natalie Bruno takes 6% while independent Ervin Yen, who is a former Republican state senator, grabs another 4%.

The memo, which begins, "As scandal after scandal plagues the Kevin Stitt administration," says that the governor posted a 58-32 advantage in an unreleased January poll. The last survey we saw was in early June when the GOP firm Amber Integrated gave Stitt a 47-29 edge over Hofmeister, who left the Republican Party in October.

House

CA-13, OR-04, OR-06: Politico’s Ally Mutnick has obtained a trio of polls sponsored by the NRCC and the seat’s respective Republican nominee that show Team Red in competitive races in constituencies Biden decisively carried:

CA-13: Moore Information (R): Adam Gray (D): 47, John Duarte (R): 43

OR-04: Moore Information (R): Val Hoyle (D): 46, Alek Skarlatos (R): 41

OR-06: Cygnal (R): Mike Erickson (R): 47, Andrea Salinas (D): 40

These are the first numbers we’ve seen from any of these contests.

NY-24: Rep. Claudia Tenney has unveiled an internal from Public Opinion Strategies that has her taking 52% in the Aug. 23 GOP primary while her two opponents, attorney Mario Fratto and perennial candidate George Phillips, grab just 6% each. Trump would have won 57-40 in this constituency, which is based in the Finger Lakes region.

The Trump-endorsed Tenney currently represents less than 6% of this revamped district, but neither of her foes have generated much attention. Fratto did finish June with $230,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, but Tenney was still well ahead with $1 million banked. Phillips, writes The Citizen, "has not been actively campaigning for the seat and did not file a fundraising report."

WA-03: On Tuesday evening Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, conceded last week’s top-two primary one day after she dropped into third place. With 218,000 ballots tabulated Democrat Marie Perez leads with 31% while Trump's candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent, edged out Herrera Beutler 22.8-22.3 for the second general election spot. Trump would have carried this southwestern Washington seat 51-46.

WY-AL: Sen. Cynthia Lummis endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman over the weekend for the Aug. 16 GOP primary almost a year after Donald Trump declared that the senator was already supporting Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney. Lummis' spokesperson said back in September, "While Senator Lummis is not making an endorsement at this time, she believes President Trump has made an inspired choice in backing Harriet Hageman."

secretaries of state

 WA-SoS: The AP has called a special general election between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party. Hobbs, who is the first Democrat to hold this office since the 1964 election, took first in last week’s top-two primary with 40%, while Anderson edged out Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner 13-12 for second. The winner will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Trump-backed rich guy wins close primary to take on Wisconsin’s Democratic governor

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

Leading Off

 WI-Gov: Self-funding businessman Tim Michels, who had Donald Trump’s endorsement, defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch 47-42 in the Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Michels was last on the ballot all the way back in 2004 when he lost the Senate race to Democrat Russ Feingold 55-44 as John Kerry was only narrowly carrying Wisconsin 50-49. Team Red, though, is counting on a much better performance from him this time against Evers in what will be one of the biggest races of 2022.

Kleefisch, who was Scott Walker’s running mate in each of his campaigns and had his backing for the top job, looked like the clear frontrunner until April when Michels jumped in seemingly out of nowhere. The construction executive, however, immediately used his wealth to reintroduce himself to voters, and he wound up decisively outspending his opponent after investing at least $12 million into his comeback.

Michels went on to earn Trump’s endorsement in June; the GOP's leader reportedly was infuriated about a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of Brian Hagedorn, a conservative state Supreme Court justice who sided against Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election. Kleefisch and her allies began airing negative ads a month before Election Day, but Michels spent weeks insisting he wouldn’t do the same.

As recently as last Monday, the businessman proclaimed, “I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race,” explaining, “And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition.” However, while Michels continued, “And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you,” he decided to risk that disrespect on Thursday by indeed going negative. That belated response, as well as the Club for Growth’s earlier anti-Kleefisch ad campaign, may have made the difference in Tuesday’s close primary.

Election Recaps

Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here.

 CT-Sen (R): Former Ambassador to Chile Leora Levy beat former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides 51-40 for the right to face Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Biden won Connecticut 59-39, and there was little indication that the senator was vulnerable even before the Trump-endorsed Levy took the GOP nomination.

Klarides spent years as a GOP rising star in a state where the party desperately needed one, and she had been widely expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. In January, though, Klarides kicked off a Senate bid instead after wealthy businessman Bob Stefanowski announced that he would seek a rematch with Lamont, who beat him 49-46. However, while Klarides likely believed she’d avoid a tough primary by choosing to go after the entrenched Blumenthal, Levy proved her very wrong.

 MN-01 (special): The Associated Press has not yet called the special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, but Republican Brad Finstad leads Democrat Jeff Ettinger 51-47 with 118,000 votes in; the AP estimates that this is represents 99% of the total vote. Trump carried this southern Minnesota constituency 54-44 in 2020, while Hagedorn won his second and final term that year 49-46

 MN-01 (R): Finstad easily turned back state Rep. Jeremy Munson 76-24 in the Republican primary for a full two-year term, while Ettinger secured the Democratic nod 92-6 against a little-known foe. Trump would have carried the new version of the 1st, which largely resembles the constituency Hagedorn represented, by a similar 53-44 spread.

Finstad beat Munson just 38-37 in the May special primary, and while Munson filed to run for a full term days later, it initially looked like he was just raising money to pay back a $200,000 campaign loan. Munson announced in July that he would indeed try once more to beat Finstad, but that effort badly collapsed on Tuesday.

 MN-04 (D): Longtime Rep. Betty McCollum pulled off a landslide 83-15 win against party operative Amane Badhasso in the primary for this safely blue St. Paul-based seat.

 MN-05 (D): In arguably the biggest surprise of the evening, Rep. Ilhan Omar fended off former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels just 50-48 to win renomination in this heavily Democratic constituency in the Minneapolis area. We’ll take a closer look at this near upset in our next Digest.

MN-AG (R): Attorney Jim Schultz, who earned the state party’s endorsement in May, beat 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow 53-35. Schultz will now take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, who defeated Wardlow 49-45 four years ago.

Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty took first place in the seven-way nonpartisan primary with 36%, while retired judge Martha Holton Dimick edged out state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler 18-16 for the second spot in the November general election.

Both Moriarty and Dimick are Democrats, but they’ve been running very different campaigns. Moriarty, who has the backing of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, has pitched herself as a reformer, saying there needs to be “accountability both for people who violate the law and police.”

Dimick, who has both Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association in her corner, has in turn argued, “We have to send messages that we will prosecute violent criminals … With that effort to defund the police, people sent the wrong message.” Dimick would be the state's first Black county attorney.

 VT-Sen (R): First-time candidate Gerald Malloy scored a 43-39 win against former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, who generated some attention when she launched her campaign; Nolan also had the support of Gov. Phil Scott, who is one of the few prominent Republicans in this very blue state. The result makes little difference for the general election, though, because Democratic Rep. Peter Welch should have no trouble winning the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Leahy in a state Biden took 66-31.

VT-AL (D): State Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray 61-37 in the primary to replace Welch as Vermont’s only House member. Balint, who had endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, is now set to end Vermont’s status as the only state in America that has not elected a woman to Congress; Balint would also be the Green Mountain State’s first gay representative.

WI-03 (D): State Sen. Brad Pfaff defeated businesswoman Rebecca Cooke 39-31 in the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ron Kind, who is Pfaff’s former boss and top supporter. Pfaff will now go up against 2020 Republican nominee Derrick Van Orden, who lost to Kind 51-49 in the closest race of the congressman’s career. Trump carried both the old and new versions of this southwestern Wisconsin constituency 51-47.

 WI-AG (R): Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney holds a 37.5-36.9 edge over former state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a contest that the Associated Press has not yet called; 595,000 ballots have been tabulated, and the AP estimates they represent 99% of the total vote. The winner will go up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won his post in a tight 2018 contest.

WI State Assembly (R): Speaker Robin Vos won renomination 51-49 against Adam Steen, who was very much a longshot until Trump endorsed him last week. No Democrats are running for this seat in the Racine area.

Trump made his move after Vos said that the GOP’s master had recently called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Joe Biden's victory in the state—a move the speaker said was legally impossible. Trump retaliated by trashing Vos for using an old photo of the two of them together in his campaign literature as he endorsed the previously little-known Steen.  

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov, GA-LG: Charlie Bailey, who is Team Blue's nominee for lieutenant governor, has released an internal from Research Affiliates that shows his party doing well in competitive contests. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock edges out Republican Herschel Walker 49-46, while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are deadlocked 47-47. Bailey also posts a 43-43 tie in his own race against Republican Burt Jones, who was the rare member of Donald Trump's Big Lie slate to win a statewide primary this year.

OK-Sen-B: The Republican pollster Battleground Connect last week found Rep. Markwayne Mullin leading former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 46-38 ahead of the Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff. This survey, which did not mention a client, is the first poll we've seen of the second round of voting. Mullin outpaced Shannon 44-18 in late June and picked up Trump's endorsement soon after, so it would be a surprise if the runoff is close.

Battleground Connect did depart from the consensus in July when it released a trio of polls in the GOP primary for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat that showed wealthy businessman Jim Lamon narrowly leading the Trump-endorsed Blake Masters at a time when every other firm had Masters well ahead. (Its final poll in late July put Lamon up 30-28.) But that iconoclasm didn't work out well for Battleground Connect or Lamon, and Masters prevailed 40-28 last week.

UT-Sen: Republican incumbent Mike Lee's team has dusted off a WPA Intelligence Poll from July 12-14 that shows him beating independent Evan McMullin 49-35, with 10% going to unnamed other candidates. A survey taken around that same time by Dan Jones & Associates showed Lee up by a considerably smaller 41-36.

Governors

OK-Gov: Oklahoma's Children Our Future, a group that very much does not like Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, has publicized an internal from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows him leading Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister only 42-34. Libertarian Natalie Bruno takes 6% while independent Ervin Yen, who is a former Republican state senator, grabs another 4%.

The memo, which begins, "As scandal after scandal plagues the Kevin Stitt administration," says that the governor posted a 58-32 advantage in an unreleased January poll. The last survey we saw was in early June when the GOP firm Amber Integrated gave Stitt a 47-29 edge over Hofmeister, who left the Republican Party in October.

House

CA-13, OR-04, OR-06: Politico’s Ally Mutnick has obtained a trio of polls sponsored by the NRCC and the seat’s respective Republican nominee that show Team Red in competitive races in constituencies Biden decisively carried:

CA-13: Moore Information (R): Adam Gray (D): 47, John Duarte (R): 43

OR-04: Moore Information (R): Val Hoyle (D): 46, Alek Skarlatos (R): 41

OR-06: Cygnal (R): Mike Erickson (R): 47, Andrea Salinas (D): 40

These are the first numbers we’ve seen from any of these contests.

NY-24: Rep. Claudia Tenney has unveiled an internal from Public Opinion Strategies that has her taking 52% in the Aug. 23 GOP primary while her two opponents, attorney Mario Fratto and perennial candidate George Phillips, grab just 6% each. Trump would have won 57-40 in this constituency, which is based in the Finger Lakes region.

The Trump-endorsed Tenney currently represents less than 6% of this revamped district, but neither of her foes have generated much attention. Fratto did finish June with $230,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, but Tenney was still well ahead with $1 million banked. Phillips, writes The Citizen, "has not been actively campaigning for the seat and did not file a fundraising report."

WA-03: On Tuesday evening Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, conceded last week’s top-two primary one day after she dropped into third place. With 218,000 ballots tabulated Democrat Marie Perez leads with 31% while Trump's candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent, edged out Herrera Beutler 22.8-22.3 for the second general election spot. Trump would have carried this southwestern Washington seat 51-46.

WY-AL: Sen. Cynthia Lummis endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman over the weekend for the Aug. 16 GOP primary almost a year after Donald Trump declared that the senator was already supporting Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney. Lummis' spokesperson said back in September, "While Senator Lummis is not making an endorsement at this time, she believes President Trump has made an inspired choice in backing Harriet Hageman."

secretaries of state

 WA-SoS: The AP has called a special general election between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party. Hobbs, who is the first Democrat to hold this office since the 1964 election, took first in last week’s top-two primary with 40%, while Anderson edged out Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner 13-12 for second. The winner will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.

Ad Roundup

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Morning Digest: Oregon’s new congressional district brings some old characters out of the woodwork

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 podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

OR-06: Two Oregon Republicans from yesteryear launched campaigns for the brand-new 6th Congressional District, a seat in the mid-Willamette Valley that Joe Biden would have carried 55-42, just ahead of Tuesday night's candidate filing deadline: former Rep. Jim Bunn, who was elected to his only term in a previous version of the 5th District during the 1994 red wave, and Mike Erickson, who was the 2006 and 2008 nominee for the next incarnation of the 5th. Bunn and Erickson join five fellow Republicans in the May 17 primary, while nine Democrats are also running here.

Bunn, who joined the state Senate in 1987, won a promotion to the U.S. House by winning a close open seat race as a "family values" candidate, but this victory proved to be the highlight of his political career. The new congressman married one of his aides just months after divorcing his wife of 17 years, and he soon promoted his new spouse to chief of staff and gave her a larger salary than any other Oregon congressional aide.

All of this made Bunn an appealing foil for Clackamas County Commissioner Darlene Hooley, a Democrat who also took the incumbent to task for his ardent opposition to abortion and gun safety. Hooley unseated the Republican 51-46; years later, he acknowledged that his brothers and even his soon-to-be-wife had cautioned him that the marriage could badly harm him politically, but that "I wasn't a bright enough person to listen and understand."

Bunn soon returned home and took a job as a prison guard at the Yamhill County Jail, which is one of the more unusual post-congressional career paths we've seen (though one dude served as a Capitol Hill elevator operator in the late 1930s), but he wasn't quite done trying to get back into office. In 2008 he ran for a state House seat, but he took third place in the primary with only 21%. Bunn last year applied to fill a vacant seat back in the state Senate, but party leaders chose someone else.

Erickson also has had a long career in Beaver State politics, though he's had even less success than Bunn. He lost general elections for the state House in 1988 and 1992, and his victorious opponent that second time was none other than now-Gov. Kate Brown. Erickson went on to challenge Hooley in 2006 but lost 54-43, and he tried again two years later when she retired from her swing seat.

First, though, he had to get through an ugly primary against 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix, who sent out mailers late in the race accusing Erickson of impregnating a girlfriend in 2000 and paying for her subsequent abortion. Erickson called these "unsubstantiated and untrue allegations," though he admitted he'd given the woman $300 and taken her to a doctor. Erickson narrowly won the primary but lost the general election 54-38 to Democrat Kurt Schrader. (And because this seems to be the year of Republican comeback campaigns in Oregon, Mannix is currently running for the state House.)

Given those histories it's likely that plenty of Republicans hope someone will beat Bunn and Erickson in the primary, but it remains to be seen if any of the other five primary candidates, all of whom began running last year, will emerge as the frontrunner. The contender who ended 2021 with the most money by far is Army veteran Nate Sandvig, though his $101,000 war chest wasn't very impressive. Well behind with $31,000 on-hand was state Rep. Ron Noble, who is a relative moderate. Also in the race are former Keizer city councilor Amy Ryan Courser, who challenged Schrader in 2020 in the 5th and lost 52-45; Dundee Mayor David Russ; and Air Force veteran Angela Plowhead.

Things are also far from defined on the Democratic side. The field includes state Reps. Teresa Alonso León and Andrea Salinas, who would each be the first Latina to represent the state in Congress; Alonso Leon would also be Oregon's first indigenous member. Salinas, for her part, has an endorsement from 1st District Rep. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who currently represents just over 40% of this new seat.

Also in the running are Cody Reynolds, a self-funder who has unsuccessfully run for office several times as an independent or third-party candidate (he was also once convicted of smuggling weed); economic development adviser Carrick Flynn; Oregon Medical Board member Kathleen Harder; former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who would Oregon's first Black representative; cryptocurrency developer Matt West; and two others who have attracted little attention so far.

Most of these contenders were also running last year. Reynolds finished 2021 with $1.96 million on-hand that came entirely from himself. West, who has also self-funded a large portion of his campaign, had $476,000 compared to $159,000 for Salinas, while Harder and Smith had $123,000 and $86,000, respectively. Alonso Leon and Flynn entered the race in the new year, and Flynn has already benefited from $1.4 million in outside spending from Protect Our Future, a super PAC backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

There are several other races to watch in Oregon this year, and now that filing has closed, we'll be running down the state of those contests below starting with OR-Gov. You can find a list of 2022 candidates from the state here.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we talk with Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run for Something, an organization she formed in the wake of the 2016 elections to help young, diverse progressives run for office across the country at all levels of the ballot. Litman tells us about the resources they offer to first-time candidates, some of Run for Something's biggest success stories, and her favorite obscure post that you might not even know is an elected position in many states.

We also spend time exploring a trio of different stories out of North Carolina—one concerning Madison Cawthorn, one about redistricting, and one, believe it or not, about Vladimir Putin—and bring you up to speed on the just-concluded presidential election in South Korea. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Senate

GA, OH, PA: Fox News has released new polls of Republican primaries in three states that are hosting races for both Senate and governor this year: Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All the data, which was collected by the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company, is below:

  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker: 66, Gary Black: 8
  • GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (inc.): 50, David Perdue: 39
  • OH-Sen: Mike Gibbons: 22, Josh Mandel: 20, J.D. Vance: 11, Jane Timken: 9, Matt Dolan: 7
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (inc.): 50, Joe Blystone: 21, Jim Renacci: 18
  • PA-Sen: David McCormick: 24, Mehmet Oz: 15, Kathy Barnette: 9, Jeff Bartos: 9, Carla Sands: 6, George Bochetto: 1, Everett Stern: 1
  • PA-Gov: Lou Barletta: 19, Doug Mastriano: 18, Dave White: 14, Bill McSwain: 11, Jake Corman: 6, Scott Martin: 3, Nche Zama: 1

All of these numbers are in line with other polling of each of these races, though DeWine's showing is the best he's posted to date. This is also the first survey from a reputable source to include Blystone, a farmer and first-time candidate running a chaotic campaign animated by the usual far-right grievances who could actually help DeWine by splitting the anti-incumbent vote with Renacci, a former congressman. It’s also worth noting that this poll did not include former Rep. Ron Hood as an option, while the Pennsylvania governor survey did not list former Rep. Melissa Hart and a few other minor contenders.

GA-Sen: A new survey from Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling finds Republican Herschel Walker leading Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock 49-45, which is the largest advantage for Walker anyone has found to date.

NC-Sen: Ruh-roh! Once again, Donald Trump is reportedly unhappy with a high-profile Senate candidate he's endorsed—in this case, North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, who continues to trail in polls of the GOP primary despite almost $4 million in outside spending on his behalf from the Club for Growth. Politico reports that those close to Trump speculate he's "grown to regret his early endorsement" and relays new audio of Trump asking state GOP chair Michael Whatley about the health of Budd's campaign—from the stage, in the midst of a delirious 84-minute speech at a recent RNC fundraiser in New Orleans.

"How's Ted Budd doing? OK?" Trump queried, before demanding, "All right, we gotta get Walker out of that race. Get him out of the race, Michael, right?" There's no word on whether Whatley shouted back from his spot in the audience, but Walker would be former Rep. Mark Walker, who's been floundering in third place, behind both Budd and the frontrunner, former Gov. Pat McCrory. Trump previously tried to lure Walker away from the Senate race with a reported offer to endorse him if he instead made a comeback bid for the House, but Walker didn't bite, and that ship has since sailed, as North Carolina's filing deadline closed last week.

Despite the former congressman's struggles, though, there's still (rather amazingly) a pro-Walker PAC called Awake Carolina that recently produced a poll of the race, which in turn fell into Politico's hands. The new numbers, from Ingress Research, show McCrory taking 29% of the vote to 18 for Budd and 11 for Walker, which is more or less where other surveys have shown the race.

Given the Club's massive spending—Politico says the group is increasing its pledge from $10 million to $14 million—it seems unlikely that Walker could catch Budd and become McCrory's main threat. That's doubly so given Walker's own poor fundraising and Trump's apparent antipathy for him. But if Trump grows as disillusioned with Budd as he has with Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, he could always switch horses.

The one trotter we can be pretty certain he'll never back, though, is McCrory, who just dropped a new ad that bashes Budd for praising Vladimir Putin—a man Trump continues to worship. This is both McCrory's first television spot of the race and one of the first we've seen raising the issue of GOP slavishness toward the Russian dictator: In the spot, McCrory charges, "As Ukrainians bled and died, Congressman Budd excused their killer," as footage of Russian destruction rolls.

Interspersed are clips of Budd calling Putin "a very intelligent actor" in a recent TV interview and saying, "There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank—we understand that." McCrory then attacks Budd for voting against sanctions on Russia and adds, "I don't compliment our enemies."

OH-Sen: State Sen. Matt Dolan's latest commercial for the May GOP primary features Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn and a retired police sergeant praising him as a friend of law enforcement.  

OK-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin's opening spot touts him as a conservative "fighter" and ends with an old clip of Donald Trump (from his infamous 2020 Tulsa rally no less) exclaiming that "you don't want to fight with him." Surprisingly, the ad doesn't actually touch on the congressman's time as a MMA fighter, though viewers will probably learn all about that before the June primary is over.

Governors

MD-Gov: Maryland Matters says that former nonprofit head Wes Moore is spending six figures on the first TV buy from anyone running in the June Democratic primary. The 30-second ad features the candidate telling the audience about his tough upbringing, saying, "When I was three, I watched my father die. I got handcuffs to my wrists by the time I was 11." He continues by talking about how he later became a Rhodes Scholar, an "Army captain in Afghanistan," and head of an influential anti-poverty group.

The 60-second spot has Moore discussing how much education mattered to his life and declaring, "Maryland has some of the nation's best public schools, but also some of its most neglected. We can't settle for that."  

ME-Gov: The RGA has given $3.87 million to the Maine Republican Party, which has reserved that same amount for fall TV time.

OR-Gov: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is termed-out of an office her party has held since the 1986 elections, and both parties have competitive races to succeed her. The eventual nominees will face an expensive general election against former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who has the most money of anyone the race.

There are 17 people competing for the Democratic nod, but only former state House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read appear to be running serious efforts. Kotek, who would be the first lesbian elected governor anywhere (Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey would also have that distinction if she won this year) has the backing of EMILY's List and several unions, including the SEIU and Oregon Education Association. Reed, who is the only candidate in the entire race who has been elected statewide, meanwhile is running as more of a moderate.

The 19-person GOP field is similarly crowded, but considerably more contenders appear to have a shot at winning the plurality needed to secure the nod. Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has raised considerably more money from donors than anyone else, while former state Rep. Bob Tiernan, who served two terms in the 1990s, entered the race last month by self-funding $500,000 and receiving another $500,000 in donations from a California-based real estate company.

The field also includes two former nominees, Bill Sizemore and Bud Pierce. Sizemore, who lost in a 1998 landslide and performed poorly in the 2010 primary, still has not reported any fundraising, though. Pierce, for his part, challenged Brown in a 2016 special election and lost 51-43. Also in the running are consultant Bridget Barton; businesswoman Jessica Gomez; Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten; and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, who made news last month when he acknowledged that he and his wife "explored mutual relationships with other couples."

House

CA-13: Agribusinessman John Duarte has announced that he'll compete as a Republican in the June top-two primary for this open seat in the mid-Central Valley, which Joe Biden would have carried 54-43.

CA-41: Former federal prosecutor Will Rollins' campaign against Republican incumbent Ken Calvert has earned an endorsement from Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, who is seeking re-election in the neighboring new 39th District. (Only about 2% of Takano's existing 41st District is located in the new seat with that number.)

FL-22: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis says he hopes to decide by the end of the month if he'll seek this open seat. Another local Democrat, Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen, has decided not to run, however.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur now has the support of all seven members of Maryland's Democratic House delegation in the June primary to take on Republican incumbent Andy Harris.

MN-05: Former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels has announced that he'll challenge incumbent Ilhan Omar in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around the city. Samuels, who previously considered running as an independent, argued that he and Omar are "both Democrats, but very often you wouldn't know it. When you build an infrastructure of contrarian divisiveness, even when you have good ideas, you can't get it passed because you don't have friends."

Samuels, who is originally from Jamaica, ran for mayor in the crowded 2013 instant-runoff election; he initially took third place with 11%, and he didn't rise much beyond that before he was eliminated in the penultimate 32nd round of tabulations. He returned to elected office the next year when he won a seat on the school board, and he retired in 2018.

Samuels, though, was far from done with politics. In 2020 he supported Antone Melton-Meaux, who went on to lose an expensive primary to Omar 58-39. Samuels last year was also one of the most high-profile opponents of Question 2, a ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety, while Omar was one of its most prominent backers. City voters rejected Question 2 by a 56-44 margin, and Samuels is now arguing that the congresswoman's stance demonstrates that "she's out of touch" with her constituents.

NC-11: State Sen. Chuck Edwards' opening spot for the May Republican primary focuses on his business background, conservative record, and "mountain values," which is a not-so-subtle swipe at Rep. Madison Cawthorn's failed attempt to district hop. In case that was too subtle, Edwards concludes that "this is my home, and it's worth the fight."

NY-24: Attorney Todd Aldinger has ended his Republican primary campaign against Rep. Chris Jacobs in this safely red seat in the Buffalo suburbs. A few other Republicans are still challenging the incumbent, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of putting up a serious fight.

OH-13: Gov. Mike DeWine has appointed former state Rep. Christina Hagan to the Ohio Elections Commission, a move that almost certainly means that the two-time GOP congressional candidate won't run again this year in the event that the state Supreme Court again orders new U.S. House boundaries.

OR-04: Veteran Rep. Peter DeFazio is retiring, and eight fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed him in a seat where legislative Democrats extended Joe Biden's margin of victory from 51-47 to 55-42. The primary frontrunner in this constituency, which covers the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon's south coast, appears to be state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who has endorsements from DeFazio, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and EMILY's List.

Another contender to watch is former Airbnb executive Andrew Kalloch; Hoyle ended 2021 with a $205,000 to $148,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Kalloch, though candidates had just weeks to raise money following the congressman's early December departure announcement. Corvallis school board Chair Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, who took 16% in a 2016 state House race as a third-party candidate, entered the Democratic primary in January, and he would be the state's first Muslim member of Congress.

The only Republican in the running is 2020 nominee Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard veteran whose 52-46 loss last cycle was the closest re-election contest of DeFazio's career. Skarlatos ended December with $348,000 to spend.

OR-05: Rep. Kurt Schrader, who has long been one of the loudest moderates in the Democratic caucus (last January, he had to apologize after comparing the idea of impeaching Donald Trump to a "lynching") faces a primary challenge from the left in the form of attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. There are no other Democrats running for this seat in the Portland southern suburbs and central Oregon, so she won't need to worry about splitting the anti-incumbent vote with other challengers.

McLeod-Skinner, who was Team Blue's 2018 nominee for the old and safely red 2nd District, would be Oregon's first LGBTQ member of Congress, and she also sports an endorsement from the Oregon Education Association. Schrader, for his part, represents just under half of the new 5th District, but the well-funded incumbent ended December with a massive $3.6 million to $208,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Six Republicans are also running for this constituency, which would have backed Joe Biden 53-44. The two most prominent contenders appear to be former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who lost two competitive races for the state House in 2016 and 2018, and businessman Jimmy Crumpacker, who took fourth place in the 2020 primary for the old 2nd District. Chavez-DeRemer finished last year with a $226,000 to $186,000 cash-on-hand lead.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco, who also chairs the county Republican Party, has joined the race for Pennsylvania's open 17th Congressional District. Under a local "resign to run" law, DeMarco will have to quit his current post by March 23.

TN-07, TN-05: Community activist Odessa Kelly, who'd been challenging Rep. Jim Cooper in the Democratic primary in Tennessee's 5th District, has announced that she'll instead run in the redrawn 7th against Republican Rep. Mark Green, following an extensive GOP gerrymander that cracked Nashville to make the 5th much redder and prompted Cooper to retire. Both seats now tilt heavily to the right, though the 7th is actually the tougher district: It would have voted 56-41 for Donald Trump, compared to a 55-43 Trump margin in the revamped 5th.

Secretaries of State

CO-SoS: Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has been one of the far-right's most prominent election deniers, was indicted by a state grand jury on Tuesday on felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly breaching the county's election systems during her attempt to demonstrate fraud in 2020. State GOP leaders responded by calling for Peters to suspend her campaign to take on Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.