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.

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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.

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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

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Morning Digest: Primary season marches on with another big night across the South

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: You Kemp Lose If You Don't Play: We have another big primary night in store on Tuesday as voters in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia head to the polls. That's not all, though, as Texas is holding runoffs for races where no one earned a majority of the vote in the March 1 primary. On top of that, both Democrats and Republicans in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District will pick nominees for an Aug. 9 special election to succeed Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February. And as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.  

Perhaps the biggest race on the calendar is the Democratic runoff for Texas' 28th Congressional District where Henry Cuellar, who is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House, is trying to fend off progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros. The Lone Star State is also hosting the GOP runoff for attorney general between incumbent Ken Paxton, who has spent almost seven years under indictment with no trial date in sight, and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Meanwhile, although Donald Trump's efforts to torpedo Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp seems to be about to spectacularly flame out, he may have more success going after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, two other statewide Republicans who declined to enable the Big Lie. Over in the 7th District in the Atlanta area, we have an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath, though this one may need to be resolved in a runoff. There's plenty more to watch in all five states, and you can find more in our preview.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections when polls close in Georgia. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates, and you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has conducted a poll testing hypothetical general election matchups in Arizona that finds Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly with double-digit leads over three of his prospective Republican foes; there's no word as to who, if anyone, is their client. Kelly beats businessman Jim Lamon 48-34, outpaces state Attorney General Mark Brnovich 50-33, and prevails 49-32 over former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters. These numbers are the best we've seen for Kelly by anyone this cycle, though few pollsters have released surveys here so far.

NC-Sen: The Democratic-affiliated Senate Majority PAC has launched a new TV ad supporting former Democratic state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley as part of a $1.4 million buy over the next three weeks, which is notable after SMP previously omitted North Carolina when it revealed its fall ad reservations back in April. The ad hits back against unmentioned GOP attacks by trying to portray Beasley as tough-on-crime and noting that she even applied the death penalty in a case where a man killed a child.

Meanwhile, a new East Carolina University poll finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd holding a 47-39 lead over Beasley after the two won their respective parties' primaries last week.

OH-Sen: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has debuted his first ad following his primary win earlier this month, and it continues his focus on bringing well-paying blue collar jobs to Ohio. The spot attacks GOP nominee J.D. Vance over a past statement where he said we may have to just accept that "a 55-year-old worker in Dayton, Ohio who spent his entire life in manufacturing ... may not be able to find a good paying job for the rest of his working life."

UT-Sen: A new Dan Jones & Associates poll of the June 28 Republican primary on behalf of the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics shows GOP Sen. Mike Lee ahead by 49-19 over former state Rep. Becky Edwards, while businesswoman Ally Isom takes just 6%. Both Edwards and Isom are challenging the incumbent for being too extreme.

Governors

GA-Gov, GA-Sen, GA-AG, GA-SoS: The GOP firm Landmark Communications has conducted its final poll ahead of Tuesday's Republican primaries, and there was no indication who, if anyone, was their client. The survey finds Gov. Brian Kemp poised for a 60-30 blowout win over former Sen. David Perdue, while former NFL star Herschel Walker sports an even larger 60-12 edge over banking executive Latham Saddler in the Senate race.

Further downballot in the primary for attorney general, incumbent Chris Carr is ahead by 49-24 over Big Lie proponent John Gordon, while the secretary of state's race sees incumbent Brad Raffensperger trailing by 39-38 against Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump's endorsement and is also campaigning on the Big Lie. However, with 9% going to former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and 2% to another candidate, Hice's lead isn't large enough to avoid a June 21 runoff.

MA-Gov: Massachusetts Republicans held their state party convention on Saturday, and former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who has Trump's backing and lost by a wide margin as the GOP's 2018 Senate nominee, won the party endorsement 71-29 over businessman Chris Doughty, who has pitched himself as a moderate. Diehl will still have to face off with Doughty in the September primary, however, because Doughty cleared the 15% threshold needed to advance to the primary ballot.

MI-Gov: Billionaire Dick DeVos has announced that he and his family are endorsing conservative radio host Tudor Dixon and that they intend "to provide support for her financially" in the GOP primary for governor this August. The DeVos family is very well connected in state GOP politics, with Dick DeVos having been the 2006 nominee for governor; his wife Betsy DeVos served as education secretary in the Trump administration and previously chaired the state party. The Detroit News noted that the DeVos family was Michigan's top donor in the 2018 election, having given more than $11 million that cycle according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network nonprofit.

Dixon faces a crowded August primary where former Detroit Police Chief James has appeared to be the frontrunner since last summer. There have been signs in recent months that Craig's lead is vulnerable, and Dixon had previously won endorsements from Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain, along with praise from Trump that stopped just short of an endorsement, but that support has so far failed to translate to the polls. The only recent poll we have here from a reliable firm was a Glengariff Group survey that gave Craig a 23-8 lead over chiropractor Garrett Soldano, while Dixon took just 2%. However, with only 17% of Republicans in that poll having heard of her, Dixon's support may increase if she can effectively get her message out.

NM-Gov: A new Research & Polling Inc. survey of the June 7 GOP primary for the Albuquerque Journal finds former TV meteorologist and 2020 Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti leading by 45-17 over state Rep. Rebecca Dow, with retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti taking 9% and Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block earning 8%. Marchetti's advantage in this latest poll is similar to a SurveyUSA poll from earlier this month that showed him up 44-12 over Block while Zanetti and Dow were close behind in third and fourth, respectively.

PA-Gov: Put Pennsylvania First, a PAC supported by the Democratic Governors Association, Planned Parenthood, and other Democratic-affiliated groups, has announced it is putting $6 million behind a campaign that includes $3 million for TV ads and $1 million for digital ads, with the rest going to voter outreach. The TV spot warns how the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and attacks newly minted GOP nominee Doug Mastriano for supporting a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.

WI-Gov: Republicans at the state GOP convention on Saturday opted not to endorse a candidate after former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch won the support of just 55% of delegates, which was shy of the 60% needed to earn the state party's backing. While party endorsement conventions in Wisconsin only began in the 2010 cycle and aren't nearly as important as in neighboring Minnesota, where rivals of endorsed candidates will often drop out instead of fight on to the primary, the Associated Press noted that winning the Wisconsin GOP's endorsement would have allowed the party to spend as much as it wanted on the victor.

House

CA-40: Physician Asif Mahmood is the latest in a string of Democrats this year who are trying to pick their opponents, but in a bit of a twist, he's also trying to prevent an incumbent from reaching the general election.

Mahmood is airing a new ad that calls out Republican Greg Raths for his hostility to abortion rights, calling him "too right-wing for Orange County"—exactly the kind of message that would excite conservative voters, of course, and one aimed at boosting Raths past Rep. Young Kim in next month's top-two primary. Kim also opposes abortion rights but Mahmood would unquestionably rather face the more vocally MAGA-fied Raths in November.

For Mahmood to be successful, Kim would have to come in third in the primary, a fate that's never befallen an incumbent in the decade since California adopted its current top-two system. However, Kim's incumbency is as thin as it gets: Thanks to redistricting, she represents just 20% of the redrawn 40th District. Raths, meanwhile, ran against Rep. Katie Porter last cycle in the old 45th District, which makes up almost two-thirds of the new 40th, though he lost 53-47.

IL-06: A new internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang for Rep. Sean Casten finds the congressman leading his rival in next month's primary, fellow Rep. Marie Newman, by a 36-27 margin, with 2% going to perennial candidate Charles Hughes and, presumably, 35% undecided. GHY's memo also says that "the race was even" when it last polled in January, though actual toplines for that older survey are not included. The only other poll of the contest was a Newman internal from February that had the two incumbents tied at 37 apiece.

MO-07: Former state Sen. Jay Wasson has released a new poll of the Aug. 2 Republican primary for Missouri's open 7th District, conducted by American Viewpoint, that shows him leading state Sen. Mike Moon 21-17, with state Sen. Eric Burlison at 15 and all other candidates in single digits; 31% were undecided. We've seen just one other survey here, from Republican pollster Remington Research on behalf of the tipsheet Missouri Scout all the way back in January, that had Burlison leading Moon 21-12, with Wasson at 9.

NY-10: New York's radically reconfigured 10th District in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn has already attracted a trio of prominent Democratic contenders, but a whole bunch more are considering the race for this newly open and safely blue seat. The potential candidates who've publicly stated their interest include:

  • state Sen. Simcha Felder, who spent many years caucusing with Republicans
  • former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who represented a different part of Brooklyn in the 1970s and is now 80 years old
  • Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon
  • attorney Dawn Smalls, who took 4% in the 2019 special election for New York City public advocate

Several others are reportedly interested:

  • attorney Daniel Goldman, who was chief Democratic counsel for Donald Trump's first impeachment
  • City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who filed paperwork with the FEC
  • former City Comptroller Scott Stringer, though he's reportedly planning to seek an open state Senate seat in Manhattan
  • former City Councilman David Yassky, according to Councilwoman Gale Brewer

Already running are former Mayor Bill de Blasio, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, and Hudson Valley Rep. Mondaire Jones. Assemblyman Robert Carroll, however, is a no. The 10th District is open because the state's new court-drawn map moved Rep. Jerry Nadler's Upper West Side base into the 12th District, where he'll face off against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary.

NY-12: Attorney Suraj Patel, who was waging a third straight primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney after coming up just shy in 2020, says he's continuing his campaign despite the fact that he'll now be going up against Rep. Jerry Nadler, too. Another candidate who'd been taking on Maloney, community organizer Rana Abdelhamid, does not appear to have commented on her plans since the state's new court-drawn map was adopted over the weekend.

NY-17, NY-03: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who'd been running for New York's open 3rd Congressional District, announced on Monday that she would instead challenge DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney in the 17th.

Biaggi, who represents a slice of Westchester and the Bronx in the legislature, was originally drawn into the 3rd District in the map she and her colleagues passed in February. However, the new court-imposed boundaries returned the 3rd to an all-Long Island configuration similar to the way it had looked for the previous decade. That left Biaggi well outside the new 3rd, facing off against a squadron of Long Island natives across the sound.

However, Biaggi doesn't have any obvious ties to the 17th District, either. She lives in the Westchester town of Pelham on the Bronx border, and even the northernmost tip of her Senate district is still well south of the 17th, which includes northern Westchester, all of Rockland and Putnam counties, and the southern reaches of Dutchess County.

But Maloney's been roundly lambasted, including by several House colleagues, for his own debatable connections to the 17th. Maloney immediately announced after the court-appointed special master published a draft map last week that he'd abandon the 18th to instead run one district to the south, despite representing just a quarter of the 17th and 71% of the 18th. He justified the decision by arguing his home is in the 17th, but in switching districts, he not only left the 18th more vulnerable, he forced fellow Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones out of the 17th, even though he represented 73% of the district. (Jones is instead seeking an open seat in New York City.)

Biaggi specifically cited Maloney's move in explaining her decision to run, saying, "What hurt the party was having the head of the campaign arm not stay in his district, not maximize the number of seats New York can have to hold the majority." She also has experience defeating well-funded senior party leaders: In 2018, she unseated powerful state Sen. Jeff Klein, who for years had allowed Republicans to maintain control of the Senate through an alliance with his caucus of renegade Democrats known as the IDC, or Independent Democratic Conference. Biaggi now has three months to find out whether she can play the role of political giant-slayer once more.

NY-18: Shortly after draft maps were released last week, Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis said that he was considering a bid for New York's 18th District, which is open because of the DCCC's Sean Patrick Maloney's selfish decision to seek the 17th instead. However, Skoufis hasn't said anything since the map was finalized.

NY-19 (special): Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Monday that Rep. Antonio Delgado would be sworn in as her new lieutenant governor on Wednesday, allowing her to consolidate the special election for Delgado's House seat with the Aug. 23 primary for U.S. House and state Senate races. A new state law says that the governor has 10 days after a congressional vacancy to schedule a special election, which must take place 70 to 80 days thereafter. That gives Hochul a maximum window of 90 days, which is why Delgado has delayed his departure from Congress, even though his appointment was announced several weeks ago.

NY-23 (special): Democratic county chairs in New York's 23rd Congressional District have selected Air Force veteran Max Della Pia to run in the upcoming special election to replace former GOP Rep. Tom Reed. Republicans have yet to pick their nominee for the special, which will take place under the old district lines. Della Pia, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, says he will also run in November for the new 23rd District. The old district voted for Donald Trump 55-43; the new version would have backed him 58-40.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has yet to schedule the special, though it will likely be consolidated with the Aug. 23 primary for U.S. House and state Senate races. But while Reed announced that he would resign effective immediately on May 10, state officials say they have yet to receive a letter from the congressman informing them of a vacancy. Reed may be delaying transmission of such a letter for the same reason Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado has likewise not yet vacated his seat—see our NY-19 item just above. It's less clear, however, why Reed might wish to make election administration easier for Hochul, a Democrat, though he has sometimes dissented from GOP orthodoxy.

OR-06: We now know how much it costs to bend a top Democratic super PAC to your will: $5 million.

As we learned late on Friday night, cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried donated $6 million to the House Majority PAC on April 4, just days before HMP began spending $1 million to boost first-time candidate Carrick Flynn in the Democratic primary for Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District.

The move infuriated countless Democrats, who demanded to know why HMP, which had never before involved itself in a primary like this in its decade-long existence, had chosen this race to break with past practice. It particularly enraged the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which was backing state Rep. Andrea Salinas and had given the PAC more than $6 million since 2012 in order to defeat Republicans, not fellow Democrats.

The group's only explanation was transparent bullshit: "House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022," a spokesperson said, "and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal." No one believed that, prompting widespread speculation, as a campaign manager for a rival campaign put it, "that promises have been made."

HMP's financial report for the month of April, however, was not due at the FEC until May 20—three days after the primary. That's why we're only now finding out exactly what that promise appears to have been.

Bankman-Fried himself spent far more heavily on Flynn through his own super PAC, Protect Our Future, which ultimately shelled out an astonishing $11.4 million directly—some of which even went to attack Salinas—as well as nearly a million dollars more indirectly. Bankman-Fried's interest in Flynn was never clear, however. Supporters claimed that Bankman-Fried was drawn to Flynn because of a shared interest in pandemic preparedness, but Bankman-Fried was publicly silent about the race until just days prior to the election, and Flynn didn't campaign on the issue.

(Flynn had denied knowing Bankman-Fried, but his wife had once worked at the same organization as his benefactor, and Flynn acknowledged he was friends with Bankman-Fried's brother, Gabriel, who's heavily involved in the family's political giving. Campaigns and super PACs, by law, are not allowed to coordinate their activities.)

What's even less clear is why Bankman-Fried would bother making his arrangement with House Majority PAC in the first place. Given his apparently limitless resources, he could have easily sent another million bucks to Protect Our Future had he wanted to. Instead, he spent six times that amount to net just a $1 million boost for his preferred candidate. You don't need to be a titan of finance to know how appalling that rate of return is, unless your actual aim is to prove you can make a major arm of the Democratic Party do your bidding.

In the short term, at least, Bankman-Fried's efforts on behalf of Flynn—and HMP's decision to sell out on his behalf—were a debacle. Salinas doubled up Flynn, winning the nomination 36-18, and Flynn's final cost-per-vote will likely exceed $1,000—another terrible return on investment. HMP will also have some serious relationship-mending to do, especially with the CHC.

But even though Bankman-Fried failed to buy a congressional election, he was able to buy the most important super PAC devoted to winning House races for Democrats. For a system already awash in dark money, it's a dark sign for the future.

PA-12: On Friday evening, the Associated Press called the extremely close Democratic primary in Pennsylvania's open 12th District for state Rep. Summer Lee, who defeated Steve Irwin, a former head of the state Securities Commission, by a 41.8 to 41.1 margin. Lee, who presented herself as the more progressive option, would be the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress. Lee will be the heavy favorite in this Pittsburgh-based district, which would have voted for Joe Biden 59-40, against Plum Borough Councilman Mike Doyle, a Republican who happens to share the same name as the retiring Democratic incumbent.

VA-10: Navy veteran Hung Cao won the GOP nomination for Virginia's 10th Congressional District in a major upset on Saturday, defeating the better-known and better-funded Jeanine Lawson, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, by a 52-34 margin in the seventh and final round of an instant runoff. Rather than rely on a traditional state-run primary, Republicans used a party-run "firehouse primary" that saw a total turnout of about 15,000 voters. By contrast, the last contested primary in this district in a midterm year saw 53,000 people turn out to vote in the Democratic nominating contest in 2018, which then-state Sen. Jennifer Wexton won easily.

Wexton went on to oust Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock by a wide 56-44 margin that November in a northern Virginia district that's rapidly moved to the left in recent years and won re-election by a similar spread. Under the new lines, the 10th would have voted for Joe Biden 58-40, according to Dave's Redistricting App, which is very similar to the president's performance in the previous version of this seat. However, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin lost the 10th just 52-47 in his successful bid for governor last year, per OurCampaigns.

Ad Roundup

Mike Lee has some explaining to do about Jan. 6

In 2020, when a reporter asked Utah Senator Mike Lee about the extent of his involvement in then President Donald Trump’s push to overturn that year’s election results, Lee chalked up his own investment in the president’s scheme to a benign curiosity. 

His recently published text messages to Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows at the time, however, tell a far different story. The texts appear to show Lee pledging himself to find every “legal and constitutional remedy” to assist Trump’s mission. He was quick with a suggestion—like an audit of ballots in swing states—and stumped for Trump to use conspiracy theory peddling lawyer Sidney Powell to take up the cause in court.

And when Lee received a copy of John Eastman’s memo laying out a scheme to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election just four days before the insurrection, he publicly derided it as “ridiculous.”

Yet in private, Lee appeared to strongly advocate for that strategy and lamented the hours he otherwise spent searching for ways to “unravel” a pathway to victory for a clearly defeated president. 

RELATED STORY: Texts show they were all for Trump overturning the election—until a lack of key evidence got in the way

Samuel Benson over at Utah’s Deseret News published an article on Wednesday raising questions—and rightly so—over Lee’s track record of conflicting positions. Benson interviewed Lee at length before and after the assault on the Capitol. 

And when CNN published the text messages, Benson followed up, asking for an interview. Where once Lee was willing to speak on the subject at length, he has now clammed up. Instead, he dispatched his spokesman, Lee Lonsberry, to do damage control. 

Lonsberry told Benson: 

“When Senator Lee reviewed evidence and legal arguments related to the 2020 presidential election, his principal concern was for the law, the Constitution, and especially the more than 150 million Americans who voted in that election. From the moment the electoral college cast its votes in mid-December, he made clear that Joe Biden had won, and would within weeks become the 46th president of the United States absent a court order or state legislative action invalidating electoral votes.”

Further, “once it became clear” to Lee that no states would be rescinding their electoral slates, he told Meadows any effort to reverse the election results would “end badly.” 

Lee, Lonsberry said, just wanted to “let the country move on.”

Lee publicly acknowledged that Biden won the Electoral College on Dec. 14, the final deadline for states to send their slate of electors to the National Archives. But he also delicately couched his statement with a nod to Trump’s “fraud” claims.

There were still  “concerns regarding fraud and irregularities in this election remain active in multiple states,” Lee said at the time.

Then-Attorney General Bill Barr had already declared two weeks earlier there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Trump too had been on a losing streak in various courts around the U.S.  as his team of attorneys bumbled through lawsuits demanding election results be thrown out or electors decertified. 

Nevertheless, in the two days after Lee proclaimed Biden was the rightful winner, in a text to Meadows, the Utah Republican was still exploring alternatives. 

“Also, if you want senators to object, we need to hear from you on that ideally getting some guidance on what arguments to raise,” Lee wrote on Dec. 16. 

Right up to Jan. 4, the senator was “calling state legislators for hours” and planning to do the same, or so he told Mark Meadows, on Jan. 5. 

“We need something from state legislatures to make this legitimate and to have any hope of winning. Even if they can't convene, it might be enough if a majority of them are willing to sign a statement indicating how they would vote,” Lee fretted to Meadows just a day before.

In the end, but only after Trump incited a mob that stormed the Capitol and hundreds of police officers—including those sworn to protect Lee and others—were violently assaulted and one woman was killed, Lee voted to certify Biden as the winner. 

In his remarks from the House floor on Jan. 6, Lee said his initial speech for proceedings had looked a little different. But, he said, he would keep his message mostly the same. 

“Our job is open and then count. Open, then count. That’s it. That’s all there is to it,” Lee said of electoral college votes.

He noted how he spent “the last few weeks” meeting with lawyers representing “both sides of the issue” and representing the Trump campaign. 

“I didn’t initially declare my position because I didn’t yet have one,” he added. “I wanted to get the facts first and I wanted to understand what was happening.”

However, when Trump was impeached for incitement of insurrection, Lee voted against it. He could not “condone the horrific violence” of Jan. 6, he said. Lee also said he could not condone Trump’s “words, actions or commissions on that day.” 

“But the fact is that the word incitement has a very specific meaning in the law, and Donald Trump’s words and actions on Jan. 6 fell short of that standard,” Lee remarked before also calling the impeachment a “politically suspicious process.”

Less than six months after the insurrection, Lee also opposed to the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. He voted against a bill for a bipartisan commission that was equally divided between five Republicans and five Democrats. Both sides, according to the resolution he opposed, would have had equal subpoena power. 

Lee opposed the bill 24 hours after meeting privately with U.S. Capitol Police officers who were attacked as well as Gladys Sicknick, the mother of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Sicknick died one day after the insurrection. A coroner’s office said Sicknick, 42, experienced multiple strokes. 

Morning Digest: Jeff Merkley slams top super PAC’s spending in House primary as ‘flat-out wrong’

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

OR-06: In an unprecedented move that was greeted with instant fury by local and national Democrats alike, the House Majority PAC began spending at least $1 million this week on TV ads promoting the campaign of Carrick Flynn, one of seven Democrats seeking to represent Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District.

The other six candidates released an unusual joint statement condemning the move on Monday, calling out the fact that four of the contenders are women, including three women of color. (Flynn is a white man.) "This effort by the political arm of the Democratic establishment to buy this race for one candidate is a slap in the face to every Democratic voter and volunteer in Oregon," read the press release, "and is especially concerning in a year when all resources must go to protecting the Democratic majority."

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who hasn't backed anyone in the race, piled on as well, calling HMP's actions "flat-out wrong". Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's BOLD PAC, which has endorsed state Rep. Andrea Salinas, also excoriated HMP, arguing that "Democrats should be doubling-down on their investments to empower Latino and Latina candidates" and pointing out that no Hispanic person has ever represented Oregon in Congress. (One unnamed operative wondered aloud to The Hill's Rafael Bernal whether HMP's decision might "affect[] the relationship where Bold PAC is no longer a large donor to HMP like they've been in the past." The CHC has given more than $6 million to HMP since 2012.)

Campaign Action

In response, a spokesperson for HMP offered a spectacularly unconvincing explanation for the group's new spending. "House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022, and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal," said communications director CJ Warnke in a statement. "Flynn is a strong, forward-looking son of Oregon who is dedicated to delivering for families in the 6th District."

There's nothing so special about Flynn that he's a must-have nominee—and if there were, he wouldn't need all this help. As Merkley says, Democrats "have multiple strong candidates" who could all win the 6th District, a newly created seat in the Portland suburbs that Joe Biden would have carried by a 55-42 margin.

But what really makes HMP's claim impossible to believe is that the PAC, in its decade-long existence, has never before involved itself in a primary like this. Virtually all of the organization's spending since inception has been devoted to winning general elections. Just twice has HMP reported spending anything to support Democratic candidates in primaries, and in both cases, they were seeking open seats in California where Democrats were worried about getting locked out of the November election due to the state's top-two primary rules: Julia Brownley in the old 26th District in 2012 and then Salud Carbajal in the old 24th in 2016—ironically, a joint effort with the CHC. The PAC has never simply taken sides in a traditional partisan primary.

So why now? Flynn has already been the beneficiary of a $5 million TV and radio ad campaign by another super PAC called Protect Our Future, which is funded by a free-spending 30-year-old billionaire named Sam Bankman-Fried, who made his fortune in cryptocurrency and has lately been seeking to influence policy-making on that front in D.C. (Forbes says he's worth $24 billion. Incidentally, the CEO of the crypto exchange Bankman-Fried founded, Ryan Salame, just this week announced the formation of a similar super PAC aimed at Republicans.)

Bankman-Fried's interest in Flynn is unclear—the candidate claims he has "never met or talked to" his benefactor, and any coordination between the two would be illegal—but Protect Our Future's involvement in the race has prompted a great deal of speculation. As the campaign manager for engineer Matt West, one of the other Democratic hopefuls, put it to OPB's Dirk VanderHart, "Do I know exactly what was exchanged by [Bankman-Fried's] people and [House Majority PAC's] people? No, but I can speculate, as can everyone, that promises have been made."

In other words, goes this line of thinking, HMP is breaking with 10 years of tradition to help Flynn in the expectation that Bankman-Fried will come through with a presumably larger donation to the PAC, which in 2020 eclipsed the DCCC as the largest outside spender on House races on the Democratic side. But if this theory is true, what makes things even more bizarre is that Bankman-Fried could easily dump as much money as he'd like to boost Flynn through his own super PAC. Why go through HMP, then, unless this is a play for winning influence within a major arm of the Democratic Party?

It'll likely be a while before we find out the full story, though. HMP files financial reports with the FEC every month, but the report detailing any transactions in the month of April won't be available until May 20—three days after the Oregon primary.

As for the ad itself, it's narrated by small businessman Quandray "Q" Robertson, who says, "As an owner of a boxing gym, I know a fighter when I see one." Though Robertson is shown prepping and later sparring with a boxer, he means it metaphorically, as the athlete on-screen is not actually Flynn. Instead, says Robertson, Flynn will "stand up to the Trump Republicans" while tackling climate change and prescription drug costs.

Meanwhile, Salinas has also released her first TV ad of the race, which she narrates herself. She says her father "started working the fields" but found a "path to citizenship, and a better life" thanks to his military service in Vietnam. With his experience as inspiration, she says she "passed the country's strongest reproductive rights law," fought for lower drug prices, and "took on polluters to combat climate change."

Redistricting

NH Redistricting: The New Hampshire Supreme Court has appointed Stanford Law professor Nathan Persily as a special master to draw a new congressional map for the state in the event that a deadlock between the Republican-run legislature and GOP Gov. Chris Sununu remains unresolved. The court, however, cautioned that it was only taking "preliminary steps … in the event that the legislative process fails to produce a fully enacted congressional redistricting plan."

NY Redistricting: A New York appellate judge has kept in place a stay of a recent lower court ruling that struck down the state's new congressional and legislative maps, allowing this year's elections to proceed under the new lines, for now. However, Appellate Division Judge Stephen Lindley did say that the trial court judge, Patrick McAllister, could proceed with hiring a special master to draw a new congressional map, which could be used in the event that the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, upholds McAllister's decision.

1Q Fundraising

  • AZ-Sen: Mark Brnovich (R): $765,000 raised  
  • OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $4.1 million raised, $6.4 million cash-on-hand
  • UT-Sen: Mike Lee (R-inc): $1.35 million raised, $2.42 million cash-on-hand
  • WI-Sen: Mandela Barnes (D): $1.7 million raised
  • NE-Gov: Jim Pillen (R): $2.3 million raised (through April 5), $2.9 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-27: Quaye Quartey (D): $320,000 raised  
  • IA-02: Liz Mathis (D): $715,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
  • NJ-07: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): $1.06 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand; Tom Kean Jr. (R): $840,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • NV-01: Carolina Serrano (R): $275,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas (D): $340,000 raised  
  • PA-12: Steve Irwin (D): $600,000 raised  
  • PA-17: Jeremy Shaffer (R): $670,000 raised, $615,000 cash-on-hand
  • SC-01: Katie Arrington (R): $307,000 raised (in 52 days), additional $500,000 self-funded, $750,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly's new spot features footage of the former astronaut in zero-g as he tells the audience, "Compared to Congress, the way NASA operates might seem kind of upside down. Putting the mission first. Working as a team. And getting the job done —no matter what." The senator proclaims that he's "doing things differently" than the rest of the D.C. crowd and will "put aside the party politics so we can accomplish results, together."

NC-Sen: SurveyUSA takes a look at the May 17 Republican primary on behalf of WRAL and finds Rep. Ted Budd beating former Gov. Pat McCrory 33-23, with just 7% going to former Rep. Mark Walker. Several other recent polls have also given Budd the lead.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The Reno Gazette-Journal has released a poll from Suffolk University testing several different hypothetical general election scenarios for Senate and governor, and it finds things close overall. Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt posts a 43-40 advantage over Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, while Army veteran Sam Brown, who is the underdog in the June Republican primary, edges her out 40-39.

Turning to the governor's race, Suffolk pits Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak against five different Republicans:

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

PA-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized an internal from GBAO that finds him leading Rep. Conor Lamb 44-19 in the May 17 Democratic primary, while state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta takes 17.

On the GOP side, TV personality Mehmet Oz is trumpeting his endorsement from Trump in his new ad, and he also gets in a swipe at former hedge fund manager David McCormick. "Trump knows who the real conservative is who's gonna shake up Washington," says the narrator. "It's not David McCormick, the liberal pro-Biden, pro-China, Wall Street insider."

Governors

GA-Gov: Gov. Brian Kemp's allies at Hardworking Georgians are out with a Cygnal poll arguing that he's in a strong position both to claim the Republican nod and defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall. The survey shows Kemp taking 49% of the vote on May 24, which is tantalizingly close to the majority he needs to avoid a July runoff, while former Sen. David Perdue is well behind with 33%; Cygnal also finds the incumbent ahead 52-37 in a two-person contest. The general election portion gives Kemp a 50-44 lead in a rematch with Abrams even as she edges out Perdue 48-47.

Abrams, for her part, is continuing to run positive spots to reintroduce herself to voters. One ad is based around a testimonial from Lara Hodgson, an independent who describes how she partnered with Abrams to build a successful small business. The spot briefly alludes to the candidate's recent cameo on "Star Trek: Discovery" when Abrams explains that she and her co-star are a bit different: "Laura's more Star Wars," says Abrams, to which Hodgson responds, "Stacey's … Star Trek." Another commercial features a Macon restaurateur crediting Abrams for helping her and her community during the pandemic.

MN-Gov: State Sen. Paul Gazelka has picked up an endorsement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which is the largest police union in the state, in his quest for the Republican nomination for governor. The Minnesota Reformer described the development as a "blow to former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek," who is one of the many other Republicans who is competing for the state party endorsement at the May 13-14 convention.

OK-Gov: While Gov. Kevin Stitt had looked secure ahead of his June Republican primary, NBC reports that two dark money groups have together spent a hefty $3.3 million to derail him. The incumbent is now firing back with an ad declaring, "The insiders and casino bosses are spending millions to attack Kevin Stitt because he won't do their bidding, resorting to lies, smears, even actors." The story says that Stitt has spent a total of $468,000 on ads so far, while his allies at the RGA are deploying another $577,000 to support him.

Stitt only picked up a notable intra-party challenger last month when Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel launched his bid to unseat his boss, but the offensive against the governor began well before then. All the way back in December, an organization called Conservative Voice of America began running ads attacking Stitt for approving the 2020 release of an inmate named Lawrence Anderson, who was charged the next year with murdering three people, while another group called Sooner State Leadership has deployed similar messaging. (Public Radio Tulsa said Anderson's release was "apparently recommended by the state pardon and parole board by mistake.")

CVA, per NBC, has spent $1.7 million so far, while SSLF has dropped a similar $1.6 million. A third outfit, The Oklahoma Project, said in December that it would spend $500,000 total to thwart Stitt. The group's messaging has been different from that of the other two, though, as its ads have argued that the governor has failed to achieve results.

Last month, Fox 23 sought to learn more about Stitt's critics. It traced TOP's donations back to George Krumme, an oilman and longtime member of the Democratic National Committee. SSLF, meanwhile, was formed by former GOP state Rep. Trebor Worthen, but the organization is not required to divulge its donors. Worthen, in the words of KOCO, said his group "is made up of business and community leaders dedicated to encouraging strong leadership in Oklahoma," adding that it planned to spend a total of $10 million. There's even less information available about CVA except that it's run by longtime lobbyist and Republican staffer Mike Cys.

PA-Gov: Tuesday was a truly chaotic day in Pennsylvania's Republican primary for governor that began with Donald Trump urging voters, "Do not vote for Bill McSwain, a coward, who let our Country down." Multiple media sources reported minutes later that state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman was about to drop out of the race, but while Corman himself essentially confirmed those stories in the afternoon by asking that his name be removed from the May 17 ballot, there was one last twist left: Corman announced in the early evening that he'd decided to stay in the contest because of "President Trump's statement on the race and my conversation directly with the president."

We'll start with McSwain, who appeared to be in a good position until Trump declared he'd never endorse the man he'd once appointed as U.S. attorney for the eastern portion of the state. Trump reiterated the Big Lie to pummel the candidate, claiming that McSwain "did absolutely nothing on the massive Election Fraud that took place in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth."

That was dismaying news for McSwain, who had in fact tried to use the Big Lie to gain, rather than lose, Trump's support. His efforts included a letter to Trump last year claiming that his office had "received various allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities" and alleging that "Attorney General Barr, however, instructed me not to make any public statements or put out any press releases regarding possible election irregularities."

Trump was all too happy at the time to use McSwain's missive to backup his own lies and bludgeon Barr, who responded by saying his old subordinate "wanted to not do the business of the department, which is to investigate cases, but instead go out and flap his gums about what he didn't like about the election overall." On Tuesday, though, McSwain got to be the victim of his own words when Trump claimed he "knew what was happening and let it go. It was there for the taking and he failed so badly."

All of this drama inspired Corman to continue a once-promising campaign that he was about to end after several major setbacks. Corman was arguably the primary frontrunner when he entered the race to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf back in November, and he raised more money than any of his intra-party rivals in 2021. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that his team initially believed they would bring in considerably more during that time: The state Senate leader seemed to agree as he soon went through an intense staff shakeup, but he never managed to fix things.

Corman ended late March with just over $270,000 left in his campaign coffers, and McSwain ominously didn't even bother to mention him in a recent ad targeting three other opponents. Corman himself seemed to recognize he was doomed on Tuesday when he formally sought to have a state court remove his name from the ballot, but hours later he filed a new petition asking the body to ignore that first request. He explained that he'd spoken to Trump, who "encouraged me to keep fighting, and that's what I'm going to do – keep fighting for the people of Pennsylvania." This saga may not be quite over, though, as ABC27 writes, "It is not guaranteed Corman will be able to remain in the race after his first petition was filed."

VT-Gov: Republican Gov. Phil Scott reiterated this week that he wouldn't announce whether he'll seek a fourth two-year term until Vermont's legislative session adjourns May 20, and he insisted to NBC 5 that he was truly undecided. "I think a lot depends on what happens in the next month with the Legislature in this legislative session—what we accomplish and what we don't," said the governor, who currently faces no serious opposition from either party. The filing deadline is May 26, so a Scott retirement would give other candidates very little time to make up their minds if he does indeed wait as long as he says he will to make up his mind.

House

MN-01: Former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad has earned endorsements from Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber, who represent the 7th and 8th Districts in the northern part of the state, ahead of the May 24 special Republican primary.

MT-01: In her opening ad for the June Democratic primary, public health expert Cora Neumann stands in front of her modest childhood home in Bozeman and tells the audience, "But now, houses like this are surrounded by mansions like this. And everyone is paying more." She continues, "In Congress, I'll go after rich outsiders driving up costs, take on price gougers, and fight for housing we can actually afford."

NC-13: Former state Sen. Sam Searcy says in his inaugural spot for next month's Democratic primary that his family's job and housing struggles motivated him "to help folks." Searcy continues by saying that in the legislature he "fought like hell to expand Medicaid, and stood with Gov. Cooper to stop Republicans from restricting voting rights and a woman's right to choose."

PA-12: EMILY's List, which is supporting state Rep. Summer Lee in next month's Democratic primary, is out with a poll from GQR that shows her outpacing attorney Steve Irwin 38-13. This is the first survey we've seen of the contest for this open seat.

WV-02: Rep. Alex Mooney has released a new internal from Public Opinion Strategies that gives him a 42-31 lead over fellow incumbent David McKinley ahead of the May 10 GOP primary. The last survey we saw was a March poll for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce that put McKinley ahead 38-33; the organization had not yet endorsed anyone when that poll was released, but it and the West Virginia Manufacturing Association both backed McKinley this week.

CLF: The Congressional Leadership Fund, the well-funded super PAC aligned with the Republican House leadership, has endorsed seven more House candidates challenging Democratic incumbents:

  • AZ-04: Tanya Wheeless
  • NV-03: April Becker
  • NY-18: Colin Schmitt
  • NY-19: Marc Molinaro
  • PA-08: Jim Bognet
  • TX-28: Cassy Garcia
  • TX-34: Mayra Flores

Two of these candidates face notable intra-party opposition: Wheeless has to get past Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez before she can take on Arizona Rep. Greg Stanton, while Garcia faces a May 24 runoff against 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten in Texas' 28th District. (Democrats have a far more high-profile contest that day between conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar and attorney Jessica Cisneros.) Flores, meanwhile, is already the GOP nominee, while the other four contenders should have little trouble in their own primaries.

Attorneys General

SD-AG: South Dakota's Republican-run state House voted to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg by a 36-31 margin on Tuesday, a move that temporarily suspends Ravnsborg from his job while he awaits trial in the state Senate.

Last year, Ravnsborg, a Republican, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time. A special investigative committee recommended against impeaching Ravnsborg last month, saying he had not committed a "crime or other wrongful act involving moral turpitude by virtue or authority of his office" because he wasn't on duty as attorney general at the time of the accident.

However, a majority of lawmakers disagreed with that interpretation, noting among other things that Ravnsborg had identified himself as attorney general in a call to 911 the night of the crash. All eight Democrats were joined by 28 Republicans in favor of impeachment, while 31 Republicans voted against. Ravnsborg would be permanently removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate, which can commence a trial no sooner than May 2, votes to convict him.

Other Races

NY-LG: Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned Tuesday afternoon hours after he was indicted on federal bribery charges, but because it's notoriously difficult to get off the ballot in New York, he will likely still be listed as a nominal candidate in the June Democratic primary. All of this presents a major complication for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who appointed Benjamin to succeed her as lieutenant governor last year and now faces the prospect of winding up with a running mate she's at odds with.

That's because candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete in separate nomination contests before running as a ticket in the general election, though Hochul and Benjamin had been running together and urging voters to select them both. The remaining candidates for lieutenant governor have likewise each linked themselves with one of the governor's primary foes: former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna is allied with Rep. Tom Suozzi, while activist Ana María Archila is running alongside New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The candidate filing deadline passed last week, so it's too late for Hochul to recruit a new number two. It's possible that Hochul could decide to support one of the two remaining candidates for lieutenant governor, though Archila responded to Benjamin's arrest by saying, "The governor announced that she would bring a new day, and I'm not sure that's the case." Hochul to date has been the frontrunner in her own race from day one, as every poll has found her far ahead of Williams and Suozzi, though both of her rivals are hoping that Benjamin's downfall will change the calculus.

Benjamin, for his part, has far more than electoral chemistry to worry about. Federal prosecutors allege that, in his previous position as a state senator, he steered taxpayer money to real estate investor Gerald Migdol in exchange for political contributions. The authorities say that Migdol faked the origins of dozens of donations to Benjamin's 2021 bid for New York City comptroller so that Benjamin could more easily qualify for public financing.

Benjamin badly lost that primary, but his career was temporarily revived months later when Hochul, who had ascended to the governorship after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace, picked him as the new lieutenant governor. Hochul, a white Democrat from upstate New York, sought proverbial "balance" on her ticket by tapping a Black politico from New York City, though questions had been swirling about Benjamin's campaign finances well before he was selected.

P.S. Hochul will once again be able to fill the now-vacant lieutenant governorship, just as she did when she herself ascended to the top job after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace. Notably, she can do so unilaterally, with no confirmation vote from the legislature required.

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.  

Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

Leading Off

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

Campaign Action

While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

The GOP’s Dr. Seuss distractions couldn’t be more different than 2009 stimulus derailment strategy

We’re not in 2009 anymore. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP)—which passed with only Democratic support—makes that clear. In 2009, also in the midst of a terrible crisis, we enacted a very different economic package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The differences in content between the two are stark.

The current one is more than twice as large, delivers money directly to people who need it (rather than fruitlessly seeking bipartisan support, in part by including tax cuts which are far less effective in terms of impact), and is strikingly more progressive, more so than anything proposed by a president since LBJ, according to Ezra Klein—in particular in its approach to poverty. But equally stark is the difference between the Republican response this time versus 12 years ago.

Despite newly elected President Barack Obama’s inclusion of various elements Republicans should have supported, his 2009 stimulus package faced sustained and ruthless attacks from conservative politicians and, just as importantly, the right-wing media. At the time, the “de facto leader” of the Republican Party was Rush Limbaugh, whose audience size beat that of all his radio rivals. His assaults on the Obama stimulus package are representative of those put forth by the rest of the right-wing media ecosystem.

Day after day, the host attacked Obama’s plan—at a time when the president was immensely popular, more so than Joe Biden at a comparable point in his presidency. The Obama stimulus itself was broadly popular when it was enacted on Feb. 17, 2009, although it did not garner quite as much support as Biden’s plan does right now. Conservatives like Limbaugh made it their business to turn the American people against the bill, and not just by criticizing it on the grounds of small-government ideology. They had a good deal of success, in part because of flaws in the ARRA, but also because they were laser-focused on poisoning the discourse around it.

In addition to lying about the specifics, Limbaugh race-baited his listeners by slamming the ARRA as a “welfare payment”—a racially loaded term that conservatives going back to Ronald Reagan used as a dog whistle, to evoke stereotypical images of Black people supposedly not working while being supported by the government. The host linked the Obama plan to welfare in different ways, on numerous different broadcasts, and mentioned how “civil rights coalitions” supported the push to “redistribute” money by “taking it from you” (given that his audience was overwhelmingly white, we know who “you” referred to). He went after the bill for sending money to ACORN—which advocated for low-income folks and people of color, and worked to increase voter registration—despite the fact that the group got no money from the ARRA. Limbaugh also speculated baselessly that Al Sharpton and his group got stimulus funds.

The host also lied about the ARRA giving tax credits to “illegal aliens”—which did not happen. Additionally, he characterized the Obama stimulus as an “effort to buy votes,” and then immediately played an exchange of the president talking with a Latino student. In this and other similar segments, the host’s goal was to paint the plan as seeking to help those Black and brown people whom he depicted as wanting to avoid work. As Limbaugh told it, the ARRA was another plank in a race war fueled by Obama’s “rage”—and inspired by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Bringing it all together on June 22, 2009, the host spewed the following racist claptrap: “Everything in the stimulus plan, every plan he’s got is reparations. … Redistribution of wealth, reparations … whatever you want to call it, it’s reparations.”

Although today’s Republicans are employing different tactics in opposing Biden’s plan, some habits are hard to break. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham went after a provision aimed at helping Black farmers who suffered a century of systemic discrimination after the Civil War, using the same language as Limbaugh: “In this bill, if you're a farmer, your loan will be forgiven up to 120% of your loan if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African American … some other minority. But if you're (a) white person, if you're a white woman, no forgiveness! That's reparations!” House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, who hails from the same state, called Graham out: “He ought to be ashamed of himself. He knows the history in this country and he knows what has happened to Black farmers,” and added that his fellow South Carolinian ought to “go to church … Get in touch with his Christianity.”

Graham didn’t attack the overall bill in race-baiting terms, however. I’m not suggesting that’s because the 2021 version of the Republican Party has grown more enlightened on race since it fell under the sway of Donald Trump. It’s because the circumstances around the American Rescue Plan are different from those in play in 2009. Republicans haven’t stopped using racially or culturally divisive attacks as a way to distract from the unpopularity of their policy positions. It’s just that, with over half a million deaths that have affected all communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even they don’t think it’s a winning move to attack Biden’s relief bill on the same sort of race-baiting grounds, or with the same level of intensity, as they did Obama’s ARRA package.

Republicans can’t even successfully go after the ARP as “big government” overreach or for increasing the national debt, because they supported multiple COVID-19 bills last year that in total spent even more, not to mention their having busted the budget on Trump’s Rich Man’s Tax Cut in 2017. The last thing Republicans want to do is remind voters that they blew a trillion-plus dollar hole in the national debt and sent just about half of that money to the richest 5%, while Biden’s bill will put 70% of its money into the pockets of the bottom 60% of Americans by income.

Democrats must make sure voters don’t forget that. New York. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s messaging nailed it: “We should shout it from the rooftops that we are passing historic legislation that will reboot the economy and end the pandemic. They're always ready to help a big corporation or a rich person, but when a working family needs help, the Republicans tell them to drop dead.”

Even Republican mayors—32 of them in fact, from states ranging from Oklahoma to North Carolina to Indiana to Arizona to Michigan—signed on to support the Biden plan. Directly countering lies from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about “blue state bailouts,” Republican Mayor Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan, stated: “This isn't because of some gross mismanagement or some bad contracts that were signed or historic deficits. This is about addressing the needs of a global pandemic that are really (for) the same constituents they serve in D.C. that we're serving here at the local level.”

For multiple reasons, including the fact that their current leader, aka Mr. Former Guy, supported the main element—a check going out to most Americans—the Republican response to the American Rescue Plan has been “more muted” than 12 years ago, and that includes the response from Trump.

The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote (Twice) actually slammed his once and possible future ally McConnell over his opposition to those very checks. Republicans can’t seem to get on the same page when it comes to the specifics of the ARP, so it’s hard for them to condemn it in a coherent way. Sen. McTurtle has issued a few statements rebuking the relief package, but it’s nothing compared to 2009.

Rather than go hard after the ARP in the way Limbaugh had done with the ARRA a dozen years ago, Trump all but ignored it at his biggest and best opportunity: CPAC. He devoted only two sentences to the bill during a speech lasting an hour and a half, instead spending much more time talking about the election, impeachment, and those who truly demonstrated, in the words of Luca Brasi, their “ever-ending loyalty.” As for those who didn’t, they could sleep with the fishes as far as Trump—who has himself been accused of acting like a mafia boss—was concerned.

Instead, Trump and his party made a decision to attack Biden in a very incoherent way. This is not to suggest that they don’t know what they are doing, but rather that what they are doing is not going to work. They are banking on people, when they vote in 2022, somehow not remembering how bad the situation was when Biden took office, so that Republicans can then say that the ARP didn’t really do all that much, or wasn’t necessary in the first place—as Moscow Mitch just claimed on Thursday—or was just a bunch of progressive ideas (yeah, and people like those ideas). Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is actually trying to take credit for the bill, even though he (and every other Republican) voted against it. Talk about incoherence. You know their attacks are pretty weak when they sound like this one, from Texas Sen. John Cornyn: “Unfortunately, there’s going to be a sugar high because free money is very popular … So this may be temporarily popular, but it’s going to wear thin over time.”

If you have to say twice that the bill is going to be popular, then maybe you’ve got a political problem here, senator. Republicans are already trying to “pre-deny” credit for the coming boom to Biden’s policies—even as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s analysis found that the American Rescue Plan would increase economic growth in our country by an impressive 3% over previous estimates, and would add over 1% to worldwide economic growth. That’s a Big Fucking … oh, forget it, everyone else has already used that line. It is a BFD, though.

There were a couple of other echoes of 2009 coming from conservatives. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee issued a statement in early February criticizing the increased child tax credit that ended up in the final bill as “welfare assistance.” Chris Hartline, National Republican Senatorial Committee spox, went off about Democrats not caring if stimulus checks went to undocumented immigrants. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has made similar complaints, and also carped about ARP money going to incarcerated prisoners.

However, there are two problems for The Man Who Threw His Own Daughters Under The Bus: first, his proposed amendment would have blocked 2 million American citizen children from receiving stimulus checks just because their parents are undocumented. As Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the majority whip, noted: “These American kids should receive this relief just as other American kids do.” Second, the previous COVID-19 stimulus checks—the ones with the Orange Julius Caesar’s name on them—also went out to prisoners, something Cruz absolutely knew before the December COVID-19 bill was passed. Did he utter a peep about it when that bill was under discussion? I think you know the answer.

So, although conservatives have made their pro forma condemnations of the ARP, what they are actually spending the bulk of their time and energy screaming about these days reveals their fundamental strategy. Their goal is not to rile up their voters about what the president is doing—which will help just about every American—but instead distract them with totally unrelated culture war issues.

Do Fox News viewers even know about the American Rescue Act, the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that passed the Senate? They might not. The network, like most right-wing media, has largely ignored the Covid-19 relief legislation, instead fixating on silly culture-war controversies involving Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss. In the days leading up to the Senate vote, the network was far more concerned with the availability of Dr. Seuss’s Scrambled Eggs Super than it was with any aspect of the bill itself.

Want to guess how many times Fox mentioned Dr. Seuss just through March 3? Not one fish, and not two fish. Try 60 times, as counted by The Washington Post. Beyond the cancel culture crap, the Party of Trump has one arena of actual policy that it seems to think is worthy of more time, attention, and vitriol than COVID-19 relief: the great danger they insist is posed by transgender athletes. To his eternal credit, Florida (Man) Rep. Matt Gaetz combined two manufactured controversies in a single bank shot when, at CPAC, he quipped: “Mr. Potato Head was America’s first transgender doll and even he got canceled.” I haven’t seen anyone get this worked up about Mr. Potato Head since this guy yelled at his little nerdy buddy.

Just look at a snapshot of Fox News’ website after the ARP passed compared to that of CNN. The latter has the vitally important piece of legislation at the top, over the entire three-column page. The former leads with the Meghan Markle/Piers Morgan clash, and its largest mention of the president is in an article about how his “handlers” are, wait for it, “hidin’ Biden.” Yep, they’re still going with that campaign calumny about the guy who trounced Trump being somehow infirm.

Anything to avoid reality.

The Fox News website is an alternative universe from what the actual top news story is. pic.twitter.com/ONv5z7JE6M

— Richard W. (@IceManNYR) March 10, 2021

Why are Republicans following this strategy? After being fed political junk food for so long—especially by the demagogue who has led their party going on five years now—it’s the only thing their voters want to imbibe. These kinds of culture war attacks “unif[y] the party but expands it into the area we need to—the suburban moms, the college educated men that we struggled with in 2020, there’s common ground with these constituencies,” according to Mercedes Schlapp, who worked for the twice-impeached president. Republican strategist Matt Gorman added that such tactics represent “a cultural touchstone for folks that shows where a party's priorities are.” Famed Republican pollster Frank Luntz thinks they are “definitely” a good way to excite the right-wing base.

Daniel Cox, a researcher at the American Enterprise institute who has done extensive research about the topic, found that "concerns about cultural influence, political power and status are really overwhelming other ideological concerns on the right. Traditional conservative principles, whether it's commitment to a strong national defense or support for limited government, do not animate Republican voters." Other Republicans offered similar opinions.

Even the recently deceased Limbaugh typically used to tie his race-baiting attacks to larger ideological questions or at least policies under discussion in the moment—not that that’s praise, mind you. Now, however, the Party of Trump can’t even bother to do that, as per POLITICO: “Today, much of the fracas doesn’t even involve Biden, or his administration, or his policy agenda. Instead, it involves things like corporate decisions around kids’ toys.”

In the end, as Ron Brownstein pointed out, Republicans were unable to “ignite a grassroots backlash” against Biden's COVID-19 relief package. One Democratic pollster, Nick Gourevitch, saw a lack of passion behind the Republican attacks on the bill: “It doesn't seem like they are even really trying.” Brownstein reported that, off the record at least, a number of Republicans agreed.

For their part, the Biden White House is more than happy to put its actual policy accomplishments up against the trash the other side is throwing out there.

Joe Biden isn’t worried about culture war attacks over Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and Neanderthals. A White House official sends over a statement for our time.https://t.co/BmihkPQuDp More, w/ the great @meridithmcgraw pic.twitter.com/jWBU2ACQTE

— Christopher Cadelago (@ccadelago) March 5, 2021

One of the criticisms leveled at Obama—including by Barack himself—was that he didn’t always do a great job advertising his own achievements to voters. The 44th president acknowledged: “We did not always think about making sure we were advertising properly what was going on,” and added that his White House should have taken more “victory laps.” His veep, now the 46th president, appears to have learned the lesson well, as evidenced by the primetime address he delivered Thursday night.

Democrats think they have a winner with the American Rescue Plan, and it looks like they know how to tell the story of what they’ve accomplished.

DNC digital team w/ a Love Actually-themed response to covid package passage. Via @Adrienne_DNC pic.twitter.com/GPGX1Lmb5z

— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) March 10, 2021

The most recent polling shows not only that the American people favor the bill, but also that there’s a significant class divide that portends even more danger for the Party of Trump. Overall, 41% of Republicans like the ARP, which is bad enough for them. However, among the quarter of Republicans who are lower income, that percentage is 63%.

Pew finds a huge gap in support for Biden's relief bill between lower income and upper income Republicans -- nearly two thirds of lower income Republicans support it. pic.twitter.com/SPpDXILKjV

— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) March 9, 2021

Here’s the analysis from Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld: “This GOP divide along class lines gives Democrats a real opening to both win back some blue-collar voters as well as remind some Trump voters why they were never sold on the Republican Party to begin with (thereby discouraging them from turning out next year).”

It’s easy to say that, come the next election, the bullshit will win out over substance. We are Democrats, after all, which means we often see the glass as half-empty when it comes to electoral politics. But that’s not always how it plays out. Republicans may hope that if they just yell and scream about other, unrelated topics, voters in 2022 will forget that Biden’s relief plan significantly helped just about every American finally get past this devastating pandemic.

It’s up to all of us to help Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the rest of the Democratic Party make sure voters remember who did that for them.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Three ‘very friendly’ Republican senators met with Trump’s defense lawyers

At the beginning of an impeachment trial, senators swear an oath to “do impartial justice.” Most Republican senators have made clear throughout both of Donald Trump’s impeachment trials that this was a lie—at best, a fig leaf they used to get out of answering questions about how they saw the evidence. Then there’s Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz. Those three met with Trump’s defense lawyers Thursday evening to offer advice.

The “very friendly guys,” according to Trump lawyer David Schoen, were making sure Trump’s lawyers were “familiar with procedure.” Probable translation: Wanted to be sure these clowns didn’t screw this thing up too badly for even Republicans to ignore. Was that ethical, though? “Oh yeah, I think that's the practice of impeachment,” Schoen claimed. 

How badly do Graham, Lee, and Cruz think Trump’s lawyers are going to screw up their defense arguments? Alternatively, how worried are they that some Republicans were persuaded by the House impeachment managers’ case? All but six Republicans already voted against holding an impeachment trial at all on the obviously false grounds that it was unconstitutional, giving them an excuse to vote to acquit without engaging the substance of what Trump did at all. 

Sens. Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio are sticking with that claim, for instance. “My view is unchanged as to whether or not we have the authority to do this, and I’m certainly not bound by the fact that 56 people think we do,” Blunt said. “I get to cast my vote, and my view is that you can’t impeach a former president. And if the former president did things that were illegal, there is a process to go through for that.”

And Rubio: “The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about for everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is.”

Do Cruz, Lee, and Graham think Schoen and immediately notorious idiot Bruce Castor need their advice to get through what’s forecast to be a very abbreviated day of arguments? Or are they still trying that pathetically hard to suck up to Trump? They do seem to have gotten the attention of his inner circle, with sleazeball adviser Jason Miller repeatedly mentioning their involvement on Newsmax, making absolutely clear the senators were there to build the case for Trump. “It was a real honor to have those senators come in and give us some additional ideas,” he said.

Republican senators have that “not constitutional” sham to hide behind, and they are energetically doing so. They have state parties ready to attack them the minute they step out of line. Donald Trump has his own defense lawyers, albeit not exactly the prime talent of conservative law. And as of Thursday, he officially has three of the people sworn to do impartial justice actively strategizing to help him get off.

The House impeachment managers, on the other hand, had the truth of what happened, and it was too powerful for Republicans to fully ignore. But that is unlikely to be enough.