Morning Digest: Nevada Democrats won big in 2018. Our new data shows they may again in 2020

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

Senate-by-LD, Governor-by-LD: Nevada was a huge success story for Team Blue in 2018, with Democrats making big gains in both houses of the legislature at the same time that the party was flipping the U.S. Senate seat and governor's office. And as our new data, which was crunched for us by elections analyst Bill Coningsby, illustrates, Democrats have opportunities to pick up more seats this fall.

Democrats currently hold a 13-8 majority in the Senate, which is just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass certain revenue-related measures that the GOP blocked in the previous sessions of the legislature without any GOP votes. In the state Assembly, though, Team Blue has a 29-13 supermajority.

We'll start with a look at the Senate, where half the chamber was up in 2018 while the rest of the seats will be on the ballot this fall. Democrat Jacky Rosen carried 15 of the 21 seats while she was unseating GOP Sen. Dean Heller 50-45, while Democrat Steve Sisolak took those very same districts while he was being elected governor 49-45 over Adam Laxalt. The median district backed Rosen by 53-43 and Sisolak by 52-44, placing it somewhat to the left of the state overall.

Two Republicans sit in Rosen/Sisolak seats, while no Democrats hold Heller/Laxalt districts. The only one of that pair of Republicans up this year is Heidi Gansert, who holds Senate District 15 in the Reno area. This constituency supported Rosen 51-45, while Sisolak took it 50-45; four years ago, the district also backed Hillary Clinton 47-44 while Gansert was winning by a convincing 53-42. This cycle, the Democrats are fielding Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, who lost a close primary for Washoe County assessor last cycle.

The other Republican on unfriendly turf is Keith Pickard, who won a four-year term in 2018 by 24 votes. That year, Rosen and Sisolak carried his SD-20 50-47 and 50-46, respectively.

Democrats do have a few potentially competitive seats to defend this year. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro won SD-06 51-49 as Clinton was pulling off a 50-45 victory. Last cycle, though, the seat backed Rosen 53-44, while Sisolak took it by a similar 52-44 spread. Democrats will also be looking to keep the open SD-05, which supported Clinton just 48-46 but went for Rosen and Sisolak 53-43 and 52-44.

We'll turn to the 42-person Assembly, where members are elected to 2-year terms. Both Rosen and Sisolak carried the same 29 districts, while Heller and Laxalt took the remaining 13 districts. The two median districts backed Rosen by 54-42 and Sisolak by 53-41, placing them several points to the left of Nevada overall.

One assemblymember from each party holds a seat that was carried by the other side's statewide nominee. On the Democratic side, incumbent Skip Daly won 52-48 in a seat Heller and Laxalt took 49-47 and 49-45; Trump won by a larger 49-43 margin here in 2016. Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick is termed-out of a seat that backed both Rosen and Sisolak 49-48 but where Trump prevailed 49-46.

We'll also take a quick look at the state's four congressional seats. The 3rd District, which is located in Las Vegas' southern suburbs, backed both Rosen and Sisolak 50-46, which was a shift to the left from Trump's 48-47 win. The 4th District supported Rosen 51-44, while Sisolak took it 50-44; the seat went for Clinton by a similar 50-45 margin in 2016. The 1st District went overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket, while Republicans had no trouble carrying the 2nd District.

P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states. Additionally, you can find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker spreadsheet for a compilation of the latest developments in major lawsuits over changes to election and voting procedures, along with our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, all of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

Alabama: Civil rights advocates have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to loosen Alabama's restrictions on mail voting during the pendency of the pandemic. The plaintiffs want the court to order the state to suspend requirements that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot, have their ballot envelope notarized, and include a photocopy of their ID with their ballot. Additionally, the plaintiffs want 14 days of in-person early voting, which Alabama currently offers none of, along with drive-through voting and other measures to make voting safe for those not voting by mail.

Florida: Officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, which are home to the greater Tampa area and one in every nine registered voters in Florida, have announced that both counties will pay for postage on mail-in ballots. Officials in the southeastern Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach, which are home to around a quarter of Florida voters, had previously announced measures to implement prepaid postage and also mail out applications for mail ballots to voters or households who had yet to request one.

Montana: Montana's Supreme Court has reversed a lower court ruling that had allowed absentee mail ballots to count if they were postmarked by Election Day and received within a few days afterward. As a result, voters in the June 2 primary, which is taking place almost entirely by mail, will have to make sure election officials receive their ballots by Election Day.

The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' request but rather explained that it was reinstating the original deadline to avoid voter confusion and disruption to election administration. Plaintiffs will still have a chance to make their case that the ballot receipt deadline should be extended for the November general election.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that he has no further plans to alter procedures for the July 7 primary. Murphy recently ordered the election to take place largely by mail with active registered voters belonging to a party being sent ballots and inactive or unaffiliated voters getting sent applications, while municipalities operate at least one in-person voting each.

New Mexico: Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for Senate in New Mexico, is urging Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to delay the deadline to return absentee mail ballots, saying he has heard reports of voters failing to receive a mail ballot in time even though the primary is taking place just days away on June 2.

A spokesperson for Toulouse Oliver says that extending the deadline, which currently requires ballots to be received by Election Day rather than simply postmarked by that date, would require legislative action. However, the state legislature isn't in session, and there's no indication yet whether Luján or anyone else will file a last-minute lawsuit instead.

North Carolina: North Carolina's Republican-run state House has almost unanimously passed a bill that would make it easier to vote absentee by mail. In particular, the bill would ease—though not eliminate—the atypical requirement that absentee voters have a notary or two witnesses sign their ballot envelope by allowing only one witness instead.

However, the bill also makes it a felony for election officials to mail actual ballots to voters who haven't requested one, which would prevent Democratic officials in charge of running elections from conducting elections by mail. Activists had also called on lawmakers to make other changes such as prepaying the postage on mail ballots or making Election Day a state holiday, but Republican legislators refused.

Even if it becomes law, this bill is not likely to be the final word on voting changes in North Carolina. Two separate lawsuits at the federal and state levels are partially or wholly challenging the witness requirement, lack of prepaid postage, and other absentee voting procedures.

South Carolina: South Carolina's all-Republican state Supreme Court has rejected a Democratic lawsuit seeking to waive the requirement that voters under age 65 provide a specific excuse to vote absentee by mail in June's primary. The court ruled that the issue was moot after the Republican-run state legislature recently passed a law waiving the excuse requirement for the June 9 primary and June 23 runoffs. However, that waiver will expire in July, so Democrats are likely to continue pressing their claim in either state court or a separate federal lawsuit for November.

Texas: Texas' all-Republican Supreme Court has sided with Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton in determining that lack of coronavirus immunity doesn't qualify as an excuse for requesting a mail ballot under the state's definition of "disability." Consequently, all voters must present an excuse to vote by mail except for those age 65 or older, a demographic that favors Republicans.

While the ruling did note that it's up to voters to decide whether or not to "apply to vote by mail based on a disability," that may not be much of a silver lining, because Paxton has repeatedly threatened activists with criminal prosecution for advising voters to request mail ballots. If campaigns and civic groups limit their outreach as a result of Paxton's threats, then even voters still entitled to mail ballots may not learn about the option.

However, in one positive development for voting access, the court ruled that Paxton couldn't tell officials in five counties not to send absentee ballots to voters citing disability even for coronavirus, since Texas' absentee application doesn't ask what a voter's disability is. In addition, separate federal litigation remains ongoing after a lower court blocked the absentee excuse requirement. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to rule soon on whether to in turn block that ruling for the state's July 14 primary runoff.

Virginia: Conservatives filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month seeking to block Virginia from implementing its absentee voting plan for the state's June 23 primary, specifically targeting instructions that voters "may choose reason '2A My disability or illness' for absentee voting." Although a new law was passed this year to permanently remove the excuse requirement, it doesn't go into effect until July. Consequently, the plaintiffs argue that the current law is being impermissibly interpreted to let those concerned about coronavirus cite it as an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot when they aren't physically ill themselves and don't otherwise qualify.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin's bipartisan Elections Commission has unanimously voted to send applications for absentee mail ballots to all registered voters, which requires a photo ID. However, the commissioners still must decide on the wording of the letter sent to voters, and a deadlock over the language could prevent the commission from sending anything at all. Notably, the Republican commissioners' votes to mail applications comes after the major Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee and some other Democratic-leaning cities had already moved to do so, so the GOP may face pressure to extend the practice statewide.

Senate

GA-Sen-A: Investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff talks about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in his new ad for the June 9 Democratic primary. Ossoff tells the audience that his business involves investigating corruption, "And when a young black man in Georgia is shot dead in the street, but police and prosecutors look the other way? That's the worst kind of corruption." He continues by pledging to "work to reform our criminal justice system" in the Senate.

KS-Sen: On Thursday, just days ahead of the June 1 filing deadline, state Senate President Susan Wagle announced that she was dropping out of the August GOP primary. Wagle's move is good news for state and national party leaders, who are afraid that a crowded field will make it easier for former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to win the primary.

Wagle's decision came weeks after Kansas GOP chair Mike Kuckelman asked her to leave the race in order "to allow our Party to coalesce behind a candidate who will not only win, but will help Republicans down the ballot this November." Wagle's campaign responded to Kuckelman's appeal at the time by saying she wasn't going anywhere and adding, "Others can speculate on his motives, but it may be as simple as he doesn't support strong, pro-life conservative women."

On Thursday, though, Wagle herself cited the party's need to avoid a "primary fight that will divide our party or hurts my colleagues in the state legislature" as one of her main reasons for dropping out. Wagle also argued that a competitive nomination fight would help Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier in the fall.

Wagle's departure came hours after Rep. Roger Marshall, who looks like Kobach's main rival, picked up an endorsement from Kansans For Life, a development the Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry characterized as a major setback for Wagle.

The organization, which Lowry called the state's "leading anti-abortion group," notably backed both Kobach and then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. Kobach won that contest by less than 350 votes before losing the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly, and Lowry says that plenty of state Republican operatives believe things would have turned out very differently if KFL had only supported Colyer.

Meanwhile, Bollier's second TV ad touts her as a "sensible centrist" and a "leading moderate voice."

ME-Sen: A progressive group led by former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is out with a survey from Victory Geek that shows Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon leading GOP Sen. Susan Collins 51-42. The poll also tested 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betty Sweet, who is a longshot candidate in the July Democratic primary, and found her edging Collins 44-43; Strimling disclosed that he was close to Sweet and had contributed to her campaign.

This is the first poll we've ever seen from Victory Geek, a firm Strimling characterized as "a non-partisan data and telecom provider with mostly conservative clients." Strimling called this survey a "joint left/right partnership" between Victory Geek and his progressive organization, "Swing Hard. Run Fast. Turn Left!"

The is also the first poll we've seen here in close to three months, so we don't have a good sense if Collins really is badly trailing. Indeed, the only other numbers we've seen from Maine all year were a February SocialSphere poll that had Gideon up 43-42 and an early March survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had her ahead 47-43. While it's very clear that Collins is in for the fight of her career, we need more data before we can call her an underdog.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The conservative pollster We Ask America finds GOP Gov. Mike Parson leading Democrat Nicole Galloway 47-39, while Donald Trump edges Joe Biden 48-44. The only other poll we've seen here in the last month was a late April survey from the GOP firm Remington Research for the Missouri Scout tipsheet that showed Parson ahead 52-39.

VT-Gov: On Thursday, which was the candidate filing deadline, GOP Gov. Phil Scott confirmed that he'd seek a third two-year term. While Scott waited until now to make his plans official, there was never any serious talk about him stepping aside. Scott also pledged that he wouldn't bring on "a campaign staff or office, be raising money, or participating in normal campaign events" until the current state of emergency is over.

House

HI-02: On Thursday, VoteVets endorsed state Sen. Kai Kahele in the August Democratic primary. Kahele currently faces no serious intra-party opposition for this safely blue open seat, though it's always possible someone could launch a last-minute campaign before the filing deadline passes on Tuesday.

IA-04: Politico reports that Iowa Four PAC, a group run by former GOP state House Speaker Christopher Rants, has launched a $20,000 TV buy against white supremacist Rep. Steve King ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary. The commercial declares that it's "sad that Steve King lost his committee assignments in Congress and embarrassed Iowa." The narrator also says that "President Trump stopped allowing Steve King to fly on Air Force One." The rest of the ad touts state Sen. Randy Feenstra as a reliable Trump ally.

Meanwhile, 2018 Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten, who doesn't face any intra-party opposition next week, has launched what Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports is a $50,000 TV buy. The 60-second ad, which is narrated by "Field of Dreams" star Kevin Costner, is a shorter version of Scholten's launch video. The spot features images of western Iowa and its people and declares that the area is "rooted within us. Within him."

IN-01: Former Sen. Joe Donnelly endorsed Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott on Monday ahead of next week's Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the Voter Protection Project has announced that it will spend "six figures" on mailers supporting state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon.

IN-05: The anti-tax Club for Growth began targeting former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi a little while ago, and it recently went up with a commercial targeting businesswoman Beth Henderson, who is another candidate in next week's GOP primary. Roll Call's Jessica Wehrman writes that the Club, which backs state Sen. Victoria Spartz, has spent $400,000 on ads for this contest.

The ad shows an old clip of Henderson from just before the 2016 Indiana presidential primary saying of Donald Trump, "I don't like his outbursts and his inappropriateness with the public and … his scruples." The narrator goes on to argue that Henderson "even went on Facebook to support a liberal group that called for Trump's impeachment."

Spartz, who has self-funded most of her campaign, has decisively outspent her many opponents in this competitive open seat. A recent poll for the Club also showed her leading Brizzi 32-14 as Henderson took 13%, and no one has released any contradictory numbers.

Henderson is also acting like Spartz is the one to beat here. Henderson made sure to inform voters in a recent ad that she was born in the United States in what appears to be a not-very subtle shot at Spartz, who has discussed leaving her native Ukraine in her own commercials.

NY-24: 2018 nominee Dana Balter is out with her second TV spot ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Katko.

Balter tells the audience that she has a pre-existing condition and continues, "I know the fear of living without insurance, so it's personal when John Katko repeatedly votes to sabotage Obamacare and put coverage for pre-existing conditions at risk." Balter declares that she came closer to defeating Katko last cycle than anyone ever has, and pledges "we'll finish the job so everyone has good healthcare."

NV-03: The conservative super PAC Ending Spending recently launched an ad against former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz ahead of the June 9 GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy for the TV and digital campaign is $300,000.

UT-04: Former Rep. Mia Love has endorsed state Rep. Kim Coleman in the June 30 GOP primary to take on freshman Rep. Ben McAdams.

DCCC: The DCCC has added another six contenders to its program for top candidates:

  • AK-AL: Alyse Galvin
  • AR-02: Joyce Elliott
  • MT-AL: Kathleen Williams
  • NC-08: Pat Timmons-Goodson
  • NE-02: Kara Eastman
  • OH-01: Kate Schroder

Kathleen Williams, who was the 2018 nominee for Montana’s only House seat, does face a primary on Tuesday against state Rep. Tom Winter. However, Winter has struggled with fundraising during the contest.

Judicial

MI Supreme Court: On Tuesday, the Michigan Democratic Party announced its endorsements for the two state Supreme Court seats on the ballot in November, backing Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and attorney Elizabeth Welch. Both Democratic-backed candidates will face off against two Republican-supported candidates in elections this fall that are nominally nonpartisan and let voters select up to two candidates elected by plurality winner. If McCormack is re-elected and Welch wins office to succeed a retiring GOP justice, Democrats would gain a 4-3 majority on the bench.

A Democratic majority would have major implications for battles over redistricting and voting access, two topics that are currently the subject of active lawsuits at both the state and federal levels in Michigan. While Michigan has a new independent redistricting commission, Republicans are currently suing in federal court to strike it down, something that isn't outside the realm of possibility given the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority, but a Democratic state court could serve as a bulwark against unfair maps in such a scenario.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who represented Dallas' northern suburbs from 1991 to 2019, died Wednesday at the age of 89. Johnson was the last Korean War veteran to serve in Congress, as well as a founding member of what later became the influential Republican Study Committee.

Johnson was serving as a fighter pilot in Vietnam in 1966 when his plane was shot down and he was captured by North Vietnamese forces. Johnson spent almost seven years as a prisoner of war, a period that included physical and mental torture. Johnson and another future Republican politician, John McCain, also shared a tiny cell for 18 months.

Johnson was released in 1973, and he went on to become a homebuilder back in Texas. Johnson was elected to the state House in 1984, and he sought an open U.S. House seat in a 1991 special election after Republican Steve Bartlett resigned to become mayor of Dallas. Johnson took second in the all-party primary against a fellow Vietnam veteran, former Reagan White House aide Tom Pauken, and the two met in an all-Republican general election. Johnson emphasized his military service and won 53-47, and he never had trouble winning re-election for the rest of his career.

In 2000, Johnson notably endorsed George W. Bush over McCain, saying of his former cellmate, "I know him pretty well … and I can tell you, he cannot hold a candle to George Bush." Three years later, though, McCain would say of the Texan, "I wasn't really as courageous as Sam Johnson." Johnson would ultimately back McCain in the 2008 primaries, arguing it was "time to get behind the front-runner."

Morning Digest: Dems need four seats to flip Michigan’s House. Our new data shows the top targets

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

Gov-by-LD, Senate-by-LD: Republicans have controlled the Michigan House of Representatives since the 2010 GOP wave despite Democrats winning more votes in three of the last four elections, but Daily Kos Elections' new data for the 2018 elections shows that Democrats have a narrow path to win the four seats they need to flip the chamber this fall.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette 53-44 to become governor and carried 56 of the 110 seats in the lower house—exactly the number that her party needs to take a bare majority. You can see these results visualized for the House in the map at the top of this post (with a larger version available here).

Campaign Action

However, because Republicans heavily gerrymandered the map to benefit themselves, the Democrats’ presidential nominee will need to decisively defeat Donald Trump in the Wolverine State to give their party a chance. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s successful re-election campaign illustrates this hurdle: Even though she beat Republican John James 52-46 statewide, she only took 54 House districts.

The entire state House is up for re-election every two years, and members can serve a maximum of three terms, making Michigan's term limits among the most restrictive in the country. Democrats made big gains in the House last cycle and reduced the GOP majority from 63-47 to 58-52.

Most importantly, four members of the GOP caucus sit in seats that backed Whitmer, making those the four ripest targets for Democrats. At the same time, no Democratic incumbents hold seats won by Schuette. However, three of these GOP-held Whitmer seats also supported Donald Trump when he narrowly carried the state two years before, so sweeping them all be a difficult task.

Team Blue’s best pickup opportunity in the state looks like HD-61 in the Kalamazoo area, which supported Whitmer by a wide 54-43 margin and backed Stabenow by a 53-45 spread. The seat also went for Hillary Clinton 49-45, making it the one GOP-held district in the entire chamber that didn’t back Trump. Republican incumbent Brandt Iden won his third term 51-49 in 2018, but term limits prevent him from running again this year.

Two other Republican seats, both located in Oakland County in the Detroit suburbs, also went for both Whitmer and Stabenow, though Trump carried them both. HD-39 backed Trump 50-46, but it supported Whitmer 53-45 and Stabenow 51-47. Republican Ryan Berman was elected to his first term by a wide 54-42, but that election took place under unusual circumstances: The Democratic candidate, Jennifer Suidan, was charged with embezzlement during the race and was sentenced to five years’ probation after the election.

Nearby is HD-38, which went for Trump 49-46 before supporting Whitmer and Stabenow 52-46 and 51-48. This seat is held by GOP state Rep. Kathy Crawford, who won her third and last term by a narrow 49-48 in 2018.

The fourth and final GOP-held Whitmer seat is HD-45, which is also located in Oakland County, but it supported her just 49.2-48.8, by a margin of 181 votes. Trump took the seat by a wider 51-44 margin, while James defeated Stabenow here 50-49. Republican incumbent Michael Webber won 55-45, but, like Iden and Crawford, he’s termed-out this year.

Democrats have a few potential targets if they fail to take all four of those seats, but they aren’t great. Another five House districts backed Schuette by a margin of less than 2%, but Trump took them all by double digits in 2016. Democrats also will need to play defense in the 10 seats they hold that voted for Trump (though two years later they all went for Whitmer). All of this means that, while Democrats do have a path to the majority, they’ll need essentially everything to go right this fall.

As for the state Senate, it’s only up in midterm years, so the GOP’s 22-16 majority is safe there for almost another three years, barring an unlikely avalanche of special elections. The good news for Democrats, though, is that 2022’s races for the legislature (and Congress) will be held under very different maps than the GOP gerrymanders in force now.

That’s because in 2018, voters approved the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw the new lines in place of the state legislature. These new maps could give Democrats a better chance to win (or hold) the House as well as the Senate, where the GOP has been in control since it successfully recalled two Democratic legislators in early 1984.

P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.

4Q Fundraising

The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is Jan. 31. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available next week.

NC-Sen: Thom Tillis (R-inc): $1.9 million raised, $5.3 million cash-on-hand

VA-Sen: Mark Warner (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $7.4 million cash-on-hand

AZ-06: Karl Gentles (D): $104,000 raised, $80,000 cash-on-hand

CA-25: Christy Smith (D): $845,000 raised, $592,000 cash-on-hand

FL-27: Maria Elvira Salazar (R): $315,000 raised, additional $50,000 self-funded, $717,000 cash-on-hand

IL-17: Cheri Bustos (D-inc): $531,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand

MN-08: Pete Stauber (R-inc): $347,000 raised, $722,000 cash-on-hand

NC-02: Deborah Ross (D): $301,000 raised, $262,000 cash-on-hand

NH-02: Annie Kuster (D-inc): $452,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand

NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $918,000 raised, $7.12 million cash-on-hand

TX-22: Pierce Bush (R): $660,000 raised (in three weeks)

Senate

AL-Sen: The extremist Club for Growth is going back on the air ahead of the March primary with a TV spot they first aired in November against Rep. Bradley Byrne, an establishment-aligned Republican whom they've long hated. The commercial takes aim at Byrne for supporting the Export-Import Bank, which is another favorite Club target.

GA-Sen-B: Pastor Raphael Warnock announced Thursday that he would run against appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler in November’s all-party primary, giving Democrats their first high-profile candidate in Georgia’s special election for the Senate.

Warnock quickly earned an endorsement from 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who was Team Blue’s top choice until she took her name out of the running last year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote earlier this month that national Democrats, as well as Abrams, wanted Warnock to challenge Loeffler, though the DSCC has not formally taken sides.

Warnock, who would be Georgia’s first black senator, is the senior pastor of the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. once held the pulpit. Warnock has never run for office before, but he’s been involved in politics as the chair of the New Georgia Project, a group founded by Abrams with the goal of registering people of color to vote. Warnock has also used his position to call for expanding Medicaid and reforming Georgia’s criminal justice system.

Warnock joins businessman Matt Lieberman on the Democratic side, and another local politician says he’s also likely to run for Team Blue. Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver said Thursday that Warnock’s entry hadn’t changed his own plans to run, adding that he plans to kick off his campaign in the next few weeks.

GOP Rep. Doug Collins also entered the race against Loeffler this week, but legislative leaders quickly dealt him a setback. On Thursday, state House Speaker David Ralston, despite being a Collins ally, announced that a bill that would do away with the all-party primary in favor of a traditional partisan primary would be unlikely to apply to this year’s special election. The legislation cleared the Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this week but was returned to the committee for revisions. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has threatened to veto any measure that would change the rules of this year’s special Senate race.

As we’ve noted before, both Democrats and Collins would almost certainly benefit from the proposed rule change, but it looks like the status quo will persist this year. However, Collins is arguing that he’d still have the advantage in a November all-party primary, though the data he released isn’t especially persuasive. Collins released a poll this week from McLaughlin & Associates showing Lieberman in front with 42% while Collins leads Loeffler 32-11 for the second spot in a likely January runoff.

McLaughlin is a firm that’s infamous even in GOP circles for its poor track record, but this survey is also rather stale. The poll was conducted in mid-December, when Loeffler had just been appointed to the Senate and had little name recognition. But the wealthy senator has since launched a $2.6 million ad campaign, and she’s reportedly pledged to spend $20 million to get her name out.

Lieberman was also the only Democrat mentioned in the poll, but Warnock’s Thursday announcement means he’s now no longer Team Blue’s only candidate, scrambling the picture further. And if Tarver does go ahead with his planned campaign, he could complicate matters even more by potentially splitting the vote on the left three ways and allowing Loeffler and Collins to advance to an all-GOP runoff.

Collins, meanwhile, hasn’t been on the receiving end of any negative ads yet, but that’s about to change. Politico reports that next week, the Club for Growth will start a five-week TV campaign targeting the congressman for a hefty $3 million.

IA-Sen: Businessman Eddie Mauro raised just $73,000 from donors during the fourth quarter of 2019, but the Democrat loaned himself an additional $1.5 million and ended December with $1.4 million in the bank. However, during that same quarter, Mauro repaid himself $850,000 that he'd previously loaned to his campaign. It's not clear why Mauro made this move.

The only other Democrat to release fundraising figures so far, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, previously said she brought in $1.6 million in the final three months of last year and had $2.1 million on hand. Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she raised $1.7 million and had $4.9 million left.

House

FL-27: This week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed 2018 GOP nominee Maria Elvira Salazar's second bid for this Miami-area seat against freshman Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala. Salazar, who lost to Shalala 52-46 last cycle, doesn't face any serious opposition in the August GOP primary.

GA-09: State Rep. Kevin Tanner announced Thursday that he would seek the GOP nod to succeed Senate candidate Doug Collins in this safely red seat. Tanner was first elected to the legislature in 2012, and he serves as the chair of the influential Transportation Committee.

IN-05: Former state Sen. Mike Delph recently told Howey Politics that he would not seek the GOP nod for this open seat.

NY-15: This week, Assemblyman Michael Blake picked up endorsements in the June Democratic primary from SEIU 32BJ and 1199 SEIU, which represent building workers and healthcare workers, respectively. These groups make up two of the "big four" unions in New York City politics along with the Hotel Trades Council and the United Federation of Teachers. The Hotel Trades Council is supporting New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, while the UFT does not appear to have taken sides yet in the crowded primary contest to succeed retiring Rep. Jose Serrano in this safely blue seat in The Bronx.

Last month, Blake also received the backing of District Council 37, which represents municipal workers.