Morning Digest: Shock Democratic win in New York special is latest data point suggesting no red wave

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.

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Leading Off

NY-19 (special): Democrat Pat Ryan scored a huge special election upset for his party by defeating Republican Marc Molinaro 52-48 in New York’s 19th District, a swing seat in the Hudson Valley that Molinaro appeared poised to flip until polls closed on Tuesday. The win for Ryan, an Army veteran who serves as Ulster County executive and made abortion rights the centerpiece of his campaign, is the latest―and most dramatic― sign that the political landscape has shifted since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade at the end of June.

Joe Biden carried this constituency 50-48 (the special was fought under the old congressional map), but until results started rolling in, both parties had behaved as though Molinaro was the strong favorite. Molinaro, who leads Dutchess County, defeated then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo by a wide 53-42 in the 19th in 2018 even as Cuomo was prevailing statewide in a 60-36 landslide. That strong local performance motivated national Republicans to try to recruit Molinaro to take on Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado in 2020, and while he declined that cycle, he eventually bit on a campaign last year.

But that anticipated Delgado-Molinaro bout was averted in the spring when the congressman resigned after Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed him as lieutenant governor―a career switch Republicans argued was motivated by Delgado’s wariness about his re-election prospects. The unexpected special election seemed to be good news indeed for Molinaro, who began with a months-long head start over his eventual Democratic rival at a time when a GOP wave looked imminent.

Ryan, who had lost the 2018 primary to Delgado, quickly closed much of the financial gap he faced by the end of June, but he still looked like the decided underdog. Even a late June internal poll for Ryan taken days after Roe was repealed showed him down 43-40. However, the same survey found that the Democrat could turn things around by hammering home Molinaro’s opposition to abortion rights. Ryan did just that in ad after ad, while Molinaro and the GOP continued to emphasize inflation and crime while ignoring reproductive rights.

Still, Democrats remained pessimistic about Ryan’s chances. While the NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund spent a combined $1.8 million here, the DCCC limited its involvement to running some joint buys with their nominee. (We won’t know how much the committee spent until new fundraising reports are out in late September.) The progressive veterans group VoteVets, however, dropped $500,000 to help Ryan with an ad campaign declaring that the candidate, who served in Iraq, "sure didn't fight for our freedom abroad to see it taken away from women here at home.”

But it still didn’t seem to be enough: An early August DCCC poll found Molinaro leading 46-43—that same stubborn 3-point margin—while the Democratic firm Data for Progress released its own poll on Election Day giving him an even larger 53-45 edge. Tuesday’s upset, though, validated Ryan’s tight focus on abortion rights―a strategy fellow Democrats have deployed in other races across the country.

Both Ryan and Molinaro will be on the ballot again in November under the new court-drawn congressional map, but they won’t be facing each other this time. The new congressman is Team Blue’s nominee for the redrawn 18th District in the Lower Hudson Valley, turf that, at 53-45 Biden, is several points to the left of the constituency he just won. Ryan, who will represent just under 30% of the new district, will go up against Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt this time.

Molinaro himself will be competing in the new 19th District, a seat in the southeastern part of upstate New York that also would have gone for Biden by a larger spread, in this case 51-47. About 42% of the new 19th’s residents live in the district Molinaro just lost, but importantly, none of his home county of Dutchess is contained in the district. Molinaro’s opponent will be attorney Josh Riley, who claimed Team Blue’s nomination on Tuesday and will have the chance to deal the county executive his second straight defeat of the year in just a few months. 

election recaps

 Election Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of early Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here. Note that New York allows absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if they’re received through Aug. 30, so some of the margins in the Empire State may change.

 FL-Gov (D): Rep. Charlie Crist defeated state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 60-35 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. Crist, who was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican and narrowly lost the 2014 general election to reclaim his prior post following his party switch, will be in for a tough fight against DeSantis, who begins the general election with a massive $132 million war chest.

 FL-01 (R): Rep. Matt Gaetz prevailed 70-24 against Mark Lombardo, a self-funder who ran ads reminding viewers that the incumbent remains under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses. Gaetz will likely be secure in November no matter what happens next in a Pensacola area constituency that Trump would have taken 65-33.

 FL-04 (R & D): State Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean defeated Navy veteran Erick Aguilar 68-26 in the GOP primary for an open Jacksonville area seat that Trump would have carried 53-46.

On the Democratic side, businesswoman LaShonda Holloway leads former state Sen. Tony Hill 50.2-49.8 with 58,000 votes counted, which the AP, which has not yet called the race, estimates is 99% of the total. Both of Team Blue’s candidates have struggled to bring in cash here, and neither national party has shown an obvious interest in it.  

 FL-07 (R): Army veteran Cory Mills beat state Rep. Anthony Sabatini 34-21 in the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat who decided to retire just before the GOP transfigured her suburban Orlando district from a 55-44 Biden seat to one Trump would have carried 52-47.

Mills notably ran commercials where he bragged that his company’s tear gas was used on what the on-screen text labeled as "Hillary Clinton protesters," "left wing protesters," "antifa rioters," "Black Lives Matter protesters," and "radical left protesters." The Republican nominee will face Karen Green, a state Democratic official who hasn’t raised much money so far.  

 FL-10 (D): Gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost won the 10-way primary to replace Democratic Senate nominee Val Demings by defeating state Sen. Randolph Bracy 35-25; two former House members, Alan Grayson and Corrine Brown, took 15% and 9%, respectively. Biden would have won this Orlando-based seat 65-33.

Frost, who is 25, will almost certainly be the youngest member of Congress come January. His primary win also represents a victory for the crypto-aligned Protect Our Future PAC, which spent about $1 million to aid him.

 FL-11 (R): Rep. Dan Webster held off far-right troll Laura Loomer only 51-44 in one of the biggest surprises of the night.

Loomer, a self-described "proud Islamophobe" who is banned on numerous social media, rideshare, and payment services, characteristically reacted to her near-miss by refusing to concede and spreading conspiracy theories about the primary. Trump would have carried this constituency in the western Orlando suburbs, which includes the gargantuan retirement community of The Villages, 55-44.

 FL-13 (R): 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who has the backing of Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, earned the GOP nod again by beating attorney Kevin Hayslett 44-34 after an expensive and nasty contest. The Democratic pick to succeed Rep. Charlie Crist is former Department of Defense official Eric Lynn, who is defending a St. Petersburg-based district that the Republicans transformed from a 52-47 Biden seat to one Trump would have taken 53-46.

 FL-14 (R): Public relations firm owner James Judge trounced self-funding businessman Jerry Torres 53-30 just days after a court rejected a lawsuit that tried to keep Torres off the ballot. Judge will be the underdog against Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in this 59-40 Biden seat in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

 FL-15 (R & D): Former Secretary of State Laurel Lee outpaced state Sen. Kelli Stargel 41-28 in the Republican primary for a new district in the Tampa suburbs that was created because Florida won a new seat in reapportionment. This constituency would have backed Trump 51-48.

The Democratic nominee will be former local TV anchor Alan Cohn, who routed political consultant Gavin Brown 33-22. Cohn lost the 2020 contest for the previous version of the 15th to Republican Scott Franklin 55-45 as Trump was taking that seat by a similar 54-45 margin; Franklin is now seeking the new 18th.

 FL-20 (D): Freshman Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick decisively won her rematch with former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, whom she defeated by all of five votes in last year's crowded special election, 66-29. This constituency, which is located in the inland Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas, is safely blue at 76-23 Biden.

 FL-23 (D): Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz turned back Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Ben Sorensen 61-21. Moskowitz should have no trouble succeeding retiring Rep. Ted Deutch in a Fort Lauderdale-based seat that Biden would have carried 56-43.

 FL-27 (D): State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who had the support of the DCCC and other national Democrats, beat Miami Commissioner Ken Russell 68-26 for the nod to take on freshman Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. The GOP sought to protect the new incumbent by shifting her Miami-area seat to the right: While Biden carried the old 27th 51-48, Trump would have taken the new version 50-49.

 OK-Sen-B (R): Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who had Donald Trump’s endorsement for the runoff, bested former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon in a 65-35 runoff landslide.

Mullin will be the frontrunner against former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in the general election to succeed Sen. Jim Inhofe, whose resignation takes effect at the end of this Congress, in one of the reddest states in the nation. (That’s not entirely welcome news to Inhofe, who recently told Read Frontier, “Markwayne and I, we have problems.”) Mullin, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, would be the first Native American to serve in the Senate since Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Colorado Democrat turned Republican, retired in 2005.

 OK-02 (R): Former state Sen. Josh Brecheen edged out state Rep. Avery Frix 52-48 after a very expensive GOP runoff to succeed Markwayne Mullin in this dark red Eastern Oklahoma seat. A PAC affiliated with the Club for Growth spent over $3.4 million to promote Brecheen, who is a former Club fellow, while Frix had extensive support from his own outside group allies.

 NY-01 (R): Nick LaLota, who serves as chief of staff of the Suffolk County Legislature, beat cryptocurrency trader Michelle Bond 47-28 in the primary to replace Rep. Lee Zeldin, the GOP nominee for governor. The wealthy Bond and her allies (including a PAC that just happens to be funded by her boyfriend, crypto notable Ryan Salame), far outspent LaLota, but he had the support of the county’s Republican and Conservative parties.

LaLota will now go up against Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who had the Democratic primary to herself. While Trump won the old 1st 51-47, Biden would have carried the new version of this eastern Long Island constituency by a narrow 49.4-49.2.

 NY-02 (R): Freshman Rep. Andrew Garbarino turned in an unexpectedly weak 54-38 victory over an unheralded Army and Navy veteran named Robert Cornicelli. The challenger eagerly embraced the Big Lie, and he used his limited resources to remind voters that Garbarino voted for a Jan. 6 commission. Garbarino also supported the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill as well as legislation protecting same-sex and interracial marriage, which may have further damaged his standing with the base.

Garbarino will now face a rematch against Democrat Jackie Gordon, an Army veteran he defeated 53-46 in 2020 as Trump was taking the old 2nd 51-47. The redrawn version of this seat, which is based in the south shore of Suffolk County, would have gone for Trump by a smaller 50-49 margin.

 NY-03 (D): DNC member Robert Zimmerman, a longtime party fundraiser who would be Long Island’s first gay member of Congress, beat Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman 36-26 in the primary to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi, who left to unsuccessfully run for governor in June. Another 20% went to Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who had Suozzi’s endorsement and benefited from spending by Protect Our Future PAC.

Zimmerman, who lost a race for Congress all the way back in 1982, will go up against 2020 Republican nominee George Santos. Suozzi last time held off Santos 56-43 as Biden was carrying the old 3rd 55-44; the new version of this seat, which is based in northern Nassau County, would have supported the president by a smaller 53-45 spread.

 NY-04 (D): Former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen defeated Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages 63-24 in the primary to replace retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice, who supported Gillen. The GOP is fielding Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D'Esposito for a southern Nassau County district that Biden would have won 57-42.

 NY-10 (D): Daniel Goldman, a self-funder who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Trump's first impeachment, beat Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou 26-24 in the busy primary for this safely blue seat in Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn; Rep. Mondaire Jones, who currently represents the 17th District well to the north of the city in the Hudson Valley, took third with 18%.

 NY-11 (D): Former Rep. Max Rose will get his rematch against freshman GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis following his 75-21 primary victory over Army veteran Brittany Debarros. The court-drawn version of this seat, which retains all of Staten Island, would have supported Trump 53-46, while he prevailed 55-44 in the old boundaries; Malliotakis herself unseated Rose 53-47 last cycle.

 NY-12 (D): Rep. Jerry Nadler won the final incumbent vs. incumbent primary of the cycle by convincingly defeating fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney 55-24 in a revamped safely blue seat that’s home to Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side.

 NY-16 (D): Freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman earned renomination in this loyally blue constituency by turning back Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi 57-23.

 NY-17 (D): Incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney, who heads the DCCC, beat state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi 67-33 in this lower Hudson Valley seat. Maloney will go up against Republican Assemblyman Michael Lawler, who won his own primary 76-12, in a constituency Biden would have taken 54-44.

 NY-19 (D): Attorney Josh Riley outpaced businesswoman Jamie Cheney 64-36 in a southeastern upstate New York district. Riley will now go up against Republican Marc Molinaro, who lost Tuesday’s special election for the old 19th, for a redrawn seat that would have favored Biden 51-47.

 NY-22 (R & D): The GOP establishment got some unwelcome news when Navy veteran Brandon Williams defeated businessman Steve Wells 58-42 in the primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Rep. John Katko, for a district located in the Syracuse and Utica areas. The Congressional Leadership Fund evidently believed that Wells was the better bet for this 53-45 Biden seat because the super PAC spent close to $1 million on an unsuccessful effort to get him across the finish line.

On the Democratic side, Navy veteran Francis Conole beat Air Force veteran Sarah Klee Hood 39-36. Conole far outspent the entire field, and he benefited from over $500,000 in aid from Protect Our Future PAC.

 NY-23 (special): Steuben County Republican Party Chair Joe Sempolinski held off Air Force veteran Max Della Pia only 53-47 in a special election to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed in a 55-43 Trump seat. Sempolinski isn’t running for a full term anywhere, while Della is competing for a full term in the revamped 23rd.

 NY-23 (R): State GOP chair Nick Langworthy scored a 52-48 upset over developer Carl Paladino, the proto-Trump who served as the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, in the contest to succeed departing GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs. Langworthy will take on Air Force veteran Max Della Pia in a seat in the Buffalo suburbs and southwestern upstate New York that would have gone for Trump 58-40.

Paladino, who used his vast wealth to far outspend Langworthy, has a long and ongoing history of bigoted outbursts. But that didn’t stop Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents the neighboring 21st District and serves as the number-three Republican in the House, from backing Paladino, a move that one unnamed House Republican griped was “baffling” and “off-putting.” The gamble, though, very much didn’t pay off for Stefanik or Paladino.

 NY-24 (R): Rep. Claudia Tenney beat back attorney Mario Fratto by an underwhelming 54-40, though she should have no trouble in the general for a 57-40 Trump seat in the Finger Lakes region. Tenney had the support of Trump as well as a huge financial lead over Fratto, but she currently represents a mere 6% of this revamped district.

Senate

MO-Sen: Independent John Wood announced Tuesday he was dropping out of the general election, a move that came after a super PAC affiliated with former GOP Sen. John Danforth spent $3.6 million on his behalf.

Wood sent out an email to his supporters saying he'd decided to run at a time when disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens was a serious contender for the Republican nomination, saying, "That would have been unacceptable, embarrassing, and dangerous for my party, my state, and my Country." Greitens, though, lost the Aug. 2 GOP primary to Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Wood acknowledged, "It has become evident that there is not a realistic path to victory for me as an independent candidate."

NH-Sen: State Senate President Chuck Morse has earned the backing of the NRA ahead of the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan. The organization, as we've written before, has dramatically diminished in recent years and it rarely spends much in primaries, but its stamp of approval can still give Republican office seekers a boost with conservatives.

NV-Sen: Adam Laxalt is using his coordinated buy with the NRSC to air his very first TV spot since the mid-June primary, and he's far from the only Senate Republican candidate to only return to the airwaves months after winning the nomination. Pennsylvania's Mehmet Oz began running commercials in late July, while North Carolina's Ted Budd and Ohio's J.D. Vance, who also cleared their primaries in May, went up with general election spots this month; all three of these inaugural ads were also joint buys with the NRSC.

This Laxalt spot, reports NBC, has only $95,000 behind it, though that's still more than than the $65,000 he'd spent through Monday on general election digital and radio ads. Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, by contrast, has dropped $6.5 million on advertising, while Democratic outside groups have outspent their GOP counterparts by a smaller $12.1 million to $10.9 million margin here.

Laxalt's commercial comes days after Cortez Masto portrayed the Republican as a spoiled outsider in a spot of her own that emulated the TV show "Succession." Laxalt tries to get his own narrative about his life across by telling the audience, "I was raised by a single mom with no college education. And as a kid, I didn't know who my father was." (His late father was New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, who was married to another woman when Laxalt was conceived and had little presence in his life.) The candidate's wife also declares, "Everything he had to overcome helped make him a good man."  

Governors

CA-Gov: UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times: Gavin Newsom (D-inc): 55, Brian Dahle (R): 31

MS-Gov: Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who is one of the most prominent Democrats in this dark red state, didn't rule anything out when Mississippi Today asked about his interest in challenging Republican Gov. Tate Reeves next year. Presley, who is also up for re-election in 2023, instead talked about his current role, saying, "I am concentrating on trying to get internet to every household in the state, trying to keep utility rates affordable during this time of high inflation."

NY-Gov: SurveyUSA for WNYT: Kathy Hochul (D-inc): 55, Lee Zeldin (R): 31 (June: 52-28 Hochul)

House

MI-08: It begins: The independent expenditure arm of the DCCC has released its first TV ad of the November general election, beating their counterparts at the NRCC to the airwaves.

The DCCC's spot attacks former Homeland Security official Paul Junge, the Republican nominee in Michigan's 8th Congressional District, on the number one issue of the midterms: abortion. The commercial, however, avoids the word. Instead, a series of female narrators castigates Junge: "I thought I'd always have the right to make my own health care decisions," the voiceover says. "But if Paul Junge gets his way … I won't." Saying that Junge opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest, the narration continues, "I couldn't imagine a pregnancy forced on me after something horrible like that. But thanks to Paul Junge, I have to."

Junge is challenging five-term Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, who saw his district in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas take on some new turf and grow a bit redder in redistricting. It also changed numbers: Biden won Kildee's old 5th by a 51-47 margin, but the redrawn 8th would have backed the president just 50-48. This part of the state has also moved sharply to the right on the presidential level over the last decade—in 2012, Barack Obama won the 5th District by more than 20 points—which is why it's a prime target for Republicans this year.

Democrats know this as well, which is why they're stepping in to aid Kildee. We don't yet know how much the DCCC is spending in this initial foray, but we will soon: Any group that makes an independent expenditure on behalf of a federal candidate must file a report with the FEC detailing its spending within 48 hours—and from Oct. 20 onward, within 24 hours. Those filings are all made available on the FEC's website.

That site will get plenty of clicks, because from here on out, we can expect hundreds of millions of dollars more in independent expenditures on House races, from official party organizations like the DCCC and NRCC, massive super PACs like the Democrats' House Majority PAC and the GOP's Congressional Leadership Fund, and a whole bevy of groups large and small. But with the parties themselves now going up on TV, we can consider this the beginning of the end of the midterms.

TN-05: Democratic state Sen. Heidi Campbell has publicized an internal from FrederickPolls that gives her a 51-48 lead over her Republican rival, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, in a newly-gerrymandered constituency that Democrats are very pessimistic about holding. Democratic incumbent Jim Cooper decided to retire here after the GOP legislature transmuted his seat from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency by cracking the city of Nashville, and no major outside groups on either side have reserved any ad time here.  

Other races

Los Angeles County, CA Sheriff: UC Berkeley, polling for the Los Angeles Times, finds former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna leading conservative Sheriff Alex Villanueva 31-27 in the November nonpartisan primary to serve as the top lawman for America's most populous county. This is the first survey we've seen since early June, when Villanueva outpaced Luna 31-26.

Villanueva made history in 2018 when he became the first Democrat to hold this office in 138 years, but while he still identifies as "​​a Democrat of the party of JFK and FDR," he's established a very different image in office. Villanueva instead has become a Fox News regular who, among many other things, has raged against the "woke left." The sheriff's department also has been at the center of numerous scandals, including allegations that deputies have organized themselves into violent gangs.  

Luna, for his part, changed his voter registration from Republican to no party preference in 2018 before becoming a Democrat two years later. The county Democratic Party has endorsed the former Long Beach police chief for the general election after declining to back anyone for the first round, and all five members of the Board of Supervisors are also in his corner; Luna also has the endorsement of Eric Strong, a progressive who took third with 16%. The challenger has faulted the incumbent for having "mismanaged" the department and argued that he'll "modernize" it.

Despite his second-place showing, however, UC Berkeley finds that Luna is a blank slate to most voters. Respondents give Luna a 31-11 favorable rating, but a 59% majority says they don't have an opinion of the challenger. Villanueva, by contrast, is underwater with a 30-39 score, though 31% still weren't sure how they feel about him.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: A pair of Republican congressmen stumble into tough runoff campaigns in Mississippi

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.

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

 MS-03, MS-04: Two Mississippi Republicans―3rd District Rep. Michael Guest and 4th District Rep. Steven Palazzo―posted surprisingly weak showings in Tuesday’s primaries, and they each are in for a tough fight going into June 28 runoffs in their safely red constituencies.

Guest appeared secure before the votes started coming in, but with 45,000 ballots tabulated as of Wednesday morning, he trails his unheralded intra-party rival, Navy veteran Michael Cassidy, 48-47; another challenger named Thomas Griffin is taking the remaining 5%. A second round of voting would take place if neither Cassidy nor Guest earned a majority of the vote, though the Associated Press has not yet projected a runoff. Palazzo, however, is definitely going to be fighting it out on June 28, as he’s taking just 32% of the vote. The AP hasn’t called the second runoff spot, but Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell posts a 25-22 edge over banker Clay Wagner with 51,000 votes in.

Guest, a self-described “conservative Christian leader” and former district attorney, has almost entirely been a reliable Trumpist during his two terms representing the 3rd District, an east central Mississippi seat that’s also home to many of Jackson’s suburbs. The congressman, though, risked MAGA outrage last year when he became one of the 35 Republicans to vote in favor of a Jan. 6 commission last year, something that Cassidy zeroed in on.

However, while Cassidy worked hard to court more far-right outrage by pledging, as he puts it on his website, to “hold the Establishment's feet to the fire on numerous America First issues, including election integrity and the removal of all COVID mandates and restrictions,” he didn’t look like much of a threat for almost the entire campaign. Cassidy raised a mere $32,000 from donors through late May, though he also threw down $230,000 of his own cash.

Guest himself didn’t appear at all worried, and no outside groups got involved to aid either him or Cassidy. The congressman, though, seemed to acknowledge on election night that he’d run a complacent campaign, arguing, “I think people are confused about who we are and what we stand for. We’ve allowed our opponent to define that.” Guest continued, “So if this does go to a runoff, then we are going to make sure that people of the 3rd District know who we are, they know our conservative values, and when they have the chance to go back to the polls, we hope that we’re going to be able to better convince people that we are the right person to represent our state in Washington D.C.”

Palazzo, by contrast, was in more obvious danger in the neighboring 4th District along the Gulf Coast, though it was still startling to see him perform so poorly. The incumbent is the subject of a long-running ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes, and he attracted six different intra-party opponents.

There have been no public developments about the probe in over a year, however, so it was unclear if this matter would end up hurting Palazzo with voters. His many challengers seemed to think he had even bigger vulnerabilities, because they largely focused on portraying the six-term incumbent as uninterested in doing his job. That’s not a new criticism, as Palazzo, writes Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau, “notoriously holds few public events since he was first elected to Congress in 2010.”

However, the congressman gave his critics more fodder this year when he abruptly canceled a campaign forum for what his staff said were “meetings dealing with national security.” Hours later, Palazzo posted a picture on Facebook of himself and his son at a restaurant in Mississippi; “It is unclear,” Ganucheau writes, “if national security was among the topics Palazzo discussed with his college-aged son over dinner.”  

Palazzo’s rivals took him to task for missing multiple candidate events and casting numerous proxy votes that didn’t require him to be in D.C. (Palazzo previously filed a lawsuit trying to end those proxy vote rules that were set up early in the pandemic.) Ezell himself went after Palazzo’s absenteeism by holding an “I’ll Show Up” tour of the district, arguing, “South Mississippi needs a Congressman who will show up, speak up and stand up for our conservative values—every day.”

Like Guest, though, Palazzo didn’t seem to have any idea how much trouble he was in for much of the campaign, and he hadn’t even run any TV ads going into the final month of the contest. Indeed, Ganucheau wrote in early May, “One month from Election Day, it’s difficult to see signs he’s actually running.” Palazzo now has just three weeks to put together a viable campaign to turn his underwhelming 32% of the vote into the majority he needs to secure renomination.

More primaries also took place Tuesday in California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. You can find the results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: A federal court in Louisiana has struck down the state's new Republican-drawn congressional map, ruling that lawmakers' failure to create a second district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidate violates the Voting Rights Act. Judge Shelly Dick ordered the legislature to pass a remedial plan by June 20, and to that end, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a special session for June 15. But Republicans have already appealed the decision, and the arch-conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to block it, much as the Supreme Court did with a very similar case out of Alabama earlier this year.

Senate

AK-Sen: Candidate filing closed June 1 for Alaska's Aug. 16 top-four primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. The four candidates who take the most votes, regardless of party, will face off in an instant-runoff general election on Nov. 8.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has long had an uneasy relationship with state and national conservatives, faces eight Republicans, three Democrats, and eight independent or third-party foes in August. The only opponent who has attracted much attention, though, is former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican hardliner who has Trump's endorsement. The most prominent Democrat is arguably Pat Chesbro, a Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission member and former high school principal who badly lost a 2014 race for state Senate.

AL-Sen: Politico reports that the Club for Growth's Conservative Outsiders PAC is spending $800,000 on what reporter Natalie Allison characterizes as the Club's "final" buy in support of Rep. Mo Brooks for the June 21 GOP runoff. The spot comes days after the Club reportedly cut $500,000 in ad time meant to help Brooks.

The narrator argues that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's allies are attacking the congressman because they "prefer a lobbyist" like his opponent, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt, over a "proven conservative" like Brooks. The voiceover continues, "Britt ran a special interest group that worked with D.C. lobbyists backing amnesty for over 1 million illegal immigrants. And, Britt's group opposed making it harder for businesses to hire illegals."

AZ-Sen: The Republican firm Data Orbital, polling the August GOP primary on behalf of an unidentified client, finds wealthy businessman Jim Lamon edging out Attorney General Mark Brnovich 20-18, with former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters at 15%. Trump endorsed Masters on Thursday, which happened to be the second day that this three-day poll was in the field.

PA-Sen: Democratic nominee John Fetterman has been off the campaign trail since he suffered a stroke on May 13, and his wife told CNN Monday, "I think he deserves a month break to come back as strong as ever." However, when Giselle Fetterman was asked if the candidate would be back in July, she responded, "Maybe. I think so. That's my hope."

That same day, John Fetterman's campaign began its first general election ads with a $250,000 buy on Fox News, which is usually not a venue where Democrats like to promote themselves. Unsurprisingly, though, the spots (here and here) focus on the lieutenant governor's blue collar image while highlighting him as an untraditional politician: In one commercial filmed before his health emergency, the 6 '9 tattooed candidate tells the audience, "I do not look like a typical politician. I don't even look like a typical person."

WI-Sen: Wednesday was also the deadline for Wisconsin's Aug. 9 primary, and you can find a list of candidates here.

Democrats have a competitive nomination contest to take on Sen. Ron Johnson, a far-right Republican who represents one of the swingiest of swing states. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who would be Wisconsin's first Black senator, has led in every primary poll that's been released and recently picked up an endorsement from the prominent union AFSCME Council 32.

The field also includes Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who recently released an internal showing him only narrowly behind Barnes, and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and nonprofit head Steven Olikara are also in, but they've each struggled in the polls and with fundraising. Two others, Milwaukee Alderwoman Chantia Lewis and administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management Darrell Williams, announced last year but never filed to run.

Governors

AK-Gov: GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy is going up against four Republicans, four unaffiliated contenders, and one Democrat, former state Rep. Les Gara. The prominent challenger in this lot is former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent who was elected to his only term in 2014 with Democratic support but abandoned his re-election campaign four years later in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Dunleavy from winning. The incumbent also faces intra-party opposition from state Rep. Christopher Kurka and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, who are each positioning themselves to the right of the ardently conservative governor.  

AZ-Gov: The Republican pollster Data Orbital's newest look at the August GOP primary shows former TV news anchor Kari Lake with a small 27-23 edge over Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, with former Rep. Matt Salmon well behind with 12%. While no other firm has released numbers showing things this close, Data Orbital finds Lake's lead expanding to 35-21 once respondents are informed she's Trump's choice. Still, even if those numbers are on target, it hardly guarantees that Lake only has room to grow as more voters learn about the Trump endorsement.

Georgia Republican David Perdue found that out the hard way after a December survey from Insider Advantage showed his 41-22 primary deficit against Gov. Brian Kemp transforming into a 34-34 tie after the pollster followed up, "As you may have heard, President Trump is planning to endorse David Perdue in the Republican Primary for Governor. Knowing this information, how would you vote?" Perdue spent the next months doing everything he possibly could to let the base know he was Trump's guy, but primary voters ended up rewarding him with a landslide 74-22 defeat.

Robson, like Kemp, is doing what she can to make sure this primary turns into anything other than a choice between a Trump-backed candidate and everyone else, and she's turning to former Gov. Jan Brewer to make her case that Lake isn't actually a loyal conservative. Brewer, who left office in 2015, begins a new ad for Robson by recounting her battles with the Obama administration over immigration before a picture flashes by of Lake with Obama. The former governor tells the audience, "Kari Lake? She donated to Obama and published a radical plan that even the liberal Arizona Republic called 'mass amnesty.'" Brewer spends the rest of the spot touting Robson as "a fighter, like me."

GA-Gov: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp uses his opening general election commercial to attack Democrat Stacey Abrams for labeling Georgia the "worst state in the country to live" because of its poor rankings in mental health, maternal mortality, and incarceration rates. Kemp's narrator, unsurprisingly, leaves out exactly why Abrams is so unhappy with the status quo, as well as her argument that "Georgia is capable of greatness. We just need greatness to be in our governor's office," and instead dismisses her with a "Bless her heart." The spot goes on to praise Kemp for having "reopened Georgia first" and for cutting taxes to "deal with Biden's inflation."

KS-Gov: State Sen. Dennis Pyle, a conservative hardliner who recently left the GOP to become an independent, announced Tuesday that he would challenge Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly without a party affiliation, a move that could ease Kelly’s path to victory against Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Pyle, who needs to turn in 5,000 valid signatures by Aug. 1 in order to qualify for the general election ballot, explained his decision in a statement arguing, “Due to the continual gross negligence in protecting and assisting citizens, my family and I have decided it is in the best interest of our state that I pursue running for Governor to enact solutions to stop the hardship of Kansans.”

Pyle himself has made a name for himself for trying to make it more difficult to vote in Kansas and for trying to hobble the state government’s response to COVID, but Republicans quickly sought to portray him as anything but a right-winger. Schmidt, who faces no serious opposition in the Republican primary, labeled Pyle a “fake conservative.” Kansans for Life also blasted the new candidate for “playing games with the lives of preborn babies and their mothers,” a reference to his missed vote for a proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment (Pyle says he was absent for personal reasons).

Pyle himself has come into conflict numerous times with his now-former party’s leadership long before this. In 2010, he tried to ride the tea party wave to D.C. by challenging Rep. Lynn Jenkins for renomination in the 2nd Congressional District, but he lost 57-43. (He also took fifth in the 2018 primary to replace the retiring Jenkins.) Pyle this year opposed the legislature’s successful drive to pass a new congressional gerrymander, which resulted in him losing most of his committee assignments.

KY-Gov: State Rep. Savannah Maddox announced Tuesday that she was joining next year's Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Maddox, who once labeled Beshear's pandemic health measures "tyranny," is a close ally of 4th District Rep. Thomas Massie, and the duo last month backed three successful primary challenges against Maddox's colleagues. The state representative launched her campaign for governor this week by framing the nomination contest as between "moderate Republicans" and "an authentic conservative who has a proven track record of fighting every day for our freedoms."

WI-Gov: Four notable Republicans are competing to take on Democratic incumbent Tony Evers in what will be one of the most competitive governor contests in the nation.

The early frontrunner was former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who has the backing of her old boss, former Gov. Scott Walker, but she may be in for a tougher nomination battle than she expected. A mid-May survey from Public Policy Polling showed her narrowly trailing wealthy businessman Tim Michels, who badly lost the 2004 Senate race to Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold, 27-26, and Trump has since endorsed Michels. The field also includes businessman Kevin Nicholson, a former College Democrats of America president who lost a competitive 2018 Senate GOP primary, and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, an ardent Big Lie proponent, though PPP showed them each badly lagging.

P.S. Amusingly, while Michels launched his bid for governor in late April by pledging, "I will never ask anyone for a donation," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice notes that Michels almost immediately began … asking people for donations. Michels this week also argued he'd remained a Wisconsinite despite owning multi-million dollar homes in Connecticut and New York, where his three children graduated high school, insisting, "I'm not going to apologize for my success."

House

AK-AL: Most of the 48 candidates running in Saturday's special top-four primary to succeed the late GOP Rep. Don Young filed to seek the full two-year term, but a few notable contenders decided to only compete in the special.

Both former state Rep. Andrew Halcro, who is a Republican-turned-independent, and Emil Notti, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Young in 1973, pledged to only run for the remainder of Young's term, and they kept that promise by not filing on June 1. North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described "independent, progressive, democratic socialist" who previously had his name changed from Thomas O'Connor, also will not be continuing on.

Altogether, 31 candidates are campaigning for a seat in the next Congress. The regular top-four primary will take place Aug. 16, which is the same day as the special general election for the final months of Young's term.

FL-15, FL-14: The August Republican primary for the new 15th District got smaller this week when former Rep. Dennis Ross and wealthy businessman Jerry Torres each dropped out. Ross, who unexpectedly retired in 2018 from a previous version of the 15th, said that he was abandoning his comeback bid because of "limited resources." By contrast Torres, who pledged to self-fund up to $15 million, announced that he would run instead against Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in the 14th District even though, at 59-40 Biden, it's far tougher turf than the 51-48 Trump constituency he had been seeking.

FL-27, FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo announced on Monday that she'd drop her bid for governor and would instead seek to run against freshman GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in south Florida's 27th Congressional District. Republicans made this seat several points redder in redistricting, shifting it from a 51-48 win for Joe Biden to a 50-49 margin for Donald Trump, but it remains one that Democrats are eager to target.

Last year, Taddeo had entered the gubernatorial primary behind two much better-known opponents, Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and failed to gain any traction, with every recent poll showing her in the low single digits. But by switching races, Taddeo brings a high profile to a contest for a swingy seat that Democrat Donna Shalala picked up in 2018 but lost two years later.

After several unsuccessful bids for office, Taddeo flipped a Republican seat in the state Senate in an attention-grabbing 2017 special election, a perch that means she represents about a quarter of the congressional district she's now running for. The Colombia-born Taddeo also gives Democrats, who've lost serious ground with Hispanic voters in the region, the chance to put forward a Spanish-speaking Latina candidate.

First, though, Taddeo faces a matchup in the Aug. 23 primary with Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, a one-time professional yo-yo player who reiterated his commitment to the race after Taddeo's entry. But Taddeo immediately hoovered up a series of major endorsements, with Shalala (who herself had still been considering a bid), Crist, and a couple of nearby congresswomen, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all giving her their backing.

The final name on that list represents quite the irony. In 2008, when Taddeo first ran for the House against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Shalala's predecessor), Wasserman Schultz infamously refused to endorse Taddeo despite the fact that she was co-chair of the DCCC's Red to Blue program—the Democrats' campaign arm devoted to flipping Republican seats. Wasserman Schultz's absurd excuse that she couldn't get involved because of her supposed friendship with Ros-Lehtinen sparked immense outrage online and among Florida Democrats (we covered the scandal extensively at our predecessor site, the Swing State Project here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), but she never budged and Taddeo went on to lose 58-42.

Wasserman Schultz remains in office but her career has soured badly: She was greeted with widespread hostility when she floated the possibility of a Senate bid in 2015, and a year later, she was forced to resign as DNC chair after hackers released emails stolen from the committee. Taddeo, by contrast, is being hailed as a strong recruit at a time when Democrats could very much use one.

IL-15: Mary Miller is going up with an attack ad against fellow Republican Rep. Rodney Davis weeks after the better-funded Davis went on the offensive himself. Miller's narrator labels her colleague a "RINO" on guns before the ad makes use of old footage of Davis saying, "That's why the red flag law is so important and should be put on the floor." The second half of the spot reminds the audience that Trump is in Miller's corner in the June 28 primary and that she's "A-rated by the NRA, unlike Rodney Davis."

MO-04: Gov. Mike Parson has endorsed cattle farmer Kalena Bruce in the packed August Republican primary for this safely red seat, a contest that has lacked an obvious frontrunner. Parson, who now resides in the 4th District thanks to the new congressional map, explained he was taking sides because of his longtime friendship with Bruce's parents, saying, "I am going to return those favors at times like this."

NY-17: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi on Tuesday unveiled an endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the prominent national progressive who represents the 14th District, for her August primary campaign against DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney.

AOC last month took Maloney to task for choosing to campaign for the new 17th District rather than the 18th, a more competitive seat that contains most of his current turf, a decision that threatened to instigate a primary battle against Rep. Mondaire Jones. Jones ultimately decided to run for the 10th, but Biaggi herself highlighted Maloney’s move when she launched her own campaign against him days later.

SC-07: With a week to go before the Republican primary, Rep. Tom Rice’s allies at Grand Strand Pee Dee PAC, which so far is responsible for all of the $260,000 in outside spending here, are doing everything they can to portray Trump-endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry as a secret liberal. Its commercial does not mention Rice, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment, or any of the other challengers hoping to force the incumbent into a June 24 runoff.

The minute-long spot begins by faulting Fry for supporting gas and car sales taxes as well as the “largest tax increase in South Carolina history” before it attacks him for not stopping America from turning into a conservative nightmare. The narrator argues that Fry “hasn’t done enough to protect our borders,” “has done little to push back against woke radical left ideas like critical race theory,” and “hasn't done enough to keep these dangerous ideologies from poisoning the minds of our kids,” though the ad never actually goes into detail on what exactly the state representative should be doing.

TX-34 (special): House Majority PAC is spending $110,000 on a Spanish-language ad campaign against Republican Mayra Flores, which makes this the first TV ad on the Democratic side for the June 14 all-party primary. The commercial ties Flores to the Jan. 6 attack, arguing, “Mayra supported the conspirators and conspiracy theories that were part of the armed attack on Jan. 6, leaving 150 police officers injured and 5 dead, all thanks to criminals who promote the same lawlessness that Mayra Flores supports.”

VA-07: The NRA has endorsed state Sen. Bryce Reeves ahead of next week’s Republican nomination contest to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. The organization itself has dramatically diminished in recent years and it rarely spends much in primaries, but its stamp of approval can still give Republican office seekers a boost with conservatives.

WI-01: The new congressional map adopted by the state Supreme Court shrunk Donald Trump's margin of victory in this southeastern Wisconsin district from 54-45 to 50-48, but Republican incumbent Bryan Steil still doesn't look vulnerable this year. Businesswoman Ann Roe, who is the only Democrat who appears to have filed, ended March with only $80,000 on-hand. Still, even if Steil skates by this time, he could be in for a much tougher race in a better political climate for Democrats.

WI-03: Longtime Rep. Ron Kind is retiring from a southwestern Wisconsin district that, just like the constituency it replaces, would have supported Trump 51-47, and at least four fellow Democrats have filed to succeed him. Kind is backing state Sen. Brad Pfaff, who is his former chief of staff. Two other Democratic contenders, former CIA officer Deb McGrath and businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, also brought in a notable amount of money through the end of March.

The only Republican is 2020 nominee Derrick Van Orden, whose 51-49 defeat was still the closest race of Kind's congressional career. Months later, Van Orden used leftover campaign funds to attend the Jan. 6 insurrectionist rally in D.C., where, it appears, he went inside a restricted area on the Capitol grounds.

Attorneys General

MD-AG: OpinionWorks, working on behalf of the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, finds Rep. Anthony Brown beating former Judge Katie Curran O’Malley 42-29 in the July 19 Democratic primary for attorney general.

WI-AG: Three Republicans are competing to take on Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. The most full-throated election denier is Karen Mueller, who founded a conservative legal organization and has declared that “the 2020 presidential election results must be decertified to restore the integrity and transparency of Wisconsin’s future elections.” Former state Rep. Adam Jarchow and Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, writes NBC, “haven’t denied the results of the 2020 election.”

Ad Roundup

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

Jim Jordan Slams Liz Cheney – Can’t Have A Conference Chair ‘Reciting Democrat Talking Points’

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) spoke out over the weekend to explain why it was necessary to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as the Republican Conference chair with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Jordan Blasts Liz Cheney

He said that the Republican conference chair should not be “reciting Democrat talking points” nor disagreeing with 90% of the party.

“I think we are united now,” Jordan said. “You know … with Congresswoman Cheney, you can’t have a conference chair — a spokesperson for the party — who’s reciting Democrat talking points.”

“You can’t have a conference chair who wants to consistently go after the individual who 74 million Americans voted for,” he added. “You just can’t have a conference chair who disagrees with 90% of our party, so the replacement of Liz with Elise, I think, is a good move.”

Related: Liz Cheney Hints That She May Run For President In 2024

Jordan Doubles Down

“I think Elise has a proven track record. She’s had President Trump’s support, the … leader of our House Republicans, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Scalise, has good support within our conference, she’s A-plus with the NRA, endorsed by Susan B. Anthony List, and most importantly … she’s a darn good communicator,” he added. “And we saw that during impeachment a year and a half ago.”

“So, I think she’s going to do a nice job, and we’re gonna be united focused on the crazy things Democrats want to do to the country and the unbelievable things that have already happened in just a little over 100 days of the Biden administration,” Jordan concluded.

Related: A Defiant Liz Cheney Ousted From Leadership, Attacks Trump and His Supporters

Cheney Attacks Jordan

Cheney was asked about Jordan in an interview on ABC on Sunday.

“Jim Jordan talking about a possible Trump 2024 run said, ‘There’s no way he is losing. He’s going to win the Republican primary, and he’s going to be president if he decides to run,'” host Jon Karl said. “Now, based on today’s facts, he’s right, isn’t he, about the primary part, at least? I mean, there’s nobody, there’s not even a close second out there, is there?”

“I think Jim’s wrong. It’s not the first time Jim has been wrong, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time, but he is wrong,” Cheney replied. “I think there are millions and millions of Republicans who won’t let that happen again.”

This piece was written by James Samson on May 17, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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