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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

Election Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

secretaries of state

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

Ad Roundup

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

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

Election Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

secretaries of state

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

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Why an attack ad is sometimes just an attack ad

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MI-Gov: With less than a week to go before the primary, a DGA-backed group is spending a reported $2 million to attack Republican Tudor Dixon, but the effort doesn't appear to be the sort of now-common Democratic meddling in GOP nominating contests for a few reasons.

For starters, the ads that Put Michigan First is running are legit attacks—they hammer Dixon for a plan to cut the state's income tax that would mean "less cops on the street"—not the "Joe Schmendrick is too conservative!" subterfuge you typically see. There's also nothing to suggest that Dixon's chief rival, businessman Kevin Rinke, is more problematic and less electable. In fact, he's the only Republican candidate who hasn't fully embraced the Big Lie, and an independent survey earlier this month showed Rinke and Dixon turning in virtually identical—and equally poor—performances against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Put Michigan First has also hit Dixon before, as part of an ad savaging every candidate in the field, Rinke included: Dixon was dinged as "an actress in low-budget horror movies"—one film "featured two people having sex in a bathroom stall and a zombie biting a man's genitals"—while Rinke was branded "a car salesman sued for harassment"; more on that here.

The DGA ran a similar campaign in Nevada tagging frontrunner Joe Lombardo as weak on crime before his primary, a move that was widely interpreted at the time as Democrats once again trying to pick their opponent. But as in Michigan, the DGA didn't try to elevate a specific alternative. One unnamed insider said of Lombardo, "If he doesn't make it through the primary, then we've knocked out what is seen as the front-runner," suggesting that there was still a benefit to the gambit even if Lombardo prevailed—by weakening the ultimate nominee with an attack that would speak to a broad range of the political spectrum.

So too with Dixon, who's the closest thing Michigan Republicans have to a frontrunner of their own after an extremely messy race that saw multiple major contenders booted off the ballot for petition fraud. Recent polls have given Dixon a small lead over Rinke, including a brand new one from Republican pollster Mitchell Research for MIRS News that has her up 28-22, and the powerful DeVos family is in her corner. Donald Trump has also praised her in the past, and the Detroit News recently reported that she's "viewed as the top contender for Trump's possible endorsement," though he hasn't backed her yet.

Democrats may therefore be seeking to bang up Dixon chiefly to wound her if she does win the primary, but if they cause her to stumble and hand the nomination to Rinke or another wannabe, so much the better.

The Downballot

 Whoa, mama! August has so, so many juicy primaries on tap, which is why we've brought Daily Kos Elections Editor Jeff Singer back to discuss all the best races for this week's edition of The Downballot. There's the GOP battle for Arizona's governorship, where Trump's pick has been absolutely slayed by her drag queen ex-friend; two pro-impeachment Republicans in Washington state trying to keep their political careers alive; a heavyweight battle between two 30-year veteran incumbents in New York City; and lots, lots more.

Co-host David Nir recaps the back-to-back dropouts in Wisconsin's Democratic primary for Senate that have solidified Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes as the undisputed frontrunner. He also criticizes the handwringing over Democrats' meddling in a Michigan primary, saying it's not the Democratic Party's responsibility to make sure Republicans nominate sensible candidates—that's the GOP's job (if it even cares to). David Beard, meanwhile, previews the snap election just called in Italy, where the right looks set to perform well.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: The University of Georgia and SurveyUSA each find Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp ahead, though they very much disagree how close the two contests are. UGA’s poll for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows Warnock edging out Republican Herschel Walker 46-43, while Kemp defeats Democrat Stacey Abrams 48-43. SurveyUSA’s numbers for WXIA-TV, though, are far better for Democrats: Warnock leads 48-39, while Kemp is only up 45-44.

Other polls taken in July have universally agreed that Warnock is running ahead of Abrams, but they’ve also painted very different pictures on the state of the two races. Numbers from early in the month from the Democratic firm Data for Progress had Walker and Kemp up 49-47 and 53-44, respectively. A short time later, AARP dropped a survey from a bipartisan pair of pollsters that put Warnock ahead 50-47 as Kemp posted a wider 52-45 advantage. A Kemp internal from Cygnal, which did not include Senate numbers, also gave the governor a 50-45 edge.

OK-Sen-B: Former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn is airing her first TV ad of the race, and despite running in dark-red Oklahoma, she makes abortion the centerpiece. She says that the state "now has the most extreme abortion ban in the country, which puts all of us at risk" and warns that the likely GOP nominee, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, "promises to make this ban federal law." Horn also notes that Oklahoma "has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate," making it one of 17 states in this ignominious club. Mullin still faces a runoff with former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon on Aug. 23, but he's the heavy favorite after leading the first round by a 44-18 margin last month.

WI-Sen: In an unexpected development two weeks ahead of Wisconsin's primary, former Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry abandoned his bid for Senate and endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, saying "it was clear there was no path forward for us to be able to win." The move came two days after Outagamie Executive Tom Nelson did the same thing, making Barnes the undisputed frontrunner for the nomination.

One other notable Democrat, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, remains in the race, and she insisted on Wednesday that would not quit. But Barnes also released a poll from Impact Research taken before both Nelson and Lasry dropped out showing him with a 39-25 lead on Lasry, with Godlewski far back at 12 and Nelson at 5. Every other public poll of the race has likewise found Barnes in front while Godlewski has never rated higher than third place.

Governors

IL-Gov: Politico reports that conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, who helped bankroll far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey's June victory in the Republican primary, has contributed another $5 million to the candidate this month. Uihlein has also made a larger $15 million donation to Bailey's allied PAC, People Who Play By The Rules.

MA-Gov: Suffolk University's newest survey for the Boston Globe shows Attorney General Maura Healey, who has the Democratic primary to herself, posting huge leads over both of her prospective Republican foes. Healey beats out former state Rep. Geoff Diehl 54-23, while she enjoys a nearly-identical 54-22 advantage over self-funding businessman Chris Doughty.

ME-Gov: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills continues to maintain a large financial edge ahead of her general election battle with her predecessor, Paul LePage. Mills outraised the Republican $600,000 to $310,000 during the period covering June 1 to July 19, and she finished with a $2.7 million to $1.1 million cash-on-hand lead.

Several past Maine statewide contests, including LePage's 2010 and 2014 victories, featured at least one prominent independent or third-party candidate, but that won't be the case this time. The only other contender on the ballot is independent Sam Hunkler, who had just over $600 to spend.

WI-Gov: While the Club for Growth has not endorsed anyone in the Aug. 9 Republican primary, NBC reports that the anti-tax group has dropped $1.1 million into a TV and radio campaign to defeat former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The TV spot argues that in office, Kleefisch "used taxpayer resources, traveling across the globe on junkets hosted by foreign interests," a statement that's accompanied by a huge flag of China.

House

CA-40: Republican Rep. Young Kim and the NRCC have jointly released a mid-July poll from Public Opinion Strategies that shows the congresswoman beating her Democratic opponent, physician Asif Mahmood, by a 51-35 margin. This is the first poll of the race, but its 16-point spread is similar to the overall margins of June's top-two primary, when a trio of Republican candidates, including Kim, combined for 59% while Mahmood took 41%. Joe Biden would have carried this redrawn district in eastern Orange County by a 50-48 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App.

VT-AL: The University of New Hampshire, polling on behalf of WCAX, finds state Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beating Lt. Gov. Molly Gray by a lopsided 63-21 in the first survey we’ve seen of the Aug. 9 Democratic primary since filing closed in the spring. Either candidate would end Vermont’s status as the only state to never elect a woman to Congress, while Balint would also be the first gay person to represent the Green Mountain State in D.C.

Balint, who has Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, and Gray have each raised comparable amounts in the contest to succeed Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for Vermont’s other Senate seat. However, a trio of organizations―the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Equality PAC, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC―have spent a total of just under $850,000 to promote Balint, while there have been no independent expenditures for Gray. VTDigger notes that this sort of outside spending is rare in state politics, though not unheard of: In 2016, notably, the RGA spent $3 million on the successful effort to elect Phil Scott governor.

WA-03, WA-04: Outside groups are continuing to spend serious money ahead of Tuesday's top-two primary on separate efforts to boost a pair of Republicans who voted for impeachment, 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse, against their Trump-backed rivals.

In the 3rd in southwest Washington, a group called Conservatives for A Stronger America has deployed close to $400,000 on a TV buy that argues Army veteran Joe Kent wants to defund the police. The commercial features clips of the candidate saying, "Federal law enforcement grants, I would cut that off cold," and, "Also, cutting off federal law enforcement funding." Kent himself has made news for his ties to far-right extremists, though the ad unsurprisingly doesn't mention that.

This PAC made news a little while ago when it dropped another $740,000 into efforts to promote a different Republican, evangelical author Heidi St. John, a move Kent argued was intended to "prop up a spoiler candidate and split the vote so they can re-elect the Establishment's RINO incumbent, Jaime Herrera Beutler."

Kent himself, though, has also tried a similar maneuver, though on a much smaller scale. Last week, the Washington Observer's Paul Queary reported that Kent sent out mailers ostensibly attacking one of the two Democratic candidates, auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, for being the one "pro-choice candidate for Congress."

Queary noted that Kent was trying to influence Democrats to support Perez instead of Herrera Beutler, whose own messaging has been aimed at winning over middle-of-the-road voters, in an attempt to stop the incumbent from advancing to the general election. Trump would have carried this district 51-46, so it's quite possible Perez will reach the second round instead of Herrera Beutler or Kent. (The other Democrat on the ballot, 2020 candidate Davy Ray, hasn't reported bringing in any money.)

And while Kent sports Trump's backing, he's raised far less cash than Herrera Beutler and doesn't have any major outside groups spending on his behalf. The congresswoman, by contrast, has benefited from $1 million in support from Winning For Women Action Fund, a super PAC funded in part by the Congressional Leadership Fund.

The dynamics are similar one seat to the east in the 4th, where Defending Main Street has so far deployed $1.2 million to support Newhouse or attack Trump's choice, 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp. One of the establishment-aligned PAC's new spots accuses Culp of being a tax dodger who was "caught enriching himself with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations," while others praise the congressman for "standing up to China" and fighting to protect the Snake River dams.

Culp has badly struggled with fundraising, and like Kent, he's also received no serious outside support. Five other Republicans are campaigning here including self-funding businessman Jerrod Sessler and state Rep. Brad Klippert, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat running for this 57-40 Trump constituency.

Secretaries of State

GA-SoS, GA-AG: The University of Georgia finds Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger beating Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen by a wide 46-32 margin, while SurveyUSA gives the Republican a smaller 40-33 edge. SurveyUSA also checked out the race for attorney general and found GOP incumbent Chris Carr turning back Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan only 38-34

Ad Roundup

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

Donald Trump, serial grifter who never gives back, has soaked up more than $100 million in donations

Donald Trump has amassed a $105 million war chest since leaving office but hasn't dropped so much as a dime on boosting GOP candidates or funding outside efforts to overturn the 2020 elections, according to Politico.

Nope. That's for losers and suckers, and Trump is just a good old-fashioned grifter. Consequently, he has directed nearly all the money he soaked up through his political action committees (Make America Great Again PAC, Save America PAC, and the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee) to pay his own personal and business expenses almost exclusively. That includes paying for travel expenses, more fundraising appeals, the salaries of personal and political aides, and legal fees he racked up trying to mount an impeachment defense and overturn the 2020 results. Trump did make one external donation of $1 million to the America First Policy Institute, which was founded by several of his former aides after he lost reelection. 

But when it comes to high-profile efforts to overturn 2020, like the Arizona fraudit or helping Republican candidates—zip! They're on their own. In other words, the vast majority of Trump's fundraising appeals have nothing to do with where he is actually directing his money. Those Arizona-style audits that more than half of Republican voters actually think could change the 2020 outcome are just window dressing to Trump. They're going nowhere and he isn't wasting a dime on them—but they sure are lucrative.

Another popular fundraising theme for Trump is that he's going to ensure Republicans win back Congress next year. But apparently the sum total of his efforts include dooming the Republican candidates who are perhaps best-suited to win in general elections

A Trump spokesperson now claims he recently made donations to his chosen candidates that haven't yet shown up in campaign filings. And despite telling all the GOP campaign committees earlier this year to cease and desist from using him or his likeness to solicit donations, Trump is now taking credit for their fundraising hauls.

“In addition to the RECORD BREAKING money raised over the last 6 months to my political affiliates, I am pleased to see the entire party benefit from ‘Trump,’ Trump said in a statement after the GOP's national committee and two congressional campaign committees raised close to a combined $300 million in first six months of the year.

Interestingly, though, the statement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee hailing its $51 million intake made no references to Trump. 

“The more voters learn about the disastrous impacts of the Senate Democrats’ socialist agenda, the more the momentum builds to elect a Republican Senate majority in 2022,” NRSC chair Rick Scott said in a statement.

Gee, it almost seems like Senate Republicans don't want to be associated with Trump. Rest assured that Trump is lying awake at night smarting over the fact that the GOP committees have raised even a single cent that he believes belongs to him exclusively.

What Trump has lavished money on is attorney fees—the many, many lawyers involved in defending and advising him in everything from his second impeachment to the Russian investigation to a host of personal lawsuits.

Rudy Giuliani, however, the face of Trump's legal resistance following his 2020 loss, appears to have come up dry. The $75,000 Trump shelled out to Giuliani went exclusively to his travel expenses, not legal fees. Sorry, Rudy.

NRCC Chair Warns Trump Against Backing Primary Challenges

National Republican Congressional Committee Chair (NRCC) Tom Emmer warned former President Trump against backing primary challenges to Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him.

Emmer made the comments in an interview with Politico.

“He can do whatever he wants,” said the Minnesota Republican. “But I would tell him that it’s probably better for us that we keep these people and we make sure that we have a majority that can be sustained going forward.”

On Trump weighing into the primaries, Emmer said, “That’s not gonna be helpful.”

Still, Emmer opined that it would be wise for the party to embrace some of Trump’s policies because they brought Republicans “a lot of new voters” and were “hugely popular.”

RELATED: Trump Plans New Super PAC, Setting His Sights On 2022 Elections

Trump Will Support Primary Challenges to Pro-Impeachment Republicans

President Trump last week announced that he was planning to form a super PAC, a sure sign he intends to help shape the future of the Republican party heading into 2022 and 2024.

Seven out of the 10 Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of impeaching Trump are already facing primary challenges for their congressional seats.

Adam Kinzinger (IL), one of those seven being primaried and who voted in favor of impeachment, formed a new PAC of his own, claiming he is fighting to “take back” the party from Trump.

In a statement last month, Trump savaged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying he is “a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack” and indicating he was willing to wage war against the establishment GOP.

“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” he added.

While McConnell did not vote in favor of impeachment, he certainly placed blame on the former President for a riot at the Capitol in January.

RELATED: Nearly 50% Of Trump Voters Say They Will Follow Him To Another Party And Abandon The GOP

How Can They Win Back the House?

Emmer needs to find a way to back Trump, not the other way around.

The NRCC last month released a list of 47 “vulnerable Democrats” they plan to target in 2022 in an effort to take back the House.

The memo reminds voters that Republicans are “just five seats short of a majority” following some unexpected successes in the 2020 election.

But how do they think those unexpected successes came about? It wasn’t because Trump supporters stayed away from the polls.

A newly released poll indicates a majority – nearly 50 percent – of Trump voters would follow the former President to a new party and abandon the GOP.

And while he has shied away from announcing a new party, Trump would certainly hold some weight when it comes to his supporters voting in favor of primary challenges.

Other polls have shown a vast majority of GOP voters want to see Trump play a big role in the future of the party and a supermajority of them want their legislators to be more like Trump and less like establishment politicians.

Emmer told Politico he expects to have a conversation with Trump “at some point” about how to move forward.

 

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Republicans Release Plan to Target Vulnerable Democrats, Take Back The House

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) released a list of 47 “vulnerable Democrats” they plan to target in 2022 in an effort to take back the House.

The memo reminds voters that Republicans are “just five seats short of a majority” following some unexpected successes in the 2020 election.

NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer says that in the first few weeks of the Biden administration, Americans are already “seeing the job-killing initiatives House Democrats support.”

House Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee, for example, are pushing for a $15 minimum wage proposal, despite warnings from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that it would put 1.4 million Americans out of work.

“We will relentlessly hold House Democrats accountable for their socialist agenda,” Emmers adds, “and ensure voters understand the damaging impact policies like defunding the police, government-run health care, and ending the Keystone XL Pipeline will have on Americans’ everyday lives.”

RELATED: Democrats Have A Back-Up Plan That Might Still Bar Trump From Running Again If Impeachment Fails

Republicans Will Target Democrats, But They’re a Target As Well

While House Republicans will be targeting Democrats to win back the majority from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some of them will be targets themselves.

Former President Donald Trump is reportedly setting his sights on possible primary challenges to “Never Trump” Republicans, according to Newsmax.

His son Eric was floating the idea even prior to the impeachment fiasco.

“I will personally work to defeat every single Republican Senator/Congressman who doesn’t stand up against this fraud,” he tweeted regarding the 2020 election. “They will be primaried in their next election and they will lose.”

We doubt things have been patched up after the events that followed.

In mid-January, 10 Republicans in the House voted to impeach the former President for “incitement of insurrection.”

RELATED: 64 Percent Of Republican Voters Would Join Trump If He Started A New Party

What Will Trump Do?

The ability of Republican candidates to target their Democrat counterparts may very well come down to what Trump does going forward.

Anger over Republicans joining Democrats in the impeachment effort has boiled over – a report notes that 7 out of the 10 GOP lawmakers who voted in favor of impeaching Trump are already facing primary challenges for their congressional seats.

Further complicating matters, some have speculated whether or not Trump would be better served to start his own party due to a fracture with the GOP.

A poll from earlier this month shows an overwhelming percentage of Republican voters would join a new political party established by the former president.

It seems the NRCC might want to focus on shoring up support from the former President if they are to have any chance of regaining a majority in the House.

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Morning Digest: Darrell Issa thought he had an easy path to a comeback. A new poll says guess again

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

CA-50: While California Republican Darrell Issa looked like a sure bet to return to the House after he narrowly prevailed in the March top-two primary, a new SurveyUSA poll finds him locked in an unexpectedly close open seat contest with Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar. The poll, which was done for KGTV-TV San Diego and the San Diego Union-Tribune, shows Issa up just 46-45. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the sample finds Joe Biden ahead 48-45 in California's 50th Congressional District, an ancestrally Republican seat in inland San Diego County that backed Donald Trump 55-40 in 2016.

This is the first independent poll we've seen since the top-two six months ago. Last month, Campa-Najjar released numbers from Strategies 360 that found him down 47-43, but his campaign did not mention any presidential results. So far, though, no major outside groups on either side have booked air time here, though that could always change over the next two months.

Campaign Action

Issa infamously decided to run here the cycle after he retired as the congressman from the neighboring and more Democratic 49th District just ahead of the 2018 blue wave, and it's possible that his weak connections to this area are hurting him. SurveyUSA finds Issa with an even 32-32 favorable rating, while Campa-Najjar sports a 37-26 score.

If SurveyUSA is right, though, then there's also been a big shift to the left in this seat over just the last two years. Back in 2018, then-Rep. Duncan Hunter managed to fend off Campa-Najjar 52-48 even though the Republican incumbent was under indictment at the time for misusing campaign money. That was a much better performance than Democrats usually pull off in this area, but the fact that this district still decided to return Hunter to Congress even in a terrible year for Republicans didn't seem to bode well for Campa-Najjar's second campaign, especially after Hunter took a plea deal in late 2019 and resigned.

We'll need to see if more polls find a close race, and we'll also be keeping an eye out to see if major outside groups spend here. However, if this contest is tight, Campa-Najjar will have the resources to run a serious campaign. The Democrat ended June with a $890,000 to $516,000 cash-on-hand, though Issa is more than capable of self-funding if he needs to.

Senate

AK-Sen: A newly formed PAC called Independent Alaska has launched an ad campaign supporting Al Gross, an independent who won the Democratic nomination last month. The commercial touts Gross' time as a fisherman and a doctor and informs the audience, "Dr. Al's father was Alaska's AG [attorney general], and his neighbor and fishing partner growing up was Republican Gov. Jay Hammond." The narrator concludes, "We're in a pandemic. It's time to send a doctor to D.C." There is no word on the size of the buy.

GA-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Doug Collins is running his first ad on broadcast TV, and he begins by saying of the appointed GOP incumbent, "Kelly Loeffler spent $30 million on slick ads telling lies—now it's my turn to tell the truth."

Collins continues, "I'm not a billionaire. I'm a state trooper's kid, a husband, a father, an Air Force chaplain and Iraq War veteran." He adds, "I'm President Trump's top defender against the sham impeachment, and yes, his preferred pick for the Senate." Trump reportedly did very much want Collins to be appointed to this seat, but he hasn't taken sides in the Nov. 3 all-party primary between the congressman and Loeffler.

On the Democratic side, pastor Raphael Warnock, who would be the state's first Black senator, is using his newest commercial to talk about his experiences with systemic racism. The narrator begins, "1982. A 12-year-old is accused of stealing and dragged out a store, told he looks suspicious because his hands are in his pockets." The audience then sees it's the candidate speaking as he continues, "I'm Raphael Warnock and that boy was me."

Warnock goes on, "Back then I didn't understand how much the system works against those without power and money, that the rules were different for some of us. Too often that's still true today, especially in Washington." Warnock ends by saying that it's time for this to change.

MI-Sen: The Glengariff Group's new poll for WDIV and the Detroit News finds Democratic Sen. Gary Peters leading Republican John James 44-41, while Joe Biden is ahead 47-42. Glengariff's last poll was all the way back in January, and it showed Peters up by a similar 44-40 spread.

MN-Sen: Citizens United (yes, the Citizens United) has launched what the National Journal's Dylan Wells reports is a six-figure buy supporting Republican Jason Lewis. The commercial, like Lewis' own ads, promotes Lewis as a supporter of the police and an opponent of violent mobs; both Lewis and Citizens United's spots also ignore racism and police brutality.

NC-Sen: Democrat Cal Cunningham has the first commercial we've seen anywhere focusing on allegations that the Russian government put out a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan. Cunningham says that his fellow veterans are the first ones to answer the call and continues, "So when [Republican Sen.] Thom Tillis fails to act while the Russians pay bounties for dead Americans, something is deeply wrong in Washington."

TX-Sen: Democrat MJ Hegar is airing her first TV ad of the general election as part of what her campaign says is a $1.5 million buy in six media markets that are home to 80% of the state's voters. As faint sounds of explosions are heard, the candidate tells the audience, "It was my third tour in Afghanistan. I was flying a medevac mission when I was shot through the windshield and we went down."

The camera gradually pans out to reveal a smoking helicopter in the canyon behind Hegar as she continues, "So I strapped myself to the skids of the helicopter that rescued us and returned fire on the Taliban as we flew to safety. For that I was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor." The candidate goes on, "I'm MJ Hegar, and we fought like hell to get everyone home safe that day. And I approved this message because my mission isn't over while Texas families are still in danger."

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: Democrat Ben Salango is airing his first TV spot since he won the primary three months ago. As old photos from his childhood fill the screen, the candidate says, "I grew up in a two-bedroom trailer in Raleigh County. It was a big deal when we got our first washer and dryer."

Salango then goes after Republican Gov. Jim Justice, declaring, "My family worked hard to build a business and even harder to pay the bills. Jim Justice is a billionaire who's been sued over 600 times for not paying his bills. And who made a secret deal with the government he controls to give himself tax breaks." Salango concludes, "I mean c'mon. I'll never betray West Virginia like that. I was raised better."

House

CA-25: Democrat Christy Smith is running her first commercial since her defeat in the May special election. Smith talks about how her mother survived domestic violence and "rebuilt our lives" with a nursing degree from the local community college. The candidate says she went on to work three jobs to pay for her education at that same institution and went on to found an education nonprofit.

CA-48: In its opening TV spot for this race, the DCCC declares that Republican Michelle Steel's allies were at the center of a major corruption scandal, but she "voted to defund the anti-corruption unit in Orange County."

The ad is also running in Vietnamese, which makes this one of the very rare examples of an American political commercial that's aired on TV all or mostly in a language other than English or Spanish. Back in 2018, Democrat John Chiang ran a spot entirely in Mandarin in his unsuccessful bid for governor of California, while Republican Ed Gillespie added Korean subtitles to a commercial during his 2017 primary for governor of Virginia.

There have been a few instances of American political ads airing on the radio in a language other than English or Spanish (and obviously, without subtitles.) In 2016, Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick recorded some ads in Navajo, which she speaks, for her unsuccessful Senate bid. That same year, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman's campaign did a Ukrainian radio ad for his re-election campaign.

IA-01: Back in July, Republican Ashley Hinson blamed her campaign staff after the New York Times reported that several op-eds credited to her, as well as material on her campaign site, were full of passages plagiarized from other sources, and the DCCC is using its first TV spot to go after Hinson over this.

The narrator begins, "In tough times, we need leaders we can trust. But Ashley Hinson was caught plagiarizing—word for word—from the Des Moines Register, the New York Times, even her opponent's own policy positions." He then focuses on Hinson's record, declaring, "And Hinson took thousands from the nursing home industry. When the Coronavirus struck—Hinson voted to protect them with special legal immunity. Instead of protecting seniors and workers."

OH-01: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Normington Petts that shows Democrat Kate Schroder leading Republican Rep. Steve Chabot 50-46, while Joe Biden has a tiny 48-47 edge in this Cincinnati-based seat. We've seen a few other polls this year from Schroder and her allies that have found a tight race, while Republicans have yet to drop their own numbers.

HMP is also running a commercial that targets Chabot over the truly strange scandal that engulfed Chabot's campaign last year, a story that Schroder has also focused on in her ads. The spot begins by reminding viewers that Chabot became a member of Congress in 1995 when "[b]aseball was on strike" and "Toy Story debuted. The first one." The narrator continues, "But now, a confirmed FBI investigation into $123,000 missing from Chabot's campaign. And Chabot's campaign paid his son-in-law's company nearly $200,000." The narrator concludes, "Twenty-four years in Congress has taken its toll on Steve Chabot."

PA-01: Democrat Christina Finello's first general election ad focuses on her own struggles with college loans and healthcare. She says that, while she "understands the struggles of the middle class," Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick "votes with Trump. Giving tax cuts to the rich and ending protections for people with pre-existing conditions."

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, uses his own ad to tout his endorsements from groups that usually pull for Democrats like the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters, and Everytown for Gun Safety, as well as the local police and firefighter unions. The congressman's mom also makes it clear she's backing Fitzpatrick.

SC-02: EMILY's List has endorsed Adair Ford Boroughs' campaign against Republican Rep. Joe Wilson.

TX-21: While freshman Republican Rep. Chip Roy has shown absolutely no desire to actually vote or behave like anything other than the far-right Freedom Caucus member that he is, the former Ted Cruz chief of staff is using his opening ad to portray himself as a bipartisan figure. Roy declares he'll "hold my party accountable if they're wrong, and work across party lines when it's right for Texas."

TX-23: Republican Tony Gonzales uses his first general election commercial to talk about how he went from growing up in an abusive home where he was abandoned by his father to the Navy.

Meanwhile, VoteVets has launched a $533,000 ad campaign against Gonzales. The ad stars an injured veteran who tells the audience that Gonzales "supports taking away health coverage from half a million veterans."

UT-04: The Congressional Leadership Fund is running a very rare positive TV commercial promoting Republican Burgess Owens, whom House Majority PAC recently began attacking.

CLF promotes Owens as a "pro-football star, political outsider, conservative, successful businessman, and mentor to troubled kids." As the ad shows footage of a football game, the narrator declares Owens will "heal our nation, tackling a virus and protecting the vulnerable." Those feel good themes are not, shall we say, the type of things that CLF likes to fill its ads with.

VA-02: This week, a third staffer from Republican Scott Taylor's 2018 campaign was indicted for allegedly submitting fraudulent signatures in order to get a former Democrat on the ballot as an independent that year. Special prosecutor John Beamer predicted that he would seek at least one additional indictment, and he said of Taylor, "He's part of the campaign and the whole campaign is under investigation."

Taylor is seeking a comeback against freshman Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who narrowly unseated him in 2018. Last month, Taylor sent a cease-and-desist letter to Luria demanding that she stop making statements claiming that he is under investigation for ballot access fraud only for Beamer to publicly contradict him. Luria soon began running commercials focused on the ongoing scandal.

VA-05: Democrat Cameron Webb is up with two commercials that decry the "lies and dirty tricks" being waged by Republican Bob Good, who recently ran a truly racist spot against Webb.

In Webb's first ad, the narrator declares that the candidate "is not for defunding the police," and adds that "a senior Trump official is praising Webb." The commercial highlights the law enforcement officials backing Webb before the candidate himself appears and talks about his work in the Obama and Trump administrations and support for "free market solutions to bring healthcare costs down."

The second Webb spot stars several former sheriffs as well as Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Hingeley, who praise Webb and implore the audience not to let "Bob Good scare you from electing a good man."

Ballot Measures

CA Ballot: Probolsky Research has released the first poll we've seen of Prop. 15, the so-called "split roll" initiative that would scale back a significant part of the law passed by anti-tax crusaders in 1978, and finds it down 49-41. Probolsky has worked for Republicans in the past, but it says this survey was not done for a client.

The poll was taken just before the pro-Prop. 15 group Schools & Communities First launched its opening TV commercials. One ad declares that wealthy corporate tycoons "think they're entitled to tax handouts. Prop. 15 closes the loopholes." The narrator continues, "The richest 10% of corporate properties provide 92% of the revenue, while homeowners, renters, and small businesses are protected." The second spot argues, "Prop. 15 would raise billions of dollars that our communities and schools need" and would make "wealthy large corporations pay their fair share, while small businesses get a tax break."

As David Jarman has written, Prop. 15 would dramatically alter California's property tax landscape and lead to a massive increase in tax revenue by repealing a portion of 1978's Prop. 13. That measure limits the annual property tax on a particular property to no more than 1% of its assessed value and, most importantly, limits the increase in a property's assessed value to no more than 2% per year—even if its actual market value has soared. This has resulted in municipalities and school districts taking in revenues far smaller than they ought to be.

However, voters finally have their chance this fall to modify the system Prop. 13 set up decades ago. This year's Prop. 15 would essentially split the "roll" of properties every municipality maintains by requiring commercial and industrial properties to be reassessed at actual market value while keeping residential and agricultural properties under Prop. 13's rules.

Mayoral

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: On behalf of the Miami Herald, the Democratic pollster Bendixen & Amandi International is out with a survey that finds Democrat Daniella Levine Cava leading Republican Steve Bovo 39-32 in this November's officially nonpartisan contest. This sample also found Joe Biden ahead 55-38 in a county that supported Hillary Clinton 63-34.

Primary Result Recaps

NH-Sen: Corky Messner, a wealthy attorney endorsed by Donald Trump, beat retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc 51-42 in the Republican primary. Bolduc responded to his defeat by declaring that he wouldn't back Messner in the general election against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. "I will not support a man who is being investigated for fraud by the attorney general," Bolduc said, "No. I will not support him. I will not disgrace my name to support a man like that."

Last month, Mary Mullarkey, a former chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, asked that state's attorney general and secretary of state to investigate the charitable foundation run by Messner, who lived in Colorado until last year. Mullarkey's request came after the Washington Post reported that the Messner Foundation, whose stated purpose is to provide college scholarships to low-income students, had only awarded a grant to one student in its first 10 years of existence. However, despite what Bolduc said, there are no reports that a legal investigation is underway.

No matter what happens with this story, Messner will be in for a difficult race against Shaheen, a longtime figure in New Hampshire politics. A recent poll from the University of New Hampshire found Shaheen beating Messner 54-36, and no major groups have booked ad time here. Messner's ability to self-fund could still give him an opening if Donald Trump performs well in this swing state, though, so Daily Kos Elections is keeping it on the big board at Likely Democratic.

NH-Gov: State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes won the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Chris Sununu by defeating Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky 52-48. On the GOP side, Nobody lost.  

Sununu has polled well during his tenure, and a recent survey from the University of New Hampshire found him beating Feltes 57-33. However, Sununu's allies at the RGA don't seem to think the governor is a lock in this swing state, since they reserved $3.6 million in television time for the general election earlier this year. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

NH-01: Former Trump aide Matt Mowers, who had his old boss' endorsement in the Republican primary, beat former state party vice chair Matt Mayberry 60-26. Mowers will face freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in the fall.

The 1st District, which includes eastern New Hampshire, has been very competitive turf for a long time, and both Barack Obama and Donald Trump only narrowly won it. Pappas, however, prevailed 54-45 during the 2018 blue wave, and he holds a huge financial edge over Mowers with less than two months to go before voting concludes. A recent poll from the University of New Hampshire also showed Pappas up 52-34, though we haven't seen any other numbers here.

Still, Team Blue isn't leaving anything to chance in this swing seat, and House Majority PAC has reserved $2 million for this race; Republicans have not yet booked any air time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

NH State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Former Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes lost Tuesday's Democratic primary for New Hampshire's 15th State Senate District to Becky Whitley, a disability rights attorney, 41-33. This seat backed Hillary Clinton 58-37, and Whitley will be the clear favorite to succeed state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, who is the Democratic nominee for governor.

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Morning Digest: How a brazen campaign finance scandal led to this Florida Republican’s downfall

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.

Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming held their primaries on Tuesday. You can find current results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.

Leading Off

FL-15: Republican primary voters in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Tuesday denied renomination to freshman Rep. Ross Spano, who has been under investigation by the Justice Department since last year due to a campaign finance scandal, and instead gave the GOP nod to Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin.

With all votes apparently counted, Franklin defeated Spano 51-49. Franklin’s next opponent will  be former local TV news anchor Alan Cohn, who beat state Rep. Adam Hattersley 41-33 for the Democratic nomination.

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This central Florida seat, which includes the mid-sized city of Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, moved from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, and Franklin is favored to keep it in Republican hands. Still, the general election could be worth watching: In 2018, before news of Spano’s campaign finance scandal broke, he won by a modest 53-47 margin.

Spano’s defeat ends a short, but unfortunately for him quite eventful, congressional career. Spano, who was elected to the state House in 2012, had been waging a campaign for state attorney general in 2018 until Republican Rep. Dennis Ross surprised everyone by announcing his retirement. Spano switched over to the contest to succeed Ross, which looked like an easier lift, but he nonetheless faced serious intra-party opposition from former state Rep. Neil Combee.

Spano beat Combee 44-34 and went on to prevail in the general election, but he found himself in trouble before he was even sworn into Congress. That December, Spano admitted he might have broken federal election law by accepting personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then turning around and loaning his own campaign $170,000. That's a serious problem, because anyone who loans money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign still has to adhere to the same laws that limit direct contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.

The House Ethics Committee initially took up the matter but announced in late 2019 that the Justice Department was investigating Spano. The congressman variously argued that he'd misunderstood the law governing campaign loans but also insisted his campaign had disclosed the loan "before it became public knowledge" in the financial disclosure forms all federal candidates are obligated to file.

That latter claim, however, was flat-out false: As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno explained, Spano had failed to file those disclosures by the July 2018 deadline, only submitting them just before Election Day—after the paper had asked about them. Only once those reports were public did the paper learn that the money for Spano's questionable loans came from his friends.

Despite his scandal, most of the party establishment, including Sen. Marco Rubio and most of the neighboring Republican congressmen, stood by Spano. However, he had trouble bringing in more money, and Franklin used his personal wealth to decisively outspend the incumbent. The anti-tax Club for Growth dumped $575,000 into advertising attacking Franklin, but it wasn’t enough to save Spano from defeat on Tuesday.

P.S. Spano is the fifth House Republican to lose renomination this cycle, compared to three Democrats. The good news for the rest of the GOP caucus, though, is that none of them can lose their primaries … because the remaining states don’t have any Republican members. (Louisiana does host its all-party primaries in November, but none of the state’s House members are in any danger.)

Senate

AL-Sen: In what appears to be the first major outside spending here on the Democratic side, Duty and Honor has deployed $500,000 on an ad buy praising Sen. Doug Jones. The commercial extols the incumbent for working across party lines to protect Alabamians during the pandemic and "fighting to expand Medicaid to cover Alabama families who need it." The conservative organization One Nation, meanwhile, is running a spot hitting Jones for supporting abortion rights.

GA-Sen-A: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is running an ad going after a Georgia Republican senator's stock transactions … just not the senator you might expect. The commercial begins, "Jan. 24, the U.S. Senate gets a private briefing on the coronavirus. Georgia Sen. David Perdue gets busy." The narrator continues, "That same day, he buys stock in a company that sells masks and gloves. Then sells casino stocks and winds up buying and dumping up to $14.1 million dollars in stock."

Perdue, like homestate colleague Kelly Loeffler, has argued that these trades were made by advisers who acted independently. Perdue has also said that he was not part of that Jan. 24 briefing.

Meanwhile, SMP's affiliated nonprofit, Duty and Honor, is airing a spot that uses Perdue's own words to attack his handling of the pandemic. "Very, very few people have been exposed to it," the audience hears Perdue say, "The risk of this virus still remains low." The narrator continues, "No wonder Perdue voted against funding for more masks, gloves, and ventilators. And voted to cut funding at the CDC to combat pandemics."

GA-Sen-B: Georgia United Victory, which supports Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is airing another commercial attacking Republican Rep. Doug Collins, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that its total buy now stands at $6 million.

As pigs fill the screen, a truly bored-sounding narrator begins, "Another talking pig commercial? Good grief. We all know pigs are wasteful." She goes on to ask, "Is that the best comparison to Doug Collins? Oh sure. Collins loves pork for things like wine tasting and the opera." She goes on to say the congressman is too close to lobbyists and concludes, "He's laid quite a few eggs. Ever seen a pig lay an egg? Didn't think so." We really don't understand why this spot decided to go into the details of pig reproduction for no apparent reason, but ok.

IA-Sen, NC-Sen: Politico reports that Everytown for Gun Safety is launching an ad campaign this week against two Republican senators: The group will spend $2.2 million against Iowa's Joni Ernst (here and here), and $3.2 million opposing North Carolina's Thom Tillis (here and here).

Both ads argue the incumbents are too close to special interests, including the "gun lobby" and the insurance industry. The Iowa commercials also reference Ernst's infamous 2014 "make 'em squeal" spot by arguing, "She said she'd go to Washington and make them squeal. Joni Ernst broke that promise to Iowa and made the special interests her top priority." The narrator concludes that Ernst has actually left Iowans to squeal.

MA-Sen: Priorities for Progress, a group that the Boston Globe says is affiliated with the pro-charter school and anti-teachers union organization Democrats for Education Reform, has released a SurveyUSA poll that shows Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey narrowly leading Rep. Joe Kennedy 44-42 in the Democratic primary. Neither group appears to have taken sides in the Sept. 1 contest.

This is the third poll we've seen in the last month, and the others have also shown Markey in the lead. However, while the Republican firm JMC Analytics gave the incumbent a similar 44-41 edge in an early August crowdfunded survey, a YouGov poll for UMass Amherst and WCVB had Markey ahead 51-36 last week.

MI-Sen: Republican John James has publicized a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Gary Peters "just" 49-44; the survey, like most Republican polls this cycle, did not include presidential numbers.

There isn't any ambiguity about why James' team is releasing this survey, though. The memo noted that, while the Democratic group Duty and Honor has been airing commercials for Peters, there has been "no corresponding conservative ally on the air against Gary Peters," and it goes on to claim the Republican can win "[w]ith the proper resources." Indeed, as Politico recently reported, major Republican outside groups have largely bypassed this contest, and neither the NRSC or Senate Leadership Fund currently has any money reserved for the final three months of the campaign.

James is getting some air support soon, though. Roll Call reports that One Nation, a nonprofit affiliated with SLF, will launch a $4.5 million TV and radio ad campaign against Peters on Wednesday.

NC-Sen: While most Republican downballot candidates have largely avoided tying their Democratic opponents to Joe Biden, Sen. Thom Tillis tries linking Democrat Cal Cunningham to Biden in a new spot.

Polls: The progressive group MoveOn has unveiled a trio of new Senate polls from Public Policy Polling:

  • GA-Sen-A: Jon Ossoff (D): 44, David Perdue (R-inc): 44 (June: 45-44 Ossoff)
  • IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): 48, Joni Ernst (R-inc): 45 (June: 45-43 Greenfield)
  • ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): 49, Susan Collins (R-inc): 44 (July: 47-42 Gideon)

The releases did not include presidential numbers.

House

OH-01: Democrat Kate Schroder is running a TV commercial about the truly strange scandal that engulfed Republican Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign last year. The narrator accuses the incumbent of lying about Schroder to draw attention away from his own problems, declaring, "Chabot is facing a grand jury investigation for $123,000 in missing campaign money."

The ad continues, "After getting caught, Chabot blamed others. And his campaign manager went missing." The narrator concludes, "We may never learn the truth about Shady Chabot's missing money, but we do know that 24 years is enough. (Chabot was elected to represent the Cincinnati area in Congress in 1994, lost a previous version of this seat in 2008, and won it back two years later.)

As we've written before, Chabot's campaign was thrown into turmoil last summer when the FEC sent a letter asking why the congressman's first-quarter fundraising report was belatedly amended to show $124,000 in receipts that hadn't previously been accounted for. From there, a bizarre series of events unfolded.

First, Chabot's longtime consultant, Jamie Schwartz, allegedly disappeared after he shuttered his firm, called the Fountain Square Group. Then Schwartz's father, Jim Schwartz, told reporters that despite appearing as Chabot's treasurer on his FEC filings for many years, he had in fact never served in that capacity. Chabot's team was certainly bewildered, because it issued a statement saying, "As far as the campaign was aware, James Schwartz, Sr. has been the treasurer since 2011." Evidently there's a whole lot the campaign wasn't aware of.

The elder Schwartz also claimed of his son, "I couldn't tell you where he's at" because "he's doing a lot of running around right now." Well, apparently, he'd run right into the arms of the feds. In December, local news station Fox19 reported that Jamie Schwartz had turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney's office, which, Fox19 said, has been investigating the matter "for a while."

Adding to the weirdness, it turned out that Chabot had paid Schwartz's now-defunct consultancy $57,000 in July and August of 2019 for "unknown" purposes. Yes, that's literally the word Chabot's third-quarter FEC report used to describe payments to the Fountain Square Group no fewer than five times. (Remember how we were saying the campaign seems to miss quite a bit?)

We still don't know what those payments were for, or what the deal was with the original $124,000 in mystery money that triggered this whole saga. Chabot himself has refused to offer any details, insisting only that he's been the victim of an unspecified "financial crime."

There haven't been any public developments since December, though. The Cincinnati Inquirer's Jason Williams contacted Schwartz's attorney last week to ask if Schwartz had been informed of any updates, and the reporter was only told, "No, not yet." Unless something big changes in the next few months, though, expect Democrats to keep pounding Chabot over this story.

OK-05: State Sen. Stephanie Bice is going up with a negative commercial against businesswoman Terry Neese just ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in what will be a competitive contest for this Oklahoma City seat.

Bice accuses Neese of running "the same fake news smears she always sinks to." Bice continues by alluding to Neese's unsuccessful 1990 and 1994 campaigns for lieutenant governor by declaring that in her 30 years of running for office Neese has been "mastering the art of dirty politics but never beating a single Democrat." (Neese badly lost the general election in 1990 but fell short in the primary runoff four years later, so she's only had one opportunity up until now to beat a Democrat.) Bice then sums up Neese by saying, "Appointed by Clinton. Terrible on gun rights. Neese won't take on the Squad, because she can't beat Kendra Horn."

Neese outpaced Bice 36-25 in the first round of voting back in late June, and Neese' allies have a big financial advantage going into the runoff. While Bice did outspend Neese $290,000 to $210,000 from July 1 to Aug. 5 (the time the FEC designates as the pre-runoff period), the Club for Growth has deployed $535,000 on anti-Bice ads this month. So far, no major outside groups have spent to aid Bice.

SC-01: The NRCC has started airing its first independent expenditure ad of the November general election, a spot that seeks to attack freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham on the issue that powered his upset victory in 2018: offshore drilling. The ad tries to question Cunningham's commitment to opposing such drilling in a move straight from Karl Rove’s dusty playbook, but given how closely his image is tied to the cause—he defeated his Republican opponent two years ago, Katie Arrington, in large part because of her support for offshore oil extraction—it's a tough sell.

And while Nancy Mace, his Republican challenger this year, might welcome the committee's involvement, the move doesn't come from a position of strength. In fact, the NRCC's own ad seems to acknowledge this at the outset, with a narrator saying, "Your TV is full of Joe Cunningham" as three images from prior Cunningham spots pop up on the screen. It's not wrong: The congressman has been advertising on television since the first week in July, and he recently released his fifth ad.

Cunningham's been able to blanket the airwaves because of the huge financial advantage he's locked in. Mace raised a prodigious $733,000 in the second quarter of the year, but Cunningham managed to beat even that take with an $845,000 haul of his own. It's the campaigns' respective bank accounts that differ dramatically, though: Cunningham had $3.1 million in cash-on-hand as of June 30 while Mace, after a costly primary, had just $743,000.

As a result, she hasn't gone on the air yet herself, which explains why the NRCC has moved in early to fill in the gap. Interestingly, the committee didn't bother to mention that this is its first independent expenditure foray of the 2020 elections in its own press release, whereas the DCCC loudly trumpeted the opening of its own independent expenditure campaign in New York's 24th Congressional District a month ago.

TX-21: Both Democrat Wendy Davis and the far-right Club for Growth are running their first commercials here.

Davis talks about her life story, telling the audience, "[M]y parents divorced when I was 13. I got a job at 14 to help mom. And at 19, I became a mom." Davis continues by describing her experience living in a trailer park and working two jobs before community college led her to Texas Christian University and Harvard Law. She then says, "As a state senator, I put Texas over party because everyone deserves a fair shot."

The Club, which backs Republican Rep. Chip Roy, meanwhile tells the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek that it is spending $482,000 on its first ad against Davis. The group has $2.5 million reserved here to aid Roy, who ended June badly trailing the Democrat in cash-on-hand, and it says it will throw down more.

The Club's spot declares that Davis is a career politician who got "busted for using campaign funds for personal expenses," including an apartment in Austin. However, while the narrator makes it sound like Davis was caught breaking the rules, Svitek writes, "Members are allowed to use donors' dollars to pay for such accommodations—and it is not uncommon."

This topic also came up during Davis' 2014 campaign for governor. The campaign said at the time that legislative staffers also stayed at the apartment, and that Davis followed all the state's disclosure laws.

Polls:

  • AZ-06: GQR (D) for Hiral Tipirneni: Hiral Tipirneni (D): 48, David Schweikert (R-inc): 45 (50-48 Biden)
  • MT-AL: WPA Intelligence (R) for Club for Growth (pro-Rosendale): Matt Rosendale (R): 51, Kathleen Williams (D): 45
  • NJ-02: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jeff Van Drew (R-inc): 42, Amy Kennedy (D): 39
  • NY-01: Global Strategy Group (D) for Nancy Goroff: Lee Zeldin (R-inc): 47, Nancy Goroff (D): 42 (46-42 Trump)
  • WA-03: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-inc): 44, Carolyn Long (D): 40

The only other numbers we've seen from Arizona's 6th District was an early August poll from the DCCC that had Republican Rep. David Schweikert up 46-44 but found Joe Biden ahead 48-44 in this Scottsdale and North Phoenix constituency; Donald Trump carried this seat 52-42 four years ago, but like many other well-educated suburban districts, it's been moving to the left in recent years.

The Club for Growth's new Montana survey comes a few weeks after two Democratic pollsters found a closer race: In mid-July, Public Policy Polling's survey for election enthusiasts on Twitter showed a 44-44 tie, while a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had Republican Matt Rosendale ahead 49-47 a few days later. PPP and Civiqs found Donald Trump ahead 51-42 and 49-45, respectively, while the Club once again did not include presidential numbers.

U.S. Term Limits has been releasing House polls at a rapid pace over the last few weeks, and once again, they argue that Democrats would easily win if they would just highlight the Republican incumbents' opposition to term limits; as far as we know, no Democratic candidates have tested this theory out yet. These surveys also did not include presidential numbers.

The only other poll we've seen out of New York's 1st District on eastern Long Island was a July PPP internal for Democrat Nancy Goroff's allies at 314 Action Fund. That survey gave Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin a 47-40 lead, which is slightly larger than what her poll finds now, though it showed the presidential race tied 47-47. This seat has long been swing territory, though it backed Trump by a 55-42 margin in 2016.

Mayoral

Honolulu, HI Mayor: Former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who finished a close third in the Aug. 8 nonpartisan primary, announced Monday that she was endorsing independent Rick Blangiardi over fellow Democrat Keith Amemiya. Blangiardi took 26% in the first round of voting, while Amemiya beat Hanabusa 20-18 for second.

ELECTION CHANGES

Minnesota: Republicans have dropped their challenge to an agreement between Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon and voting rights advocates under which Minnesota will waive its requirement that mail voters have their ballots witnessed and will also require that officials count any ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within a week.

In dismissing their own claims, Republicans said they would "waive the right to challenge [the agreement] in any other judicial forum." That likely moots a separate federal case in which Republicans were challenging a similar agreement that a judge had refused to sign off on.

North Dakota: An organization representing county election officials in North Dakota says that local administrators are moving forward with plans to conduct the November general election in-person, rather than once again moving to an all-mail format, as they did for the state's June primary.

South Carolina: Republican Harvey Peeler, the president of South Carolina's state Senate, has called his chamber in for a special session so that lawmakers can consider measures to expand mail voting. Legislators passed a bill waiving the state's excuse requirement to vote absentee ahead of South Carolina's June primary, and Peeler says, "I am hopeful we can do it again."

However, Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas is refusing to convene a special session for his members, who are not due to return to the capitol until Sept. 15. That would give the state significantly less time to prepare for a likely influx of absentee ballot requests should the legislature once again relax the excuse requirement.

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