The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our comprehensive roundups of fundraising data for the first three months of 2022 for both the House and the Senate. Our data includes the numbers for every incumbent (excluding those who've said they're not seeking re-election) and notable announced candidates.
Six of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year are running for re-election, and while they all have serious opposition, our fundraising charts show that they each ended March with a clear financial edge over their intra-party foes. The most prominent member of this group is Rep. Liz Cheney, who faces Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman and a few minor contenders in the August primary to serve as the sole representative for dark-red Wyoming.
Hageman hauled in $1.31 million, which even a few years ago would have been an unthinkably massive quarter for a House candidate, and had $1.06 million on hand. Cheney, though, lapped her by raising $2.94 million, and she finished with $6.77 million in the bank.
Over in South Carolina's 7th District in the Myrtle Beach area, meanwhile, Rep. Tom Rice outraised Trump's pick, state Rep. Russell Fry, $342,000 to $267,000, and the incumbent enjoyed a $2 million to $448,000 cash-on-hand advantage. The only other Republican who brought in a notable amount for the June primary was Horry County School Board chair Ken Richardson, who raised $112,000, self-funded another $500,000, and had $274,000 left. A runoff would take place if no one earns a majority of the vote.
We turn next to Michigan's 3rd in the Grand Rapids area, where Trump's forces have consolidated behind conservative commentator John Gibbs' bid to deny renomination to freshman Rep. Peter Meijer in August. The incumbent, though, outpaced Gibbs $544,000 to $123,000 for the quarter, and he ended March with a gigantic $1.51 million to $82,000 cash-on-hand lead. The winner will need to quickly focus on attorney Hillary Scholten in a seat that redistricting transformed from a 51-47 Trump constituency to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45: Scholten, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee, took in $483,000, and she had $470,000 available.
The three remaining contests are taking place in states that use the top-two primary system rather than party primaries. In California's 22nd District in the Central Valley, Republican Rep. David Valadao raised $405,000 for the quarter and has $1.64 million to defend himself in a southern Central Valley seat that Biden would have won 55-42.
Valadao's best-funded intra-party foe is former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, who brought in a mere $18,000 but had $310,000 on hand thanks to previous self-funding. The other Republican in the race is King County School Board Member Adam Medeiros, but he had just $36,000 in the bank. (Trump has yet to make an endorsement here.) The one Democrat on the ballot is Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who raised $252,000 and had $309,000 on hand.
Next up is southern Washington's 3rd District, where incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler took in $602,000 and finished with just over $2 million. The GOP's supreme master is supporting Joe Kent, an Army veteran who has defended Putin's invasion of Ukraine, but that endorsement hasn't deterred his fellow Republicans, evangelical author Heidi St. John and state Rep. Vicki Kraft. Kent outraised St. John $441,000 to $219,000 and finished March with a $1.07 million to $283,000 cash-on-hand lead; Kraft, though, had only $4,000 to spend. No Democrats have raised much, but Team Blue could still secure a general election spot in a seat Trump won 51-46.
The last member of this sextet is Rep. Dan Newhouse, who raised $218,000 and had $928,000 on hand in the neighboring 4th. Trump's pick is 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, a far-right ex-cop who took in just $46,000 and had $24,000 in the bank. The GOP field also includes businessman Jerrod Sessler, who raised only $9,000 but finished last month with $147,000 in the bank, and state Rep. Brad Klippert, who had all of $5,000 available. The most notable Democrat in this 57-40 Trump eastern Washington seat is businessman Doug White, who took in $124,000 and had $147,000 on hand.
● Yes, it's a tough-looking midterm, but Democrats can still go on offense! The Downballot takes a deep dive into 10 House districts across the country where Republicans are vulnerable for a variety of reasons, whether due to redistricting, retirements, long-term demographic trends, or plain old GOP infighting. Our tour runs from the eastern tip of Long Island in New York all the way to sunny Southern California, with many stops in between.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also investigate Ron DeSantis' turbocharged gerrymander aimed at undermining Black representation; discuss two more Republican Senate primaries where Trump endorsements have made a mess of things; call out a Democrat for running an offensive ad that risks contributing to anti-Asian hatred; and take stock of upcoming elections in France and Australia. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you'll find a transcript right here by noon Eastern Time.
● FL Redistricting: Florida's Republican-run state Senate, which previously said it would outsource its own authority over redistricting to Gov. Ron DeSantis, did just that on Wednesday when it approved DeSantis' new congressional map on a party-line vote. The map, an extreme gerrymander that would undermine Black representation, now goes to the state House.
● AL-Sen: Former Business Council of Alabama leader Katie Britt is running a new ad ahead of the May 24 Republican primary where Britt says she learned to respect the Second Amendment growing up in Alabama. The commercial shows her at a shooting range shooting clay pigeon targets with a shotgun every time she mentions one of Joe Biden's supposed policies on topics such as taxes, inflation, immigration, and abortion.
● GA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock's latest ad features the senator telling how he isn't a magician who can fix Washington overnight but instead has focused on providing more jobs, fixing infrastructure, and expanding healthcare.
● NC-Sen: The Club for Growth is spending $1.5 million on a new ad where far-right Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson talks to the camera trying to portray former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory as a liberal, arguing he "put liberals in charge of state textbooks" and "backed liberal Democrat judges," after which Robinson says Rep. Ted Budd is the true conservative in the race. In an interview with WRAL, McCrory defended himself by arguing that state law required that he appoint members to the textbook commission recommended by the state education superintendent, who at the time was Democrat June St. Clair Atkinson.
● OH-Sen: Far-right billionaire Peter Thiel has upped his support for Protect Ohio Values PAC, which is backing venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, adding $3.5 million on top of the $10 million donation he made last year.
Meanwhile, the Club for Growth began airing an ad against 2018 candidate Mike Gibbons last Friday, the same day Donald Trump endorsed Vance. The Club's spot intersperses clips of Gibbons and Joe Biden speaking about taxes to portray Gibbons as supportive of tax increases on the middle class.
State Sen. Matt Dolan also has a new ad where he touts his record of "cutting taxes, protecting Ohio jobs, securing the border, and funding the police" and contrasts it with the childish name calling by his primary opponents.
● PA-Sen: Penn Progress, the James Carville-backed super PAC that is supporting Rep. Conor Lamb in the May 17 Democratic primary, is airing yet another ad that tries to paint Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as too extreme to win the general election by tarring him as a socialist. The PAC continues on this line of attack even though their first ad using that label was pulled off the air after it relied on an erroneous and since-corrected news report to falsely claim Fetterman is a "self-described socialist."
Touting Lamb's record as a former prosecutor and Marine who won three tough elections and fought Republicans to protect Social Security, the spot points out by contrast how Fetterman once sought an endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America and that he's been called a "silver spoon socialist." However, the narrator elides the fact that Fetterman didn't get that endorsement in part because he told DSA he doesn't identify as a socialist, and they downplay how the silver spoon quote comes from a former state Republican Party chairman.
● IL-Gov: People Who Play by the Rules PAC, which is funded by billionaire megadonor Richard Uihlein, has a new GOP primary ad that goes after Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin over his past statements from 2021 supporting Black Lives Matter, making the baseless claim that BLM "destroyed cities" and arguing that Irvin supports a movement that stands for looting and defunding the police. Irvin has been trying to distance himself from those past statements, running an ad earlier this year where he calls himself a former "tough-on-crime prosecutor" and says, "All lives matter. It isn't about color."
● NE-Gov: Businessman Charles Herbster has launched his first ad in the May 10 GOP primary since several women accused him of sexual misconduct last week, and it's a minute-long spot where Herbster doesn't acknowledge the scandal but says "the establishment" is lying about him just like they supposedly did with Trump.
In response to ads that have alleged he really lives out of state and paid his taxes late, Herbster argues he's a bona fide Nebraskan whose business successes don't stop at the state line. He claims early in his career that he once faced the tough choice of paying his employees or his taxes and chose the former but that he later paid "every penny" he owed in taxes and fees after turning his business around.
Another Republican, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, began airing a positive spot last week where he's surrounded by his young grandchildren who ask him policy questions on issues such as taxes, "amnesty," and inflation, with Pillen responding each time with a pig-related phrase such as "hogwash" or "when pigs fly."
● OH-Gov: Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has debuted the first negative ad in the May 3 Democratic primary, comparing the performance of Cincinnati during his recent tenure with Dayton under former Mayor Nan Whaley, his primary rival. Cranley's spot points to Cincinnati's population growth (which was a rate of 4% between the 2010 and 2020 censuses) in contrast to Dayton's decline (-3%) as evidence of his successful economic leadership and supposed mismanagement by Whaley. He argues he is the best Democrat to take on GOP Gov. Mike DeWine in the fall.
● RI-Gov: Businesswoman Ashley Kalus is spending $109,000 to launch a minute-long ad that introduces herself to voters ahead of the Republican primary in September. The spot focuses on inflation, and Kalus speaks to the camera while rattling off a list of priorities such as making Rhode Island more affordable, protecting parental involvement in education, and fighting drug addiction and crime.
● CA-41: The Democratic-aligned Welcome PAC is publicizing a poll from Tulchin Research taken in late February and early March that shows Democrat and former federal prosecutor Will Rollins holding a 42-41 lead over longtime Republican Rep. Ken Calvert in a suburban Riverside County district that Trump would have carried just 50-49. This is the first poll we've seen from anyone here.
Rollins has been endorsed by neighboring Democratic Rep. Mark Takano and former Sen. Barbara Boxer, and he raised $466,000 in the first quarter and started April with $618,000 in the bank. Another Democrat competing in the June top-two primary, engineer Shrina Kurani, raised $141,000, self-funded $9,000, and had $208,000 in the bank. Calvert faces only minor intra-party opposition, and he brought in $587,000 last quarter and finished with $1.4 million on-hand.
● OH-11: Former state Sen. Nina Turner, who lost last year's special election Democratic primary to now-Rep. Shontel Brown, is out with a negative ad for next month's primary that argues the incumbent has a record of lining her own pockets while failing to do anything for voters.
Starting off by remarking upon how recent inflation has hit working families hard, Turner's spot claims that Brown "opposed Biden's plan" for a "living wage" and voted to raise her own pay by $7,000. The latter claim could lead viewers to believe the pay raise vote happened during Brown’s tenure in Congress while inflation ate up Ohioans' paychecks, even though the ad cites a 2016 vote from when she was on the Cuyahoga County Council.
Turner's spot then revives an unsubstantiated allegation she made during last summer's special election that Brown faced an ethics investigation after she "voted for millions in corrupt contracts." However, as we noted at the time, Turner's accusation that Brown was referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission relies on a story co-authored by left-wing essayist Walker Bragman, who notoriously wrote a 2016 piece headlined, "A liberal case for Donald Trump." But Bragman's own story acknowledged at the very end that the commission refused to "confirm or deny" any such investigation existed, and there was no reliable reporting as to whether it did.
● PA-12: Former Pennsylvania Securities Commission head Steve Irwin's new Democratic primary ad shows him playing an accordion while the narrator contends that some in Congress merely "want to make noise" while others "want to work in harmony." They praise Irvin as someone who will protect voting rights, invest in vocational job training, and put Biden's infrastructure law to work "repairing our unsafe bridges."
● TN-05: The Tennessee GOP's executive committee voted Tuesday evening to keep three candidates off the August primary ballot for not meeting the party's definition of a "bona fide" Republican: former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who is Trump’s endorsed candidate; businessman Baxter Lee; and music video producer Robby Starbuck. Ortagus responded, “Our team is evaluating the options before us,” while Starbuck declared, “The fight has only just begun.” Lee’s team, meanwhile, defended their man as a Republican “through and through,” but it didn’t say whether he’d be challenging his dismissal.
So what's the rumpus? The state GOP's bylaws state that, in order to be a so-called "bona fide" party member, a candidate must have voted in at least three of the last four statewide primaries or been "actively involved" in state or county Republican activities; Democrats have a similar requirement, except candidates only need to have participated in three of the last five nomination contests. Ortagus only moved to Tennessee last year from D.C., so she hasn't been there nearly long enough to meet this criteria, while Starbuck is in the same boat, since he relocated to the state just three years ago. Lee is more established, but his campaign says he was bounced because he hadn’t voted in a sufficient number of recent primaries even though he’d taken part in 10 of the last 12.
Party leaders can still vote to classify a candidate as "bona fide" if someone vouches for them or if a contender appeals the initial rejection. That’s just what the trio hoped would happen after they were initially kept off the ballot earlier this month, but the GOP’s executive committee didn’t go along: According to state party chair Scott Golden, 13 members of the 17-person body voted to keep Ortagus and Starbuck off, while 11 were against Lee. When the New York Times asked Golden if the decision was final, he said it was “possible the members could change their minds” before the deadline for a reversal passes Thursday at noon local time.
Ortagus infuriated powerful local Republicans when she entered the race for this newly gerrymandered seat in January, so much so that state Sen. Frank Niceley sponsored a bill that would impose a requirement that House candidates need to have voted in the previous three statewide general elections to be eligible to run. (The legislation, which appears to be unconstitutional, will not go into effect until next cycle because Gov. Bill Lee only allowed it to become law after the April 7 filing deadline.)
But Niceley took the dispute in a much uglier direction when he recently told NBC, “I don’t think Trump cares one way or the other” about Ortagus' candidacy. “I think Jared Kushner—he’s Jewish, she’s Jewish—I think Jared will be upset. Ivanka will be upset. I don’t think Trump cares.”
Ortagus, who is Jewish, fired back Tuesday night with a tweet saying that Niceley “should be ashamed of his repeated anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Niceley, who backs former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, was not ashamed, responding, “Attempting to construe my off-hand comments about the Trump family as antisemitism is unfair and inaccurate.” Last week, Nicely made headlines for a speech he gave on the Senate floor in which he said that Adolf Hitler should serve as an inspiration for homeless people.
● Washington, D.C. Mayor: Mayor Muriel Bowser has earned an endorsement from SEIU 32BJ, which represents property service workers, as well as UNITE HERE Locals 23 and 25, for the June Democratic primary.
● Maricopa County, AZ Prosecutor: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted to name prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who is one of the three Republicans competing in this year's special election to succeed Alistair Adel, as interim county prosecutor, and she was sworn in later that day.
The other two Republicans competing in the August primary, Anni Foster and Gina Godbehere, had sought the appointment as well, and they reacted to the unfavorable Board decision in very different ways. Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel, tweeted that she "will make an announcement about my future plans in the coming days," while Godbehere declared she was leaving behind her post as prosecutor for the City of Goodyear "to pursue my candidacy." Whoever ultimately wins the GOP nod will take on Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who narrowly lost to Adel in 2020, for the final two years of the term.
● Former Rep. Brad Ashford, whose 2014 win gave Democrats their only victory in a Nebraska House race since the 1994 GOP wave, died Tuesday at the age of 72 two months after he announced that he had brain cancer. Ashford previously served as a Democrat, Republican, and independent during his two stints in the state's unicameral legislature, though as we discuss in our obituary, he was never fully at home in either party during his long career in local and national politics.
Ashford underwent his fourth and final party switch when he challenged Republican Rep. Lee Terry in 2014 in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District. The newly-reminted Democrat had a very tough task ahead of him especially as the political climate worsened for Team Blue, but Terry, who had declared during the 2013 government shutdown that he would keep taking his salary because "I've got a nice house and a kid in college," proved to be an especially weak incumbent.
This contest attracted over $1 million from outside groups on each side, and Republicans sought to protect their endangered incumbent by portraying Ashford as weak on crime. The GOP ran ad after ad charging that Ashford supported a law that would allow a Black inmate named Nikko Jenkins to get out of jail early for murder, messaging that Democrats compared with George H.W. Bush's still-infamous Willie Horton ads. Jenkins, though, gave Terry the most unwanted endorsement imaginable, when he used a hearing to proclaim, "Hey you guys, vote for Lee Terry! Best Republican ever!"
Ashford, who campaigned as a centrist, ultimately unseated Terry 49-46, which gave Democrats a rare pickup on an overall awful night, but his attempts to win another term failed. You can find far more on the many twists and turns of Ashford's long career in politics in our obituary.