Morning Digest: In primary delayed by chaos, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood party dumps governor

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

PR-Gov: Puerto Rico's gubernatorial primaries finally came to an end on Sunday, and former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi ousted Gov. Wanda Vázquez 58-42 to win the nomination of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Vázquez did not endorse Pierluisi, declaring instead, "I say to Pedro Pierluisi, that it is the thousands and thousands of people who supported me, and gave me their vote ... it is those people whose endorsement he should be seeking." Pierluisi, for his part, said that statehood would be one of his top goals if elected.

Meanwhile, Isabela Mayor Carlos Delgado decisively won the contest to lead the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party by defeating Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia 63-24. Pierluisi and Delgado will face off in the November general election for a four-year term along with Alexandra Lúgaro of the Citizens' Victory Movement, a party that NPR describes as "promoting anti-colonialism and a constitutional assembly to make a final decision on Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States."

Campaign Action

The primary was originally set for June, but Vázquez signed legislation postponing it to Aug. 9 because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, ballots arrived late, or did not arrive at all, at a majority of voting centers that day, and the commonwealth's major political parties postponed voting a week. On Thursday, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that voting would take place on Sunday in any precinct that was not open for the legally required eight hours last week.

The second round of voting mostly proceeded as planned, but not everyone who wanted to vote ended up being able to cast a ballot. Many people left closed polling places on Aug. 9 only to eventually learn that their precinct had opened later in the day for the prescribed eight hours, but that it was now too late for them to vote.

Pierluisi, who represented Puerto Rico in the U.S. House as a non-voting member from 2009 to 2017, briefly served as governor last year under some very unusual circumstances. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who had narrowly defeated Pierluisi in the 2016 primary, was badly damaged after a series of online chats between the governor and his allies leaked in which participants lobbed violent, misogynist, and homophobic insults at their enemies and joked about Puerto Ricans who died during Hurricane Maria. Mass protests soon broke out calling for Rosselló to quit, and the legislature began laying the groundwork to impeach him.

After two weeks of protests, Rosselló announced on July 24 that he would resign nine days hence, but it was unclear who would succeed him. Normally the commonwealth's secretary of state would take over, but Luis Rivera Marin had previously resigned from that very post because of his own role in the chat scandal. Vázquez, who was justice minister, was next in the line of succession, but she said on July 28―less than a week before Rosselló's Aug. 2 departure―that she hoped that Rosselló would pick a new secretary of state, and that this new person would be governor instead of her.

Rosselló tried to do just that, and he announced on July 31 that he was appointing his old rival Pierluisi. However, the commonwealth's constitution requires the secretary of state to be confirmed by both Puerto Rico's House and Senate, but Pierluisi was sworn into that job that very evening before any legislators had a chance to vote.

The House gave Pierluisi an affirmative vote on Aug. 2 about an hour before Rosselló's departure took effect, but the Senate postponed their own hearings until the following week. However, that didn't stop Pierluisi from being sworn in as governor right after Rosselló left office. Pierluisi cited a 2005 law that said that the secretary of state didn't need to have received legislative confirmation from both chambers if they need to take over as governor to make his case that he was indeed Puerto Rico's legitimate leader.

However, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that this provision was unconstitutional days later in the decision that ousted Pierluisi from the governor's office and put Vázquez in charge. While Vázquez said she hadn't wanted to be governor, she soon quashed speculation that she would only stay long enough to appoint a new secretary of state who would then take over as the commonwealth's leader, and she announced in December that she'd seek a full term.

Pierluisi argued during his campaign that Vázquez wasn't fixing mistakes made by her administration during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the special independent prosecutor's office announced that it had launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Vázquez and her administration had mismanaged emergency supplies after Puerto Rico was struck by earthquakes in January.

Primary Preview

Primary Night: The One Where Ross Tries Not To Get Fired: Primaries are concluding on Tuesday in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming for congressional and state offices, and as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the GOP primary for Florida's 15th District, where freshman Republican Rep. Ross Spano, who is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, faces a serious intra-party threat from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. We'll also be watching the GOP primaries for the open 3rd and 19th Districts, as well as the contest to face Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in the 13th District.

And the action isn't confined to the Lower 48. In Alaska, national Republicans are spending to deny renomination to members of the Democratic-led cross-partisan coalition that runs the state House. Check out our preview for more on these contests.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET Tuesday night at Daily Kos Elections when the polls close in most of Florida. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the cycle's remaining down-ballot primaries, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.

Senate

CO-Sen: Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has long had a dismal record on climate issues, is continuing to pitch himself as a supporter of the environment in his advertising campaign. Gardner's newest commercial features two conservationists praising him for securing "permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund."

GA-Sen-A, IA-Sen, MT-Sen: The Democratic group Duty and Honor is out with ads against three Republican incumbents:  Georgia's David Perdue, Iowa's Joni Ernst, and Montana's Steve Daines.

While Perdue has been running spots claiming he wants to cover pre-existing conditions, Duty and Honor takes him to task for trying to take those protections away. The Iowa commercial, meanwhile, goes after Ernst for "calling for Iowa schools to reopen, trying to score political points instead of prioritizing our kids' health and safety."

Finally, the Montana ad argues that Daines voted to give drug companies huge tax breaks when they're causing the opioid crisis and "raised their prices so high that nearly two-in-five Montanans can't afford their prescriptions."

GA-Sen-B: Sen. Kelly Loeffler uses her newest commercial to accuse Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow Republican, of working with Democrats to undermine her. The narrator begins, "The Trump Justice Department says Kelly Loeffler did nothing wrong," a reference to how the DOJ dropped its investigation into her sale of millions in stock just before the markets tanked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ad then goes on to say that Collins "voted with Stacey Abrams in the legislature and Nancy Pelosi in Congress," though it doesn't actually mention anything that Collins saw eye-to-eye with either Democrat on. The spot later features a clip of Donald Trump praising Loeffler for being "so supportive of me and the agenda." Trump hasn't taken sides in the November all-party primary, and he's also talked up Collins.

IA-Sen: The conservative group One Nation's newest commercial declares, "As an assault survivor and military veteran herself, Sen. Joni Ernst is standing up to sexual assault in the military." It goes on to show a clip of Ernst saying, "Abuse is not something you can simply forget."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: East Carolina University has released a new survey of its home state:

  • NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 44, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 40 (June: 41-41 tie)
  • NC-Gov: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 52, Dan Forest (R): 38 (June: 49-38 Cooper)

The sample finds a 47-47 tie in the presidential race, which is a very small shift from Joe Biden's 45-44 edge in June.

TX-Sen: YouGov has released a new survey for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice University that finds Republican Sen. John Cornyn leading Democrat MJ Hegar 44-37, while Donald Trump holds a 48-41 edge in Texas. YouGov's July survey for CBS, which was taken just before Hegar won the Democratic primary runoff, had Cornyn up by a similar 44-36 margin, though Trump was ahead only 45-44.

WY-Sen: Last week, Donald Trump backed former Rep. Cynthia Lummis in Tuesday's GOP primary for this open seat. The former congresswoman has a few intra-party opponents in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi in this extremely red state, but none of them appear to be very strong.

Lummis' most notable foe is Converse County Commissioner Robert Short, a self-described "centrist Republican." Lummis outspent Short, who has self-funded almost his entire campaign, $725,000 to $255,000 from July 1 to July 29, which is the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The Republican firm Remington Research's newest poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter finds Republican incumbent Mike Parson leading Democrat Nichole Galloway 50-43, which is a small shift from Parson's 50-41 edge in June. The release did not include presidential numbers.

VT-Gov: Attorney John Klar announced Friday that he was endorsing Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who defeated him 73-22 in last week's primary, and would not run as a conservative independent in the general election.

House

MA-01: Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has released a new survey from Beacon Research that finds Rep. Richie Neal, his opponent in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, ahead by just a 46-41 margin. The poll was conducted over the weekend, after Morse accepted an apology from the Massachusetts College Democrats for the harm that followed the release of the organization's letter accusing Morse of inappropriate conduct toward students.

Meanwhile, the Justice Democrats, which said late last week that it was resuming its support for Morse, is spending another $150,000 on TV ads attacking Neal. Their newest spot says that "last year, Neal took more money from corporations than any other member of Congress—almost $2 million" while at the same time he "hasn't held a town hall in years."

MA-04: Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell is airing her first TV spot ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. Mermell, who appears to be recording the ad using her smartphone, says that voters struggling to pick between the many candidates could opt for "the one who protected abortion and birth control coverage at Planned Parenthood."

To underscore just how crowded the race is, the audience sees several other copies of Mermell gradually appear in the shot to talk about her support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal and her endorsements from "[Rep.] Ayanna Pressley, [state Attorney General] Maura Healey, Planned Parenthood, Mass Teachers, Mass Nurses, SEIU." Mermell, who by this time has three other images of herself behind her, concludes, "We approve this message because you got some good options, but one clear choice."

Meanwhile, businessman Chris Zannetos is trying to distinguish himself from his rivals by running to the center. In his new commercial, the narrator touts Zannetos as the one candidate opposed to "eliminat[ing] private health insurance." Zannetos goes on to say he backs Joe Biden's plan and says, "Let's expand Obamacare and lower the cost of prescription drugs."

MO-02: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows Democrat Jill Schupp leading Republican Rep. Ann Wagner 48-45. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 48-46 in a suburban St. Louis seat that supported Donald Trump 53-42 but has been moving to the left in recent years. This is the first survey we've seen here since February, when the GOP firm Remington Research's poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter had Wagner up 50-40.

NH-01: On Monday, former state GOP vice chair Matt Mayberry earned an endorsement in the Sept. 8 Republican primary from former Sen. John Sununu, who represented a previous version of this seat before he was elected to his one term in the Senate in 2002.

Mayberry faces a challenging battle against former White House aide Matt Mowers, who has Donald Trump's backing, for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in this swing seat. Mowers ended June with a wide $440,000 to $73,000 cash-on-hand lead over his intra-party rival, while Pappas had a far-larger $1.5 million campaign account.

NJ-07: In his opening commercial, freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski decries, "Some people just want to divide us, even over wearing a mask. It's exhausting." Malinowski goes on to call for "getting things done" instead, and continues, "I passed a bill to fix America's stockpile of critical medical equipment."

Other Races

Broward County, FL State's Attorney: Eight Democrats are competing in Tuesday's primary to succeed Mike Satz, who is retiring after 44 years as Broward County's top prosecutor, and most of the outside money has favored one candidate.

George Soros, the billionaire progressive donor who has poured millions into backing criminal justice reformers in many recent key races around the country in recent years, has been funding a group called the Florida Justice & Public Safety PAC that has raised $750,000 to support defense attorney Joe Kimok. Kimok, who had planned to challenge Satz before the incumbent decided not to seek re-election, is the one candidate who has pledged not to seek the death penalty if elected.

Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that a group known as Victims Have Rights has raised a considerably smaller $110,000 to help veteran prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy, who has Satz's endorsement. The PAC has run mailers against Kimok and another contender, Coconut Creek City Commissioner Joshua Rydell.

Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State's Attorney: State Attorney Aramis Ayala is retiring as state's attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County, and four fellow Democrats are competing in Tuesday's party primary to succeed her. No Republicans are running in the November election, and the winner will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

The Appeal's Samantha Schuyler writes that the one candidate who has pledged to keep Ayala's criminal justice reforms in place is former defense attorney Monique Worrell, and she's getting some major late support from like-minded allies.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Our Vote Our Voice, a group funded in part by a group founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, launched a $1.5 million ad campaign in the last two weeks in the contest to help Worrell. Some of the group's commercials have gone towards promoting Worrell while others have gone after attorney Belvin Perry, who served as the judge during the high-profile Casey Anthony murder trial that took place here in 2011.

The other two Democratic candidates are Deb Barra, who serves as chief assistant state attorney, and former prosecutor Ryan Williams. Ayala initially backed Barra, but the incumbent later threw her support to Worrell after she launched her own campaign.

Barra, Perry, and Williams are all arguing that Ayala's decision never to seek the death penalty has harmed the office; Williams even resigned in 2017 over this policy. This trio has pointed to Ayala's struggles against the GOP-led state government to make their case. After Ayala announced that her office would not seek the death penalty, then-Gov. Rick Scott transferred 23 first-degree murder cases to a considerably more conservative state's attorney in another jurisdiction. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott after Ayala sued over this, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to remove first-degree murder cases from her jurisdiction.

Worrell herself has said of the Republican governors' actions, "It put me on notice that the rules of the game have changed significantly … And those opposed [to criminal justice reform] will use any means necessary." However, Schuyler writes that even Worrell "is running on a platform that is significantly less assertive than Ayala's and has backed away from Ayala's death penalty position."

Election Changes

 Indiana: Republicans on the Indiana Election Commission have blocked a proposal by Democrats that would have allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot for the November general election without needing an excuse. The measure failed after the bipartisan panel deadlocked, with both Republican members voting against the plan and both Democrats voting for it. The Commission had unanimously waived the excuse requirement for the state's June primary.

Voting rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging the requirement in late April, and briefing on their request concluded at the end of last month, so a ruling may be imminent.

 Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams have reached an agreement that will permit Kentucky voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus to request an absentee ballot for the November general election.

Beshear had wanted to waive the excuse requirement altogether, as the state had done for its June primary. However, a law passed earlier this year by Kentucky's Republican-run legislature required the governor to obtain approval for such a change from Adams, who had resisted a wider expansion of mail voting. The difference may nonetheless be minimal, as many other states have relaxed their own excuse requirements by allowing concerns about COVID to qualify and seen a surge in mail ballots.

 Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed a plan to Louisiana's Republican-run legislature that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot and would expand eligibility only to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a plan put forth by Ardoin that offered a limited expansion of absentee voting for the state's July primary for those at heightened risk from the coronavirus after Republicans rejected a broader proposal.

Legislators are slated to take up Ardoin's latest plan this week, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he is reviewing it. Before it was released, Edwards said he hoped it "would look substantially similar to the one" put in place for the primaries. However, that earlier plan did not require the governor's approval, nor does the new one. Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP, filed a suit challenging Louisiana's excuse requirement in federal court earlier this month.

 New York: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will sign a measure passed by New York's Democratic-run legislature to allow all voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus in order to request an absentee ballot. Cuomo had signed an executive order earlier this year making the same allowance ahead of the state's June primary.

Last month, lawmakers passed several other bills to improve voting access, which the governor must sign or veto soon. Another measure that would allow county election officials to deploy ballot drop boxes has yet to come up for a vote, but Cuomo says he supports the idea.

grab bag

 Deaths: Former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, a moderate Republican whose tenure from 1977 to 1991 was the longest in state history, died Friday at the age of 84. We take a look at his lengthy and eventful career in our obituary, which features appearances by Spiro Agnew, Lyndon LaRouche, the founder of Weight Watchers, and Lenny Bruce.

Thompson successfully won four terms as governor, but his last two campaigns were quite eventful. In 1982, Thompson defeated former Democratic Sen. Adlai Stevenson III by just over 5,000 votes in a contest that wasn’t resolved until days before he was inaugurated for a third term.

Thompson and Stevenson faced off again four years later in a rematch that became infamous for reasons that had nothing to do with either man. While Stevenson easily earned the nomination, a candidate affiliated with the fringe political activist Lyndon LaRouche won the primary to become his running mate. Stevenson opted to run as an independent rather than “run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche.” You can find out more about this campaign, as well as the rest of Thompson’s career, in our obituary.

Ad Roundup

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judicial

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

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

Grab Bag

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Ohio cancels in-person voting despite judge denying request to delay Tuesday primary

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

Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Illinois: With the coronavirus pandemic leading to widespread shutdowns, it appears that in-person voting in Tuesday's primary in Ohio will not go forward, though the three other states with elections Tuesday said they would proceed as planned.

On Monday evening, a judge rejected a request supported by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine to postpone the election until June 2, calling the idea a "terrible precedent," but DeWine responded with a defiant statement saying that "it simply isn't possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans." The governor later declared that the director of the state's Department of Health, Amy Acton, would "order the polls closed as a health emergency," which she did shortly before 11 PM ET.

Though the petition to delay the election was unopposed by the state, Franklin County Judge Richard Frye cited a litany of reasons not to postpone the primary. Among other factors, he noted that neither DeWine nor legislative leaders had called an emergency session of the legislature to address the matter. Adding to the confusion, the Republican speaker of the House, Larry Householder, said prior to the governor's last statement on Monday night that he opposed DeWine's efforts and insisted the election would indeed go forward on Tuesday.

Campaign Action

DeWine's decision to ignore Frye's ruling could result in him and other officials, particularly Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, being held in contempt of court. However, as election law expert Ned Foley noted, Frye did not order the primary to proceed but rather denied a request that the election be delayed, meaning that Acton's order might not have defied a judicial command. DeWine also added that LaRose will "seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options."

At this point, if anyone were to succeed in a last-minute attempt to override DeWine and Acton, election administration would unfold disastrously. Many poll workers were mistakenly told to stay home Tuesday while matters were up in the air on Monday, and at least one told the Columbus Dispatch earlier in the evening that she still doesn't plan to open her polling site on Tuesday—and that was before Acton's order came down.

As of this writing just before midnight on Monday night, it appears that in-person voting will not go forward on Tuesday, assuming officials heed Acton's order and no further legal actions are forthcoming. That may not be a safe assumption, though: In response to DeWine's announcement, Republican state Rep. John Cross declared, "We have a constitutional crisis now in Ohio," and warned, "I will be fighting in the AM to keep our polling locations OPEN in the 83rd district with law enforcement as the Ohio Department of Health can not shut down an election."

As another election law expert, Rick Hasen, pointed out, while Acton may have the authority to close polling sites, that does not necessarily give DeWine the authority to reschedule primary day. It's possible this problem could be retroactively resolved, Hasen says, if the legislature were to pass a law setting a new date for in-person voting. If not, Ohio would find itself in the bizarre situation of trying to decide a primary election based solely on absentee votes.

LaRose, however, doesn't seem interested in waiting on lawmakers. He released his own memo in response to Acton's insisting that the primary had in fact been rescheduled for June 2 and forbidding local election officials "from tabulating and reporting any results until the close of polls" (which would be 7:30 PM ET) on that day.

Meanwhile, officials in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois all reiterated on Monday that they would proceed with in-person voting on Tuesday. However, whether the primaries end on Tuesday is a different question: Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in Florida late on Monday asking a federal court to extend the deadline to request an absentee ballot to March 24, and to order that election officials count all such ballots postmarked by that date and received by March 27.

Election Changes

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter life in the United States, we’ve added a new section to the Digest specifically devoted to potential or actual changes to election dates and procedures. As these decisions are finalized, we will update both of our 2020 calendars: one for statewide primary dates and the other for key downballot elections.

AL-Sen, AL-01, AL-02: On Sunday, GOP Secretary of State John Merrill requested an opinion from the state attorney general's office on whether Republican Gov. Kay Ivey could postpone the March 31 primary runoffs due to the coronavirus. Merrill said that Alabama law doesn't explicitly allow anyone to delay an election once it has been scheduled, but that he wanted Attorney General Steve Marshall to issue a legal opinion on whether Ivey had the authority to take this action now that she's declared a state of emergency.

For now, though, the GOP runoffs for the U.S. Senate and the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts are still set for March 31. Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, who is running in the 1st District, said Monday that he was suspending all of his political advertising due to the ongoing situation.

That same day, the anti-tax Club for Growth also announced that it was endorsing former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Senate runoff and 2018 candidate Barry Moore in the race for the 2nd District. The Club threw its support behind former state Sen. Bill Hightower, who is competing with Carl, during the summer of last year.

Kentucky: At the recommendation of Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has issued an executive order postponing Kentucky's primaries both for the presidential race and for downballot office from May 19 to June 23. To effect the change, Beshear and Adams relied on what one report described as a provision of law that had never before been used. Because Kentucky's filing deadline passed in January, it's unaffected by Beshear's order.

New York: Officials in New York are considering postponing the state's presidential primary, which is set for April 28, and consolidating it with the primaries for downballot office that will be held on June 23. Such a move would also include delaying the special election for the state's vacant 27th Congressional District, which is likewise scheduled for April 28. Douglas Kellner, the co-chair of the state Board of Elections, told the New York Times that a decision might not come for another two weeks.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order Monday moving village-level elections that had been scheduled for Wednesday to April 28. Presumably, if the April primary is delayed until June, these village elections would shift with them. Cuomo also reduced the signature requirement to get on the June ballot to 30% of the amount normally required by law and ordered that all petitioning halt as of Tuesday evening.

Pennsylvania: As Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf began weighing whether to delay the state's April 28 primary for the presidential race and downballot offices, a judge in Bucks County denied an emergency request from local officials seeking to postpone a hotly contested special election for the state House set to take place on Tuesday—despite the fact that Wolf has asked residents in southeastern Pennsylvania to stay home.

Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is responsible for scheduling all special elections for his chamber, had refused to change the date. Turzai originally set the race for the 18th House District for March 17 rather than consolidate it with the April election, likely because he anticipated that Democratic turnout would be lower in mid-March with no other races on the ballot than it would be for the presidential primary. Two other special elections for the House in red districts are also taking place Tuesday in western Pennsylvania.

As for the presidential primary, Wolf said that it's "too far out for anyone to make a decision." Like in Wisconsin (see our item below), it's not clear whether the governor would have the power to unilaterally change the date, which is set by state law.

Puerto Rico: As expected, Puerto Rico's Senate passed a bill on Monday moving the commonwealth's presidential primary from March 29 to April 26, though the House apparently will not take it up until next week. According to USA Today, Gov. Wanda Vazquez supports the change.

South Carolina: Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order postponing all local elections in South Carolina that had been slated to take place before May 1. The measure affects 32 different races across the state, a full list of which can be found here. The order does not impact the state's June 23 primary for state and federal office. Officials have said that the filing period, which runs from noon on March 16 to noon on March 30, remains undisturbed, though they've asked candidates to schedule appointments to file their paperwork in order to minimize crowding.

Texas: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said on Monday that he will announce later this week how Texas plans to proceed with its primary runoffs, which are scheduled for May 26. In a large number of primaries, which were held on March 3, no candidate won a majority of the vote, which under Texas law means that a second round of voting between the top two finishers must take place.

UT-Gov: Businessman Jeff Burningham said on Friday that he would no longer collect signatures to make it onto the June GOP primary ballot because of the dangers of the coronavirus and would instead compete at the April 25 state party convention. Both major parties also announced late last week that these state party gatherings would take place online rather than in-person.

Utah allows statewide candidates to reach the primary by turning in 28,000 valid signatures or by taking enough support at their party convention, though candidates have the option to try both methods. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes announced in January that he would only go through the GOP convention route, while Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton said last month that she would do the same thing because of the high cost of gathering petitions.

Former party chair Thomas Wright, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, and former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, though, have each turned in signatures; the state has announced that Wright has submitted enough valid petitions to appear on the primary ballot, while Cox and Huntsman's signatures are still being verified.

Wisconsin: Some Wisconsin politicians are calling for the state to postpone its early April elections, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has so far opposed the idea, saying he's not considering a delay "at this time." Should his position change, experts are divided on whether Evers could act unilaterally, or whether the legislature would have to pass new legislation changing the date. Wisconsin is set to conduct its presidential primary on April 7, as well as general elections in an important race for the state Supreme Court and several other judicial posts.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Two independent polls released on Monday both showed Democrat Mark Kelly leading appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally by margins comparable to what several other recent polls have found. Monmouth gave Kelly a 50-44 advantage, while Marist's survey for NBC had him ahead by a smaller 48-45.

CO-Sen: Former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Monday that the state had verified that he'd turned in enough signatures to appear on the June Democratic primary ballot to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, and that he would no longer compete at the state party convention.

Colorado allows candidates to reach the primary either by turning in enough valid signatures or by winning the support of at least 30% of the delegates at their party's convention, though contenders have the option to try both methods. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is Hickenlooper's only well-funded intra-party opponent, is trying to make the ballot by taking part in the convention.

Iowa: Candidate filing closed Friday for Iowa's June 2 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Iowa has an unusual law that requires party conventions to select nominees in races where no candidate receives over 35% of the vote in the primary.

IA-Sen: Five Democrats are competing to take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, who flipped this seat six years ago. National Democrats, including the DSCC, have consolidated behind real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, who had a large financial advantage over her primary rivals at the end of 2019.

Another contender to watch is self-funder Eddie Mauro, who lost the 2018 primary for the 3rd District to eventual winner Cynthia Axne 58-26. Also in the race are retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken, attorney Kimberly Graham, and real estate agent Cal Woods, though none of them have brought in much money through December.

Iowa took a sharp turn to the right in 2014 and 2016, though Democrats rebounded last cycle. Ernst has done little to distinguish herself from Trump one way or the other, and her fate is likely tied closely to the presidential contest. Daily Kos Elections rates the contest as Likely Republican, but a more competitive presidential race in the state would give Democrats a better chance against Ernst.

Gubernatorial

VT-Gov: Candidate fundraising reports are in covering the period of July 2019 through mid-March of this year, and GOP Gov. Phil Scott has less cash-on-hand than either of his two main Democratic rivals. Scott took in $52,000 during this period, with almost all of that amount coming in during the final month-and-a-half of the fundraising period, and he had $95,000 to spend.

On the Democratic side, former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe raised $378,000 and had $129,000 on-hand. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman took in $156,000 and transferred another $27,000, and he had $104,000 in the bank. Attorney Patrick Winburn self-funded almost all of the $106,000 he brought in, and he had $35,000 left after an opening advertising campaign.

WV-Gov: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango in the May Democratic primary to face GOP Gov. Jim Justice.

House

IA-01: Democrat Abby Finkenauer flipped this northeast Iowa district last cycle, and national Republicans quickly consolidated behind state Rep. Ashley Hinson to try to get it back. Hinson's only intra-party opponent is businessman Thomas Hansen, who has raised very little money. This seat swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump.

IA-02: Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack is retiring from a southeast Iowa seat that swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump, and former state Sen. Rita Hart faces no opposition in the Democratic primary to succeed him.

On the GOP side, state Republican officeholders have consolidated behind state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was Team Red's nominee against Loebsack in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Miller-Meeks' main intra-party foe is former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, who was elected to his one term in Congress in a seat located just across the Mississippi River in 2010; Schilling lost re-election two years later to now-DCCC chair Cheri Bustos, and she decisively defeated him in their 2014 rematch. Schilling has struggled to raise money for his first campaign in Iowa, and he hasn't attracted any help from major outside groups so far.

Three other Republicans are also in, but none of them appear to be running credible campaigns.

IA-03: Democrat Cynthia Axne unseated GOP incumbent David Young 49-47 last cycle, and Young is running to try to reclaim this Des Moines-area district. Young's only primary foe is Army veteran Bill Schafer, who has raised very little money and doesn't appear to be a threat. This seat swung from 51-47 Obama to 49-45 Trump.

IA-04: GOP Rep. Steve King had been safe for years in a red northwestern Iowa seat that moved from 53-45 Romney all the way to 61-34 Trump, but he now faces both a competitive primary and general election campaign.

King only narrowly beat Democrat J. D. Scholten 50-47 last cycle after voters learned about a week before Election Day that the congressman was rubbing shoulders with international white supremacist candidates and hate groups, and Scholten is running again. Scholten, who has no primary opposition, didn't attract much outside attention until late in the campaign, but he ended December with a credible $540,000 on-hand.

King also picked up four intra-party challengers after he was stripped of his committee assignments early last year for musing to the New York Times, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?" State Sen. Randy Feenstra ended 2019 with a huge $489,000 to $32,000 cash-on-hand lead over King, while self-funding Army veteran Bret Richards had $100,000 to spend.

Two other Republicans, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and real estate developer Steven Reeder, didn't have much money, but they could make it more difficult for anyone to take the 35% of the vote needed to win outright.

While King has little money or outside support, he very well could win another term. Voters in this seat have long tolerated his racism, and the congressman could benefit as memories of his January 2019 comments fade. There's also no telling what would happen if this nomination goes to a convention.

Idaho: Candidate filing closed Friday for Idaho's May 19 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. We're not expecting much action in the Gem State this year, though: GOP Sen. Jim Risch and Republican Reps. Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson don't face any serious primary opponents, and they're very unlikely to have trouble in November in their deep-red constituencies.

Nevada: Candidate filing closed Friday for Nevada's June 9 primaries, and the Nevada Independent has put together a list of contenders here.

NV-02: While there was serious talk throughout 2019 that Rep. Mark Amodei could face a serious GOP primary challenger in this reliably red northern Nevada seat, it doesn't appear that the congressman will have much to worry about now that filing has closed. Amodei's only intra-party foe is Joel Beck, who challenged him two years ago and took third place with just 8%.

NV-03: Six Republicans filed to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a seat in the Las Vegas suburbs that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump very narrowly carried, but only two of them look noteworthy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is backing former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer, a World Wrestling Entertainment alum who was accused of assault three different times from 2010 to 2013; Rodimer pleaded guilty to battery in one of those incidents, while no charges were filed in the other two. The other candidate worth watching is former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who has been self-funding almost his entire campaign.

Both men lost primaries last cycle: Rodimer lost a contest for a competitive state Senate seat by a narrow 40-38 margin, while Schwartz took on establishment favorite Adam Laxalt in the race for governor and went down by a brutal 72-9 margin.

NV-04: Eight Republicans are running against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who is defending a seat in the northern Las Vegas area that moved from 54-44 Obama to 50-45 Clinton. Horsford ended last year with $1 million on-hand, which was far more than any of his Republican rivals.

The candidates with the most money at the end of 2019 were former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who lost re-election in 2018 after one term, and insurance agency owner Samuel Peters. Both men have been self-funding much of their campaigns, and Marchant held a small $209,000 to $206,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of 2019. Just behind was businesswoman Lisa Song Sutton, who had $187,000 to spend.

Businesswoman Randi Reed and Charles Navarro, a former district director for former Rep. Cresent Hardy, each were well behind with just under $35,000 on-hand. Also in the contest are Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo and two other Republicans who each had less than $10,000 to spend.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: State Sen. Mary Washington announced Monday that she was suspending her campaign for the Democratic nod so she could focus on her work in the legislature as the coronavirus emergency continues. It doesn’t sound like Washington plans to rejoin the April 28 primary since she referred to her campaign in the past tense and added, “We will work to ensure the next Mayor is held to the standards we deserve, and push them relentlessly to do the hard, bold work this city needs.”

Special Elections

Special Elections: There are three special elections set for Tuesday in Pennsylvania, including an important pickup opportunity for Democrats in the suburbs of Philadelphia. However, a judge rejected a last-minute request to postpone this hotly contested race, even though Gov. Tom Wolf has asked residents in southeastern Pennsylvania to stay home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, so turnout could be very low and election administration could suffer. See our Pennsylvania item in the "Election Changes" section above for more on these developments.

PA-HD-08: This is a Republican district in the Mercer area that became vacant when former Rep. Tedd Nesbit became a member of the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas. The Democratic candidate is businessman Phil Heasley and the Republican is Grove City College professor Tim Bonner. This is a strongly Republican district that voted for Donald Trump 71-24 and Mitt Romney 67-32

PA-HD-18: Democrats have a big pickup opportunity in the Philadelphia suburbs, where the 18th District district became vacant after former GOP Rep. Gene DiGirolamo was elected Bucks County commissioner last year.

The Democratic candidate for this seat, which is located entirely in the city of Bensalem, is union plumber Howie Hayes while the Republican is funeral director KC Tomlinson. Hayes has the backing of multiple unions, including the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers. Tomlinson is from a prominent local family and her father, state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, is well-known in the area. The elder Tomlinson represented this district for two terms immediately before DiGirolamo, and his current Senate district contains all of the 18th House District.

On paper, this seat looks favorable for Team Blue, since it's been solidly Democratic at the presidential level, backing Hillary Clinton 53-44 and Barack Obama 58-41. However, it's been much more amenable to supporting Republicans downballot: DiGirolamo had held this seat since he was first elected in 1994, and thanks to his well-known personal brand in the area, won his last re-election effort 57-43 in 2018 despite the blue wave.

For Democrats, flipping this seat has higher stakes than a typical pickup opportunity. This chamber is a top target for Democrats in the fall and a win here would lower the number of seats Democrats need to flip to take control of the Pennsylvania House from nine to eight.

PA-HD-58: This is a Republican district in the Jeannette area, east of Pittsburgh. This seat became vacant when former Rep. Justin Walsh became a judge in Westmoreland County last year. The Democratic candidate is Army veteran Robert Prah Jr. and the Republican is union carpenter Eric Davanzo. There is also a Libertarian in the running, businessman Ken Bach. This is a solidly Republican district that supported Trump 63-34 and Romney 55-43.

These three seats are the only vacancies in this chamber, which Republicans control 107-93.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: It just wouldn't be an election cycle in Nevada without wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian on the GOP primary ballot. Tarkanian moved to Douglas County in northern Nevada following his 2018 defeat in the 3rd Congressional District in suburban Las Vegas, and he filed on Friday to challenge County Commissioner Dave Nelson, a fellow Republican. Tarkanian has unsuccessfully sought various elected offices a total of six times from 2004 through last cycle, and we'll see if his seventh time is a charm.

Morning Digest: GOP legislator threatens an independent run for VA governor if ‘shenanigans’ occur

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

VA-Gov: On Monday, state Sen. Amanda Chase became the first notable Republican to join the 2021 race for governor of Virginia, but she may not be sticking with Team Red. Chase, who has a famously awful relationship with her party's leadership, said that she would "fully run" as an independent if there are "any shenanigans that are pulled" in the nomination contest. No matter what Chase does, though, GOP leaders won't want to see her name on the general election ballot next year.

Chase made news in the spring of 2019 when she swore at and berated a police officer at the state capitol who told her that she couldn't park her car in a secure area. Chase, according to the officer's report, also referred to the state Senate clerk as "Miss Piggy" and angrily demanded, "Do you know who I am?" Chase refused to apologize and posted on Facebook that the report looked like it had been written by "a democrat operative."

Campaign Action

State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment responded to the incident by putting out a letter praising the Capitol Police and saying the GOP caucus members "share your exasperation." Karl Leonard, who serves as sheriff of Chase's Chesterfield County, also withdrew his support for her re-election campaign after she wouldn't apologize to the officer.

Chase responded to Leonard's snub by backing his independent opponent's unsuccessful campaign and falsely accusing the incumbent of making Chesterfield a "sanctuary city." The Chesterfield County GOP in turn voted to eject her from the party.

Chase was still re-elected to her reliably red seat, but the Senate GOP found itself in the minority. After her Republican colleagues elected Norment as minority leader, though, Chase announced that she'd leave the party caucus in protest.

Chase still remains a Republican, but one without much influence: The senator only serves on one minor committee, and every bill she's sponsored by herself this year has been killed. However, Chase has continued to garner attention by ardently opposing gun safety measures and continuing to bring her pistol into Senate buildings in defiance of new legislative rules prohibiting firearms.

A few other Republicans are also eyeing next year's race to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who is prohibited from seeking a second consecutive term. State Sen. Bill Stanley has expressed interest in running for governor or for attorney general, while the Washington Post writes that businessman Pete Snyder has publicly talked about a potential gubernatorial bid.

Senate

GA-Sen-B: While there's been plenty of speculation that Donald Trump could back Rep. Doug Collins over appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Collins himself seems pessimistic that he'll be waking up to any endorsement tweets. Speaking to the Georgia Recorder, the congressman said of Trump, "He's not getting in this race," and continued that Trump "respects the senator and her position and he knows me intimately." Collins added, "I respect the fact that he's staying out of it."

NC-Sen: Faith and Power, a PAC with extensive GOP ties, is spending an additional $500,000 to promote state Sen. Erica Smith ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary. This takes the group's total investment here up to $2.9 million to date.

TX-Sen: Nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez picked up an endorsement on Tuesday from Rep. Joaquin Castro ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn.

WY-Sen: Converse County Commissioner Robert Short announced this week that he'd join the August GOP primary to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi. Short is a self-described "centrist Republican," which is unlikely to be a compelling pitch to GOP voters in this extremely red state.

Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis has been the clear primary frontrunner ever since Rep. Liz Cheney announced last month that she'd stay out of the race, and both Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso endorsed her on Tuesday. The only other notable Republican who has expressed interest in this race in recent months is conservative mega donor Foster Friess, who said this week that he was still considering. Wyoming's filing deadline isn't until late May, so Friess could keep us waiting a while longer.

Gubernatorial

VT-Gov: On behalf of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, Braun Research is out with the first poll we've seen of this race, and they have good news for GOP Gov. Phil Scott. The incumbent posts a hefty 52-29 lead in a hypothetical general election match with Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a member of the Progressive Party who is also competing for the Democratic nod. Braun also finds Scott leading another Democratic contender, former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe, by a larger 55-20 spread.

Vermont is a reliably blue state in presidential elections, but it's been more than willing to elect moderate Republican governors. Scott decisively won his 2016 and 2018 races, and Braun gives him a 57-26 favorable rating. Morning Consult also found Scott with a 65-22 job approval score during the final quarter of 2019.

House

AL-01: Over the last few weeks we've gotten new ads from state Rep. Chris Pringle and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, who are both competing in the March 3 GOP primary.

Pringle's commercial begins features him building a brick wall in front of what's made to look like Nancy Pelosi's D.C. office as the candidate tells the audience, "Walls protect us from America's enemies, and I have the perfect place for another." After calling Democrats "radical socialists," Pringle engages in some extra McCarthyism by walking off and uttering the word "commies" under his breath.

Carl's considerably more generic ad, by contrast, praises him as a pro-Trump conservative problem solver who opposes abortion and gun safety measures.

GA-09: GOP activist Ethan Underwood announced this week that he would run for this safely red open seat. Underwood is a former party chair in Forsyth County, which makes up about 8% of this district.

MA-04: Former state Comptroller Thomas Shack announced on Tuesday that he would join the crowded and expensive September Democratic primary for this reliably blue open seat. Shack was appointed comptroller in 2015 by GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, and he stepped down early last year. (Unlike in many other states, Massachusetts does not elect comptrollers.)

Shack came into conflict with Baker during the last months of his tenure over who would be in charge of designing the computer system that would impact all state agencies. Shack said in 2018 that the administration was "subjecting the apolitical and independent comptroller's office to a political arm of government" and withholding money for security updates and new software.

A number of well-funded candidates are already seeking to succeed Senate candidate Joe Kennedy III in this seat, which includes the Boston suburbs of Brookline and Newton and stretches south to Bristol County on the Rhode Island border. The candidate with the most money at the end of 2019 was City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who had $663,000 on-hand. Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss wasn't too far behind with $554,000 in the bank, while fellow Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman had $318,000 to spend.

Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell and Dave Cavell, a former senior adviser to Attorney General Maura Healey, had $248,000 and $173,000 on-hand, respectively. Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey had just $52,000 available while another contender, attorney Ben Sigel, announced after the end of the quarter.

MI-03: Attorney Nick Colvin announced on Tuesday that he was dropping out of the August Democratic primary to take on independent Rep. Justin Amash because of fundraising challenges. Colvin's decision leaves fellow attorney Hillary Scholten as the only notable Democratic candidate competing for this seat in the Grand Rapids area.

Amash left the GOP in July and while he has not ruled out a bid against Donald Trump, he's said that he plans to seek re-election without a party label this year. While Amash only brought in $150,000 during his first fundraising quarter as an independent, he nearly quadrupled that in the final three months of 2019 by hauling in $592,000. Amash ended the year with $722,000 on-hand, which was more than any of his opponents.

Two notable Republicans are challenging Amash in this 52-42 Trump seat. Army veteran Peter Meijer, who hails from a wealthy family, raised $235,000 and self-funded another $78,000, and he ended December with $557,000 in the bank. State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis was well behind with $101,000 raised and another $11,000 self-funded, and she had $199,000 to spend. Scholten, now has the Democratic side to herself, raised $124,000 and had $207,000 in the bank. Michigan's filing deadline is in April, so there's still a bit of time for this race to take shape no matter what Amash ends up doing.

TX-02: Attorney Sima Ladjevardian rolled out endorsements this week from Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia, who each represent nearby Houston-area seats, for the March 3 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

TX-11: A new group called Energy Security PAC is up with a TV spot praising the military record of Air Force veteran August Pfluger, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, ahead of the March 3 GOP primary. There is no word on the size of the buy.

Pluger ended 2019 with a massive financial edge over all of his primary foes, but two of them are also getting outside help. Fired Up PAC is spending at least $186,000 on a TV spot promoting Brandon Batch, a former staffer for retiring Rep. Mike Conaway, though we don't have a copy yet. Keep Texas Great, which supports Midland City Councilman J.Ross Lacy, is spending at least $30,000 on a commercial that promotes Lacy as someone who understands West Texas and isn't just "another carbon copy Republican."

TX-12: The Congressional Leadership Fund is spending a hefty $850,000 on a new TV ad campaign targeting businessmen Chris Putnam, who is challenging veteran Rep. Kay Granger in the March 3 GOP primary.

The CLF's narrator begins by proclaiming that the people spending millions against Granger "spent millions attacking President Trump. They lost. America won." All of that is reference to the extremist Club for Growth, which goes unnamed in this commercial but has been airing ads hitting the incumbent. The Club, which did indeed spend millions to try and deny Trump the 2016 GOP nomination, has refashioned itself since then as an ardently pro-Trump organization, but their intra-party foes don't especially care.

The CLF's ad continues by going after Putnam directly, saying he's "best known for raising property taxes and as a leader of a company that outsourced good paying jobs to Asia instead of hiring Texans." The narrator never actually accuses Putnam of opposing Trump but instead argues, "It's Trump against them. Again. And he's backing Kay Granger." The spot concludes by asking the audience, "Whose side are you on?"

TX-22: Nonprofit CEO Pierce Bush talks about his famous family’s history in the Houston area in his newest ad and actually refrains from name-dropping Donald Trump.

But in case anyone was worried that Bush had forgotten what animates GOP voters in this day and age, he goes on to claim that “liberals want to rip the American system apart and bring socialism out of the trash heap of history.” In case that was too subtle, the ad also features images of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Nicolás Maduro, and … Putin? We’re not sure the last time we saw Trump’s BFF used as a villain in a GOP ad, but there he is!

TX-31: Rep. Marc Veasey, who serves as the regional vice chair for the DCCC, has endorsed Round Rock City Councilor Tammy Young in the crowded Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Carter.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Incumbent Jack Young recently launched his first commercial ahead of the April Democratic primary, while former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller also began a $500,000 opening ad buy.

Young, who was elevated to this office last year after Catherine Pugh resigned in disgrace, features a narrator praising him for working to “clean up City Hall.” The spot goes on to laud Young for working to require police to wear body cameras, lower the city’s crime rate, and open city recreation facilities on Saturdays. Young’s team said that the buy was “sizable,” but they did not reveal more.

Miller’s first ad also features her talking about public safety. Miller tells the audience that the police force is understaffed and burdened with outdated technology, and she pledges that Police Commissioner Michael Harrison will have “the resources and support to succeed with his plan, because everyone in Baltimore has a right to be safe.” Her second commercial shows a mother talking about Miller’s work helping her son graduate from school, and the candidate declares that “wherever you live in Baltimore, you deserve a quality education with a path to success.”

Other Races

Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: On Tuesday, Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón's campaign against incumbent Jackie Lacey in the March 3 nonpartisan primary. Gascón was appointed to succeed Harris as SF's top prosecutor after she was elected state attorney general in 2010, and she praised him as a "proven leader" for criminal justice reform.

Former public defender Rachel Rossi is also challenging Lacey from the left next month. If no one takes a majority of the vote, the top-two candidates would compete in the November general election.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he was commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has been in prison since 2012. Blagojevich made global headlines in December 2008 after he was arrested on corruption charges, which included trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.

The Illinois legislature almost unanimously removed him from office the following month, and he was later convicted. (Before he was found guilty, Blago found time to appear on Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice" show.) Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and had Trump not commuted his sentence, he would not have been eligible for parole for another four years.