The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
Tennessee held its primary Thursday, and you can find the results here. We’ll have a recap in our next Digest.
● Abortion: We wondered shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned in late June if Democratic campaigns would continue to focus hard on abortion rights this cycle, and the answer is a resounding yes. Team Blue is airing new commercials in the races for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat and governor of Michigan that each use footage of the newly minted Republican nominees, Blake Masters and Tudor Dixon, expressing extreme anti-choice views, while Team Blue has also kept up the offensive in other races across the country.
We'll start in Arizona, where Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly quickly opens with clips of Masters proclaiming, "I think Roe v. Wade was wrong. It's always been wrong … It's a religious sacrifice to these people, I think it's demonic." The audience later hears the Republican argue, "The federal government needs to step in and say no state can permit abortion … You make it illegal and you punish the doctors."
Kelly's allies at Senate Majority PAC are also hammering Masters on abortion rights in a new $1.2 million ad campaign, though they're adopting a different messaging strategy. The commercial stars a woman identified as Brianna who explains, "Three years ago, I had an ectopic pregnancy, and if I didn't make it into the OR within a couple minutes, I was going to bleed out and die." She continues, "But according to Blake Masters, that's just too bad. He wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother." Brianna ends by saying that if Masters had his way, her three children would have lost their mother.
Meanwhile in Michigan, a DGA-backed group called Put Michigan First makes use of a debate clip where Dixon answers in the negative when asked, "Are you for the exemptions for rape and incest?" The spot then plays footage of podcaster Charlie LeDuff asking the candidate, "The question would be like, a 14-year-old who, let's say, is a victim of abuse by an uncle, you're saying carry that?" Dixon responds, "Yeah, perfect example." When Dixon is asked in an interview with MIRS if she'd provide an exception for "health of the mother," she replies, "No exceptions."
Over in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's commercial takes Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans to task for celebrating when Roe was overturned. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams is airing a spot where several women warn that, under a law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, they could be "investigated and imprisoned for a miscarriage."
And back in Arizona, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs proclaims she'll "protect a woman's right to choose, fix our schools, and lower costs." Other recent Hobbs ads also attack each of the GOP frontrunners, former TV news anchor Kari Lake and Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, for opposing abortion rights. (Hobbs began airing her ads as Tuesday's GOP primary was still too close to call.)
Republicans, by contrast, have been reluctant to discuss abortion at all in their general election commercials even before this week's big defeat for anti-choice forces in Kansas. One notable exception came last month when Mark Ronchetti, who is Team Red's nominee for governor of New Mexico, argued that his policy to restrict the procedure to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy was reasonable and that Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham was "extreme" for supporting "abortion up to birth."
Most Republicans, though, remain content to avoid the topic altogether. Masters, for his part, is spending at least $650,000 on an opening general election ad campaign starring his wife, who says he's running because he loves the country and the state. (Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin points out that Masters just days ago was campaigning as a conservative border warrior who warned, "There's a genocide happening in America.") The RGA, meanwhile, is attacking Hobbs on border security―but not abortion.
● AZ-Sen: Republican Blake Masters' allies at Saving Arizona PAC have dusted off a mid-July internal from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly 49-44, which is identical to what OnMessage Inc. found in a more recent survey for another conservative group. Both firms are releasing these unfavorable numbers to argue that the political climate will be a big asset to Masters.
● FL-Gov: St. Pete Polls' newest survey for Florida Politics finds Rep. Charlie Crist beating Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in a 56-24 landslide in the first poll we've seen in nearly a month for the Aug. 23 Democratic primary.
Fried's allied PAC, meanwhile, is running the first negative commercial of the race, and it goes after Crist for appointing an "anti-choice extremist" to the state Supreme Court when he was Florida's Republican governor. The spot also features footage from this year of Crist saying, "I'm still pro-life," though it doesn't include him continuing, "meaning I'm for life. I hope most people are." (Crist used that same interview to express his regret over his anti-abortion judicial picks.) Politico says the spot is airing in the Orlando market, which covers about 20% of the state.
● RI-Gov: Gov. Dan McKee has secured an endorsement from RI Council 94, which is Rhode Island's largest state employee union, for the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, meanwhile, has earned the backing of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, which is one of the state's two teachers unions: The other, the NEA, is for McKee.
● WI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Tim Michels said just one month ago that "[w]hen politicians are shocked to find themselves losing, they go negative out of desperation," but you can probably guess what he's now doing days ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary. Yep, the Trump-endorsed candidate is airing his first attack ad against former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, whom Michels' narrator dubs "the ultimate Madison insider" and a "[p]ro-China, pro-amnesty, anti-Trump politician."
Kleefisch and her allies went on the offensive in early July, with the former lieutenant governor arguing that Michels "pushed for years to raise our gas tax while getting rich from massive government contracts." That prompted Michels to put out a statement bemoaning that "it is sad that the former Lieutenant Governor has decided to go negative by falling in line with politics as usual."
The anti-tax Club for Growth was all too happy to attack Kleefisch last month, but Michels himself insisted as recently as Monday that he was still taking the high road. "I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race," he said, explaining, "And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition." Michels added, "And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you."
So why did Michels decide to court disrespect and try out some "bad policy" just days later? Kleefisch's team, of course, told the Associated Press' Scott Bauer that this about-face proves their candidate "has all the momentum." Michels' own spokesperson, though, also hinted that they felt the ads were doing them some real damage, arguing, "When your opponent does that for weeks on end, it can't go unanswered forever."
Unfortunately, we have almost no recent polling to indicate if either of the candidates campaigning to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are going "negative out of desperation." The one and only survey we've seen in the last month was a mid-July internal for a pro-Michels group that had him up 43-35, numbers that are quite dusty now.
Whatever the case, things may get a whole lot uglier on Friday when Trump, who has zero qualms about "talking bad about the competition," holds his pre-primary rally in Waukesha County. (You may have heard a few jokes about it if you've ever logged onto Twitter in the last decade.) We got a taste for Trump's dislike of the former lieutenant last month when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice reported that Trump used his April meeting with Michels to bring up a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of state Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn.
The elder Hagedorn went straight to the MAGA doghouse the next year when he provided the crucial vote to stop Trump's attempts to steal the election, and Bice reports that he was upset about the photo of the two teenagers. Kleefisch, who has trashed the justice herself, responded by declaring, "I'm outraged my opponent would use a photo of my underage daughter for political ammunition in order to score an endorsement." However, unnamed sources told Bice that Michels didn't actually know about the picture before Trump himself raised the topic ahead of his "little rant" against Brian Hagedorn.
● CO-03: Democrat Adam Frisch has released an internal from Keating Research that shows him trailing far-right freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert 49-42 in a western Colorado seat that Trump would have taken by a similar 53-45 spread.
● FL-13: The Club for Growth is airing what appears to be the first negative TV ad of the Aug. 23 GOP primary, and its piece rips Kevin Hayslett as a "trial lawyer" who was disloyal to Donald Trump in 2016. The broadside comes days after Hayslett released an internal that showed him trailing 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, whom both the Club and Trump are supporting, only 36-34.
The narrator informs the audience, "While Hillary's campaign called Trump a fraud, Hayslett declared it was 'ludicrous' Trump had not released his tax records." The commercial concludes that Hayslett, whose offense doesn't seem to have gone further than Facebook posts, is "guilty of aiding and abetting the Democrats to assault Donald Trump."
Hayslett himself launched his own negative spot around the same time arguing that it's Luna who's the GOP heretic. The audience is treated to footage of Luna saying, "I always agreed with President Obama's immigration policies," and favoring a "pathway to citizenship."
● IN-02: A special election will take place this year to succeed Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, who died in a car crash on Wednesday, though it’s not yet clear when it will be and how the GOP nominee will be chosen. Almost everyone expects the special to coincide with the Nov. 8 general election, but it’s up to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to set the date. Trump carried the existing version of this northern Indiana seat 59-39, while he took the redrawn version by a similar 60-37 spread.
It will be up to the local GOP leadership to choose a new nominee for the special and regular two-year term, and Fox’s Chad Pergram explains that state law requires that any vacancy on the ballot “shall be filled by appointment by the district chairman of the political party.” The chair of the 2nd District Republican Party, though, was Zach Potts, a Walorski aide who was also killed in the collision.
● MN-03: Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips is out with a poll from GQR giving him a hefty 57-36 edge over Navy veteran Tom Weiler, who has next week's Republican primary to himself. Biden would have carried this suburban Twin Cities constituency 59-39, though Weiler's allies are hoping that a GOP wave could reverse the dramatic Trump-era gains Democrats made in this once-swingy area.
● MN-05: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, whose city makes up about 60% of this constituency, has endorsed former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels' bid against Rep. Ilhan Omar in next week's Democratic primary. Omar backed the mayor's two main rivals in last year's instant runoff race, though Frey ended up winning re-election convincingly. Frey and Samuels also defeated a 2021 ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety, while Omar supported the "Yes" side.
● NY-10: Impact Research's internal for attorney Dan Goldman shows him leading Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou 18-16 in the packed Aug. 23 Democratic primary, with New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera and 17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones at 14% and 10%, respectively. Other polls have found different candidates ahead, but they all agree with Impact that a hefty plurality are undecided.
● NY-16: Former Rep. Eliot Engel has endorsed Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi's Democratic primary campaign against the man who unseated him two years ago, freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Gashi also earned the backing of Nita Lowey who, unlike Engel, left the House voluntarily last year after decades of service. About three-quarters of this seat's denizens live in the old 16th District where Bowman upset Engel, while the balance reside in Lowey's old turf.
● NY-23: Barry Zeplowitz and Associates has conducted a survey that gives state GOP chair Nick Langworthy a 39-37 edge over 2010 gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino in this month's primary, which is dramatically different from Paladino's 54-24 lead in his own mid-July internal from WPA Intelligence. Veteran pollster Barry Zeplowitz said he conducted this new poll independently, though Paladino quickly called foul and attacked Zeplowitz for donating $99 to his rival.
"So because I gave $99 to a candidate who asked and gave nothing to a second candidate who did not, the poll is a complete scam?" Zeplowitz asked rhetorically, adding, "Mr. Paladino should be thanking me for giving his campaign a heads-up that he is involved in a toss-up. Let the best man win."
● WY-AL: Rep. Liz Cheney's newest commercial for the Aug. 16 GOP primary opens with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, proclaiming, "In our nation's 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump." Every poll that's been released shows the younger Cheney badly losing to Trump's pick, attorney Harriet Hageman, in what was the Trumpiest state in the nation in both 2016 and 2020.
● Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Seven candidates are competing in next week's officially nonpartisan primary to replace retiring incumbent Mike Freeman as the top prosecutor in Minnesota's largest county, but campaign finance reports show that only three of them have access to a serious amount of money. The two contenders with the most votes will advance to the November general election.
The top fundraiser through July 25 by far was state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, who took in $230,000 and has several unions on his side. Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty raised a smaller $140,000, but she sports high-profile endorsements from local Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party.
Retired judge Martha Holton Dimick, finally, hauled in a similar $130,000; Dimick, who would be the state's first Black county attorney, has the backing of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey as well as the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.
● San Francisco, CA District Attorney: Former District Attorney Chesa Boudin said Thursday that he would not compete in this fall's instant-runoff special election to regain the post he lost in a June recall. His announcement came the same week that attorney Joe Alioto Veronese launched a bid to take on incumbent Brooke Jenkins, a recall leader whom Mayor London Breed appointed to replace Boudin last month.
Alioto Veronese is the grandson of the late Mayor Joseph Alioto, who served from 1968 to 1976; his mother, Angela Alioto Veronese, ran in the 2018 special election for mayor but took a distant fourth against Breed. The younger Alioto Veronese previously served as a California criminal justice commissioner and member of the city's police and fire commissions, but he doesn't appear to have run for office before now.
Under the city's current law, the district attorney's post would be on the ballot again in 2023 for a full four-year term. However, voters this fall will decide on a measure that would move the city's next set of local elections to 2024 and keep them in presidential cycles going forward.
● WA-03: The Associated Press on Wednesday evening called the first spot in the previous day's top-two primary for Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who notched 31%, but it remains unclear which Republican she'll face. With 158,000 votes counted, which the AP estimates is 83% of the total, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler leads Trump-backed Army veteran Joe Kent by a narrow 23-22. The five Republican candidates on the ballot are taking a combined 66% of the vote compared to 33% for Democrats in this 51-46 Trump seat, though Herrera Beutler may have won some support from Democratic voters after voting for impeachment.
● Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Former City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere has conceded Tuesday's Republican primary to appointed incumbent Rachel Mitchell, who leads her 58-42. (The margin may shift as more votes are tabulated.) Both candidates were competing to succeed Allister Adel, a fellow Republican who resigned in March and died the next month.
Mitchell will now go up against Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel 51-49 in 2020, in a special election for the final two years of the term. This post will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.
● Montgomery County, MD Executive: It’s been more than two weeks since the July 19 Democratic primary, but we still don’t know who won the nomination to lead this populous and reliably blue county. With 132,000 ballots counted, incumbent Marc Elrich leads wealthy businessman David Blair 39.3-39.2―a margin of 154 votes.
Election officials say that there are about 4,000 mail-in votes left to tabulate as well as 7,250 provisional ballots to sort through, and that they’re aiming to certify the results by Aug. 12. The second-place candidate would then have three days to request a recount, which is what happened in the 2018 contest between these very two candidates: Elrich ultimately beat Blair by 77 votes four years ago.
P.S. This dragged-out count came about because Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a measure that would have allowed mail-in ballots to be processed ahead of Election Day. The author of that bill is state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who represents part of Montgomery County; Kagan has called for the state to change its policies to prevent another major delay this November.
● Where Are They Now?: Wanda Vázquez, who became governor of Puerto Rico in 2019 after her predecessor resigned in disgrace, was indicted Thursday on bribery charges related to her unsuccessful 2020 campaign for a full term. Vázquez, who is affiliated with both the GOP and the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), responded by proclaiming her innocence.
Federal prosecutors allege that Vázquez fired the head of Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions and appointed a new one loyal to a campaign donor. Vázquez badly lost the PNP primary 58-42 to Pedro Pierluisi, who prevailed in a close general election.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.