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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

Election Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

secretaries of state

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

Ad Roundup

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

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

Election Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

secretaries of state

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

Ad Roundup

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

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

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Downballot

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretaries of State

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

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Michigan activists are close to putting an abortion rights amendment on the ballot

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.

Programming Update: Daily Kos Elections will be taking a break for the Fourth of July weekend. The Live Digest will return Tuesday, while Morning Digest will be back on Wednesday. Have a great holiday!

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MI Ballot: Activists working to enshrine the right to an abortion into the Michigan state constitution announced Thursday that they'd collected a sufficient number of signatures to place the proposed amendment on the ballot for the November general election. A victory for the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment, which needs a majority of the vote to pass, would represent a huge win for abortion rights in a large swing state where the courts have yet to resolve whether a 91-year-old abortion ban remains in effect today.

In 1931, Michigan passed a law that made the procedure a felony in almost all cases, very similar to an earlier ban implemented all the way back in 1846. Pro-choice activists put an initiative on the ballot in 1972 to legalize abortion called Proposal B, and it appeared so likely to pass that an abortion clinic was set up even before the November vote. The Catholic Church, though, funded an effort to derail Proposal B, and voters ultimately rejected it in a 61-39 landslide that represented an early electoral win for the emerging anti-abortion movement.

The 1931 statute became moot just a few months later after the U.S Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, but no one's sure what will happen now following the far-right majority's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. A state court issued a temporary injunction to block the law from being enforced, but two Republican county prosecutors have said they'll still consider prosecuting doctors for violating the nine-decade-old law. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has urged the Michigan Supreme Court―where Democrats won a 4-3 majority last cycle―to issue a ruling to clarify the situation.

A victory for the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment this fall, though, would go even further in securing abortion rights for the long term, especially if anti-choice Republicans succeed in unseating Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, or state Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein in November. There hasn't been any polling on this measure, but Civiqs has found that Michigan voters agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases by a wide 57-39 margin.

Redistricting

NC Redistricting: On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear North Carolina Republicans' appeal in a redistricting case that could have catastrophic consequences for voting rights and fair elections across the country next year in advance of the pivotal 2024 elections.

The case in question involves a Republican appeal of a state court ruling that struck down their congressional gerrymander earlier this year and replaced it with a much fairer map in a groundbreaking ruling that held that the state constitution prohibits partisan gerrymandering. Republicans are now asking the Supreme Court to rule that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures near-absolute power to set all manner of federal election laws, including district maps—regardless of whether state constitutions place limits on abuses such as gerrymandering.

For a more in-depth explanation of just how dangerous and far-reaching this case could be, an article by Daily Kos Elections' Stephen Wolf has laid out the stakes and likely implications should the justices rule in favor of Republicans.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling has conducted a poll, which it says wasn't on behalf of a client, looking at the August GOP primary. The survey finds former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters jumping out to a 29-15 lead over state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, with businessman Jim Lamon at 10 and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire at just 5.

This poll, which is PPP's first publicly available look at Arizona this cycle, is also the first survey from a reputable firm since Trump endorsed Masters in early June. Previous polls from mainly GOP-affiliated outfits had typically found Lamon and Brnovich competing for the lead with Masters still competitive, and it's plausible that Trump's endorsement has shifted a significant chunk of voters toward Masters in a race where many Republicans are still undecided.

GA-Sen: Just hours after a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday showed Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock leading by a hefty 54-44 over Republican Herschel Walker, Walker's campaign released an internal poll from Moore Information Group that shows the two candidates tied 47-47. We previously cautioned that Quinnipiac's numbers were by far the best for Democrats all cycle and that confirmation from other polls and firms was necessary to determine whether the race has indeed shifted in Warnock's direction, but it's notable that the best numbers Walker's own team could come up with still couldn't give him a lead.

MO-Sen: Former Republican Sen. John Danforth’s Missouri Stands United PAC has announced that it’s spending $3 million on an opening TV, radio, digital, and mail campaign to support independent John Wood. The effort began earlier this week just before Wood launched his campaign when Danforth, who retired in 1995, starred in a commercial calling for voters to back a nonaligned candidate for Senate.

VT-Sen: Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is the chamber's longest-serving member, has announced that he has broken his hip after suffering from a fall on Wednesday evening and would have to have surgery as soon as possible. Leahy says his doctors expect him to "make a full recovery," but he could be absent from the Senate for an unspecified amount of time in the coming weeks. The 82-year-old Leahy had already opted to retire this cycle rather than run for a ninth term this fall.

Governors

MD-Gov: The Baltimore Sun reports that the DGA has booked $1 million in TV time in an effort to get Republicans to nominate Trump's pick, Del. Dan Cox, over former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz on July 19. Democrats believe that Cox, who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it, would struggle in a general election to succeed Schulz's main ally, termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan.

RI-Gov: Wednesday was the candidate filing deadline for Rhode Island's Sept. 13 primary, but while the state has a list of contenders here, not all of them may make the ballot. That's because, as the Boston Globe notes, candidates still have until July 15 to turn in their signatures to election officials: Anyone running for governor needs 1,000 valid signatures, which is twice the number required to run for the U.S. House.

Democrat Dan McKee was elevated from the office of lieutenant governor to the governorship in March of last year when Gina Raimondo resigned to become U.S. secretary of commerce, but it quickly became clear he'd be in for a tough fight to keep his new job. Five fellow Democrats are campaigning against McKee, and a recent poll from Suffolk University showed him trailing one of them, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, 24-20.

Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who ended March with the largest war chest, was close behind with 16%, and her ability to self-fund gives her access to more funds. Former Secretary of State Matt Brown, who lost the 2018 primary to Raimondo 57-34, is once again positioning himself to the left of the rest of the field, but he's struggled to raise money and only earned 5% in the Suffolk poll. The other two Democrats who filed are physician Luis Daniel Muñoz, who earned less than 2% as an independent four years ago, and nurse Kalilu Camara, neither of whom have attracted much notice.

Five Republicans are also in, but businessman Ashley Kalus is the only one who's running a serious campaign. Kalus, who has used her personal wealth to go on TV back in April, has had to deal with questions about her ties to Rhode Island, where she appears to have relocated to just last year.

P.S. Now that the Ocean State's deadline has passed, the only states where major party candidates can still appear on the 2022 ballot are Delaware and Louisiana. Neither state is likely to host any competitive races for Congress this cycle, though Louisiana politicians sometimes wait until the last moment possible to decide whether or not to run.

House

FL-27: State Sen. Annette Taddeo has publicized a late May internal from the Democratic firm SEA Polling and Strategic Design that finds Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar leading her by a narrow 47-45. The survey was conducted May 23-26, which about two weeks before Taddeo ended her campaign for governor to run for this Miami-area seat.  

MD-06: Gov. Larry Hogan has backed Matthew Foldi, a former staff writer for the conservative Washington Free Beacon, ahead of the July 19 Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent David Trone. Foldi received an endorsement earlier in June from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

MI-11: NBC reports that EMILY's List has reserved $860,000 in TV ads to aid Rep. Haley Stevens in her Aug. 2 Democratic primary against fellow incumbent Andy Levin.

MI-13: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan this week endorsed state Sen. Adam Hollier in the busy Democratic primary for a safely blue seat where just over half of residents live in Motor City.

RI-02: Retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin endorsed state Treasurer Seth Magaziner on Thursday, an announcement that came one day after the filing deadline passed for the September primary. Magaziner is one of eight Democrats campaigning to succeed Langevin in a seat, which includes part of Providence and western Rhode Island, that Biden would have carried 56-42.

One of Magaziner's rivals is former state Rep. David Segal, who took third place in the 2010 primary for the neighboring 1st District and went on to found a national progressive group. Another well-funded rival is Sarah Morgenthau, a former U.S. Department of Commerce official who hails from a prominent national Democratic family; Morgenthau, though, has spent most of her career outside the state and only registered to vote in Rhode Island shortly before launching her campaign.

Also in the running is communications firm head Joy Fox, who is a former Langevin staffer. Four other candidates are in including nonprofit head Omar Bah, but none of them posted a serious amount of money when campaign finance reports were last released in March. (New quarterly reports are due by the end of July 15.)

On the GOP side, former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who was the party's nominee for governor in 2014 and 2018, has just one unheralded primary foe following 2020 nominee Bob Lancia's decision to drop out just before filing closed. A recent Suffolk University poll showed Fung leading Magaziner 45-39 and doing even better against the other Democrats, though the undecideds should favor Team Blue here.

Ad Roundup

Democrats are notably running ads on abortion in New Hampshire and Illinois.

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

Morning Digest: Trump makes new Arizona endorsement in bid to install election deniers in key posts

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

Leading Off

AZ-AG: Donald Trump's Big Lie slate in Arizona expanded on Thursday when he endorsed former prosecutor Abe Hamadeh in the six-way August primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking the GOP nod for U.S. Senate. The attorney general, governor, and secretary of state are the three offices involved in certifying election results in the Grand Canyon State, and as we'll discuss, Trump is also supporting candidates for those two other open seats who also deny that Joe Biden won in 2020.

Hamadeh, for his part, also told the Arizona Republic last month that he didn't believe Biden had carried the state. "No, the 2020 election was rotten, rigged, and corrupt," he insisted, continuing, "Never again will we sit by as the media, activist judges, and big tech openly work to rob a sitting president of an election." The candidate added, "As AG I will prosecute the election fraud of 2020 and secure the 2024 election so when Donald Trump runs and wins again in 2024, everyone will know it's legitimate." In a separate appearance with a local tea party group, Hamadeh argued, "I think we need to get tough on crime. Don't be picking on the little guy—but get tough on serious crime and not go after Kyle Rittenhouse."

While Trump has suffered some major losses in recent primaries, his support for Hamadeh could nonetheless give him a lift in a crowded contest that has lacked an obvious frontrunner. Hamadeh's intra-party foes are Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran; Rodney Glassman, a former Democrat who now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar; former prosecutor Lacy Cooper; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove. The winner will go up against former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes, who has no opposition in the Democratic primary.

Trump threw his backing behind Hamadeh months after he endorsed like-minded election deniers for governor and secretary of state, and the former prosecutor very much fits right in with the rest of the bunch.

Trump's candidate to replace termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey is Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist who has called for Arizona to take the legally impossible step of decertifying its 2020 results. And in the race to succeed Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is Team Blue's frontrunner for governor, Trump is all-in for state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Biden's victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Lake and Finchem, like Hamadeh, face several opponents in their respective primaries.

The Downballot

No state regularly hosts as many hotly contested elections as Wisconsin, which is why we're talking to state Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler about all of this year's key races on this week's episode of The Downballot. He tells us about everything his organization does to ensure year-round investment in Democratic infrastructure; details the state of play in the battle to defeat Sen. Ron Johnson and re-elect Gov. Tony Evers; and previews a critical race for the state Supreme Court next year that could flip control from conservatives to progressives.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap several recent elections, including Sarah Palin's first-place finish in the special primary for Alaska's lone House seat, the defeat of a pro-impeachment Republican congressman in South Carolina, and a special election where the GOP picked up a Democratic-held House seat in heavily Latino south Texas.

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

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: East Carolina University is out with the first general election polls of Georgia's marquee races since the primary three weeks ago, finding Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker tied 46-46 while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp leads Democrat Stacey Abrams 50-45.

The Senate numbers were released hours before the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger reported that Walker, who has been on the receiving end of a seemingly never-ending string of critical stories about his past, has a 10-year-old son he'd never publicly acknowledged. Walker's team confirmed the accuracy of the report about the candidate, who said in 2020, "I want to apologize to the African American community, because the fatherless home is a major, major problem."

Sollenberger writes that Walker, who was ordered to pay child support in 2014, "sends Christmas and birthday presents, [but] he otherwise has not played an active parental role in raising his second son." Sollenberger also says that this child has never spoken to Christian Walker, the candidate's 22-year-old son who has played an active role in the Senate race.

NC-Sen: SurveyUSA, working on behalf of WRAL, gives Democrat Cheri Beasley a 44-40 edge over Republican Ted Budd in its first look at North Carolina's crucial Senate race. That's a bit different than what two other pollsters found in the days following last month's primaries: East Carolina University put Budd ahead 49-42, while the Republican posted a smaller 44-42 edge in a Cygnal survey for the conservative Civitas Institute and John Locke Foundation.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Suffolk University's new poll for USA Today shows Democrat John Fetterman leading Republican Mehmet Oz 46-37 in race for U.S. Senate, while Democrat Josh Shapiro posts a smaller 44-40 advantage over QAnon ally Doug Mastriano in the contest for governor. This is the first look we've gotten at a Fetterman-Oz matchup since December of last year, as well as the very first public survey of the gubernatorial race.

Governors

FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo endorsed Rep. Charlie Crist a week after she ended her own campaign for governor in favor of running for Congress. Taddeo was Crist's running mate when he last ran for governor in 2014 and lost narrowly to Republican Rick Scott.

LA-Gov: Former U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington, a Republican who previously served as western Louisiana's U.S. attorney, tells LA Politics' Jeremy Alford that he's considering competing in next year's all-party primary for governor. Washington would be the first Black person elected statewide since Reconstruction. Two of those 19th century officeholders, Lt. Govs. Oscar Dunn and P. B. S. Pinchback, were the first African Americans to serve as acting governor of any state, though only Pinchback is usually credited as America's first Black governor.

NV-Gov: The hard-right Club for Growth has published an early June internal from WPA Intelligence that shows Joe Lombardo, who won the GOP primary Tuesday, edging out Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak 48-47. That's quite a bit better for Lombardo than the 43-31 deficit the University of Nevada, Reno gave him last month, though as we wrote then, that huge gap was likely due to Sisolak's greater name recognition.

NY-Gov: New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul two weeks ahead of the Democratic primary, a contest where Hochul has been the favorite all year.

OR-Gov: Political consultant Bridget Barton, who took third place with 11% in last month's Republican primary, announced this week she would back independent Betsy Johnson rather than support GOP nominee Christine Drazan. Barton explained her decision by declaring that, while Johnson will "stand up to Democrats," Drazan "tends to run away from conflict." Barton also argued that Johnson has a better chance to prevent Democrat Tina Kotek, whom she called "a woman who is dangerous," from winning the governorship.

TX-Gov: Quinnipiac's first Texas poll all year shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke just 48-43, a huge change from his 52-37 advantage in December. The school notes that this shift occurred following last month's school massacre in Uvalde, which is also reflected in the fact that respondents say they trust Abbott over O'Rourke on "gun policy" by a 47-43 margin—an even bigger drop from 60-33 lead on this topic in Quinnipiac's previous survey. These newest horserace numbers are also dramatically different than the 56-37 Abbott landslide that the Democratic firm Blueprint Polling recently found.

House

FL-01: Former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo said Wednesday that he would challenge far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz, who reportedly remains under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses, in the August Republican primary, adding that he'd spend $1 million of his own money on the effort. Lombardo, who like many in this military-heavy area is a veteran, argued, "Washington is broken because of people like Matt Gaetz. If you want to change Washington, send a Marine. I'll get the job done."

Lombardo didn't hold back on explaining why he believes Republican voters in this safely red constituency should eject Gaetz. "The people of Northwest Florida need a Congressman who will put them first," the challenger said in a statement that continued, "Matt Gaetz is a professional politician who has dishonored his constituents with unnecessary drama, childish gimmicks, and is reportedly entangled in a federal investigation for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old girl to the Bahamas." He added, "Displaying the highest level of arrogance imaginable, he hired pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's attorneys and used the money from his hard-working America-first donors to pay the bill."

FL-04: State Rep. Jason Fischer announced Tuesday that he was leaving the Republican primary for the 4th District and returning to the 2023 contest Duval County property appraiser, an office he'd been seeking before the new GOP gerrymander created an open seat in the Jacksonville area. Fischer quickly earned an endorsement for his resurrected campaign for appraiser from Gov. Ron DeSantis; Politico's Matt Dixon suggests that the governor had been instrumental in pressuring Fischer to get out of the House race in order to help another contender, state Sen. Aaron Bean. DeSantis, however, has not yet publicly taken sides in the race for the 4th.

FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna has released an internal from Spry Strategies giving her a 36-16 edge over attorney Kevin Hayslett in the August GOP primary for this Democratic-held open seat.

GA-10: We have less than a week to go before the Republican runoff for this safely red seat in northeastern Georgia and, even by 2022 standards, it's a truly nasty contest.

Businessman Mike Collins recently sent out mailers describing former state Rep. Vernon Jones, the Trump-backed former Democrat who would be the first Black Republican to represent Georgia in the House since Reconstruction, as a "RADICALLY ANTI-WHITE RACIST." Collins has also continued to attack Jones, who never represented any part of the 10th District in previous elective posts he's held, as an interloper and a phony. Jones, for his part, has run commercials depicting his rival, whose late father ​did ​previously represent the area, as a little boy whose only rationale for running is, "My daddy was in Congress."

Things escalated even further this week when Collins sent out a tweet that featured a picture of a rape whistle emblazoned with the web address for an anti-Jones site, an item that references an accusation of rape leveled against Jones in 2004​ (he was never charged), alongside an image of a gun. "Although some use a rape whistle for protection against sexual assault, a 9mm is the more preferred form of protection," wrote Collins. Jones in response filed a report with police in Morgan County arguing that his rival was encouraging "violence against me." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, "Authorities say they will not investigate."

Collins outpaced Jones 26-22 in the first round of voting last month, and we've seen no polls since then.

IL-03: Politico's Shia Kapos reports that VoteVets, which is supporting Chicago Alderman Gil Villegas in the June 28 Democratic primary, is spending $430,000 on a new ad that opens with the sound of gunfire before the narrator accuses state Rep. Delia Ramirez of wanting to "defund the Chicago Police Department immediately."

Kapos explains that this line of attack is based on a 2020 letter Ramirez signed accusing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot of using the force "to beat, arrest, and terrorize the demonstrators and journalists gathered in Grant Park tonight." That missive concluded, "We are ready to work to defund the Chicago Police Department immediately, and we call on our colleagues of conscience to join us." Ramirez this April said, "I'm not the 'Defund the police' candidate. I actually helped secure $200 million for violence prevention and pension benefits for police and firefighters."

MO-04: The influential Missouri Farm Bureau has endorsed cattle farmer Kalena Bruce in the August Republican nomination contest, which the Missouri Times says makes this the first time the group has ever taken sides in a primary for an open House seat. The move comes a week after Gov. Mike Parson also threw his backing behind Bruce.

WY-AL: The Club for Growth announced this week that it was backing attorney Harriet Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney in the August GOP primary and had launched a $300,000 ad campaign to support the challenger. The commercial reminds viewers that Donald Trump, whose relationship with the Club has soured in recent months, is supporting Hageman, and it features footage of Trump praising her as "a true champion for the people of this state."

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Maine:

ME-SD-07: Democratic state Rep. Nicole Grohoski held this Ellsworth-based seat for her party by defeating former GOP state Sen. Brian Langley 64-35 in a closely watched race, a margin that exceeded Joe Biden's 57-40 performance here. Democrats return to a 22-13 majority in the chamber ahead of Grohoski and Langley's rematch in November.

Election Recaps

SC-Gov: Former Rep. Joe Cunningham defeated state Sen. Mia McLeod 57-31 to win the Democratic nomination to take on Republican incumbent Henry McMaster. The governor will be the favorite in a state where Team Blue last won a statewide race in 2006.

ME-02: Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin will get his rematch with Democratic incumbent Jared Golden, but Poliquin's 60-40 win in the Republican primary against Liz Caruso, an underfunded member of the Board of Selectman for the tiny community of Caratunk, was surprisingly underwhelming for such a well-known politician.

It's possible that a significant number of Republicans are just tired of Poliquin, who lost re-election to Golden in a tight 2018 contest whose outcome he still refuses to recognize, but Caruso also had some important connections. Most notably, she was the spokesperson for the high-profile 2021 ballot initiative that succeeded in blocking the Central Maine Power hydropower corridor project. Caruso also spent the evening before the primary on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show; Carlson, notes the Bangor Daily News, is a part-time Maine resident and a fellow corridor foe.

NV-01: The Associated Press has called the Republican primary for Army veteran Mark Robertson, who defeated conservative activist David Brog 30-17. Robertson will now go up against Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in an eastern Las Vegas area where legislative Democrats—much to the frustration of the congresswoman—slashed Biden's margin from 61-36 to 53-45 in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer.

NV-04: The AP has also called the GOP primary for Air Force veteran Sam Peters, who beat Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41 in this constituency in the northern Las Vegas area. Peters lost the 2020 GOP primary to former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, a fellow Big Lie enthusiast who is now the party's nominee for secretary of state, but he'll now get his chance to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a redrawn seat that would have supported Biden 53-45.

SC-04: While sophomore Rep. William Timmons secured renomination in his safely red Greenville-area constituency, his 53-24 GOP primary victory over unheralded far-right foe Mark Burns left him surprisingly close to being forced into a runoff. (Burns took just 2% here when this seat, which barely changed following redistricting, was last open in 2018.) Timmons, unlike many other vulnerable Republican House members, had Trump's endorsement, and he doesn't appear to have taken any votes that would alienate a significant portion of the base.

However, the Greenville News notes that the congressman's opponents argued he was absent from his job. Timmons pushed back by citing his duties as a JAG officer in the South Carolina Air National Guard, but that explanation seems to have left a sizable minority of primary voters cold.  

NV-AG, NV-SoS: Two Big Lie promoters won their respective primaries for two crucial downballot offices in Nevada, attorney general and secretary of state. Attorney Sigal Chattah outpaced Tisha Black, who founded a cannabis industry trade group, 51-40 for the right to take on Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford, while in the race to succeed termed-out GOP Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant beat out developer Jesse Haw 38-20. Marchant will go up against former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar, who had no Democratic opposition.

Chattah has sued to undermine the state's pandemic response measures and has complained that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations. Team Blue very much wanted her as Ford's opponent, though, as a Democratic group ran radio ads slamming Black over her 2015 donation to now-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak while calling Chattah a "MAGA conservative." (Unlike similar efforts by Democrats elsewhere seeking to choose their opponents, these ads didn't merely "attack" Chattah in a backhanded way but openly called for her election.)

Marchant has been an even more full-throated Big Lie enthusiast, as the QAnon ally has insisted he would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 victory. Marchant also said on the campaign trail, "Your vote hasn't counted for decades. You haven't elected anybody," an amusing claim that makes you wonder how he himself was elected to the legislature.

During the race, he attracted notoriety by allying with conspiracist candidates in other states running to become chief election officials. Marchant was last on the ballot in 2020 when he was Team Red's nominee against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford last cycle in the 4th District, and he characteristically responded to his 51-46 defeat by baselessly claiming he was the "victim of election fraud" and unsuccessfully sued to overturn the results.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who unexpectedly decided not to seek re-election last year, has joined the Biden administration as a senior adviser and head of the White House Office of Public Engagement. The latter post was previously headed by Cedric Richmond, a former Louisiana congressman who left the White House in April.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Why this Washington Republican is running ads that sound like a Democrat’s

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

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WA-03: Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who faces a MAGA-fueled insurgency on her right flank, is taking a decidedly centrist tack with her first TV ad of the race. The spot stars a woman named Darsi Ross, who says two of her kids have diabetes and praises the congresswoman for "fighting to cap the cost of insulin and other prescriptions." Herrera Beutler was one of just 12 House Republicans who voted in favor of a key Democratic bill in March that would limit the cost of insulin to $35 a month. However, her fellow Republicans in the Senate have so far blocked the legislation.

Many Democrats have run ads touting the measure, so it's unusual to see a Republican do the same. But Herrera Beutler is likely hoping to win over Democratic support in Washington's Aug. 2 top-two primary, where multiple ultra-conservative candidates are hoping to exact payback for her vote to impeach Donald Trump last year. One of them, Army veteran Joe Kent, has Trump's endorsement and has raised considerable sums, but at a recent candidate forum, he fretted about disunity on the far right, noting that one rival, businesswoman Heidi St. John, had reneged on an earlier pledge to unite behind Trump's choice.

Disarray among Herrera Beutler's intra-party critics might not end up mattering, though. Democrats vigorously sought to challenge the incumbent in both 2018 and 2020, but they lack a strong candidate this time. That's left Herrera Beutler with an opening to pursue middle-of-the-road voters in the primary, with the ultimate goal of landing herself in an all-Republican general election, whether against Kent or someone else. (In Washington, as in California, all candidates from all parties run together on a single primary ballot, with the two highest vote-getters advancing, regardless of party.)

In November, then, Herrera Beutler would try to woo moderate Republicans as well as Democrats, many of whom would be inclined to prefer her to an extremist like Kent. In a closely divided district like southwestern Washington's 3rd, which Trump would have carried 51-46, the strategy may well work. It's not without risks, though, since a fired-up Trumpist campaign would win the support of most Republicans while many Democrats might skip the race altogether rather than vote for the lesser of two evils.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Florida's conservative Supreme Court has declined to block Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' new congressional map from taking effect this year, meaning elections will proceed using gerrymandered districts that heavily benefit the GOP. Last month, a trial court ruled on an interim basis that the map violated the state constitution by discriminating against Black voters and ordered an alternative plan be used, but an intermediate appellate court quickly stayed that ruling. A trial seeking to strike down the map remains pending, but even if the case is resolved in the plaintiffs' favor, new districts would not be used until 2024.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Donald Trump has endorsed former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters in the August GOP primary. Just like Trump's pre-primary endorsement of eventual Ohio GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance, Trump's endorsement of Masters again puts him on the same page as far-right venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a billionaire megadonor who has almost single-handedly helped Masters and Vance run competitive races by donating millions in outside support, which has totaled $13.5 million for Masters thus far.

Trump backing Masters is also an unsurprising rebuke of state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a primary rival whom Trump has repeatedly bashed for certifying the 2020 election outcome.

FL-Sen: A new Public Policy Polling survey for Giffords PAC, which has endorsed Rep. Val Demings, finds Republican Sen. Marco Rubio leading Demings 47-41. The results are similar to what we've seen from most other pollsters throughout the race.

GA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has dropped his first negative ad of the general election, highlighting one of the most bonkers things to ever come out of Republican Herschel Walker's mouth—and that's saying something. The entire spot features nothing but clips from a 2020 interview Walker did with far-right instigator Glenn Beck, and it really must be seen to be believed:

You know what, Glenn, I want to say something I probably shouldn't. Do you know right now I have something that can bring you into a building that would clean you from COVID as you walk through this, this dry mix. As you walk through the door, it will kill any COVID on your body. When you leave, it will kill the virus as you leave, this here product. They don't want to talk about that. They don't want to hear about that.

As Walker delivers his berserk pitch, on-screen text appears referencing a Daily Beast article from earlier this year headlined, "GOP Hopeful Herschel Walker Pushed Snake Oil Body Spray for COVID." According to Roger Sollenberger, Walker even managed to flummox Beck, who at one point did "a double-take" and soon changed the conversation. Chyrons aside, Warnock is obviously betting that Walker's words alone will be enough to alienate voters.

Governors

OH-Gov: Suffolk University, which recently released polling for Ohio's Senate race, has now also put out numbers for the state's gubernatorial contest. The survey finds Republican Gov. Mike DeWine leading Democratic nominee Nan Whaley 45-30, with Niel Petersen, a far-right pastor and Army veteran running as an independent, taking an unusually large 11% of the vote; 13% are undecided. This is the first public poll of the race conducted this year.

OR-Gov: The first-ever public poll of Oregon's open race for governor comes from Republican pollster Nelson Research, which finds the GOP's nominee, former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, edging out Democrat Tina Kotek, the former speaker of the state House, 30-28, with former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a conservative Democrat turned independent, taking 19% of the vote and 24% of voters undecided. It's not clear whether Nelson Research conducted this poll on behalf of a client or for itself.

MI-Gov: Businessman Perry Johnson has field an emergency appeal asking the state Supreme Court to reverse Wednesday's unanimous state Court of Appeals ruling that had rejected his bid to get onto the ballot after he and several other GOP candidates were disqualified from running last week over fraudulent voter petition signatures, though time is quickly running short with state officials facing a Friday deadline to finalize the August primary ballot. Citing that same Court of Appeals ruling, the lower state Court of Claims later on Wednesday also rejected former Detroit Police Chief James Craig's lawsuit to get onto the ballot, and Craig likewise vowed to appeal.

Meanwhile, Michigan Right to Life, which Bridge Michigan describes as the most influential anti-abortion group in state GOP politics, has endorsed right-wing radio host Tudor Dixon ahead of the August primary.

House

AZ-06: State Rep. Daniel Hernandez has publicized a new Impact Research poll of the Democratic primary for Arizona's open 6th Congressional District (the successor to the 2nd) that finds him leading former state Sen. Kirsten Engel 36-20, with 42% undecided. Only one notable Republican, former Doug Ducey advisor Juan Ciscomani, is seeking this seat, which Joe Biden would have carried by a bare 49.3-49.2 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App.

IL-01: The Chicago Teachers Union, which says it represents more than 25,000 members citywide, has endorsed businessman Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, in the crowded June 28 Democratic primary for this open seat.

IL-06: Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, which has backed more moderate Democrats against more progressive opponents in numerous contests this cycle, has launched a TV ad calling Democratic Rep. Marie Newman corrupt. The ad cites the Office of Congressional Ethics' conclusion back in January that there was "substantial reason to believe" Newman had violated government ethics rules and federal law by signing a contract promising a job in her congressional office to a potential primary opponent in exchange for him not running against her, which the OCE had forwarded to the House Ethics Committee since the OCE itself lacks the power to punish members for ethics violations.

The quid pro quo allegedly took place during Newman's successful 2020 primary challenge rematch against conservative Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski and involved professor Iymen Chehade, a progressive activist and former Newman policy adviser who later sued her for breach of contract after she didn't end up hiring him following the primary, which Newman narrowly won 47-45. Newman and Chehade ended up reaching a settlement and signing a nondisclosure agreement, and Chehade is waging a longshot Democratic primary bid for the open 3rd District this cycle.

MN-01: Despite filing to run in the regular August Republican primary earlier this week after losing last month's special election primary, former Freeborn County GOP chair Matt Benda says he is not actually running again, claiming that there were FEC "issues" with his failed special election campaign that he needed to resolve before withdrawing from the race and that he had filed to remove his name from the August ballot on Thursday.

State Rep. Jeremy Munson, who lost last month's special primary 38-37 to former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad, also raised eyebrows among Republicans by filing to run in the regular election despite endorsing Finstad and saying he may even leave politics following his loss in the special primary. However, MinnPost suggested that Munson, who has yet to comment on his intentions, may be running a ghost campaign in order to continue raising donations to pay back a $200,000 loan he previously made to his campaign during the special election.

NY-04: Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe has dropped out of the Democratic primary, citing the recent court-ordered redistricting map as detrimental to her chances of winning this open seat. Bynoe's departure leaves former Hempstead Supervisor Laura GIllen, fellow Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages, and Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett as the main candidates still running in the August Democratic primary.

NY-23: State GOP chair Nick Langworthy is reportedly circulating ballot petitions to run after Rep. Chris Jacobs kicked up a hornet's nest within the GOP by saying last Friday that he would support an assault weapons ban in the wake of recent mass shootings, though Langworthy has yet to address whether he's considering challenging the incumbent in the Aug. 23 primary. However, the filing deadline is quickly approaching on June 10.

One key vulnerability Jacobs may have is that he only represents 36% of the new district following redistricting. Another 58% of the new district comes from the existing version of the 23rd, which is presently vacant thanks to former GOP Rep. Tom Reed's resignation. While the upcoming Aug. 23 special election to replace Reed in the old 23rd will see GOP party chairs pick a nominee beforehand rather than that candidate gaining the support of GOP voters there by winning a primary, the eventual special election nominee or another Republican could still have a major opening to challenge Jacobs for a full term in the revised district thanks to geography.

SC-01: Rep. Nancy Mace has unveiled a new ad ahead of the June 14 GOP primary that opens with ominous notes on threats from authoritarian regimes in Russia, China, and Iran before going on to argue that voters can't trust former state Rep. Katie Arrington to "keep America safe," claiming that Arrington's Defense Department "top security clearance" was revoked because of concerns she had disclosed classified information.

Meanwhile, Arrington is firing back with a spot that ties Mace to Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to argue the incumbent is a liberal before showing footage of Trump bashing Mace at a rally and urging voters to reject her; Trump has previously endorsed Arrington.

VA-02: Winning for Women, which supports electing more GOP women to Congress and is backing state Sen. Jen Kiggans in the June 21 Republican primary, has publicized a Basswood Research poll that shows Kiggans holding a huge 43-9 lead over Air Force veteran Tommy Altman, with 2020 candidate Jarome Bell taking 8% and 40% of voters undecided.

Attorneys General

SD-AG: Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who faces an impeachment trial later this month, will not seek re-election this fall, according to unnamed sources who spoke with Dakota News Now's Austin Goss. In April, South Dakota's Republican-run state House voted to impeach Ravnsborg, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time. It would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove him from office.

Ravnsborg had resisted widespread calls from his own party to resign following the fatal crash, but he had yet to confirm whether he'd run for a second term. He had already been facing an intra-party challenge from his predecessor, Marty Jackley, who left office due to term limits in 2018. In addition, Dave Natvig, a top Ravnsborg deputy described by Goss as a "long-time political ally" of the incumbent, also kicked off a campaign last month. The GOP nomination will be decided at a party convention that starts on June 23—the day after Ravnsborg's trial is slated to end.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Pro-impeachment House Republicans all lead their challengers in recent fundraising

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

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Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our comprehensive roundups of fundraising data for the first three months of 2022 for both the House and the Senate. Our data includes the numbers for every incumbent (excluding those who've said they're not seeking re-election) and notable announced candidates.

Six of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year are running for re-election, and while they all have serious opposition, our fundraising charts show that they each ended March with a clear financial edge over their intra-party foes. The most prominent member of this group is Rep. Liz Cheney, who faces Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman and a few minor contenders in the August primary to serve as the sole representative for dark-red Wyoming.

Hageman hauled in $1.31 million, which even a few years ago would have been an unthinkably massive quarter for a House candidate, and had $1.06 million on hand. Cheney, though, lapped her by raising $2.94 million, and she finished with $6.77 million in the bank.

Over in South Carolina's 7th District in the Myrtle Beach area, meanwhile, Rep. Tom Rice outraised Trump's pick, state Rep. Russell Fry, $342,000 to $267,000, and the incumbent enjoyed a $2 million to $448,000 cash-on-hand advantage. The only other Republican who brought in a notable amount for the June primary was Horry County School Board chair Ken Richardson, who raised $112,000, self-funded another $500,000, and had $274,000 left. A runoff would take place if no one earns a majority of the vote.

We turn next to Michigan's 3rd in the Grand Rapids area, where Trump's forces have consolidated behind conservative commentator John Gibbs' bid to deny renomination to freshman Rep. Peter Meijer in August. The incumbent, though, outpaced Gibbs $544,000 to $123,000 for the quarter, and he ended March with a gigantic $1.51 million to $82,000 cash-on-hand lead. The winner will need to quickly focus on attorney Hillary Scholten in a seat that redistricting transformed from a 51-47 Trump constituency to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45: Scholten, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee, took in $483,000, and she had $470,000 available.

The three remaining contests are taking place in states that use the top-two primary system rather than party primaries. In California's 22nd District in the Central Valley, Republican Rep. David Valadao raised $405,000 for the quarter and has $1.64 million to defend himself in a southern Central Valley seat that Biden would have won 55-42.

Valadao's best-funded intra-party foe is former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, who brought in a mere $18,000 but had $310,000 on hand thanks to previous self-funding. The other Republican in the race is King County School Board Member Adam Medeiros, but he had just $36,000 in the bank. (Trump has yet to make an endorsement here.) The one Democrat on the ballot is Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who raised $252,000 and had $309,000 on hand.

Next up is southern Washington's 3rd District, where incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler took in $602,000 and finished with just over $2 million. The GOP's supreme master is supporting Joe Kent, an Army veteran who has defended Putin's invasion of Ukraine, but that endorsement hasn't deterred his fellow Republicans, evangelical author Heidi St. John and state Rep. Vicki Kraft. Kent outraised St. John $441,000 to $219,000 and finished March with a $1.07 million to $283,000 cash-on-hand lead; Kraft, though, had only $4,000 to spend. No Democrats have raised much, but Team Blue could still secure a general election spot in a seat Trump won 51-46.

The last member of this sextet is Rep. Dan Newhouse, who raised $218,000 and had $928,000 on hand in the neighboring 4th. Trump's pick is 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, a far-right ex-cop who took in just $46,000 and had $24,000 in the bank. The GOP field also includes businessman Jerrod Sessler, who raised only $9,000 but finished last month with $147,000 in the bank, and state Rep. Brad Klippert, who had all of $5,000 available. The most notable Democrat in this 57-40 Trump eastern Washington seat is businessman Doug White, who took in $124,000 and had $147,000 on hand.

There's far more to see nationwide, and you'll want to bookmark both our House and Senate charts.

THE DOWNBALLOT

Yes, it's a tough-looking midterm, but Democrats can still go on offense! The Downballot takes a deep dive into 10 House districts​ across the country where Republicans are vulnerable for a variety of reasons, whether due to redistricting, retirements, long-term demographic trends, or plain old GOP infighting. Our tour runs from the eastern tip of Long Island in New York all the way to sunny Southern California, with many stops in between.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also investigate Ron DeSantis' turbocharged gerrymander aimed at undermining Black representation; discuss two more Republican Senate primaries where Trump endorsements have made a mess of things; call out a Democrat for running an offensive ad that risks contributing to anti-Asian hatred; and take stock of upcoming elections in France and Australia. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you'll find a transcript right here by noon Eastern Time.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Florida's Republican-run state Senate, which previously said it would outsource its own authority over redistricting to Gov. Ron DeSantis, did just that on Wednesday when it approved DeSantis' new congressional map on a party-line vote. The map, an extreme gerrymander that would undermine Black representation, now goes to the state House.

Senate

AL-Sen: Former Business Council of Alabama leader Katie Britt is running a new ad ahead of the May 24 Republican primary where Britt says she learned to respect the Second Amendment growing up in Alabama. The commercial shows her at a shooting range shooting clay pigeon targets with a shotgun every time she mentions one of Joe Biden's supposed policies on topics such as taxes, inflation, immigration, and abortion.

GA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock's latest ad features the senator telling how he isn't a magician who can fix Washington overnight but instead has focused on providing more jobs, fixing infrastructure, and expanding healthcare.

NC-Sen: The Club for Growth is spending $1.5 million on a new ad where far-right Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson talks to the camera trying to portray former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory as a liberal, arguing he "put liberals in charge of state textbooks" and "backed liberal Democrat judges," after which Robinson says Rep. Ted Budd is the true conservative in the race. In an interview with WRAL, McCrory defended himself by arguing that state law required that he appoint members to the textbook commission recommended by the state education superintendent, who at the time was Democrat June St. Clair Atkinson.

OH-Sen: Far-right billionaire Peter Thiel has upped his support for Protect Ohio Values PAC, which is backing venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, adding $3.5 million on top of the $10 million donation he made last year.

Meanwhile, the Club for Growth began airing an ad against 2018 candidate Mike Gibbons last Friday, the same day Donald Trump endorsed Vance. The Club's spot intersperses clips of Gibbons and Joe Biden speaking about taxes to portray Gibbons as supportive of tax increases on the middle class.

State Sen. Matt Dolan also has a new ad where he touts his record of "cutting taxes, protecting Ohio jobs, securing the border, and funding the police" and contrasts it with the childish name calling by his primary opponents.

PA-Sen: Penn Progress, the James Carville-backed super PAC that is supporting Rep. Conor Lamb in the May 17 Democratic primary, is airing yet another ad that tries to paint Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as too extreme to win the general election by tarring him as a socialist. The PAC continues on this line of attack even though their first ad using that label was pulled off the air after it relied on an erroneous and since-corrected news report to falsely claim Fetterman is a "self-described socialist."

Touting Lamb's record as a former prosecutor and Marine who won three tough elections and fought Republicans to protect Social Security, the spot points out by contrast how Fetterman once sought an endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America and that he's been called a "silver spoon socialist." However, the narrator elides the fact that Fetterman didn't get that endorsement in part because he told DSA he doesn't identify as a socialist, and they downplay how the silver spoon quote comes from a former state Republican Party chairman.

Governors

IL-Gov: People Who Play by the Rules PAC, which is funded by billionaire megadonor Richard Uihlein, has a new GOP primary ad that goes after Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin over his past statements from 2021 supporting Black Lives Matter, making the baseless claim that BLM "destroyed cities" and arguing that Irvin supports a movement that stands for looting and defunding the police. Irvin has been trying to distance himself from those past statements, running an ad earlier this year where he calls himself a former "tough-on-crime prosecutor" and says, "All lives matter. It isn't about color."

LA-Gov: Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt has confirmed her interest in potentially running for governor next year, though she says a decision is likely months away.

NE-Gov: Businessman Charles Herbster has launched his first ad in the May 10 GOP primary since several women accused him of sexual misconduct last week, and it's a minute-long spot where Herbster doesn't acknowledge the scandal but says "the establishment" is lying about him just like they supposedly did with Trump.

In response to ads that have alleged he really lives out of state and paid his taxes late, Herbster argues he's a bona fide Nebraskan whose business successes don't stop at the state line. He claims early in his career that he once faced the tough choice of paying his employees or his taxes and chose the former but that he later paid "every penny" he owed in taxes and fees after turning his business around.

Another Republican, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, began airing a positive spot last week where he's surrounded by his young grandchildren who ask him policy questions on issues such as taxes, "amnesty," and inflation, with Pillen responding each time with a pig-related phrase such as "hogwash" or "when pigs fly."

OH-Gov: Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has debuted the first negative ad in the May 3 Democratic primary, comparing the performance of Cincinnati during his recent tenure with Dayton under former Mayor Nan Whaley, his primary rival. Cranley's spot points to Cincinnati's population growth (which was a rate of 4%  between the 2010 and 2020 censuses) in contrast to Dayton's decline (-3%) as evidence of his successful economic leadership and supposed mismanagement by Whaley. He argues he is the best Democrat to take on GOP Gov. Mike DeWine in the fall.

RI-Gov: Businesswoman Ashley Kalus is spending $109,000 to launch a minute-long ad that introduces herself to voters ahead of the Republican primary in September. The spot focuses on inflation, and Kalus speaks to the camera while rattling off a list of priorities such as making Rhode Island more affordable, protecting parental involvement in education, and fighting drug addiction and crime.

House

CA-41: The Democratic-aligned Welcome PAC is publicizing a poll from Tulchin Research taken in late February and early March that shows Democrat and former federal prosecutor Will Rollins holding a 42-41 lead over longtime Republican Rep. Ken Calvert in a suburban Riverside County district that Trump would have carried just 50-49. This is the first poll we've seen from anyone here.

Rollins has been endorsed by neighboring Democratic Rep. Mark Takano and former Sen. Barbara Boxer, and he raised $466,000 in the first quarter and started April with $618,000 in the bank. Another Democrat competing in the June top-two primary, engineer Shrina Kurani, raised $141,000, self-funded $9,000, and had $208,000 in the bank. Calvert faces only minor intra-party opposition, and he brought in $587,000 last quarter and finished with $1.4 million on-hand.

OH-11: Former state Sen. Nina Turner, who lost last year's special election Democratic primary to now-Rep. Shontel Brown, is out with a negative ad for next month's primary that argues the incumbent has a record of lining her own pockets while failing to do anything for voters.

Starting off by remarking upon how recent inflation has hit working families hard, Turner's spot claims that Brown "opposed Biden's plan" for a "living wage" and voted to raise her own pay by $7,000. The latter claim could lead viewers to believe the pay raise vote happened during Brown’s tenure in Congress while inflation ate up Ohioans' paychecks, even though the ad cites a 2016 vote from when she was on the Cuyahoga County Council.

Turner's spot then revives an unsubstantiated allegation she made during last summer's special election that Brown faced an ethics investigation after she "voted for millions in corrupt contracts." However, as we noted at the time, Turner's accusation that Brown was referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission relies on a story co-authored by left-wing essayist Walker Bragman, who notoriously wrote a 2016 piece headlined, "A liberal case for Donald Trump." But Bragman's own story acknowledged at the very end that the commission refused to "confirm or deny" any such investigation existed, and there was no reliable reporting as to whether it did.

PA-12: Former Pennsylvania Securities Commission head Steve Irwin's new Democratic primary ad shows him playing an accordion while the narrator contends that some in Congress merely "want to make noise" while others "want to work in harmony." They praise Irvin as someone who will protect voting rights, invest in vocational job training, and put Biden's infrastructure law to work "repairing our unsafe bridges."

TN-05: The Tennessee GOP's executive committee voted Tuesday evening to keep three candidates off the August primary ballot for not meeting the party's definition of a "bona fide" Republican: former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who is Trump’s endorsed candidate; businessman Baxter Lee; and music video producer Robby Starbuck. Ortagus responded, “Our team is evaluating the options before us,” while Starbuck declared, “The fight has only just begun.” Lee’s team, meanwhile, defended their man as a Republican “through and through,” but it didn’t say whether he’d be challenging his dismissal.

So what's the rumpus? The state GOP's bylaws state that, in order to be a so-called "bona fide" party member, a candidate must have voted in at least three of the last four statewide primaries or been "actively involved" in state or county Republican activities; Democrats have a similar requirement, except candidates only need to have participated in three of the last five nomination contests. Ortagus only moved to Tennessee last year from D.C., so she hasn't been there nearly long enough to meet this criteria, while Starbuck is in the same boat, since he relocated to the state just three years ago. Lee is more established, but his campaign says he was bounced because he hadn’t voted in a sufficient number of recent primaries even though he’d taken part in 10 of the last 12.

Party leaders can still vote to classify a candidate as "bona fide" if someone vouches for them or if a contender appeals the initial rejection. That’s just what the trio hoped would happen after they were initially kept off the ballot earlier this month, but the GOP’s executive committee didn’t go along: According to state party chair Scott Golden, 13 members of the 17-person body voted to keep Ortagus and Starbuck off, while 11 were against Lee. When the New York Times asked Golden if the decision was final, he said it was “possible the members could change their minds” before the deadline for a reversal passes Thursday at noon local time.

Ortagus infuriated powerful local Republicans when she entered the race for this newly gerrymandered seat in January, so much so that state Sen. Frank Niceley sponsored a bill that would impose a requirement that House candidates need to have voted in the previous three statewide general elections to be eligible to run. (The legislation, which appears to be unconstitutional, will not go into effect until next cycle because Gov. Bill Lee only allowed it to become law after the April 7 filing deadline.)

But Niceley took the dispute in a much uglier direction when he recently told NBC, “I don’t think Trump cares one way or the other” about Ortagus' candidacy. “I think Jared Kushner—he’s Jewish, she’s Jewish—I think Jared will be upset. Ivanka will be upset. I don’t think Trump cares.”

Ortagus, who is Jewish, fired back Tuesday night with a tweet saying that Niceley “should be ashamed of his repeated anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Niceley, who backs former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, was not ashamed, responding, “Attempting to construe my off-hand comments about the Trump family as antisemitism is unfair and inaccurate.” Last week, Nicely made headlines for a speech he gave on the Senate floor in which he said that Adolf Hitler should serve as an inspiration for homeless people.

Mayors

Washington, D.C. Mayor: Mayor Muriel Bowser has earned an endorsement from SEIU 32BJ, which represents property service workers, as well as UNITE HERE Locals 23 and 25, for the June Democratic primary.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Prosecutor: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted to name prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who is one of the three Republicans competing in this year's special election to succeed Alistair Adel, as interim county prosecutor, and she was sworn in later that day.

The other two Republicans competing in the August primary, Anni Foster and Gina Godbehere, had sought the appointment as well, and they reacted to the unfavorable Board decision in very different ways. Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel, tweeted that she "will make an announcement about my future plans in the coming days," while Godbehere declared she was leaving behind her post as prosecutor for the City of Goodyear "to pursue my candidacy." Whoever ultimately wins the GOP nod will take on Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who narrowly lost to Adel in 2020, for the final two years of the term.  

Obituaries

Former Rep. Brad Ashford, whose 2014 win gave Democrats their only victory in a Nebraska House race since the 1994 GOP wave, died Tuesday at the age of 72 two months after he announced that he had brain cancer. Ashford previously served as a Democrat, Republican, and independent during his two stints in the state's unicameral legislature, though as we discuss in our obituary, he was never fully at home in either party during his long career in local and national politics.

Ashford underwent his fourth and final party switch when he challenged Republican Rep. Lee Terry in 2014 in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District. The newly-reminted Democrat had a very tough task ahead of him especially as the political climate worsened for Team Blue, but Terry, who had declared during the 2013 government shutdown that he would keep taking his salary because "I've got a nice house and a kid in college," proved to be an especially weak incumbent.

This contest attracted over $1 million from outside groups on each side, and Republicans sought to protect their endangered incumbent by portraying Ashford as weak on crime. The GOP ran ad after ad charging that Ashford supported a law that would allow a Black inmate named Nikko Jenkins to get out of jail early for murder, messaging that Democrats compared with George H.W. Bush's still-infamous Willie Horton ads. Jenkins, though, gave Terry the most unwanted endorsement imaginable, when he used a hearing to proclaim, "Hey you guys, vote for Lee Terry! Best Republican ever!"

Ashford, who campaigned as a centrist, ultimately unseated Terry 49-46, which gave Democrats a rare pickup on an overall awful night, but his attempts to win another term failed. You can find far more on the many twists and turns of Ashford's long career in politics in our obituary.

Morning Digest: Oregon’s new congressional district brings some old characters out of the woodwork

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

Check out our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

OR-06: Two Oregon Republicans from yesteryear launched campaigns for the brand-new 6th Congressional District, a seat in the mid-Willamette Valley that Joe Biden would have carried 55-42, just ahead of Tuesday night's candidate filing deadline: former Rep. Jim Bunn, who was elected to his only term in a previous version of the 5th District during the 1994 red wave, and Mike Erickson, who was the 2006 and 2008 nominee for the next incarnation of the 5th. Bunn and Erickson join five fellow Republicans in the May 17 primary, while nine Democrats are also running here.

Bunn, who joined the state Senate in 1987, won a promotion to the U.S. House by winning a close open seat race as a "family values" candidate, but this victory proved to be the highlight of his political career. The new congressman married one of his aides just months after divorcing his wife of 17 years, and he soon promoted his new spouse to chief of staff and gave her a larger salary than any other Oregon congressional aide.

All of this made Bunn an appealing foil for Clackamas County Commissioner Darlene Hooley, a Democrat who also took the incumbent to task for his ardent opposition to abortion and gun safety. Hooley unseated the Republican 51-46; years later, he acknowledged that his brothers and even his soon-to-be-wife had cautioned him that the marriage could badly harm him politically, but that "I wasn't a bright enough person to listen and understand."

Bunn soon returned home and took a job as a prison guard at the Yamhill County Jail, which is one of the more unusual post-congressional career paths we've seen (though one dude served as a Capitol Hill elevator operator in the late 1930s), but he wasn't quite done trying to get back into office. In 2008 he ran for a state House seat, but he took third place in the primary with only 21%. Bunn last year applied to fill a vacant seat back in the state Senate, but party leaders chose someone else.

Erickson also has had a long career in Beaver State politics, though he's had even less success than Bunn. He lost general elections for the state House in 1988 and 1992, and his victorious opponent that second time was none other than now-Gov. Kate Brown. Erickson went on to challenge Hooley in 2006 but lost 54-43, and he tried again two years later when she retired from her swing seat.

First, though, he had to get through an ugly primary against 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix, who sent out mailers late in the race accusing Erickson of impregnating a girlfriend in 2000 and paying for her subsequent abortion. Erickson called these "unsubstantiated and untrue allegations," though he admitted he'd given the woman $300 and taken her to a doctor. Erickson narrowly won the primary but lost the general election 54-38 to Democrat Kurt Schrader. (And because this seems to be the year of Republican comeback campaigns in Oregon, Mannix is currently running for the state House.)

Given those histories it's likely that plenty of Republicans hope someone will beat Bunn and Erickson in the primary, but it remains to be seen if any of the other five primary candidates, all of whom began running last year, will emerge as the frontrunner. The contender who ended 2021 with the most money by far is Army veteran Nate Sandvig, though his $101,000 war chest wasn't very impressive. Well behind with $31,000 on-hand was state Rep. Ron Noble, who is a relative moderate. Also in the race are former Keizer city councilor Amy Ryan Courser, who challenged Schrader in 2020 in the 5th and lost 52-45; Dundee Mayor David Russ; and Air Force veteran Angela Plowhead.

Things are also far from defined on the Democratic side. The field includes state Reps. Teresa Alonso León and Andrea Salinas, who would each be the first Latina to represent the state in Congress; Alonso Leon would also be Oregon's first indigenous member. Salinas, for her part, has an endorsement from 1st District Rep. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who currently represents just over 40% of this new seat.

Also in the running are Cody Reynolds, a self-funder who has unsuccessfully run for office several times as an independent or third-party candidate (he was also once convicted of smuggling weed); economic development adviser Carrick Flynn; Oregon Medical Board member Kathleen Harder; former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who would Oregon's first Black representative; cryptocurrency developer Matt West; and two others who have attracted little attention so far.

Most of these contenders were also running last year. Reynolds finished 2021 with $1.96 million on-hand that came entirely from himself. West, who has also self-funded a large portion of his campaign, had $476,000 compared to $159,000 for Salinas, while Harder and Smith had $123,000 and $86,000, respectively. Alonso Leon and Flynn entered the race in the new year, and Flynn has already benefited from $1.4 million in outside spending from Protect Our Future, a super PAC backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

There are several other races to watch in Oregon this year, and now that filing has closed, we'll be running down the state of those contests below starting with OR-Gov. You can find a list of 2022 candidates from the state here.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we talk with Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run for Something, an organization she formed in the wake of the 2016 elections to help young, diverse progressives run for office across the country at all levels of the ballot. Litman tells us about the resources they offer to first-time candidates, some of Run for Something's biggest success stories, and her favorite obscure post that you might not even know is an elected position in many states.

We also spend time exploring a trio of different stories out of North Carolina—one concerning Madison Cawthorn, one about redistricting, and one, believe it or not, about Vladimir Putin—and bring you up to speed on the just-concluded presidential election in South Korea. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Senate

GA, OH, PA: Fox News has released new polls of Republican primaries in three states that are hosting races for both Senate and governor this year: Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All the data, which was collected by the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company, is below:

  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker: 66, Gary Black: 8
  • GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (inc.): 50, David Perdue: 39
  • OH-Sen: Mike Gibbons: 22, Josh Mandel: 20, J.D. Vance: 11, Jane Timken: 9, Matt Dolan: 7
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (inc.): 50, Joe Blystone: 21, Jim Renacci: 18
  • PA-Sen: David McCormick: 24, Mehmet Oz: 15, Kathy Barnette: 9, Jeff Bartos: 9, Carla Sands: 6, George Bochetto: 1, Everett Stern: 1
  • PA-Gov: Lou Barletta: 19, Doug Mastriano: 18, Dave White: 14, Bill McSwain: 11, Jake Corman: 6, Scott Martin: 3, Nche Zama: 1

All of these numbers are in line with other polling of each of these races, though DeWine's showing is the best he's posted to date. This is also the first survey from a reputable source to include Blystone, a farmer and first-time candidate running a chaotic campaign animated by the usual far-right grievances who could actually help DeWine by splitting the anti-incumbent vote with Renacci, a former congressman. It’s also worth noting that this poll did not include former Rep. Ron Hood as an option, while the Pennsylvania governor survey did not list former Rep. Melissa Hart and a few other minor contenders.

GA-Sen: A new survey from Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling finds Republican Herschel Walker leading Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock 49-45, which is the largest advantage for Walker anyone has found to date.

NC-Sen: Ruh-roh! Once again, Donald Trump is reportedly unhappy with a high-profile Senate candidate he's endorsed—in this case, North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, who continues to trail in polls of the GOP primary despite almost $4 million in outside spending on his behalf from the Club for Growth. Politico reports that those close to Trump speculate he's "grown to regret his early endorsement" and relays new audio of Trump asking state GOP chair Michael Whatley about the health of Budd's campaign—from the stage, in the midst of a delirious 84-minute speech at a recent RNC fundraiser in New Orleans.

"How's Ted Budd doing? OK?" Trump queried, before demanding, "All right, we gotta get Walker out of that race. Get him out of the race, Michael, right?" There's no word on whether Whatley shouted back from his spot in the audience, but Walker would be former Rep. Mark Walker, who's been floundering in third place, behind both Budd and the frontrunner, former Gov. Pat McCrory. Trump previously tried to lure Walker away from the Senate race with a reported offer to endorse him if he instead made a comeback bid for the House, but Walker didn't bite, and that ship has since sailed, as North Carolina's filing deadline closed last week.

Despite the former congressman's struggles, though, there's still (rather amazingly) a pro-Walker PAC called Awake Carolina that recently produced a poll of the race, which in turn fell into Politico's hands. The new numbers, from Ingress Research, show McCrory taking 29% of the vote to 18 for Budd and 11 for Walker, which is more or less where other surveys have shown the race.

Given the Club's massive spending—Politico says the group is increasing its pledge from $10 million to $14 million—it seems unlikely that Walker could catch Budd and become McCrory's main threat. That's doubly so given Walker's own poor fundraising and Trump's apparent antipathy for him. But if Trump grows as disillusioned with Budd as he has with Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, he could always switch horses.

The one trotter we can be pretty certain he'll never back, though, is McCrory, who just dropped a new ad that bashes Budd for praising Vladimir Putin—a man Trump continues to worship. This is both McCrory's first television spot of the race and one of the first we've seen raising the issue of GOP slavishness toward the Russian dictator: In the spot, McCrory charges, "As Ukrainians bled and died, Congressman Budd excused their killer," as footage of Russian destruction rolls.

Interspersed are clips of Budd calling Putin "a very intelligent actor" in a recent TV interview and saying, "There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank—we understand that." McCrory then attacks Budd for voting against sanctions on Russia and adds, "I don't compliment our enemies."

OH-Sen: State Sen. Matt Dolan's latest commercial for the May GOP primary features Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn and a retired police sergeant praising him as a friend of law enforcement.  

OK-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin's opening spot touts him as a conservative "fighter" and ends with an old clip of Donald Trump (from his infamous 2020 Tulsa rally no less) exclaiming that "you don't want to fight with him." Surprisingly, the ad doesn't actually touch on the congressman's time as a MMA fighter, though viewers will probably learn all about that before the June primary is over.

Governors

MD-Gov: Maryland Matters says that former nonprofit head Wes Moore is spending six figures on the first TV buy from anyone running in the June Democratic primary. The 30-second ad features the candidate telling the audience about his tough upbringing, saying, "When I was three, I watched my father die. I got handcuffs to my wrists by the time I was 11." He continues by talking about how he later became a Rhodes Scholar, an "Army captain in Afghanistan," and head of an influential anti-poverty group.

The 60-second spot has Moore discussing how much education mattered to his life and declaring, "Maryland has some of the nation's best public schools, but also some of its most neglected. We can't settle for that."  

ME-Gov: The RGA has given $3.87 million to the Maine Republican Party, which has reserved that same amount for fall TV time.

OR-Gov: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is termed-out of an office her party has held since the 1986 elections, and both parties have competitive races to succeed her. The eventual nominees will face an expensive general election against former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who has the most money of anyone the race.

There are 17 people competing for the Democratic nod, but only former state House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read appear to be running serious efforts. Kotek, who would be the first lesbian elected governor anywhere (Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey would also have that distinction if she won this year) has the backing of EMILY's List and several unions, including the SEIU and Oregon Education Association. Reed, who is the only candidate in the entire race who has been elected statewide, meanwhile is running as more of a moderate.

The 19-person GOP field is similarly crowded, but considerably more contenders appear to have a shot at winning the plurality needed to secure the nod. Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has raised considerably more money from donors than anyone else, while former state Rep. Bob Tiernan, who served two terms in the 1990s, entered the race last month by self-funding $500,000 and receiving another $500,000 in donations from a California-based real estate company.

The field also includes two former nominees, Bill Sizemore and Bud Pierce. Sizemore, who lost in a 1998 landslide and performed poorly in the 2010 primary, still has not reported any fundraising, though. Pierce, for his part, challenged Brown in a 2016 special election and lost 51-43. Also in the running are consultant Bridget Barton; businesswoman Jessica Gomez; Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten; and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, who made news last month when he acknowledged that he and his wife "explored mutual relationships with other couples."

House

CA-13: Agribusinessman John Duarte has announced that he'll compete as a Republican in the June top-two primary for this open seat in the mid-Central Valley, which Joe Biden would have carried 54-43.

CA-41: Former federal prosecutor Will Rollins' campaign against Republican incumbent Ken Calvert has earned an endorsement from Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, who is seeking re-election in the neighboring new 39th District. (Only about 2% of Takano's existing 41st District is located in the new seat with that number.)

FL-22: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis says he hopes to decide by the end of the month if he'll seek this open seat. Another local Democrat, Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen, has decided not to run, however.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur now has the support of all seven members of Maryland's Democratic House delegation in the June primary to take on Republican incumbent Andy Harris.

MN-05: Former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels has announced that he'll challenge incumbent Ilhan Omar in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around the city. Samuels, who previously considered running as an independent, argued that he and Omar are "both Democrats, but very often you wouldn't know it. When you build an infrastructure of contrarian divisiveness, even when you have good ideas, you can't get it passed because you don't have friends."

Samuels, who is originally from Jamaica, ran for mayor in the crowded 2013 instant-runoff election; he initially took third place with 11%, and he didn't rise much beyond that before he was eliminated in the penultimate 32nd round of tabulations. He returned to elected office the next year when he won a seat on the school board, and he retired in 2018.

Samuels, though, was far from done with politics. In 2020 he supported Antone Melton-Meaux, who went on to lose an expensive primary to Omar 58-39. Samuels last year was also one of the most high-profile opponents of Question 2, a ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety, while Omar was one of its most prominent backers. City voters rejected Question 2 by a 56-44 margin, and Samuels is now arguing that the congresswoman's stance demonstrates that "she's out of touch" with her constituents.

NC-11: State Sen. Chuck Edwards' opening spot for the May Republican primary focuses on his business background, conservative record, and "mountain values," which is a not-so-subtle swipe at Rep. Madison Cawthorn's failed attempt to district hop. In case that was too subtle, Edwards concludes that "this is my home, and it's worth the fight."

NY-24: Attorney Todd Aldinger has ended his Republican primary campaign against Rep. Chris Jacobs in this safely red seat in the Buffalo suburbs. A few other Republicans are still challenging the incumbent, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of putting up a serious fight.

OH-13: Gov. Mike DeWine has appointed former state Rep. Christina Hagan to the Ohio Elections Commission, a move that almost certainly means that the two-time GOP congressional candidate won't run again this year in the event that the state Supreme Court again orders new U.S. House boundaries.

OR-04: Veteran Rep. Peter DeFazio is retiring, and eight fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed him in a seat where legislative Democrats extended Joe Biden's margin of victory from 51-47 to 55-42. The primary frontrunner in this constituency, which covers the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon's south coast, appears to be state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who has endorsements from DeFazio, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and EMILY's List.

Another contender to watch is former Airbnb executive Andrew Kalloch; Hoyle ended 2021 with a $205,000 to $148,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Kalloch, though candidates had just weeks to raise money following the congressman's early December departure announcement. Corvallis school board Chair Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, who took 16% in a 2016 state House race as a third-party candidate, entered the Democratic primary in January, and he would be the state's first Muslim member of Congress.

The only Republican in the running is 2020 nominee Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard veteran whose 52-46 loss last cycle was the closest re-election contest of DeFazio's career. Skarlatos ended December with $348,000 to spend.

OR-05: Rep. Kurt Schrader, who has long been one of the loudest moderates in the Democratic caucus (last January, he had to apologize after comparing the idea of impeaching Donald Trump to a "lynching") faces a primary challenge from the left in the form of attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. There are no other Democrats running for this seat in the Portland southern suburbs and central Oregon, so she won't need to worry about splitting the anti-incumbent vote with other challengers.

McLeod-Skinner, who was Team Blue's 2018 nominee for the old and safely red 2nd District, would be Oregon's first LGBTQ member of Congress, and she also sports an endorsement from the Oregon Education Association. Schrader, for his part, represents just under half of the new 5th District, but the well-funded incumbent ended December with a massive $3.6 million to $208,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Six Republicans are also running for this constituency, which would have backed Joe Biden 53-44. The two most prominent contenders appear to be former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who lost two competitive races for the state House in 2016 and 2018, and businessman Jimmy Crumpacker, who took fourth place in the 2020 primary for the old 2nd District. Chavez-DeRemer finished last year with a $226,000 to $186,000 cash-on-hand lead.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco, who also chairs the county Republican Party, has joined the race for Pennsylvania's open 17th Congressional District. Under a local "resign to run" law, DeMarco will have to quit his current post by March 23.

TN-07, TN-05: Community activist Odessa Kelly, who'd been challenging Rep. Jim Cooper in the Democratic primary in Tennessee's 5th District, has announced that she'll instead run in the redrawn 7th against Republican Rep. Mark Green, following an extensive GOP gerrymander that cracked Nashville to make the 5th much redder and prompted Cooper to retire. Both seats now tilt heavily to the right, though the 7th is actually the tougher district: It would have voted 56-41 for Donald Trump, compared to a 55-43 Trump margin in the revamped 5th.

Secretaries of State

CO-SoS: Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has been one of the far-right's most prominent election deniers, was indicted by a state grand jury on Tuesday on felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly breaching the county's election systems during her attempt to demonstrate fraud in 2020. State GOP leaders responded by calling for Peters to suspend her campaign to take on Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Morning Digest: Texas progressive kicks off primary rematch against conservative House Democrat

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

TX-28: Immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros announced Thursday that she would seek a rematch against Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, a conservative Democrat who defeated her 52-48 in a very expensive 2020 primary. The current version of the 28th District, which includes Laredo, has been reliably blue turf for some time, but like other heavily Latino seats in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, it lurched hard toward Trump last year: Joe Biden won 52-47 in a seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 58-38, though Cuellar won his general election 58-39 against an unheralded Republican foe.

Cuellar is a longtime force in local politics who has spent his decades in public life frustrating fellow Democrats, and his nine terms in Congress have been no different. In 2014, for instance, the congressman joined with Republicans on legislation to make it easier to deport child migrants. During the first two years of the Trump administration, FiveThirtyEight found that Cuellar voted with the administration nearly 70% of the time, more than any other Democrat in either chamber.

Cuellar, who is the extremely rare Democrat to have ever been endorsed by the radical anti-tax Club for Growth, is also no stranger to crossing party lines. In 2000, he supported George W. Bush's presidential campaign, and in 2018 he came to the aid of a home state colleague, John Carter, during the Republican's competitive re-election fight in the 31st District.  

Campaign Action

While Cuellar inflamed national Democrats, though, he went over a decade without attracting a serious primary foe until Cisneros decided to challenge him from the left last cycle, but she quickly proved she could raise a serious amount of money for what turned out to be a pricey and nasty race. Cisneros went after Cuellar for his conservative voting record, with one ad declaring, "Not only did Cuellar vote for Trump's wall twice, but he's taken over $100,000 from corporations that build facilities and cages to detain families." EMILY's List also spent $1 million to back her, while many labor groups were in Cisneros' corner as well.

The congressman, meanwhile, ran a race that could have easily passed for a GOP campaign against the woman his team derided as "the Socialist Cisneros." He argued that Cisneros' support for environmental protection policies would destroy local oil industry jobs, and he aired a commercial arguing that she "supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents' knowledge."

Cuellar and his allies also tried to portray Cisneros, who was born and raised in South Texas and returned home after briefly practicing law in New York, as an outsider; one particularly ugly mailer from a pro-Cuellar group charged that the challenger was "bringing New York flavor to Texas," complete with pictures of "NYC Pizza" and "NYC Bagel."

Cuellar benefited from spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and, remarkably, the Koch network, the first Democrat ever to do so. Republican voters also likely pushed him across the finish line in what turned out to be a tight race: Texas does not have party registration, which left GOP voters who didn't participate in Donald Trump's uncompetitive primary free to vote in the Democratic race.

Cisneros kicked off her new campaign Thursday arguing that not only did Cuellar remain too conservative, he'd also done a poor job aiding his constituents during the pandemic: She specifically took him to task for helping obtain coronavirus testing kits for the district last year that turned out to be defective.

Cisneros' entry into the race attracted far more attention than her launch did two years ago, but that's not the only way that the 2022 primary will be different from last cycle's fight. Perhaps most importantly, no one knows what this constituency will look like after the GOP legislature finishes redistricting, much less whether map makers will try to make it more Republican. And even if the new 28th District doesn't change much, Trump's gains last year could leave some Democrats nervous about losing Cuellar as their nominee.

One other factor is that while the 2020 race was a duel between Cuellar and Cisneros, next year's race could be more crowded. One other contender, educator Tannya Benavides, kicked off her own campaign in mid-June: While Benavides brought in just over $10,000 over the next few weeks, her presence on the ballot could make it tougher for anyone to win the majority of the vote they'd need to avoid a primary runoff.

Cuellar, for his part, raised $240,000 during the second quarter of 2021 and ended June with $1.7 million in the bank. That's considerably less than the $3 million he had available at this point in the 2020 cycle, but it does give him a big head start ahead of his rematch with Cisneros.

Redistricting

Redistricting: Mark your calendars: The U.S. Census Bureau will release the population data essential for redistricting at a press conference on the afternoon of Aug. 12. The deadline was originally set for April 1, but it was delayed because of disruptions from the pandemic.

Senate

GA-Sen: CNN reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of the many prominent Republicans who is worried that former football star Herschel Walker will jeopardize Team Red's chances against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock should he run, and that he's hoping one prominent name will reconsider his plans to stay out of the race. Former Sen. David Perdue took his name out of contention back in February, but CNN writes that ​​McConnell "has suggested to allies" that he'd like for Perdue to switch course.

Perdue met with McConnell last month in D.C., and while we don't know exactly what was discussed, it's a good bet this contest came up. Perdue himself ignored questions at the time inquiring if he'd run again, and CNN says he also attended a party donor dinner on that trip and "indicated he had nothing to say about whether he would launch another Senate campaign."

The story also says that McConnell would like it if another former GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler, ran as well. Loeffler, unlike her ex-colleague, has shown some public interest, but it's not clear if she's willing to take on Walker if he gets in. An unnamed source did tell CNN that Loeffler would "likely" run should Walker, whom Donald Trump has been aggressively trying to recruit, ultimately stay out, though that would hardly solve McConnell's immediate dilemma.

A trio of notable Peach State Republicans are already in, and McConnell reportedly will be meeting with at least some of them. The top fundraiser so far is banking executive Latham Saddler, who raised $1.4 million and ended June with $1.1 million to spend. State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, meanwhile, brought in just over $700,000 during his opening weeks and had $680,000 in the bank. Businessman Kelvin King, finally, took in $380,000 from donors, self-funded an additional $300,000, and had $570,000 on-hand.

So far, Black has been the only one to attack Walker, though he hasn't yet brought up the allegations that his would-be rival threatened to kill his ex-wife in 2005. Instead, the commissioner released a digital ad this week making fun of a video where Walker, a longtime Texas resident, got out of a car sporting what appeared to be his new Georgia license plate. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that plate is suspended.) "For fun, my ride's a tractor," said Black, "And I've had Georgia plates all my life."

Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will be in for an expensive race against Warnock, who remains a strong fundraiser months after his January special election win. The senator brought in $6.9 million during the second quarter, and he had $10.5 million on-hand.

Governors

AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey raised $525,000 during July ahead of a potential Republican primary challenge from state Auditor Jim Zeigler, and she had $1.7 million on-hand. Zeigler, who says he'll announce if he'll run on Aug. 21, did set up a fundraising committee this week, though he says state law required him to do that because his GoFundMe campaign fundraiser brought in more than $1,000.

CA-Gov: SurveyUSA's first poll of the Sept. 14 recall election shows two very unexpected outcomes: a majority of voters are ready to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom, but a fellow Democrat leads in the race to replace him.

While almost every other poll has found at least a plurality of voters saying they'll vote against firing Newsom, SurveyUSA has a 51-40 majority in favor of the pro-recall yes side. Recent numbers from UC Berkeley and Core Decision Analytics showed the anti-recall side ahead 50-47 and 49-42, respectively―closer than Democrats might feel comfortable with, but nowhere near as bad as what these newest numbers show.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, SurveyUSA finds Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a financial analyst who is best known for his YouTube videos about personal finance, leading conservative radio host Larry Elder 27-23 in the race to replace Newsom. Both the aforementioned polls found Elder ahead of other Republicans, with Paffrath, who has no establishment support, taking a mere 3% of the vote.

We always caution that you should never let one poll determine your outlook of a race, and that's especially true when that poll has such startling results. We'll almost certainly get more numbers here before too long, though, which will give us a better idea of the state of next month's race.

HI-Gov: Honolulu City Councilwoman Andria Tupola, a Republican, announced Wednesday that she would not run for governor next year. Tupola was Team Red’s 2018 nominee against Democratic Gov. David Ige, a contest she lost 63-34.

Tupola is the only Republican who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for this office so far, which Republicans have not won since 2006.

IL-Gov: Kirk Dillard, who heads the board of directors for the Regional Transportation Agency, said on Wednesday that he was considering seeking the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker next year. Dillard was the runner-up in the 2010 and 2014 Republican primaries for this seat, losing both races by narrow margins.

NH-Gov: John DiStaso of WMUR writes that some New Hampshire Democrats are urging Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington to run for governor next year. There’s no quote from Warmington about her 2022 plans, though DiStaso also relays that she’s focused on her current job, which is not a no.

Warmington is the lone Democrat on the five-member Executive Council, a body that is key for certain legislation along with approving executive and judicial appointments. Currently, Democrats do not yet have a notable candidate for this seat, though Rep. Chris Pappas and 2020 nominee Dan Feltes have not ruled out bids.

NY-Gov: Following Tuesday’s bombshell release of the state attorney general's investigation report concluding that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, five New York district attorneys have confirmed that they’re investigating sexual harassment allegations against the governor, with two of them saying that they’ve already opened criminal investigations. Cuomo may have more immediate worries, though, as the Associated Press reports that 86 of the 150 members of the state Assembly say they support opening impeachment proceedings.

If a majority of the lower chamber votes to impeach him, Cuomo’s powers would be temporarily transferred to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul; the governor would only regain his powers if he manages to avoid conviction in the Senate. It will likely be a little while, though, before impeachment can start. The Democratic-run Assembly has given Cuomo until Aug. 13 to submit evidence in his defense, and two members of the Judiciary Committee, Tom Abinanti and Phil Steck, tell the AP they expect the chamber’s investigation to end in “weeks or a month.”

The pair said that plenty of their colleagues want Cuomo impeached much faster following the release of Attorney General Tish James’s report. However, they argued that the Assembly needs time to build a strong argument for the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats and would ultimately decide Cuomo’s fate.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said that should the Assembly vote to impeach, his chamber could begin Cuomo’s trial weeks later. As we’ve written before, members of New York’s highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, would also sit as jurors. Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would not participate, however, because she is second in the line of succession after the lieutenant governor. As a result, the jury would consist of seven judges—all of whom are Cuomo appointees—and 62 senators, with a two-thirds majority, or 46 votes, needed to convict the governor and remove him from office.

Cuomo could avoid all this by resigning, but he’s continued to proclaim his innocence and refuse to quit. The governor was similarly defiant in March as more and more allegations surfaced about his behavior and other alleged abuses in office, but while he had enough allies back then to hang on, his situation has very much deteriorated following James’ Tuesday press conference. Several longtime Cuomo backers, including state party chair Jay Jacobs and the state’s influential unions, have turned against him, and the New York Times notes that he has very few prominent defenders left.

Indeed, Cuomo’s most high-profile advocate at this point may be disgraced Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who characteristically compared Cuomo’s situation to the multitude of allegations leveled at his old client. Giuliani’s son, former White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, announced earlier this year that he’d run against Cuomo.

House

FL-20: State Sen. Bobby Powell said Wednesday that he would support state Rep. Bobby DuBose rather than compete in November's special Democratic primary. The filing deadline is Aug. 10.

MO-07: GOP Rep. Billy Long kicked off a Senate bid earlier this week, and several Republicans have already been mentioned or expressed interest in replacing the six-term congressman in this 70-28 Trump seat.

State Sen. Mike Moon, former state Sen. Jay Wasson, and physician Sam Alexander all indicated they were considering getting in. State Sen. Lincoln Hough, whom the Missouri Independent mentioned as a possible candidate on Wednesday, also did not rule out a bid. State Rep. Cody Smith and former state Sen. Gary Nodler likewise did not rule out bids, but both sound unlikely to run.

State Sen. Bill White, former state House Speaker Elijah Haahr, Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, and former state Sen. Ron Richard all said they would not enter the contest, while former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison was mentioned as a possible candidate by St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum.

Mayors

Cleveland, OH Mayor: EMILY’s List has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Sandra Williams for mayor of Cleveland.

Morning Digest: How Ossoff and Warnock ran up the score to turn Georgia blue and flip the Senate

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-CD: With Democrats officially regaining control of the Senate on Wednesday, Daily Kos Elections is pleased to release the results of Georgia's Jan. 5 regular and special Senate runoffs, as well as the contest that same day for state Public Service Commission, for each of the state's 14 congressional districts. To help you follow along, we've put together a sheet with the results of each of these contests, as well as the 2020 presidential race.

Raphael Warnock defeated appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler 51.0-49.0 in a special election for the final two years of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson's term, while fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff beat Republican Sen. David Perdue by a slightly narrower 50.6-49.4 in the contest for a regular six-year term. At the same time, though, Republican incumbent Bubba McDonald won re-election to the Public Service Commission by fending off Democrat Daniel Blackman 50.4-49.6.

Warnock, Ossoff, and McDonald each won the same six Democratic-held House seats that now-President Joe Biden took two months before when he was winning 49.5-49.3, while the remaining eight Republican-controlled constituencies voted for all of the GOP's statewide candidates. However, there were some notable differences in how each of these four Democrats performed that we'll briefly discuss.

Campaign Action

Ossoff ran ahead of Biden's November margin in 10 of the 14 seats, while Warnock outran Biden in 11, though in the runoffs, of course, there were no third-party candidates. The one seat where Warnock did better than Biden by margin but Ossoff didn't is the Atlanta-based 5th District, which is held by freshman Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, though the differences were extremely small.

Ossoff and Warnock's biggest overperformance compared to Biden was in Democratic Rep. David Scott's 13th District in the southwestern Atlanta suburbs, where the two ran about 4-5 points ahead of the top of the ticket. Interestingly, both Senate candidates also eclipsed Biden in the 7th District, a historically red seat in the northeast Atlanta area that Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux flipped last year.

A bit surprisingly, both Ossoff and Warnock did a little better in the 7th than in Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath's 6th District, another former conservative stronghold in the Atlanta suburbs that has swung hard to the left in recent years. This seat also represented the largest underperformance for both Senate candidates compared to Biden, just as it did in November, despite the fact that Ossoff ran in the famous 2017 special election here; on Jan. 5, Ossoff trailed Biden by 6 points and Warnock trailed him by five.

Warnock also ran ahead of Ossoff in all 14 congressional districts. The largest gap was in the 6th District, where, as noted just above, Warnock did two points better, while the smallest was in Republican Rep. Buddy Carter's 1st District in the Savannah area, which saw almost no difference.

One important reason the two Democrats prevailed is that, while turnout unsurprisingly dropped from November to January in every congressional district, Team Blue was better able to mobilize its voters for the second round. As our map shows, Perdue hemorrhaged votes in heavily Republican seats, while Ossoff's dropoff was smaller in the very blue districts that ring Atlanta.

In fact, the site of Perdue's second-worst falloff (by just a hair) was rural northwest Georgia's 14th District, the new home of notorious insurrectionist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—and the site of an election eve rally by a certain resident of Mar-a-Lago. There, in what should have been the heart of GOP country, Perdue's turnout plummeted 12.5%.

Turning briefly to the race for Public Service Commission, Blackman ran behind Biden in 11 districts. The largest source of Democratic downballot underperformance was again in the 6th District, which may indicate that this area has plenty of voters who have turned against the GOP in presidential races but are still open to supporting Republicans in other races. Blackman's best seat compared to Biden was, like Warnock's and Ossoff's, also the 13th District.

Senate

CA-Sen, GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: In one of her first acts after being sworn in on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris in turn administered the oath of office to the Senate's three newest Democratic members: Alex Padilla of California and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. With that act, the Senate returned to full strength, with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, but because of Harris' tie-breaking vote, Democrats retook control of the chamber. As a result, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to the post of majority leader, making him the first Jewish person to hold the job.

Both Padilla and Warnock will go before voters again in 2022, while Ossoff will not face re-election until 2026.

FL-Sen, FL-01: Rep. Matt Gaetz, a leading insurrectionist and peddler of the lie that left-wing forces were responsible for the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, says he has "no interest" in running against Sen. Marco Rubio in next year's Republican primary after a GOP official at the other end of the state talked up the idea to a local reporter. However, Gaetz added that he "would consider running" for state Agriculture Commissioner, a post currently held by Democrat Nikki Fried. If Gaetz were to seek a promotion, that would prompt an open-seat race for his heavily red 1st District, located in the Florida panhandle.

NC-Sen: The New York Times reported on Tuesday that, just hours before the new administration took office, the Justice Department told Republican Sen. Richard Burr that it would drop an investigation into allegations that he engaged in insider trading last year after receiving classified briefings as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The paper says, however, that a parallel SEC inquiry may still be ongoing. Burr long ago announced that he would retire next year, but last month he ever-so-slightly re-opened the door to a bid for a fourth term.

Governors

AK-Gov: Activists seeking to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who put their campaign on hold last year when the coronavirus made signature-gathering very difficult, say they plan to restart their effort with vaccination now underway. Organizers say they will seek to collect petitions both by mail and safely in person.

Before pausing, recall proponents said they'd obtained almost 50,000 signatures, meaning they'd need at least 22,000 more to hit the threshold required to commence a recall election. If successful, officials would have to schedule an election 60 to 90 days after all signatures are verified, a process that can take up to 30 days. A bipartisan coalition kicked off the process in 2019, furious with Dunleavy's draconian budget cuts, including a retaliatory reduction in funds for the Alaska Supreme Court after it ruled against him in an abortion rights case.

While Dunleavy is on the ballot in 2022, one organizer explained the renewed push by saying, "There's so many things, so many reasons why two more years is way too long." If Dunleavy is ultimately removed from office, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a fellow Republican, would take his place.

NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom recently told the Lincoln Journal Star that he was leaning towards running to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out-Gov. Pete Ricketts, but that he wouldn't be making any announcements until the legislative session ends in late May.

Lindstrom, who played as a walk-on for the University of Nebraska's football team in the early 2000s, got his start in electoral politics in 2012 when he ran against then-Rep. Lee Terry in the GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional District, a contest where Terry prevailed 59-23. Lindstrom successfully won an Omaha area state Senate seat two years later, and as the online magazine Ozy wrote in a 2017 profile, he's occasionally defied his party's far-right orthodoxy.

Lindstrom was the crucial vote to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska during his first year in office, a stance that led to at least one death threat. (Ricketts and his allies successfully promoted a ballot measure to reinstate capital punishment.) Lindstrom also backed workplace protections for LGBTQ people and voted to override Ricketts' veto of a gas tax.

House

OH-11: Former state Sen. Shirley Smith announced this week that she would enter the Democratic primary if there's a special election to succeed Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is President Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Smith joins ex-state Sen. Nina Turner, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, and former Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson in the contest for this safely blue seat which, according to new Daily Kos Elections data, backed Biden 80-19.

Smith has a long career in Cleveland politics going back to her 1998 election to the state House and her subsequent service in the upper chamber. Smith was termed-out in 2014 and ran for Cuyahoga County executive, but she lost the Democratic primary to the eventual winner, Armond Budish, by a 56-20 margin.

WY-AL: Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, just earned a primary challenge from state Sen. Anthony Bouchard as a result of her vote to impeach Donald Trump last week. Bouchard slammed Cheney in his kickoff, saying her "long-time opposition to President Trump and her most recent vote for impeachment shows just how out of touch she is with Wyoming."

The Casper Star-Tribune describes Bouchard as a gun activist and says he's "built a reputation in the Wyoming Legislature as one of its most conservative members." Politics1 also reports that on social media, Bouchard has been "a vocal fan" of two of the most extreme Republican members of the House, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.

Legislative

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Alabama:

AL-HD-33: Republican Ben Robbins defeated Democrat Fred Crum 68-32 to hold this Sylacauga-area seat for the GOP. This district became vacant when former Rep. Ron Johnson died last year. Robbins' victory was a very slight improvement for Team Red from Johnson's 67-33 win in his final race in 2018.

This makeup of this chamber is now 76-28 in favor of Republicans with one other seat vacant.

Prosecutors

Criminal Justice: 2021 will feature contests for district attorney and sheriff in a number of major counties, and the Appeal's Daniel Nichanian is out with a detailed preview of what to watch this year as criminal justice reformers look to make more inroads and defend influential allies.

One early test will take place on May 18 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where one of the most prominent reformers in the country, District Attorney Larry Krasner, faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from former prosecutor Carlos Vega. Vega has been a loud critic of the incumbent, whom he argues has been running "an experiment that is costing the lives of our children." The winner of the Democratic nomination should have no trouble in the November general election in this heavily blue city.

Another very high-profile race is also underway in Manhattan, where the winner of the June 22 Democratic primary will also be the heavy favorite. Incumbent Cy Vance has yet to announce if he'll seek a fourth term, but New York City politicos almost universally expected him to retire even before they learned he'd raised just $2,000 during the second half of 2020.

Eight fellow Democrats are currently competing to replace Vance, and with the exception of attorney and former prosecutor Liz Crotty, all of them have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much needed changes to the office. There's no obvious frontrunner at the moment in what's already an expensive race.  

There's plenty more to watch across the country this year, and you'll want to check out Nichanian's preview of this year's major criminal justice contests.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Defense One reported Tuesday that former Rep. Max Rose, a Democrat who lost his bid for a second term last year in New York's 11th District, would take a job in the Biden Defense Department as an advisor on COVID-19. Rose, who previously served in the Army in Afghanistan, does not require Senate confirmation.  

Where Are They Now?: On his way out the door, Donald Trump issued pardons to three former Republican congressmen who had been convicted in a trio of unrelated public corruption scandals: Arizona's Rick Renzi, California's Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and North Carolina's Robin Hayes. Trump also commuted the sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat who had served six years of a 28-year sentence for corruption.