Morning Digest: Trump backs longtime coal operative in Ohio special election for red House seat

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

OH-15: Donald Trump waded into the crowded August Republican primary to succeed former Rep. Steve Stivers by endorsing coal company lobbyist Mike Carey on Tuesday.

Trump's decision came days after Stivers, who officially resigned from this very red suburban Columbus seat last month, backed state Rep. Jeff LaRe. That move, as well as Stivers' decision to use his old campaign committee to air ads for the state representative, briefly made LaRe the primary frontrunner; another candidate, state Rep. Brian Stewart, subsequently dropped out and acknowledged he didn't think he could compete against his Stivers-supported colleague. Trump's support for Carey, though, likely upends this contest.

Carey himself doesn't appear to have run for office since his 1998 defeat in an eastern Ohio state House seat against the late Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who went on to represent that area in Congress from 2007 to 2011, but he's long been influential in state politics.

Campaign Action

Back in 2011, Politico described Carey, who worked as an operative for the state coal industry, as "a one-man wrecking ball for Democrats who have strayed too far green for voters' liking." It noted that Carey's political organization ran TV ads in Ohio in 2004 savaging the Democratic presidential nominee as "John Kerry, Environmental Extremist," and he also targeted Barack Obama four years later.

Carey went on to work as a lobbyist for the coal giant Murray Energy, which was renamed American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc. last year after it emerged from bankruptcy protection. The company and its leadership has long been a major foe of environmentalists in Ohio and nationally, with former chief executive Robert Murray, a close Trump ally, lavishly funding global warming deniers.

Senate

AK-Sen: A new poll from Change Research for the progressive group 314 Action finds Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski faring poorly under Alaska's new top-four primary. In a hypothetical matchup against fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka (who is running) and independent Al Gross (who unsuccessfully ran for Senate last year with Democratic support and is considering another bid), Tshibaka leads with 39%, while Gross takes 25 and Murkowski just 19. John Wayne Howe of the far-right Alaska Independence Party would get 4%, and 12% are undecided.

Murkowski would still advance to the general election in this scenario, since, as the name implies, the four highest vote-getters in the primary move on, but she'd do no better then. To reduce the risk of spoilers, November elections will be decided via ranked-choice voting, but in a simulated instant runoff, Tshibaka would beat Gross 54-46. 314 Action, which endorsed Gross last cycle, is arguing that the poll suggests that Murkowski's weakness offers Democrats an opening, but Tshibaka's performance—and recent history—show just how tough it is for Democrats to win statewide in Alaska.

AL-Sen: The Club for Growth has dusted off a late April poll from WPA Intelligence showing Rep. Mo Brooks leading businesswoman Lynda Blanchard by a wide 59-13 margin in next year's GOP Senate primary, with Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt at 9 and 19% of voters undecided. (The survey was conducted well before Britt, who just kicked off her campaign the other day, entered the race.) The Club hasn't endorsed Brooks yet, but sharing this poll is a signal that it may do so.

FL-Sen: On Wednesday, several weeks after a consultant said Rep. Val Demings would run for Senate, Demings herself made her campaign against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio official. Demings, who was a manager during Donald Trump's first impeachment trial and reportedly was under consideration as Joe Biden's running-mate last year, is by far the highest-profile Democrat to enter the race, though she faces Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and (apparently?) former Rep. Alan Grayson for the nomination.

OH-Sen: A new poll of next year's GOP Senate primary in Ohio from former state Treasurer Josh Mandel unsurprisingly finds Mandel leading former state party chair Jane Timken 35-16, with all other candidates (actual and hypothetical) in the mid-to-low single digits and 34% of voters undecided. The survey, from Remington Research, is likely intended as pushback to a recent set of Timken internals from Moore Information that showed her gaining on Mandel, the newest of which had Mandel up just 24-19.

Governors

MI-Gov: A new poll from the Michigan Republican Party from Competitive Edge finds former Detroit police Chief James Craig (who hasn't actually kicked off a campaign yet) leading Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 45-38 in a hypothetical test of next year's race for governor. Somewhat strangely, the survey also finds Whitmer beating Army veteran John James, who lost back-to-back Senate bids in 2018 and 2020 (and also hasn't announced a gubernatorial run), by a 50-45 margin.

These numbers are peculiar for two reasons: First, why would the state GOP want to make a prominent potential recruit like James look less electable—unless party leaders actually would prefer he stay out of the race, that is? The second oddity is the data itself. The 12-point difference in Whitmer's share as between the two matchups suggests that Craig, who's never run for office before, has an ability to win over Democratic voters so strong as to be almost unique in American politics today.

This extremely bifurcated take also stands in contrast to an independent poll last month from Target Insyght for the local tipsheet MIRS News, which found Whitmer up 48-42 on Craig and 49-39 on James. We'll need more polling before we can get a better sense of where things stand, but in today's extremely polarized political environment, the results from Target Insyght make much more sense than those from Competitive Edge.

NJ-Gov: Just hours before polls closed in the Garden State for Tuesday's primary, Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics released a poll of a matchup between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli that showed Murphy comfortably ahead 52-26. The survey found 10% of respondents undecided and an additional 11% who declined to choose either candidate.

The poll only pitted Murphy against Ciattarelli, a matchup that's no longer hypothetical since Ciattarelli secured the GOP nod with 49% of the vote on Tuesday and Murphy faced no intra-party opposition.

OR-Gov: Businesswoman Jessica Gomez has joined next year's race for governor, making her the second notable candidate to seek the Republican nod after 2016 nominee Bud Pierce. Gomez has run for office once before, losing an open-seat race for the state Senate to Democrat Jeff Golden 55-45 in 2018.

PA-Gov: The Associated Press reports that Republican strategist Charlie Gerow is considering a bid for governor, though there's no quote from Gerow himself. Gerow's run for office twice before, losing bids in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania's old 19th Congressional District in both 1996 and 2000. (The closest successor to the 19th is the present-day 10th District, as both are centered around York and Cumberland counties.)

VA-Gov: With the general election matchup between former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin now set, Youngkin immediately began attacking his opponent, releasing two ads the day after McAuliffe clinched his party's nod.

The first commercial prominently features former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who finished second in the Democratic primary, and shows several clips of her criticizing McAuliffe. Youngkin appears at the end to call himself "a new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia". However, before the ad even had a chance to air, Carroll Foy had already unambiguously endorsed McAuliffe's bid for a second term as governor.  

The second spot follows a similar theme of a "new day". It begins showing a legion of grey-haired white men in suits while Youngkin's voiceover decries "the same politicians taking us in the wrong direction". Youngkin, a younger, less-grey white man wearing a vest, then appears amid the crowd to describe the policies he would pursue as governor.

House

TX-08: Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Texas' open 8th Congressional District, says he won't run for the seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Kevin Brady.

Legislatures

NJ State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, won Tuesday's state Senate primary for the open 16th Legislative District by a 65-35 margin. Pappas will take on Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker for an open GOP-held seat in the west-central part of the state that Hillary Clinton carried 55-41.

Pappas earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, "Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr/ Now we see how brave you are." Politicos would later blame that bit of awful poetry for Pappas' 50-47 defeat against Democrat Rush Holt that fall. Pappas tried to return to Congress in 2000, but he lost the primary to former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who in turn lost to Holt.

Special elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in New Hampshire:

NH-HD-Merrimack 23: Democrat Muriel Hall defeated Republican Christopher Lins 58-42 to hold this seat for her party. Hall improved on Joe Biden's 55-44 win in this suburban Concord district last year, which was the best showing of any of the last three Democratic presidential nominees.

Republicans control this chamber 213-186, with one other seat vacant.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Former Mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork Wednesday to set up a campaign to regain his old office, and while he has yet to make an announcement, there's little question he'll be on this year's ballot.

Local NBC reporter Shiba Russell tweeted that Reed "could officially announce he plans to enter the race" at a Thursday birthday fundraiser, a message the ex-mayor retweeted. If Reed wins this fall, he would be the first Atlanta mayor to secure a third term since the city's first-ever Black leader, Maynard Jackson, won back this office in 1989.

Reed himself had no trouble winning re-election the last time he was on the ballot in 2013 (term limits prevented him from seeking a third consecutive term in 2017), but a federal corruption investigation that ultimately resulted in bribery convictions for two senior city officials generated plenty of bad headlines during the end of his tenure. The matter isn't over, as Reed's former chief financial administration officer and director of human services are currently under indictment but unlikely to go on trial before this year's election.

Last month, Channel 2's Dave Huddleston asked Reed whether he was under investigation, to which the former mayor replied, "The Justice Department under [former Attorney General] Bill Barr has looked into every aspect of my life for more than three years and took no action." The former mayor also said of the scandals involving his old staffers, "Anything on my watch, I take responsibility for," adding, "I'm sorry I didn't see it faster."

Reed himself used that interview to argue that he could tackle Atlanta's rising crime rate if he returned to office, declaring, "I do know how to fix crime, and I do know I could turn our crime environment around in 180 days, and I know that I've done it before."

A number of fellow Democrats are already campaigning in this November's nonpartisan primary to succeed incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms, who shocked the city last month when she decided not to seek a second term, and others could still get in ahead of the August filing deadline. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Tharon Johnson, whom the paper identifies as a "veteran Democratic strategist and businessman," is one of the prospective contenders thinking about running.

Boston, MA Mayor: This week, state Rep. Jon Santiago became the first candidate to air TV commercials ahead of the September nonpartisan primary; Politico's Lisa Kashinsky says his "six-figure ad buy is for two 30-second spots that will air on the city's cable systems and Spanish-language broadcast."

Both Santiago's English and Spanish spots focus on his work as an emergency room physician and military service, with the narrator in the former ad asking, "You want a mayor who's got a pulse on Boston and its problems, literally?"

New York City, NY Mayor: Attorney Maya Wiley picked up an endorsement Wednesday from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams ahead of the June 22 Democratic primary. Williams, who was elected in 2019 as an ardent progressive, is one of just three citywide elected officials: The others are termed-out Mayor Bill de Blasio and one of Wiley's rivals, city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Morning Digest: Conspiracist GOP lawmaker joins Iowa Senate race without waiting on Grassley

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

IA-Sen: While Sen. Chuck Grassley has yet to make a decision about seeking an eighth term, one fellow Republican has already announced a bid for his seat: state Sen. Jim Carlin, a pro-Trump die-hard who has baselessly claimed the 2020 election was stolen and spouted antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming wealthy Jews like Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros for the outcome.

Carlin didn't appear to address the incumbent in recent remarks discussing his run, though earlier this month, Grassley said he'd finalize his plans within "several weeks." Carlin may be hoping to push Grassley to the exits, but he doesn't seem like a particularly imposing presence: Iowa Starting Line notes he "doesn't start with much of a political infrastructure in the state."

Just last week, Carlin introduced legislation requiring that all employees of Iowa's public universities be interrogated about their political beliefs, part of a long-running conservative crusade against higher education. He's also pushing a "bathroom bill" that would target transgender people and has proposed a measure requiring that schoolchildren be taught cursive handwriting.

Campaign Action

Senate

AL-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Lynda Blanchard, who served as Donald Trump's ambassador to Slovenia until earlier this year, says she's considering a bid for Alabama's open Senate seat. "I am deeply interested in promoting President Trump's MAGA agenda," she said in a statement, "while fighting the socialist policies of the Biden/Pelosi/Sanders/Schumer crowd."

NH-Sen: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Senate, now says he'll "take a look" at the possibility but suggested he wouldn't have an answer until he "get[s] through the legislative session maybe six, seven months from now." The current session is not scheduled to conclude until the very end of June. Sununu's indecision is therefore likely to freeze the field of other potential GOP candidates, robbing whoever does ultimately run of precious time to campaign against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

OH-Sen: Republican Rep. Steve Stivers, who has reportedly been considering a bid for Ohio's newly open Senate seat, now confirms that he's looking at the race in a new interview. Stivers insisted he would not "rush into a decision" and said he'd likely wait "months" to decide. When asked about the possibility that Donald Trump could endorse another candidate in the primary, the congressman ever-so-slightly edged away from Trump, saying he's "not putting my faith in any one individual that could deliver this race for anybody.

Stivers' 15th District is conservative turf in the southern Columbus area. He served as chair of the NRCC during the 2017-18 election cycle, when Republicans lost control of the House.

Governors

CA-Gov: Politico reports that former Trump apparatchik Richard Grenell is interviewing staff for a possible run for governor in the event a recall of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom makes the ballot. Grenell himself says the report "isn't true" but did not dispute that he's considering a bid.

IL-Gov: Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf kicked off a bid for governor on Monday, making him the first notable Republican to challenge Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Schimpf served a single term in the legislature but declined to seek re-election last year without explaining why. In 2014, he ran for state attorney general but got crushed 59-38 by Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan.

House

CT-02: Republican state Rep. Mike France has filed paperwork for a possible challenge to veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, but he hasn't yet announced a campaign and did not respond to press inquiries. After ousting Republican Rep. Rob Simmons by just 83 votes in the 2006 Democratic wave, Courtney's never faced a difficult re-election, winning with at least 59% of the vote every time.

The 2nd District, which occupies the entirety of eastern Connecticut, normally is reliably blue turf, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried it just 49-46. However, according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, it returned to form last year, supporting Joe Biden 54-44. Simmons described himself as "excited" about France's potential candidacy, though the former congressman, who had a relatively moderate reputation during his time in office, recently went full tinfoil and blamed the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection on "antifa."

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter is spending at least $100,000 on a TV buy ahead of the March 20 all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond. "Throughout my career I've remained laser focused on the simple ways to improve people's day to day lives," Carter says, "like guaranteeing access to COVID-19 vaccine, equal pay for women, criminal justice reform, and fighting for a living wage."

Carter continues by pledging, "In Congress, I'll have your back and I'll get things done." The candidate does not mention Richmond, though on-screen text informs the viewer that Carter has the former congressman's endorsement.

TX-06: Republican Brian Harrison, who served as chief of staff to former Trump HHS chief Alex Azar during his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic, is reportedly considering a campaign for the late Rep. Ron Wright's vacant 6th Congressional District. Notes Politico, "In the West Wing, a handful of his detractors derisively referred to Harrison as 'the dog breeder'—a reference to the labradoodle-breeding family business that he helped run prior to joining the Trump administration." More on that here.

Judges

PA Supreme Court: Both of Pennsylvania's major parties have endorsed candidates in the May 18 primary for a key open seat on the state Supreme Court, with Democrats backing Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin and Republicans giving their support to Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson.

Judicial candidates in Pennsylvania who don't earn their party's official seal of approval often drop out, and we may yet see that happen. While PoliticsPA says that Superior Court Judge Carolyn Nichols, who is hoping to become the first Black woman to sit on the high court, intends to continue her bid for the Democratic nod, she said in a statement that she will "consider the next steps in this election," which could presage a departure.

The situation for the GOP is even more uncertain, since the party's two other hopefuls, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick and Commonwealth Court Judge Patty McCullough, both declined to comment when asked about their plans. Any questions will be resolved soon, though, since the filing deadline is March 9. Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court but could expand it in November since this year's race is for the seat held by Republican Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Mayors

St. Louis, MO Mayor: The Missouri Scout has released a survey from the GOP firm Remington Research of the March 2 nonpartisan primary, which will be the city's first experience using the "approval voting" system.

Approval voting allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, and Remington finds that 59% of the sample plans to back Aldermanic President Lewis Reed. City Treasurer Tishaura Jones has the support of 51% of respondents, while a third Democrat, Alderman Cara Spencer, is in third with 40%. Just 19%, however, intend to vote for the final contender, Republican Andrew Jones. The two candidates with the most votes will face off in the April 6 general.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reports that the pro-Spencer group Gateway to Progress is spending at least $45,000 on a TV ad praising her for "cracking down on predatory lenders, slum landlords, and City Hall insiders."

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary Preview

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grab bag

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

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

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

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