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.
● 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.
● 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.
● 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."
● 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.
● 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."
● 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."
● 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.
● 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.