A Democratic wave pickup of 10 Senate seats is a real possibility

Early in the cycle, the big question was wether Democrats could pick up the net-four seats they needed to get control of the U.S. Senate (assuming they won the presidency, and the tie-breaking vote). It was a tall order, given that only one top pickup opportunity (Colorado) was in a 2016 blue state. But Donald Trump’s disastrous and deadly presidency hasn’t just crushed his own reelection chances, but is now threatening Republican Senate seats no one would’ve ever thought would be at risk, even in some solidly red states. 

Welcome to my inaugural ranking of Senate races, by most likely to flip. 

TIER ONE (expected to switch)

1. AlabamaDoug Jones (D)

Our two-year Democratic rental, thanks to a narrowly won special election against a child predator, should come to an end this November as Alabama’s strong Republican lean and a run-of-the-mill Republican challenger ends Jones’ term. No regrets. It was great while it lasted. 

2. Colorado, Cory Gardner (R)

Joe Biden will win Colorado by double-digits. There’s no way Gardner overcomes that margin, and especially not against former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who remained popular throughout his two terms in office. In fact, Gardner has acted as someone vying for a spot on a second Trump term, reliably defending his president during the impeachment proceedings, rather than a blue-state senator trying to differentiate himself from the top of the ticket. 

3. Arizona, Marth McSally (R)

McSally narrowly lost in the Democratic wave in 2018, and since appointed to fill Sen. John McCain’s seat after his death, she is headed toward another defeat at the hands of Democrat Mark Kelly, an astronaut and husband to former congresswoman and gun violence victim Gabby Giffords. Polling is showing both Biden and Kelly pulling away, in a state in which resurgent Latino voters and suburban white women are heavily engaging. 

4. North Carolina, Thom Tillis (R) 

Democratic Iraq and Afghanistan war vet Cal Cunningham has proven a surprisingly strong challenger to first-term Republican Thom Tillis, handily leading him in all recent polling. It’s not even looking close, in a state in which Biden has also led (albeit more narrowly). Tillis runs weakly against Republicans, who see him as a traitor to Trump’s cause. And the double-whammy of Trump losing the state, and Tillis losing Trump voters, looks too much to overcome. 

5. Maine, Susan Collins (R)

Collins survived decades as a Republican in blue Maine by pretending to be a “moderate” independent-minded legislator. The Trump years have torn that facade away, as she’s sided with the wannabe despot in both his Supreme Court nominations, and in voting to acquit him during the impeachment proceedings. Democrat Sara Gideon, Speaker of the Maine House, is leading in all recent polling, and would be the first woman of color (Indian American) elected in Maine. 

These five races would net Democrats the +3 seats they need for a 50-50 Senate, with Biden’s vice-president casting the tie-breaking vote. But what a nightmare that would be, right? We’d have the nominal majority, but well-short of the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and without the Democratic votes needs to eliminate that stupid filibuster. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has already declared he’d vote against any such efforts. So it is imperative that Democrats pad their majority in order to have the votes to get rid of the filibuster and push through critical legislation like statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico (if its residents vote for it), voting right protections, economic stimulus, police reforms, measures to address climate change, and other Democratic priorities. 

TIER TWO (toss-ups)  

6. Montana, Steve Daines (R)

How can Democrats be competitive in a state which Trump won by over 20 points? First, convince popular Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to run, then watch Trump’s numbers collapse to the point that Biden is actually competitive. Recent polling in this hard-to-poll state show Republicans with the narrow edge, but it’s narrow. 

7. Iowa, Joni Ernst (R) 

This wasn’t a state that was supposed to be competitive, with Trump winning by nine points in 2016. Yet Trump disastrous trade wars decimated Iowa farmers, and the coronavirus pandemic has only added to anti-GOP sentiment. So this state of rural non-college whites—the core base of the modern Republican Party—is suddenly flirting with voting Democratic. Most recent polling shows Trump leading by a hair, the same as Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. 

8. Georgia, Kelly Loeffler (R)

Georgia has a racist Jim Crow-era election system, in which candidates require 50% in the first round, otherwise the race moves to a January runoff. This is a special election, thus features a “jungle primary” in which all candidates, of all parties, run on the same ballot. If none reaches 50% (and none will), this gets decided January next year. Democrats are running several candidates, and would be best served if they rallied around Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (where Dr. Rev, Martin Luther King preached). 

While Democrats have traditionally suffered turnout woes during the runoff elections, I doubt that’ll be an issue this cycle. January will be HOT in Georgia. 

9. Georgia, David Perdue (R)

Same as above, except that there’s no jungle primary. Democrats nominated Jon Ossoff to take on the incumbent. Polling has been mixed in this race, with some showing a tied race, and others showing Perdue close to 50%. But at the same time, almost all polling is showing a competitive presidential contest. If Biden can extend his lead in this coronavirus-stricken state, he could very well pull Democrats across the line with him, at least into January runoffs where defeated and demoralized Republicans might just sit things out. 

TIER THREE (lean Republican)

These solidly Republican states shouldn’t be competitive at the Senate level, yet amazingly, they are! 

10. Kansas, Open (R)

The conventional wisdom is that if Republican nominate crazed right-winger Kris Kobach, that this seat in this +20 2016 Trump state becomes far more competitive in November. That would make sense, since Kobach cost Republicans the governorship in 2018. Our own Civiqs polling, actually, found Democrat Barbara Bollier competitive no matter who Republicans nominate. A tough state, for sure but Kansas is one of the few remaining Republican states with high educational attainment (the other being Utah). Given the nation’s partisan stratification based on college education, we can expect Biden to narrow the gap from 2016, improving Bollier’s chances down the ballot. And if Republicans nominate Kobach? That can’t hurt, either. 

11. Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R)

Alaska is competitive at the presidential level (more here), despite the fact that Trump won it by 15 in 2016. No polling has shown the Senate race competitive, but that’s because 1) there is no Democratic nominee—an independent is filling that slot, and 2) that nominee, Al Gross, has a name ID of about zero percent. Gross is now up in the air, and that should boost that name ID in this cheap state. Also, Democrats will now learn that he is their guy, and will answer accordingly the next time they’re polled. 

Without strength at the presidential level, this seat isn’t in play, but Alaska has been trending Democratic for several cycles now, and this year may be the year when that vast swath of land is painted in glorious blue. 

12. South Carolina, Lindsey Graham (R)

Pinch me I must be dreaming. Infamous Trump bootlicker Lindsey is vulnerable? Yes. Yes he is. The polling has shown the state tightening at the presidential level, and the pandemic is hitting South Carolina hard, further weakening the state’s dominant Republican Party. Democrats have an awesome candidate in Jaime Harrison. His problem has been that while he’s running even with Graham, most undecideds in the race are conservative voters. It’s a tough hill to overcome. But this is happening: 

Every point Trump falls is a point that could cost him in the presidential election, and every point that presidential race narrows is one point less Harrison needs to overcome to win the Senate seat. The play here isn’t for Biden to win, he doesn’t need South Carolina (as nice as it would be!). We need it close enough to give ourselves a chance down ballot. 

This is a long-shot, by all means, but it’s a real shot. And Harrison has raised record amounts of cash and has the resources to wage a real campaign in this final three-month sprint to Election Day.  

13. Texas, John Cornyn (R)

The big question in Texas is whether it is competitive at the presidential level or not. It’s clear where the state is trending, and no doubt in a cycle or two it will be legitimately purple. But polling is mixed on whether this is the year. And that will inform whether the Senate race is flippable. On its merits, Cornyn should be cruising to reelection. He has none of the baggage Sen. Ted Cruz had in 2018, where he held on to his seat by just 2% of the vote. But if Texas Democrats can get the state’s chronically underperforming Latino vote to activate, then all bets are off—at both the presidential and senate levels. 

CONCLUSION

Of the 13 Senate seats currently in play, 12 of them are held by Republicans. The odds of Democrats picking up 10 or 11 seats are currently low, but the trends just keep getting worse and worse for the GOP. The toll of the pandemic isn’t just worsening nationwide, it’s currently disproportionately affecting some of the very states discussed above, like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Meanwhile, Trump is doing nothing to reverse his precipitous collapse in his national standing, while also refusing to allow Republicans to distance themselves from him. 

So can we get to a double-digit pickup in the Senate? Not today, we wouldn’t, but Republicans still have three months to fall. 

Democrats will win the Senate (only question is by how much)

No one should count their chickens before they hatch. This is not what I’m doing. What I’m saying is that if we keep doing what we’re doing, and that guy cowering in the bunker in the White House keeps doing what he’s doing, and Senate Republicans keep carrying water for the guy in the bunker … then yeah, Democrats will pick up the Senate. And I’m not going out on a limb in saying so. 

The big picture: Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Trump is going to lose. Therefore, Democrats need to pick up a net three seats to get to 50 seats, with the vice presidential tiebreaker putting the chamber in Democratic hands. 

We are probably going to lose the Senate seat in Alabama. That was a temporary gift won in a special election against a child molester. And we still barely won. In a normal year, against a normal Republican, with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket? If Democratic Sen. Doug Jones wins reelection, we’ve got a 60-seat majority landslide. So we assume he loses. 

The Daily Kos Elections crew just moved Arizona into “lean Democratic,” but that is probably still too kind.  

McSally (R) Kelly (D) Fox News (5/30-6/2) Highground (5/18-5/22) OH Predictive Insights (5/9-11)
37 50
41 51
38 51

Appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally already lost in 2018, and the whole state of Arizona seems to be moving strongly against Republicans. In that Fox News poll, Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden is leading 46-42. 

In Colorado, no one is pretending that Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has any chance. Even he realizes it—he spent his impeachment time aggressively defending Trump in a state in which Trump will lose by double digits. And so will Gardner. Two polls in early March had former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper leading by 17 and 18 points. No one has wasted time polling there ever since. 

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins saw her “moderate” veneer shorn off after voting both to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, and voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. A poll last month had Democratic candidate Sarah Gideon with a 51-42 lead. The race has been underpolled, but Collins ranks amongst the most unpopular senators in the country in a state that will solidly go blue this fall. She can’t count on ticket splitters anymore. 

And in North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis is looking weak, weak, weak:

Tillis (R) Cunningham (D) PPP (6/2-3) Meeting Street Insights (5/9-13) Civiqs (5/2-4) Meredith College (4/27-28)
41 43
44 46
41 50
34 44

Any incumbent below 45% is generally considered to be toast. People are looking for an alternative. 

Losing Alabama but winning Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina gets us to a 50-50 Senate. At this stage of the cycle, given current trends, this is the most likely outcome. 

TIER TWO RACES

These are races in which Republicans currently have the edge, but are in play. 

Georgia has two Senate seats in play: a regular election and a special one. The only recent polling is courtesy of Civiqs, which found both Senate seats effectively tied. The reason the GOP has the edge is that Georgia has a Jim Crow-era law that requires candidates to win with 50% of the vote. If none get it in November, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election in January. 

Historically, the GOP has done much better in those runoff elections. I suspect this time will be different, but gut feelings don’t trump history. This is a true tossup for both seats. 

Montana pits an incumbent Republicans against the current popular Democratic governor. Montana is notoriously difficult to poll, but the only one to try recently—a sketchy-looking Montana State University effort—had Democrat Steve Bullock ahead 46-39. Trump will win the state, so we’re relying on ticket splitters to carry the day. Luckily, 1) Montana has a long history of split tickets—it currently has a Democratic governor and Democratic U.S. Senator despite being solidly red at the presidential level, and 2) Trump’s approvals in Montana have been in a steady decline over the last 12 months, from a net +12, to +4 today. And the worse Trump does in the state, even if he wins it, the fewer crossover votes Bullock needs to win. 

Depending on how these two states shake out, the Democrats can end up anywhere from the barest 50-50 majority to a better-looking 53-47 one. 

TIER THREE RACES

Incumbent Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst had appeared relatively safe earlier this year. Lily-white Iowa looked like another 10-point Trump win, and Ernst seemed to be doing whatever it was that was necessary to cruise to reelection. But the coronavirus has hit Iowa hard, and the trade wars with China have hammered its farmers. And now, any hope of a positive resolution has evaporated as Trump has decided to blame China for his own failures. In fact, Trump’s approvals are underwater in Iowa 47-50, according to Civiqs’ daily tracker. 

Polling has been scant, but just yesterday Public Policy Polling released a poll showing the Democratic challenger up 45-43. Civiqs has a poll in the field right now and we’ll have results next Tuesday or Wednesday. This one may be soon graduating to the second tier. 

Kansas. Kansas! Yes, Kansas. I explain Kansas here. Botton line: It’s tough, but given Kansas’ high education levels and an ongoing civil war between the state Republican Party’s moderate and crazy wings, we have a shot. 

Texas also gets included in this tier. Incumbent Republican John Cornyn isn't as hated as Ted Cruz, who was almost defeated in 2018. And there is no public polling to give us a sense of the state of this race. But the state is trending blue, and a Public Policy Polling poll released today showed the state a 48-48 tie in the presidential election. Honestly, not sure I buy it, not without additional confirmation. But the demographic trends are certainly in our favor. Have they moved enough to put this Senate seat in contention? I’m hopeful but skeptical.  

TIER FOUR RACES

These are races in which we have great candidates who are raising buttloads of cash, but they are in tough Republican states. 

In Kentucky, odious Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unpopular, but 1) he delivers more bacon than anyone else in the Senate—Kentucky is the ultimate mooch state, and 2) Kentucky gives Trump some of his highest approval ratings in the country (a rough count says seventh highest). 

Those are some pretty strong headwinds to fight no matter how good your candidate is and how much money she has. 

And in the same vein, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is protected by the partisanship of his state—the only one on both coasts that gives Trump a positive approval rating. Civiqs has the race tied 42-42, but undecideds are heavily Republican and the state suffers from extreme racial polarization. Southern whites, in general, just don’t vote Democratic. 

The Senate will be at least 50-50. Our job is to drag as many of these races across the finish line as we can. Can we make it 55-45? Or even more than that? 

Donate to our slate of Senate races. And if you live in any of these states, fight hard! 

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judicial

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

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

Grab Bag

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Coronavirus leaves Virginia GOP unsure how to hold House nominating conventions

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.

Public Service Announcement: If you haven't yet filled out the 2020 census, please do so by clicking here to do it online, by mail, or by phone. This way, census workers won't have to come to your door. The Census Bureau advises completing the census now even if you haven't received your 12-digit census ID by mail.

Leading Off

VA-05, VA-07: Republicans in Virginia’s 5th and 7th Congressional Districts had planned to pick their nominees at April 25 party conventions, rather than in June's primary, but Republicans leaders are still deciding how to proceed in light of the coronavirus.

All of this uncertainty is causing plenty of angst in the 5th District, where freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faces a challenge from the right from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good. Riggleman even speculated to Roll Call that, if the process gets out of hand, Team Red won’t even have a nominee in this 53-42 Trump seat. National Republicans will also be keeping a close eye on the 7th District, where plenty of candidates are competing for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Campaign Action

For now, the only things that anyone knows are that the April 25 conventions won’t be happening as planned, but that Republican voters in these two seats still won’t be selecting their candidates through a primary. The 5th District GOP recently posted a memo saying that it's not permissible at this point to switch from nominating candidates at a convention to the state-run primary, which is on June 9.

Ben Slone, who runs the 7th District GOP, told Roll Call’s Stephanie Akin that his group would discuss what to do on Thursday. All he would say about alternatives to the convention, though, was, “We have a set of contingency plans that will be invoked depending on guidance and government health dictates.”

Melvin Adams, who runs the 5th District GOP committee, also told Akin that they would be talking next week about moving the convention date, and he was more forthcoming with his plans. Adams said that he’d hoped to move the event to June 6, which is the weekend before the statewide primary.

However, Riggleman and his supporters say that Adams has been promoting another option if it’s still not safe to hold a convention by then, and it’s not one they like at all. Riggleman said the 5th District Republican Committee, which has fewer than 40 members, could end up picking the party’s nominee, and Adams didn’t deny that this was a possibility. Indeed, this is how Riggleman got chosen as Team Red’s candidate two years ago after Rep. Tom Garrett ended his campaign after winning renomination. That was a very different set of circumstances, though, and an unnamed Riggleman ally on the committee said that, if this ends up happening this year, “I think it would be unfair. It’s a very undemocratic process.”

There’s another huge potential drawback to using this method. Riggleman said that party rules require a candidate to earn the support of at least two-thirds of the district committee, which raises the possibility that no one could end up with the GOP nod. And even if someone claims a supermajority, the congressman argued, it’s possible that the state Republican Party won’t recognize this person as the rightful nominee. Indeed, an unnamed former state party official told Roll Call that the committee only picked the candidate last cycle because their nominee had dropped out, and that “[c]hanging to a process where Republican voters don’t have a voice would be against the party plan and potentially against state law.”

Riggleman himself sounds quite unhappy with this whole state of affairs, saying that he wanted a primary instead of “a convoluted convention process that is collapsing under the weight of this crisis.” Riggleman already had reasons to be wary about party leaders, rather than voters, choosing the nominee here. The congressman infuriated plenty of social conservatives at home in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers. This quickly resulted in a homophobic backlash against him, and local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions. It also didn’t escape notice that the convention was supposed to be held at Good’s church.

Riggleman’s path to a second term could be even more perilous if the 5th District Committee ends up choosing the nominee, especially since its chairman sounds very frustrated with him. “I know the congressman and some of his staff and other people have been putting out false information, or at least implying this committee is trying to rig things,” Adams said. “This committee is not trying to rig things.”

Democrats, by contrast, opted to hold a traditional primary in June, and so Team Blue doesn’t have anything like the mess that’s haunting the 5th District GOP. Democrats have several notable contenders running here, and while it will still be tough to flip a seat that Trump won by double digits, GOP infighting could give the eventual nominee more of an opening.

Election Changes

Alaska: Alaska's Republican-run state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would allow Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer to order that the state's Aug. 18 downballot primaries be conducted entirely by mail. (The lieutenant governor is Alaska's chief election official.) However, Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to require that the state provide dropboxes where voters can return their ballots, an option that is very popular in states that have adopted universal voting by mail, in part because it obviates the need for a postage stamp and avoids the risk of delayed mail return service.

The bill now goes to the state House, which is controlled by a Democratic-led coalition that includes Republicans and independents. The Alaska Daily News says that Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is "expected" to sign the measure "speedily" if both chambers pass it.

Indiana: Indiana's bipartisan Election Commission has unanimously waived the state's requirement that voters who wish to vote absentee in June's presidential and downballot primaries provide an excuse in order to do so.

Nebraska: Election officials in Nebraska say there are no plans to delay the state's May 12 presidential and downballot primaries, but at least half a dozen counties—including the three largest—will send absentee ballot applications to all voters, while a number of other small counties had previously moved to all-mail elections prior to the coronavirus outbreak. In all, more than half the state will either receive absentee applications or mail-in ballots, including all voters in the state's 2nd Congressional District, a competitive district that features a multi-way Democratic primary.

Nevada: Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and local election officials from all 17 Nevada counties have announced plans to conduct the state's June 9 downballot primaries almost entirely by mail. Every active registered voter will be sent a postage-paid absentee ballot that they can return by mail or at an in-person polling site, of which each county will have at least one. Importantly, these voters will not have to request an a ballot. At least one in-person polling place will also be available in each county.

Ballots must be postmarked or turned in by Election Day, though they will still count as long as they are received up to seven days later. Officials will also contact any voter whose ballot has an issue (such as a missing signature), and voters will have until the seventh day after the election to correct any problems. Cegavske's press release wisely cautions that, under this system, final election results will not be known until well after election night, though this is a point that officials across the country will have to emphasize loudly and repeatedly as mail voting becomes more widespread.

One potential issue with Cegavske's plan, though, is that registered voters who are listed as "inactive" on the voter rolls will not be sent ballots. However, as voting expert Michael McDonald notes, these voters are still eligible to vote, and every election, many do. While they can still request absentee ballots on their own, they now face an obstacle that active voters will not. Approximately 14% of Nevada's 1.8 million registered voters are on inactive status.

Ohio: Lawmakers in Ohio's Republican-run legislature unanimously passed a bill extending the time to vote by mail in the state's presidential and downballot primaries until April 28, and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has said he will sign it "soon." There would be limited in-person voting only for people with disabilities or special needs, and voters would also be able to drop off absentee ballots in person on that day, but ballots would have to be mailed by April 27 and be received by May 8 in order to count. However, voting rights groups have expressed serious reservations about the plan and say they may sue.

Under the bill, the state would send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in—they cannot be submitted online. They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots (though these at least would come with a postage-paid envelope).

Voting rights advocate Mike Brickner notes that there is very little time left to carry out this multi-step process, particularly because each piece of mail would be in transit for several days. In addition, printing all of these materials, including the postcards that are designed to kick off this effort, will take considerable time, especially since government offices, the postal service, and print shops "may not be operating optimally," as Brickner observes.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania's Republican-run legislature has unanimously passed a bill to move the state's presidential and downballot primaries from April 28 to June 2. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will sign the measure.

Wisconsin: The city of Green Bay has filed a lawsuit asking that a federal judge order Wisconsin officials to delay the state's April 7 elections until June 2 and to extend its voter registration deadline to May 1. (The deadline for registering by mail has already passed, but voters can still register online through March 30 thanks to an earlier order by a different judge.) Green Bay has also asked that it be allowed to cancel in-person voting and mail ballots to all registered voters.

Senate

MI-Sen: The GOP firm Marketing Resource Group is out with a new survey giving Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 42-35 lead over Republican John James, which is an improvement from the incumbent's 43-40 edge in October. The only other poll we've seen this month was an early March survey from the GOP firms 0ptimus and Firehouse Strategies that gave James a 41-40 advantage.

ME-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward has announced that it's launched a new six-figure ad campaign supporting state House Speaker Sara Gideon. The spot praises Gideon's work securing millions for coronavirus testing, as well as workers and small businesses.

SC-Sen: Democrat Jaime Harrison is out with a poll from Brilliant Corners that shows GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham leading him by a small 47-43 margin. The only other survey we've seen in the last few weeks was a late February Marist poll that showed Graham up 54-37.

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: The GOP firm Medium Buying reports that GOP Gov. Jim Justice launched his first ad of 2020 last week, and we now have a copy of his commercial. The ad begins with a clip of Donald Trump at a rally saying, "My good friend, and your governor, Jim Justice," before the narrator jumps in and praises the incumbent as a conservative Trump ally.

Former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, by contrast, has been running commercials since June of last year, and he's out with another one ahead of the May GOP primary. Thrasher tells the audience that the coronavirus is creating hardships for West Virginia, and that the state "needs to be proactive in terms of its reaction to this crisis, not reactive the way we have been so many other times." Thrasher then lays out his plan for helping the state economically during the pandemic.

Thrasher doesn't mention, much less directly criticize, Justice's handling of the situation, but he still argues that the state isn't doing enough. "Our president is being very proactive in terms of dealing with those issues," Thrasher says, "We need to follow suit and be proactive as well." He concludes, "It's time for the state of West Virginia to get something done."

House

IN-05: In an unusual move, retiring Rep. Susan Brooks' office publicly told businesswoman Beth Henderson to stop saying that Brooks had recruited her or even given her any special encouragement to run at all. "Susan talked with all Republican candidates who called her and expressed an interest in running in the 5th District to share her insights about representing this district," a Brooks aide said. "Some candidates did not call her." Brooks has not taken sides in the crowded June GOP primary to succeed her.

However, Henderson made it sound like the congresswoman was pulling for her back in February when she declared, "Susan Brooks encouraged me to run." The candidate put out a statement this week insisting that she and Brooks "have had a couple conversations regarding the Fifth district. She has been encouraging throughout my campaign, as I imagine she has been with other candidates as well."

The Indianapolis Star also obtained a voicemail from an unidentified person raising money for the Henderson campaign who said, "Susan actually recruited Beth to run for her, and we are working hard to raise funds to ensure that that happened." Henderson's team acknowledged that this person was affiliated with the campaign but insisted that none of that was included in the script that caller was given.

MI-13: Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones announced Wednesday that she would seek a primary rematch against Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the most high-profile members of the House freshman class. Jones, who briefly held this seat for a few weeks in the lame-duck session of the last Congress (more on that later), kicked off her campaign with a video declaring that she was “running for re-election” to this safely blue seat.

While Jones didn’t mention Tlaib in that message, she argued in a new interview with the Detroit News that her opponent has “spent a lot of her energy in places other than the 13th District.” Jones said that, unlike the congresswoman, “I will be totally focused on the 13th District, being the third-poorest district in the United States.”

Jones and Tlaib have a lot of history. Thanks to some very unusual circumstances, they even faced off three separate times in 2018. That August, Michigan held two different Democratic primaries on the same day for this seat: one for a special election for the final months of former Rep. John Conyers' term, and one for the regular two-year term. Jones had the support of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and some unions, but she had trouble raising money. Tlaib, by contrast, didn’t have as many prominent local endorsements, but she decisively outraised each of her many opponents.

Tlaib narrowly beat Jones 31-30 in the six-way primary for the full term. However, there were only four candidates on the ballot in the special election primary, and in that race, it was Jones who edged Tlaib 38-36.

The two candidates who were only on the ballot for the regular term, state Sen. Coleman Young II and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson, took a combined 18% of the vote, so their absence in the special primary likely had an impact. Jones, Young, and Jackson, along with more than half the district's residents, are black, while Tlaib is of Palestinian descent (only 4% of residents identify as Arab American). It's therefore probable that the presence of two additional African American candidates in the regular primary but not in the special primary made the difference between the two close outcomes.

Jones, however, didn't relish the idea of serving just a few weeks in the House and wound up launching a last-minute write-in campaign against Tlaib for the general election. It was a misguided move, though, as she took just 0.32% of the vote. Jones and then-Speaker Paul Ryan ended up working out an apparently unprecedented agreement that allowed Jones to serve a few weeks in the House without resigning as head of the Detroit City Council, letting her take a hiatus from that post until Tlaib was sworn in in January of 2019.

Tlaib immediately earned national attention on her first day in office when she said of Donald Trump, "[W]e're going to impeach the motherfucker," and she’s been in the headlines plenty since then. Most notably, Trump targeted Tlaib and the three other women of color who make up “The Squad” with a racist tweet in July. Thanks to her celebrity, Tlaib has done well in raising money from progressives across the country, ending last year with a hefty $1.2 million on-hand.

Tlaib, who has been a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate, has her share of intra-party critics and recently inflamed some of them when she booed Hillary Clinton at a Sanders campaign event in January in Iowa. Jones, however, has her own issues, particularly as a longtime supporter of Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic head of the Nation of Islam, even sharing the stage with him at a 2017 event in Detroit.

If Jones has any reservations about Farrakhan—whose lowlight reel includes gems like, “The Jewish media has normalized sexual degeneracy, profanity, and all kinds of sin,” and, “In Washington right next to the Holocaust Museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?"—she hasn't put them on display. Rather, just last month, her chief of staff said that Jones was sponsoring a resolution commending Farrakhan’s newspaper, which ran a piece Farrakhan wrote in 2016 saying that the Sept. 11 attacks were “a false flag operation,” for its “truthful articles.” For his part, Farrakhan himself singled Jones out for praise in a speech in Detroit two years ago.

TN-01: State Rep. Timothy Hill announced on Tuesday that he was joining the August GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Hill has served in the state legislature for four terms, and he's risen to become chair of the Commerce Committee.

Morning Digest: Progressive Marie Newman unseats anti-choice Rep. Dan Lipinski in Democratic primary

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

Illinois held its downballot primaries on Tuesday, and you can find the results here. We’ll have a rundown in our next Morning Digest.

Leading Off

IL-03: In a huge win for progressives, businesswoman Marie Newman defeated eight term Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has long been one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus. With 99% of precincts in, Newman’s lead stands at 47-45 in their expensive primary rematch in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. While Newman had to fight hard to beat the powerful incumbent on Tuesday after narrowly losing to him two years ago, she shouldn’t have any trouble prevailing in the general election in this 55-40 Clinton seat in the Chicago area.

Lipinski made a name for himself during his nearly 16 years in Congress as a loud opponent of abortion rights and same sex-marriage, but he proved to be very tough to dislodge. Lipinski’s father, Bill Lipinski, represented this area from 1983 until 2005, and plenty of primary voters still supported the family and shared their conservative views. The younger Lipinski received the Democratic nomination in 2004 from party leaders after his father dropped his re-election campaign after winning the primary, and much of the old Chicago machine remained loyal to him throughout the years.

Lipinski turned back a well-funded primary challenge in 2008 by a 54-25 margin, and he didn’t face another serious threat for the next decade. During that time the congressman repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthoodopposed the Affordable Care Act, and refused to endorse Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012—despite the fact that his district is solidly blue.

Newman challenged Lipinski from the left in 2018, and while she looked very much like a longshot against the well-funded and entrenched incumbent for most of the race, she ended up holding him to a 51-49 win. Lipinski, though, quickly proved that he wasn’t going to change his conservative ways after that near-loss by headlining the anti-abortion “March for Life” in early 2019, an event he’d skipped the previous year when he was fighting to win renomination. Lipinski also signed onto an amicus brief alongside more than two hundred Republican Congress members asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Newman launched her second bid for this seat in May of 2019, and this time, it was clear to everyone from the beginning that she was a serious threat to Lipinski. While the incumbent enjoyed a massive financial advantage during his last campaign, the two candidates ended up spending a comparable amount this time. EMILY’s List also deployed $1 million on Newman’s behalf, while major outside groups didn’t do much to help Lipinski this time. Newman also picked up a high-profile endorsement in February from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who memorably took Lipinski to task by declaring, “[I]f it were up to Dan Lipinski, I wouldn't be able to marry my wife.”

Still, Lipinski had some strong advantages for his second campaign. The congressman still enjoyed the support of much of the Chicago Democratic establishment, including powerful state House Speaker Mike Madigan, and many labor unions. Two other candidates, activist Rush Darwish and underfunded perennial candidate Charles Hughes, were also on the ballot, and there was a real possibility that they could take enough support from Newman to allow Lipinski to win with just a plurality of the vote. However, this time it was Newman who ended the primary night as the victor.

Election Changes

Alaska: Alaska Democrats had already switched to mail balloting for their April 4 presidential primary before the coronavirus outbreak, so the election is proceeding as planned. Party officials say they haven't yet changed their plans to offer in-person voting at a limited number of sites, but they're exhorting voters to postmark their ballots by the March 27 deadline in case that changes.

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill says discussions are underway about delaying the state's April 28 presidential primary, which the CT Mirror says Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has the power to unilaterally move. Merrill says she will issue a recommendation to Lamont but added, "We don’t need to make that decision now." In addition, because Connecticut's constitution requires voters to have an excuse to vote absentee, Merrill has asked Lamont to declare that all voters may request an absentee ballot due to the pandemic. While lawmakers have passed an amendment to change this provision, they need to do so a second time after 2020 before it can come into an effect.

Delaware: Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence, an appointee of Democratic Gov. John Carney, says there's no provision in state law allowing Delaware to postpone its April 28 presidential primary, though presumably the legislature could pass a bill changing the date. Delaware's constitution also currently requires an excuse to vote absentee. While lawmakers have passed an amendment to change this provision, they need to do so a second time after 2020 before it can come into effect like in Connecticut.

Florida: A federal judge rejected a last-minute request filed late on Monday night to extend the absentee deadline for Florida's presidential primary, which took place on Tuesday, until March 27. However, the judge did not rule on the underlying merits of the lawsuit but rather on plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order, so it's possible absentee balloting could be re-opened when a final ruling is issued.

Georgia: Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says his office is contemplating a plan to mail absentee ballot applications to the 2 million Georgia voters over the age of 60, and possibly to all 7.2 million registered voters regardless of age. Voting rights advocates, however, want Raffensperger to skip the application step and instead simply mail out ballots to all voters, but the secretary of state's office claims it cannot afford to administer an all-mail election.

Hawaii: Like their counterparts in Alaska, Hawaii Democrats are conducting their April 4 presidential primary largely by mail, but party officials say the fate of 21 in-person polling locations remains uncertain at this time.

Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has moved the date of Maryland's presidential and downballot primaries from April 28 to June 2. The special election for the state's vacant 7th Congressional District will still go forward on April 28, but it will be conducted entirely by mail.

Minnesota: Democrats in Minnesota have canceled their upcoming local and congressional district-level conventions, which had been scheduled throughout April and May, and will instead issue endorsements by online vote. No decision has yet been made about the party's statewide convention, which is set for May 30-31. Republicans, meanwhile, have postponed their local and district-level conventions through April 15.

Minnesota's primary for downballot offices is not until Aug. 11, and party conventions don't impact ballot access. However, candidates who fail to win their party's official endorsement during convention season often drop out rather than continue on to the primary.

New Mexico: Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she plans to conduct "a heavy push toward absentee balloting" ahead of New Mexico's June 2 primary for the presidential race and downballot offices. She also says that any adjustments to in-person polling sites are "still under consideration," but it doesn't sound like a discussion of changing the date of the election is underway.

Texas: According to the Houston Chronicle, election officials in Texas are exploring a move to all-mail balloting for the state's May 26 runoffs, though the secretary of state's office would not confirm whether it's considering the idea.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Politico reports that the conservative group One Nation is spending $700,000 on a TV, radio, and digital ad campaign that commends GOP Sen. Martha McSally's work to expand mental health care for veterans.

GA-Sen-A: On behalf of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the University of Georgia is out with the first poll we've seen of the May Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. 2017 House nominee Jon Ossoff is in first with 31%, while former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson edges out 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico 16-15 for the second spot in a likely July runoff.

Maine: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Maine's June 9 party primaries, and the state has a list of contenders that can be downloaded on this page. Both the primary and general elections for downballot offices will be held using instant-runoff voting.  

ME-Sen: GOP Sen. Susan Collins easily won re-election in 2014, but her bid for a fifth term has already turned into a very expensive affair. The Bangor Daily News reports that, in the past week alone, Senate Majority PAC spent $600,000 against Collins, while the conservative 1820 PAC deployed $1 million against Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will also benefit from about $4 million that several organizations, including Daily Kos, raised after Collins became the decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

Four Democrats filed to take on Collins, who does not face an intra-party challenger. Gideon has the support of prominent national Democratic groups, including the DSCC, and she's raised far more money than any of her primary rivals. Former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse has been doing some self-funding, though, and he launched a $200,000 ad buy at the start of March. The other two candidates are 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman.

This will almost certainly be the most competitive re-election contest of Collins' career, and even the senator didn't dispute the idea that her once mighty approval rating had taken a dive when she was asked about it back in July. Polling has been infrequent, though, so we don't fully know the extent to which Collins has damaged her reputation with swing voters. Maine also moved sharply to the right in 2016 thanks to its large population of white voters without college degrees. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican, but this is one we'll be watching closely.

Gubernatorial

NJ-Gov: Assemblyman Jamel Holley said on Friday that he'd been approached about challenging Gov. Phil Murphy in next year's Democratic primary by unnamed "[e]lected officials, community-based people, clergy." Holley continued, "I have no immediate plans. I haven't considered it. I haven't given any thought to it. But there are conversations."

Holley has been a prominent opponent of an unsuccessful bill to remove religious exemptions for school vaccinations. This attracted the attention of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is notorious for spreading misinformation about vaccines, and he headlined a fundraiser for the assemblyman in January. While scientists overwhelmingly agree that vaccines are safe, Holley argued in February that he'd seen children who had been "injured from vaccines."

WV-Gov: On Tuesday, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango received an endorsement from Sen. Joe Manchin, who is the most prominent Democrat in West Virginia politics. Salango is competing in the May primary to take on GOP Gov. Jim Justice.

House

CA-50: Former GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison on Tuesday, and he was ordered to surrender to the authorities by May 29. Hunter pleaded guilty last year to a single charge of conspiracy to convert campaign funds to personal use, and he resigned from Congress in January. Hunter's wife and former campaign manager, Margaret Hunter, pleaded guilty to her role in the scandal several months before as part of a deal with prosecutors, and she is set to be sentenced in April.

When prosecutors first indicted the Hunters, they alleged the couple had spent a total of $250,000 in campaign money on tuition to their children's private school, oral surgery, and vacations in Italy and Hawaii. In a later filing, however, they also said the congressman had used campaign cash to "pursue a series of intimate personal relationships" with at least five different women, including lobbyists and congressional aides. Margaret Hunter also admitted in her guilty plea that over $500 in campaign funds had been used to fly a pet rabbit on a plane.

FL-15: On Monday, Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential campaign against freshman Rep. Ross Spano in the August GOP primary. Spano is under federal investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his 2018 primary.

House

ME-02: Three Republicans are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in a northern Maine seat that swung from 53-44 Obama to 51-41 Trump.

The Republican with the most money at the end of 2019 was 2018 Senate nominee Eric Brakey, a former state senator who has the endorsement of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Also in the contest are former state Rep. Dale Crafts, who has the support of former Gov. Paul LePage, and real estate agent Adrienne Bennett. A fourth Republican, Penobscot County Treasurer John Hiatt, entered and exited the race in December.

Brakey ended 2019 with a $252,000 to $134,000 cash-on-hand lead over Crafts, while Bennett had just $37,000 to spend. Golden had $1.3 million available to defend this seat.

Mayoral

San Diego, CA Mayor: On Monday evening, Democrat Barbara Bry took a 9-vote lead over Republican Scott Sherman, a fellow member of the City Council, for the second-place spot in the November general election. More ballots were counted the following night, and Bry’s advantage widened to 169 votes. Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria secured first place in the March 3 nonpartisan primary, so if Bry maintains her edge over Sherman, Team Blue would be guaranteed to pick up this mayor's office.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former GOP Rep. Richard Hanna, who represented a seat in upstate New York from 2011 until 2017, died Sunday at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer. Hanna was one of the few relatively moderate Republicans in the caucus during his tenure, and he famously endorsed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

Hanna, who had become wealthy in the construction business, sought elected office for the first time when he challenged freshman Democratic Rep. Michael Arcuri in 2008 in what was then numbered the 24th District. While Barack Obama only ended up carrying the historically red seat 51-48, it was still a surprise when Hanna held Arcuri to a surprisingly small 52-48 win in what was a terrible year for the GOP.

Hanna sought a rematch the following cycle and unseated Arcuri 53-47. However, the new congressman quickly proved to be very different than his many tea party-aligned fellow freshman. At a 2012 rally supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, Hanna notably advised women to donate to Democrats, saying, "Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side—my side—has a lot of it." Hanna was also the rare congressional Republican to support same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Hanna had no trouble winning in 2012 in the redrawn 22nd District, but he faced a serious primary challenge from the right two years later from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. Hanna decisively outspent Tenney and received air support from a group dedicated to electing pro-same-sex marriage Republicans, but he only turned her back by a modest 54-46 margin.

Hanna announced in December of 2015 that he would not run for a fourth term, a move he insisted had nothing to do with Tenney's decision to seek a rematch a few weeks earlier. Tenney won the GOP nod this time against a candidate backed by Hanna, and the outgoing congressman never supported her for the general election. Hanna later mulled a 2018 run for governor or an independent bid for his old seat, but he ended up endorsing Democrat Anthony Brindisi's successful bid to oust Tenney.

Voter Registration: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc with the administration of U.S. elections, experts are exhorting states to switch to voting by mail to keep the public and poll workers safe—and to ensure democracy carries on.

For safety’s sake, it’s also critical that every state offers residents the opportunity to register to vote online, or to update their existing registration records. However, as the map seen here shows, 10 states currently do not allow online registration for the November general election:

Arkansas Maine Mississippi Montana New Hampshire North Carolina Oklahoma (passed by lawmakers but still not fully implemented) South Dakota Texas Wyoming

Collectively, these 10 states account for 17% of the U.S. population, or one in six Americans. Americans must have the option to register safely and securely online when in-person opportunities will be limited for the foreseeable future. Each of these states must immediately enact online voter registration. If they do not, Congress has the power to mandate and fund the shift to online voter registration to ensure the November general elections can still proceed amid this historic global crisis.

Morning Digest: Alabama Republicans air each other’s dirty laundry ahead of nasty Senate primary

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

Leading Off

AL-Sen: Two Republican firms are out with new polls from Alabama of the March 3 GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, and they both show former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville advancing to a runoff.

WT&S Consulting, which tells us that their poll was not done for any client, gives Sessions the lead with 32% as Tuberville leads Rep. Bradley Byrne 30-22 for the second spot in a likely March 31 runoff. Roy Moore, who lost this seat to Jones in 2017, is a distant fourth with 7%, while state Rep. Arnold Mooney takes 3%. This is the first poll that WT&S, which is run by state party official John Wahl, has released of this contest.

Campaign Action

The anti-tax Club for Growth, which has been running ads against Byrne, is also out with another survey from WPA Intelligence that shows the congressman failing to advance to a second round. WPA gives Tuberville the lead with 32%, which makes this the first time we've seen him in first place since Sessions entered the race for his old seat in November. Sessions outpaces Byrne 29-17 for second, while Moore barely registers with 5% and no one else breaks 1%.

These results show some small improvements for Tuberville at Sessions' expense from the poll the Club released one week ago. That WPA survey found Sessions edging Tuberville 34-29, while Byrne was in third place with the same 17% he takes in the new poll.

The new numbers come as Sessions, Tuberville, and Byrne and their allies have been launching negative ad after negative ad at one another while ignoring the other contenders. Sessions' new spot declares that Tuberville and Byrne "are desperate, telling lies about Jeff Sessions." The narrator then reminds the audience that Sessions was the one senator to back Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries, which is true.

The ad glosses over Sessions' miserable tenure as Trump's attorney general, which ended with Trump unceremoniously firing him, and instead continues to rehash the 2016 election. The narrator argues, "Byrne stood with the liberals, said Trump was 'not fit' to be president and stabbed Trump in the back right before the election."

Byrne did indeed say after the Access Hollywood tape was released a month before Election Day that Trump, who was recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women, was "not fit to be president of the United States and cannot defeat Hillary Clinton." The congressman also called for Trump to "step aside" and allow Mike Pence to lead the GOP ticket.

Byrne, like almost everyone in the Republican Party, fell in line right after Trump won a month later, though, and like all of his primary opponents, he's been emphasizing his unquestioning loyalty to the White House. Byrne recently addressed his 2016 remarks in an interview with the New York Times Magazine's Jason Zengerle by saying that Trump has never mentioned them because, "He just doesn't care. He's more interested in what we're doing now." Sessions cares, though, and he's betting that GOP primary voters do too.

Sessions is also hoping that his party will care about some of Tuberville's non-Trump issues. His ad continues by calling the former Auburn coach "a tourist in Alabama. He lives, votes, and pays taxes in Florida." Tuberville is originally from Arkansas, and he coached at the University of Mississippi until he arrived at Auburn in 1998. Tuberville had a mostly successful tenure, but he resigned in 2008 after a bad season and went on to coach out of state at Texas Tech and Cincinnati. During those years he unsuccessfully tried to sell his home near Auburn multiple times.

Tuberville later moved to Florida as Sessions' ad alleges. The former coach did say that he'd relocated to Alabama in August 2018 as he considered a Senate run, though he remained registered to vote in the Sunshine State that year and cast his ballot in Florida's elections.

Sessions also released a new TV ad on Wednesday that targets just Tuberville. After declaring that the former coach is "shameful" for lying about Sessions, the narrator says, "Tuberville is trying to trick you, hiding his support for immigration amnesty." An audio clip then plays where Tuberville is heard saying, "There are people coming across the border that need jobs … And we want them to come over here." He continues, "And we let 'em come in and become citizens like we all became citizens." The rest of the commercial again casts Tuberville as a Floridian who is in Alabama as a tourist.

Tuberville, meanwhile, is out with his own ad attacking both Sessions and Byrne. The commercial begins by going after Byrne for calling Trump "not fit" to serve before the narrator declares that Sessions "deserted President Trump, sticking us with the Russian witch hunt." The spot then throws in a shot at Sen. Mitt Romney, who is … not running for Senate in Alabama, by saying he "voted for the liberal impeachment sham." Tuberville appears and promises he'll be a Trump ally while "weak-kneed career politicians aren't tough enough to stand with President Trump."

Tuberville's allies at GRIT PAC are also running a commercial that casts both of his intra-party adversaries as "two career politicians who are out of touch with Alabama." The narrator also declares that Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation while serving as attorney general was a betrayal of Trump, while Byrne "didn't even want Trump in the White House."

Two cows then appear on screen along with a picture of Romney in the shape of manure as the narrator explains, "In a place where Mitt happens, we need to watch our step." Perhaps fearing that that joke was too subtle, the narrator declares, "No bull," which is followed by a censor's beep, "no weak knees. It's Tommy Tuberville time for U.S. Senate."

Byrne, it will not shock you to learn, is also out with an ad that hits both Sessions and Tuberville. The commercial features a trio of actors interviewing the Senate candidates, and they begin by giving this negative rating: "Tommy Tuberville? Says he wants illegals here. Paid him not to work. He can't keep a job." An actor portraying Tuberville then angrily slams down his clipboard and walks out, and the committee stamps his resume with the word "Fired."

A Sessions look-alike then arrives sporting a red cap without anything written on it. The committee is no more impressed with him than they were with Tuberville and says, "He let the president down and got fired. And Hillary still ain't in jail." The committee, which apparently believes that Sessions' refusal to send political adversaries to prison without a trial is a massive character flaw, also delivers the dreaded failure stamp to his file.

The rest of the ad shows Byrne, whom the committee actually allows to talk, talking about his conservative pro-Trump record. The trio is pleased, though his resume goes unstamped. Byrne is also the only one in any of these commercials to mention Jones, saying that he should be the next one to get fired.

Byrne's allies at Fighting for Alabama Fund also are up on the air with a spot that ignores Sessions and just tears into Tuberville. After showing clips of Trump thanking Byrne, the narrator argues that Tuberville "attacked Trump's agenda. Even attacked Trump's immigration plan." The same audio of Tuberville from the Sessions commercial then plays where Tuberville sounds happy to welcome "people coming from across the border that need jobs."    

Senate

AZ-Sen: Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who faces no serious Democratic primary opposition, is up with his first TV commercial. The minute-long spot features Kelly working on his motorcycle and talking about his struggles in school and career in the Navy and NASA.

Kelly continues, "My parents didn't have a lot of extra money, but you could comfortably raise a family on a middle-class income, and it doesn't work so well today." He declares, "Now my hope for Arizona is that everybody has the conditions and an environment that allows anybody to accomplish anything they want, if they're just willing to work hard at it." Kelly does not mention appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally, who recently began airing negative spots against him.

GA-Sen-B: Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver kicked off his long-awaited campaign on Wednesday, a move that makes him the third noteworthy Democrat to enter the November all-party primary.

Tarver, who pitched himself as a moderate, represented a state Senate seat in the Augusta area until he became the first black U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia in 2009. Tarver remained at his post until early March of 2017, when Donald Trump ordered him and another 45 Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys to resign.

National Democrats have consolidated behind pastor Raphael Warnock, who like Tarver would also be Georgia's first black senator, while businessman Matt Lieberman is also running. Appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins are duking it out on the GOP side, and there's a risk that they could both advance to a January 2021 runoff if the three Democrats split Team Blue's vote enough.  

ME-Sen: GOP Sen. Susan Collins is up with another TV ad against state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who is the favored candidate of national Democrats, and the Bangor Daily News reports that she's putting at least $90,000 behind the buy.

The narrator argues that Gideon is a hypocrite for saying she's rejecting corporate PAC money while "taking tens of thousands from groups funded by corporate PACs." The commercial also tries to stir up some trouble on Gideon's left by featuring photos of two of her June primary foes, attorney Bre Kidman and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet, and saying that her opponents "criticized Gideon for laundering corporate money into her own campaign. And Maine's Ethics Commission fined Gideon for breaking campaign finance laws."

The paper took a look at the backstory to this ad back in December. Gideon has accepted contributions from groups like Senate Majority PAC that take money from corporations, but only about 2% of her total donations came from PACs as of the end of the third quarter. Collins, by contrast, received 22% of her donations from PACs through late September.

The part about the Maine Ethics Commission is from a completely separate matter. The commission fined Gideon's now-defunct PAC in December all of $500 for reimbursing her that same amount for donations Gideon made to two state-level political committees in 2016.

As we wrote back then, reimbursements like these run afoul of federal and state laws that forbid anyone from making campaign contributions in another person's name. Gideon, however, didn't try to conceal her efforts; rather, they were discovered because her PAC publicly disclosed the reimbursements. For that reason, the commission declined to investigate further, concluding Gideon's disclosure meant it was unlikely she had knowingly sought to violate the law.

MI-Sen: Quinnipiac University is out with a poll giving Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 45-39 lead over 2018 GOP nominee John James. The margin is very similar to the 44-40 Peters edge that the local Glengariff Group found in early January, though Baldwin Wallace University gave the incumbent a larger 42-32 lead last month.

Gubernatorial

UT-Gov: Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton announced this week that she would try to gain enough support at the April state GOP convention to advance to the June primary rather than continue to gather signatures. One other Republican, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, is competing at the convention and not collecting petitions to make the primary ballot, but the two candidates made this choice under very different circumstances.

Winder Newton acknowledged that she couldn't afford to hire a firm to collect the 28,000 valid signatures she needed, an undertaking she estimates could cost more than $200,000, and that her volunteer-led effort wouldn't be able to gather enough petitions in time. Hughes, though, has access to plenty of money, but he still decided to focus on the convention in January.

House

CA-16: Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is out with an ad ahead of the March 3 top-two primary that features old footage of his intra-party rival, Fresno City Councilor Esmeralda Soria, praising him.

CA-25, TX-02: The progressive group End Citizens United has endorsed Assemblywoman Christy Smith in California and attorney Sima Ladjevardian in Texas, who each face notable intra-party opposition in their March 3 races.

Progressive political commentator Cenk Uygur, who is Smith's main intra-party rival in California's 25th District, is also out with a new ad where he proclaims he's "new to politics." Uygur continues, "They say it's rude for me to say that other politicians are corrupt. They say it's rude to point out that lobbyists don't give money to politicians for charity, they give it to bribe them." He then implores the audience, "Send me to Washington, so I could be rude to more lobbyists and politicians."

MN-01: Freshman GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn announced on Wednesday that he has been receiving treatment for Stage 4 kidney cancer over the last year, but that this would not prevent him from running for re-election this year.  

NY-02: Suffolk County Board of Elections member Nick LaLota announced this week that he was dropping out of the June GOP primary and would instead challenge Democratic state Sen. John Brooks. LaLota made his decision a few weeks after local party leaders, including retiring Rep. Peter King, threw their support behind Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino's bid for this open seat.

The only other Republican who is still running an active campaign for this competitive Long Island district is fellow Assemblyman Mike LiPetri. Another local elected official, Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, announced she was running back in November but didn't report raising any money through 2019 and still doesn't appear to have a campaign website or social media account. On the Democratic side, Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon doesn't face any serious opposition.

OH-01: Air Force veteran Nikki Foster and former healthcare executive Kate Schroder are each up with new TV spots ahead of the March 17 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Steve Chabot.

Foster tells the audience she's not once backed down from a fight from "serving as a combat pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan to fighting for my son's life in the intensive care unit." Foster declares that her next fight is making health care more affordable, and that Donald Trump and Chabot would "slash coverage for people with pre-existing conditions" like her son.

Schroder uses her commercial to talk about solving problems she's told are impossible. She describes how she helped expand dental care while she was on the Cincinnati Board of Health and dramatically reduced drug prices while working abroad. "As a cancer survivor," Schroder continues, "healthcare is personal."  

OH-03: The progressive group End Citizens United is supporting Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty in her March 17 primary against former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advisor Morgan Harper.

Harper has proven to be an unexpectedly strong fundraiser for someone challenging an uncontroversial incumbent, though Beatty still holds a huge financial advantage here. Beatty outraised Harper $315,000 to $221,000 during the fourth quarter, and the incumbent ended 2019 with a $1.7 million to $273,000 cash-on-hand lead. Whoever wins the Democratic nod will have no trouble prevailing in November in this safely blue Columbus seat.

PA-01: Pennsbury school board member Debbie Wachspress announced Thursday that she was dropping out of the April Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a development that could have very bad implications for Team Blue's attempts to put up a serious fight in this 49-47 Clinton seat, one of just two districts nationally that voted for Clinton in 2016 and has a Republican incumbent seeking re-election.

Wachspress made her decision two days after candidate filing closed and one day after LevittownNow.com reported that she'd been accused in a lawsuit against the school district of using racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic language at a meeting. Wachspress responded by saying that she had been recounting when she was subjected to an anti-Semitic slur decades ago, but that “[n]ever in my life have I denigrated anyone with words like that.”

Wachspress put out a statement the following day saying she "now find[s] myself in a situation where my family is going to suffer - with this recent offensive and completely false narrative of who I am - and my candidacy will also. It is clear to me that these lies and distortions will be too big a distraction to overcome."

Wachspress exited the race by endorsing Bucks County housing department official Christina Finello, who faces businessman Skylar Hurwitz in the primary. Unfortunately, though, both Finello and Hurwitz each had less than $12,000 on-hand at the end of December compared to the $355,000 that Wachspress had available. Democrats will need to hope that one of their two remaining candidates can bring in a whole lot more cash now that the apparent frontrunner is out if they want to have a real chance at beating the well-funded Fitzpatrick in this swing seat.

TX-12: Businessman Chris Putnam is up with another TV spot against Rep. Kay Granger ahead of their March 3 GOP primary showdown. Putnam tells the audience, "President Trump, he drives liberals nuts. And I drive Kay Granger nuts." Putnam, though, does not get around to informing the viewer that Trump is actually supporting Granger.

Putnam continues by accusing Granger of lying about him and "even making fun of my cowboy hat—but that's what we wear in Texas, Kay." The challenger mystifyingly never bothers to actually put on a cowboy hat during this commercial (so much for Chekov's Hat), though the ad shows pictures of two of Putnam's most prominent supporters, the sheriffs of Tarrant and Wise Counties, decked in some massive headwear.  

TX-23: Future Leaders Fund, an organization started by retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd, is up with a TV commercial supporting Navy veteran Tony Gonzales ahead of the March 3 primary. Politico reports that this is a "five-figure buy" on Fox News.

VA-05: EMILY's List has endorsed Marine veteran Claire Russo in the June Democratic primary for this 52-41 Trump seat. The GOP nomination will be decided at an April 25 party convention, where freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman is trying to fend off a challenge from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good.

Morning Digest: Progressives can flip a key seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court this April

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

WI Supreme Court: The battle lines for a crucial race for Wisconsin's Supreme Court have now been set following the results of Tuesday's primary, with incumbent Justice Dan Kelly facing off against Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky on April 7.

The officially nonpartisan election featured three candidates running on the same ballot: Kelly, a conservative appointed to his post by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2016, as well two progressives, Karofsky and law professor Ed Fallone. Kelly took 50.1% of the vote and Karofsky 37.2%, advancing both of them to the general election; Fallone, who was badly outspent, finished a distant third with just 12.7%. Combined, however, Karofsky and Fallone were less than 2,000 votes behind Kelly.

Campaign Action

That tight outcome suggests another very close contest in April. Last year, in a race for a Supreme Court seat held by a retiring liberal justice, conservative Brian Hagedorn slipped past progressive Lisa Neubauer by just 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast overall. It was a painful loss for the left, as Hagedorn's win shifted the court from a 4-3 majority in favor of conservatives to a 5-2 advantage.

Karofsky now has the chance to slim that back down to a one-vote edge for conservatives and put liberals in a position to flip the court in 2023, when Chief Justice Patience Roggensack's current term ends. April's vote will coincide with the Democratic primary for president, which could give Karofsky a boost. In fact, Republicans had sought to move the presidential primary during the lame-duck session of the legislature after Walker lost to Democrat Tony Evers in 2018, precisely to help Kelly, though they ultimately abandoned the idea despite passing legislation to grab power from Evers before he took office.

But by no means will the GOP give up on Kelly, who so far has outraised Karofsky $988,000 to $414,000. In last year's race, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which aids candidates in state races at all levels of the ballot, parachuted in at the last minute with a seven-figure expenditure on behalf of Hagedorn that may have proved critical to his victory. While some progressive groups stepped up for Neubauer, Democrats lack an equivalent "DSLC"—there's no formal party organization devoted to winning state supreme court elections—so they'll need to find a way to match resources with the right if Karofsky is to win.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The GOP pollster HighGround Public Affairs is out with a poll of their home state that gives Democrat Mark Kelly a 46-39 lead over appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally. The only other poll we've seen of this race this year was a January survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had Kelly ahead by a smaller 46-42 margin. HighGround did not identify a client for this poll.

McSally recently began running TV ads ahead Kelly, and she's now up with another spot. The commercial is titled "Bernie Bro," which pretty much tells you all you need to know about its content.

KY-Sen: Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath launched her first TV ads of the year last week well ahead of the May Democratic primary to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the Democratic firm Amplify Media reports that she's spending another $418,000 from Feb. 18 through Feb. 24.

ME-Sen: On behalf of Colby College, SocialSphere is out with the first poll we've seen here in months, and they give Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon a narrow 43-42 edge over GOP Sen. Susan Collins. SocialSphere also takes a look at the June primary and finds Gideon, who has the support of the DSCC and other national Democratic groups, leading 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet by a 60-8 margin.

The last poll we saw testing Collins against Gideon was a July survey for the AARP from the GOP firm Fabrizio Ward that had the incumbent up 52-35, but no one is acting like Collins is well ahead. Both the Collins and Gideon campaigns, as well as outside groups from both sides, have already spent heavily on ads, and they don't show any sign of stopping. Indeed, Majority Forward has launched a new three-week $550,000 TV ad campaign, and they're out with another commercial hitting Collins for refusing to vote for legislation to lower prescription drug costs.

Collins herself also didn't dispute the idea that her once mighty approval rating has taken a dive back in July, and more recent polls have continued to show her struggling. Morning Consult gave Collins an underwater 42-52 approval rating for the final quarter of 2019, which was worse than any senator in the country but Mitch McConnell himself, while SocialSphere put her favorable rating at 42-54.

NC-Sen: On behalf of WRAL-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll off the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, and they give former state Sen. Cal Cunningham a 42-17 lead over state Sen. Erica Smith. This result is considerably better for Cunningham than the 29-10 lead he posted in separate February surveys by High Point University and from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

The poll comes as the GOP-connected super PAC Faith and Power has been running a $2.9 million ad campaign praising Smith, who doesn't have much money to get her name out. National Democrats, who are supporting Cunningham, very much believe that Faith and Power is getting involved because they think Smith will be much easier for Tillis to beat, and they're devoting more money towards helping Cunningham.

Carolina Blue, a super PAC that was only recently created, has reserved over $3 million in ads, and Advertising Analytics reports that its first commercials began airing on Wednesday. Politico reports that VoteVets is also spending an additional $1.5 million on pro-Cunningham ads: The group's new commercial praises Cunningham's record in the legislature and progressive agenda and declares he "won't let anyone repeal Obamacare."

TX-Sen: The newly-formed Lone Star Forward PAC has launched a TV spot in support of nonprofit head Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary to face GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and the group says that the initial buy is in the "low six figures." The ad tells the audience that Tzintzún Ramirez is "running to be our first Latina senator" and will be a progressive voice on healthcare and gun safety issues.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: Stand Tall With Mike, the main group fighting to prevent GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from being removed from office, announced on Tuesday that it would drop its legal opposition to the recall campaign. However, the Alaska Division of Elections is still challenging a lower court ruling that allowed the recall to proceed, and the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 25.

Dunleavy's allies, though, say that they very much expect the justices to allow the recall campaign to reach the ballot. Stand Tall With Mike put out a Trumpy statement declaring that "it is clear that the Court is determined to let the recall effort go forward before it has even reviewed the parties' legal briefings."

While the Alaska Supreme Court has yet to rule on the legality of the recall, it has allowed Recall Dunleavy to collect the petitions they need to get a recall measure on the ballot. If Recall Dunleavy prevails in court, it will have to collect more than 71,000 signatures, which is 25% of the votes cast in 2018, to advance to the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.

If Dunleavy is removed from office, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a fellow Republican. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.

NC-Gov: SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the March 3 GOP primary on behalf of WRAL-TV, and it gives Lt. Gov. Dan Forest a hefty 60-8 lead over state Rep. Holly Grange. High Point University also recently found Forest ahead by a similar 54-10 spread in the contest to take on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

House

IA-02: State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks picked up an endorsement this week from Sen. Joni Ernst ahead of the June GOP primary for this open southeastern Iowa seat. Miller-Meeks also recently earned the support of a number of state legislators including fellow state Sen. Chris Cournoyer, who talked about running here in April, and Roby Smith, who was also once mentioned as a prospective candidate.

Miller-Meeks announced in early October that she would run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, who beat her in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Her main opponent in the primary is Bobby Schilling, a former one-term congressman from across the Mississippi River in Illinois who has struggled to raise money for his first Iowa race. Miller-Meeks outpaced Schilling $250,000 to $26,000 during her opening quarter, and she ended December with a $215,000 to $50,000 cash-on-hand lead.

National Democrats are backing former state Sen. Rita Hart, who doesn't face any serious intra-party opposition, in the race to hold this 49-45 Trump seat. Hart raised $336,000 during the last quarter, and she closed the year with $648,000 in the bank.

NY-02: Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger announced on Wednesday that she was dropping out of the June GOP primary and endorsing Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino.

NY-27: On Tuesday, Donald Trump tweeted out his "Complete Endorsement" for state Sen. Chris Jacobs for the April 28 special election. Normally it wouldn't be remotely newsy that Trump is supporting the GOP nominee in an election, but this is an odd case.

That's because Jacobs, whose detractors fault him for refusing to back Trump in the 2016 general election, faces opposition in the June primary from both attorney Beth Parlato and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. While Trump's tweet explicitly referred to the April special, his message will allow Jacobs to tell voters he's the White House's pick from now until late June.

Pennsylvania: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Pennsylvania's April 28 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. However, challenges to nominating petitions are common in the Keystone State, and candidates are sometimes knocked off the ballot, so expect some changes.

PA-01: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick prevailed last cycle 51-49 in a Bucks County seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 49-47 in 2016, and he's now just one of two Republicans seeking re-election in a Clinton district (the other is New York Rep. John Katko). Fitzpatrick is a strong fundraiser, and he ended December with $1.4 million in the bank.

Three Democrats filed to take him on, but Pennsbury school board member Debbie Wachspress was the only one who had brought in a credible amount of money at the end of 2019. Wachspress had $355,000 on-hand while her intra-party opponents, Bucks County housing department official Christina Finello and businessman Skylar Hurwitz, each had less than $12,000 in the bank.

Fitzpatrick does face a primary challenge of his own from businessman Andrew Meehan, but Meehan had a tiny $6,000 war chest at the end of last year. Fitzpatrick's allies at EDF Action also released a poll on Wednesday from the GOP firm WPA Intelligence that showed the incumbent beating Meehan 59-19.

PA-06: Democrat Chrissy Houlahan easily flipped this 53-43 Clinton seat last cycle after GOP incumbent Ryan Costello dropped out after the filing deadline, and the GOP doesn't seem to be making much of an effort to take it back. The only Republican who ended up filing is businessman John Emmons, who has been self-funding almost his entire campaign but still trailed Houlahan in cash-on-hand by a wide $2.1 million to $221,000 at the end of 2019.

PA-07: Democrat Susan Wild decisively won an open seat race last cycle after national Republicans abandoned their nominee, but 2020 could be a more difficult year for her. This Lehigh Valley seat shifted from 53-46 Obama to just 49-48 Clinton, and this time, national Republicans have a candidate they're more excited about.

Former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller entered the race in October and quickly earned an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Scheller has already begun self-funding. Wild outraised Scheller $516,000 to $250,000 during the final three months of 2019, but Scheller poured in an additional $300,000 of her own money. Wild ended the year with a $1.06 million to $432,000 cash-on-hand lead over Scheller.

Two other Republicans who have previously run for Congress are also campaigning here. Former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning narrowly lost the 2018 primary despite being badly outspent, and he had $225,000 available at the end of December after self-funding a little more than half of his campaign. Race car driver Matt Connolly, a perennial candidate who most recently lost a 2016 contest to Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in the old 17th District by a 54-46 margin, had only $4,000 to spend.

PA-08: This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung from 55-43 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright turned back a self-funding opponent last cycle by a convincing 55-45 margin. Republicans are hoping that Cartwright will be in much more danger with Trump on the ballot, though, and six candidates have filed to take him on.

Earl Granville, an Army veteran who lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan, entered the race in mid-December and earned an endorsement the following month from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Granville only had $5,000 on-hand at the end of 2019, though his other rivals weren't exactly drowning in cash either. Former police officer Teddy Daniels had $65,000 to spend, while Luzerne County Councilor Harry Haas had just $8,000 available. Cartwright, by contrast, had $1.3 million on-hand to defend his seat.

Jim Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, entered the GOP primary in January after the new fundraising quarter ended. Two other Republicans, 24-year-old businessman Mike Cammisa and former Hazelton Mayor Mike Marsicano, are also in. Marsicano is a former Democrat who lost re-election all the way back in 1999 and has unsuccessfully run for office as a Democrat several times since then.

PA-10: This Harrisburg-based seat backed Trump 52-43, but GOP Rep. Scott Perry only won re-election last cycle 51-49 in an unexpectedly expensive contest. Democrats are talking Perry, who is a prominent member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, and the DCCC is supporting state Auditor Eugene DePasquale.

The other Democrat running here is attorney Tom Brier, who trailed DePasquale $468,000 to $203,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of December. DePasquale recently released a primary poll that showed him beating Brier 68-16, while Brier has not yet responded with better numbers. Perry had $622,000 available at the close of 2019 to defend his seat.

PA-16: GOP Rep. Mike Kelly won re-election last cycle just 52-47 even though Donald Trump carried this Erie-area seat by a strong 58-39 margin two years before, and he's repeatedly been busted by the local media since then for selling used cars that were subject to safety recalls. However, the only Democrat who ended up filing to run here, teacher Kristy Gnibus, only had a mere $15,000 available at the end of 2019, so it's not clear if Team Blue can take advantage of Kelly's weaknesses. Two other Democrats who previously announced bids, customer service supervisor Daniel Smith and auto salesman Edward DeSantis, did not end up filing.

PA-17: Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb decisively beat Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus 56-44 after court-ordered redistricting threw the two incumbents into the same suburban Pittsburgh seat, but Republicans are hoping to target Lamb this year in this 49-47 Trump district.

Trump has endorsed Army veteran Sean Parnell, an author who frequently appears on Fox News, and Parnell brought in a credible $255,000 during his opening quarter. Lamb still raised a considerably larger $585,000, though, and he ended 2019 with a $979,000 to $219,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Only one other Republican, businessman Jesse Vodvarka, is running, and he's unlikely to put up much of a fight. Vodvarka has served as campaign manager for his father, Joe Vodvarka, during his four forgettable Senate bids as both a Republican and a Democrat. Another Republican, Green Beret veteran Brian Thomsen, announced he was running last year but didn't end up filing.

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt is up with a new TV spot telling GOP voters that he has Donald Trump's endorsement (true), and that socialists "have a Green New Deal that would ban Texas oil and gas" (a lie). Politico reports that this is part of a new $100,000 buy from Hunt ahead of the March 3 primary to face Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher.

VA-05: Republican officials decided last year to nominate their candidate through a party convention rather than through a primary, and we now know that the gathering will take place on April 25. Freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faces a notable intra-party challenge from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, and he could end up having trouble winning.

GOP conventions tend to be dominated by delegates who prize ideology above all else, and Riggleman infuriated plenty of social conservatives at home in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers. This quickly resulted in a homophobic backlash against the congressman, and local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions.

This seat, which includes Charlottesville and south-central Virginia, backed Trump 52-41, and Riggleman defeated a well-funded Democrat 53-47 last cycle. A few Democrats are campaigning here already, though, and a messy GOP fight could give the eventual nominee more of an opening. While Team Blue also held a convention to pick its nominee last year, this time around, Democrats have opted to hold a traditional primary in June.

WI-07: On Tuesday, state Sen. Tom Tiffany defeated Army veteran Jason Church 57-43 to win the GOP nod for the May 12 special election for this conservative northwestern Wisconsin seat. On the Democratic side, Wausau School Board president Tricia Zunker, who would be the state's first Native American member of Congress, defeated underfunded businessman Lawrence Dale 89-11.

Tiffany had the support of former Rep. Sean Duffy, who resigned from this seat last year, as well as former Gov. Scott Walker. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that often end up on opposite sides in GOP primaries, also both spent plenty of money to back Tiffany. Church raised a comparable amount of money as Tiffany and benefited from heavy spending from With Honor Fund and newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC, but the first-time candidate still fell short.

This seat was competitive turf a decade ago, but it's been moving sharply to the right ever since thanks to a high proportion of white voters without a college degree. Barack Obama actually carried the 7th (adjusting for redistricting) in 2008 by a 53-45 margin, but four years later, Mitt Romney won it 51-48. The bottom did not truly fall out until 2016, though, when Donald Trump prevailed by a giant 58-37 margin.

Things didn't get much better for Democrats in 2018 despite the blue wave: Walker carried the 7th 57-41 despite narrowly losing statewide, and even Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin lost it 52-48 while cruising to a 55-45 re-election victory. Given the trends in the 7th District, Tiffany will be favored in May, but as Nathan Gonzales put it after Duffy announced his resignation in August, it's "another potential special election for Republicans to mess up."

Mayoral

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Wisconsin's largest city held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, and incumbent Tom Barrett and Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor advanced to the April 7 general election. Barrett, who has served as mayor since 2004 and was Team Blue's nominee for governor in 2010 and 2012, took first with 50%, while Taylor beat self-funding Alderman Anthony Zielinski 31-16 for second.

Barrett has argued that the city has made progress during his tenure and that he can continue to improve things. But Taylor, who would be the city's first woman or African American mayor, is insisting that Barrett is "disconnected" from issues like race and jobs. Barrett held a massive $896,000 to $7,000 cash-on-hand lead over Taylor on Feb. 3.

Other Races

Milwaukee County, WI Executive: Milwaukee County also held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday for the race to succeed retiring incumbent Chris Abele, and two Democratic state legislators advanced to the April 7 general election. State Sen. Chris Larson took first with 37%, and state Rep. David Crowley led Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb Sr., who doesn't affiliate with either major party, 34-17 for second place. The balance went to businesswoman Purnima Nath, a self-described conservative.

Both general election candidates have very different relationships with Abel, a Democrat who has often worked with the GOP legislature. Abel is supporting Crowley, who would be Milwaukee County's first black executive, and the incumbent's Leadership MKE group has spent $240,000 on ads for him. Larson, by contrast, challenged Abel in 2016 and lost 56-44. Larson held a $56,000 to $30,000 cash-on-hand lead over Crowley on Feb. 3.

Grab Bag

Demographics: We're about to enter a vexing new stage in the Democratic presidential primary: a whole lot of states having elections where we have little or no polling data. Knowing which states are demographically similar to each other can help fill in some of those data gaps, though, and David Jarman has put together a state similarity index using "nearest neighbor" analysis to guide that conversation. (In case you were wondering whether this year's candidates will play in Peoria, that's actually a good question, because Illinois is the nation's most demographically average state!

Morning Digest: Ardent Trump ally will reportedly challenge GOP senator in Georgia special election

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

GA-Sen-B: On Monday evening, multiple media outlets reported that Georgia Rep. Doug Collins would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election, a move that would complicate GOP hopes of holding this key seat.

Collins himself has not publicly said anything about his plans, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that his launch is expected “soon.” (The New York Times said it would happen Tuesday, but that did not come to pass.) Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the AJC writes that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

If Collins goes ahead with his bid, that would almost certainly crush GOP hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

However, neither Democrats nor Collins’ GOP allies in the state legislature are keen on this unusual law, and they’re currently working to change it. On Tuesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee overwhelmingly advanced a bill (with a lone Republican voting “nay”) that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly-scheduled Senate race.

However, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler over Collins despite Trump’s wishes, likes the status quo just fine. He’s said he’ll veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though if Democrats and Republicans unite behind the bill, they could overturn a Kemp veto with a two-thirds supermajority.

It’s not hard to see why Loeffler and her supporters don’t want to alter Georgia’s electoral calendar. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Collins’ bonafides with the Trumpist base would be hard to overcome if the primary took place less than four months from now, but Loeffler could benefit from an additional half year of incumbency, as well as the extra time to air ads.

It’s not just the far-right that would benefit from this proposed change—Democrats likely would, too. Right now, Team Blue’s only declared candidate is businessman Matt Lieberman, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon. If all three Democrats wind up competing in an all-party primary in November, it will almost certainly be impossible for any of them to secure a majority. The prospect of a multi-way split on the left could also lead to the nightmare scenario of both Loeffler and Collins advancing to what would be an all-GOP runoff.

Thanks to her vast wealth, though, Loeffler doesn’t have to wait to see how things shake out to start upping her name recognition. She’s already up with a new TV spot that’s part of her opening $2.6 million buy that portrays her as (of course) a political outsider. The senator has reportedly pledged to spend $20 million of her own money, so Georgians will see a lot more from her no matter what Collins ends up doing.

Loeffler may also get some air support from outside groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the incumbent, as has the NRSC, though Senate Republicans may prefer to focus their attention on other races in a cycle when control of the chamber is on the line. It’s not clear who might come to Collins’ aid, but the anti-tax Club for Growth has already made it clear that he’s no friend of theirs. On Monday, the Club tweeted that the congressman “should start being more responsible with taxpayer dollars and improving the 57%” he received on its scorecard.

Trump, however, has yet to endorse Loeffler and has openly expressed his enthusiasm for Collins. Could the occupant of the White House side against a sitting senator from his own party? If anyone would do it, it’s Donald Trump.

4Q Fundraising

ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): $3.5 million raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: MJ Hegar (D): $1.1 million raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-21: David Valadao (R): $630,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-39: Young Kim (R): $490,000 raised, $900,000 cash-on-hand

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R): $17,000 raised, additional $2,000 self-funded, $17,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: John Katko (R-inc): $364,000 raised, $1.06 million cash-on-hand

WI-01: Bryan Steil (R-inc): $375,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AL-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out with another poll of the March GOP primary from OnMessage that shows him well ahead of his many rivals but still short of the majority he needs to win without a runoff. The results are below with the numbers from Sessions' December poll in parentheses:

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: 43 (44)

Rep. Bradley Byrne: 23 (14)

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville: 22 (21)

2017 nominee Roy Moore: 8 (7)

The only big change between the two polls is that Byrne has gained several points and is now locked in a tight race with Tuberville for second.

Byrne has been running ads over the last few weeks, and he's now getting some air support from a super PAC called Fighting for Alabama Fund. The group's opening commercial praises Byrne as "one of President Trump's strongest defenders," and it features clips of the congressman denouncing impeachment. The conservative Yellowhammer News writes that the super PAC's "total buy will be in the six-figures across the Birmingham and Huntsville media markets."

WV-Sen: Candidate filing closed Saturday for West Virginia's May 12 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito decisively won an open seat race in 2014, and there's no indication that she's in any trouble this cycle. Capito does face a primary challenge from Allen Whitt, the president of the social conservative group the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, but he doesn't appear to be much of a threat. Whitt raised less than $7,000 from donors during the final three months of 2019 and self-funded another $50,000, and he had $52,000 to spend at the end of December.

The most notable candidate on the Democratic side is former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, who lost the 2018 general election for the 3rd Congressional District and later launched a brief presidential bid. Also in the race is 2018 Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin, who challenged Sen. Joe Manchin from the left in the 2018 primary and lost 70-30.

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice left the Democratic Party at a 2017 Trump rally months into his term, and he's competing in the GOP primary for the first time. Justice's main intra-party rival appears to be former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, whom Justice hired and later fired. Also in the running is former Del. Mike Folk, who hasn't brought in much money so far.

Thrasher, who has been self-funding most of his campaign, began airing TV ads in June and has continued to spend heavily on spots since then. However, even Thrasher seems to agree that he's trailing right now: A mid-December Thrasher poll showed Justice leading him 38-30, while Folk was a distant third with 6%.

Three notable Democrats are also running to take on Justice. Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango and state Sen. Ron Stollings each describe themselves as moderates, while community organizer Stephen Smith is appealing to progressive voters. Salango, who has also been self-funding much of his campaign, ended December with an enormous cash advantage over his two intra-party foes.

House

CA-22: Financial adviser Phil Arballo is out with his first TV spot ahead of the March top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and the Democrat's campaign says that it will run for six figures. The ad highlights Arballo's local roots and background and does not mention Nunes.

MA-03: Andover Selectman Dan Koh filed with the FEC on Friday for a potential Democratic primary rematch against incumbent Lori Trahan, but he says he's still deciding whether to run. Koh lost the 2018 open seat race to Trahan by just 145 votes, and he's been talking about running again for months. Back in December, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was furthering its investigation into Trahan over loans totaling $300,000 that she made to her campaign ahead of that primary.

MD-07: Campaign finance reports are in for all of the candidates competing in Tuesday's special Democratic primary to succeed the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in this safely blue seat. The numbers, which cover the period from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15, are below:

Del. Talmadge Branch: $54,000 raised, additional $4,000 self-funded, $14,000 spent, $44,000 cash-on-hand

State Sen. Jill Carter: $54,000 raised, $14,000 spent, $42,000 cash-on-hand

Former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings: $208,000 raised, $139,000 spent, $69,000 cash-on-hand

University of Baltimore Law School professor Michael Higginbotham: $108,000 raised, additional $509,000 self-funded, $407,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Terri Hill: $49,000 raised, $9,000 spent, $41,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Jay Jalisi: $43,000 raised, additional $75,000 self-funded, $0 spent, $118,000 cash-on-hand

Former Rep. Kweisi Mfume: $261,000 raised, additional $5,000 self-funded, $57,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Business consultant Saafir Rabb: $217,000 raised, $144,000 spent, $73,000 cash-on-hand

Former Cummings aide Harry Spikes: $19,000 raised, $10,000 spent, $9,000 cash-on-hand

This is the first we've written about the two top spenders, Higginbotham and Rabb.

NY-27: Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw announced Monday that he'd compete in the June GOP primary for the full two-year term, a move that came two days after county party leaders passed him over for the party's nomination for upcoming special election in favor of state Sen. Chris Jacobs. Attorney and Fox News contributor Beth Parlato, who also lost on Saturday, had already launched a primary campaign for this 60-35 Trump seat.

Mychajliw, who was an ally of disgraced former Rep. Chris Collins, once again expressed his rage at how the special election nomination was "made behind closed doors by party bosses." And while Mychajliw was first elected as Erie County comptroller in 2012, he pitched himself as the anti-establishment candidate. Mychajliw rhetorically asked, "Can you imagine if Donald Trump listened to the establishment Republicans and let Jeb Bush run for the White House?" and concluded, "Hillary Clinton would be president right now."

Two other candidates who unsuccessfully sought the special election nod are also considering proceeding to the June primary. State Sen. Robert Ortt, who reportedly came close to beating Jacobs over the weekend, told the Buffalo Daily News on Monday that he'd decide in the next few days. White House aide Jeff Freeland, by contrast, said that he wouldn't be talking about his plans until impeachment is done.

However, as we've noted before, it's going to be tough to deny Jacobs the GOP nod in June, especially if so many other candidates run. The state attorney general's office told a court that Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to set the date for April 28, so if Jacobs wins that race, he'd have two months of incumbency before the primary.

SC-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham is out with his first TV spot of the campaign, and the Post & Courier reports that it's running for six figures.

The ad begins by referencing the commercials from GOP outside groups that have already run here and in other competitive seats across the country, with the narrator describing them as "[a]ttack ads so phony even late-night TV made fun of them." A clip then shows comedian Jimmy Kimmel mocking one Republican spot that starred a woman identified as Stacy by saying, "The problem is 'Stacy' is actually an actress … I bet her name's not even Stacy!"

Cunningham's narrator goes on to say that the congressman is the latest target. The commercial continues by praising Cunningham for keeping his word and passing a bipartisan bill to ban offshore oil drilling, working to aid local veterans, and stopping politicians who "tried to raise their own pay."

TX-13: Lobbyist Josh Winegarner is out with a TV spot ahead of the crowded March GOP primary where the narrator bemoans, "We have 15 candidates from Congress, many of them from out of district." He continues, "A Dallas millionaire's even trying to buy our seat." This person isn't mentioned by name, but it's almost certainly a reference to businessman Chris Ekstrom, who lived in Dallas as recently as May. (The city is located about 55 miles away from the border of this Texas Panhandle-based district.)

Winegarner's commercial goes on to praise the candidate as "a pro-life family man who cannot be bought." Winegarner appears at the end and says the district needs "one of our own."

Winegarner also got an endorsement this week from Rep. Mike Conaway, who is retiring from the neighboring 11th District.

WI-07: The anti-tax Club for Growth has launched its first TV spot in support of state Sen. Tom Tiffany ahead of the Feb. 18 special GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy is $130,000. The commercial argues that Tiffany will be a Trump ally who has "Wisconsin common sense."

Tiffany himself is also out with an ad where he tells the audience that, in addition to being a family man and a conservative, he's "the dam tender on the Willow Flowage. So, I know a thing or two about holding up under pressure." (We've seen a lot of political spots over the years, but we're quite sure this is the first time we've heard the words "dam tender" in one, much less from the candidate.) Tiffany goes on to say he'll be a Trump ally and that "nobody knows how to drain a swamp like a dam man."

DCCC: On Thursday, the DCCC unveiled the first round of its "Red to Blue" program for the 2020 election cycle, highlighting candidates whom the committee thinks has the strongest chance of picking up GOP-held districts or defending competitive open seats. The full list of candidates making the DCCC's initial roster are below:

AZ-06: Hiral Tipirneni CA-25: Christy Smith IA-02: Rita Hart IL-13: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan IN-05: Christina Hale MN-01: Dan Feehan MO-02: Jill Schupp NY-02: Jackie Gordon PA-10: Eugene DePasquale TX-21: Wendy Davis TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones WA-03: Carolyn Long

Most of these candidates don't face any serious opposition in their primaries. The biggest exception is in California's 25th District where progressive commentator Cenk Uygur, who has long been a vocal opponent of national party leaders, is competing with Assemblywoman Christy Smith in March. The other is in Arizona's 6th District, where 2018 nominee Anita Malik is making a second run but has struggled to raise as much money as physician Hiral Tipirneni.

The DCCC's decision to back Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon in New York's 2nd District is also notable. Gordon launched a bid against GOP Rep. Peter King in the spring, but there was some talk of other Democrats getting in after King decided to retire in November. No other notable contenders have entered the Democratic primary, though, and it looks like the DCCC doesn't expect that to change.

The DCCC's counterparts at the NRCC have a similar program called Young Guns, but there are some key differences between them. When the DCCC adds a candidate to Red to Blue, it is declaring that this contender is the national party's choice in a key race. By contrast, the NRCC often will add multiple candidates running in the same race, as well as people running in safely red open seats.

Legislative

State Legislative Open Seat Watch: Just as we did in the 2018 cycle, Daily Kos Elections will be tracking open seat data for all state legislative chambers that will be holding regular elections in 2020. In seven states with closed filing deadlines, we've counted 70 Republican to 42 Democratic open seats. For individualized listings of each open seat, along with our calculations of their partisan data, check out this tab.

We'll also be keeping tabs on the number of uncontested seats in each chamber. So far, Republicans have failed to file candidates in 40% of Democratic-held districts, while Democrats have left 32% of Republican seats uncontested. However, these numbers are bound to change as more filing deadlines close across the country. (Note: West Virginia's filing deadline closed on January 25, but we are awaiting confirmation of the finalized candidate list from that state before updating our tracking.)

We'll be posting periodic updates on this project in the Daily Digest and on Twitter, but if you'd like to stay on top of every update as they happen, feel free to bookmark this Google Doc!

Morning Digest: Former GOP congressman runs bigoted ad highlighting that his top GOP rival is gay

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

CA-50: Former California Rep. Darrell Issa is standing by a new TV spot that repeatedly highlights the fact that his top rival, former San Diego City Councilman and fellow Republican Carl DeMaio, is gay.

Issa's ad came just after DeMaio launched his own commercial that argued that the former congressman hadn't done enough to support Donald Trump. Issa's spot responds by featuring a DeMaio tweet calling Trump "a disgusting pig" and arguing that he supported citizenship for "illegal aliens" while he was on the San Diego City Council. The ad also showcases the same shot of three shirtless and tattooed men taken in a Latin American prison that has become a staple of racist GOP ads during the Trump era.

Campaign Action

The spot then highlights a large headline from the Los Angeles Blade that reads "Carl DeMaio: California's gay GOP kingmaker" and a considerably smaller excerpt from the article quoting DeMaio saying, "My job isn't to support Donald Trump." The image then switches to an article from The Hill titled "Gay GOP Candidate: Party Must Change" with some text reading, "DeMaio said some illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship."

The ad drew quick condemnation from two local Republicans, San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate and county party chair Tony Krvaric, for emphasizing DeMaio's sexual orientation. Meanwhile, a spokesman for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is one of Issa's most high-profile endorsers, also declared, "Campaigns should focus on people's positions on the issues, not people's sexual orientation." However, Issa's intra-party critics were silent about the ad's blatant racism, and Faulconer's team also made sure to note that the mayor is still backing the former congressman.

Unsurprisingly, Issa dug in and defended himself. On Thursday, when local ABC reporter Jon Horn asked him about the spot, Issa initially responded, "I have no idea what you're talking about." After Horn elaborated, Issa responded, "You're talking about some headlines from actual newspapers" and continued, "I certainly think you should talk to The Hill and The Blade and ask them why they use those words."

Issa continued to insist the next day that his ad was free of homophobia. The former congressman told Politico that DeMaio "made no public statements complaining about [The Blade] or The Hill" at the time the articles were originally published, adding that he doesn't consider the word "gay" to be a slur (how enlightened of him).

Issa went even further, saying he has gay staffers, and protesting, "This ad is not about anything related to that term." Issa did not, however, explain why he chose to use two large headlines about DeMaio's sexual orientation if he didn't want viewers to clearly see them.

4Q Fundraising

AK-AL: Alyse Galvin (I): $350,000 raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand

FL-19: Dan Severson (R): $4,000 raised, additional $103,000 self-funded, $103,000 cash-on-hand

NJ-05: Mike Ghassali (R): $560,000 raised, $728,000 cash-on-hand

NY-02: Jackie Gordon (D): $260,000 raised, $289,000 cash-on-hand

WI-03: Ron Kind (D-inc): $292,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand

Senate

KS-Sen: Former Red State director Bryan Pruitt announced Friday that he was dropping out of the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate and running instead for the state Senate.

ME-Sen: Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon's latest TV ad is a minute-long spot that shows Gideon embarking on a "supper with Sara" tour and meeting with voters across the state. Gideon is filmed telling voters that "we have to take the pharmaceutical companies on," while supporters argue it's time for new blood in the Senate.

House

FL-26: On Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez's campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Giménez famously backed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, so the White House's seal of approval could help the mayor avoid any problems in the August GOP primary. However, Trump's support is unlikely to be such an asset for the mayor in November in this 57-41 Clinton seat.

GA-14: Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin announced Thursday that he would run for the state Senate rather than seek the GOP nod for this open congressional seat.

MI-06: GOP Rep. Fred Upton just can't seem to make up his mind about seeking a 18th term this year, even with Michigan's filing deadline looming—and a competitive race for his 6th District in the offing no matter what he chooses to do. Here's his latest statement about his timeline for making a decision, made during a radio interview on Thursday:

"We'll make a decision in the next couple of weeks, for sure."

You know … that sure sounds familiar. In fact, it sure sounds identical. This is what Upton had to say on Jan. 7—you know, about two weeks ago:

"We'll make that decision in the next couple of weeks, for sure."

Okay, here's something even funnier, though: Fred Upton from Sept. 9:

"[W]e'll make a decision in a couple months."

A couple of weeks, a couple of months, a couple of whatevers. But hey, if he wants to wait until April 22 to decide, we'd be quite happy with that—for sure.

NJ-03, NJ-02: On Friday, wealthy businessman David Richter told the Press of Atlantic City that he was considering dropping his GOP primary bid against Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who left the Democratic Party last month, and challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim in the 3rd District instead. Richter added that he would make up his mind in the next week.

Indeed, Richter may want to make up his mind very quickly. The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein writes that former Gov. Chris Christie has told Richter that if he endorses Van Drew, the candidate could wind up on the same stage as Donald Trump on Tuesday when Trump holds his rally in the 2nd District.

Wildstein adds that if this happens, it could make it easier for Richter to secure the important party organization line in Ocean County, which is home to 55% of the 3rd District's Trump voters. (The balance of the district is in Burlington County, where party leaders are supporting former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs.)

Richter is the only notable Republican challenging Van Drew in the June GOP primary, and his departure from the 2nd District would clear the way for the defector to win his new party's nomination.

It's also possible that Richter could improve the GOP's chances against Kim in the 3rd District. While party leaders were reportedly excited about Gibbs, she had a mere $138,000 on-hand at the end of December after five weeks in the race. That's not an impressive figure in any competitive seat, and it's especially underwhelming in a district that's split between the pricey Philadelphia media market and the ultra-expensive New York City market. Richter had a considerably larger $515,000 to spend, though almost all of that was self-funded.

However, Richter does have one big potential liability. The candidate grew up in the 3rd District in Willingboro, but he doesn't appear to have lived there in a while. Richter was residing in Princeton, which is located in the safely blue 12th District, when he announced his campaign against Van Drew over the summer, and he soon relocated to Avalon in the far southern point of the 2nd District.

Avalon is about 56 miles away from the nearest community in the 3rd District, and Richter said Friday that he'd move to Kim's seat if he ran there. However, it wouldn't be hard for Richter's political foes to portray him as a carpetbagger if he relocates for the second time in the space of a year to run for another office.

PA-08: Republican Jim Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, announced on Thursday that he would run in the April primary to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright. Bognet joins a crowded field that includes Army veteran Earl Granville, who recently picked up an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

TX-12: Protect Freedom PAC, which is allied with the anti-tax hardliners at the Club for Growth, is putting at least $547,000 behind a new TV ad attacking Rep. Kay Granger ahead of the March 3 Republican primary. The spot starts off by asking if voters can trust Granger to support their values as she's shown in a 2007 MSNBC clip saying, "I am a pro-choice Republican," and they note she has voted repeatedly against defunding Planned Parenthood in recent years. However, the ad of course makes no mention that Granger earlier this month signed onto an amicus brief along with more than 200 other Republican members of Congress urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

TX-17: Businesswoman Renee Swann is launching her first Republican primary ad with a spot that blasts Obamacare and claims that Democrats want a "government takeover" of health care, which she attacks as "socialism."

TX-24: Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne is up with her first TV spot of the March GOP primary for this open seat. Van Duyne walks through a prison and says, "There's one thing we can all agree on: When criminal illegals commit crimes and hit these doors, they should be deported." The candidate goes on to say that under her leadership, Irving was one of the top-ten safest cities in America. Van Duyne then decries "liberal elites" who "want sanctuary cities."

WI-03: Republican Jessi Ebben, a public relations professional and first-time candidate, announced on Friday that she would compete in the August primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Ron Kind.