Morning Digest: Three House incumbents lose renomination during a huge primary night

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

IL-06, IL-15, MS-04: Tuesday was one of the biggest primary nights of the cycle, and not just because a trio of House incumbents lost renomination. We’ll start with a look at those three contests below as we begin our summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in the big contests. You can also find our cheat-sheet here.

 IL-06 (D & R): Two-term Rep. Sean Casten defeated freshman colleague Marie Newman by a wide 68-29 margin in their Democratic primary for a seat in Chicago's inner western suburbs. Newman’s existing 3rd District makes up 41% of this new seat while Casten's current 6th District forms just 23%, but she was hurt by an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The race largely paused about two weeks before Election Day after the congressman's teenage daughter died suddenly and Newman announced that she was halting negative ads.

Casten will face Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, who won the GOP nod by beating Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso 39-27, in a constituency Biden would have carried 55-44.

 IL-15 (R): Freshman Rep. Mary Miller, who had support of Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, beat five-term incumbent Rodney Davis 57-43 in a safely red seat in rural central Illinois. While neither member had much of a geographic advantage in this new seat, the far-right Miller proved to be a better fit for local Republicans than Davis, who had long sought to present himself as a moderate in order to win under the previous map and voted for a Jan. 6 commission.

Davis tacked right during this campaign and pledged to investigate the Jan. 6 committee if he became chair of the House Administration Committee, but it was far from enough. Miller, by contrast, told Trump at a rally on Saturday, “I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.” (Her campaign responded by insisting she’d meant to say “right to life.”)

 MS-04 (R): Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell defeated six-term Rep. Steven Palazzo 54-46 in the Republican runoff for a safely red seat along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The incumbent led Ezell only 31-25 in the first round of voting on June 7, and all five of the defeated candidates quickly endorsed Ezell for the runoff. Mississippi Today says that this is the first time a House incumbent has lost renomination in the Magnolia State since 1962, when Jamie Whitten beat fellow Rep. Frank Smith in their Democratic primary. (Whitten, who was elected in a 1941 special, retired in 1995 as the longest serving House member in American history, though the late Michigan Democrat John Dingell later broke that record.)

Palazzo spent the campaign dogged by an ethics investigation into allegations that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. His many critics also portrayed him as an absentee congressman uninterested in doing his job, and Palazzo gave them more fodder earlier this year when he posted a picture on Facebook of himself and his son at a restaurant in Mississippi hours after he abruptly canceled a campaign forum for what his staff said were “meetings dealing with national security.”

election recaps

 Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday. We’ll start with a surprisingly close special election in Nebraska:

 NE-01 (special): Republican state Sen. Mike Flood only defeated Democratic colleague Patty Pansing Brooks 53-47 to win the contest to succeed Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned in March after he was convicted of concealing illegal campaign funds he received from a foreign national, in a Lincoln area constituency that Trump would have won 54-43 in 2020 and 56-38 four years before. Bizarrely, the special was held under the new district lines even though the winner will fill out the remainder of Fortenberry's term, which he of course won under the old lines; Trump carried the existing 1st by a stronger 56-41 in 2020.

National Democrats, though, were not prepared for things to be anywhere near as close as they were: Indeed, Pansing Brooks’ media consultant, Ian Russell, says that Flood outspent her $860,000 to $80,000 in a contest that attracted no serious outside spending. The two state senators will face off again in November for a full two-year term.

We’ll move on to Colorado, where Democrats spent serious amounts in what proved to be unsuccessful efforts to get Republicans to nominate Team Blue’s preferred opponents:

 CO-Sen (R): Self-funding businessman Joe O’Dea turned back state Rep. Ron Hanks, a vocal proponent of the Big Lie, 55-45 in the GOP primary to face Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. A poll from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group showed both Republicans losing to Bennet by the same 13-point margin, but Team Blue believed that the extremist Hanks would be easier to defeat.

 CO-Gov (R): University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, who is Colorado’s only remaining statewide Republican, defeated businessman Greg Lopez 54-46 for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. That same GSG poll showed Polis winning by identical 51-32 spreads against both, but Democrats tried to get GOP voters to select the underfunded Lopez.

 CO-03 (R): Another far-right freshman, Rep. Lauren Boebert, beat self-described moderate state Sen. Don Coram 65-35 in a western Colorado seat that Trump would have taken 53-45.

 CO-05 (R): Rep. Doug Lamborn turned back state Rep. Dave Williams 48-33 in a Colorado Springs-based seat Trump also would have carried 53-43. Lamborn, who has struggled to win renomination in the past, is the subject of an ongoing ethics investigation into allegations that he misused official resources by having congressional staff perform personal and campaign-related tasks for him and his wife.

 CO-07 (R): Former oil and gas executive Erik Aadland defeated businessman Tim Reichert 48-36 in the GOP primary to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter. Aadland will be the underdog against state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who had no Democratic primary opposition, in a seat in the western Denver suburbs that Biden would have carried 56-42. 

 CO-08 (R): State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer beat Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann 40-23 in the GOP primary for this newly created seat in Denver's northern suburbs. Democrats had aired ads trying to block Kirkmeyer and convince Republicans to instead nominate far-right Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, but Saine ended up taking only third with 20%. Kirkmeyer will go up against state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who had no opposition in the Democratic primary, in a constituency Biden would have won 51-46.

 CO-SoS (R): Former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson defeated economic development specialist Mike O'Donnell 43-29; the balance went to Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who was indicted in March for allegedly breaching the county's election systems during her attempt to demonstrate fraud in 2020. Anderson, who was the one Republican candidate who acknowledged that Biden won the 2020 election, will go up against Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Next is Illinois, which was home to the bulk of Tuesday’s biggest contests:

 IL-Gov (R): Both Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Donald Trump got what they wanted from the Republican primary as far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey beat venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan in a 57-16 blowout; Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who looked like the frontrunner until early June, took third with just 15% despite the $50 million in donations he’d received from billionaire Ken Griffin.

Pritzker and his allies at the DGA very badly wanted to face Bailey instead of Irvin, and they spent massive amounts to make that happen. NBC reports that the incumbent dropped $32 million on TV ads during the GOP primary, most of which went towards hitting the mayor, while the DGA deployed another $18 million on commercials either touting Bailey as a conservative or attacking Irvin. Another conservative megadonor, Richard Uihlein, spent $17 million to promote Bailey as well and go after Irvin’s record as mayor and past moderate stances.

 IL-01 (D): Businessman Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and benefited from $1 million in support from crypto-aligned PACs, won the nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush in this safely blue seat by defeating Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell 28-19. Rush, who is the only person to ever defeat Barack Obama, supported former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves, who finished third with 14%.

 IL-03 (D): State Rep. Delia Ramirez, who had several progressive groups on her side, beat Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas 66-24 in a safely blue seat centered around heavily Latino areas in southwestern Chicago and the city's western suburbs.

 IL-07 (D): Longtime Rep. Danny Davis turned back anti-gun violence activist Kina Collins 52-45 in what was easily his closest renomination fight ever in this heavily Democratic seat in downtown Chicago. Davis beat Collins 60-14 in a 2020 contest that attracted little attention, but this time, there was notable outside spending on both sides. President Joe Biden also endorsed the 13-term incumbent two days before the primary.

 IL-08 (D): Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi defeated businessman Junaid Ahmed 70-30 in a seat based in Chicago's outer western suburbs. Biden would have prevailed 57-41 here.

 IL-13 (R & D): The AP has not yet called this GOP primary, but with 95% of the projected vote in, activist Regan Deering leads former federal prosecutor Jesse Reising 35-33. The Democrats are fielding former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski, who won her own primary 76-24, in a seat that now snakes from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana. Democratic mapmakers transformed what was a 51-47 Trump constituency into one Biden would have carried 54-43, which is why GOP Rep. Rodney Davis decided to take his chances in the 15th instead of run here.

 IL-14 (R): The AP also has not yet made a call in the GOP primary, but conservative radio host Mike Koolidge leads perennial candidate James Marter 31-24. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood in a constituency in Chicago's western exurbs where Democratic legislators augmented Biden's margin of victory from 50-48 to 55-43.

 IL-17 (D): Former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen, who would be the first gay person to represent Illinois in Congress, won the Democratic nod to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos by beating former state Rep. Litesa Wallace 38-23. Republicans are once again fielding 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos 52-48 as Trump was taking the old version of this northwestern Illinois seat 50-48; Biden would have carried the new version of the 17th 53-45.

Mississippi also had another big runoff Tuesday:

 MS-03 (R): Rep. Michael Guest avenged his June 7 embarrassment by beating Navy veteran Michael Cassidy 67-33 in the runoff for this safely red seat in the central part of the state. Cassidy led Guest, who voted for a Jan. 6 commission, 47.5-46.9 in the first round in a campaign that almost everyone expected the incumbent to win with ease. The congressman, who himself acknowledged he'd run a complacent campaign, used the next three weeks to air ads attacking Cassidy for the first time, while his allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund spent serious amounts on anti-Cassidy messaging.

New York held primaries for statewide races and the state Assembly, but because the courts redrew the maps for the U.S. House and state Senate, those nomination contests won't take place until Aug. 23.

 NY-Gov & NY-LG (D): Gov. Kathy Hochul won her primary for a full term by beating New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams 68-19, while Rep. Tom Suozzi took 13%. Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, a former congressman who served as Hochul’s informal running mate, won his separate primary by beating activist Ana Maria Archila, who was aligned with Williams, 61-25. Hochul and Delgado will campaign together as a ticket in November.

 NY-Gov (R): Rep. Lee Zeldin defeated former Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, the son of Donald Trump's most embarrassing attorney, 44-23. Zeldin and running mate Alison Esposito, who had no intra-party opposition in the primary for lieutenant governor, will try to unseat Hochul and Delgado in a state where Republicans haven’t won a single statewide race since 2002.

Oklahoma also went to the polls: A runoff will take place Aug. 23 in any contests where no one earned a majority of the vote.

 OK-Sen-B (R): Rep. Markwayne Mullin and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon will compete in the runoff to succeed longtime Sen. Jim Inhofe, a fellow Republican who announced in late February that he would resign, effective ​​when the current Congress ends.

Mullin took a firm first place with 44% while Shannon, who lost to now-Sen. James Lankford in the 2014 primary for Oklahoma’s other Senate seat, outpaced state Sen. Nathan Dahm 19-12. Another 11% went to Luke Holland, Inhofe’s former chief of staff and preferred successor, while former Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt barely registered with just 5%.

 OK-Gov (R): Gov. Kevin Stitt decisively beat state Department of Veterans Affairs head Joel Kintsel 69-14 even after dark money groups spent millions against him. Stitt will be favored in the fall against Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who left the GOP last year.

 OK-02 (R): State Rep. Avery Frix will compete in the runoff to succeed Mullin in this dark red eastern Oklahoma seat, but the AP has not yet called the second runoff spot. With 99% of the expected vote in for this enormous 14-person field, Frix leads with 15% while former state Sen. Josh Brecheen holds a 14-13 edge over Muskogee Chief of Police Johnny Teehee.

 OK-05 (R): Despite her vote for a Jan. 6 commission, freshman Rep. Stephanie Bice defeated her underfunded foe, conservative YouTube show host Subrina Banks, 68-32 in a newly gerrymandered seat in the Oklahoma City area.

The big night concluded with Utah.

 UT-Sen (R): Far-right Sen. Mike Lee turned back former state Rep. Becky Edwards, who centered her challenge around Lee's unbending fealty to Donald Trump, 62-30. The incumbent will go up against conservative independent Evan McMullin, whom Democrats decided to support rather than field their own candidate.

 UT-01 (R): Freshman Rep. Blake Moore, who also voted to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks, beat retired intelligence officer Andrew Badger 59-27 in this safely red northern Utah seat.

 UT-03 (R): Finally, Rep. John Curtis, who also voted for a Jan. 6 commission, defeated former state Rep. Chris Herrod 71-29 in what was their third GOP primary contest. This seat in the Provo area and southeastern Utah is also dark red turf.

  Redistricting

LA Redistricting: In an unsurprising move, the Supreme Court's far-right supermajority voted without explanation to block a lower court decision that struck down Louisiana's congressional map for violating the Voting Rights Act over the objections of the three liberal justices. The court said it would hear a full appeal next term. As a result, Louisiana will use a map this year that features just a single Black congressional district out of six, despite the fact that the trial court determined that African Americans, who make up a third of the state's population, are entitled to a second district in which they can elect their preferred candidates under the VRA.

Senate

AK-Sen: Sen. Lisa Murkowski's allies at Alaskans For Lisa are using their first negative TV ad to attack former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka as "​​so extreme she wants to outlaw receiving contraceptives by mail," which is almost never the type of messaging we hear in a contest between two Republicans. However, the state's new top-four electoral system gives Murkowski's side an incentive to appeal to Alaska's entire electorate, not just the social conservatives who usually dominate GOP primaries

And there's good reason to think that this sort of ad could resonate even in a red state like this one. Civiqs finds that registered voters agree that abortion should be legal in most or all cases by a 50-45 margin, while other surveys have also shown that a majority of Alaskans support abortion rights.

AZ-Sen: Former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters' newest commercial for the August primary features him standing next to Donald Trump as the GOP's actual master delivers a rare direct-to-camera appeal for one of his candidates. (Trump previously made a personal pitch for David Perdue in the primary for governor of Georgia which … did not end well for either man.)

After praising Masters as "strong on election fraud," Trump also uses this occasion to argue that two of his intra-party foes, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and wealthy businessman Jim Lamon, "will only let you down," though he uncharacteristically refrains from dissing them further. Masters himself only chimes in at the end to approve the commercial and shake Trump's hand, a practice Trump once dismissed as "barbaric."

MO-Sen: John Wood, a former Republican who served as a senior advisor to the Jan. 6 committee until last week, announced Wednesday morning that he’d run for this open seat as an independent. Wood previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Kansas City area under George W. Bush.

Wood launched his campaign shortly after former Republican Sen. John Danforth starred in a commercial that was part of what AdImpact reported is a $1.4 million buy from a PAC called Missouri Stands Unite. Danforth, who left office in 1995, didn’t mention Wood or anyone else by name but instead spent the 90 second commercial expressing his disillusionment with the state of American unity and argues that a victory for a nonaligned candidate would send a "message to politicians throughout America." Danforth, though, called for Wood to run before the independent launched his campaign.

NV-Sen, WI-Sen: Two new ads from two pro-choice groups in top-tier Senate races both focus on abortion in the wake of the Dobbs decision, but they use strikingly different language.

In Nevada, Women Vote, which is the super PAC arm of EMILY's List, says it's spending $2.1 million to castigate Republican Adam Laxalt for calling the Supreme Court's ruling an "historic victory." The narrator elaborates: "Unapologetically pro-life, Laxalt has made a career pushing to limit abortion rights, committed to taking control of every woman's personal decision and giving it to politicians."

Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, says it's putting $1.5 million behind an ad warning that the Supreme Court's decision will "trigger[] a ban on nearly all abortions in Wisconsin" because of an 1849 law outlawing abortion that's still on the books. She explains that Sen. Ron Johnson "sided with them on overturning Roe v. Wade—punishing doctors and hurting people. Putting our health and reproductive rights in danger." The voice-over concludes, "Johnson even said, if you don't like it, you can move." (Yep, he sure did.)

What's surprising is hearing an organization like EMILY's List use the term "pro-life"—a dastardly bit of Orwellian rhetoric deployed by the right for decades that has worked wonders to soften the image of a cruel movement designed to render women second-class citizens. Planned Parenthood wisely avoids the problem by eschewing labels altogether and simply describing the implications of Johnson's vision.

WA-Sen: Tiffany Smiley, who is the only serious Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Patty Murray, has released an internal from The Tarrance Group showing her trailing the senator only 48-43. An early June survey for the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute gave Murray a larger 51-40 edge, but the Democrat has been taking this contest seriously. Politico reports that Murray has spent over $1 million on her opening ad campaign, including a recent spot where an OB-GYN warned, "You think women's reproductive health care is safe here in Washington? Not with Mitch McConnell's handpicked candidate in the U.S. Senate, Tiffany Smiley."

Governors

AZ-Gov: Former Rep. Matt Salmon announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the August Republican primary, saying, “Unfortunately, numbers are numbers, and it has become clear to me that the path to a first-place victory is no longer a realistic possibility.” While Salmon only narrowly lost the 2002 general election for this post to Democrat Janet Napolitano, he lagged in polls and fundraising in his second campaign 20 years later.

The former congressman’s departure five weeks ahead of the primary leaves former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who has Trump’s endorsement, and Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson as the only two major GOP contenders. Self-funding businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen is also in, but while she recently aired an ad declaring, “I’m going to cut the fat off our government like I cut the fat off my prosciutto,” she’s otherwise attracted very little attention.

MD-Gov: Goucher College, polling on behalf of the Baltimore Banner and WYPR, finds close contests in both party's July 19 primaries.

On the Democratic side, the school gives state Comptroller Peter Franchot the edge with 16% as former nonprofit head Wes Moore and former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez are just behind with 14% each; former Attorney General Doug Gansler is a distant fourth with just 5%, while a 35% plurality of respondents are undecided. The only other independent poll we've seen here was an early June OpinionWorks poll that also put Franchot on top with 20% as Moore and Perez took 15% and 12%, respectively.

In the Republican primary, Goucher has Del. Dan Cox outpacing former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz 25-22, with 44% undecided and no other candidates breaking 3%. OpinionWorks earlier this month gave Schulz, who has termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan's endorsement, a 27-21 advantage over the Trump-backed Cox.

House

AZ-01: Self-funder Elijah Norton's newest GOP primary commercial against incumbent David Schweikert features the congressman's former campaign treasurer, Karen Garrett, expressing some choice words about her old boss and the scandal that dogged him last cycle. Garrett tells the audience that Schweikert "reported a fraudulent $100,000 loan, $279,000 in illegal contributions, and more than $500,000 missing." She concludes, "Then he blamed his staff. He lied to us. Discovering the kind of person David has become has been one of the heartbreaks of my life."

FL-02: The local firm Sachs Media gives Republican Rep. Neal Dunn a small 43-40 edge over his Democratic colleague, Al Lawson, in the first poll we've seen of this incumbent vs. incumbent matchup. There's reason to think the undecided voters lean Republican, though: The sample also favors Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis 53-41 in a general election against Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist (Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also seeking the Democratic nod for governor, was not tested), which closely matches Trump's 55-44 performance here in 2020.

FL-04: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Tuesday became the latest prominent Republican to endorse state Sen. Aaron Bean in the August primary for this open seat.

FL-23: Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz has earned an endorsement from Hillary Clinton ahead of the Democratic primary.

FL-27: State Sen. Annette Taddeo has released an internal from SEA Polling and Strategic Design that shows her outpacing Miami Commissioner Ken Russell 51-15 in the Democratic primary to take on freshman Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar.

OH-09: Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur is using her first TV ad against her opponent, QAnon-aligned activist J.R. Majewski, to highlight the Republican's involvement in the Jan. 6 attack. The narrator recounts, "He broke past the police barricades at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot" as the audience sees photos of Majewski in the crowd, continuing, "140 police officers were injured, one died." The speaker, who is now identified as a local voter, goes on to praise Kaptur's record supporting the police and funding a new jail before adding, "Look, reckless guys waving assault weapons don't make our families safer, more police in our neighborhoods do."

Ballot Measures

AK Ballot: Alaskans will vote this November on whether to hold a state constitutional convention, and the Alaska Beacon's Lisa Phu writes that this once-in-a-decade referendum has become an abortion rights battleground now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. The Alaska Supreme Court in 1997 recognized that the state's governing document protects the right to an abortion, and pro-choice groups are urging voters to keep the status quo in place by voting "no."

Anti-choice forces, likewise, understand that a victory for the "yes" side would give them a chance to outlaw abortion in a state where it's otherwise difficult to amend the state constitution. It takes two-thirds of both the state House and Senate to put a constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot, and while two state Senate committees last year advanced a proposal reading, "To protect human life, nothing in this constitution may be construed to secure or protect a right to an abortion or require the State to fund an abortion," it failed to receive a floor vote in either chamber. Senate Republicans and their one Democratic ally currently hold a 14-6 supermajority, but the House is run by a coalition of Democrats, independents, and a few Republicans.  

If a majority voted "no" this fall, then this referendum would next take place in 2032. (Alaska is one of 14 states where constitutional convention questions automatically appear on the ballot after a set number of years; in 2012, "no" won 67-33.) If "yes" came out on top, however, the lieutenant governor's office says, "The process could take as long as four-plus years or, depending on the legislature, it could be as short as, say, two years." Phu explains that after the convention finished its work, voters would need to approve any amendments or other revisions to the constitution. The Last Frontier held its last constitutional convention in 1955 and 1956, which was a few years before Alaska became a state.

CA Ballot, VT Ballot: On Tuesday night, both chambers of California's Democratic-led legislature mustered up the two-thirds majorities needed to place a constitutional amendment on November's ballot that would affirm that "the state shall not deny or interfere with an individual's reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives."

Politico explains that, while "[p]rivacy rights already embedded in the state Constitution have been widely interpreted as protecting the right to abortion," Democratic leaders want to do everything they can to avoid any legal ambiguity especially now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Back in February, Vermont's Democratic-controlled legislature voted to place a similar constitutional amendment on its general election ballot that would safeguard "reproductive autonomy." Civiqs finds that at least 70% of registered voters in both states believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: On the very day of the special election to fill the vacancy caused by his resignation, former Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry learned that he would receive zero time in jail after he was convicted in March of lying to federal investigators in an effort to conceal illegal campaign funds he received from a foreign national.

Remarkably, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Blumenfeld handed down the light sentence—two years of probation, community service, and a fine—because he concluded that "by all accounts the man is of exceptional character," adding, "The court is convinced that this wrongful, dishonest choice was out of character by Mr. Fortenberry." Making the sentence all the more inexplicable, Fortenberry still denies wrongdoing and once again said he would appeal—the very opposite of the sort of showing of contrition that might motivate a judge toward leniency.

Ad Roundup

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

Michigan Republican sends horrid anti-trans solicitation after fundraising shortfall

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

MI-07: Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in Michigan's new and competitive 7th Congressional District, recently sent out a fundraising appeal by text message falsely telling recipients that "your child's gender reassignment surgery has been booked," complete with a phony time for the appointment. Barrett, a far-right politician who has worn a "naturally immunized" wrist band and refused to say if he's vaccinated, deployed this tactic after David Drucker of the conservative Washington Examiner reported that he'd badly missed his own team's fundraising goals.

We know about Barrett's underperformance because a Democratic operative provided Drucker with a vivid recording of one of his top aides. "We announced just before Thanksgiving, you know, really, you know, we chained him to a desk and had him on the phones," said the staffer in February, "and he raised, you know, 310 grand. He's raising more money now—our goal is a million by the end of March." However, the senator hauled in only $456,000 during the first three months of 2022, which left him with $396,000 on hand. Slotkin, by contrast, took in $1.32 million during the first quarter and had a gigantic $5.5 million on hand.

One thing Barrett doesn't need to worry about, though, is the Aug. 2 primary. Candidate filing closed Tuesday, and the only other Republican to turn in paperwork was insurance agency owner Jacob Hagg, who hasn't reported raising any cash at all. This constituency in the Lansing area would have supported Joe Biden by a 50-49 margin, a small improvement for Slotkin from Trump's 50-49 edge in the old 8th District. But even an underfunded extremist like Barrett has an opening in a district this close.

Now that filing has passed in the Wolverine State, we'll be taking a look at Michigan's other big competitive races, starting with our MI-Gov item below. It's possible that some candidates who submitted signatures won't appear on the ballot, though, because election authorities in Michigan have disqualified contenders in past years for not meeting the state's requirements. In 2018, for instance, seven House hopefuls—including a few notable names—were thrown off the ballot after the secretary of state ruled that they'd failed to turn in the requisite number of acceptable petitions.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his state's new congressional map—which he himself proposed—on Friday, following party-line votes that advanced the map in both chambers of the Republican-run legislature. (We previously detailed the map's impacts in this post.) The same day, several advocacy groups and Florida voters filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that the map violates the state constitution's prohibitions on partisan gerrymandering and diluting minority representation.

NY Redistricting: A five-judge panel on New York's Appellate Division, the state's intermediate appellate court, upheld a recent lower court ruling that the new congressional map drawn by Democrats violates the state constitution as an illegal partisan gerrymander and gave lawmakers until April 30 to craft a replacement. However, Democrats have already said they'll appeal to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday.

In its ruling, the Appellate Division also overturned the trial court's finding that the legislature lacked the power to draw new maps for the state Senate and Assembly, allowing those maps to be used. It's not yet clear whether Republicans plan to pursue their own appeal regarding this issue.

Senate

AR-Sen: We have yet to see any polls indicating whether former NFL player Jake Bequette poses a serious threat to Sen. John Boozman in the May 24 Republican primary, but the incumbent did recently air an ad taking a swipe at his foe. Most of Boozman's spot, which praises him as a "workhorse, not a show pony" is positive, though it employs a photo of Bequette as the narrator hits those last words.

Bequette's allies at Arkansas Patriots Fund, meanwhile, have been going directly at Boozman with a commercial faulting him for having "voted to confirm six in 10 Biden cabinet picks" in the first 40 days of the administration. The ad goes on to accuse the senator of backing "amnesty for illegals, tax dollars for abortions, bailouts for Wall Street, even allowed the feds to confiscate your firearm records." The super PAC received $1 million from conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein last year, which Politico's Alex Isenstadt says makes up most of its budget.

AZ-Sen: The NRSC is commencing what they call a "seven figure" ad buy that starts off with a spot attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly over immigration. This appears to be the first ad of the cycle going directly after a candidate from any of the "big four" party groups (which in addition to the NRSC includes the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC on the GOP side and the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC for Democrats).

CO-Sen: Wealthy construction company owner Joe O'Dea has announced he's spending $250,000 over three weeks to air an ad that touts his business record and portrays him as a conservative outsider. O'Dea faces state Rep. Ron Hanks in the June Republican primary.

NC-Sen: Former Gov. Pat McCrory has debuted a new commercial ahead of the May 17 GOP primary where he calls Rep. Ted Budd weak on Vladimir Putin before claiming that Budd is backed by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros is a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor whom the far-right both here and abroad has frequently used as a target of and a stand-in for age-old conspiracy theories about wealthy Jews using their power to exert a nefarious influence over the world.

However, McCrory's accusation that Soros, who is well known for openly funding progressive causes, would secretly support Budd, who has compiled a hard-right voting record in his three terms in office, relies on very dubious facts. The Charlotte Observer reports that a Soros-affiliated investment firm once owned a 7.6% stake in a company led by Budd's father that filed for bankruptcy in 2000, and there's no indication the congressman even had any role in the company's day-to-day operations, which is a very far cry from Soros actually supporting his contemporary political activities.

Budd himself has launched a new ad that features footage of a rally where Trump effusively endorses Budd and McCrory goes unmentioned. While the two Republican front runners dominate the airwaves, the pro-Budd Club for Growth is notably training its focus on former GOP Rep. Mark Walker with an ad that criticizes him for frequently missing votes, including one involving Trump's impeachment. The polls have shown Walker in a distant third place, but the Club likely views his hard-right support base as overlapping with potential Budd supporters.

OH-Sen: Undeterred by Trump's recent endorsement of venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, the Club for Growth is once again running an ad that uses Vance's lengthy past history of anti-Trump statements against him. The ad campaign reportedly angered Trump so greatly that he had an aide text Club president David McIntosh, "Go f*^% yourself" (which presumably wasn't censored). A spokesperson for the Club, which is supporting former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, tersely responded to the news about Trump's message by saying, "We are increasing our ad buy."

Meanwhile, former state GOP chair Jane Timken has been struggling to gain traction in the polls, and she has reportedly been off of broadcast TV in much of the state for weeks and is only continuing to run limited cable ads on Fox News.

Governors

AL-Gov: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has commissioned a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows her holding a dominant 57-14 lead over former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard ahead of the May 24 Republican primary, with businessman Tim James taking just 12%. There have only been a few polls here from reliable firms, but every one of them this year has found Ivey far ahead of her rivals and in good shape to surpass the simple-majority threshold needed to avoid a June runoff.

GA-Gov: A group called Take Back Georgia with ties to pro-Trump state Sen. Brandon Beach has unveiled a $2 million ad buy for a spot that goes all-in on 2020 election denial to highlight Trump's endorsement of former Sen. David Perdue ahead of the May 24 GOP primary against Gov. Brian Kemp. Perdue has only been running a modestly sized ad buy recently after struggling to keep up in fundraising with Kemp, whose allies at the RGA have also spent millions airing their first-ever ads backing an incumbent against a primary challenger.

It's unclear whether Trump himself, whose super PAC recently reported it had over $120 million on hand, will increase its support for Perdue beyond the meager $500,000 it allocated a few weeks ago toward backing his endorsee. However, with the polls showing Kemp in striking distance of the outright majority needed to avoid a June runoff, time is quickly running short for Perdue.

IL-Gov: Far-right billionaire Dick Uihlein has given another $2.5 million to the June primary campaign of Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, bringing his total contributions to $3.5 million in addition to another $1 million that Uihlein gave to a third-party group opposing Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. In yet another election that has turned into a battle of rival billionaires thanks to Illinois being one of just a few states without any limits on direct contributions to candidates, Uihlein's involvement so far still trails far behind the $20 million that fellow billionaire Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager who is Illinois' wealthiest resident, has given to Irvin's campaign.

MI-Gov: A total of 10 Republicans are competing to take on Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, which would make this the largest gubernatorial primary field in state history. The few polls that have been released show former Detroit Police Chief James Craig as Team Red's frontrunner, but he's had to deal with several major campaign shakeups: Craig, most notably, parted ways with his first campaign manager in December, and his second left last month.  

The August primary also includes two wealthy businessmen, Kevin Rinke and Perry Johnson. Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon doesn't have the same resources as her intra-party foes, but she sports endorsements from Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain. Also in the running are chiropractor Garrett Soldano, Michigan State Police Captain Mike Brown, and five others.

OR-Gov: The May 17 primary is rapidly approaching, and the Portland Monthly's Julia Silverman has collected several TV spots from the candidates. On the Democratic side, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek talks about the progressive policies she helped pass, while state Treasurer Tobias Read's narrator argues that "Oregon has lost its way. It's time for a new approach." Silverman notes that this messaging is "all in keeping with Read's efforts to portray himself as a change agent, though he has been in state government about as long as Kotek."

For the Republicans, former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan declares that she's "led the fight against [Democratic Gov.] Kate Brown's radical agenda." Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, meanwhile, goes all-in with courting right-wing outrage with spots where he calls for getting "critical race theory out of our schools" and "not allow[ing] transgender athletes to compete in girls' sports." Former state Rep. Bob Tiernan uses his messaging to attack Brown and Kotek, saying that their approach is "bull****." (A different Republican, consultant Bridget Barton, also tried to stand out with some censored potty mouth.) Finally, 2016 nominee Bud Pierce alludes to the Big Lie with the mention of "broken elections."

House

AK-AL: The Alaska Republican Party has endorsed businessman Nick Begich III ahead of the top-four special election primary this June, where Begich has emerged as one of the leading Republicans in the crowded all-party contest alongside former Gov. Sarah Palin.

MI-03: Rep. Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump, faces primary opposition from conservative commentator John Gibbs, who is Trump's endorsed candidate. (We recently took a closer look at this primary.) Little-known attorney Gabi Manolache is also running, though "MAGA bride" Audra Johnson did not end up filing. The winner will take on 2020 nominee Hillary Scholten, who faces no intra-party opposition for her second bid, in a Grand Rapids-based seat that redistricting transformed from a 51-47 Trump seat to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45.

MI-04: Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, who represents the existing 2nd District, has no primary opposition following fellow Rep. Fred Upton's retirement announcement earlier this month. This seat in southwestern Michigan would have favored Trump 51-47, and the one Democrat to file, Joseph Alfonso, has not reported raising any money.

MI-08: Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee is defending a seat in the Flint and Saginaw areas that would have favored Joe Biden only 50-48, a small but potentially important shift from Biden's 51-47 showing in Kildee's existing 5th District. The Republican frontrunner is former Trump administration official Paul Junge, who lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in the old 8th District in 2020. (The old and new 8th Districts do not overlap.) Former Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Matthew Seely and businesswoman Candice Miller (not to be confused with the former congresswoman with the same name) are also in, but neither opened fundraising committees until recently.

MI-10: Five Democrats are competing to take on John James, who was Team Red's Senate nominee in 2018 and 2020, in an open seat in Detroit's northeastern suburbs that would have gone for Trump 50-49. James, who only has a little-known primary foe, had $1.25 million stockpiled at the end of March, which was considerably more than the Democrats had combined.

Warren Council member Angela Rogensues finished the quarter with $160,000 on hand, while attorney Huwaida Arraf and former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga were similarly situated with $145,000 and $135,000 to spend, respectively. Sterling Heights City Council member Henry Yanez, though, was far back with only $22,000 in the bank, while former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell had less than $5,000.

MI-11: The Democratic primary is a duel between Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin for a constituency in the Detroit northern suburbs that Biden would have won 59-39. Stevens' existing 11th District makes up 45% of the new seat, while Levin represents only 25%. (Several Democrats grumbled to Politico recently that Levin should have instead run for the new 10th, where he already serves most of the residents.)

Stevens has the support of retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who represents the balance of this district, and EMILY's List, while the SEIU is in Levin's corner. The two have largely voted the same way in Congress, though while Levin has emphasized his support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, Stevens has portrayed herself as more pragmatic. Stevens ended March with a $2.79 million to $1.47 million cash-on-hand edge over her fellow incumbent.

MI-12: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the most prominent progressives in the House, faces three Democratic primary opponents in this safely blue Detroit-based seat. Tlaib, whose existing 13th District makes up 53% of the new 12th, ended March with a $1.62 million to $221,000 cash-on-hand lead over her nearest foe, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey; Winfrey, for her part, has faulted Tlaib for casting a vote from the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill. Also in the race are former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett, neither of whom reported raising any money during the last quarter.

MI-13: A total of 11 Democrats have filed to run to succeed retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who is Michigan's only Black member of Congress, in this safely blue seat, which includes part of Detroit and its southern suburbs. Lawrence, who supports Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Portia Roberson, has argued that it's vital to keep a "qualified, committed" African American representing the state, something that several other Black candidates have also emphasized.

However, the candidate who ended March with the most money by far is self-funding state Rep. Shri Thanedar, who is originally from India. (Thanedar, who lived in Ann Arbor when he unsuccessfully ran for governor, moved to Detroit ahead of his victorious bid for a state House seat in the city two years later.) Thanedar had over $5 million on hand, which was more than ten times as much as the $453,000 that his nearest foe, state Sen. Adam Hollier, had available.

Other candidates to watch include hedge fund manager John Conyers III, who is the son and namesake of the late longtime congressman; Detroit School Board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo; Teach for America official Michael Griffie; former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail; and Detroit city official Adrian Tonon, who is one of the few other non-Black contenders in the primary.

MN-01: In what appears to be the first TV ad from anyone ahead of the special May 24 Republican primary, former Freeborn County party chair Matt Benda plays up his farming background and pledges to "protect our children from indoctrination in the classroom [and] ensure election integrity."

NC-11: Axios reports that Results for North Carolina, a super PAC close to Sen. Thom Tillis, is spending $310,000 on an ad campaign against Rep. Madison Cawthorn, which makes this the first major outside spending of the May 17 Republican primary. The commercial focuses on reports that the incumbent "lied about being accepted to the Naval Academy" and declares he's "been caught lying about conservatives." The narrator, who brands the congressman "an attention-seeking embarrassment," does not mention Tillis' endorsed candidate, state Sen. Chuck Edwards.

TN-05: Tennessee has finalized its list of candidates for the Aug. 4 primary ballot now that each party has had the chance to eject contenders who did not meet their "bona fide" standards, an option the GOP utilized in the 5th District in order to bounce three notable candidates. The 5th will also likely be home to the only seriously contested House race, and we'll be taking a look at the field now that we know who's on the ballot.

There are nine Republicans remaining in the race to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper in the 5th, which GOP mapmakers transmuted from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency by cracking the city of Nashville. The only three who appear to be serious contenders are former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, who took a disappointing fourth place in the 2018 primary for governor; Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles; and retired Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, who has the largest war chest by far, though it's possible another candidate will catch fire. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Heidi Campbell has the field to herself.

Ad Roundup

It's that time of the election cycle again when campaign ads have grown too numerous for us to detail every one, so we're bringing back a feature from past cycles where we'll round up any remaining ads that we don't have space to cover in greater depth. Today's list only has a few entries, but the roundup will be sure to grow longer as the year progresses:

Morning Digest: How a brazen campaign finance scandal led to this Florida Republican’s downfall

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.

Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming held their primaries on Tuesday. You can find current results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.

Leading Off

FL-15: Republican primary voters in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Tuesday denied renomination to freshman Rep. Ross Spano, who has been under investigation by the Justice Department since last year due to a campaign finance scandal, and instead gave the GOP nod to Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin.

With all votes apparently counted, Franklin defeated Spano 51-49. Franklin’s next opponent will  be former local TV news anchor Alan Cohn, who beat state Rep. Adam Hattersley 41-33 for the Democratic nomination.

Campaign Action

This central Florida seat, which includes the mid-sized city of Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, moved from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, and Franklin is favored to keep it in Republican hands. Still, the general election could be worth watching: In 2018, before news of Spano’s campaign finance scandal broke, he won by a modest 53-47 margin.

Spano’s defeat ends a short, but unfortunately for him quite eventful, congressional career. Spano, who was elected to the state House in 2012, had been waging a campaign for state attorney general in 2018 until Republican Rep. Dennis Ross surprised everyone by announcing his retirement. Spano switched over to the contest to succeed Ross, which looked like an easier lift, but he nonetheless faced serious intra-party opposition from former state Rep. Neil Combee.

Spano beat Combee 44-34 and went on to prevail in the general election, but he found himself in trouble before he was even sworn into Congress. That December, Spano admitted he might have broken federal election law by accepting personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then turning around and loaning his own campaign $170,000. That's a serious problem, because anyone who loans money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign still has to adhere to the same laws that limit direct contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.

The House Ethics Committee initially took up the matter but announced in late 2019 that the Justice Department was investigating Spano. The congressman variously argued that he'd misunderstood the law governing campaign loans but also insisted his campaign had disclosed the loan "before it became public knowledge" in the financial disclosure forms all federal candidates are obligated to file.

That latter claim, however, was flat-out false: As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno explained, Spano had failed to file those disclosures by the July 2018 deadline, only submitting them just before Election Day—after the paper had asked about them. Only once those reports were public did the paper learn that the money for Spano's questionable loans came from his friends.

Despite his scandal, most of the party establishment, including Sen. Marco Rubio and most of the neighboring Republican congressmen, stood by Spano. However, he had trouble bringing in more money, and Franklin used his personal wealth to decisively outspend the incumbent. The anti-tax Club for Growth dumped $575,000 into advertising attacking Franklin, but it wasn’t enough to save Spano from defeat on Tuesday.

P.S. Spano is the fifth House Republican to lose renomination this cycle, compared to three Democrats. The good news for the rest of the GOP caucus, though, is that none of them can lose their primaries … because the remaining states don’t have any Republican members. (Louisiana does host its all-party primaries in November, but none of the state’s House members are in any danger.)

Senate

AL-Sen: In what appears to be the first major outside spending here on the Democratic side, Duty and Honor has deployed $500,000 on an ad buy praising Sen. Doug Jones. The commercial extols the incumbent for working across party lines to protect Alabamians during the pandemic and "fighting to expand Medicaid to cover Alabama families who need it." The conservative organization One Nation, meanwhile, is running a spot hitting Jones for supporting abortion rights.

GA-Sen-A: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is running an ad going after a Georgia Republican senator's stock transactions … just not the senator you might expect. The commercial begins, "Jan. 24, the U.S. Senate gets a private briefing on the coronavirus. Georgia Sen. David Perdue gets busy." The narrator continues, "That same day, he buys stock in a company that sells masks and gloves. Then sells casino stocks and winds up buying and dumping up to $14.1 million dollars in stock."

Perdue, like homestate colleague Kelly Loeffler, has argued that these trades were made by advisers who acted independently. Perdue has also said that he was not part of that Jan. 24 briefing.

Meanwhile, SMP's affiliated nonprofit, Duty and Honor, is airing a spot that uses Perdue's own words to attack his handling of the pandemic. "Very, very few people have been exposed to it," the audience hears Perdue say, "The risk of this virus still remains low." The narrator continues, "No wonder Perdue voted against funding for more masks, gloves, and ventilators. And voted to cut funding at the CDC to combat pandemics."

GA-Sen-B: Georgia United Victory, which supports Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is airing another commercial attacking Republican Rep. Doug Collins, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that its total buy now stands at $6 million.

As pigs fill the screen, a truly bored-sounding narrator begins, "Another talking pig commercial? Good grief. We all know pigs are wasteful." She goes on to ask, "Is that the best comparison to Doug Collins? Oh sure. Collins loves pork for things like wine tasting and the opera." She goes on to say the congressman is too close to lobbyists and concludes, "He's laid quite a few eggs. Ever seen a pig lay an egg? Didn't think so." We really don't understand why this spot decided to go into the details of pig reproduction for no apparent reason, but ok.

IA-Sen, NC-Sen: Politico reports that Everytown for Gun Safety is launching an ad campaign this week against two Republican senators: The group will spend $2.2 million against Iowa's Joni Ernst (here and here), and $3.2 million opposing North Carolina's Thom Tillis (here and here).

Both ads argue the incumbents are too close to special interests, including the "gun lobby" and the insurance industry. The Iowa commercials also reference Ernst's infamous 2014 "make 'em squeal" spot by arguing, "She said she'd go to Washington and make them squeal. Joni Ernst broke that promise to Iowa and made the special interests her top priority." The narrator concludes that Ernst has actually left Iowans to squeal.

MA-Sen: Priorities for Progress, a group that the Boston Globe says is affiliated with the pro-charter school and anti-teachers union organization Democrats for Education Reform, has released a SurveyUSA poll that shows Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey narrowly leading Rep. Joe Kennedy 44-42 in the Democratic primary. Neither group appears to have taken sides in the Sept. 1 contest.

This is the third poll we've seen in the last month, and the others have also shown Markey in the lead. However, while the Republican firm JMC Analytics gave the incumbent a similar 44-41 edge in an early August crowdfunded survey, a YouGov poll for UMass Amherst and WCVB had Markey ahead 51-36 last week.

MI-Sen: Republican John James has publicized a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Gary Peters "just" 49-44; the survey, like most Republican polls this cycle, did not include presidential numbers.

There isn't any ambiguity about why James' team is releasing this survey, though. The memo noted that, while the Democratic group Duty and Honor has been airing commercials for Peters, there has been "no corresponding conservative ally on the air against Gary Peters," and it goes on to claim the Republican can win "[w]ith the proper resources." Indeed, as Politico recently reported, major Republican outside groups have largely bypassed this contest, and neither the NRSC or Senate Leadership Fund currently has any money reserved for the final three months of the campaign.

James is getting some air support soon, though. Roll Call reports that One Nation, a nonprofit affiliated with SLF, will launch a $4.5 million TV and radio ad campaign against Peters on Wednesday.

NC-Sen: While most Republican downballot candidates have largely avoided tying their Democratic opponents to Joe Biden, Sen. Thom Tillis tries linking Democrat Cal Cunningham to Biden in a new spot.

Polls: The progressive group MoveOn has unveiled a trio of new Senate polls from Public Policy Polling:

  • GA-Sen-A: Jon Ossoff (D): 44, David Perdue (R-inc): 44 (June: 45-44 Ossoff)
  • IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): 48, Joni Ernst (R-inc): 45 (June: 45-43 Greenfield)
  • ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): 49, Susan Collins (R-inc): 44 (July: 47-42 Gideon)

The releases did not include presidential numbers.

House

OH-01: Democrat Kate Schroder is running a TV commercial about the truly strange scandal that engulfed Republican Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign last year. The narrator accuses the incumbent of lying about Schroder to draw attention away from his own problems, declaring, "Chabot is facing a grand jury investigation for $123,000 in missing campaign money."

The ad continues, "After getting caught, Chabot blamed others. And his campaign manager went missing." The narrator concludes, "We may never learn the truth about Shady Chabot's missing money, but we do know that 24 years is enough. (Chabot was elected to represent the Cincinnati area in Congress in 1994, lost a previous version of this seat in 2008, and won it back two years later.)

As we've written before, Chabot's campaign was thrown into turmoil last summer when the FEC sent a letter asking why the congressman's first-quarter fundraising report was belatedly amended to show $124,000 in receipts that hadn't previously been accounted for. From there, a bizarre series of events unfolded.

First, Chabot's longtime consultant, Jamie Schwartz, allegedly disappeared after he shuttered his firm, called the Fountain Square Group. Then Schwartz's father, Jim Schwartz, told reporters that despite appearing as Chabot's treasurer on his FEC filings for many years, he had in fact never served in that capacity. Chabot's team was certainly bewildered, because it issued a statement saying, "As far as the campaign was aware, James Schwartz, Sr. has been the treasurer since 2011." Evidently there's a whole lot the campaign wasn't aware of.

The elder Schwartz also claimed of his son, "I couldn't tell you where he's at" because "he's doing a lot of running around right now." Well, apparently, he'd run right into the arms of the feds. In December, local news station Fox19 reported that Jamie Schwartz had turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney's office, which, Fox19 said, has been investigating the matter "for a while."

Adding to the weirdness, it turned out that Chabot had paid Schwartz's now-defunct consultancy $57,000 in July and August of 2019 for "unknown" purposes. Yes, that's literally the word Chabot's third-quarter FEC report used to describe payments to the Fountain Square Group no fewer than five times. (Remember how we were saying the campaign seems to miss quite a bit?)

We still don't know what those payments were for, or what the deal was with the original $124,000 in mystery money that triggered this whole saga. Chabot himself has refused to offer any details, insisting only that he's been the victim of an unspecified "financial crime."

There haven't been any public developments since December, though. The Cincinnati Inquirer's Jason Williams contacted Schwartz's attorney last week to ask if Schwartz had been informed of any updates, and the reporter was only told, "No, not yet." Unless something big changes in the next few months, though, expect Democrats to keep pounding Chabot over this story.

OK-05: State Sen. Stephanie Bice is going up with a negative commercial against businesswoman Terry Neese just ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in what will be a competitive contest for this Oklahoma City seat.

Bice accuses Neese of running "the same fake news smears she always sinks to." Bice continues by alluding to Neese's unsuccessful 1990 and 1994 campaigns for lieutenant governor by declaring that in her 30 years of running for office Neese has been "mastering the art of dirty politics but never beating a single Democrat." (Neese badly lost the general election in 1990 but fell short in the primary runoff four years later, so she's only had one opportunity up until now to beat a Democrat.) Bice then sums up Neese by saying, "Appointed by Clinton. Terrible on gun rights. Neese won't take on the Squad, because she can't beat Kendra Horn."

Neese outpaced Bice 36-25 in the first round of voting back in late June, and Neese' allies have a big financial advantage going into the runoff. While Bice did outspend Neese $290,000 to $210,000 from July 1 to Aug. 5 (the time the FEC designates as the pre-runoff period), the Club for Growth has deployed $535,000 on anti-Bice ads this month. So far, no major outside groups have spent to aid Bice.

SC-01: The NRCC has started airing its first independent expenditure ad of the November general election, a spot that seeks to attack freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham on the issue that powered his upset victory in 2018: offshore drilling. The ad tries to question Cunningham's commitment to opposing such drilling in a move straight from Karl Rove’s dusty playbook, but given how closely his image is tied to the cause—he defeated his Republican opponent two years ago, Katie Arrington, in large part because of her support for offshore oil extraction—it's a tough sell.

And while Nancy Mace, his Republican challenger this year, might welcome the committee's involvement, the move doesn't come from a position of strength. In fact, the NRCC's own ad seems to acknowledge this at the outset, with a narrator saying, "Your TV is full of Joe Cunningham" as three images from prior Cunningham spots pop up on the screen. It's not wrong: The congressman has been advertising on television since the first week in July, and he recently released his fifth ad.

Cunningham's been able to blanket the airwaves because of the huge financial advantage he's locked in. Mace raised a prodigious $733,000 in the second quarter of the year, but Cunningham managed to beat even that take with an $845,000 haul of his own. It's the campaigns' respective bank accounts that differ dramatically, though: Cunningham had $3.1 million in cash-on-hand as of June 30 while Mace, after a costly primary, had just $743,000.

As a result, she hasn't gone on the air yet herself, which explains why the NRCC has moved in early to fill in the gap. Interestingly, the committee didn't bother to mention that this is its first independent expenditure foray of the 2020 elections in its own press release, whereas the DCCC loudly trumpeted the opening of its own independent expenditure campaign in New York's 24th Congressional District a month ago.

TX-21: Both Democrat Wendy Davis and the far-right Club for Growth are running their first commercials here.

Davis talks about her life story, telling the audience, "[M]y parents divorced when I was 13. I got a job at 14 to help mom. And at 19, I became a mom." Davis continues by describing her experience living in a trailer park and working two jobs before community college led her to Texas Christian University and Harvard Law. She then says, "As a state senator, I put Texas over party because everyone deserves a fair shot."

The Club, which backs Republican Rep. Chip Roy, meanwhile tells the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek that it is spending $482,000 on its first ad against Davis. The group has $2.5 million reserved here to aid Roy, who ended June badly trailing the Democrat in cash-on-hand, and it says it will throw down more.

The Club's spot declares that Davis is a career politician who got "busted for using campaign funds for personal expenses," including an apartment in Austin. However, while the narrator makes it sound like Davis was caught breaking the rules, Svitek writes, "Members are allowed to use donors' dollars to pay for such accommodations—and it is not uncommon."

This topic also came up during Davis' 2014 campaign for governor. The campaign said at the time that legislative staffers also stayed at the apartment, and that Davis followed all the state's disclosure laws.

Polls:

  • AZ-06: GQR (D) for Hiral Tipirneni: Hiral Tipirneni (D): 48, David Schweikert (R-inc): 45 (50-48 Biden)
  • MT-AL: WPA Intelligence (R) for Club for Growth (pro-Rosendale): Matt Rosendale (R): 51, Kathleen Williams (D): 45
  • NJ-02: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jeff Van Drew (R-inc): 42, Amy Kennedy (D): 39
  • NY-01: Global Strategy Group (D) for Nancy Goroff: Lee Zeldin (R-inc): 47, Nancy Goroff (D): 42 (46-42 Trump)
  • WA-03: RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-inc): 44, Carolyn Long (D): 40

The only other numbers we've seen from Arizona's 6th District was an early August poll from the DCCC that had Republican Rep. David Schweikert up 46-44 but found Joe Biden ahead 48-44 in this Scottsdale and North Phoenix constituency; Donald Trump carried this seat 52-42 four years ago, but like many other well-educated suburban districts, it's been moving to the left in recent years.

The Club for Growth's new Montana survey comes a few weeks after two Democratic pollsters found a closer race: In mid-July, Public Policy Polling's survey for election enthusiasts on Twitter showed a 44-44 tie, while a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had Republican Matt Rosendale ahead 49-47 a few days later. PPP and Civiqs found Donald Trump ahead 51-42 and 49-45, respectively, while the Club once again did not include presidential numbers.

U.S. Term Limits has been releasing House polls at a rapid pace over the last few weeks, and once again, they argue that Democrats would easily win if they would just highlight the Republican incumbents' opposition to term limits; as far as we know, no Democratic candidates have tested this theory out yet. These surveys also did not include presidential numbers.

The only other poll we've seen out of New York's 1st District on eastern Long Island was a July PPP internal for Democrat Nancy Goroff's allies at 314 Action Fund. That survey gave Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin a 47-40 lead, which is slightly larger than what her poll finds now, though it showed the presidential race tied 47-47. This seat has long been swing territory, though it backed Trump by a 55-42 margin in 2016.

Mayoral

Honolulu, HI Mayor: Former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who finished a close third in the Aug. 8 nonpartisan primary, announced Monday that she was endorsing independent Rick Blangiardi over fellow Democrat Keith Amemiya. Blangiardi took 26% in the first round of voting, while Amemiya beat Hanabusa 20-18 for second.

ELECTION CHANGES

Minnesota: Republicans have dropped their challenge to an agreement between Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon and voting rights advocates under which Minnesota will waive its requirement that mail voters have their ballots witnessed and will also require that officials count any ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within a week.

In dismissing their own claims, Republicans said they would "waive the right to challenge [the agreement] in any other judicial forum." That likely moots a separate federal case in which Republicans were challenging a similar agreement that a judge had refused to sign off on.

North Dakota: An organization representing county election officials in North Dakota says that local administrators are moving forward with plans to conduct the November general election in-person, rather than once again moving to an all-mail format, as they did for the state's June primary.

South Carolina: Republican Harvey Peeler, the president of South Carolina's state Senate, has called his chamber in for a special session so that lawmakers can consider measures to expand mail voting. Legislators passed a bill waiving the state's excuse requirement to vote absentee ahead of South Carolina's June primary, and Peeler says, "I am hopeful we can do it again."

However, Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas is refusing to convene a special session for his members, who are not due to return to the capitol until Sept. 15. That would give the state significantly less time to prepare for a likely influx of absentee ballot requests should the legislature once again relax the excuse requirement.

Ad Roundup