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.

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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: This race could give Texas Democrats their first statewide win in 26 years

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

Leading Off

TX Railroad Commission: As Lone Star Democrats seek their first statewide victory in more than a quarter century, their best hope may be Chrysta Castañeda, who's running for a spot on an agency many people haven't heard of: the Texas Railroad Commission.

Campaign Action

Despite the name, the commission doesn't actually oversee trains, but it does have jurisdiction over something even more important in Texas: the state's energy industry (oversight of the rails was handed to the state's Department of Transportation in 2005). The panel, often known as the "RRC," is made up of three members, each elected statewide for six-year terms.

The last time a Democrat won a seat on the board was in 1990, when former Rep. Bob Krueger beat a Republican opponent by 56-40 margin. Krueger wound up resigning to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate when Lloyd Bentsen became Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary, and Republicans comfortably beat his appointed successor in 1994.

Ever since, the GOP has held all three seats, but Republicans were already preparing for a serious battle this year—which, ironically, might have made their situation even worse. Republican Ryan Sitton, who first won a slot on the RRC in 2014, had stockpiled $2 million in his war chest for the general election, but in March, he lost his primary in an absolute shocker to an unknown named Jim Wright, the owner of an oilfield waste disposal company who had raised less than $13,000.

The 55-45 loss was so inexplicable that some political observers wondered if Wright benefited from sharing a name with the one-time speaker of the House who hailed from Fort Worth, the late Democrat Jim Wright, who died in 2015. It's not such a crazy theory: Perennial candidate Gene Kelly won multiple Texas primaries in the previous decade because voters had him confused with the beloved dancer.

Whatever the explanation, though, Wright's victory has left Republicans with a suddenly open seat and a badly flawed candidate. The RRC—the very body that Wright wants to join—fined him $182,000 for improper storage of hazardous waste in 2017, and he's been sued by his former business partners for fraud stemming from the mess.

Castañeda, an oil and gas attorney, took aim at Wright for his record in her first ad of the race, which went up last month, but the main topic she's focusing on is the issue of "flaring." That refers to the practice of oil producers burning off unwanted natural gas from their wells rather than capturing it for later use, a process that is both environmentally harmful and economically wasteful.

It's also against the law—unless a driller is granted a special permit, of which 7,000 were handed out last year. As Castañeda notes, such permits can only be granted if all three members of the commission agree, meaning she could single-handedly put an end to flaring even if Republicans still hold a nominal 2-1 majority on the board next year.

With this backdrop, The New Republic recently called this race "this year’s most important election for American climate policy." It could also finally put an end to the longest statewide losing streak for Democrats anywhere in the nation, as Texas last voted Democratic for any statewide race in 1994.

3Q Fundraising

IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): $28.7 million raised

WV-Gov: Jim Justice (R-inc): $890,000 raised, $263,000 cash-on-hand; Ben Salango (D): $564,000 raised, $153,000 cash-on-hand

CA-25: Mike Garcia (R-inc): $3.2 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand

CA-48: Michelle Steel (R): $1.8 million raised

MN-03: Kendall Qualls (R): $873,000 raised, $538,000 cash-on-hand

MN-08: Quinn Nystrom (D): $650,000 raised

NH-01: Chris Pappas (D-inc): $700,000 raised, $1.35 million cash-on-hand

NY-02: Andrew Garbarino (R): $771,000 raised

TX-10: Michael McCaul (R-inc): $870,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

GA-Sen-A: A pro-Republican group called Georgia Action Fund says it is spending $5 million on digital ads supposedly aimed at swaying undecided voters in the race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

LA-Sen: Democrat Adrian Perkins narrates much of his first TV ad, which focuses on his biography, including his graduation from West Point and his service in Afghanistan and Iraq that resulted in an award of the Bronze Star. A voiceover notes that after he fought overseas, "Harvard Law and big job offers came." But, says Perkins, "I chose to come home. To serve my community. Now I'm taking our mission to Washington to get things done for you."

At the end, text appears on-screen noting that Perkins has been endorsed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Barack Obama, an effort to consolidate Democratic voters to ensure Perkins makes a December runoff against Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.

NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis' new ad, unsurprisingly, goes after Democrat Cal Cunningham over the intimate text messages he shared with a woman who is not his wife. The spot mostly features clips of newscasters discussing various angles to the story, and during the "I approve this message" segment—not a section we discuss often—Tillis is shown hand-in-hand with his wife. Tillis' allies at the Senate Leadership Fund also recently went up with a similar ad.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the DSCC is adding $3 million to their existing TV ad reservations for the last two weeks of the race.

Polls: If you click each race tag below, such as "MT-Sen," you'll be taken to the Daily Kos Elections poll aggregator for that race, which displays a trendline for all available public polls and the current polling average.

  • MT-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Steve Bullock (D): 48, Steve Daines (R-inc): 46 (49-43 Trump)
  • NC-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Cal Cunningham (D): 50, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 39 (51-44 Biden) (Aug.: 49-41 Cunningham)
  • SC-Sen: GBAO (D) for the DSCC: Jaime Harrison (D): 48, Lindsey Graham: (R-inc): 47, Bill Bledsoe (C): 3 (49-44 Trump)
  • TX-Sen: Crosswind Media (R) and Pulse Opinion Research: John Cornyn (R-inc): 48, MJ Hegar (D): 39 (51-44 Trump)
  • TX-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Cornyn (R-inc): 45, Hegar (D): 42 (47-45 Biden) (Sept.: 40-38 Cornyn)

MT-Sen: While there hasn't been a ton of polling in Montana—and what we have seen has almost all been very tight—Data for Progress' survey is the first to show Steve Bullock with a lead since an early July poll from PPP that had Bullock ahead 46-44.

NC-Sen: A number of polls taken since Labor Day have shown Cal Cunningham up by double digits, but what's notable about about this Data for Progress poll is that it was in the field from Weds, Sept. 30 through Monday, Oct. 5. That means half of it was conducted after news about Cunningham's affair broke on Friday night, Oct. 2.

SC-Sen: The DSCC's poll included Constitution Party candidate Bill Bledsoe, who dropped out of the race and endorsed Lindsey Graham a few days after the survey concluded. However, Bledsoe's name will still appear on ballots.

Gubernatorial

NC-Gov: Dan Forest is just the latest Republican trying to scare voters with ads showing footage of unrest, even starting his latest spot by saying, "Seems like the only people you see in downtown Asheville these days are rioters." Seems like he should try harder: According multiple local office-holders, including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Forest's clips don't show the city at all but instead were shot in other locales. When asked for comment, the Forest campaign didn't dispute the charge.

Polls:

  • WV-Gov: Strategies Unlimited (D) for WV First: Jim Justice (R-inc): 46, Ben Salango (D): 40, Daniel Lutz Jr. (Mountain Party): 5

This is the closest poll of the three we've seen to date in this race. According to the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, WV First is a group opposing Jim Justice's re-election bid, though it does not appear to have any presence the web. The same is true of the pollster, Strategies Unlimited.

House

IN-05: Indiana schools chief Jennifer McCormick has once again stuck her thumb in the eye of her own party by endorsing another Democrat, Christina Hale, who is seeking to flip the open 5th Congressional District. Though elected superintendent of public instruction as a Republican in 2016, McCormick has regularly feuded with the GOP and previously backed Democrat Woody Myers in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, as well as Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel, who is running for state attorney general. McCormick is not seeking re-election this year after Republicans turned her position into an appointed one starting after 2020.

MI-08: Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin's latest ad features footage from a recent debate that went viral after she shredded her Republican opponent, Paul Junge, on healthcare. Junge had sought to make an issue of a lapse in insurance coverage that befell Slotkin's mother, blaming "undue burdens and regulations." Slotkin's scathing response occupies the bulk of the ad:

"Please don't speak about my mother as if you understand what made her health care unaffordable to her. And I think it's crazy that every time we ask you specific details about the thing that really helps people know that they're going to be protected—their kids are going to be protected—you deflect and start attacking me. And raising my mother? Come on, Paul."

NE-02: Former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford has endorsed vulnerable Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who narrowly booted him after one term in the House in 2016. Ashford sought to reclaim his seat in 2018 but lost a tight the Democratic primary that year to nonprofit executive Kara Eastman, who herself lost a close contest with Bacon later that year—a race in which Ashford supported her.

Eastman sought the Democratic nomination again this year and this time handily defeated Ashford's wife, attorney Ann Ferlic Ashford. Ann Ashford angrily refused to endorse Eastman following the May primary, citing comments Eastman had made blaming Ashford's campaign-trail criticisms of her on "bad blood" stemming from her defeat of Ashford's husband two years earlier.

Bacon's past statements about Brad Ashford, however, have been far harsher. Among other things, Bacon accused Ashford of being soft on the Islamic State during their 2016 race, claiming in an ad, "If Brad Ashford doesn't know ISIS is targeting Nebraska, how can we trust him to keep us safe?"

VA-02: Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's newest ad stars a COVID survivor named Fred Herrmann who excoriates Republican Scott Taylor for hosting a campaign event over the summer where attendees were maskless and greeted each other—including Taylor—with intimate hugs. Footage of the disturbing gathering rolls as Herrmann pours out his criticism. "Scott Taylor even compared coronavirus to the flu. It's not the flu," he says. "Mr. Taylor, I couldn't see my family while I thought I was going to die, because this virus is dangerous—and sending you back to Congress would be, too."

Polls:

CA-25: Smith's memo didn't include exact figures for the presidential race, but it did say that Joe Biden "is currently beating Trump by 4 points." That would represent the rare district-level poll where Biden's margin is narrower than Hillary Clinton's was in 2016 (she carried the 25th 50-44).

NY-22: Believe it or not, Siena's poll is the very first we've seen of this race, and the findings are a serious whoa-mama-joe moment for the GOP, particularly as regards the presidential race. Upstate New York's 22nd District was one of those rural white areas where the bottom really fell out for Democrats in 2016: While Barack Obama had lost to Mitt Romney by less than a point here, Trump crushed Clinton 55-39.

There's good reason to believe Siena, too. In 2016, the school's polling accurately forecast the district's big shift to Trump, both in late September and just before Election Day, when it had Trump up 14. If Republicans can't beat Brindisi, who exactly can they beat?

Mayoral

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: The Democratic firm Bendixen & Amandi International's new poll for the Miami Herald gives Democrat Daniella Levine Cava a 45-35 lead over Republican Steve Bovo in next month's officially nonpartisan race, which is an improvement from the 39-32 edge it found last month. Levine Cava also released a Change Research survey in late September that showed her up 45-32, while Bovo's side has yet to publicize its own numbers.

Levine Cava would be the first Democrat to serve as the chief executive of Florida's largest county since Alex Penelas left office in 2004. Penelas himself waged a comeback campaign this year, but he took third in August's nonpartisan primary.

New York City, NY Mayor: Civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, a former counsel to term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio, entered next year's Democratic primary to succeed her old boss on Thursday. Wiley, who is Black, would be the first woman mayor in the city's history. In her kickoff, she took several jabs at the unpopular incumbent. "If I am mayor, you will never have to wonder who's in charge," she said. "You will never have to question ... whether the mayor even wants the job." She also ridiculed de Blasio's hapless presidential bid, saying, "You will never have to wonder whether I'm in Iowa."

Ad Roundup

Senate Republicans privately more worried that Trump talked to Woodward than about his deadly lies

Three days into the revelation that Donald Trump willfully lied to the American people about the deadly coronavirus from the absolute beginning of the crisis, and Senate Republicans are still hiding out, avoiding the press, pretending like they missed the biggest news of the week entirely.

"Haven't seen it." "Didn't read it." Or, in the case of Sen. Susan Collins, pretending like she's invisible. Collins "walked quickly into Thursday's morning series of votes, flanked by an aide who shielded her from a reporter who yelled a question in her direction about Trump downplaying the threat of coronavirus," The Hill reported. CNN adds she refused to take any questions on Wednesday or Thursday. At least her fellow vulnerable colleague, Iowa's Joni Ernst, took the question. She waffled it—"I haven't read it, I haven't seen it, so give me a chance to take a look"—but she answered the damn question.

We'll never get out of this crisis without taking back the Senate. Donate now to help make that happen.

Same with Arizona's Martha McSally and Colorado's Cory Gardner. Not reading or paying any attention to any news at all has become quite fashionable among Republicans. If you haven't read it or listened to the tapes with your very own ears, it didn't happen. At least that's Texan John Cornyn's take. He said he didn't have "personal knowledge" and didn't "have any confidence in the reporting," so he couldn't weigh in on it.

Others decided their best bet was going all in with the Trump excuse that he was trying to avert a national panic. Because if there's anything the guy who screams about antifa and Mexicans and Black Lives Matter protesters coming to rape and pillage and loot in the suburbs wants, it's not to cause a panic. North Carolina's Thom Tillis endorsed Trump's excuse. "When you're in a crisis situation, you have to inform people for their public health but you also don't want to create hysteria." When Tillis was pushed and asked if Trump should have been comparing the virus to the flu when he knew that it was far deadlier, Tillis wouldn't answer.

Trump's little golfing buddy, Lindsey Graham, piped up: "I don't think he needs to go on TV and screaming we're all going to die." Georgia's David Perdue agreed. "I understand trying to manage the psyche of the country and also look at the actions that he took. […] I look at what he did—and it was certainly a strong response." In no universe whatsoever was it a strong response, but that's a popular lie among Republicans. "Actions speak louder than words," said Louisiana's Bill Cassidy, another Republican up for reelection. "The President tends to speak loosely. We know that. That's just his pattern." And of course there’s Sen. Mitch McConnell, who combined the professed ignorance and defense of Trump into one: "Well, I haven’t read the Woodward book, but we all knew it was dangerous. The president knew it was dangerous and I think took positive steps very early on, for which he should be applauded, not criticized," he said.

Anonymously, Republican senators were less bothered by Trump's lies to the American public about a pandemic that has gone on to kill 200,000 Americans than about the fact that he would talk to Bob Woodward. "Most of us say, 'What the hell is he doing talking to Bob Woodward at 11 at night?'" one of them told The Hill.

Remember back in March, when McConnell talked about how Trump's flat-footed response to the pandemic was the fault of House Democrats and impeachment? How he said that it "diverted the attention of the government?” Yeah, that. The refusal of McConnell and fellow Republicans to actually look at the evidence, to put country over party in the impeachment, has led directly to this: 200,000 people dead. McConnell's continued insistence on putting party over country means that six months into the pandemic, he's abandoned it.

Lordy, there’s tapes: vulnerable Senate Republicans squirm over Trump’s coronavirus confession

Back in July, as Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst was being pressed on her previous assertion that two Ebola deaths on Obama's watch amounted to "failed leadership," Ernst told CNN that Donald Trump was really "stepping forward" on stemming the coronavirus. At the time, despite 130,000 Americans having already died, Ernst managed to squeeze out that claim with a relatively straight face.  

But now that we know Trump did exactly the opposite by admittedly downplaying the pandemic, Ernst, the erstwhile self-professed hog castrator, is running scared. Thursday marked the second day in a row the GOP incumbent senator who's locked in a very tight reelection race ducked questions about Trump's taped confession that he lied to the American public about how deadly the coronavirus is.

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“I haven't read it, I haven't seen it, so give me a chance to take a look,” Ernst told CNN's Manu Raju of the revelations in Bob Woodward's latest book, Rage.

Notice what Ernst didn't say, she hadn't heard it. Yep, there's tapes and that's a big part of what makes this so sticky for Ernst and all her GOP colleagues struggling to hold on to power. Remember, earlier this year they all strapped themselves irrevocably to Trump when they voted to acquit him of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness. GOP senators didn't care that Trump was willfully corrupting U.S. elections in order to win a second term, and now that he has deliberately brought death and destruction to the American people, they're either turning a blind eye or just running for the hills, à la Ernst.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn laughably pooh-poohed the reporting from arguably the most famous journalist of a generation who backed up his account with recordings of Trump himself. “I don't have any confidence in the reporting, so I'm not going to comment,” said Cornyn, who's got a 9-point advantage over his Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, according to Real Clear Politics. Sorry, but at the risk redundancy, there's f'ing tapes. Cornyn may as well just say he doesn't have any confidence in Trump himself, since Trump’s the one who privately told Woodward back in early February how "deadly" the coronavirus was.

And North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who's trailing his Democratic challenger, suggested that Trump's pandemic response has been right on the nose.

“When you're in a crisis you've got to strike the right balance (not to create) a panic,” Tillis told CNN’s Raju. Tillis apparently thinks 190,000 American deaths and counting is "the right balance."

All these spineless GOP lawmakers remain more concerned about their reelection bids than the toll their craven silence has taken and continues to take on the nation. Unconscionably sociopathic.

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

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary Preview

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grab bag

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

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

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

Ad Roundup

Senate Republicans worry that Trump’s racism will cost them in November

Donald Trump is tanking in the polls and threatening to take Senate Republicans down with him. That has some Republican senators wishing Trump would tone it down a little with the racism and the ranting. Sure, they’ve enabled him for three and a half years, but now the polls suggest it might have costs for them.

“He's good with the base,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune told CNN. “But all of the people who are going to decide in November are the people in the middle, and I think they want the President at a time like this ... to strike a more empathetic tone.” Trump shouldn’t be less racist because it’s the right thing to do—he should be less racist because he’s alienating voters he (and Senate Republicans) need in November.

To Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, “[i]t looks like something needs to be adjusted” on the Trump campaign. But talking about tactical campaign tweaks with reference to polling is, again, extremely different from condemning racism.

To Sen. Lindsey Graham, “[i]t's been a couple bad weeks, and structurally we got to up our game.”

What does that mean, though? Apparently, “I just think sort of the cultural wars, the Democrats are on the wrong side of that. But at the end of the day, I think a little more message discipline would help.”

What about Trump’s repeated use of the racist term “kung flu” for COVID-19? “Ask the president about that,” said Sen. Thom Tillis. “Every week you all try to get me into a running commentary on the President's comments about a variety of different things. I really don't have anything to add,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

These Republicans have been there for Trump at every turn, giving him their votes on issue after issue and unqualified judge after unqualified judge, and protecting him during the impeachment trial. Now they’re making it clear they don’t really care how racist he is. They just don’t want it to cost them anything.

Help Democrats win the Senate! Can you chip in $3 to the Democratic nominee in each of these critical states?

The worse Trump does, the more pathetic Senate Republicans’ blind fealty to him looks

Republican lawmakers are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to figure out how to save their own hides without attracting the rage and fury of Donald Trump.

Four of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans have already disappeared Trump from their TV ads as if the bloviator in chief doesn't actually exist. In essence: Trump? Yeah, never heard of him, except that one time I voted to clear him of all impeachment charges without ever hearing from a single witness.

That would be Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine. All of those Republicans, while trying to dodge Trump's ire, have figured out there's no upside to overtly aligning themselves with a guy whose approvals are cratering as he blows it on the nation's two biggest crises. 

But stuck in the middle are GOP senators like Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Cornyn of Texas, and David Perdue of Georgia—who haven't yet reached the point of no return where they realize Trump is clearly dooming them. 

Perdue, for instance, wasn't willing to answer reporter questions on Trump spinning conspiracy theories about a 75-year-old activist who was shoved to the ground by Buffalo police officers. But asked about attacks on Perdue's fealty to Trump, his spokesperson offered: "Bring it on," according to the AP.

Anti-Trumper and GOP strategist Tim Miller calls Republicans "hostages" but is still mystified that they couldn't find the basic resolve to separate themselves from Trump's insane attack on an elderly protester. 

“I’m not asking them to become Twitter trolls,” Miller said. “But I don’t see why they don’t take opportunities to put a little distance between themselves and the president.”

Of course, that's how we arrived here in the first place. Republicans are truly spineless—they haven't shown a lick of integrity or concern for their oaths of office since the day Trump took office. Just reckless acquiescence to a man who is clearly physically and mentally not well. So the idea that they might show a bit of dignity or put country first at risk of drawing a mean tweet from Trump is just unthinkable to them.

What remains to be seen is how many Senate Republicans running for reelection this November are willing to get on a stage with Trump. Remember, the last GOP politicians in tough races to do some high-profile campaigning with Trump were 2019 GOP gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin in Kentucky and Eddie Rispone in Louisiana. They both lost.

Morning Digest: After blocking liberal bills, conservative Dem lawmakers lose New Mexico primaries

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

NM State Senate: Conservative Democrats in the New Mexico State Senate have blocked some important pieces of legislation, but progressives scored several key wins in Tuesday's primaries. Five incumbents lost to progressive challengers: Richard Martinez, Gabe Ramos, and Clemente Sanchez, who lost renomination to opponents who each took more than 60% of the vote; Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, who lost 55-45; and finally Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, the highest-ranking Democratic senator in the chamber, who lost 49-44.

Campaign Action

Republicans may make a play for some of these seats in the fall. Smith's SD-35 in the southwestern corner of the state backed Donald Trump 50-41, while Sanchez and Ramos' districts were very closely divided in the 2016 presidential contest. The other two constituencies, though, were overwhelmingly Democratic, and it would be a huge surprise if Team Blue's 26-16 majority is threatened.

Despite the partisan makeup of the chamber, though, conservatives have stopped progressive legislation supported by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state House, where the party also holds a sizable majority. Conservative Democrats have been blamed for weakening legislation to increase the minimum wage and of blocking efforts to legalize marijuana.  

Perhaps worst of all, though, is the conservatives' actions on abortion rights. Last year, the House passed a bill to repeal a 1969 law that made it a felony to perform an abortion in most cases. However, all five of the aforementioned Senate Democrats, as well as three others, joined with the GOP minority to kill the legislation. The current anti-abortion law is unenforceable thanks to Roe v. Wade, but there's the terrifying possibility that a U.S. Supreme Court decision could make provisions like this one more than just a legal relic.

However, Tuesday's results, as well as a successful showing in November, could give progressives the chance to finally shape the agenda in New Mexico.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete compilation of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to election and voting procedures.

California: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an order allowing county election officials to reduce the number of in-person voting sites for the November general election, but in exchange, they must provide at least three days of early voting. Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla also said that there would be at least one in-person polling place for every 10,000 residents.

Meanwhile, a committee in California's Democratic-run state Senate has approved a bill requiring counties to send ballots to all voters for the November election. Newsom previously issued an order instituting the same mandate, but that order has been challenged by two Republican lawsuits that claim Newsom usurped the legislature's powers. If lawmakers pass legislation similar to Newsom's order, that could help insulate the state's vote-by-mail plans from further legal attack.

Michigan: A new federal lawsuit brought by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA on behalf of a pair of civic organizations and three voters is seeking to have the state of Michigan pay for return postage on absentee ballots and accept all ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within 14 days, both for the state's Aug. 4 primary and the November general election.

Currently, ballots must be received by election officials no later than Election Day in order to count. Plaintiffs argue that their unusually long proposed receipt deadline is justified because state law does not require election results to be certified until 14 days after Election Day.

Ohio: Ohio's Republican-led state House is preparing to advance a bill that would eliminate three days of early voting right before Election Day and end the state's practice of sending absentee ballot applications to all active voters. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose and an organization representing election officials both expressed their opposition to the measure, saying it would lead to longer lines at polling places.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Cindy Abrams, claims that cutting early voting would "clarify existing law" and that no longer mailing ballot applications would "save the state money." According to cleveland.com, Ohio spent $1.1 million to send out applications in 2016, the previous presidential election year. The state's most recent annual budget was $78.8 billion.

The legislation's claimed goal is to establish a set of emergency procedures that would allow for an all-mail election during the pendency of a public health crisis like the current pandemic. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine would have to issue a recommendation that the election be conducted by mail at least 60 days before Election Day, and the legislature would have to approve any such recommendation.

However, the state would not send ballots or even ballot applications to voters. Instead, the secretary of state would send postcards to voters explaining how they can request absentee ballots—similar to the heavily criticized procedures the state deployed for its canceled-then-rescheduled primaries earlier this year.

Pennsylvania: On Tuesday, a state court judge ruled that officials in Bucks County could count mail ballots cast in Pennsylvania's June 2 primary so long as they were postmarked by June 1 and are received by June 9. Bucks was not included in a Monday order by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that granted a similar extension to six other counties.

However, one of those counties, Delaware, sought and received further relief in the courts. Officials there had said they would be unable to send out 400 to 500 mail ballots in time for voters to return them and therefore planned not to send them at all. However, after a different state judge ruled that any such ballots could be counted as long as they are received by June 12—regardless of when they are postmarked—Delaware officials decided to send them out. The ruling is potentially subject to challenge since it allows voters to cast ballots after Election Day.

Vermont: Vermont's Democratic-run state Senate has passed a bill that would remove Republican Gov. Phil Scott's power to block Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos from ordering that the November general election be conducted by mail, a plan Condos has long sought to implement. The state House, which is also controlled by Democrats, reportedly will also approve the measure. Scott has said he does not oppose the effort to remove him from the decision-making process.

Senate

CO-Sen: Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is out with his first TV spot ahead of the June 30 Democratic primary. Romanoff talks about his work improving mental healthcare and declares, "But it shouldn't take a crisis to teach us our healthcare system is broken." Romanoff concludes by saying that "when you're fighting for your life, you shouldn't worry about how to pay for it."

GA-Sen-A: The GOP firm Cygnal is out with a survey of Tuesday's Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. David Perdue that shows investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff very close to the majority of the vote he needs to avoid an August runoff. Cygnal, which conducted a general election poll for the Georgia House GOP Caucus about a month ago, tells us this poll was done for "an interested party," and the firm said it was not involved in this primary.

Cygnal finds Ossoff taking 49% of the vote, while former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson leads 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico 16-8 for second. The only other poll we've seen of this contest was a March University of Georgia survey that had Ossoff at 31%, while Tomlinson edged Amico 16-15. Cygnal also showed Ossoff beating Tomlinson 58-24 in a hypothetical runoff.

MN-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Minnesota's Aug. 11 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

Appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith won the 2018 special election 53-42, and she's now seeking her first full term. Donald Trump and the rest of the party establishment have consolidated behind former Rep. Jason Lewis, who lost his re-election last cycle 53-47 to Democrat Angie Craig and faces minimal intra-party opposition in August.

Lewis, a former conservative radio host who has a long record of racist and misogynist tirades, hasn't attracted much outside help so far, though. Smith ended March with a wide $4.6 million to $714,000 cash-on-hand lead, and no major outside groups on either side have booked airtime here. Trump came surprisingly close to winning Minnesota in 2016, but he'll almost certainly need to flip the state this time for Lewis to have a shot. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.  

MT-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward's new ad declares that GOP Sen. Steve Daines "voted for a $500 billion dollar slush fund to bail out big corporations, even Wall Street, on top of trillions in special tax breaks Daines voted to give them already." The narrator continues, "But Daines voted against paid leave for Montanans and refused to support relief for our hospitals and nurses."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: The GOP firm Harper Polling is out with another survey for the conservative Civitas Institute, and it gives GOP Sen. Thom Tillis a small 38-36 edge against Democrat Cal Cunningham. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also leads Republican Dan Forest 49-37, while the sample favors Donald Trump 47-44. Back in mid-April, Harper showed Tillis and Cooper ahead 38-34 and 50-33, respectively, while Trump held a 49-42 advantage.

House

HI-02: Democratic state Sen. Kai Kahele, who launched his campaign early last year as a challenge to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, now finds himself on a glide path to Congress after Tuesday's candidate filing deadline passed with no serious alternatives entering the race for Hawaii's safely blue 2nd Congressional District.

Gabbard's endless string of apostasies—from cozying up to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to bashing Barack Obama for refusing to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism"—had made her a favorite of Fox News and anathema to progressives. However, she remained popular at home, making her a daunting target for any would-be rivals.

But Kahele, a combat pilot with the Air National Guard who's flown missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, was undeterred. He kicked off a bid in January of 2019, just after Gabbard embarked on a vanity run for president. That created an opening for Kahele, who was able to meet voters across the district while Gabbard was spending time in New Hampshire diners, underscoring a common complaint that Gabbard was more interested in boosting her national profile than in addressing problems at home.

Under Hawaii law, Gabbard was able to both pursue the presidency and seek re-election at the same time, though she long kept the political world guessing as to what she'd ultimately do. Finally, in October, she announced she wouldn't run for a fifth term, though it wasn't until after Tuesday's filing deadline that Kahele could be sure she wouldn't have a last-minute change of heart. (Gabbard of course eventually bailed on her presidential ambitions, too.)

Most surprisingly, in the long stretch from Gabbard's retirement announcement until now, not a single notable Hawaii Democrat joined Kahele in running for what had become an open seat, and few even considered it. Kahele's early start may have played a role, since he'd been able to amass a sizable war chest by the time Gabbard called it quits. He'd also earned support from several key figures in the state's political establishment, a movement that crescendoed in the spring when Hawaii's entire congressional delegation—minus Gabbard, of course—endorsed him.

While several other candidates did enter the race, none have even filed a single fundraising report with the FEC, making Kahele the prohibitive favorite to win the Aug. 8 primary. Assuming he does, he'll also be a lock for the November general election, given that Hillary Clinton carried the 2nd District by a 61-30 margin.

Victory in the fall would make Kahele just the second Native Hawaiian to represent the state in Congress after the late Sen. Dan Akaka. He'd also be he first from Hawaii's more rural Neighbor Islands, the term for every island apart from Oahu, which is home to the capital of Honolulu—and to every U.S. senator and representative the state has ever had.

IA-04: While state Sen. Randy Feenstra is no less extreme than the notorious figure he beat in Tuesday's primary, he does a much better job of saying the quiet parts quietly than soon-to-be-former Rep. Steve King. As such, that makes him what passes for a bog-standard Republican these days: build the wall, ban sanctuary cities, ban abortion, ban gay marriage, and swear undying fealty to Donald Trump—Feenstra's on board with the whole program.

And that in turn makes him a sure fit for Iowa's conservative 4th Congressional District, a heavily Republican area that's only grown more so in the Trump era. King's ability to generate funds for Democrats just by opening his mouth, plus a perception at home that he'd grown more interested in buffing his reputation with international members of the far-right than the concerns of his district, nearly cost him his career against Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2018, when he survived by just a 50-47 margin. That backdrop gave Scholten an opening once again, however slight.

But as the GOP's new nominee, Feenstra, won't trail the top of the ticket, where Trump is sure to dominate. Daily Kos is Elections is therefore changing our rating on this race from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.

MN-01: Republican Jim Hagedorn defeated Army veteran Dan Feehan 50.1-49.7 in a 2018 open seat contest, and Feehan is back for a rematch. Feehan, who faces no primary opposition, ended March with a wide $1.1 million to $787,000 million advantage, and outside groups on both sides have booked TV time in this area.

Despite his tiny win last cycle, though, Hagedorn has the edge this time. This southern Minnesota seat swung from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump, so Feehan will likely need to win over a significant number of Trump voters to win this time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

MN-02: Democrat Angie Craig unseated Republican Rep. Jason Lewis 53-47 in 2018 to flip a suburban Twin Cities seat that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump narrowly carried, and Republicans don't seem to have a strong candidate to try to take it back. The only Republican in the running is Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who ended March with a wide $2 million to $100,000 cash-on-hand deficit in a contest we rate as Likely Democratic.

MN-03: Democrat Dean Phillips unseated GOP incumbent Erik Paulsen 56-44 after an expensive race, but the new incumbent doesn't appear to be in any danger this time.

The only notable Republican in the race is healthcare executive Kendall Qualls, who trailed Phillips $346,000 to $242,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of March. While Phillips didn't have a large war chest for an incumbent, the district's shift to the left will make it hard for Qualls to gain traction: This suburban Twin Cities seat moved from 50-49 Obama to 51-41 Clinton, and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Democratic.

MN-05: Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been one of the most high-profile members of the freshman Democratic class, faces four opponents in the primary for this safely blue Minneapolis seat. Omar's most high-profile foe is attorney Antone Melton-Meaux, who has argued that Omar "appears to be more focused on her own celebrity than on serving the district." Omar ended March with a wide $1.3 million to $200,000 cash-on-hand lead over Melton-Meaux.

MN-07: Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson has held this rural western Minnesota seat for 30 years even as it has become more and more Republican, and he faces his greatest test this fall. The GOP establishment, including Donald Trump, has consolidated behind former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach in this 62-31 Trump seat. A few other Republicans are running including self-funding physician Noel Collis and 2016/2018 nominee Dave Hughes, but it's unlikely they'll be able to stop Fischbach.

Peterson, who chairs the important House Agriculture Committee, ended March with a wide $1.1 million to $312,000 cash-on-hand lead over Fischbach. However, this seat gave Trump the highest vote share of any House district that Democrats currently hold, and with Trump almost certain to easily carry this seat again, it's likely that Republicans will invest plenty of money in their campaign to unseat the longtime incumbent. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.

MN-08: Republican Pete Stauber flipped this seat 51-45 last cycle, and the new incumbent looks secure this time. The Democrats are fielding diabetes research advocate Quinn Nystrom, who is a former member of the Baxter City Council. Stauber ended March with a wide $849,000 to $103,000 cash-on-hand lead in a northeast Minnesota seat that swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump, and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Republican.

NJ-05: Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich, who is challenging Rep. Josh Gottheimer in the July 7 Democratic primary, is out with a survey from Data for Progress that shows her losing 64-17. Kreibich argues that she makes gains when voters learn about her, though she still trails when respondents are exposed to positive and negative messaging about both contenders.  

NY-16: Veteran Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, on his first visit back to his district in months, was caught on camera Tuesday pleading with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for the chance to speak at a press conference, telling Diaz twice, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

While Engel was referring to his lack of a speaking slot at the event, which was convened after a night of looting along the Fordham Road retail corridor, the gaffe was quickly refracted as a commentary on Engel's feelings about his race and his constituents. Engel tried to explain away the remarks, saying, "In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that's why I asked to speak," but his leading opponent, educator Jamaal Bowman, immediately seized on the blunder to call the 16-term incumbent out of touch and said he raised $150,000 in the 24 hours following the incident.

Last month, Engel was the subject of an unflattering profile in the Atlantic highlighting the fact that he had holed up in his DC-area home for the duration of the pandemic, not even returning to New York when the state's first coronavirus epicenter was identified in the city of New Rochelle, which is in his district. (Many other members of New York's delegation, including several fellow committee chairs, had managed to split time between Washington and their home turf.)

Bowman's campaign had in part centered around Engel's alleged absenteeism even before the pandemic, immediately making Tuesday's hot mic comments part of a pre-existing narrative about the race. But Bowman only has three more weeks to make his case ahead of the June 23 primary for the safely blue 16th District, and Engel had a roughly five-to-one cash advantage as of the end of March. However, the financial picture—and the race itself—might now look very different going forward.

P.S. Oddly, the event Engel was attending wasn't even in his district: It was held at an intersection on the border of the 13th and 15th Districts. 13th District Rep. Adriano Espaillat was in attendance, as were a long list of other local politicians. It's understandable, then, why Diaz told Engel, "I cannot have all the electeds talk because we will never get out of here" and snapped back, "Don't do that to me—everybody has a primary" when Engel tried to plead his case.

NY-17: In his second TV spot for the June 23 Democratic primary, attorney Mondaire Jones tells the audience, "I'm grateful to the grocery store workers and delivery people who help us get through this crisis. Don't they deserve affordable healthcare? Doesn't everyone?" Jones talks about growing up on food stamps and declares, "No one should lose their healthcare because they've lost their job." Jones concludes by saying he's the one Democrat in the contest who backs Medicare for All.

NY-27: On Tuesday, Donald Trump implored his Twitter followers to vote for state Sen. Chris Jacobs on June 23. Trump had already endorsed Jacobs in February for the special general election to succeed disgraced Rep. Chris Collins, though the political calendar looked different at the time. Back then, the special was set for late April while the regular primary was in June, but the coronavirus pandemic led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to consolidate the two contests.

Jacobs' primary opponents have insisted that Trump's earlier endorsement only applied to the special, but that's a tougher argument to make now. Trump himself didn't refer to either the special or the primary, though, he simply tweeted, "Chris has my Complete and Total Endorsement! Vote for Chris on June 23!"

TX-10: 2018 Democratic nominee Mike Siegel picked up an endorsement this week from freshman Rep. Veronica Escobar. Siegel faces physician Pritesh Gandhi in the July 14 Democratic primary runoff to take on veteran GOP Rep. Michael McCaul.

Election Result Recaps

Baltimore, MD Mayor: With 80,000 votes counted, former Mayor Sheila Dixon leads City Council President Brandon Scott 30-25 in the Democratic primary for mayor. It's not clear how many votes remain to be counted, though the head of the city's board of elections says that it will resume tabulating mail-in ballots on Thursday. Whoever emerges with the Democratic nomination should have no trouble winning the general election in this very blue city.

Ferguson, MO Mayor: Ferguson elected its first-ever black mayor, as well as its first woman leader, on Tuesday when City Councilwoman Ella Jones defeated colleague Heather Robinett 54-46. Voters in this St. Louis suburb also made history by electing a black majority to the local school board.

Ferguson attracted global attention in 2014 after a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, sparking focus for Black Lives Matter. One big fact stood out amidst the city's botched handling of the protests that followed Brown's death: While Ferguson is two-thirds black and heavily Democratic, this municipality of 21,000 was led by a white Republican mayor, James Knowles. Five of Ferguson's six city councilmembers were also white, as were six of the seven local school board members. In large part because local elections didn't take place the same day as state or federal ones, very low turnout produced a majority-white electorate.

However, reformers made gains the next year when Jones and another black candidate won seats on the City Council in a contest that attracted much higher turnout than normal. Another African American joined the body the next year, which gave it a black majority for the first time. In 2017, though, Jones challenged Knowles for re-election and lost 56-44. But Knowles, who has been in office since 2011, was termed-out this year, and Jones won a three-year term to succeed him.

IA-Sen: Businesswoman Theresa Greenfield won the Democratic nomination to face GOP Sen. Joni Ernst by defeating retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken 48-25. Greenfield had the support of national Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC, which spent close to $7 million on her behalf, and EMILY's List.

Greenfield will be in for a difficult race against Ernst in a state that moved hard to the right in 2014 and 2016, but as SMP's big primary investment demonstrates, this is a contest that outside groups are taking very seriously. The DSCC and SMP have booked $20.4 million to unseat Ernst, while the senator's allies at the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund have reserved a total of $15.2 million to defend her. The only survey we've seen here all year, an early May poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, had Ernst ahead just 43-42. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

IA-02: State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was the party's nominee here in 2008, 2010, and 2014, won the GOP nod for this competitive seat once again by beating former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling 48-37. Miller-Meeks will take on former state Sen. Rita Hart, who had no Democratic primary opposition, in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack.

This southeastern Iowa seat swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump, and it will be one of the House GOP's top targets. However, this terrain has been more difficult for Team Red downballot. Loebsack turned back Miller-Meeks 52-47 during the 2014 GOP wave, and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell, who had Hart on his ticket as his nominee for lieutenant governor, carried the district 51-47 as he was narrowly losing statewide. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

IN-01: In a surprise, North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan defeated Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott 34-29 in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky in this safely blue seat. Mrvan will take on Republican Mark Leyva, who has run here during 10 of the last 12 election cycles and never come close to winning.

McDermott, a self-described moderate who considered challenging Visclosky before the incumbent retired, looked like the frontrunner for this northwest Indiana seat. The mayor deployed the most cash, and he also received a $525,000 boost from third-party groups—mostly from VoteVets and an organization called Democratic Progress, whose treasurer works for a super PAC that backs independent candidates. Another candidate, state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, also benefited from outside support.

Mrvan, meanwhile, raised very little money, though some allied PACs dropped about $110,000 to help him. However, Mrvan had the support of Visclosky and the local branch of the United Steelworkers of America, which is a prominent force in a district with a large steel industry. Mrvan may have benefited from some family name recognition: His father and namesake is local state Sen. Frank Mrvan, who was first elected in 1978 and has served in the legislature almost continuously since then.

IN-05: State Sen. Victoria Spartz won a truly ugly GOP primary to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Susan Brooks in this open seat by defeating businesswoman Beth Henderson 41-18. Spartz will take on former state Rep. Christina Hale, who beat 2018 nominee Dee Thornton 39-28 in a race that didn't attract much outside attention.

Spartz used her personal resources to decisively outspend all of her opponents, while her allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth ran ads attacking Henderson and another candidate, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Henderson, who was backed by Sen. Mike Braun, in turn launched a xenophobic and misogynist ad against the Ukrainian-born Spartz.

This suburban Indianapolis seat was safely red turf until the Trump era, but Democrats are hoping to score a pickup here this fall. This district moved from 58-41 Romney to 53-41 Trump, and former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly narrowly prevailed here 48.4-47.9 in 2018 even though he lost 51-45 statewide. So far, no major outside groups on either side have booked TV time in the Indianapolis media market, which covers the entire district, though there's still plenty of time for that to change. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

MD-07: Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who recently returned to the House after a 24-year absence, beat former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings 78-9 in the primary for this safely blue Baltimore seat. Mfume defeated Rockeymoore Cummings 43-17 back in February in the special primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

MT-Gov: Rep. Greg Gianforte won the GOP primary by defeating Attorney General Tim Fox 53-27, while Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney beat businesswoman Whitney Williams 55-45 to secure the Democratic nod. Gianforte and Cooney will face off in the fall in the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who is Team Blue's nominee for the Senate.

Republicans last won the governorship in Montana in 2000, but that losing streak may finally come to an end in 2020 thanks to the state's increasingly red trend. Gianforte, who threw down $1.5 million of his own money for the primary, also may be able to decisively outspend Cooney. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.

However, while Gianforte is the favorite in the fall, he's hardly invincible. The now-congressman was the party's nominee back in 2016, and Democrats ran a barrage of ads portraying the former New Jersey resident as a greedy outsider eager to deny the public access to waterways for fishing and swimming that were located near his "riverfront mansion"—so much so that he in fact went to court. Gianforte ultimately lost to Bullock 50-46 even though Trump carried Montana by a dominant 56-35 margin.

Undeterred by his loss, Gianforte ran in a special election for Montana's lone House seat when Rep. Ryan Zinke temporarily got beamed up to Trump's cabinet. Gianforte made international news the night before Election Day by body-slamming reporter Ben Jacobs after he asked Gianforte a question about Obamacare. Gianforte filed a statement with the police afterwards in which he claimed that Jacobs had provoked the attack—an utter lie, and a particularly shameful one since several witnesses were present and the incident was also captured on audiotape.

Gianforte ended up winning 50-44, but since most voters had already cast their ballots ahead of Election Day, it's not clear how much damage this story did or didn't do to the Republican's political fortunes. A few months after the election, Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. The congressman paid a $385 fine and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service as well as another 20 hours of training for anger management. However, Gianforte was never charged with lying to the police. He and Jacobs also reached a settlement in which Gianforte accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, heading off a lawsuit by Jacobs.

Gianforte faced an expensive re-election contest last cycle against Democrat Kathleen Williams, who ran ads going after the incumbent for his attack on Jacobs. However, one high-profile Republican was very much not bothered by Gianforte's transgressions. Donald Trump ventured to Montana in October and told a rally, "Greg is smart and, by the way, never wrestle him." In case that was too subtle, Trump pantomimed throwing someone to the ground and added, "Any guy that can do a body slam—he's my guy." Gianforte went on to beat Williams by a modest 51-46 margin.

MT-AL: State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who was the GOP's nominee for Senate last cycle, defeated Secretary of State Corey Stapleton 48-33 in the primary for this open seat. Rosendale, who had Donald Trump's endorsement, will take on 2018 Democratic nominee Kathleen Williams, who defeated state Rep. Tom Winter by a lopsided 89-11 margin.

Williams held GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte, who gave up this seat to run for governor, to a 51-46 win last cycle. However, while Rosendale's 50-47 loss against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester shows he can be defeated in this red state, he'll probably be harder for Williams to attack than the notorious Gianforte was. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

NM-02: 2018 GOP nominee Yvette Herrell beat businesswoman Claire Chase 45-32, which earned Herrell a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. This was a truly ugly primary, with both candidates calling one another enemies of Trump; Herrell was even accused of spreading rumors about Chase's first marriage.  

This southern New Mexico seat backed Donald Trump 50-40, but Herrell lost it to Torres Small 51-49 two years later. Team Blue was eager to face Herrell again following that defeat, and the Democratic group Patriot Majority even ran ads during the final weeks of the primary designed to help Herrell against Chase. A GOP establishment-flavored group called Defending Main Street tried to counter with anti-Herrell ads, but it was too little, too late.

Still, while Democrats have the opponent they want, Herrell could still win in a seat this red. Torres Small is a very strong fundraiser, though, and she proved in 2018 that she's able to secure crossover votes. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.

NM-03: Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez won the Democratic primary to succeed Senate nominee Ben Ray Luján in this reliably blue seat by beating former CIA agent Valerie Plame 42-25.

This was a very expensive contest and Plame, who was at the center of a national firestorm that lasted for years during the presidency of George W. Bush after her name was publicly leaked, decisively outspent Leger Fernandez. However, several outside groups, including EMILY's List, spent heavily on ads touting Leger Fernandez's local roots in northern New Mexico.

P.S. Tuesday's primary results mean that all of New Mexico's House seats will almost certainly be represented next year by women of color, which would be a first in American history for a state with more than two districts. Leger Fernandez is Latina, while 1st District Rep. Deb Haaland, who holds a safely blue seat, is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Native American people. Over in the 2nd District, Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, while GOP nominee Yvette Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

PA-01: In a surprise, GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick held off underfunded businessman Andrew Meehan, who was challenging the "anti-Trump, Trump hating RINO" congressman for renomination, just 57-43. On the Democratic side, Christina Finello, who has worked as a Bucks County housing department official, beat businessman Skylar Hurwitz 77-23.

While much of the party base seems quite angry at Fitzpatrick, who has always portrayed himself as a moderate, it remains to be seen if Democrats can exploit his problems. Finello, who became the party's frontrunner after the two most prominent contenders dropped out, raised a total of just around $210,000 through mid-May, and we'll need to see if she can do better now that she's the nominee. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, is a very strong fundraiser who will have all the money he needs to defend himself.  

This seat, which is centered around Bucks County north of Philadelphia, narrowly backed both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but Fitzpatrick won an expensive contest 51-49 during the 2018 Democratic wave. With the cash battle so lopsided, at least for now, Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

PA-07: Businesswoman Lisa Scheller defeated 2018 primary runner-up Dean Browning, who is also a former member of the Lehigh County Commission, 52-48 in the GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. Scheller, who has self-funded much of her campaign, decisively outspent Browning, and she also had the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Scheller picked up an endorsement in the final days of the contest from Donald Trump, a tweet that may have made all the difference in this close race.

This Lehigh Valley district shifted from 53-46 Obama to just 49-48 Clinton, but Wild decisively won an open seat race last cycle after national Republicans abandoned their nominee. Scheller may prove to be a better contender, but Wild has over $1.5 million to defend herself in a race we rate as Lean Democratic.

PA-08: Former Trump administration official Jim Bognet beat former police officer Teddy Daniels 28-25 in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright; Army veteran Earl Granville, who had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement, finished just behind with 24%.

This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung from 55-43 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but Cartwright turned back a self-funding opponent last cycle by a convincing 55-45 margin. However, the incumbent could be in considerably more danger with Trump at the top of the ballot. Bognet, for his part, has made sure to emulate the GOP leader by running racist ad after racist ad declaring that he'll punish China for having "sent us the Wuhan flu."

Bognet raised only about $300,000 from when he entered the race in January through mid-May, though he may attract considerably more attention now that he's the GOP nominee. Democrats are already preparing for an expensive race in any case: House Majority PAC has reserved $1.8 million in fall TV time in the Wilkes-Barre media market, which contains most of this seat, though Republicans have yet to book time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

PA-10: With 38,000 votes counted, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale leads attorney Tom Brier 63-37 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Scott Perry. The Associated Press has not yet called the race, and The Patriot-News reported Wednesday that there are still 40,000 ballots to be counted in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties, while most votes are in for DePasquale's York County base. (This district includes 80% of Cumberland County and all of Dauphin County.)

Brier is leading 66-35 in Dauphin County, while he has a bare majority in Cumberland County, so he'll likely pick up ground as more votes come in. Gov. Tom Wolf's recent executive order requires any mail ballots in Dauphin County that are received by June 9 to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, so we may not have a resolution here until next week.

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's two Massachusetts special elections, including a Democratic flip:

MA-HD-3rd Bristol: Democrat Carol Doherty defeated Republican Kelly Dooner 57-43 to flip this seat for Team Blue. Though this district backed Hillary Clinton 52-42 and Barack Obama 58-40, former GOP state Rep. Shaunna O'Connell routinely won re-election, making Doherty's win a significant downballot shift for this district.

This victory continues Democrats' streak of flips in the Bay State; two weeks ago, Democrats flipped two state Senate districts that were similarly blue at the federal level.

MA-HD-37th Middlesex: Democrat Danilo Sena easily beat Republican Catherine Clark 74-26 to hold this seat for his party. Sena's win was large even for this strongly Democratic district, running well ahead of Clinton's 62-31 win and Obama's 57-41 win here.

The composition of this chamber is 127-31 (with one independent member) with one other seat vacant.

Morning Digest: GOP primary for swingy New Mexico House seat reaches new low in nastiness

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

NM-02: The June 2 GOP contest to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico's 2nd District turned negative a long time ago, and it may now be the ugliest primary anywhere in the country.

The Associated Press' Russell Contreras reported Tuesday that 2018 nominee Yvette Herrell had texted with a conservative cartoonist named Roger Rael about a meme Rael was creating that suggested that Herrell's main rival, businesswoman Claire Chase, had been unfaithful to her first husband. Herrell showed a close interest in Rael's illustration, going so far as to inform him about multiple spelling errors: "It should say gold digging, not good digging," she wrote, adding, "Let me send them in the morning. There are a couple of more."

Campaign Action

Herrell's campaign did acknowledge that she had communicated with Rael, who it just so happens is currently under indictment for what Contreras describes as "disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property charges in connection with an alleged attack on a Republican state House candidate." However, Herrell's spokesperson claimed that Rael had incessantly messaged Herrell, saying that her texts only came in response to his. (What better way to fend off unwelcome texting than to turn into the grammar police?) Herrell also put out a statement saying, "I have never attempted to use personal rumors about Claire in this race, and will never do so. Neither has my campaign."

Chase, unsurprisingly, was not appeased, and she called for Herrell to drop out of the primary. Chase's former husband, Ben Gray, issued his own statement slamming Herrell: "I can't believe Yvette Herrell would try to use me in this false, disgusting attack," he wrote. Gray, who said he was still friends with Chase and is a member of a group called Veterans for Claire, added, "What kind of person would smear a Veteran to win a political campaign?"

But even before these latest developments, this was a messy campaign. Both candidates launched ads last month that accused the other of trying to undermine Donald Trump in 2016; Herrell's commercial even employed a narrator who used what Nathan Gonzalez described as a "ditzy tone" to impersonate Chase. Gonzalez, who titled his article, "The campaign attack ad no man could get away with," also characterized the spot as "one of the most sexist campaign ads in recent memory."

Whoever makes it out of next month's primary will emerge bruised, but the winner will still have a chance to beat Torres Small simply because of the district's conservative demographics: This southern New Mexico seat supported Donald Trump 50-40, and Daily Kos Elections rates the general election a Tossup.

But Torres Small, who defeated Herrell 51-49 last cycle, had nearly $3 million in the bank to defend herself at the end of March, while her prospective opponents didn't have anywhere close to that much. Herrell enjoyed a $378,000 to $264,000 cash-on-hand lead over Chase while a third candidate, self-funder Chris Mathys, had $200,000 to spend.

Election Changes

Florida: The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, along with two other organizations and several voters, has filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to relax a number of Florida laws related to absentee voting for the state's Aug. 18 primaries and the November general election. In particular, the plaintiffs want absentee ballots to count so long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received within 10 days; currently, ballots must be received by 7 PM local time on Election Day. They're also asking that the state pay the postage on return envelopes for mail-in ballots, and that Florida's ban on paid organizers assisting with ballot collection be lifted.

Nevada: Nevada Democrats and their national counterparts have withdrawn their legal challenge seeking a number of changes to the state's June 2 primary after officials in Clark County acceded to two of their biggest demands. According to a court filing, plaintiffs say that Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria has agreed to mail ballots to all voters, not just those listed as "active," and will add two in-person voting sites, for a total of three.

Officials in other parts of the state have made more limited concessions, per the filing, but Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, is home to 71% of Nevada voters and 81% of all "inactive" voters in the state. Democrats also say they plan to continue pressing their claims for the general election.

North Carolina: Several North Carolina voters, backed by voting rights organizations, have brought a lawsuit asking a state court to relax a number of laws related to absentee voting for the November general election. In particular, the plaintiffs want absentee ballots to count so long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received within nine days, which is the same deadline for military voters; currently, ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received within just three days.

They're also asking for an expanded definition of the term "postmark" to include modern imprints like barcodes, and in the event a postmark does not include a date, they want officials "to presume that the ballot was mailed on or before Election Day unless the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates it was mailed after Election Day."

In addition, plaintiffs want the state to pay for postage for both absentee ballot applications and ballots, and they want the court to waive the requirement that absentee voters have their ballots either notarized or signed by two witnesses. Finally, plaintiffs are requesting that voters be given the opportunity to correct any issues if their signatures allegedly do not match those on file.

Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down a requirement that absentee ballots be notarized and issued an order prohibiting officials from sending out ballots or other voting materials suggesting that notarization is still mandatory. Last month, the League of Women Voters challenged the notary requirement, calling it antithetical to stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The court's decision, however, was not grounded in public health but rather a state law that allows a signed statement made under penalty of perjury to suffice in lieu of a notarization in most cases where an affidavit is called for.

Senate

CO-Sen: Businesswoman Michelle Ferrigno Warren's campaign came to an end on Monday when the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously reversed a lower-court ruling that had placed her on the June 23 Democratic primary ballot. Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann had ordered Warren onto the ballot last month even though she didn't have enough signatures after deciding that, in light of disruptions caused by social distancing, she had collected enough to justify her place in the primary. However, the state's highest court ultimately ruled that only the legislature has the authority to change how many petitions are needed.

This could spell very bad news for another candidate, nonprofit head Lorena Garcia. Baumann had also ordered Garcia onto the primary ballot for the same reason he had applied to Warren, but Secretary of State Jena Griswold's office announced Monday evening that she was appealing his decision to the state Supreme Court.

GA-Sen-A: 2017 House nominee Jon Ossoff is out with a new statewide ad ahead of the June 9 Democratic primary that prominently features Rep. John Lewis and touts his endorsement. Lewis speaks positively of Ossoff, imploring voters to support him and "send Donald Trump a message he will never forget", while clips of the pair appearing together are shown.

Lewis and Ossoff have a relationship that dates back several years. Ossoff previously interned for the civil rights icon and Atlanta-area congressman, while Lewis was one of Ossoff's earliest supporters in his 2017 special election bid for the 6th Congressional District.

ME-Sen: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is out with a health care-themed spot, supported with a six-figure buy, attacking Republican Sen. Susan Collins. The ad ties Collins to the pharmaceutical industry and also states that she "voted against Mainers with pre-existing conditions and for corporate special interests." The commercial, which also shows images of Collins seated alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, closes by saying, "Money changes everything, even Susan Collins."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: A new poll conducted by Democratic pollster Civiqs on behalf of Daily Kos shows Democrats well ahead in North Carolina's Senate and gubernatorial contests. (Civiqs and Daily Kos are owned by the same parent company.) Cal Cunningham leads GOP Sen. Thom Tillis 50-41, while Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper posts a similar 53-44 edge against Republican Dan Forest; this sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 49-46.

This is the largest lead we've seen for Cunningham since he won the primary in early March, though we still don't have too many other polls to work with. The conservative Civitas Institute released numbers in mid-April from the GOP firm Harper Polling that showed Tillis ahead 38-34, while the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found Cunningham ahead 47-40 around that same time. A SurveyUSA poll released last week also had Cunningham ahead just 41-39.

Civiqs does find Cooper taking about the same percentage of the vote as other firms do, but it finds Forest in better shape. While Cooper has consistently posted very strong approval ratings since the coronavirus pandemic began, it seems unlikely that Forest will end up in the mid-30s when all is said and done in this polarized state. Indeed, the last time a major party gubernatorial nominee failed to take at least 42% of the vote was 1980.

TX-Sen: Air Force veteran MJ Hegar picked up an endorsement this week from Rep. Veronica Escobar ahead of the July Democratic primary runoff.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: Businesswoman Whitney Williams picked up an endorsement on Tuesday from Hillary Clinton for the June 2 Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, Williams is also out with a commercial where she declares that, while trailblazing women built Montana, Rep. Greg Gianforte and Donald Trump are threatening women now. Williams declares that Trump and the GOP primary frontrunner "want to take away our right to choose. Even restrict birth control. I won't let that happen."

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is Williams' primary opponent, is also out with a TV spot. The narrators say that Cooney worked with outgoing Gov. Steve Bullock to expand healthcare access, protect rural hospitals, and create the jobs "that will steer our economy through this crisis." The ad ends by reminding voters that Bullock and Sen. Jon Tester are backing Cooney.

While the primary is almost a month away, voters will have the chance to cast their ballots very soon. Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announced in March that all 56 Montana counties plan to conduct the state's primary by mail, and that ballots will be mailed out to registered voters on May 8.

House

IA-04: This week, the deep-pocketed U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed state Sen. Randy Feenstra over white supremacist Rep. Steve King in the June 2 GOP primary.

PA-10: Attorney Tom Brier is up with his first TV spot ahead of the June 2 Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Scott Perry.

The commercial shows several images of Brier's volunteers as the candidate explains his campaign "has always been about bringing progressive Democrats together. Lots of Democrats who are now volunteering from home." Brier's supporters then say what they believe in, including taking money out of politics, dealing with the opioid crisis, and healthcare for all. Brier ends by telling the viewer, "Apply for your mail-in ballot today."

Brier faces state Auditor Eugene DePasquale, who has the support of the DCCC, in next month's primary, and DePasquale ended March with a large $657,000 to $145,000 cash-on-hand lead. Perry, who narrowly won re-election last cycle, had $816,000 available to defend himself in a seat in the Harrisburg and York area that backed Trump 52-43.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: On behalf of The Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership PAC, a group supporting former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller, the Democratic firm Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group is out with a mid-April poll showing a tight June 2 Democratic primary.

The first survey we’ve seen since mid-March finds that Miller, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, and City Council President Brandon Scott are in a three-way tie with 16% each, while incumbent Jack Young is at 13%. Two other contenders, former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith and former state prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah, are at 11% and 10%, respectively, while 18% are undecided. It only takes a simple plurality to win, and the Democratic nominee should have no trouble in November in this very blue city.

The primary, which was delayed from April 28 to early June because of the coronavirus pandemic, has also turned into a very expensive contest. The Baltimore Sun reports that Miller has raised $800,000 and self-funded an additional $1.5 million this year, which has allowed her to outspend her many opponents; Miller had only $150,000 left in late April, but she may have the resources to self-fund more.

Miller is also the only one of the many major candidates who is white in a city that’s 63% African American and 32% white: The other notable candidates are Black except for Vignarajah, who is the son of Sri Lankan immigrants. Baltimore’s last white mayor was Martin O’Malley, who was elected in 1999 and resigned in early 2007 to become governor of Maryland.

Vignarajah has also been a strong fundraiser, and he had the largest war chest in the field last month with $700,000 in the bank. Scott, who has the backing of several unions, led Dixon in cash-on-hand $415,000 to $300,000, while Young had $202,000 to spend; Young’s campaign said that he’s all but stopped fundraising as he deals with the coronavirus. Smith, meanwhile, was far behind with just $22,000 available.

It would ordinarily be quite surprising to see a crowded race where the incumbent trailing in both the polls and the money contest, but Young has only been in office for about a year. He was elevated from City Council president to mayor when incumbent Catherine Pugh resigned in disgrace (she later was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges related to her self-published children's books), and a number of candidates quickly made it clear that they’d challenge Young.

Young’s critics have argued that the veteran local politician isn’t the right person to help Baltimore deal with its long-term problems, and they’ve also taken him to task for his many gaffes. To take one example, Young said of the city’s high homicide rate last year, “I’m not committing the murders, and that’s what people need to understand," and, "How can you fault leadership? This has been five years of 300-plus murders. I don't see it as a lack of leadership."

Several polls taken during the winter showed Young badly trailing, and Mason-Dixon gave him a 28-39 favorable rating in mid-March. However, that was during the early days of the coronavirus crisis in the United States, and we don’t have enough data to indicate if Young's handling of the situation at home has given him a better shot to win a full term this year.

Miller began airing commercials months ago, and she’s largely had the airwaves to herself. Miller also has a new commercial where she tells viewers that Barack Obama brought her on at the Treasury Department during the Great Recession, and argues she has the experience to help Baltimore “come back stronger” from the current pandemic.

Dixon, meanwhile, went up with her first spot last week, which featured several people praising her accomplishments as mayor. Dixon resigned that post in 2010 after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families, but she’s maintained a base of support since then. Dixon ran for mayor again in 2016 and narrowly lost the primary to then-state Sen. Pugh 37-35. Dixon launched a write-in campaign just a month ahead of the competitive general election and took second place with 52,000 votes, which was good for a 58-22 loss.

Vignarajah also recently went up with a new ad that features several locals praising him as a responsive leader. Vignarajah’s supporters say he got them jobs, stopped their water from being shut off, and halted illegal trash dumping. One woman also praises Vignarajah for convicting the men who murdered her young son.