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.
● IL-14: Whether national Republicans like it or not, state Sen. Jim Oberweis is once again their nominee. Oberweis defeated fellow state Sen. Sue Rezin 26-23 in the crowded primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood; while the Associated Press has not called the race as of Wednesday afternoon, Rezin conceded on election night.
This seat in Chicago's western exurbs moved from 54-44 Romney to 49-45 Trump, and Underwood unseated GOP incumbent Randy Hultgren two years later in an upset. Oberweis, who self-funded $1 million through late February, does give Team Red a nominee with access to plenty of money against the well-funded Underwood, but his electoral history is … not good.
In fact, the wealthy dairy magnate has unsuccessfully run for the House or statewide office a grand total of six times beginning with his 2002 primary defeat to take on Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. We're even going to be nice and not count Oberweis' accidental 2020 Senate campaign against him.Campaign Action
Oberweis' most prominent loss came in 2008, which came after three failed statewide primary campaigns. That year, Oberweis was the GOP nominee in a high-profile special election to succeed former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. That district, which was also numbered the 14th (but only shared about 40% of the same territory as the seat he's now running for), had been reliably red turf for a long time. George W. Bush carried the seat 55-44 in 2004 and Hastert (whose awful past would not be revealed until 2015), had always won re-election easily.
However, the contest between Oberweis and Democrat Bill Foster was a competitive affair, and Foster's 52.5-47.5 victory was a strong and early sign that 2008 was going to be a very good year for Democrats. Oberweis and Foster had won their primaries for the regular November contest months before the special was decided, and Republicans reportedly tried to convince their nominee to drop out.
Then-state Rep. Aaron Schock, who was the GOP nominee for a congressional seat to the south, loudly threw Oberweis under the bus for his defeat, declaring, "Anybody in Illinois who knows Jim Oberweis knows that was not a referendum on the Republican Party; it was a referendum on Jim Oberweis." Schock, whose own congressional career would self-destruct the next decade, also volunteered that when it came to Oberweis, "The people that knew him best, liked him least." Oberweis didn't listen, and he lost to Foster again 58-42.
Things finally changed in 2012 when Oberweis won both the primary and the general election for an open state Senate seat. But some habits can't be broken: The next year, he launched a second longshot bid against Durbin, which characteristically ended in defeat. Still, Oberweis was re-elected the following cycle 55-45 even as his state Senate seat was swinging from 53-45 Romney to 48-45 Clinton, so it's possible that he's developed some better campaigning skills in the last few years.
Oberweis announced in 2019 that he would challenge Underwood, but strangely, he didn't rule out running for Congress in Florida later that year. Oberweis owns a home in retiring GOP Rep. Francis Rooney's seat in the Naples area, and he's benefited in the past from a homeowner's tax exemption by listing it as his "primary" residence. In October, an Oberweis spokesman acknowledged to Politico, "There's a push from Republicans in that district" for him to run, and he continued, "All he'd have to do is move down there and he'd win."
Oberweis did not move down there and win, though. Instead, he now has another chance to avenge his last six defeats in Illinois in November by taking on Underwood in what will likely be a very competitive race for a seat the GOP very badly wants to take back.
Please bookmark our 2020 calendar, which we will continually update as any changes to election dates are finalized.
● Alabama: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has moved Alabama's March 31 primary runoffs to July 14, and Republican Secretary of State John Merrill says that voters can cite the coronavirus outbreak as a reason for asking for an absentee ballot, regardless of whether they themselves have contracted the disease. Democrats in the legislature have introduced bills to remove the excuse requirement entirely, but Ivey claimed to the Montgomery Advertiser that she was unaware of any discussions about such a move.
● Arizona: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has asked Arizona's GOP-run state legislature to implement all-mail balloting for the November general election, but one key Republican is opposed. Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who might challenge Hobbs in 2022, told the Associated Press, "If they want to receive it by mail they can. So why would you mandate it?" Currently, about 75% of Arizona citizens vote by mail.
● Kansas: Kansas Democrats are proceeding with their party-run presidential primary on May 2 but will send every registered Democrat in the state a mail-in ballot at the end of the month. Party officials are encouraging all voters to cast mail ballots, which must be postmarked by April 24.
● Minnesota: Minnesota Republicans had previously said they'd postpone their upcoming local conventions but have instead decided to hold them online. However, the party hasn't yet decided what to do about its mid-May statewide convention or its congressional district conventions, which are set to begin in the middle of next month.
The conventions will award the GOP's formal endorsement to delegates' preferred candidates, which will be of greatest importance in the 2nd District. There, several Republicans are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, and at least two have said they won't continue on to Minnesota's Aug. 11 primary if they fail to secure the party's backing.
● Missouri: Republican Gov. Mike Parson has moved Missouri's April 7 municipal elections to June 2. Missouri has already voted in the presidential primaries, and its statewide primaries for downballot office are not until Aug. 4.
● Montana: Several candidates seeking statewide office in Montana this year, including a Democrat and a Republican both running for secretary of state, have called for the state's June 2 primary to be conducted entirely by mail, but a spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock says the governor has not made any decisions and is "considering all options." Bullock is himself a candidate in the primary, where he faces Navy veteran John Mues for the right to take on Republican Sen. Steve Daines in the fall.
● New Hampshire: New Hampshire's secretary of state's office says it is considering loosening the excuse requirement for voting absentee. However, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan wrongly told NHPR that states that have adopted no-excuse absentee voting or voting by mail "have actually shown a decline in their participation in voter turnout." Studies show the exact opposite: Allowing people to vote at home increases turnout by making it easier to vote.
● New Jersey: The New Jersey Globe reports that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is considering moving to all-mail balloting for the state's June 2 primaries for the presidential race and downballot offices, though Murphy's staff declined to comment on the matter. One difficulty posed by such a change involves independent voters, who are permitted to vote in either party's primary. Such voters would have to be sent two ballots, with instructions to return no more than one, as anyone attempting to vote in both primaries would have both ballots rejected.
● Ohio: The date of Ohio's presidential and downballot primary remains uncertain following Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's last-minute decision to cancel in-person voting, which had been set to take place on March 17. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who late on Monday issued a memo saying the primary would now take place on June 2, said on Tuesday that he anticipates litigation over the date—and indeed, a lawsuit was filed later that same day by the Ohio Democratic Party.
The party's suit asks the Supreme Court to rescind LaRose's directive regarding a June 2 primary and instead require the state to extend the deadline for requesting absentee ballots until April 25; to allow voters to cast absentee ballots as long as they're postmarked by April 28; and to require the state's Board of Elections to count any such ballots that are received by May 8. Notably, the plaintiffs have not asked for a new date for in-person voting.
Legislative leaders are also unhappy with DeWine and LaRose. Republican State House Speaker Larry Householder issued a statement saying that "the legal authority to change the date [of the primary] rests with the Ohio General Assembly – not the courts and not via executive fiat." He said that lawmakers will address the matter when they reconvene as scheduled next week, but so far, Householder has only said that he'll "consider an extension of absentee voting." Much like the Democratic Party, he has not called for a reinstatement of in-person voting (at least, not yet).
● Rhode Island: Rhode Island's Board of Elections voted to ask Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo to reschedule the state's April 28 presidential primary to June 2, and a Raimondo spokesperson said the governor "is open to the idea." Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has said she thinks the state should stay with its current calendar and instead prefers a "predominantly mail ballot" election.
● Texas: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has signed an order allowing local governments to delay their May 2 elections until Nov. 3, the date of this year's general election. Abbott previously promised an announcement later this week about any adjustments that might be made to Texas' May 26 primary runoffs.
● Virginia: Virginia's Department of Elections says that all voters will be allowed to cast absentee ballots in the state's May 5 local elections. However, the Virginia Mercury reports that no such decision has yet been made regarding the state's June 9 congressional primaries.
● Washington: Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman has asked Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to postpone Washington's April 28 special elections and suggested they be consolidated with either the state's Aug. 4 downballot primaries or the Nov. 3 general election. These elections do not involve any candidates but instead feature proposed bonds and levies.
Notably, Washington already conducts all of its elections entirely by mail. However, Wyman wrote to Inslee, "circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible" for local election officials to perform their required duties, citing the possibility of "courthouse closures," "workforce reductions of election staff [or] postal staff," and "disruptions with vendors who support election operations."
● West Virginia: Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner says there are no plans for West Virginia to delay its May 12 presidential and downballot primary, but all voters will be allowed to request absentee ballots due to the coronavirus.
● Wisconsin: Despite growing calls for Wisconsin to delay its April 7 elections, such a move seems unlikely: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers reiterated his opposition to the idea on Tuesday, and Republican Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald also said he thinks the election should not be postponed. The marquee contests on the ballot are the presidential primaries and a key race for the state Supreme Court, but Evers noted that many nonpartisan local and county-level offices are also up for election. While the term for the Supreme Court post does not begin until August, many terms for local office start in April.
● GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: End Citizens United has endorsed 2017 House candidate Jon Ossoff in the May Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. The group has also thrown its support behind another Democrat, pastor Raphael Warnock, in the November all-party special election primary for Georgia's other U.S. Senate seat.
● IA-Sen: Politico reports that the conservative group One Nation is spending $970,000 on a TV, radio and digital ad campaign praising GOP Sen. Joni Ernst for working to lower prescription drug costs.
● FL-15: Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin announced on Tuesday that he would challenge scandal-tarred Rep. Ross Spano in the August GOP primary. Franklin is the head of a regional insurance agency, so he may have access to money. The city commissioner is the first notable candidate to launch an intra-party bid against Spano, who is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful bid for the House in Florida's 15th District.
As we've written before, Spano admitted in December of 2018, before he even took office, that 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 if you loan money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign, you have to adhere to the same laws that limit direction contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.
Spano, who was running for state attorney general before he launched his bid for Congress, argued last month that he'd misunderstood this law. Spano also insisted his congressional campaign had disclosed the loan "before it became public knowledge" in the financial disclosure forms all federal candidates are obligated to file.
That, however, is 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.
Florida's 15th District, which includes Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, went from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump. Spano, though, won the seat by a modest 53-47 before his scandal came out, and the GOP could have trouble again especially if Spano wins after a bruising primary.
● TX-02: Navy veteran Elisa Cardnell announced Wednesday that she'd withdrawn her name from the May Democratic primary runoff ballot, a move that makes attorney Sima Ladjevardian Team Blue's nominee against GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw. Cardnell had announced last week that she was ending her campaign, but she didn't commit to taking her name off the ballot at the time.
● TX-17: Former 32nd District Rep. Pete Sessions picked up an endorsement this week for the May GOP runoff from rocket scientist George Hindman, who took third place in the March 3 runoff. Sessions led that contest with 32% of the vote, while businesswoman Renee Swann beat Hindman 19-18 for the other runoff spot.
● Special Elections: Republicans won a trio of special election for the Pennsylvania state House on Tuesday night, all in seats the party held, including a contested 18th District in the Philadelphia suburbs that Democrats had hoped to flip.
There, Republican KC Tomlinson, a funeral director and daughter of local state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, defeated her Democratic opponent, union plumber Howie Hayes, by a 55-45 margin. Bucks County officials had asked a judge to delay the election because Gov. Tom Wolf has asked residents in a large swath of the state to stay home to combat the spread of the coronavirus, but their request was denied. According to unofficial returns, 8,145 voters participated, which was on the lower side for a competitive state House special election in Pennsylvania in recent years.
The 18th had looked promising for Democrats, as Hillary Clinton carried it 53-44 in 2016 and Wolf won it 62-37 two years ago, but it's long supported Republicans further down the ballot—a tradition it continued Tuesday night. However, Hayes has the chance to reverse the result in November, when the two will face off again and when turnout will likely be far higher.
Meanwhile, Republican Eric Davanzo beat Democrat Robert Prah 53-41 in the 58th District, with Libertarian Kenneth Bach taking 7%. And in the 8th District, Republican Timothy Bonner easily defeated Democrat Phil Heasley 75-25. The results mean that the GOP maintains a 110-93 majority in the chamber.
● Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former Treasury official Mary Miller released a poll from GQR just before GOP Gov. Larry Hogan moved the state's presidential and downballot primary from April 28 to June 2. Miller's survey found Former Mayor Sheila Dixon leading City Council President Brandon Scott 18-17 in the Democratic primary, while Miller was in third with 12%. An unreleased January poll showed Miller at just 2%.
Election Result Recaps
● IL-07: Longtime Democratic Rep. Danny Davis decisively won renomination on Tuesday against attorney Kristine Schanbacher, who raised a notable amount of money. With 75% of precincts reporting, Davis leads Schanbacher 66-12 in this safely blue Chicago seat.
● IL-11: Democratic Rep. Bill Foster defeated Will County Board member Rachel Ventura 59-41 in a primary that attracted almost no attention before Election Day. Ventura criticized Foster from the left when she launched her campaign in July, but she raised very little money and didn't attract any major outside support. Foster shouldn't have any trouble winning the general election in this 59-35 Clinton seat in the southwestern Chicago suburbs.
● IL-15: Farmer Mary Miller decisively beat Vermilion County Treasurer Darren Duncan 57-22 in the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Shimkus in this safely red seat in downstate Illinois. There are currently only 13 women in the House Republican caucus, and Miller's win gives Team Red a better chance to at least maintain that small number.
● Cook County, IL State’s Attorney: Incumbent Kim Foxx won the very expensive Democratic primary by defeating attorney Bill Conway 50-31. Foxx, whose 2016 win was a huge victory for criminal justice reform groups, should have no trouble in the fall in heavily Democratic Cook County.
● Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: While there are still some ballots to be counted from the March 3 nonpartisan primary, there's no question anymore that incumbent Jackie Lacey has been forced into a November general election against former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Lacey, as of Tuesday evening, is at 48.8% of the vote, which is just shy of the majority she needed to win outright, while Gascón leads public defender Rachel Rossi 28-23 for second.
The Los Angeles Times reported after Tuesday's tabulations that Lacey would need to win 53,000 of the 64,000 ballots that still needed to be counted in order to get a majority of the vote, which is almost certainly not going to happen. The paper also notes that, even if Rossi won every single remaining vote, she'd still be in third place. Both Gascón and Rossi have been running to Lacey's left, so Gascón may be able to pick up most of Rossi's supporters for the fall campaign.