The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● Hawaii: The Aloha State held its primary Saturday, and we have a summary of each of the big contests below.
● HI-Gov: Lt. Gov. Josh Green defeated businesswoman Vicky Cayetano 63-21 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. David Ige, while freshman Rep. Kai Kahele notched third with 15%. Green, who continued to work as a physician after going into politics, had a large media presence throughout the worst months of the pandemic, and he was the frontrunner from the start.
Green remains the favorite in November against former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, a two-time Republican nominee who scored a 50-26 victory over Ultimate Fighting Championship champion B.J. Penn. Aiona was defeated by former Rep. Neil Abercrombie 58-41 in the 2010 general election, and Aiona lost his chance for a rematch four years later when Ige beat the unpopular Abercrombie in the primary. Both parties believed that Aiona still had a real shot with another GOP wave looming and with conservative Democrat-turned-independent Mufi Hannemann threatening to siphon off votes from the Democratic ticket, but Ige turned back Aiona 49-37.
Joe Biden carried Hawaii 64-34 (he took each of the state’s two congressional districts by that same margin), and national Republicans haven’t shown any obvious sign of interest in targeting this seat again. Indeed, the RGA didn’t even respond for a Washington Post article that ran just before the primary.
● HI-01: Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Ed Case held off attorney Sergio Alcubilla by a lopsided 83-17 margin in this Honolulu-based seat. Alcubilla, who ran to Case’s left, had the backing of a few big unions, but he raised little himself and never attracted any serious outside spending.
● HI-02: Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda beat state Rep. Patrick Branco 58-25 in the Democratic primary to replace Kai Kahele in a constituency that includes northern Oahu and all of the state’s other islands.
Tokuda, who lost a tight 2018 primary to lieutenant governor to Josh Green, entered the race as the frontrunner, but a quartet of major outside groups—VoteVets, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Web3 Forward, and Mainstream Democrats PAC— spent a total of $1.2 million to elevate Branco or attack her. While this ad barrage represented a truly massive amount for a Hawaii congressional race, it turned out to be far from enough to stop Tokuda.
● FL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Val Demings' allies at EMILY's List have publicized a poll from Change Research that shows her deadlocked 46-46 against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, a release that came days after two progressive groups unveiled their own survey from Clarity Campaigns that found a 45-45 tie. We have not seen any independent polls of this contest since winter.
● NC-Sen: NBC reports that Republican Ted Budd and the NRSC will launch a joint ad campaign for $750,000, which will make this Budd's first TV commercial since he won the primary all the way back in May. Democrat Cheri Beasley, by contrast, has deployed $4.7 million since she won the nomination, though the NRSC has spent $6.3 million against her.
Meanwhile another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, announced Friday that she'd registered with the state as an official write-in candidate for the special "after repeated requests from supporters," though she said her main focus would be to advance out of the top-four primary for a full two-year term.
● FL-01: Self-funding businessman Mark Lombardo's latest commercial against Republican incumbent Matt Gaetz opens with the primary challenger declaring, "As a member of Congress, Matt Gaetz took an oath to protect America's secrets. He broke that oath when he engaged in illicit behavior on foreign soil, leaving himself vulnerable to blackmail and putting our nation's secrets at risk." Lombardo doesn't let up as the ad goes on, continuing, "To cover up, he paid pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's attorney with donors' cash and pressured Trump for a pardon for any or all crimes."
● FL-13: While 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna has always looked like the frontrunner to claim the Republican nomination again on Aug. 23 in this newly gerrymandered seat, attorney Kevin Hayslett's outside group allies are deploying a serious amount to stop her. Florida Politics reports that Stand for Florida, a PAC that was set up in February, has spent $860,000 in recent days, which takes its total investment here all the way up to $1.5 million.
Luna, though, has gotten plenty of outside help herself, as the Club for Growth has dropped over $1.8 million to promote her. Conservative Outsider PAC, which is funded in part by Club donor Dick Uihlein, is also using about $110,000 for a commercial that responds to a recent Hayslett commercial that featured a clip of Luna appearing to praise Obama. The audience sees Luna warning that undocumented immigrants will cost conservatives "this country," before the narrator notes that she's Trump's endorsed candidate.
The only recent poll we've seen here was a late July Hayslett internal that showed him trailing Luna 36-34 for this constituency in the St. Petersburg area.
● FL-23: Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz has earned endorsements from the National Education Association, the Florida Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers ahead of this month's Democratic primary.
● NY-01: While Nick LaLota once appeared to have a smooth path through the Aug. 23 GOP primary for this competitive open seat, the chief of staff of the Suffolk County Legislature went up with a commercial against his main intra-party rival, cryptocurrency trader Michelle Bond, earlier this month.
The narrator insists that Bond is a "liberal D.C. lobbyist" with a history of "working for Obama and Biden as a registered Democrat." The spot also declares that Bond "bankrolled a Trump-hating senator [and] lives in a mansion in the Swamp." (That last bit is a reference to Bond's newly purchased estate in Maryland, which she said is one of the "multiple residences" she has.) The rest of the ad promotes LaLota as a loyal Long Island conservative and "Trump conservative."
Bond is airing her own ads (here and here) that tout her as a conservative businesswoman, though they do not mention LaLota. Bond has used her personal wealth to decisively outpace LaLota in the money race, and the outside spending has also very much benefited her. Stand for New York, a group that hasn't gotten involved in any other races, has dropped $580,000 to attack LaLota. Another committee called Crypto Innovation PAC has also spent another $160,000 to promote Bond: The group is funded by crypto notable Ryan Salame, who just happens to be her boyfriend. (Salame has also bankrolled American Dream Federal Action, another super PAC that's gotten involved in other GOP primaries.)
LaLota has not received any super PAC aid, though he does sport endorsements from the local Republican and Conservative parties. The contest to succeed GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin also includes government relations firm executive Anthony Figliola, though he's attracted little money or attention. The winner will go up against Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who has no Democratic primary opposition, in an eastern Long Island constituency that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.4-49.2.
● NY-10: Attorney Dan Goldman on Saturday earned the backing of the New York Times, which is arguably one of the few newspaper endorsements still capable of moving voters in a local Democratic primary, ahead of the packed Aug. 23 contest for this safely blue seat based in Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn. The Times’ nod was especially coveted here: City & State wrote earlier this month, “One campaign said they’ve probably had 20 supporters email or call members of the board to make their case,” while an unnamed operative added, “Everybody lobbies … The question is to what degree.”
Those candidates may have had good reason to lobby. City & State notes that the NYT’s endorsement last year provided a huge lift to then-Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in the primary for mayor of New York City and helped establish her as a frontrunner. Garcia still narrowly lost the instant-runoff contest to Eric Adams, but she performed well in areas that overlap with the 10th District as well as the 12th, which is home to another big Democratic primary.
Politico's Joe Anuta also reports that Goldman has so far spent $2.8 million on TV ads, which is a truly massive sum for a campaign taking place in America's priciest media market. Goldman, though, is an heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune, and he has plenty of personal wealth and connections: The candidate, who would be one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has self-funded $4 million so far and raised another $1.5 million from donors through Aug. 3.
Anuta relays that only one Goldman opponent, 17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones, has joined him on television, and he's deployed a considerably smaller $784,000. The other contenders have stayed off the airwaves, which is a common strategy for candidates running in the massive New York City media market. (Over 20 million people live in this market, and relatively few can vote in the 10th District's primary.)
"You're wasting your spending on 90% of the people who see your ad," explained Matthew Rey, a strategist who isn't involved in this race. He added, "So is it a powerful way to persuasively and effectively reach that other 10%? Yes. But dollar-for-dollar, it's a luxury." Another unaligned consultant, Basil Smikle Jr., was even more skeptical, saying, "In a congressional race where you are expecting turnout to be low, there are much more efficient ways to spend your money than doing a large broadcast buy in the last couple of weeks."
Goldman, though, is betting that voters will indeed react well to his TV spots, including a new piece touting his work in civil rights law and "leading the impeachment of Donald Trump." The commercial also displays Trump's message on his Truth Social platform (which, yes, still exists) reading, "Dan Goldman puts in his ad used in running for Congress that he 'impeached Donald Trump'" to argue, "Donald Trump doesn't want Dan Goldman in Congress, but we do."
● NY-17: The New York City Police Benevolent Association, which endorsed Trump in 2020, has spent $310,000 to oppose state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in her Democratic primary against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. The spot labels Biaggi an “anti-police extremist,” which is the type of rhetoric Republicans usually love to throw at Democrats in general elections.
● NY-19 (special): VoteVets has launched what Politico reports is a $450,000 ad buy to aid Democrat Pat Ryan, which makes this Team Blue's first major independent expenditure ahead of an Aug. 23 special election. The narrator echoes Ryan in framing the contest as a choice between a pro-choice candidate and "a Congress that'll pass a nationwide ban on abortion first chance they get." She adds that Ryan, who served with the Army in Iraq "sure didn't fight for our freedom abroad to see it taken away from women here at home."
The NRCC, for its part, is continuing to try to frame Ryan as weak on public safety in its new spot.
● OH-09: Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur's latest commercial argues that, while she's fighting to lower drug prices, Republican J.R. Majewski "made a rap video." Yes, you read that right: The QAnon-aligned candidate did indeed star in a piece called "Let's Go Brandon Save America," and Kaptur's spot treats viewers to a mercifully small piece of it. "Not to poke fun at dementia, it's a serious disease," raps Majewski, "But come on, man, squeeze your cheeks when you sneeze." Kaptur's narrator concludes, "We don't need celebrity wannabes, we need serious leaders tackling serious challenges."
● OK-02: The newest commercial in what's turned into a very expensive Aug. 23 Republican runoff is a spot from the Club for Growth affiliate School Freedom Fund starring Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who extols former state Sen. Josh Brecheen as an ardent "Trump conservative."
This group has deployed $1.8 million during the second round to promote Brecheen, who is a former Club fellow, or rip his opponent, state Rep. Avery Fix, in the contest for this safely red eastern Oklahoma constituency. Two other organizations, Fund for a Working Congress and American Jobs and Growth PAC, have dropped a similar amount to help Frix, who outpaced Brecheen just 15-14 in late June.
● GA Public Service Commission: On Friday, an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel stayed a recent lower court ruling that had blocked Georgia from holding elections this fall for two seats on its Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, on the grounds that the statewide election method violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters. The district court ruling had postponed the elections until Georgia lawmakers adopted a district-based election method next year, but the appellate judges ruled that it was too close to November to implement any election changes to ongoing 2022 elections and stayed the lower court's decision while Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's appeal is pending.
- AK-Sen: Kelly Tshibaka (R) - anti-Lisa Murkowski (R-inc)
- GA-Sen: Raphael Warnock (D-inc)
- NV-Sen: NRSC - anti-Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc) (in Spanish)
- WI-Sen: Wisconsin Truth PAC - anti-Mandela Barnes (D)
- NV-Gov: RGA - anti-Steve Sisolak (D-inc)
- AK-AL: Mary Peltola (D)
- FL-04: Aaron Bean (R)
- NY-02: Defending Main Street - pro-Andrew Garbarino (R-inc)