Morning Digest: Why an attack ad is sometimes just an attack ad

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.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MI-Gov: With less than a week to go before the primary, a DGA-backed group is spending a reported $2 million to attack Republican Tudor Dixon, but the effort doesn't appear to be the sort of now-common Democratic meddling in GOP nominating contests for a few reasons.

For starters, the ads that Put Michigan First is running are legit attacks—they hammer Dixon for a plan to cut the state's income tax that would mean "less cops on the street"—not the "Joe Schmendrick is too conservative!" subterfuge you typically see. There's also nothing to suggest that Dixon's chief rival, businessman Kevin Rinke, is more problematic and less electable. In fact, he's the only Republican candidate who hasn't fully embraced the Big Lie, and an independent survey earlier this month showed Rinke and Dixon turning in virtually identical—and equally poor—performances against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Put Michigan First has also hit Dixon before, as part of an ad savaging every candidate in the field, Rinke included: Dixon was dinged as "an actress in low-budget horror movies"—one film "featured two people having sex in a bathroom stall and a zombie biting a man's genitals"—while Rinke was branded "a car salesman sued for harassment"; more on that here.

The DGA ran a similar campaign in Nevada tagging frontrunner Joe Lombardo as weak on crime before his primary, a move that was widely interpreted at the time as Democrats once again trying to pick their opponent. But as in Michigan, the DGA didn't try to elevate a specific alternative. One unnamed insider said of Lombardo, "If he doesn't make it through the primary, then we've knocked out what is seen as the front-runner," suggesting that there was still a benefit to the gambit even if Lombardo prevailed—by weakening the ultimate nominee with an attack that would speak to a broad range of the political spectrum.

So too with Dixon, who's the closest thing Michigan Republicans have to a frontrunner of their own after an extremely messy race that saw multiple major contenders booted off the ballot for petition fraud. Recent polls have given Dixon a small lead over Rinke, including a brand new one from Republican pollster Mitchell Research for MIRS News that has her up 28-22, and the powerful DeVos family is in her corner. Donald Trump has also praised her in the past, and the Detroit News recently reported that she's "viewed as the top contender for Trump's possible endorsement," though he hasn't backed her yet.

Democrats may therefore be seeking to bang up Dixon chiefly to wound her if she does win the primary, but if they cause her to stumble and hand the nomination to Rinke or another wannabe, so much the better.

The Downballot

 Whoa, mama! August has so, so many juicy primaries on tap, which is why we've brought Daily Kos Elections Editor Jeff Singer back to discuss all the best races for this week's edition of The Downballot. There's the GOP battle for Arizona's governorship, where Trump's pick has been absolutely slayed by her drag queen ex-friend; two pro-impeachment Republicans in Washington state trying to keep their political careers alive; a heavyweight battle between two 30-year veteran incumbents in New York City; and lots, lots more.

Co-host David Nir recaps the back-to-back dropouts in Wisconsin's Democratic primary for Senate that have solidified Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes as the undisputed frontrunner. He also criticizes the handwringing over Democrats' meddling in a Michigan primary, saying it's not the Democratic Party's responsibility to make sure Republicans nominate sensible candidates—that's the GOP's job (if it even cares to). David Beard, meanwhile, previews the snap election just called in Italy, where the right looks set to perform well.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: The University of Georgia and SurveyUSA each find Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp ahead, though they very much disagree how close the two contests are. UGA’s poll for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows Warnock edging out Republican Herschel Walker 46-43, while Kemp defeats Democrat Stacey Abrams 48-43. SurveyUSA’s numbers for WXIA-TV, though, are far better for Democrats: Warnock leads 48-39, while Kemp is only up 45-44.

Other polls taken in July have universally agreed that Warnock is running ahead of Abrams, but they’ve also painted very different pictures on the state of the two races. Numbers from early in the month from the Democratic firm Data for Progress had Walker and Kemp up 49-47 and 53-44, respectively. A short time later, AARP dropped a survey from a bipartisan pair of pollsters that put Warnock ahead 50-47 as Kemp posted a wider 52-45 advantage. A Kemp internal from Cygnal, which did not include Senate numbers, also gave the governor a 50-45 edge.

OK-Sen-B: Former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn is airing her first TV ad of the race, and despite running in dark-red Oklahoma, she makes abortion the centerpiece. She says that the state "now has the most extreme abortion ban in the country, which puts all of us at risk" and warns that the likely GOP nominee, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, "promises to make this ban federal law." Horn also notes that Oklahoma "has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate," making it one of 17 states in this ignominious club. Mullin still faces a runoff with former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon on Aug. 23, but he's the heavy favorite after leading the first round by a 44-18 margin last month.

WI-Sen: In an unexpected development two weeks ahead of Wisconsin's primary, former Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry abandoned his bid for Senate and endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, saying "it was clear there was no path forward for us to be able to win." The move came two days after Outagamie Executive Tom Nelson did the same thing, making Barnes the undisputed frontrunner for the nomination.

One other notable Democrat, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, remains in the race, and she insisted on Wednesday that would not quit. But Barnes also released a poll from Impact Research taken before both Nelson and Lasry dropped out showing him with a 39-25 lead on Lasry, with Godlewski far back at 12 and Nelson at 5. Every other public poll of the race has likewise found Barnes in front while Godlewski has never rated higher than third place.

Governors

IL-Gov: Politico reports that conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, who helped bankroll far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey's June victory in the Republican primary, has contributed another $5 million to the candidate this month. Uihlein has also made a larger $15 million donation to Bailey's allied PAC, People Who Play By The Rules.

MA-Gov: Suffolk University's newest survey for the Boston Globe shows Attorney General Maura Healey, who has the Democratic primary to herself, posting huge leads over both of her prospective Republican foes. Healey beats out former state Rep. Geoff Diehl 54-23, while she enjoys a nearly-identical 54-22 advantage over self-funding businessman Chris Doughty.

ME-Gov: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills continues to maintain a large financial edge ahead of her general election battle with her predecessor, Paul LePage. Mills outraised the Republican $600,000 to $310,000 during the period covering June 1 to July 19, and she finished with a $2.7 million to $1.1 million cash-on-hand lead.

Several past Maine statewide contests, including LePage's 2010 and 2014 victories, featured at least one prominent independent or third-party candidate, but that won't be the case this time. The only other contender on the ballot is independent Sam Hunkler, who had just over $600 to spend.

WI-Gov: While the Club for Growth has not endorsed anyone in the Aug. 9 Republican primary, NBC reports that the anti-tax group has dropped $1.1 million into a TV and radio campaign to defeat former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The TV spot argues that in office, Kleefisch "used taxpayer resources, traveling across the globe on junkets hosted by foreign interests," a statement that's accompanied by a huge flag of China.

House

CA-40: Republican Rep. Young Kim and the NRCC have jointly released a mid-July poll from Public Opinion Strategies that shows the congresswoman beating her Democratic opponent, physician Asif Mahmood, by a 51-35 margin. This is the first poll of the race, but its 16-point spread is similar to the overall margins of June's top-two primary, when a trio of Republican candidates, including Kim, combined for 59% while Mahmood took 41%. Joe Biden would have carried this redrawn district in eastern Orange County by a 50-48 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App.

VT-AL: The University of New Hampshire, polling on behalf of WCAX, finds state Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beating Lt. Gov. Molly Gray by a lopsided 63-21 in the first survey we’ve seen of the Aug. 9 Democratic primary since filing closed in the spring. Either candidate would end Vermont’s status as the only state to never elect a woman to Congress, while Balint would also be the first gay person to represent the Green Mountain State in D.C.

Balint, who has Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, and Gray have each raised comparable amounts in the contest to succeed Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for Vermont’s other Senate seat. However, a trio of organizations―the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Equality PAC, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC―have spent a total of just under $850,000 to promote Balint, while there have been no independent expenditures for Gray. VTDigger notes that this sort of outside spending is rare in state politics, though not unheard of: In 2016, notably, the RGA spent $3 million on the successful effort to elect Phil Scott governor.

WA-03, WA-04: Outside groups are continuing to spend serious money ahead of Tuesday's top-two primary on separate efforts to boost a pair of Republicans who voted for impeachment, 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse, against their Trump-backed rivals.

In the 3rd in southwest Washington, a group called Conservatives for A Stronger America has deployed close to $400,000 on a TV buy that argues Army veteran Joe Kent wants to defund the police. The commercial features clips of the candidate saying, "Federal law enforcement grants, I would cut that off cold," and, "Also, cutting off federal law enforcement funding." Kent himself has made news for his ties to far-right extremists, though the ad unsurprisingly doesn't mention that.

This PAC made news a little while ago when it dropped another $740,000 into efforts to promote a different Republican, evangelical author Heidi St. John, a move Kent argued was intended to "prop up a spoiler candidate and split the vote so they can re-elect the Establishment's RINO incumbent, Jaime Herrera Beutler."

Kent himself, though, has also tried a similar maneuver, though on a much smaller scale. Last week, the Washington Observer's Paul Queary reported that Kent sent out mailers ostensibly attacking one of the two Democratic candidates, auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, for being the one "pro-choice candidate for Congress."

Queary noted that Kent was trying to influence Democrats to support Perez instead of Herrera Beutler, whose own messaging has been aimed at winning over middle-of-the-road voters, in an attempt to stop the incumbent from advancing to the general election. Trump would have carried this district 51-46, so it's quite possible Perez will reach the second round instead of Herrera Beutler or Kent. (The other Democrat on the ballot, 2020 candidate Davy Ray, hasn't reported bringing in any money.)

And while Kent sports Trump's backing, he's raised far less cash than Herrera Beutler and doesn't have any major outside groups spending on his behalf. The congresswoman, by contrast, has benefited from $1 million in support from Winning For Women Action Fund, a super PAC funded in part by the Congressional Leadership Fund.

The dynamics are similar one seat to the east in the 4th, where Defending Main Street has so far deployed $1.2 million to support Newhouse or attack Trump's choice, 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp. One of the establishment-aligned PAC's new spots accuses Culp of being a tax dodger who was "caught enriching himself with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations," while others praise the congressman for "standing up to China" and fighting to protect the Snake River dams.

Culp has badly struggled with fundraising, and like Kent, he's also received no serious outside support. Five other Republicans are campaigning here including self-funding businessman Jerrod Sessler and state Rep. Brad Klippert, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat running for this 57-40 Trump constituency.

Secretaries of State

GA-SoS, GA-AG: The University of Georgia finds Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger beating Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen by a wide 46-32 margin, while SurveyUSA gives the Republican a smaller 40-33 edge. SurveyUSA also checked out the race for attorney general and found GOP incumbent Chris Carr turning back Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan only 38-34

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Trump’s forces take down Rep. Tom Rice in South Carolina, but Nancy Mace holds on

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

SC-01, SC-07: Two members of South Carolina’s U.S. House delegation went up against Trump-backed Republican primary opponents on Tuesday, but while 1st District Rep. Nancy Mace secured renomination, voters in the neighboring 7th District ejected pro-impeachment Rep. Tom Rice in favor of state Rep. Russell Fry. Mace turned back former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who was Team Red’s unsuccessful 2018 nominee, 53-45, which was just above the majority she needed to avoid a June 28 runoff. Fry also averted a second round in his six-way race by lapping Rice 51-25.

Mace, who was the first woman to graduate from the state’s famed military academy the Citadel, became one of the GOP’s most promising rising stars in 2020 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham in a very expensive race. Mace, however, broke with Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.” She never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with Trump, but the GOP master still decided to repay her by endorsing Arrington, who had denied renomination in 2018 to then-Rep. Mark Sanford, in February.

Arrington, who launched her new campaign by blasting the incumbent as a "sellout" who "sold out the Lowcountry" and "sold out President Trump,” released a poll in early March arguing that her all-Trump all the time strategy would carry her to victory. Those Remington Research Group numbers showed Mace’s 50-35 lead transforming into a 51-33 Arrington advantage after respondents were informed she was the “Trump Endorsed America First Candidate,” which led the pollster to conclude that “there is no path to victory” for Mace.  

The congresswoman, though, worked to frame the primary as anything other than a fight between her and Trump. Shortly after Arrington’s kickoff, Mace posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, “If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that.” The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that didn’t stop Mace from convincingly arguing that Arrington would be electoral Kryptonite against the Democrats’ well-funded candidate, pediatrician Annie Andrews.   

Rice, by contrast, went far further than Mace by actually voting for impeachment last year, a move so shocking that his own consultant initially assumed the five-term congressman had simply hit the wrong button. That vote instantly ensured that Rice, who had been easily renominated every cycle since he’d first won this safely red Myrtle Beach-area constituency in a competitive 2012 primary, would be in for an extremely difficult campaign, and several Republicans soon began challenging him.

Fry, though, cemented his status as the frontrunner after Trump backed him in February, and he soon earned national attention of his own with a truly strange ad depicting the apostate incumbent attending a touchy-feely "Villains Anonymous" meeting with the likes of the Joker, Lucifer, a pirate, Maleficent, and Delores Umbridge of the "Harry Potter" franchise. Rice and his remaining allies fought back by arguing that the congressman was too influential to fire and that Fry wasn't actually the conservative he presented himself as, but it was far from enough.

Rice himself argued to the end that he’d made the right decision by voting to impeach Trump over Jan. 6, saying, “He sat there and watched the Capitol get sacked and took pleasure in that … That’s what a dictator would do.” That didn’t prove to be a very compelling argument, though, and GOP primary voters responded by decisively nominating Fry in his place.

Election Recaps

TX-34 (special): Conservative activist Mayra Flores flipped this Rio Grande Valley constituency to the GOP on Tuesday by taking a majority of the vote in the all-party primary to succeed Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job at a lobbying firm. (Vela announced his retirement last year but hadn’t previously indicated he’d leave Congress early.) Flores outpaced former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, a Democrat who is not running for a full two-year term anywhere, 51-43 after a campaign where Republicans spent over $1 million while Democrats only began airing TV ads in the final week.

Flores was already the GOP nominee for the new version of the 34th District, where Republican mapmakers extended Joe Biden’s margin of victory from just 52-48 to 57-42 in order to strengthen their position in nearby seats. Her opponent will be Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run here because that very GOP gerrymander made his own 15th District more conservative: This will almost certainly be the only incumbent vs. incumbent general election of the cycle other than the race for Florida’s 2nd District between Democratic Rep. Al Lawson and Republican colleague Neal Dunn.

While Flores will be in for a difficult fight in November on more Democratic terrain, though, Republicans are hoping that her win Tuesday proves that the GOP can still secure further gains in heavily Latino areas. Flores also will have a geographic advantage, as she’ll spend the next several months representing 75% of the new 34th District; Gonzalez, by contrast, currently serves the remaining quarter.

Primary Night: Here’s a look at where Nevada’s key races for Senate, governor, and U.S. House stand as of Wednesday morning. Note that, because a large number of ballots remain untabulated, these margins could change before the results are certified:

  • NV-Sen (R): Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt turned back an unexpectedly well-funded campaign from Army veteran Sam Brown by a 56-34 margin. Laxalt, who was the 2018 nominee for governor, will go up against Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto in what will be one of the most competitive Senate races of the cycle.
  • NV-Gov (R): Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who like Laxalt had Trump’s endorsement, defeated attorney Joey Gilbert 38-28 for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, took a distant third with 14%; Heller never lost a race in his long career in Nevada politics until Rosen unseated him four years ago.
  • NV-01 (D): Rep. Dina Titus turned back progressive challenger Amy Vilela in an 82-18 landslide.
  • NV-01 (R): The Associated Press has not yet called this contest but with 89% of the estimated vote in, Army veteran Mark Robertson holds a 30-17 lead over conservative activist David Brog; former 4th District Rep. Crescent Hardy, who raised almost no money for his latest comeback, lags in fourth with just 12%. Democrats in the legislature, much to Titus’ frustration, made this seat in the eastern Las Vegas area considerably more competitive in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, and Biden would have carried the new 1st 53-45.
  • NV-02 (R): Republican Rep. Mark Amodei secured renomination in this safely red northern Nevada seat by beating Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian 54-33. Tarkanian, who was a longtime resident of the Las Vegas area well to the south, finally ended his legendary losing streak in 2020 after moving to Douglas County, but he very much returned to form on Tuesday by failing to win a seat in Congress for the fifth time.
  • NV-03 (R): Attorney April Becker, who was the favored candidate of the GOP establishment, easily defeated self-funder John Kovacs 65-11. Becker will go up against Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a southern Las Vegas area seat where Democrats extended Biden’s winning margin from just 49.1-48.9 to 52-46.
  • NV-04 (R): The AP hasn’t called this GOP primary yet but with 68% of the estimated vote in, Air Force veteran Sam Peters leads Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford, whose constituency in the northern Las Vegas area supported Biden 53-45 under the new map.

Senate

WA-Sen: NBC reports that the Democratic group Future Majority PAC has booked $860,000 for an ad campaign that will start in early July, which will make this the first major outside spending of the contest. Early this month the Northwest Progressive Institute released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling giving Democratic incumbent Patty Murray a 51-40 lead over her likely Republican opponent, motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley.

Governors

IL-Gov: The Republican firm Ogden & Fry's new look at the June 28 GOP primary finds state Sen. Darren Bailey leading Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin 31-17, with venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan at 11%. This is the third poll in a row we've seen showing Bailey defeating Irvin, an outcome that would greatly please Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his allies.  

OK-Gov: Amber Integrated (R): Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 47, Joy Hofmeister (D): 29 (March: 44-30 Stitt)

TX-Gov: The Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling's inaugural survey of Texas shows Republican incumbent Greg Abbott fending off Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke in a 56-37 landslide. This survey, which the firm says was done "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee, or interest group," comes a month after UT Tyler gave Abbott a considerably smaller 46-39 advantage.

House

CA-40: The Associated Press on Monday night projected that Rep. Young Kim had defeated her fellow Republican, Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, for the second spot in the general election despite a late Democratic effort to boost Raths. Democrat Asif Mahmood took first in last week's top-two primary with 41%, while Kim beat Raths 34-23 after she and her allies launched a significant last-minute spending spree to turn back the perennial candidate. Biden would have carried this eastern Orange County constituency 50-48.

FL-10, FL-Sen: Former Rep. Alan Grayson, whom longtime readers will know is one of our least favorite Democrats in America, announced Tuesday that he was abandoning his little-noticed Senate campaign in favor of running to succeed his now-former intra-party rival, Rep. Val Demings, in the safely blue 10th District in the Orlando area. He joins an August primary that includes state Sen. Randolph Bracy; gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost; pastor Terence Gray; and civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson, all of whom, like Demings but unlike Grayson, are Black.

The Orlando Sentinel notes that several Florida Democrats have argued that this area should continue to be represented by an African American. Indeed, Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge notably said in April, "My intent is to try to keep it [a Black] access seat because it is important to our community," though he predicted, "But, you know, someone can show up at noon on the last day of qualifying with 10 grand in their pocket, and boom, they're on the ballot." Grayson himself had just over $240,000 on-hand at the end of March, a paltry sum for a statewide contest but enough to put up a fight in a House race.

IL-06: Rep. Sean Casten's office announced Monday evening that his 17-year-old daughter, Gwen Casten, had died that morning. Fellow Rep. Marie Newman, who is Sean Casten's opponent in the June 28 Democratic primary, said in response that her campaign "is working to cease all comparative paid communications immediately."    

IL-07: The Justice Democrats have launched a $120,000 ad buy supporting gun safety activist Kina Collins' bid against longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the June 28 Democratic primary, which makes this the first outside spending on Collins' side. (A group called Opportunity for All Action Fund has deployed a similar amount for the incumbent.) The spot, writes Primary School, faults Davis for missing House votes as crime and inflation remain a serious problem, and pledges that the challenger would be a more focused representative. Davis fended off Collins 60-14 two years ago in this safely blue Chicago seat.

VA-02: The Democratic group Patriot Majority has launched a commercial designed to help far-right activist Jarome Bell win next week's Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria, which makes this the latest contest where Democrats have tried to pick their opponents. The narrator tells the audience, "Bell is a Navy veteran who calls himself an 'America First conservative' … He supports Trump's election audit in all 50 states, and Bell wants to outlaw abortion." Unsubtly, the narrator concludes, "If Jarome Bell wins, Donald Trump wins too." There is no word on the size of the buy.

Trump himself has not made an endorsement here, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is all-in for one of Bell's intra-party rivals, state Sen. Jen Kiggans. A late May internal for a pro-Kiggans group showed her decisively beating another primary candidate, Air Force veteran Tommy Altman, 43-9, with Bell at 8%.

DCCC: The DCCC has added 11 more candidates to its Red to Blue program, which is the DCCC's top-tier list of races where it plans to be heavily involved this cycle: 

  • AZ-01: Jevin Hodge
  • FL-27: Annette Taddeo
  • NC-01: Don Davis
  • NC-13: Wiley Nickel
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson
  • NY-01: Bridget Fleming
  • NY-22: Francis Conole
  • OR-04: Val Hoyle
  • OR-05: Jamie McLeod Skinner
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas
  • PA-17: Chris Deluzio

Most of these candidates have already won the nomination or face little intra-party opposition, but the DCCC is taking sides in a few contested primaries. In Arizona’s 1st Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, is going up against former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf for the right to take on GOP Rep. David Schweikert. (A third Democrat, environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, failed to collect enough signatures to continue her campaign.)

Taddeo, likewise, has to get past Miami Commissioner Ken Russell before she can focus on Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar in Florida's 27th. Finally, Conole faces Air Force veteran Sarah Klee Hood, Syracuse Common Council member Chol Majok, and former Assemblyman Sam Roberts in the primary for New York's open 22nd District.  

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Congresswoman from ’70s would smash record for longest service gap with comeback bid

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.

Programming Note: The Daily Kos Elections team will be taking Friday off for the Memorial Day weekend. The Live Digest will be back on Tuesday, and the Morning Digest will return on Wednesday. Have a great holiday!

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

NY-10: Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who'd been considering a bid for New York's radically revamped 10th Congressional District, confirmed that she's joining the race at a candidate forum on Wednesday night. "Why am I running? I'm running because these are very dark times," said Holtzman, adding, "I took on Richard Nixon, and I can take on Donald Trump."

Yep, you read that right: The 80-year-old Holtzman served on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 and recommended that articles of impeachment be brought against Nixon. Just two years earlier, at the age of 31, she'd become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the time after she narrowly unseated 50-year incumbent Emanuel Celler in a huge upset in the Democratic primary. (Holtzman's district, then numbered the 16th, included parts of Brooklyn and Queens but shares almost no overlap with the new 10th.)

In 1980, Holtzman lost a painfully close Senate race to Republican Al D'Amato after D'Amato had defeated Sen. Jacob Javits in the GOP primary. Javits insisted on running on the Liberal Party line and took 11% of the vote, allowing D'Amato to squeak past Holtzman 45-44. She bounced back, though, by winning two terms as the district attorney for Brooklyn, followed by a successful bid for city comptroller in 1989.

However, a second campaign for Senate in 1992 went disastrously, as she finished last in the Democratic primary with just 12% of the vote. When she sought re-election as comptroller the following year, she got crushed 2-to-1 by Assemblyman Alan Hevesi in a primary runoff and hasn't run for public office again since.

Should Holtzman succeed in her comeback attempt, her 42-year gap between periods of service in Congress would be the longest in history by far. (A 19th century Maryland Democrat named Philip Francis Thomas waited a mere 34 years, from 1841 to 1875, to return to the House.) Perhaps more amazingly, the man she beat in her very first race, Celler, was first elected in 1922—a full century ago. However, Holtzman faces stiff competition for this safely blue seat in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan from a number of prominent Democrats, including former Mayor Bill de Blasio and Hudson Valley Rep. Mondaire Jones.

Redistricting

NH Redistricting: New Hampshire's new congressional map will be drawn by the courts after Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday that he'd veto the latest proposal passed by his fellow Republicans in the legislature earlier that same day. That was the last day for lawmakers to enact new legislation for the year, so the task of correcting the small population imbalance between the state's two congressional districts will now fall to the state Supreme Court, which earlier this month said it would take a "least-change" approach to redrawing the map.

Since the court has been preparing for the impasse for some time, expect the next steps to unfold quickly: NHPR's Dan Tuohy says the justices will release a new map on Friday and hold oral arguments on Tuesday, with candidate filing set to begin the following day.

OH Redistricting: For the fifth time, the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected legislative maps passed by the state's Republican-dominated redistricting commission. This one was an especially easy call, since the commission had simply re-passed its third set of maps, which the court had already struck down as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

But Republicans will have the last laugh, because two Donald Trump-appointed judges on a federal court panel said last month that if the state doesn't adopt valid districts by May 28, the court would implement that very same third set of maps. That federal court ruling therefore allowed Republicans to run out the clock—something a dissenting judge warned of at the time, and which is about to come to pass. So much for the rule of law.

Senate

NC-Sen: A new Cygnal survey for the conservative Civitas Institute and John Locke Foundation finds Republican nominee Ted Budd leading Democrat Cheri Beasley 44-42, which is very similar to Budd's 45-43 edge in Cygnal's prior poll here from March.

Governors

AZ-Gov: A new GQR poll for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs finds her leading both the Aug. 23 Democratic primary and two possible Republican opponents in the November general election. Hobbs is up 49-20 on former Nogales Mayor Marco López, with former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman back at 10% and 19% of voters undecided. Meanwhile, Hobbs beats former TV news anchor Kari Lake 50-45 and edges out Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson 47-46. It's not clear whether GQR tested Hobbs against former Rep. Matt Salmon, another prominent Republican contender.

KY-Gov: Republican state Sen. Max Wise, who's been considering a bid against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear next year, now says he expects to decide "in the next six weeks," according to Dennis George at the News-Enterprise. Meanwhile, state Rep. Savannah Maddox will reportedly launch her campaign two weeks from now, per Joe Sonka at the Louisville Courier Journal.

MI-Gov: On Thursday, the Michigan state Board of Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 along party lines and in doing so upheld the state Bureau of Elections' bombshell decision on Monday to bar five of the 10 GOP candidates for governor from appearing on the ballot after it deemed tens of thousands of their voter petition signatures fraudulent. The disqualified candidates include former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has led in the polls since last summer, and wealthy self-funding businessman Perry Johnson, along with lesser-known financial adviser Michael Markey and businesswoman Donna Brandenburg (the fifth disqualified Republican, state police Capt. Mike Brown, already dropped out).

Craig's campaign quickly vowed to go to court to overturn his disqualification, while Johnson's campaign is reportedly likely to do the same. As we noted when the bureau first made its decision, the campaigns of both Craig and Johnson had each submitted roughly 10,000 signatures that were invalidated and left them short of the 15,000 needed, many for what the bureau deemed outright fraud such as forgeries, duplicates, and signatures from dead voters. However, the fraud was apparently orchestrated by the paid circulators hired by several of the candidates rather than any campaigns themselves.

House

CA-22: The House Majority PAC is jumping into a primary once again, but this time, it's the sort of situation the group has gotten involved in before: The PAC says it's launching a "six-figure ad campaign"—including television, digital, and mail in both English and Spanish—to boost Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas ahead of California's top-two primary on June 7.

Democratic organizations have regularly parachuted into Golden State primaries ever since the top-two system was adopted a decade ago in order to avoid the devastating prospect of two Republicans advancing to the general election. HMP, in fact, did exactly this in the old 26th District in 2012 and the old 24th in 2016. It's more surprising that Salas needs help, though, since he's the only Democrat who qualified for the ballot.

However, this heavily Latino part of the state's Central Valley has often seen low turnout to the detriment of Democrats, particularly in midterm years and even more so in primaries. Along with Rep. David Valadao, who's all but assured of moving on to November, two underfunded GOP candidates are also running, former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys and Kings County Board of Education member Adam Medeiros. Valadao is the only House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump yet did not see Trump endorse an opponent in response, but HMP may be seeing signs that conservative discontent with the incumbent could propel a second Republican to the next round of voting.

CA-40: Republicans are calling in the cavalry for Rep. Young Kim: The deep-pocketed Congressional Leadership Fund, which has close ties to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is spending at least $538,000 to air a new ad hitting GOP challenger Greg Raths ahead of the June 7 top-two primary. The spot blasts Raths as a "liberal" who sought to increase his own pay and raise taxes in his role as Mission Viejo city councilman while calling Kim the "conservative choice."

Kim herself also began a similar ad campaign earlier this week, while the Democratic frontrunner, physician Asif Mahmood, recently started running his own ads aimed at boosting Raths past Kim by "attacking" him as "too conservative"—an effort, of course, to bolster his standing with right-leaning voters. Mahmood would rather face the more extreme Raths in the general election while the GOP establishment very much wants Kim to remain its standard-bearer.

FL-20: Democratic state Rep. Anika Omphroy has announced via her campaign website that she's running for Congress. Omphroy didn't specify which district she's running in, but her existing Broward County legislative district is located entirely within the new 20th District, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that she's likely waging a primary challenge against new Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick following the latter's special election win last year.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

Campaign Action

While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4Q Fundraising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

Rep. Bradley Byrne: 23 (14)

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

2017 nominee Roy Moore: 8 (7)

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative

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

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

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