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.
● NM-02: The Democratic group Patriot Majority is wading into next week’s extremely ugly GOP primary for this competitive seat with a $180,000 TV ad campaign meant to help 2018 nominee Yvette Herrell against businesswoman Claire Chase.
The narrator begins by attacking Chase as a “Santa Fe lobbyist” who “opposed President Trump, calling him an ***hole unworthy of the office.” The commercial then calls Herrell “100% loyal to Trump, backed by 11 pro-gun sheriffs and Cowboys for Trump.” Politico reports that EMILY’s List is also spending at least $23,000 on mailers framing the contest as a battle between a lobbyist and Trump loyalist, another argument designed to encourage primary voters to back Herrell.
Herrell lost this 50-40 Trump seat last year to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small by a 51-49 margin, which was a poor showing even in a Democratic wave year, and national Democrats seem convinced she’d be easier for the new incumbent to defeat this cycle than Chase would be. Several Republicans agree: The Associated Press’ Russell Contreras writes of Herrell, “She faced criticism from some Republicans for running a subpar campaign by refusing to debate Torres Small on television and avoiding media outlets like the AP.” However, major national GOP groups haven’t taken sides in this primary.
Meanwhile, Chase’s allies at Citizens for a United New Mexico, which was created by a Chase ally involved in the state oil business, is turning its attention to businessman Chris Mathys, who is the third candidate in the primary, for the first time. Local political writer Joe Monahan reports that the group is spending $35,000 on a TV ad campaign attacking Mathys for voting “to cut gang prevention funding” while he was a city councilman in Fresno, California.
Mathys himself is out with a low-budget commercial where the candidate talks about his Army background and declares, “I will never forget, all gave some, some gave all.”
● Arkansas: Following a meeting with Donald Trump, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson now claims he did not mean to say earlier this month that he supports no-excuse absentee voting for the November general election if the pandemic is still ongoing. Instead, Hutchinson says he was talking about no-excuse “early voting,” even though he used the words “no-excuse absentee voting.” Like every other state that offers early voting, Arkansas does not require an excuse to vote early, though it remains among a minority of states that require an excuse to vote absentee.
● California: Republicans have filed a pair of similar federal lawsuits seeking to block Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to send mail ballots to all California voters for the November general election.
One suit was brought by the RNC, NRCC, and the California Republican Party while the other was filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch on behalf of former Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who is waging a comeback bid in the 50th Congressional District this fall. The two cases both allege the governor’s mail ballot plan violates the Constitution because it usurps the legislature’s powers.
● Florida: A trio of voters have asked a state court to order Florida officials to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters both for the state’s Aug. 11 primary and the November general election. It does not appear that any major voting rights organizations are backing the lawsuit, which was filed by Miami attorney Harvey Sepler.
● Illinois: Illinois’ Democratic-run legislature has passed a bill to send absentee ballot applications for the November general election to approximately 5 million of the state’s roughly 8 million voters, according to the measure’s sponsor. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker had previously favored a more expansive plan but says he supports the current bill.
● Louisiana: The League of Women Voters, along with a trio of voters and a local civic engagement group, have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to waive Louisiana’s requirement that absentee voters provide an excuse and have another person witness their ballot for all elections taking place this year.
The plaintiffs, who are backed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, also want the state to notify voters of any issues that might result in their ballots not getting counted and give them the opportunity to correct any defects. The NAACP filed a similar suit, also in federal court, earlier this month.
● Michigan: The League of Women Voters, with the support of the ACLU, has filed a lawsuit asking a court to order election officials to accept absentee ballots cast in the state’s Aug. 4 primary as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received within six days.
● Montana: A Montana state court has ordered election officials to accept absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received by the following Monday; under current law, ballots must be received by Election Day. The ruling appears to apply to both the state’s June 2 primary and the November general election. Republican Attorney General Tim Fox, who is running for governor, has said he will appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
● North Carolina: Voting rights advocates, including the League of Women Voters, have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to waive North Carolina’s requirement that absentee voters have their ballots notarized or signed by two witnesses. They also want the state’s 25-day deadline for requesting absentee ballots relaxed.
● Pennsylvania: Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar says she is “seriously considering” sending every Pennsylvania voter an absentee ballot application for the November general election. Boockvar did not specify a timeline for acting but did say that if her office proceeds with this proposal, “[W]e will do it well in advance of November.” Officials in the state’s second-largest county, Allegheny County, have already announced a similar plan.
● GA-Sen-B: Appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler is out with a trio of commercials from her ongoing $4 million ad campaign portraying her as the target of “made up propaganda” from the “trash” media. The Georgians in the testimonials don’t directly mention Loeffler’s insider trading scandal; instead, they argue that she’s the victim of a smear campaign because of her ardent support for Donald Trump. The spots also emphasize Loeffler’s business career.
Loeffler has two additional commercials that feature constituents touting her work during the coronavirus pandemic. This time, Loeffler’s campaign holds off on mentioning her private jet.
● IA-Sen: Politico reports that EMILY’s List, which is supporting businesswoman Theresa Greenfield in next week’s Democratic primary, is spending almost $1 million on an ad campaign against retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken. The commercial argues that Franken “is a former Republican funded by Republicans” who only recently moved to Iowa. The narrator continues, “Until last year, millionaire Franken was a connected Washington D.C. defense contractor who still owns a nice house outside Washington.”
It’s a bit surprising that EMILY is spending so much against Franken when Greenfield looks like the heavy favorite to win the nomination to take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst. The one poll we’ve seen, an early May Public Policy Polling survey for a group supporting universal basic income, showed Greenfield leading Franken by a wide 43-12 margin; two other candidates, attorney Kimberly Graham and businessman Eddie Mauro, were far behind with 4% each. Greenfield has also benefited from $6 million in spending from Senate Majority PAC, while none of the other candidates have received much outside help.
Mauro has been running ads against Greenfield in recent weeks, and it’s possible that EMILY feels it needs to weaken Franken to avoid an upset. However, in his deep look at this primary, Politico’s James Arkin doesn’t suggest that any of Greenfield’s allies are worried she’ll actually lose.
Instead, Arkin writes that national Democrats want Greenfield to secure a dominant win next week in order to improve her image and give her “a wave of momentum” heading into what will be a difficult general election. Arkin also notes that the NRSC will begin airing ads here a week after the primary, so it makes sense for pro-Greenfield groups to do whatever they can to strengthen her ahead of time.
For her part, Greenfield is using her latest commercial to go after Ernst and her (in)famous 2014 “Make ‘Em Squeal” ad rather than her intra-party rivals. The commercial, which uses footage from Greenfield’s launch video, features the Democrat standing in front of a hog pen declaring, “Joni Ernst said she’d be different.” The ad then plays a short clip of Ernst from six years ago saying, “Washington is full of big spenders. Let’s make ’em squeal,” a statement that attracts a horrified sound from a hog off-camera.
Greenfield responds, “Well, she didn’t castrate anyone. She cast her vote to let the corporate lobbyists keep feasting like hogs at the trough.” Greenfield continues, “You want to really make ’em squeal? Ban corporate PAC money. Take away their loopholes and special tax breaks. Give the breaks to working folks instead.”
● MI-Sen: Republican John James is out with a new commercial arguing that Democratic Sen. Gary Peters hasn’t done enough to stand up to China. James is also airing a positive ad where he talks about how his campaign donates 5% of its fundraising “to improving the lives of Michiganders.”
● MT-Sen: GOP incumbent Steve Daines is out with a commercial bashing China as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s supposed “plan to give $6,000 government checks to illegal immigrants.” The narrator then touts the “Daines Plan,” which includes pledges to “[h]old China accountable and bring manufacturing jobs home. Ban immigration while our economy recovers.” The ad, which the campaign tells Politico is running for six figures, does not mention Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
● NC-Sen, NC-Gov: The GOP firm Meeting Street Insights is out with a survey for Carolina Partnership for Reform, a conservative nonprofit that has aired ads supporting Republicans in past election cycles. The poll gives Democrat Cal Cunningham a 46-44 edge over GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, while Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper beats Republican Dan Forest 55-37; the sample also finds Donald Trump and Joe Biden tied 47-47. Meeting Street Insights has polled for Republican clients in past cycles under the name “Meeting Street Research.”
Neighborhood Research and Media, another GOP pollster that recently changed its name, also finds identical margins in all three races, though it has a startlingly high amount of undecided voters in the Senate contest. Cunningham and Cooper lead 35-33 and 47-35, respectively, while the presidential race is deadlocked 42-42. The firm did not list a client, though it did provide some odd commentary in its writeup when it argued that its numbers are terrible for Forest, who “is vulnerable to getting his brians [sic] blown out.”
Neighborhood Research is run by Rick Shaftan, who has polled for allies of 2017 Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore as well as the campaign of 2018 Virginia Senate nominee Corey Stewart. His firm was known as Atlantic Media and Research until last year when, after years of legal pressure from the unrelated Atlantic Media, Shaftan changed its name.
Meanwhile, Tillis is out with a $750,000 opening buy for the general election. Tillis talks about his humble upbringing and how his family “moved seven times before I was 16, living paycheck to paycheck.” Tillis argues, “I take a little humility to the U.S. Senate, where it’s in short supply.”
● CA-10: On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy finally retracted his endorsement of Republican nominee Ted Howze over his bigoted social media posts. McCarthy’s move came days after the California Republican Party and a few local elected officials also dumped Howze, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Josh Harder in a seat that Hillary Clinton carried just 49-46.
Howze responded to that earlier news last week by saying he was “releasing all local officials from their endorsements to stop these bullying attacks on them,” but he doesn’t seem to have thought that McCarthy would take him up on it. Politico’s Ally Mutnick reports that Howze recently told his supporters, “We’ve talked with Leader McCarthy …; They’ve told us, keep doing what we’re doing. Raise money. If in September we are one of the competitive races in California that they will be here to come into the race.”
When McCarthy was to comment on Monday, his office declared, “In light of Mr. Howze’s disappointing comments, Leader McCarthy has withdrawn his endorsement.”
● GA-14: Georgia First PAC, a group set up to help auto dealer Matt Laughridge in the crowded June 9 GOP primary for this safely red seat, is out with a commercial attacking neurosurgeon John Cowan. The PAC says that the commercial will air on Fox News and during NASCAR races.
The spot begins with anti-Chinese racism as the narrator declares, “Almost everything is made in China, including the Wuhan Pandemic.” (As if that line was too subtle, there’s a shot later of several people in contaminant suits with Chinese lettering doing a fist pump while menacing music plays in the background.) He goes on to say, “And men like John Cowan who profit off of cheap Chinese labor are taking American independence.” The ad continues by promoting Laughridge as a candidate “who will stop China, not conspire with them.”
● NJ-02: Mental health advocate Amy Kennedy is up with her second TV spot ahead of the July Democratic primary to face party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew. Kennedy tells the audience, “Before COVID, too many people were struggling. Now we have a full-blown emergency.” As footage of Van Drew receiving Trump’s endorsement plays, Kennedy continues, “Real leaders serve the community not themselves.” She goes on to list her healthcare priorities and declares, “I’ll continue the Kennedy legacy of putting people first.”
● NM-03: Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez’s allies at EMILY’s List are out with a survey from Clarity Campaign Labs that gives her the lead in next week’s Democratic primary for this open seat. The poll shows Leger Fernandez beating former CIA agent Valerie Plame 33-24, while First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna is a distant third with 9%. This is the first poll we’ve seen here in months.
Meanwhile another candidate, former New Mexico deputy secretary of state John Blair, is out with a commercial decrying dark money in politics.
● NY-15: Politico reports that the Voter Protection Project has launched a $300,000 ad buy promoting New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres and going after his colleague and intra-party rival, conservative Rubén Díaz Sr., ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary.
The commercials, which are airing in English and Spanish, begin by asking the audience if they know Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. “Well, this is his father,” the narrator declares, “Rubén Díaz Sr. And he’s no Democrat.” She continues, “He likes Donald Trump and said so himself. Díaz Sr. supports the dangerous Trump agenda that hurts South Bronx families.” The narrator adds, “Díaz even invited Trump to his church and thanked him for caring for us.” The rest of the ad praises Torres as “a son of the Bronx and experienced leader.”
● PA-07: On Friday, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement for former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller ahead of the June 2 GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. Scheller already had the support of House Minority Kevin McCarthy in her primary against Dean Browning, who is also a former Lehigh County commissioner.
Scheller recently went up with a spot against Browning, who came unexpectedly close to winning the nomination last cycle, and Browning has also gone negative. His commercial, which was uploaded to YouTube over a week before Trump made his endorsement, portrays Browning as the “only Trump Republican” in the contest. The narrator also declares, “Liberal Lisa Scheller got rich shipping jobs to China, ran away from President Trump, and even voted to make Lehigh County a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.”
● TX-13: Donald Trump tweeted out an endorsement on Friday for former White House chief physician Ronny Jackson, who is competing in the July GOP runoff for this safely red open seat. Days later, the anti-tax Club for Growth also backed Jackson over lobbyist Josh Winegarner. Winegarner, who has the backing of retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry, led Jackson 39-20 during the first round of the primary back in March.
This is not the first time that Trump has thrown his support behind Jackson, though things went poorly for the Texas Republican last time. Back in 2018, when Jackson was still serving as White House physician, Trump nominated him to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, Jackson withdrew from consideration after whistleblowers accused him of drinking to excess while on the job and overprescribing medications.
Jackson, who argued that the allegations against him were “completely false and fabricated,” retired from the Navy last year even though the Defense Department’s inspector general was still investigating claims that he was often intoxicated and that he mishandled medications. The inspector general’s office told CNN in late December, around the time that Jackson was launching his campaign, that the investigation remained open, and there have been no public developments since then.
Jackson, unsurprisingly, has spent the last several months doing everything he can to appeal to Trump, including spreading his conspiracy theories. Jackson, who previously served as Barack Obama’s White House physician, tweeted earlier this month, “President Obama weaponized the highest levels of our government to spy on President Trump. Every Deep State traitor deserves to be brought to justice for their heinous actions.” Jackson didn’t present any evidence for his claim, but that was hardly a drawback for Trump and his allies.
● VA-02: Freshman Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria picked up an endorsement on Tuesday from former Republican Sen. John Warner. Warner has backed a number of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, since he retired in early 2009, though he endorsed Republican Ed Gillespie in the 2017 race for governor. Warner does not appear to have taken sides in the 2018 contest between Luria and then-Rep. Scott Taylor, who is seeking a rematch this cycle.
Russo tells the audience, “The military told me they wouldn’t prosecute. But I was determined to find justice, so I took my case to civilian court, and my attacker went to jail. And I refused to let him stop me from serving my country in Iraq and Afghanistan.” She adds, “I have always run towards the fight. Now, I’m running for Congress to take on the fights that matter most to you.”
● House: The DCCC, which is the largest outside spender on House races among outside groups on the Democratic side, has announced that it has reserved $18.3 million in fall TV time in 15 different media markets. We’ve assembled this new data into a spreadsheet, which includes our best guesses as to which House seats the D-Trip is specifically targeting or defending.
The DCCC’s opening wave of reservations is focused on media markets that will likely attract hordes of ad money from presidential and Senate campaigns, such as Phoenix and Detroit, and where the price of ad time will shoot up as Election Day draws closer. The committee can afford to wait, though, to book ads in competitive House seats located in markets like New York City and Charleston since there won’t be nearly as much competition for airtime there.
If you’re interested in knowing exactly which media markets cover which congressional districts across the country, naturally we’ve got all that data for you. It’s what we used, in fact, to hone our guesses as to which seats the DCCC is making its first wave of bookings in.
● Portland, OR Mayor: More votes have come in from last week’s nonpartisan primary, and Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler has been forced into a November general election with urban policy consultant and progressive activist Sarah Iannarone. Wheeler took 49.3% of the vote, just shy of the majority he needed to win outright, while Iannarone secured the second-place spot 24-8. Wheeler is the first incumbent to run for re-election here since Vera Katz won her third and final term all the way back in 2000.
Iannarone took a distant third place with 12% of the vote in 2016, but she ran a stronger campaign this time. Iannarone was the only candidate to qualify for city public financing (Wheeler announced in November that he would not participate in the program), and she ended up receiving $331,000 from it.
Iannarone is arguing that Wheeler has done a poor job reforming the police department and dealing with homelessness. Iannarone also repeatedly has faulted Wheeler’s response to last year’s rally by the far-right hate group The Proud Boys, saying that he allowed the police to protect the white supremacists just weeks before the cops forcefully arrested a pair of climate change protesters. Wheeler, for his part, said last year that one of his “proudest moments” in office was organizing community leaders to speak up against white supremacy right before the group held its rally in the city.
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