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

MA-Sen: Three polls were released Wednesday for next week’s Democratic primary in Massachusetts, and they all show Sen. Ed Markey with a clear lead over his intra-party challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy.

The closest result came from Data for Progress, which gave the incumbent a 50-43 advantage. While Data for Progress, which is a progressive think tank with a polling arm, has not endorsed in the race, it has openly expressed a preference for Markey through its newsletter, Primaries for Progress.

Campaign Action

Suffolk University’s new survey found Markey with a larger 51-41 edge. The last Suffolk poll was done in late February, and it had Kennedy in the lead 42-36. Finally, YouGov also surveyed the contest for UMass Lowell and showed Markey ahead 52-40. Two weeks ago, WCVB and another college, UMass Amherst, released their own YouGov survey that found the senator ahead 51-36.

We’ve only seen one other survey this month of this contest, a mid-August SurveyUSA poll that had Markey up only 44-42. That poll was done on behalf of Priorities for Progress, which is not connected to Data for Progress and is instead affiliated with the pro-charter school and anti-teachers union organization Democrats for Education Reform.

While recent numbers overall look good for Markey, there’s reasons to be cautious heading into the final week. This will be the first primary in Massachusetts history where voting by mail will be widely available, and no one is quite sure what the turnout will look like.

Also this week, Markey picked up an endorsement from Al Gore, who lauded the senator as a champion of the environment.


CO-Sen: The gun safety group Giffords Courage, which supports Democrat John Hickenlooper, has publicized a Public Policy Polling survey that shows Hickenlooper beating Republican Sen. Cory Gardner 51-42; the release did not include presidential numbers. A late June PPP survey for another pro-Hickenlooper organization, End Citizens United, had him up 51-40 as Joe Biden led 56-39.

We’ve only seen one other poll during the time between those two PPP releases. In late July, Morning Consult found Hickenlooper and Biden ahead 48-42 and 52-39, respectively.

Gardner, meanwhile, is running a new commercial titled “I like Beer” (not to be confused with the infamous “Beer Bad” episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) that focuses on Hickenlooper’s former reluctance about serving in the Senate. Gardner, who is seated at a bar, tells the audience that there are differences between the candidates: “First Hickenlooper owns a brewery, and me? I just like beer.”

Gardner then declares that Hickenlooper “admits he would not be an ineffective senator” before turning to a TV that plays clips of the Democrat saying, “The Senate does not attract me at this point” and, “It wouldn’t bring me any kind of satisfaction.”

Hickenlooper did say before and during his unsuccessful presidential campaign that he didn’t want to serve in the upper chamber, arguing at one point, “It’s awful hard to imagine that I could be successful in a Senate campaign or as a senator.”

Hickenlooper addressed this when he launched his bid against Gardner last summer, saying in his announcement video (which was set at the Denver brewpub he co-founded before going into politics), “I’ve always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done, but this is no time to walk away from the table. I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot.”

GA-Sen-A: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC announced Wednesday that it had booked $7.2 million in airtime for September TV commercials against Republican Sen. David Perdue.

MI-Sen, NC-Sen: The Democratic firm Change Research has released two new Senate polls for CNBC:

MI-Sen: Gary Peters (D-inc): 50, John James (R): 45 (50-44 Biden) (early August: 48-45 Peters)
NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 52, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 42 (48-47 Biden) (early August: 48-43 Cunningham)


CA-21: The Democratic group House Majority PAC has launched a $775,000 ad buy, which includes TV and digital spots in both English and Spanish, tying Republican David Valadao to Donald Trump.

The English-language ad declares that Valadao voted with Trump “99%” of the time in the House, which was “a big reason we recently voted Valadao out of Congress.” The narrator continues that this loyalty meant voting “to gut our healthcare, by cutting protections to people with pre-existing conditions.”

This seat, which includes the southern Central Valley and part of Bakersfield, backed Hillary Clinton 55-40, and Democrat TJ Cox unseated Valadao in a shocker two years later. Valadao has been waging a well-funded campaign to retake the district, and at the end of June, Cox enjoyed only a small $2 million to $1.8 million cash-on-hand lead.

Valadao, though, seems to be betting that Trump will be an asset here this time. Last week, Valadao said he’d be voting for Trump in the fall, declaring, “I think he deserves the support here in the Central Valley.”

MA-04: Businessman Chris Zannetos announced Wednesday that he was dropping out of next week’s Democratic primary and endorsing Jesse Mermell, the former Alliance for Business Leadership head. Dave Cavell, who served as a senior adviser to Attorney General Maura Healey, also quit the contest this month and backed Mermell, who earned Healey’s endorsement that same day.

Meanwhile, a group called Unite to Win has thrown down an additional $195,000 to support City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, which takes its total spending to $411,000. The PAC has not yet disclosed any of its donors.

MA-08: If longtime Rep. Stephen Lynch is worried about next week’s Democratic primary, he’s not acting like it. Politico’s Stephanie Murray reports that Lynch recently placed just $25,000 for his opening TV buy, which will run on cable TV. Lynch, who has long been one been one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus especially on abortion rights, faces a challenge from the left from physician Robbie Goldstein.

Goldstein released a poll two weeks ago from Lincoln Park Strategies that showed him trailing Lynch just 39-32, but this primary still hasn’t attracted much outside attention. Murray reports that a super PAC called The Committee for Access to Affordable Healthcare plans to drop $60,000 on digital ads to help the challenger; she also writes that Goldstein’s campaign has spent just $52,000 on TV ads.

NM-02: Republican Yvette Herrell’s new commercial stars Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, a conservative Democrat who supported her during her unsuccessful bid for this seat last cycle and has bragged about refusing to enforce gun-safety laws.

Mace tells the audience that two years ago, freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small “promised to protect our 2nd Amendment rights, but she sold us out and voted for gun control.” The legislation Mace is attacking Torres Small over was a 2019 bill to require background checks for firearms sales and transfers, which, despite what Mace claims, she advocated for on the campaign trail last cycle.

Torres Small is also running a new ad where she “unwinds” by skeet shooting. The congresswoman declares that D.C. doesn’t get her state and says she’ll “work with anyone who wants to deliver for New Mexico.”

NY-11: Both Republican Nicole Malliotakis and her allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund are running commercials tying freshman Democratic Rep. Max Rose to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has long been unpopular in this Staten Island-based district, and attacking the congressman for marching in a peaceful protest against police brutality.

Back in June, shortly after the death of George Floyd, Rose wrote on social media of the event, “Staten Island’s youth are leading an incredibly powerful, peaceful movement for justice in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many black lives that have been lost due to senseless acts of violence.”

Malliotakis, though, called Rose’s participation a “disgrace” at the time, to which he responded, “Just this week she praised these marches as ‘setting an example for the nation’ until I walked with young people in our borough.” Malliotakis wasn’t deterred, and she’s now running a spot where she says, “I’m not going to allow Max Rose and de Blasio to destroy this city with their disastrous policies.”

The CLF is also attacking Rose along similar lines. The ad’s narrator declares, “Max protested a local precinct. Shouts of ‘defund the police.’ He marched there with cop haters bearing slogans like ‘Blue lives murder.'” The commercial goes on to say, “De Blasio got the message, gutting NYPD by $1 billion.” Rose himself has opposed calls to defund the police and said of de Blasio, “This mayor is not only the worst mayor in New York City, he’s the worst mayor in the history of this great country.”

NY-23: Democrat Tracy Mitrano has released a survey from Global Strategy Group that shows her trailing Republican Rep. Tom Reed 50-38, but she’s arguing she can close the gap if she can get her message out. The poll also finds Donald Trump carrying this seat, which is home to Ithaca and southwestern New York, just 47-46, which is a huge shift from his 55-40 win here in 2016.

Mitrano challenged Reed last cycle and lost 54-46. Reed ended June with a $955,000 to $340,000 cash-on-hand lead.

OR-04: While veteran Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio has never had trouble winning re-election in a seat that’s long been swing turf in presidential races, he’s now running a negative commercial against Republican Alek Skarlatos.

The narrator declares, “Skarlatos supports Trump’s failed leadership on COVID, including ignoring the advice of medical experts. Skarlatos would be another vote to undo health laws that protect people with pre-existing conditions.” Skarlatos himself, meanwhile, is airing a spot that promotes him as “[t]he Oregon National Guardsman who stopped terrorists on a Paris-bound train.”

Skarlatos, who portrayed himself in a 2018 movie based on those events called “The 15:17 to Paris” that was directed by Clint Eastwood, launched his bid in August of last year for this seat, which backed Hillary Clinton by a tiny 46.1-46.0 spread. Skarlatos raised a total of $1.3 million through June, but he’s also spent a great deal to raise that money. All told, his FEC reports include $638,000 on fundraising services, and he had only $453,000 on-hand at the end of the last quarter. DeFazio, by contrast, had $1.7 million to defend himself.

TX-07: In his first TV spot for the general election, Republican Wesley Hunt talks about his family went “from slavery to West Point in just five generations.”

DCCC: On Wednesday, the DCCC added Ammar Campa-Najjar and Nancy Goroff to its Red to Blue list for top contenders. Ammar Campa-Najjar is running for California’s vacant 50th District, a 55-40 Trump district in inland San Diego County, while Goroff is challenging Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in New York’s 1st District, a 54-42 Trump seat on eastern Long Island.

Of the now-33 candidates on Red to Blue, 27 of them are women and over a third are people of color.

Ad Reservations: The DCCC has reserved another $3.8 million in TV time in markets across the country, and a source with knowledge of Democratic media buys has broken down the amounts for us by House district. We’ve assembled this new data into a spreadsheet and added it to our reservations tracker.

The DCCC’s $400,000 reservation in Indianapolis makes it the first House committee on either side to book time in Indiana’s open 5th District, a historically red suburban seat that’s been rapidly moving to the left. The Club for Growth, though, has been airing ads here to help Republican Victoria Spartz.

Ballot Measures

ND Ballot: On Tuesday, the North Dakota Supreme Court unanimously voted to remove Measure 3, which would have set up a top-four voting system and taken away the GOP legislature’s unfettered control over legislative redistricting and put it in the hands of a bipartisan commission, from the November ballot. In their decision, the justices wrote that the petitions organizers had circulated did “not comply with the constitutional requirement that it contain the full text of the measure.”

A top-four initiative will be on the ballot this fall in Alaska, while litigation is still ongoing in Arkansas over a similar measure. This system would require all the candidates to face off on one primary ballot, and the top four vote-getters would advance. In the general election, voters would then be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting.


OK-05: State Sen. Stephanie Bice won Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff 53-47 against businesswoman Terry Neese in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. Just after the contest was decided, the DCCC released an early August survey from GQR Research that found freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn leading Bice 51-46; the sample also gave Donald Trump just a 48-47 edge in an Oklahoma City-based seat he’d carried 53-40 four years ago. We haven’t seen any other polling here.

Horn pulled off what was arguably the biggest upset of 2018 when she unseated Republican Rep. Steve Russell in a seat the GOP had held for 44 years, and both parties are preparing for an expensive contest here. The NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund have reserved $4.3 million in fall TV time to go after Horn, and the CLF aired its very first general election ad of the cycle against her this week. The DCCC and House Majority PAC, meanwhile, have booked $1.7 million to aid the incumbent.

Horn herself will start the contest with a huge financial edge over Bice. The incumbent had $2.6 million on-hand at the end of June, while Bice had to spend nearly two additional months going through an expensive contest against Neese and the anti-tax Club for Growth, which dropped $635,000 on anti-Bice ads for the runoff. Still, while Bice has only a little more than two months to raise money for the general election, conservative donors will likely aid her now that she’s their nominee in a key seat. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.

Election Changes

Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit brought by Becky Walker Grossman, one of eight Democrats running for the state’s open 4th Congressional District, that had asked that officials count all ballots postmarked by Sept. 1 (the day of the primary) and received within 10 days. The court ruled that existing state law, which requires that ballots be received by Election Day, does not violate the Constitution.

Ad Roundup

GA-Sen-B: Raphael Warnock (D)
IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D) (here and here); Senate Majority PAC – anti-Joni Ernst (R-inc); DSCC – anti-Ernst (R-inc)
MT-Sen: DSCC – anti-Steve Daines (R-inc)
SC-Sen: Jaime Harrison (D)
NC-Gov: Roy Cooper (D-inc)
AR-02: Joyce Elliott (D)
CA-21: TJ Cox (D-inc) (in Spanish)
IN-05: Christina Hale (D)
NM-02: Congressional Leadership Fund – anti-Xochitl Torres Small (D-inc)
NY-22: Congressional Leadership Fund – anti-Anthony Brindisi (D-inc)
OH-01: Kate Schroder (D)
VA-07: Congressional Leadership Fund – anti-Abigail Spanberger (D-inc)

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