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.
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● KS-Sen: If national Republicans thought a month ago that they’d be able to stop spending in Kansas after Kris Kobach lost the primary, they were very wrong. The Wall Street Journal’s Lindsay Wise reports that the Senate Leadership Fund will launch a $5.2 million ad buy against Democrat Barbara Bollier that will begin on Wednesday and last for four weeks. The investment comes after SLF’s allies at One Nation spent $4.2 million on commercials after the primary promoting Republican Roger Marshall.
Democrats famously haven’t won a Senate race in Kansas since 1932, but the few polls we’ve seen have shown a close race. In early August, just after Marshall won the primary, Bollier’s allies at EMILY’s List released a Public Policy Polling survey that found Marshall up just 42-41 as Donald Trump led 50-43. A little while later, SurveyUSA released a poll crowdfunded by election enthusiasts on Twitter that had Marshall and Trump ahead 46-44 and 48-41, respectively.
However, both those surveys were taken at a time when TV viewers only saw positive commercials about Bollier. The well-funded Democrat, who faced little primary opposition, began running commercials all the way back in May, and she’s continued to promote herself as a moderate since then. Marshall, by contrast, went through a nasty primary against Kobach and wealthy businessman Bob Hamilton that only concluded last month.
However, Republicans have now begun their first ad offensive against Bollier. Marshall recently launched a commercial labeling her a liberal who “voted for dismemberment abortions,” and the SLF will likely adopt a similar tactic in this conservative state.
● MT-Sen: The Environmental Defense Fund and League of Conservation Voters have launched a joint $3 million TV ad campaign declaring that Republican Sen. Steve Daines is in the pockets of Texas billionaires “pushing a radical anti-public-lands agenda across the Rocky Mountain West.”
Meanwhile, Daines’ allies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth are airing commercials to help him. The Chamber, which is spending $500,000 on its opening buy, praises the incumbent’s service during the coronavirus.
The Club, which Politico reports is spending $248,000 on satellite TV through Election Day, ties Democrat Steve Bullock to one of its favorite targets, the government-run Export-Import Bank. In other news, Donald Trump signed a bill in December reauthorizing the bank’s charter for another seven years.
● NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis was a top beneficiary of an illegal straw donor scheme orchestrated by Donald Trump’s postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, according to a lengthy and detailed article published over the holiday weekend by the Washington Post.
The Post reports that DeJoy pressured employees at his logistics firm to make large contributions to Republican candidates for over a decade and then reimbursed them with company bonuses–;a ploy that would violate both federal and state laws prohibiting “straw donations” designed to get around campaign finance limits. DeJoy pressed for these donations in a bid to win influence as a political power broker, a strategy that culminated in his heavily criticized appointment as head of the postal service earlier this year.
But before Trump boosted him onto the national political scene, according to the Post, DeJoy directed his efforts chiefly toward politicians in North Carolina, the home state of New Breed Logistics, which he ran for more than 30 years until it was bought out in 2014. Tillis, who is up for re-election this fall, received almost $300,000 from New Breed employees when he first ran for the Senate in 2014–;a race in which he defeated incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan by just a 48.8-47.3 margin.
In a statement, a Tillis spokesperson told the Post, “Neither Senator Tillis nor our campaign had knowledge of these findings.” However, Tillis’ November opponent, Democrat Cal Cunningham, has called on the senator to return the donations. House Democrats, meanwhile, say they are investigating DeJoy, and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said that allegations like those made in the Post’s report would “merit investigation,” though he declined to comment further.
MI-Sen: Tarrance Group (R) for John James: Gary Peters (D-inc): 47, John James (R): 46 (Aug.: 49-44 Peters)
MI-Sen: Hodas & Associates (R) for Restoration PAC (pro-James): Peters (D-inc): 53, James (R): 39 (52-41 Biden) (July: 51-40 Peters)
MN-Sen: Public Policy Polling (D): Tina Smith (D-inc): 49, Jason Lewis (R): 41 (52-44 Biden) (July: 48-39 Smith)
TX-Sen: UT Tyler for the Dallas Morning News: John Cornyn (R-inc): 39, MJ Hegar (D): 28 (48-46 Trump) (July: 42-29 Cornyn)
TX-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Texas Youth Power Alliance: Cornyn (R-inc): 46, Hegar (D): 40 (48-45 Biden)
TX-Sen: Public Policy Polling (D) for Giffords (pro-Hegar) Cornyn (R-inc): 44, Hegar (D): 40 (July: 42-35 Cornyn)
John James”; poll, just like its survey from a few weeks ago, did not include presidential numbers.
Restoration PAC has been releasing monthly polls of Michigan, as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which is something we don’t think we’ve ever seen a super PAC do before. So far, though, all of its 2020 polls have found James down by at least 9 points.
● MO-Gov: The conservative pollster We Ask America shows Republican Gov. Mike Parson leading Democrat Nicole Galloway 54-41, while Donald Trump posts a 49-44 lead here. Back in May, WAA found Parson and Trump up 47-39 and 48-44, respectively. The firm did not mention a client for this survey.
● AK-AL: Republican Rep. Don Young’s new commercial declares that he’s “been named the most effective congressman in America,” though the narrator doesn’t get around to actually mentioning what the incumbent has done. Instead, the ad ties independent Alyse Galvin to Nancy Pelosi.
● CO-03: Republican Lauren Boebert has spent weeks running commercials to try to escape from the far-right image she’s spent years cultivating, but she uses her latest spot to proclaim, “AOC, Nancy Pelosi, they’ll take away our Second Amendment rights. They’ll replace our health insurance with socialized medicine.”
Boebert doesn’t mention her actual opponent, Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, but her allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth sure do in what Politico says is the opening spot in a $216,000 satellite TV buy that will last through Election Day. The ad declares that Mitsch Bush, who is a retired sociology professor, is part of a world full of “[s]ki town liberals living easy in luxury, sociology professors spouting New Age nonsense.” The narrator then repeats one of the GOP’s favorite lies about the Green New Deal and declares that Mitsch Bush supports a plan that would mean the end of air travel.
● GA-06: We haven’t seen too many downballot Democrats tie their Republican opponents to Donald Trump (or downballot Republicans link their general election foes to Joe Biden), but freshman Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s new spot connects Republican Karen Handel to her party’s leader. The commercial shows footage of Trump proclaiming, “Karen is a special person,” and Handel herself saying, “I have one of the strongest Trump support ratings of any member in Congress at 98%.”
The narrator continues, “Handel voted with Trump 98% of the time. Gutting healthcare for millions. Supporting horrific child separation policies. On abortion bans, on well …; everything.” The ad concludes with video of Trump thanking Handel.
● MA-04: On Friday, the Associated Press called the Sept. 1 Democratic primary for Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss. Auchincloss, who attracted plenty of scrutiny over his loyalties and past statements during the campaign, beat former Alliance for Business Leadership Jesse Mermell 22-21 to claim the nomination in this reliably blue seat.
● ME-02: Freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden’s new commercial stars a bipartisan pair of friends that the congressman says “don’t agree on anything, including why to support me.” The two loudly argue about why they’re each voting for Golden, with the conservative at one point declaring that the congressman is “draining the swamp.” Golden concludes that “if these two both support me, I must be doing something right.”
● MO-02: Democrat Jill Schupp’s commercial stars former Creve Coeur Mayor Harold Dielmann, who tells the audience, “I am a lifelong Republican, and I’m going to support Jill, and I know a lot of other Republicans will, too.” He continues, “I’m sure she’ll do a better job than [Republican Rep.] Ann Wagner because she’s had the background and experience of working with people. She’s not a party candidate, she’s a people candidate.”
● MT-AL: Politico reports that the far-right Club for Growth has begun a $2.25 million ad buy to aid Republican Matt Rosendale. The opening commercial argues that Kathleen Williams grew up around “Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco” and “votes like she never left.”
Bolz, who is a member of the state Senate, tells the audience, “I learned growing up on the farm that chores don’t take care of themselves. The same is true of wasteful spending, so in the unicameral, I gave it a clipping.” Bolz shears a sheep as she talks about her bipartisan work in Nebraska’s only legislative chamber before saying, “But Jeff Fortenberry wants to cut your healthcare to help the drug and insurance companies that gave $400,000 to his campaigns.”
● NJ-03, NY-22, SC-01: The League of Conservation Voters is spending a total of $1.2 million against three Republican challengers. The ads against New Jersey’s David Richter, New York’s Claudia Tenney, and South Carolina’s Nancy Mace can be found at each link.
● NY-01: Democrat Nancy Goroff uses her first ad for the general election to say that as a scientist she “see[s] things differently than politicians do.” Goroff pledges to “use science to lead us out of this crisis,” adding, “I’ll fight for faster free COVID testing so we can stay safe and get back to business in Suffolk.”
● OK-05: House Majority PAC is running another commercial linking Republican Stephanie Bice to former Gov. Mary Fallin, who left office early last year with horrible approval ratings.
The ad shows a clip of Bice, who serves in the state Senate, saying, “A perfect example is our own governor, Mary Fallin.” The narrator responds, “No wonder Bice sided with Fallin, hurting Oklahoma schools. She voted to deny teachers a pay raise, and allowed their health insurance plans to be canceled.” The spot continues, “Bice even funded her own pay raise during the pandemic.”
Fallin represented a previous version of her Oklahoma City-based seat from 2007 until she became governor in 2011, but she’s been an anchor for her party locally in recent years. While Fallin wasn’t enough to cost Republican Kevin Stitt the governorship in 2018, he still lost the 5th District 53-44 even as he was prevailing statewide 54-42. That same night, Democrat Kendra Horn unseated GOP Rep. Steve Russell 51-49, a massive upset in a seat that had backed Trump 53-40.
There’s good reason to think that Fallin’s unpopularity made the difference in that congressional contest. Horn made education one of the centerpieces of her campaign–;a major GOP weakness, since budget cuts under Fallin had led to four-day school weeks and a teachers strike. In addition, Mike Bloomberg’s Independence USA super PAC went up with a six-figure TV buy attacking Russell in the final week of the race, hitting him for voting with Fallin to underfund schools while he served in the legislature. HMP is betting that this argument can help Horn win again even with Fallin out of office.
● PA-08: Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright’s new commercial features former Hazleton police chief Jerry Speziale defending him against “bogus commercials that are untrue.” The narrator then dismisses charges that Cartwright wants to defund the police by saying that Republican Jim Bognet “doctored audio and the newspaper caught him.”
Politifact explains that in June, Cartwright said, “There have been voices calling for defunding and disbanding police forces. I personally do not agree with that.” Bognet, though, sent out an email proclaiming, “Cartwright proposes to defund the Wilkes-Barre police.”
That Bognet release linked to audio from that same event where Cartwright was asked if there is a way to reallocate some of the Wilkes-Barre police’s funds to other parts of the city government. The congressman responded, “The answer is absolutely yes. How you spend tax money is one of the biggest issues in representative democracy,” which is very different from what Bogert claimed he wanted to do.
Cartwright’s commercial continues with Speziale saying, “When I needed cops and I needed funding, Matt Cartwright was there for us. That’s why we’re able to make safer cities. Matt Cartwright is all about that.”
● SC-01: Republican Nancy Mace’s newest commercial takes a page from the Donald Trump playbook and falsely accuses her Democratic opponent, freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham, of not condemning violence that he condemned months ago.
● TX-22: House Majority PAC’s opening commercial targets Republican Troy Nehls’ career in law enforcement, declaring that he was “fired from a Texas police department after 20 violations. Destroying evidence. Improper arrests.” The narrator continues, “Then, he was caught falsifying his application to another police police department.” The ad goes on to say that Nehls was sued for misconduct multiple times, “Like failing to protect a teenager who was allegedly sexually assaulted hundreds of times.”
● UT-04: House Majority PAC’s first commercial says of Republican Burgess Owens, “Records show a trail of Owens not paying his debts in multiple states, over multiple decades.” The narrator continues, “Bankruptcies six times. Hundreds of thousands in unpaid taxes. And Owens owed over $1.7 million to businesses and creditors.”
ME-02: LOC Wick for Left of Center PAC (pro-Golden): Jared Golden (D-inc): 50, Dale Crafts (R): 44 (49-48 Trump)
NM-02: Research & Polling Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal: Xochitl Torres Small (D-inc): 47, Yvette Herrell (R): 45
PA-10: GBAO (D) for Eugene DePasquale: Eugene DePasquale (D): 50, Scott Perry (R-inc): 46 (49-45 Biden) (June: 50-47 Perry)
TX-21: Garin-Hart-Yang (D) for Wendy Davis: Wendy Davis (D): 48, Chip Roy (R-inc): 47 (49-47 Biden) (July: 48-47 Roy)
TX-25: Remington Research (R) for Roger Williams: Roger Williams (R-inc): 52, Julie Oliver (D): 40
This is the first poll we”;ve seen from LOC Wick. The survey asked a few questions about the pandemic before getting to the presidential and congressional races: We always encourage pollsters to ask issue questions after the horserace to avoid “priming” voters to lean one way or the other.
The Albuquerque Journal”;s story said that their poll of New Mexico”;s 2nd District found Trump “;with just a 4-point edge”; in a seat he took 50-40 in 2016, but the paper did not include specific numbers.
GOP Rep. Roger Williams”; poll did not include presidential numbers for Texas”; 25th, a seat that Trump took 55-40 but supported Sen. Ted Cruz by a smaller 52-47 in 2018. The only other survey we”;ve seen here was a July in-house poll for the DCCC, which seemed to astonish the committee itself, that found Joe Biden edging out Trump 47-46 and gave Williams just a 45-43 lead on Democrat Julie Oliver, an attorney.
● New York, NY Mayor: New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer kicked off a bid for mayor on Tuesday, making him one of the highest-profile Democrats to enter the contest to succeed term-limited incumbent Bill de Blasio next year. Notably, this will be the city’s first-ever race to feature instant-runoff voting (only in primaries), which voters approved at the ballot box almost 3-to-1 last year.
Other notable declared contenders include former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who earlier had served as the city’s housing commissioner under Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and retired Army Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, who is de Blasio’s commissioner of veteran’s services. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has also been acting like a candidate for some time, though he hasn’t officially launched a bid, while City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced he was exploring a run in January and began raising money.
This race will be one of the marquee contests of 2021, but with the 2020 elections just around the corner, we’ll save our in-depth coverage until after Nov. 3.
● Deaths: Former New Hampshire Gov. Stephen Merrill, a Republican who served from 1993 to 1997, died over the weekend at the age of 74. Merrill previously served as state attorney general, which is an appointed position in the Granite State, under Gov. John Sununu. Merrill decisively won both the primary and the general election in 1992, and he was easily re-elected in 1994 before retiring two years later.
With Labor Day behind us, the fall TV ad season is now truly underway, but that’s not the only reason for the abundance of campaign spots in today’s Digest. It’s also due to a quirk in the world of political advertising: Ad flights are typically bought by the week, and campaigns count backwards, week by week, from the day before Election Day (they generally don’t plan to do much advertising on Election Day itself). As a result, each “political ad week,” so to speak, runs from Tuesday through Monday, meaning that new ads are usually released on Tuesdays.
Media buyers also number the weeks in reverse order in their internal parlance, so if you see a reference to “week one,” that means the final week before Election Day; “week two” is the week just before that, and so on. The current week, under this rubric, is week eight. Operatives consider it best practice for campaigns to advertise continually without any breaks through the election, so if a campaign is going up on TV now, it probably expects to have enough money to stay up for the final eight weeks.
AL-Sen: Doug Jones (D-inc)
CO-Sen: Cory Gardner (R-inc)
GA-Sen-A: David Perdue (R-inc)
ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D); NRSC – anti-Gideon (D)
MT-Sen: Steve Bullock (D) (here and here); Senate Leadership Fund – anti-Bullock (D)
NC-Sen: Thom Tillis (R-inc)
MT-Gov: Mike Cooney (D)
CA-08: Chris Bubser (D)
CA-21: TJ Cox (D-inc); DCCC – anti-David Valadao (R)
FL-27: Donna Shalala (D-inc) (English and Spanish)
IA-01: House Majority PAC – anti-Ashley Hinson (R)
IA-02: Rita Hart (D); House Majority PAC – anti-Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R)
IA-03: DCCC – anti-David Young (R); NRCC – anti-Cindy Axne (D-inc)
IL-17: Cheri Bustos (D-inc)
ME-02: Jared Golden (D-inc)
MI-03: Hillary Scholten (D)
MI-11: Haley Stevens (D-inc)
MN-08: Quinn Nystrom (D)
NE-02: DCCC – anti-Don Bacon (R-inc)
PA-10: Eugene DePasquale (D)
SC-01: Joe Cunningham (D-inc)
TX-21: House Majority PAC – anti-Chip Roy (R-inc)
TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones (D); House Majority PAC – anti-Tony Gonzales (R) (in Spanish)
VA-07: Environmental Defense Fund – anti-Nick Freitas (R)
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