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.
● RI State Senate, RI State House: Conservative Democrats have long been the dominant force in the Rhode Island legislature, but progressives pulled off some key wins in both chambers in the Sept. 8 primaries. The outcomes of several contests were not known until mail-in ballots were counted on Thursday, but a total of four state senators and six state representatives ended up losing renomination. All of the victorious Senate challengers came from the progressive wing of the party as did most, though not all, of the House candidates.
The most powerful incumbent to lose in the 38-member Senate was Finance Committee Chairman William Conley, whom Cynthia Mendes unseated by a 62-38 margin. Mendes is a member of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, which supported a number of progressive candidates across the state, and she doesn’t face any Republican opposition in the general election. That same day Conley’s son, Dylan Conley, lost his Democratic primary campaign for the 2nd Congressional District 70-30 against longtime incumbent Jim Langevin.
Another victorious Cooperative member was Tiara Mack, who defeated state Sen. Harold Metts 60-40 in another seat that Republicans aren’t contesting. Metts is an ardent opponent of LGBTQ rights and abortion access who said just last year, “I guess the question is: who favors abortion more? God or Satan,” while Mack campaigned as a “Queer Reproductive Justice Advocate.”
State Sen. Betty Crowley also lost her seat, 50-40, to Cooperative member Jonathon Acosta in yet another race without a Republican candidate. Meanwhile, state Sen. Mark McKenney lost his rematch to former state Sen. Jeanine Calkin, who is the Cooperative co-chair, 55-45 in still another seat the Republicans aren’t contesting; last cycle, McKenney unseated Calkin 54-46. Progressives also achieved some notable open seat wins.
The chamber’s two most powerful members, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey, did both win renomination, though by unimpressive margins. Ruggerio, who enraged progressives in July when he opposed a bill to send absentee ballot applications to all voters for this primary, beat Leonardo Cioe 55-45. McCaffrey did a bit better by beating Cooperative co-chair Jennifer Rourke 58-42.
Over in the House, six Democrats in the 75-member body lost renomination, though only four of these were wins for progressives. The big exception was state Rep. Moira Walsh, a high-profile critic of conservative Democratic Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who was defeated 65-35 by Nathan Biah. The final race saw former state Rep. Ramon Perez win his rematch against incumbent Mario Mendez in a contest where neither candidate was a progressive. Perez lost his 2018 campaign after, as WPRI’s Ted Nesi writes, he apologized for “passing out a printed copy of a Wikipedia article that showed multiple open web browser tabs referencing pornography.”
Democrats hold a 33-5 supermajority in the Senate and a massive 66-8 edge in the House (one additional member is Republican-turned-independent John Lyle), and there’s no question that Team Blue will easily hold both chambers. However, several of Tuesday’s winners said they were unlikely to support Ruggerio and Mattiello, so both men may see their influence diminish even if they keep their leadership posts next year.
But Mattiello, who only won his general election 52-47 in 2018 in a Cranston-area seat that supported Donald Trump 56-40, has more immediate worries. While Ruggerio has no general election opponent, the speaker faces a challenge this fall from Republican Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung. Fenton-Fung is the wife of Allan Fung, the outgoing Cranston mayor and Team Red’s 2014 and 2018 gubernatorial nominee.
● CO-Sen: The Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund have launched a joint $650,000 TV and digital buy in support of Democrat John Hickenlooper. The commercial praises Hickenlooper’s record supporting clean energy cars and standing up to “Donald Trump’s effort to roll back fuel standards, which would keep gas guzzlers on the road and cost the average Colorado driver thousands at the pump.”
● ME-Sen: The advocacy group American Promise has released a poll from Citizens Data that shows Democrat Sara Gideon leading Republican Sen. Susan Collins 49-41; the release did not include presidential numbers.
American Promise, which calls itself a “national cross-partisan organization,” released this poll to argue that a strong majority of Maine voters support its goal to amend the U.S. Constitution to “enact reasonable limits on campaign financing by corporations, unions, wealthy individuals and outside money in elections.” This is the first survey we’ve seen from Citizens Data.
● MT-Sen: Republican Sen. Steve Daines’ new commercial stars Robert O’Neill, the retired Navy SEAL who has claimed credit for killing Osama bin Laden in 2011 (another member of the mission has disputed this). O’Neill, who just a few weeks ago was banned by Delta Air Lines after he posted a selfie of himself flying without a face mask, tells the audience, “The last thing Osama Bin Laden saw was the American flag on my shoulder. Right now the far left wants to burn that flag.” O’Neill later praises Daines for his “love of county, the need for service.”
● NE-Sen: While former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford said last month that he was preparing to launch a write-in campaign if the party’s scandal-plagued nominee, Chris Janicek, didn’t drop out, Ashford announced in late August that he didn’t have “the time or resources” to go forward. Janicek remains in the race, and state Democrats announced Thursday that they were supporting a write-in effort by activist Preston Love against Republican Sen. Ben Sasse. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest in this very red state as Safe Republican.
● MO-Gov: The DGA-backed group Stronger Missouri’s new TV spot hits Republican Gov. Mike Parson for his ties to special interests and his performance during the pandemic. The narrator declares, “Parson was the only statewide elected official to take lobbyist gifts. And he spent over $50,000 in taxpayer money remodeling his office, including eight-grand on furniture alone.” The ad continues, “He was slow to act as COVID-19 ravaged Missouri. And he’s failed to help our hardest hit communities.”
● FL-18: Democrat Pam Keith, who is running an uphill campaign against Republican Rep. Brian Mast, is up with the first TV commercial we’ve seen focusing on reports that Donald Trump called dead American soldiers “losers.” Keith tells the audience, “Soldiers don’t fight out of hate for those before them, but out of love for those behind them. Every president has respected that sacrifice, except Donald Trump.”
Keith continues, “He thinks our fallen heroes are ‘losers’ or ‘suckers.’ No wonder he took no action when Russia put bounties on their heads.” Keith, who served as a Navy JAG officer, concludes that “it was my honor to serve the country I cherish, and I will defend the honor of our troops when Trump demeans them, even if Brian Mast won’t.”
● GA-14: Republican Rep. Tom Graves said Friday that he would resign some time in October rather than serve out the final months of his term. Graves, who announced his retirement back in December, said, “Congress is going into a long recess and my committee work will be complete. In short, my work is done.”
Last month, local Republicans nominated QAnon follower Marjorie Greene, who has a long history of racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic rantings, to succeed Graves in this safely red seat. Greene also decided to jeopardize public health on Tuesday when she tweeted that “children should not wear masks,” saying they were “unhealthy for their psychological, emotional, and educational growth.” The Centers for Disease Control recommends that children over 2 wear face masks.
● IA-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s new commercial is focused on rural voters, who make up a large share of the electorate in this northeastern Iowa seat. A farmer named Dianne Klein tells the audience, “It’s been a really tough time. I think that the big farms are the ones that get the most help and not so much the smaller family farms like ours.” Klein then says of the congresswoman, “Abby Finkenauer–;she’s fighting for me and I like that. If she says she’s going to do something, she does it.”
● ME-02: The AARP has released a new survey from a bipartisan pair of pollsters, the Republican company Fabrizio Ward and the Democratic firm Hart Associates, and it shows Democratic Rep. Jared Golden beating Republican Dale Crafts 53-40. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 49-45 in a northern Maine seat that swung from 53-44 Obama to 51-41 Trump.
We’ve seen two other polls since Crafts won the Republican nomination in mid-July, and they’ve both found Golden in the lead. A late July survey from SocialSphere for Colby College had the incumbent up 45-33, while Biden led 45-42. A late August poll from LOC Wick for Golden’s allies at Left of Center PAC showed the congressman up by a smaller 50-44 spread, while the sample found Donald Trump ahead 49-48. (Critical Insights also released a poll here, but its sample size fell short of the 300-person respondent we require for inclusion in the Digest.)
● OK-05: SoonerPoll, working on behalf of News9, gives Republican Stephanie Bice a 45-44 edge over freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn; the poll did not include presidential numbers. (Interestingly, the margin between Bice and Horn was one respondent.)
The only other survey we’ve seen here was a GQR Research poll for the DCCC taken in early August, weeks before Bice wrapped up the Republican nomination, that had Horn ahead 51-46. That sample also gave Donald Trump just a 48-47 edge in an Oklahoma City-based seat he’d carried 53-40 four years ago.
● SC-01: The DCCC has a new ad going after Republican Nancy Mace for supporting the so-called “fair tax,” an idea backed by right-wing hardliners that would eliminate the income tax and replace it with a single sales tax rate. The narrator begins by saying that Mace would make the pandemic’s hardships worse because she “supports a 23% tax increase on nearly everything we buy.” She continues, “The family groceries. Medical procedures. Even prescription drugs for seniors. Mace’s plan taxes ’em all.”
TX-Sen: John Cornyn (R-inc) (in Spanish)
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