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

TX-23: On Friday, well over a month after voting concluded in Texas”; July 14 primary runoff, Republicans finally learned that Navy veteran Tony Gonzales would be their nominee for the competitive 23rd Congressional District.

Businessman Raul Reyes, who had been pursuing a recount after he finished 45 votes behind Gonzales, announced, “;Without a sizable shift in the vote margin after a recount in the most populous parts of the district I have decided to end the recount.”; The recount finished in the counties that made up 80% of the vote last month, and Reyes”; team said that their deficit had only narrowed to 39 votes.

Gonzales”; win, belated as it was, gives national Republicans their preferred nominee for this west Texas seat, which swung from 51-48 Romney to 50-46 Clinton. Gonzales had the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Will Hurd, who is retiring from this district, and he earned Donald Trump”;s endorsement in the final days of the contest. Sen. Ted Cruz, though, backed Reyes, who had been waging a long-shot primary bid against Hurd before the incumbent decided not to seek another term.

Campaign Action

Cruz”;s support wasn”;t quite enough to get Reyes over the finish line, but it may have badly hurt Gonzales by dragging out the runoff for an extra five weeks. Gonzales was already facing a difficult battle in the fall against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who won her party”;s nomination in the fall and ended June with a hefty $3 million on-hand.

Gonzales would have almost certainly been outspent by Jones no matter what, but the recount appears to have only made his cash struggles worse. On Tuesday, days before Reyes ended his campaign, Gonzales put out a statement griping, “;This process is costing tens of thousands of dollars that could be used to defeat Gina Jones. So far, legal costs on both sides could be enough to fund weeks”; worth of television advertising.”;

Still, while Gonzales is the underdog, neither party is acting like this contest is over in what has been a competitive district for years. Earlier this month, the Republican”;s campaign released a poll from Public Opinion Strategies that showed him trailing Jones just 41-40, while Joe Biden led 48-45; so far, Democrats haven”;t released their own polling here. Outside groups from both parties have also booked millions in TV time in this area, though many of those ads could be used in races in nearby House seats. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

Primary Night

Primary Night: Ok Sooner: Voting concludes Tuesday in Oklahoma’s primary runoffs for races where no one took a majority of the vote on June 30, and the Republican contest for the 5th Congressional District is the main event. Polls close at 8 PM ET/ 7 PM local time, and Daily Kos Elections will have an open thread. Our liveblog will return next week when Massachusetts’ primary concludes.

Back in June, businesswoman Terry Neese outpaced state Sen. Stephanie Bice 36-25 in the first round of the primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in this conservative Oklahoma City-based seat. Bice outspent Neese $290,000 to $210,000 from July 1 to Aug. 5 (the time the FEC designates as the pre-runoff period), but the anti-tax Club for Growth has spent $635,000 on anti-Bice ads for the runoff.

Bice has run commercials arguing that Neese, who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 1990 and 1994, is an electoral loser who is too close to Democrats. The Club, meanwhile, has aired its own spots declaring that Bice “voted for the biggest tax increase in state history.”

Senate

Polls: The British firm Redfield & Wilton Strategies has released new surveys from three competitive Senate races, as well as the North Carolina gubernatorial contest:

AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D): 53, Martha McSally (R-inc): 34 (47-38 Biden) (July: 53-35 Kelly)
MI-Sen: Gary Peters (D-inc): 48, John James (R): 39 (50-38 Biden) (July: 52-35 Peters)
NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 47, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 38 (46-44 Trump) (July: 47-36 Cunningham)
NC-Gov: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 51, Dan Forest (R): 38 (46-44 Trump) (July: 51-37 Cooper)

AK-Sen: The progressive group 314 Action is spending at least $100,000 on its opening buy against Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan. The spot declares that during the “perfect storm” that is the pandemic and rising drug costs, Sullivan has made it “harder for Alaskans to stay afloat and afford life-saving medicines.”

GA-Sen-B: Businessman Matt Lieberman, who is one of the Democrats running here, has launched what the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports is his first spot, though there’s no word on the size of the buy. The commercial stars Lieberman’s daughter, Willie Lieberman, who talks about how the candidate raised her and her sister as a single parent. Willie Lieberman continues by pledging that, just as her father has always put his family first, he’ll put Georgia first during the current crisis.

Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, meanwhile, is running an ad that shows footage of Gov. Brian Kemp announcing her appointment to the Senate. The commercial also shows footage of Donald Trump, who has not made an endorsement here, praising Loeffler.

MA-Sen: Sen. Ed Markey is running a new positive commercial ahead of next week’s Democratic primary featuring several Massachusetts residents, including a postal worker, a nurse, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, and fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren, saying why Markey should be renominated.

They praise the incumbent’s experience, while state Rep. Nika Elugardo says that Markey’s primary foe, Rep. Joe Kennedy, is “a good guy, but we already have a senator who’s getting the job done.” Warren later appears and tells the audience, “We need Ed Markey in the Senate now more than ever.”

SC-Sen, NY-24: Two different Democrats, South Carolina Senate nominee Jaime Harrison and New York House nominee Dana Balter, are running commercials that feature voters saying that they can no longer back the Republican incumbent they’d once supported.

In Harrison’s spot, a woman identified as Melisa tells the audience, “I’ve always voted for [Sen.] Lindsey Graham. But he has changed. Lindsey Graham cares about Lindsey Graham.” Melisa goes on to say that, while Graham has looked out for the big corporations when the pandemic hit, “South Carolina was dead last when it came to small business loans.”

Over in New York’s 24th District, Balter is also airing a commercial starring several people who said they’ve voted for Republican Rep. John Katko in the past but won’t pull the lever for him this time. “John Katko has changed. He’s totally Trump now,” they argue, “Like voting for Donald Trump’s tax law, which helps corporate special interests. They want to pay for it by cutting Social Security and Medicare.”

Gubernatorial

NC-Gov: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is continuing to hit Republican Dan Forest over his reckless actions during the pandemic. His new ad stars a physician named Robert Harris who declares, “Mr. Forest, I know you’re running for governor and are holding indoor events with no masks. For the sake of everyone who attends and everyone they may come into contact with, please stop.” Harris continues, “It’s dangerous and could lead to more infections. For anyone invited to large gatherings, please don’t go.”

House

IN-05: The Democratic group House Majority PAC has published a new poll from Global Strategy Group that shows Democrat Christina Hale leading Republican Victoria Spartz 47-40. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 51-43 in a suburban Indianapolis seat that backed Donald Trump 53-41 but has been rapidly moving to the left.

This is the third poll we’ve seen here over the last two weeks. Spartz’s allies at the Club for Growth released a WPA Intelligence survey that showed the Republican up 47-40, though it notably did not include presidential numbers. The DCCC later dropped a Tulchin Research survey that showed Hale and Biden ahead 50-45 and 55-42, respectively.

KY-06: Republican Rep. Andy Barr uses his new TV ad to talk about the recent death of his wife and tell the audience, “There’s no words to express the gratitude that I have, that the girls have, for the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time.”

MA-04: WPRI’s Ted Nesi takes a look at the outside spending for next week’s already-expensive Democratic primary. Nesi reports that the largest player so far is Experienced Leadership Matters PAC, which has spent $681,000 to help Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss and is partially funded by the candidate’s parents.

EMILY’s List has not endorsed anyone, but it has deployed $623,000 on advertising against both Auchincloss and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei. A pro-Khazei group called Unite to Win, meanwhile, has spent $216,000, while three organizations supporting former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell have dropped a total of $140,000 on her behalf.

MT-AL: Democrat Kathleen Williams uses her second TV spot to gut a fish as she tells the audience, “In Montana, you either embrace our way of life or get out of our way.” Williams continues, “We respect the land. Respect our right to own a gun. And respect the farmers and ranchers.” She adds, “We honor our veterans, like my dad and late husband, with far more than lip service.”

PA-01: While Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick has been trying to distance himself from Donald Trump in a suburban seat that has been shifting to the left, the congressman’s allies at Defending Mainstreet are spending $109,000 on an ad that echoes one of Trump’s most vile talking points.

The commercial declares that Democrat Christina Finello “called Nancy Pelosi her mentor,” and that Finello is supporting a Pelosi bill “that would release convicted criminals onto our streets, including violent felons, allowing murderers and rapists to roam through our communities and charging taxpayers millions of dollars to do it.”

Republicans have spent decades declaring that any small piece of criminal justice reform would lead to a spike in violent crime, and Trump himself is counting on this claim to help him shore up his standing in suburban areas like Bucks County. Finello’s team, though, quickly put out a statement saying of the legislation in question, “The ad echoes Trump talking points claiming the HEROES Act would ‘allow the release of dangerous prisoners,’ but fact-checkers have made clear this is just another lie from the President.”

Factcheck.org writes that the HEROES Act, which passed the House in May, “includes provisions that are designed to reduce populations in crowded federal facilities, such as immigration detention centers and prisons, to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.” However, the story adds that the legislation explicitly exempts people who are a “threat to public safety or national security.”

SC-01: The NRCC used its first independent expenditure ad of the November general election to question freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham’s commitment to opposing oil drilling off the coast of this district, and his allies at 314 Action are up with a response spot.

The narrator dismisses the attacks as “a gusher of lies from an oil company-funded special interest” and declares that Cunningham is the one “leading the fight for a federal ban against offshore drilling. And Joe Cunningham refuses corporate PAC money.” The commercial then goes after Republican Nancy Mace, saying she’s the one who has taken donations from oil companies and “opposes a federal ban on offshore drilling.”

Mace, meanwhile, is utilizing her first general election spot to talk about her local roots and time in the military and state House. The candidate’s parents tell the audience how she “became the first woman to graduate from The Citadel” and is “a great mom and a tenacious legislator who cut taxes.” The ad notably does not mention Donald Trump, or even Mace’s party affiliation, in a seat that Trump carried 53-40 in 2016.

Other Races

MT-AG, MT-SoS: Two Montana Democrats looking to flip open downballot offices ended mid-August with a large cash-on-hand lead over their GOP rivals. Democrat Raph Graybill, who serves as chief legal counsel to Gov. Steve Bullock, held a $200,000 to $110,000 edge over his Republican rival, Roosevelt County Attorney Austin Knudsen. In the contest for secretary of state, Democratic state Sen. Bryce Bennett enjoyed a $230,000 to $95,000 advantage over Deputy Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen.

WA-LG: Two Democrats, Rep. Denny Heck and state Sen. Marko Liias, advanced to the general election earlier this month, but Republicans are making one last effort to try to seize a win in November. Former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed announced last week that he would pursue a write-in campaign; Freed ran for governor this year and took a distant third place in the top-two with just 9%.

P.S. While Washington does allow write-in candidates to win the general election, the law is different in California, the only other state that uses the top-two system. Write-in candidates in the Golden State may compete in the primary, but as the secretary of state explains, “A write-in candidate will only move on to the general election if the candidate is one of the top two vote-getters in the primary election.” Louisiana, which uses a similar all-party primary system, does not provide a place on the ballot for write-ins at all, though.

ELECTION CHANGES

Indiana: A federal judge has rejected a request from voting rights advocates to require Indiana officials to allow all voters to request an absentee ballot for the November general election without presenting an excuse. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge James Hanlon wrote, “The question before the Court is not whether it would be wise for Indiana to allow everyone to vote by mail; that’s a policy choice.” Plaintiffs have filed an appeal.

New York: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that will require election officials to notify voters of any problems that might cause their absentee ballots to be rejected and give them a chance to correct them, which New York’s Democratic-run legislature passed after large numbers of mail ballots cast in the state’s June 23 primary were invalidated.

Cuomo also said in a memo that he and lawmakers had agreed to make “temporary modifications” to the bill, either by executive order or further legislation, though he did not elaborate on what those might be.

Pennsylvania: A federal court has placed on hold a lawsuit brought by Donald Trump’s campaign that seeks to prohibit local election officials from establishing drop boxes for absentee ballot returns, explaining that long-standing Supreme Court precedent requires it to wait for Pennsylvania state courts to resolve a similar case. Democrats filed that state court suit in a likely effort to short-circuit Trump’s federal case and ensure their claims could be heard by the state Supreme Court, where a majority of the justices are Democrats.

Virginia: A federal judge has approved an agreement between voting rights advocates and Virginia election officials to waive the state’s requirement that absentee voters have their ballots witnessed for the November general election.

ad roundup

AZ-Sen: One Nation – pro-Martha McSally (R-inc)
IA-Sen: One Nation – pro-Joni Ernst (R-inc)
MI-Sen: John James (R)
MT-Sen: Steve Daines (R-inc); NRSC – anti-Steve Bullock (D)
IL-13: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D)
NJ-03: Andy Kim (D-inc)
VA-05: 314 Action – anti-Bob Good (R)
WA-03: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-inc)

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