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Leading Off:

NE-02: The hard feelings after last week's GOP primary are proving very hard indeed: Republican Dan Frei, who lost to Rep. Lee Terry by just 6 points despite getting outspent 20-to-1, is refusing to endorse the incumbent. More importantly, Frei says he expects a more conservative alternative will appear on the ballot in the general election. That could mean a write-in campaign or an independent candidacy, though Frei himself is ineligible after losing the primary. However, a former Republican state senator, Chip Maxwell, says he may be interested in taking on the task, though he's being cagey at the moment.

If Terry, who won by only 2 percent in 2012, has to worry about votes getting peeled off on his right flank, he could be in serious jeopardy. And that would be a dream come true for Democrats, if their nominee, state Sen. Brad Ashford, can put together a serious campaign. So far, though, Ashford hasn't raised much money (not even $100,000 to date), though he got a late start after the DCCC's preferred candidate, Pete Festersen, twice bailed on the race. But if there's a real split among Republicans, anything could happen.


AK-Sen: In a new ad from Put Alaska First, a hunter recounts the "thrill" of killing his first moose, but accuses Republican Dan Sullivan of putting hunting at risk by supporting a plan to "give the government more power to take these public lands away, with no input from you and me." The spot cites an Alaska Daily News editorial that spoke out against the proposed legislation, which would make it harder for Alaskans to file objections to natural resource development projects.

AK-, AR-, CO-, NC-Sen: The super PAC American Crossroads and its companion non-profit arm Crossroads GPS are about to kick off a $9 million-plus spending spree in four states where vulnerable Democratic senators are seeking reelection. The totals, by state: $1.8 million in Alaska, $1.75 million in Arkansas, $2.3 million in Colorado, and $3.6 million in North Carolina. The ads aren't available yet, but expect them soon.

GA-Sen: One last poll of today's GOP Senate primary shows the same thing almost everyone else has: David Perdue out in front, with Jack Kingston and Karen Handel in a dogfight for that second runoff slot. The survey, from InsiderAdvantage, puts Perdue at 26 while both Kingston and Handel are tied at 17, virtually unchanged from a week ago.

WSB-TV also commissioned a poll from Landmark Communications, but strangely, they only asked about the general election, not the primary. Democrat Michelle Nunn, however, has leads on the entire field:

Nunn 45, Perdue 44

Nunn 46, Kingston 44

Nunn 47, Handel 41

Nunn 47, Broun 39

Nunn 45, Gingrey 39

Landmark's last poll, at the end of March, was similar, but some of the Republicans, like Perdue and Kingston, were narrowly in front at the time.

KY-Sen: A last-minute SurveyUSA poll finds Sen. Mitch McConnell with a 55-35 lead on businessman Matt Bevin, one of the closest results anyone's ever seen, but the GOP primary's today, so who cares? And Gravis has the race even closer, at 48-34 McConnell, but again, meh.

As for the general election, Democrat Alison Grimes holds a 43-42 edge on McConnell, while Democrat-turned-independent Ed Marksberry and Libertarian David Patterson each taking 4 percent. That's actually a small drop for Grimes, who led McConnell 46-42 in early February.

Meanwhile, two outside groups backing McConnell are going to hit the airwaves big-time right after tonight's primary. The super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership is buying $575,000 worth of ads (presumably to attack Grimes) that will start on Wednesday and run through June 2. From there, a nonprofit called Kentucky Opportunity Coalition will spend $4.7 million on advertising from June 5 through Aug. 27.

MS-Sen: Two new polls of Mississippi's June 3 GOP primary give state Sen. Chris McDaniel the first leads he's ever seen. The first survey, from The Polling Company (on behalf of Citizens United), puts McDaniel up 43-39 on Sen. Thad Cochran, while the second, from GEB International (conducted for Tea Party Patriots), gives McDaniel a similar 43-36 edge.

However, it's not all smiles for McDaniel. Over the weekend, police arrested a local activist and McDaniel supporter named Clayton Kelly for allegedly breaking into the nursing home where Cochran's wife, who suffers from dementia, lives, photographing her, and using the photo in a video attacking Cochran (since taken down).

McDaniel denies any involvement, but police now say Kelly may have had help, and one report suggests that the McDaniel campaign has had previous dealings with Kelly. But in another twist, the Cochran campaign says it learned of the recording late last month and waited as long as two weeks before contacting the police. It's a disturbing and weird story, but there's no telling yet whether it will have any impact on the race.

NH-Sen: Republican polling firm Vox Populi finds Scott Brown trailing Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen 47-35, and they also have him with a rather soft 38-13 lead over ex-Sen. Bob Smith in the GOP primary. It's hard to imagine Brown losing the primary, especially to a candidate as eccentric as Smith, but given Brown's regular stumbles and blatant carpetbagging, Smith could prove pretty pesky.

OK-Sen-B: A Tarrance Group internal for Rep. James Lankford predictably shows him faring better than other recent polling, which had tended to see former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon surging into a tie or lead. Lankford, though, has a 43-33 edge in his own poll, while former state Sen. Randy Brogdon takes 5. If the two frontrunners remain evenly matched in the June 24 primary, and Brogdon and the other minor candidates peel away just enough votes, then we'll do it all again in an August runoff.

WV-Sen: Rasmussen: Shelley Moore Capito (R): 48, Natalie Tennant (D): 39 (Feb.: 49-35 Capito).


CT-Gov: Connecticut Republicans held their convention over the weekend, and as expected, 2010 nominee Tom Foley secured the most votes from delegates. But two other gubernatorial hopefuls also cleared the 15 percent threshold to earn an automatic spot in the Aug. 12 primary, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. (The final tally was Foley 57, Boughton 22, and McKinney 18.) A fourth candidate, former West Hartford Councilor Joe Visconti, is attempting to petition his way on the ballot.

For Foley, it's a potential repeat of 2010's nightmare scenario, where a hard-fought primary with then-Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele damaged his chances in the general election. (Foley went on to lose to Democrat Dan Malloy by less than one percent.) And there are already signs this could happen again. At the convention, Boughton pledged, "[I]f you take a shot at me, I'm going to take two back at you."

And there's bad blood between the two: Boughton was Foley's unwilling running-mate four years ago, and last year, Boughton claimed he'd have done better if the lieutenant governor nominee had been a woman. Boughton, naturally, didn't appreciate this, telling Foley that "not having a woman on the ticket was the least of your problems." Look for more cat fud to come.

HI-Gov: Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who served as the GOP's gubernatorial nominee in 2010, has had one of the strangest campaign rollouts of the cycle. First, he unexpectedly declared on a radio show that he might run for governor again. Then, all of a sudden, he was in the race, complete with a full-blown website but without managing to secure a single press writeup about his entry. It was enough to make us wonder if he was actually, truly running for reals, but now we apparently have our answer, since Aiona made a formal declaration on Monday—though this certainly stretches the definition of an official announcement to the breaking point.

NE-Gov: Rasmussen: Pete Ricketts (R): 47, Chuck Hassebrook (D): 40.

PA-Gov: Oh well:

Outside the meeting, on her way to another event, Schwartz was not bowed.

"I've won tough elections before," she said, "elections nobody thought I was going to win .... The only poll that matters is on May 20."

RI-Gov: Businessman Ken Block is touting an internal poll from Fabrizio, Lee that gives him a 46-37 lead on Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in the GOP primary. Block claims that's a huge turnaround from last October, when previously unreleased numbers supposedly had Fung on top 53-25. Amusingly, Fung disputed Block's polling but refused to share any numbers of his own.


AZ-01: Republican House hopeful Gary Kiehne, a wealthy rancher, went dumpster-diving over the weekend:

"If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people. So I don't think you have a problem with the Republicans."
Kiehne later apologized, claiming that "the information that I based the comment off of was inaccurate and incorrect." But it's a testament to the power of fact-free wingnut meme propagation if he ever believed this "statistic" was right in the first place.

CA-17: Ro Khanna's decided to go on the attack against fellow Democrat Mike Honda just a couple weeks ahead of the June 3 top-two primary. In a new ad, Khanna's narrator criticizes Honda for "stubbornly refus[ing] all debates" and claims he's "launching false attacks." In an extremely transparent reference to Honda's age (he's 72), she then asks rhetorically, "Isn't it time to put the old politics aside?" The ad then cites a couple of newspapers that have endorsed Khanna, including one that said Khanna "is ready for the Congress of tomorrow, while Honda is a politician of the past." Also, Mike Honda's VCR still blinks "12:00." Come on.

MN-08: In his first TV ad, Republican Stewart Mills begins by mentioning his family business, the Upper Midwest retail chain Mills Fleet Farm, and claims to have started off there humbly, stocking shelves and mopping floors. Mills now owns a share of the company worth as much as $150 million, so he'll have some work to do selling this image. Mills goes on to say he "run[s] the healthcare program for thousands of our employees and their families," so every day, he claims, he sees "how Obamacare is hurting small business and the middle class." But Fleet Farm is most definitely not a small business, and the Affordable Care Act mostly affects people who don't have employer-based insurance coverage, so what exactly is Mills talking about?

NJ-12: Monmouth University's first poll of the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Rush Holt finds the race a tossup. State Sen. Linda Greenstein just narrowly edges Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, 25-24, while Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula takes 11 and Princeton physicist Andrew Zwicker brings up the rear with 6 percent. Greenstein is also out with her first ad, a cheap-looking introductory spot in which a narrator cites her accomplishments (like protecting funding for mammograms) and her priorities (such as equal pay for women).

VA-08: Radio host and former congressional staffer Mark Levine is running his first ad of the Democratic primary, and while the production values aren't high, he hits some themes that you don't often see in campaign commercials—themes mostly designed to appeal to very tuned-in progressive voters. Levine cites Elizabeth Warren as his "role model" and mentions his "old boss," Barney Frank, then says he "wrote the congressional legal challenge to overturn Bush v. Gore" and will strengthen the Voting Rights Act and reverse Citizens United. In a very crowded primary like this one, reaching out to the most active, high-information slice of the electorate might just work.

WV-03: The House Majority PAC is really not letting up on Republican Evan Jenkins, with yet another new ad linking him to the "billionaire New York Koch brothers." This time, they accuse the Kochs of spending "$1.2 million to elect" Jenkins, and wanting to "privatize Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher program." The HMP buy is for $90,000.

Other Races:

NY State Senate: It's not a good time to be a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, the breakaway group of five Democratic state senators who've handed control of New York's Senate to Republicans for their own personal gain—even though Democrats won a majority of seats in the last election. The Daily News's Ken Lovett now reports that former New York City Comptroller John Liu, who apparently had been considering the race, will challenge Queens Sen. Tony Avella in September's Democratic primary.

Follow Lovett's report, the Queens Democratic Party officially nominated Liu on Monday morning, and unnamed attendees at the event say Liu will "definitely" run. If so, that would make Avella the second IDC member to face a serious fight for re-election this fall. The other is state Sen. Jeff Klein, the cabal's ringleader, who's already dealing with a challenge from former New York City Councilman Ollie Koppell.

But unlike Klein, who has a ton of money in the bank, Avella is almost penniless—seriously. He has under $3,000 in his campaign coffers. He also has a reputation for being aloof and friendless, and indeed, the News confirms earlier reports that the Queens Democratic Party itself plans to get behind Liu. If Avella was counting on Klein's moneybags to save him, good luck with that. Klein has to worry about protecting his own neck from Koppell, and the grassroots anger at his personal power-grab that's thwarted progressive legislative priorities.

Liu, for his part, is an incredibly energetic campaigner and has a reputation as a good fundraiser. And as the first Asian-American ever elected citywide, he also inspires tremendous fervor from his most loyal supporters in the Chinese community. He has strong progressive bona fides, too, and was heavily supported by the Working Families Party when he ran for comptroller in 2009. Liu, in short, wants to take this seat back for mainstream Democrats.

The only potential knock on Liu is that his treasurer and top fundraiser from his unsuccessful mayoral campaign last year were both convicted of campaign finance fraud and sentenced to jail, but Liu himself was never implicated. If anything, that incident may provide motivational fuel for him: As a result of the scandal, he was denied matching funds for his bid for mayor, a move that effectively served as the death penalty for his campaign. But even at the time, it seemed like an extreme punishment, and as one nameless source now tells the News, "A lot of people feel he got a raw deal."

So watch out, Tony Avella. A popular dynamo with a chip on his shoulder looks like he's coming for you—and the IDC.

San Antonio Mayor: President Obama has reportedly tapped San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, a rising star who delivered a memorable speech at the 2012 Democratic convention, to serve as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The appointment would give Castro the chance to increase his already high profile among Texas Democrats and nationally. If he's confirmed, it's up to the city council to choose one of its members to serve as mayor until Castro's term expires next year. San Antonio will hold its regularly scheduled mayoral election in May of 2015; unlike in most major cities, the mayor's term only lasts for two years. (Jeff Singer)

Grab Bag:

FL Redistricting: The long-awaited lawsuit brought by Democrats against Florida's not-so-new-anymore congressional map will finally began on Monday and is expected to last two weeks. (Here's a recap of the first day's proceedings.) Of course, there's likely to be plenty more legal wrangling ahead, but with the state's primary coming up on Aug. 26, it seems unlikely that any district lines might change this year, even if Democrats are successful. So that would push things off to 2016 at the soonest, which is undoubtedly not what the proponents of Florida's "fair districts" ballot measures had in mind.

Fundraising: It's an old, familiar story by now: The DSCC outraised the NRSC last month. Senate Democrats took in $6.3 million and have $25 million on hand, while Republicans raised $6 million and have $21.9 million in the bank. The DCCC also had a strong April, bringing in $7.1 million and finishing the month with $43.4 million stockpiled. The NRCC hasn't yet released its totals.

And on a separate fundraising note, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer is branching out from his own super PAC, NextGen Climate Action, with a $5 million donation to the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC. According to Forbes, Steyer's net worth is estimated at $1.6 billion.

Primaries: Today bring us our biggest primary night of the cycle (so far), with six states going to the polls, so you'll want to check out our primary preview of Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. There are a lot of exciting races to watch, and we'll be liveblogging all six states this evening beginning at 6:00 PM ET, when polls start to close.

And while we're on the subject, one recurring phenomenon on the political landscape has been Democratic attempts—with mixed success—to interfere in Republican primaries. Perhaps most famously, in 2012, vulnerable Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill ran a series of wily ads "attacking" Rep. Todd Akin as "too conservative," deploying language that encouraged Republican primary voters to choose him over stronger candidates. Because this kind of meddling will always be with us, we've put together a rundown of how this strategy works, including some suggestions for races Democrats might want to try tinkering with this year. (Jeff Singer)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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