• NJ-05, NRCC: Back in 2013, Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes made headlines when he tried to convince the NRCC not to support Richard Tisei or Carl DeMaio because they were gay. The NRCC didn't listen and spent on both men, though they ended up losing anyway. Now, Politico reports that New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett is the one taking up the "no gays allowed" cause, but with a new twist:
Garrett first responded that his procedural vote against leadership was a matter of conscience. Then he stunned the room with this explanation: He had not supported the NRCC in the past, he said, because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries.
Some lawmakers grew noticeably angry, pointing out that the NRCC does not get involved in primaries, nor does it care about the sexual orientation of candidates. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a member of leadership who led the NRCC’s candidate recruitment during the 2014 election cycle, said that Richard Tisei, a gay Republican whom the NRCC supported, was "equally homosexual" when Garrett donated directly to him in 2012, according to a source present.
The NRCC and Garrett have reached a compromise. Garrett will donate to the group's building and recount efforts, but not to the NRCC directly. But this isn't the first time that Garrett has locked horns with his party's leadership: Back in January, he refused to vote for John Boehner in the speakership race. But while Forbes could get away with his behavior without any real electoral consequences, Garrett may not be so lucky. Garrett represents a northern New Jersey seat that only voted for Romney by a 51-48 margin, and he faces a credible challenge from former Clinton aide Josh Gottheimer.
This whole thing is probably too inside baseball to influence voters, but Boehner and the NRCC aren't going to forget Garrett's stunts. If Garrett needs help next year, the GOP establishment will need to decide if they want to dump money to air ads on ultra-expensive New York City television to aid someone they don't like, or if it's better to spend that money elsewhere and let Garrett twist. The NRCC has already effectively abandoned Iowa's Rod Blum for his disloyalty, so they're quite willing to punish members if they don't think it will put their majority at risk. Of course, it's far from guaranteed that Garrett will be in real danger next year and even if he is, the GOP may decide to put up with him than risk a Gottheimer victory.
• FL-Sen: Toss one more poll on the primary barbie. The often-unreliable St. Pete Polls finds Rep. Alan Grayson edging Rep. Patrick Murphy by a 30-23 margin; unusually for such a poll, they also include attorney Pam Keith, who takes 7. At this point, there isn't much purpose to this kind of survey except to confirm what all the rest of them say: Grayson and Murphy are both largely unknown, neither starts off with any discernible advantage, and there are a ton of undecideds left to fight over, as this chart shows:
Well, every poll but one, but there's no accounting for Gravis' worldview. There's also, it seems, no accounting for Grayson's worldview, either. Even though he's long portrayed himself as a progressive's progressive, he just sounded some rather hawkish—and specific—notes about President Obama's proposed nuclear deal with Iran. (Example: "I'm concerned that the lifting of economic sanctions will not stop Iran from continuing to be a sponsor of global terrorism. In fact, that support would now be well financed by an increase in its oil revenues.")
Murphy, by contrast, put out the kind of vague statement a politician gingerly addressing a hot-button issue would typically make, saying only, "While I have concerns about this agreement, I look forward to reviewing this entire proposal and having Congress provide rigorous oversight in the coming weeks." The battle lines are being draw in this unfortunate primary, but they might not shape up the way conventional wisdom would predict. •
FL-Sen: Ex-Attorney General Bill McCollum has been considering a bid for this open seat since March, but he never sounded incredibly excited about the idea. But Politico's Marc Caputo reports that McCollum is now "seriously considering" running for the GOP nomination, and McCollum himself hinted that he's very interested. (McCollum ended three-and-a-half years of Twitter inactivity to criticize President Obama on Iran on Thursday, so read into that what you will.)
Polls show that McCollum would start out with the lead in a GOP primary, and his early name recognition could give him an edge in what's turning into a crowded race. But McCollum's own electoral history isn't exactly anything to write home about. McCollum is 70 and if he wants one more shot at glory, it's probably now or never. Meanwhile, St. Pete Polls tests out a hypothetical McCollum-free GOP primary and gives Rep. David Jolly an early lead:
• Rep. David Jolly: 22
• Rep. Jeff Miller: 12
• Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera: 11
• Rep. Ron DeSantis: 9
• Someone Else: 23
Right now only Lopez-Cantera, DeSantis, and businessman Todd Wilcox (who was not tested) are officially in. Jolly sounds likely to join them as early as Monday though, and Miller's $650,000 haul over the last three months doesn't leave much doubt that he's also going for a promotion.
• MO-Gov: Quarterly finance reports were due for Missouri's gubernatorial contest on Wednesday, giving us an early look at the chaotic GOP primary:
• Ex-state Rep. Randy Asbury: $7,000 raised, $4,400 cash-on-hand
• Businessman and 2012 Senate candidate John Brunner: $435,000 raised, $277,000 cash-on-hand
• Ex-state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway: $372,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
• Retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens: $791,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
• Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder: $130,000 raised, $60,000 cash-on-hand
• State Sen. Mike Parson: $337,000 raised, $727,000 cash-on-hand
It's hard to pick out a frontrunner from this. It doesn't help that Missouri has no donation limits, so it only takes one willing billionaire to transform a bankrupt campaign into a financial juggernaut. (Though Randy Asbury shouldn't hold his breath waiting for this to happen to him.)
There are some things worth noting though. Hanaway still has the most money in the bank, and she had a decent quarter. Hanaway is also bankrolled by conservative zillionare Rex Sinquefield, and he can augment her warchest whenever he feels like it. Greitens, a former White House fellow, is making full use of his political connections, and he's managed to out-raise all his opponents.
Parson only got into the race a few months ago but he seems to be off to a good, though not incredible, start. Kinder only announced his plans on Sunday, but he doesn't start out in great shape financially. Brunner's totals are deceptively small: He pumped millions of his own money into his 2012 Senate race, and he's likely to do it again. Brunner and Greitens say they're still only "exploring" a bid, but they're not fooling anyone.
Attorney General Chris Koster has the Democratic primary to himself and he's continued to hoard his cash. Koster reports raising about $1 million over the last three months and he has $3.9 million on hand, more than all the Republicans combined. This isn't going to last forever and the eventual Republican nominee should have all the cash he or she needs, but may as well enjoy it while we can.
• CA-25: A few months ago, this Romney 50-48 seat looked like a good outside pickup opportunity for Democrats. Freshman Republican Steve Knight only raised $29,000 during the first quarter of the year, and Team Blue landed Santa Clarita Water Board Member Maria Gutzeit, who at least looked like she had the potential to do well. But Knight hauled in a solid $403,000 during the last three months and somehow passed his shitty fundraising virus on to Gutzeit.
Gutzeit raised a pathetic $36,000, not far ahead of unheralded police officer Lou Vince's $14,000. Those sums would be a joke in any congressional race, but they're particularly dreadful for a seat located in the pricey Los Angeles area. Team Blue doesn't have much of a bench in the Antelope Valley, so there may not be any alternative candidates who can come out of the woodwork and challenge Knight (two-time candidate Lee Rogers has shown no interest in another go). And unless Gutzeit or Vince do what the congressman did and seek immediate treatment to purge themselves of the Knight Virus, this seat may be nothing more than an afterthought before too long.
• CA-46: Anaheim Councilor Jordan Brandman filed to run for this safely blue seat a few days ago, and he announced that he's in on Thursday. Brandman joins ex-state Sen. Lou Correa in the contest, though there are plenty of other Democrats who could run here. Correa represented most of this seat in the legislature until last year so he starts out with superior name recognition, but Correa's weak $104,000 fundraising quarter could give someone like Brandman an opening. But Brandman has his own problems: A few years ago, he was accused of plagiarizing a study that Orange County paid him $24,000 to put together.
• CO-06: National Democrats were excited when state Sen. Morgan Carroll stepped up to challenge Republican incumbent Mike Coffman in this swing seat, but it looks like she'll need to work a bit harder than planned in the primary. Wealthy physician Perry Haney has filed with the FEC and has already invested $1 million of his own money into his new campaign committee, though he hasn't announced yet.
This is actually Haney's second campaign for this suburban Denver seat. He entered the race in December of 2011 and wasted little time taking pot shots at eventual nominee Joe Miklosi, casting him as a "career politician." Haney ended up dropping out in February after the GOP filed an FEC complaint against him, though he unconvincingly argued that he was quitting for business reasons. And this time the Republicans aren't even trying to hide how delighted they are to see him back, and we can expect to see him use the old "career politician" line against Carroll. Of course, after what happened last time, who knows if Haney will even make it to the primary ballot?
• MD-04: Ex-Lt. Gov. and 2014 Democratic nominee Anthony Brown has encountered plenty of skepticism from political insiders ever since he launched his campaign for this safely blue seat. While Brown starts out as the best-known contender and even has the lead in rival Glenn Ivey's poll, plenty of influential Democrats think that Brown's surprising defeat last year will continue to haunt him. And they may be right: Brown raised only $122,000 during the last three months, a pretty weak sum for someone who was seen as the next big thing in Democratic politics not that long ago.
Ivey, a former Prince George's County state's attorney, led the field with his $275,000 haul. Dels. Dereck Davis and Joseline Pena-Melnyk took in $188,000 and $168,000 respectively, while former Prince George's County Councilor Ingrid Turner did little fundraising but loaned herself $220,000. This seat is located in the expensive D.C. media market so none of these totals are exactly earth-shattering, but it's still surprising to see Brown doing this badly. Brown's name recognition may still carry him through the crowded primary, but he does not look particularly strong right now.
We also got another contender on Thursday, as Howard University political scientist Alvin Thornton confirmed he would run. Thornton chaired the 2001 committee helped create the state's school funding guidelines, so he may have some good connections.
• NV-03: The GOP primary is almost a year from now and businessman/ perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian has been in the race for less than a week, but that's no excuse not to do a poll! An unidentified pollster (that inspires confidence!) working for Conservative Intel gives Tarkanian a 37-11 lead over the establishment-backed state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, with Nevada Policy Research Institute President Andy Matthews at 4.
The writeup breathlessly argues that Tarkanian is in great shape since 80 percent of respondents know who he is while only 34 percent can identify Roberson. Of course, even if this survey is accurate (big if), it just means that Roberson has plenty of room to grow, and he's going to have more than enough money to get his name out there.
As for Tarkanian's high name ID, Jon Ralston reminds us that he always starts out well-known because of his famous dad, the late UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. Then the campaign actually happens, and Little Tark loses. Maybe this time will be different, but Tarkanian's 54-46 state Senate loss in 2004, his 49-41 defeat in 2006's secretary of state race, his distant third place showing in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary, and his 50-42 fall in NV-04 in 2012 all suggest otherwise.
• TN-04: Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais' career took a dive in 2012 when voters found out that the congressman had affairs with at least two of his patients while he worked as a physician, and urged at least one of them to get an abortion. DesJarlais still easily won re-election that year in this safely red seat, but few people though he had any real chance to win renomination against state Sen. Jim Tracy. But Tracy ran an unfocused campaign and the passage of time dulled the impact of DesJarlais' transgressions, and the incumbent pulled off a miraculous 38-vote win.
But DesJarlais either isn't taking 2016 intra-party opponent Grant Starrett seriously, or Republican power players still don't want to touch the congressman. DesJarlais brought in just $52,000 over the last three months while Starrett took in $507,000 and loaned himself another $227,000.
Starrett, a 27-year old former Romney aide, is betting that he can succeed where Tracy failed, and he's definitely worth taking seriously. Starrett leads the incumbent in cash on hand $653,000 to $162,000, and he's capable of some self-funding. But DesJarlais' scandal will be nearly four years old by Election Day, and primary voters may just not care anymore. There's also a chance that Tracy runs again and splits the anti-DesJarlais vote. Starrett also has his own weak spots: He only moved to Tennessee from California a few years ago, and DesJarlais isn't going to hesitate to portray him as an interloper.
• Nashville Mayor: Early voting for the Aug. 6 non-partisan primary begins Friday, and real estate titan Bill Freeman looks like the clear favorite to take one of the two runoff spots. Several of Freeman's opponents have released polls showing him ahead (they're each arguing that they have a good shot to take the second spot), and a new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research survey for Freeman tells a similar story:
• Real estate executive Bill Freeman: 24
• Councilor Megan Barry: 15
• Former Metro Nashville School Board Chairman David Fox: 13
• Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry: 12
• Attorney Charles Robert Bone: 8
• Businesswoman Linda Eskind Rebrovick: 7
• Charter school founder Jeremy Kane: 4
Second place still looks like anyone's game, and we probably won't have our answer until Aug. 6. The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, and Daniel Donner.