● KS-Sen: Republican Sen. Jerry Moran infuriated conservatives when, two weeks ago, he said he thought the Senate should in fact hold hearings on whether to confirm Merrick Garland, Barack Obama's nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. After a predictably outraged backlash from outside groups, Moran quickly backed down and rescinded his call for hearings, but that doesn't appear to have softened any tempers.
Indeed, GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, not in spite of Moran's about-face but because of it, is now apparently weighing a primary challenge. Pompeo released a statement slamming Moran for adopting a "liberal Democrat talking point" and saying that elected officials "should never say one thing in Cimarron, Kansas, and something else in the social parlors of Washington, D.C." A former campaign manager then said that Pompeo "certainly does not rule … out" a Senate run, and according to the Associated Press, Pompeo also refused to say whether he's conducted any polling.
That prompted NRSC chair Roger Wicker to tell Politico that his committee would help Moran if Pompeo ran against him, but there's absolutely no way Wicker wants to spend even a single penny in a dark red state when the GOP has so many blue-state incumbents to defend this year. Like Pompeo's own maneuvering, Wicker's warning shot may all just be kabuki, but with the Senate on the line and a potential Trumpocalypse in the offing, this is not the kind of headache the Republican establishment wants.
1Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our first quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in.
● AZ-Sen: John McCain (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $5.5 million cash-on-hand
● FL-18: Randy Perkins (D): $275,000 raised, $1 million self-funded, $2.17 million cash-on-hand; Rick Kozell (R): $140,000 raised, $300,000 cash-on-hand
● NY-03: Tom Suozzi (D): $450,000 raised, $320,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-Sen: Filing closed in California last month, and the state recently released a certified list of candidates. Everyone will compete on one ballot in the June 7 top-two primary, and the two contenders with the most votes will advance to the November general. (Unlike in Louisiana, candidates can't avert a second round if they take a majority of the vote in the primary.)
This will be the third cycle in a row where California has used the top-two primary. In 2012 and 2014, conservatives turned out in disproportionate numbers in June, which made it easier for Republicans to secure at least one, or sometimes even both, of the general election spots. This time, both parties will have high-profile presidential primaries in June, which will increase turnout on both sides and make the primary electorate quite different than it's been in the last two cycles.
The biggest race to watch will be the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. State Attorney General Kamala Harris is the clear frontrunner, but Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a fellow Democrat, is also in the hunt. Harris would rather face a weak Republican in November in this dark blue state than Sanchez: While the congresswoman doesn't have the money or big-name support Harris has, Sanchez can prevail in November if she can decisively win Republicans and independents while holding onto enough Democrats. (Sanchez is the more conservative of the two women.)
The problem for Harris is that several little-known Republicans will be on the June ballot, and they all appear to be splitting the GOP vote enough for Sanchez to take second place. Indeed, a new SurveyUSA poll conducted for several local news stations shows this happening:
Attorney General Kamala Harris (D): 26
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D): 22
Ex-state Republican Party Chair Tom Del Beccaro (R): 8
Ex-state Sen. Phil Wyman (R): 8
Ex-state Republican Party Chair Duf Sundheim (R): 5
Republican Ron Unz, who ran for governor in 1994, was not included, but his presence would almost certainly just split the GOP vote even more and make it easier for Sanchez to join Harris in the general. Two other recent polls also showed Harris and Sanchez grabbing both general election spots, with none of the other Republican contenders anywhere within spitting distance of second place. If one of the Republicans could get his name out and consolidate the GOP vote, he'd have a good chance to grab second, but that's a big if. A number of state Republican leaders have endorsed Sundheim, but they haven't done much more than that to help him. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Safe Democratic.
● FL-Sen: On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee released a report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics finding that there is "substantial reason to believe" that Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson violated House rules in connection with his ownership of a hedge fund, omissions from his financial disclosures, and the use of government resources for non-official purposes. The committee did not issue any ruling but said it would continue to review the matter.
Grayson, bizarrely, claimed he "welcomed" Tuesday's developments because the committee did not immediately establish an "investigative subcommittee." That seems like wishful thinking. At the same time, Grayson hotly disputed all of the OCE's findings and alleged a "disturbing and illegal collusion between OCE staff and the official staff of Rep. Patrick Murphy," his rival in the Democratic primary. Grayson generally views his critics and opponents as engaged in a corrupt conspiracy to sabotage him, so this sort of charge is nothing new. But now he faces a true ticking time-bomb that could explode on him any time between now and the August primary—or if Democrats are unlucky, the November general.
Meanwhile, on the GOP side of the equation, former Vatican ambassador Francis Rooney, who'd been considering a late entry, has decided against joining the race. The GOP already has two rich guys running, Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff, so we guess there just wasn't a whole lot of room for yet another one-percenter.
Speaking of Beruff, he's also out with a new Spanish-language TV ad that he narrates himself (Beruff is Cuban-American). It's a stark contrast to the extremely nativist ad he just started running in English, in which he declares, ala Charles Lindbergh, "America first!" In the Spanish spot, however, he talks about how his family came to the U.S. in the 1960s in search of the "American Dream," which he now says is "disappearing." Quite the contrary message.
● IL-Sen: Zowee! Republican Sen. Mark Kirk just joined the ignominious club of politicians who've released internal polls showing themselves trailing their opponents, but despite the deceptively small margin, this may actually be one of the worst such entries we've ever seen. Kirk's survey, from GS Strategy Group, has him down 43-40 to Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, which is already god-awful place for an incumbent to find himself. But in your own poll? Since internals tend to be more favorable to the candidates who've commissioned them, it's a truly terrible sign that this is the best that Kirk can do.
Making matters still worse for Kirk is … just about everything else. Duckworth isn't as well-known as he is, so she has more room to move upwards as voters grow more familiar with her. And there's the fact that Illinois is, of course, a decidedly blue state. That means that most of the undecided voters are going to be Democrats, or Democratic-leaning independents, who will ultimately pull the lever for Duckworth. This should all feel very familiar, since it's a mirror-image of what we saw with red-state Democratic senators in 2014-and we all remember how that played out.
Given how awful this poll looks for Kirk, we've got to wonder why he'd even put it out there in the first place. Politico's Kevin Robillard suggests that perhaps Kirk is begging outside GOP groups not to write him off, but any money-runner with a lick of sense should, upon seeing numbers like this, be far less inclined-not more inclined-to lend a hand. Right now, Mark Kirk is looking like the Mark Pryor of 2016, and it's Kirk himself who's painting that portrait.
● IN-Sen: Yet another deep-pocketed establishment group is coming to the aid of Rep. Todd Young, who faces House Freedom Caucus member Marlin Stutzman in the May 3 GOP primary. This time it's the Senate Leadership Fund, whose executive director is a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and they're spending $200,000 on a TV ad that rattles off a litany of Young's likes (the NRA) and dislikes (Obamacare, abortion, terrorism). Previously, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's One Nation had also been on the scene helping Young out.
● LA-Sen: On Tuesday, energy businessman Josh Pellerin announced that he would seek this open seat. Pellerin is a Democrat who characterizes himself as "pro-life, pro-gun," though he said he believes in the Democratic Party on "health care, job creation and taking care of veterans." It sounds like Pellerin is capable of self-funding, though it's unclear how much of his own cash he's willing and able to drop.
Pellerin is the third notable Democrat to jump into the November jungle primary. Pellerin will face Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who is backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, and 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Caroline Fayard. Several Republicans are also running: If no one takes a majority, the top two vote-getters will advance to the December runoff regardless of party. As the National Journal's Andrea Drusch points out, Pellerin's presence could have an effect on the GOP field as well. Rep. Charles Boustany also hails from the Lafayette area, and Pellerin could cost the Republican some critical votes in the region. Boustany is competing with fellow Rep. John Fleming and state Treasurer John Kennedy, with tea partier Rob Maness also in the mix.
● MD-Sen: While EMILY's List has provided her air cover for months, Rep. Donna Edwards is only now going up with her first TV ad, just three weeks ahead of the Democratic primary. Edwards, who narrates the spot herself, not only emphasizes her own priorities (like taking on the NRA) but takes a couple of direct shots at her sole rival—by name. Speaking of the people she's fighting for, Edwards says: "That's why I said no to the Social Security cuts Chris Van Hollen said he'd consider. And why I won't take money from Wall Street banks, even though my opponent did." The Social Security jab refers to a quote Van Hollen gave to the Wall Street Journal in 2012 when he said he was "willing to consider" entitlement cuts "as part of an overall plan" that also included tax increases. The Edwards campaign says it's spending $156,000 to run the ad.
Also on Tuesday, the Washington Post and the University of Maryland released a new poll that has Edwards on top, 44-40. That margin is similar to the 34-28 spread the Baltimore Sun found a month ago, though it stands in contrast to a recent Van Hollen internal that put him up 45-40. What's most interesting about this latest survey is how racially polarized the electorate is: Van Hollen leads 56-23 among white voters, but Edwards has an even bigger 66-23 advantage among black voters.
That's very reminiscent of the last competitive Senate primary Democrats held in Maryland, back in 2006. In that race, Ben Cardin, a white congressman who had tons of money and outside support, won a narrow 44-41 victory over ex-Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a former head of the NAACP who had much less of each but who did win a lot of votes from fellow African-Americans. And Edwards appears to be in a better position than Mfume: Despite Van Hollen's extensive efforts to make inroads into the black community (as shown by his many endorsements from key black pols), he doesn't seem to have cut deep enough into Edwards' base.
There's also the issue of the presidential primary, which takes place the same day, April 26. While you might think that ideologically, Edwards would line up more closely with Bernie Sanders while Van Hollen would match with Hillary Clinton, once again, race rather than political philosophy looks to be the much more important dividing line. Clinton has huge leads in Maryland polling, and if she once again draws lots of black voters to the polls, that would almost certainly boost Edwards and create serious headwinds for Van Hollen.
● PA-Sen: With just three weeks to go before Pennsylvania's primary, establishment Democrats are doing everything they can to help Katie McGinty win, but they still have a ways to go. A new survey from Republican pollster Harper Polling finds ex-Rep. Joe Sestak beating McGinty 41-31, with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman at 9. If there's a glint of hope for McGinty, it's that her margin is a bit narrower than it was in Harper's poll a month ago, when Sestak led 33-17. However, there are now fewer undecided voters (just 19 percent, compared to 32 in March), so the ratio of people to cake is rapidly diminishing.
● WI-Sen: A new survey from the Emerson College Polling Society is the third in a string of recent polls that shows Wisconsin's Senate race closer than it once appeared, but it, too, still finds Democrat Russ Feingold on top. The former senator is beating the man who defeated him six years ago, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, 48-44, which is not too different from the 47-42 lead Feingold sported according to Marquette, or the 46-39 advantage PPP gave him.
But even though Johnson has never led in a single poll (dating back three years!), the Koch brothers aren't giving up on him. Americans for Prosperity is spending $1.1 million on a TV and digital ad buy to run a bland positive spot that praises Johnson as a "businessman who knows how to balance a budget" and "how to create jobs." The entire message is largely non-partisan, which is exactly the kind of thing you'd want to run on as a Republican senator seeking re-election in a state that is once again set to go blue in the presidential race. It's also the exact inverse of the kind of thing that didn't work for Democrats in red states two years ago.
● CA-07: Democratic incumbent Ami Bera pulled off a narrow win during the 2014 GOP wave in this 51-47 Obama seat, and he's in for another tough race. The GOP recruited Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, and neither man faces any intra-party competition in June. Bera is a monster fundraiser, while Jones is largely untested in this area (though the April 15 quarterly reports will give us a better idea of Jones' fundraising strength).
However, organized labor has been furious with Bera ever since his vote last year in favor of so-called "fast-track" trade promotion authority, which would help pave the way for a 12-nation trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that many unions vociferously oppose. Bera hasn't announced a final position on the deal, but Jones has come out against the TPP. Two unions have made the unusual move of endorsing the Republican, while other labor groups have threatened to just sit the general election out. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Lean Democratic, though things don't seem to be going great for Bera right now.
● CA-08: Rep. Paul Cook has been a pretty generic Republican, and he doesn't appear to have made many enemies in this safely red San Bernardino-area seat. However, ex-Assemblyman Tim Donnelly launched a last-minute challenge. Donnelly appeals to tea partiers but the GOP establishment hates him. When Donnelly ran for governor in 2014, state and national Republicans backed Neel Kashkari. Almost no one thought that Kashkari could actually beat Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown (and sure enough, Kashkari lost badly in November), but Republican leaders feared that California Democrats would benefit if they could tie other GOP candidates to the far-right Donnelly.
However, the top-two primary will make it difficult for Donnelly to beat Cook in this safely red seat. There are three Some Dude Democrats running and no other Republicans, which makes it very likely that Cook and Donnelly will both advance to November. Local Democratic voters may not love Cook, but they're likely to overwhelmingly side with him over Donnelly in the general. Cook also should win over enough Republicans to fend off Donnelly in November.
● CA-10: Obama carried this Modesto-area seat 51-47, but Team Blue hasn't had much luck against Republican Rep. Jeff Denham. Michael Eggman, a beekeeper and the brother of a local state assemblywoman, lost to Denham 56-44 last cycle, and he's back for a rematch. Better Democratic turnout should help Eggman, and Denham could have a hard time if he has to share a ballot with a radioactive presidential nominee.
However, there's no doubt that Denham is a tough candidate: Denham defeated a highly-touted Democratic foe 53-47 in 2012 even as Obama was winning here. The DCCC placed Eggman on their "Emerging Races" list in February, which indicates that while they think he has a shot, they don't see this as a top-tier contest right now. One minor Democrat and Republican are running here, so there won't be much to watch in June. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Republican.
● CA-16: Democratic Rep. Jim Costa ran a sleepy campaign in 2014 and he only narrowly defeated Some Dude Johnny Tacherra. Tacherra is back for a rematch, though he'll need to get past fellow Republican David Rogers, a Madera County Supervisor, in the June primary. Obama carried this Fresno seat 59-39, and presidential turnout will make it much tougher for the GOP to pull off an upset. Costa also appears to be taking this race much more seriously, while Rogers and especially Tacherra don't have much money available. While labor reportedly was searching for a Democrat to challenge Costa over the summer, no one filed against him. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Likely Democratic.
● CA-17: Rep. Mike Honda turned back former Obama administration official Ro Khanna, a fellow Democrat, 52-48 in the 2014 general, and Khanna is back for a rematch. So far, the campaign for this safely blue Silicon Valley seat hasn't been going particularly well for Honda. Over the summer, the House Ethics Committee released a report saying they had "substantial reason to believe" that Honda had improperly used government staff and resources for campaign purposes. A number of influential local and state Democrats who remained neutral last time have sided with Khanna, who has amassed a huge fundraising edge.
One other Democrat, San Jose City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, is running here. However, Oliverio doesn't have many allies, and he'll have a tough time reaching the general. Two minor Republicans are also on the June ballot. Obama won 72-26 here, so it's likely that the two Republicans will split the small conservative vote too much for either of them to advance.
● CA-21: Republican Rep. David Valadao is another frustrating target for Democrats. Obama carried this Central Valley seat 55-45 in 2012, but Valadao easily beat a weak Democratic foe; in 2014, poor Democratic turnout helped Valadao pull off another decisive win. It's unclear if Democrats will have a strong enough candidate to prevail with presidential turnout this time. Fowler City Councilor Daniel Parra has been a horrible fundraiser while attorney Emilio Huerta, the son of labor leader Dolores Huerta, hasn't unveiled his first quarter totals yet. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Republican.
● CA-24: Democratic Rep. Lois Capps is retiring from this coastal 54-43 Obama seat, and both parties have competitive races to succeed her. On the Democratic side, national leaders have consolidated behind Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, and he's amassed a big fundraising edge over Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.
On the GOP side, businessman and 2014 candidate Justin Fareed has been an unexpected fundraising all-star. While Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian represents about two-thirds of this seat, Achadjian hasn't brought in very much cash. A few other minor candidates (two Democrats, one Republican, and two independents) are running here, but it's likely that one Democrat and one Republican will advance to November. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Lean Democratic.
● CA-25: Freshman Republican Steve Knight is potentially vulnerable in this 50-48 Romney seat in northern Los Angeles County, and two Democrats are competing to take him on. Attorney Bryan Caforio is the preferred choice of national Democrats and he's raised a decent amount of cash. However, while former LAPD officer Lou Vince has barely hauled in anything, he won the endorsement of the county and state Democratic Party.
Last month, the L.A. Weekly reported that in 2000, Vince was accused of beating an unarmed black man while on patrol; the city of Los Angeles agreed to pay the motorist $150,000 to settle his claims. (Vince claimed he was "exonerated" by his department.) Eric Bauman, the chair of the L.A. County Democrats, said he was "incredibly troubled" by the allegations and that he planed to discuss the matter with the state party "to see what the appropriate steps might be for us to take." There have been no new developments since then, and it's unclear how much the story has harmed Vince's standing with local Democratic leaders. In 2014, Knight and another Republican grabbed both general election spots, locking Team Blue out. Only one minor Republican and no other Democrats made the ballot this time, so that's unlikely to happen again. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Republican.
● CA-26: In 2012 and 2014, Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley pulled off tight wins in this Ventura County seat. Team Red has decided to focus their energies elsewhere this cycle: Brownley only faces Republican Rafael Dagnesses, who took just 8 percent in the 2014 top-two primary. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Democratic.
● CA-29: Rep. Tony Cardenas picked up a last-minute opponent when ex-Los Angeles Councilor Richard Alarcon, a fellow Democrat, jumped in. In 2014, Alarcon was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for allegedly living outside his city Council district and lying about it. Alarcon spent 51 days under house arrest before an appeals court found that the jury had received improper instructions: As a result, Alarcon's conviction was thrown out. Only three minor Democrats filed to run here so Alarcon and Cardenas should both easily advance, but Alarcon's odds are very long in the general.
● CA-31: Freshman Democrat Pete Aguilar narrowly defeated Republican Navy veteran Paul Chabot last cycle, but presidential turnout should give Aguilar a big boost in this 57-41 Obama seat. Chabot is running again but he hasn't raised much cash, and national Republicans have made it clear that they prefer economics professor Sean Flynn, the author of "Economics for Dummies." Ex-Rep. Joe Baca, who represented much of this area as a Democrat until 2012, is running as a Republican as well, but his recent electoral history has been awful. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Likely Democratic.
● CA-32: Assemblyman Roger Hernandez launched a surprising challenge against Rep. Grace Napolitano, a fellow Democrat, in this safely blue Los Angeles-area seat. Napolitano lives in a different district than the one she represents, and Hernandez is hoping to make that a major liability for her. However, Hernandez has had his own issues: A former girlfriend accused him of physical abuse in 2012, but prosecutors declined to file charges. That same year, he beat a charge of drunk driving by convincing a jury that police had mishandled evidence and that his eyes were bloodshot because of "allergies."
There's a good chance that only one of the two Democrats will make it to November. Republican Gordon Fisher is the only other candidate on the ballot and Obama carried this seat 65-33, so Fisher has the opportunity to consolidate the GOP vote in June and take one of the general election spots.
● CA-36: Obama only carried this Palm Springs-area seat 51-48, but Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz pulled off a 54-46 win during the 2014 GOP wave. This time, the GOP is fielding state Sen. Jeff Stone, who faces only minor intra-party competition in June. Ruiz is a strong fundraiser, and Stone's first quarter fundraising report will help tell us if the Republican is capable of defeating him. Daily Kos Elections rates this seat as Likely Democratic.
● CA-44: Rep. Janice Hahn is leaving this safely blue seat to run for the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and state Democrats have largely consolidated behind state Sen. Isadore Hall. Hall's main foe is former Hermosa Beach Mayor Nanette Barragan. Barragan's former constituency is outside the district but she grew up in the 44th, and she may be able to appeal to the large Latino electorate here. The League of Conservation Voters and EMILY's List are both backing Barragan, which could help her get her name out. Five minor Democrats and two Some Dude Republicans are running here: Obama won 85 percent here: It won't be easy for one of the two Republicans to take a general election spot, though it's not impossible.
● CA-46: Rep. Loretta Sanchez is leaving this safely blue Orange County seat behind to run for the Senate, and three Democrats are trying to succeed her. Ex-state Sen. Lou Correa, who represented about three-quarters of this turf in the legislature until 2014, has the endorsements of Southern California House members who have taken sides here, and he likely has a big name recognition edge.
Joe Dunn, who represented that very state Senate seat as Correa until 2006, has been winning labor endorsements. However, Dunn was fired from his job as executive director of the State Bar of California in 2014 and he has been involved in a messy lawsuit with them. The bar recently released a report claiming that Dunn acted irresponsibly and repeatedly failed to give the board important information. Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen is also running, but he hasn't raised much money and most of his constituency is in another district. Four minor Republicans are seeking this seat, so there's a good chance they'll split the vote enough for two Democrats to advance to November.
● CA-52: Democratic Rep. Scott Peters narrowly won a second term in 2014 and national Republicans have indicated that they plan to target him again. Peters' main Republican foe is Karl Rove protégé Denise Gitsham, who has so far raised a decent amount of cash. Gitsham needs to get past retired Marine Jacquie Atkinson, but Atkinson has been a lackluster fundraiser. While national Republicans would love to beat Peters, local business conservatives seem just fine with him, since the powerful San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce endorsed him over the summer. Obama won this seat 52-46; Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Democratic.
● FL-23: On Monday, law professor Tim Canova announced that he had raised a hefty $557,000 for his primary campaign against Democratic incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz. While Wasserman Schultz has made several intra-party enemies as DNC chair she is still well-connected, and she's not going to lack money either. On Tuesday, Wasserman Schultz announced that she had hauled in $614,000 over the first three months of the year, a good indication that she's taking her race seriously. The primary for this safely blue South Florida seat is in late August.
● PA-08: State Rep. Steve Santarsiero has picked up yet another labor endorsement, this time from the state branch of the AFL-CIO. Santarsiero faces businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton in the April 26 Democratic primary for this swing seat.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Stephen Wolf.