● AZ-01: Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu might be one of the most tainted candidates to run for Congress in quite some time. According to local news station ABC15, the FBI has been interviewing people in connection with the sheriff's office's alleged misuse of funds seized under the RICO law, including claims that such money has been used in ways to benefit Babeu's congressional campaign. Allegations of abusive forfeiture practices by the sheriff's office were previously raised last year, when the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Babeu (in conjunction with the high-powered law firm of Perkins Coie) over the issue, charging that Babeu has funneled improperly seized assets to a non-profit run by some of his employees.
Earlier this year, Babeu was exposed in a home video speaking warmly about the abusive treatment of students a school for troubled youth he once ran had engaged in—after long denying he ever had any knowledge of the abuse. And in 2012, Babeu made national headlines when, during his first (abortive) bid for the House, a former lover of his charged that Babeu had threatened him with deportation if he did not keep silent about their relationship. (Babeu denied the allegations but did acknowledge he was gay.)
This reputation for scumbaggery is almost impressive, but will it hurt him in the August GOP primary for this competitive seat? Babeu's released a series of polls (including one just the other day) showing him with big leads on his Republican rivals, but the attack ads have yet to fly. We'll see what happens once they do.
1Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our first quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in.
● FL-Sen: Ron DeSantis (R): $1.1 million raised, $3.2 million cash-on-hand
● OH-Sen: Ted Strickland (D): $1.5 million raised, $2.7 million cash-on-hand
● CA-24: Matt Kokkonen (R): $211,000 self-funded, $197,000 cash-on-hand
● IL-10: Bob Dold! (R-inc): $730,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
● MD-04: Glenn Ivey (D): $280,000 raised
● NH-01: Pam Tucker (R): $101,000 raised, $88,000 cash-on-hand
● MD-Sen: While recent press reports said that Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen was going up on the air in the DC media market, his newest ad will be airing in Baltimore, according to a campaign press release. In the spot, a pair of state senators (both of whom are African American women) praise Van Hollen for tackling the issue of unequal funding of schools in poorer areas.
● OH-Sen: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been attacking Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland on the airwaves since last summer, but now, according to Politico's Kevin Robillard, they're getting serious, with a $642,000 ad buy over the next couple of weeks. The spot attacks Strickland for job losses in Ohio during his tenure as governor, which of course are 100 percent his fault because there definitely wasn't something called the Great Recession that hit the entire global economy while he was in office.
● PA-Sen: Katie McGinty isn't the only candidate getting outside help in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary. A mystery super PAC called Accountable Leadership that's been supporting ex-Rep. Joe Sestak just threw in another $237,000 to help their man, bringing their total expenditures on the race to $754,000. The group has been airing an ad on Sestak's behalf, but there's no word as to whether this latest buy is for a new spot or just re-ups the old one. However, they only upload on their YouTube channel was from a month ago.
● WI-Sen: A new poll from Loras College finds Democratic ex-Sen. Russ Feingold leading GOP Sen. Ron Johnson 48-39, a somewhat wider margin than a trio of recent of surveys from different pollsters that have put Feingold up by 4, 5, and 7 points. It's also worth noting that Loras has never polled Wisconsin before, and their results last cycle out of their home state of Iowa left something to be desired: Loras' final poll of the 2014 Iowa Senate race gave Democrat Bruce Braley a 1-point lead; he lost by 8.
● CA-24: With two months to go before the top-two primary, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal is up with his first ad. The narrator lays out Carbajal's progressive record, noting that he supports Planned Parenthood and marriage equality, and that he defends the environment. The narrator then touches on his work on fiscal issues. He spends tax dollars wisely! He balances budgets! Santa Barbara County has its biggest rainy day fund in history and the best bond rating in California!
If that seems like a lot to cram into 30 seconds, that's because it is. The spot doesn't focus on any theme beyond something vague about how Carbajal's "values are Central Coast values." Instead, it's one of those spots that just throws out a ton of ideas and hopes something resonates with the audience. It's not a terrible commercial, but it is pretty unmemorable: If Carbajal had focused on just one issue or theme, this spot would have done a better job establishing him as something other than Some Democratic Politician.
There's no word on the size of the buy, but Carbajal's campaign says it's a "significant buy on multiple stations on all of the major timeslots throughout" the seat. Influential national and state Democrats are supporting Carbajal over Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider in June, while the GOP also is hosting a competitive intra-party fight; Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Democratic.
● CO-03: Democrats have landed yet another credible recruit (their third in just two days) in a seat that had been very much off the radar. On Friday, former state Sen. Gail Schwartz announced she'd run against GOP Rep. Scott Tipton and was immediately named to the DCCC's "Emerging Races" program. She also rolled out an endorsement from former Sen. Ken Salazar, a prominent member of Colorado's political establishment.
Tipton is a very tough target, though: His seat went for Mitt Romney by a 52-46 margin, which may not sound particularly steep, but House Democrats only hold three districts redder than that. What's more, Democrats had a legitimate contender against Tipton in 2012, then-state Rep. Sal Pace, but he lost by a pretty wide 53-41 score. Still, Schwartz could put this seat in play, so for that reason, we're moving this race from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.
● CO-05: Rep. Doug Lamborn only narrowly won his initial 2006 GOP primary, and local Republicans still haven't fully come around to him. Lamborn only defeated an underfunded foe 53-47 last cycle but until Friday, it looked like Lamborn's intra-party rivals were going to give him a break this cycle. However, it is not to be. Legislative aide Calandra Vargas took 58 percent of the delegates at the 5th District Republican Party convention, while Lamborn won just 35 percent. Lamborn needed at least 30 percent to make the June primary ballot so he will live to fight on, but he came shockingly close to a complete disaster.
Primaries are of course different animals than conventions, so Lamborn's embarrassing performance doesn't mean he's doomed. Still, this incident just demonstrates how disliked Lamborn remains with many members of his party. Lamborn's record isn't an issue, he hasn't been touched by scandal, and his troubles pre-date the rise of the tea party. (Lamborn only took 44 percent in 2008). Instead, it seems that many conservatives just think he's an asshole.
Back in 2006, retiring Rep. Joel Hefley accused Lamborn of running the "most sleazy, dishonest campaign I've seen in a long, long time" after Lamborn defeated one of his former aides, and Hefley even flirted with running as a write-in to sabotage Lamborn in the general election. The bad blood never really went away, and Hefley continued to trash Lamborn years after leaving the political scene. Of course, Congress is full of assholes, but most of them get by just fine: It's rare to see someone struggle for so long just because he's personally disliked. Romney won this Colorado Springs seat 59-38, and the GOP nominee won't have much trouble here in November.
● FL-01: James Zumwalt, a veteran and former military legislative adviser for retiring Rep. Jeff Miller, entered the race to succeed his old boss on Thursday. Zumwalt joins state Rep. Matt Gaetz in the August primary for this safely red North Florida seat.
Gaetz reported raising $250,000 in just ten days and self-funding another $100,000. State Sen. Greg Evers has been flirting with a bid, and one group is arguing that he'd be the frontrunner if he got in despite Gaetz's fundraising head start. On Thursday, Citizens for a Just Government released a poll giving Evers a 23-13 edge over Gaetz. The group told us over email that the poll was conducted "in-house, using our own research resources."
● IL-10: A new robopoll conducted in-house at the DCCC finds Democratic ex-Rep. Brad Schneider leading GOP Rep. Bob Dold! by a 42-33 margin. That's virtually the same spread as an earlier D-Trip poll from last September that had Schneider up 37-29. The only other survey we've seen of this rematch came from Clarity Campaigns back in August, which had Dold ahead 44-40. But Clarity, it should be noted, was polling on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, which has, since that time, shamefully endorsed Dold.
● MN-02: Tea party activist David Gerson lost the 2012 GOP primary to Rep. John Kline 85-15 and fell to him at the 2014 state party convention, and it originally looked like he'd be little more than an afterthought in this year's open seat race to succeed Kline. However, the Star Tribune's Michael Brodkorb suggests that Gerson is far more important than we thought he'd be, calling him a "strong contender" to win the May 7 state party endorsement.
Taking the party endorsement isn't the same thing as winning the nomination, but it is very important in Minnesota: Many candidates and voters take it seriously, and some contenders will end their campaigns if they don't get it. Ex-conservative radio host Jason Lewis (who has drawn headlines for his on-air racist and sexist tirades) and Gerson both say they'll drop out if they don't win the endorsement. Businesswoman Darlene Miller, who has Kline's support, says she'll proceed to the August 9 primary no matter what, while ex-state Sen. John Howe says he'd only back the convention choice if the rest of the field agreed to do so.
It's impossible to handicap conventions, especially a month out. Brodkorb notes that Gerson has won some straw polls, but while those can give us an indication of how GOP activists are feeling, it's easy to place too much value in their predictive abilities. Democrats would be absolutely delighted if Gerson or Lewis took the endorsement and proceeded to win the primary in this competitive district, but it's far too early to know where either man really stands with the delegates. Still, it looks like Gerson is worth keeping an eye on for at least the next month.
● NH-01: Blargh. What an ugly mess that Democrats don't need. Self-funding businessman Shawn O'Connor says he's going to sue his primary opponent, ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, for defamation, claiming that she's accused him of domestic abuse through a "whispering campaign." Shea-Porter has denied the allegations, calling them "bizarre" and "untruthful." O'Connor, meanwhile, says that he was the victim of domestic abuse, and a Democratic state senator who endorsed him, David Pierce, claims a Shea-Porter confidante had pushed the O'Connor-as-abuser charge on him.
But Pierce wouldn't name names, and he admitted he didn't even know whether this unnamed, supposed rumor-monger was on Shea-Porter's paid staff, or whether Shea-Porter herself even had anything to do with the alleged matter. O'Connor is demanding Shea-Porter apologize; if she doesn't, he says he'll file a lawsuit in the "coming weeks." No matter what he thinks, though, this is not a winning move: Few primaries are won in court.
● NY-19: Law professor Zephyr Teachout brings some decided liabilities to her bid for Congress, such as her weak ties to New York's 19th Congressional District (she only recently moved there full-time), and her record as an outspoken liberal, which isn't apt to play well in an area that is still quite Republican. But thanks to her attention-grabbing primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014, Teachout did also offer the promise of strong fundraising thanks to the network she built up during that run, and she has indeed delivered. Even though she's only been running for about two months, Teachout says she raised an impressive $530,000 in the first quarter of the year, mostly relying on small donations. (She says her average contribution was $40.)
Funds like that can help mitigate some of Teachout's issues, but with the primary not until June, we're still a ways away from the inevitable attacks the GOP will launch against her. In the meantime, though, this should be more than enough to overpower her lone Democratic opponent, Livingston Town Councilman Will Yandik, who almost certainly can't match Teachout's haul.
● PA-02: State Rep. Dwight Evans, who is challenging indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah in the April 26 Democratic primary for this safely blue Philadelphia seat, is out with his second ad of the race. The spot notes that Evans is supported by ex-Gov. Ed Rendell, Gov. Tom Wolf, and—quite surprisingly—ex-Philly Mayor Michael Nutter.
What makes this so surprising is that Nutter, who left office at the beginning of the year, has long looked like he was in Fattah's corner. When Fattah was indicted on corruption charges over the summer, Nutter declined to call for his resignation. In September, the National Journal wrote that Nutter "continue[s] to back the congressman," though—perhaps in a hint of things to come—the article didn't quote the former mayor, and he hasn't said much, if anything, about this race.
Adding to the strangeness, there've been no media reports whatsoever that Nutter has thrown his backing behind Evans, and Evans' own website doesn't even feature a proper press release with what should have been a big announcement. It seems very odd that someone as high-profile as Nutter could have endorsed Evans and made zero news. And in another odd twist, current Philadelphia Mayor Jim Keeney, who did definitively endorse Evans a few months ago, isn't mentioned in the spot at all. All in all, this is an extremely unusual way to roll out an endorsement.
The rest of Evans' spot is pretty conventional, with the narrator promoting his record helping urban areas and protecting women's rights. Like Evans' first ad, there's no mention of Fattah, though it's probably not an accident that the narrator calls Evans "an honest, progressive choice."
Fattah himself won't be airing many ads considering that, as of the end of last year, he had just $8,000 in the bank. Fattah did receive the endorsements from the state AFL-CIO and SEIU, though it's unclear how much work they plan to do for him in the next few weeks.
● TN-03: Filing closed Thursday for Tennessee's Aug. 4 primary, and the state has a list of candidates here. Note that unlike many other Southern states, there is no primary runoff here.
For the first time, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann will have an easy primary in this safely red seat. Fleischmann only won 39-31 during his 2012 re-election campaign, and he scored just a 51-49 victory last cycle. However, this time Fleischmann only faces Allan Levene, a Georgia resident who is infamous for running for the House in multiple states in the same election cycle.
● TN-04: Last cycle, Rep. Scott DesJarlais pulled off a miraculous 38-vote win in the primary for this safely red seat. In 2012, voters learned that the married congressman had affairs with several of his patients while he was a practicing physician, and that he tried to convince at least one to get an abortion. Former Romney aide Grant Starrett is hoping that he can finish DesJarlais off this time. DesJarlais' fundraising has been poor ever since the scandal broke and as of the end of 2015, Starrett held a strong $729,000 to $241,000 cash-on-hand edge.
However, Starrett does have his own weaknesses. Starrett, who is 28, only moved to Tennessee from California for law school, and DesJarlais isn't being shy about portraying him as an outsider. So far, Starrett also hasn't been doing much to remind voters about the congressman's ethical problems. Last time, DesJarlais' primary foe, state Sen. Jim Tracy, dramatically outspent DesJarlais but didn't focus on his scandal, a mistake that almost certainly made the difference. Two minor Republicans are running, and they could take a few anti-DesJarlais votes from Starrett.
● TN-06: In a last-minute surprise, ex-state Rep. Joe Carr has filed to challenge Rep. Diane Black in the primary for this safely red Middle Tennessee seat. Carr ran a tea party-flavored campaign against Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 primary: Carr didn't raise much money or get any influential outside support, and he lost 50-41. However, Carr did well in the Nashville area, and according to our calculations, he actually carried the 6th 49-44.
Black is very conservative, but she's been close to the House leadership. Black only narrowly defeated Lou Ann Zelenik in the 2010 open seat primary, but she easily beat Zelenik 69-31 in their 2012 rematch, so she doesn't appear to be vulnerable. Black is also very wealthy, so she won't need to worry about outspending Carr at all. Two minor Republicans are also in.
● TN-08: We have a very crowded GOP primary for this open and safely red West Tennessee seat. The early frontrunner looks like Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who is well-connected and runs the region's most populous county. But Luttrell will need to get past state Sen. Brian Kelsey, ex-U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, and Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood in August; rich guy George Flinn is also running, but he has an awful electoral track record. Eight other Republicans are also running and while they all look like Some Dudes, it's possible one of them is made of sterner stuff.
● TN-09: Rep. Steve Cohen won last cycle's Democratic primary 66-33, his closest result since his initial 2006 victory, but he looks like he's in better shape this cycle. Cohen will face Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford in the primary for this safely blue Memphis seat: Ford comes from a prominent local political family (his relatives represented this seat for 32 years), but he's had some problems in recent years.
While Ford is a Democrat, he's often sided with Republicans on the county commission, and other Democratic members sued him in 2014 over his performance as chair. Ford dropped his mayoral bid to run for Memphis city clerk court last year, but he ended up taking just fifth place with only 10 percent of the vote. As a white man representing a predominantly black district, Cohen has never been immune from a primary challenge, but it doesn't look like Ford has the chops to succeed where so many other local politicians have failed and actually unseat Cohen. Two perennial candidates are also running here.
● DCCC: On Friday, the DCCC added six new candidates to its "Emerging Races" program, which features contests the committee thinks have the potential to blossom into top-tier competitions. In addition to ex-state Sen. Gail Schwartz (see our CO-03 item above), the D-Trip has taken note of the following candidates:
CA-25: Attorney Bryan Caforio
NY-21: Ret. Army Col. Mike Derrick
NY-22: Broome County Legislator Kim Myers
VA-04: State Sen. Don McEachin
WI-08: Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson
All of these seats represent pickup opportunities for Democrats, though VA-04 is pretty much a gimme for McEachin (thanks to redistricting) while the other four will be much more difficult to flip.
● St. Louis, MO Mayor: Francis Slay, the longest-serving mayor of St. Louis, surprised political observers on Friday when he announced that he would not seek a fifth four-year term next year. Slay's decision is sure to set off a crowded Democratic primary in March of 2017. It only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to victory here.
St. Louis Democratic politics tends to be very racially polarized. In 2013, Slay, who is white, defeated Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, an African American, 54-44. Reed has made it clear that he plans to try again, and other local politicians are making noises about running. Alderman Antonio French (who rose to prominence in 2014 by documenting the protests in nearby Ferguson on Twitter), said Friday that he will be "considering my options in the next few months for the best way to help the city move forward." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also names many other potential contenders.
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.