● PA-Sen: It looks like that massive infusion of outside spending from the DSCC, EMILY's List, and labor unions on behalf of Katie McGinty might be paying off. A new Monmouth poll of next week's Democratic primary finds McGinty tied with ex-Rep. Joe Sestak at 39 apiece, which stands in contrast to every other poll taken this year, all of which have found Sestak ahead. However, this is Monmouth's first survey of the race, so we don't have any direct trendlines to compare to.
Sestak's allies are still fighting, though. According to Andrea Drusch at the National Journal, a pro-Sestak super PAC called Accountable Leadership is throwing down another $650,000 to air a new ad supporting Sestak. The spot, which isn't particularly hard-hitting, says that Sestak is the only Democrat "who supports a freeze on fracking to protect our environment." Drusch adds the DSCC is also adding another $300,000 to their buy, which brings the group's spending here to $1.5 million.
● AZ-Sen: Ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward had trouble raising money throughout 2015 for her primary campaign against GOP Sen. John McCain, and the new year hasn't treated her any better. Ward took in just $178,000 from January to March, and she has only $259,000 on hand. No major groups have shown any interest in helping Ward, but McCain's allies aren't taking any chances in the late August primary. A group called Arizona Grassroots Action is up with a spot portraying Ward as weak on national security. There is no word on the size of the buy.
● IA-Sen: There was no question that national Democrats are eager to see former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge take on GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, so it's likewise no surprise that the DSCC has now formally endorsed her. Judge faces a primary with state Sen. Rob Hogg, who has the support of many of his fellow legislators but has raised little money. It's not clear whether Judge needs any help getting past Hogg, or whether the DSCC would do more than issue a press release, but it's possible that this is just a signal to donors, since Judge's fundraising (she took in just $215,000 in her first month on the trail) could use a boost.
● IN-Sen: Wednesday was not a good day for Marlin Stutzman's campaign for the GOP nod. The AP's Brian Slodysko broke the news that Stutzman's Senate campaign had spent thousands of dollars on a family vacation to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California; Stutzman's spokesman said the candidate was there for campaign work, though he didn't go into detail. Slodysko also reports that since 2010, Stutzman has billed his campaign about $130,000 in airfare and hotels, far more than intra-party rival and fellow Rep. Todd Young's $27,000 during this time.
Stutzman has been running as a conservative farmer and attacking Young as a creature of Washington, but this story suggests that Stutzman has enjoyed the perks of politics a lot more than he's let on. At the very least, Stutzman has to deal with this story instead of focusing on Young. Election Day is just two weeks away, and any time Stutzman loses putting out this fire is time he won't get back. Of course, the real victim of all this may be Stutzman's kids. As community member WalterSobchak puts it, "When I think of a family trip to California, I imagine the beautiful beaches, or the beautiful forests, or Yosemite, or the amazing cities of LA or San Francisco, or even taking the kids to Disneyland. Stutzman took his kids to the Ronald Reagan library. They must've been so excited." In a just world, that would be fodder for a Young attack ad, but a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Ronnie is probably untouchable in GOP politics.
However, Stutzman has other problems besides bad publicity and bored children. Young's allies have been spending big in the lead up to the primary, and two groups are airing more commercials this week. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a new spot promoting Young as a strong conservative; there's no word on the size of the buy, but the Chamber has already spent $1 million here. The Senate Leadership Fund is also returning to the airwaves with a $515,000 buy. Their commercial accuses Stutzman of voting against key national security funding.
Stutzman's own allies don't seem to be in any hurry to help him fight back. The deep-pocketed Club for Growth endorsed Stutzman a long time ago but they've never aired any ads for him. The Club is helping Jim Banks in the primary for Stutzman's old House seat, and they just announced that they would spend $1 million to try and stop Donald Trump in Indiana. However, when asked if they'd be devoting resources to help Stutzman, the group's president only said that they would "be watching closely and will make a decision as needed." That's not a very encouraging message for Stutzman, especially this close to Election Day.
The Club hasn't sounded very enthusiastic about Stutzman in a long time. Back in December, Nathan Gonzales noted that the Club omitted Stutzman from their end of the year fundraising email. While the Club made it clear that Stutzman remained their endorsed candidate, they offered up only a bland "[t]hroughout the campaign season, the Club's PACs shift priorities among the endorsed candidates, especially as new ones are added," to justify why they were leaving Stutzman out.
Stutzman replaced most of his senior campaign team last fall, a good indication that things were not going well for him at the time. Stutzman's fundraising plunged afterwards and while there haven't been any big shakeups since then, it sounds like the Club is still convinced that Stutzman just isn't a good investment. Stutzman's team still hasn't announced his first quarter haul, which indicates that they're not proud of how much money they've raised in 2016. By contrast, Brian Howey says that "[n]o non-incumbent Hoosier has ever raised as much money as Young has in this primary race." There haven't been any polls here at all, but it definitely feels like things are going Young's way.
● KS-Sen, 04: At the beginning of the month, Rep. Mike Pompeo refused to rule out a primary campaign against Sen. Jerry Moran; Moran infuriated conservatives when he briefly broke ranks with Senate Republicans and called for a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama's nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. The NRSC, which Moran chaired last cycle, has tried to warn Pompeo off, but it doesn't seem to be working. On Wednesday, Pompeo said he'd announce his plans "soon" (Pompeo refused to define what "soon" meant).
If Pompeo goes after Moran, it will open up his safely red 4th District in Wichita, and one Republican is preparing accordingly. After meeting with Pompeo last week, state Treasurer Ron Estes announced on Tuesday that he was forming an exploratory committee. Estes made it clear that he won't challenge Pompeo if the congressman ends up seeking re-election. If this seat opens up, a number of other Republicans are likely to consider running. The filing deadline for the August primary is June 1.
● LA-Sen: On Tuesday, the Club for Growth endorsed Rep. John Fleming. The move isn't much of a surprise: While Fleming got to Congress just before the rise of the tea party, he's always appealed to anti-establishment conservatives. Fleming's two main Republican foes in the November jungle primary also aren't exactly the Club's type. Rep. Charles Boustany is close to the House leadership, while state Treasurer John Kennedy is hardly a conservative bomb thrower either. Tea partying 2014 candidate Rob Maness does speak the Club's language but while he could cost Fleming some votes, he doesn't have a good chance to advance to the December runoff.
As Rep. Marlin Stutzman is finding out the hard way in Indiana (see our IN-Sen item above), the Club's endorsement doesn't necessarily guarantee that they'll do much to help their candidates. But the Club usually spends big on people that they believe in and if they come to Fleming's aid in the fall, it'll go a long way toward helping him survive the crowded jungle primary and reach the runoff.
● MD-Sen: Labor groups have been some of Rep. Donna Edwards' biggest supporters in her primary fight with fellow Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, but it also turns out they're some of her biggest opponents, too. One labor-supported super PAC, Working for Us, has spent some $1.6 million on Edwards' behalf (which included a controversial ad about guns that the White House itself objected to), but another super PAC called the Committee for Maryland's Progress, which is mostly funded by 1199 SEIU, has now shelled out "close to $500,000" to stop Edwards.
1199 says that it's unhappy with Edwards because she supported the establishment of a new, non-union hospital that opened near a unionized hospital in Laurel, Maryland. (The union hospital has now been downgraded to an ambulatory-care facility.) The union also expressed displeasure over Edwards' allegedly weak constituent service. That's closer to the theme in CMP's ad, which accuses Edwards of being "ranked one of the least effective members of Congress—among Democrats, dead last." (In fact, that line is identical to one used in a recent Van Hollen attack ad.) The rest of the spot praises Van Hollen on guns, college loans, and Social Security.
Edwards, meanwhile, earned a late endorsement from Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who has earned national recognition for her prosecution of the police officers indicted for the killing of Freddie Gray. Mosby is also quite popular in Baltimore, and she's the most prominent elected official to back Edwards. However, the Mosby name may not have a ton of juice: Mosby's husband, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, recently dropped out of the race for mayor after going nowhere in the polls.
● NV-Sen: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is out with a pair of new TV ads, one in English and one in Spanish but both on similar themes. In the English spot, Masto confronts the fact that Nevada became the "foreclosure capital of America" with the advent of the Great Recession and touts her efforts as state attorney general to hold banks "accountable" and recover "$1.9 billion for Nevada homeowners." The Spanish ad hits a little harder, with a narrator saying (in a translation provided by the campaign) that "Latino families were victims of fraud and greed committed by the big banks" and that Masto investigated them and took them to court. The ad ends by saying that Masto is "de nuestra comunidad"—from our community, an attempt to emphasize Masto's Mexican ancestry (her father is from Mexico).
● WI-Sen: A new survey from St. Norbert College finds Democratic ex-Sen. Russ Feingold beating Republican Sen. Ron Johnson 51-41, which is virtually unchanged from the 51-40 lead the school showed for Feingold back in October. However, St. Norbert's final poll of the 2014 governor's race in Wisconsin was too optimistic for Democrats. It had Gov. Scott Walker winning by 1 point; his final margin was 6.
Feingold, meanwhile, is out with his second TV ad of the race, a well-produced response to a spot from a pro-Johnson super PAC that used scare-mongering footage of violent scenes abroad to tar Feingold as "weak" on security. Feingold's ad is narrated by a self-described "Vietnam combat veteran" who decries "politicians playing games with attack ads," then praises the Democrat's plan to "go after the terrorists' oil money and arms supplies" and to "get Middle Eastern states to take on terrorists in their own back yard."
● NRSC: In recent days, the DSCC has reportedly made some $37 million in fall TV reservations, and now the NRSC has followed suit. According to Politico, Republicans have booked $28 million in TV time in five states: $6.8 million in New Hampshire, $6.7 million in Pennsylvania, $6.3 million in Nevada, $5.9 million in Ohio, and $2 million in Wisconsin. Democrats have also made reservations in Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio, as well as Florida and Colorado.
● FL-04: The field to succeed retiring Rep. Ander Crenshaw in this safely red seat is still taking shape, but the blog Florida Politics didn't waste much time commissioning a St. Pete Polls survey of a hypothetical August primary. They give ex-Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford a 49-13 lead over state Rep. Lake Ray, with state Rep. Jay Fant at 6. Rutherford is a declared candidate while Ray has formed an exploratory committee, but Fant is just reportedly considering; the poll did not include St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure, who is also in. And no, St. Pete Polls didn't test former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, who has been talked up as a potential candidate but hasn't actually expressed any interest publicly.
● FL-05: As expected, a federal court has rejected Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown's claims that Florida's new congressional map, imposed by the state Supreme Court, violated the Voting Rights Act. Brown had argued that black voters would not be able to elect their candidate of choice in the redrawn 5th District, but a three-judge panel shot that down, saying Brown had "not produced evidence" to show that such an outcome would result.
In response, Brown said, "I intend to declare my candidacy" for the still safely Democratic 5th District, but adds, "I am still mulling my options." Previously, Brown had also said she might run in the open 10th District, which is itself solidly blue. It's also conceivable she could appeal her case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it's unlikely she'd meet with more luck there.
The 5th is certainly the better alternative. Several strong contenders are already running in the 10th, but the only notable Democrat to file in the 5th so far is former state Sen. Al Lawson, and he's an even worse fundraiser than Brown. The congresswoman took in just $69,000 in the first quarter of 2016 and has $71,000 in the bank, but Lawson raised just $22,000 and has the same amount on hand. Lawson does have the advantage of having represented the new Tallahassee end of the district, where Brown has never gone before voters, but this is shaping up to be a battle between two very weak candidates.
● FL-13: On behalf of the blog Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls takes another look at the late August Democratic primary for this redrawn seat, and they continue to find ex-Gov. Charlie Crist looking like a lock. They give Crist a 70-18 lead over former Department of Defense Official Eric Lynn, which isn't too different from the 71-11 edge PPP found last month for an unidentified client.
One of Lynn's big problems is that both polls show him with little name recognition. Lynn may be able to solve that issue since he actually has more money in the bank than Crist. As of March 31, Lynn edged Crist $625,000 to $604,000 in cash-on-hand. However, a good deal of that money came from early in 2015, when Lynn was running against Republican Rep. David Jolly in what was a swing seat. But redistricting transformed the 13th into a 55-44 Obama district and once Crist started making noises about running, Lynn's fundraising dramatically slowed. (Jolly ended up bailing to run for the Senate.) Crist outraised Lynn $271,000 to $107,000 in the first three months of 2016, and he'll probably have more cash than Lynn before too long.
However, even if Lynn can get his name out, his bigger problem is that both polls show that Democratic primary voters like Crist. St. Pete Polls gives Crist a 75-16 favorable rating, while PPP pegs his score at 61-17. Yes, there are Democrats who don't trust Crist, who only became a Democrat on the eve of his unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial bid, but it doesn't look like there are enough of them to cost him a win in August. Lynn has the resources to put up a real fight, but there's no doubt that he has a tough task ahead of him. Republicans hoped that ex-St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker would run here but he recently declined, and it doesn't sound like Team Red has a credible second-choice. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this as Likely Democratic.
● GA-03: We expected the May primary for this safely red seat to be a battle between state Sen. Mike Crane and businessman Jim Pace, but the campaign finance reports tell another story. Not too surprisingly, Pace, who is close to Chick-fil-A head Dan Cathy, gave his campaign $268,000 of his own money while raising $104,000 from donors, and he has $330,000 in the bank.
However, it's West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson and not Crane who seems to be emerging as Pace's main rival. Ferguson raised $216,000 during the opening quarter of 2016, though he has only $120,000 in the bank. Crane brought in just $94,000, and he has $77,000 to spend. West Point is a very small town so it doesn't seem to offer Ferguson much of a donor base. But as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tamar Hallerman explains, Ferguson raised plenty of cash from fellow dentists. If no one takes a majority of the vote in the May primary, there will be a July runoff.
● NY-22: Republicans are hosting a three-way primary in late June for this swingy upstate seat, and conservative Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney is arguing she has the edge. Tenney showed Politico a Barry Zeplowitz & Associates survey that was conducted for her campaign last week that gives her a 48-13 lead over ex-Broome County Legislator George Phillips, with businessman Steve Wells at 9. Tenney, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Richard Hanna in the 2014 primary and planned to run against him again before he retired this cycle, is very much not the choice of national Republicans. While the NRCC added Phillips and Wells to their Young Guns program, they notably snubbed Tenney.
However, even if Tenney has the edge right now (and of course, internal polls always need to be taken with a few grains of salt), she may not be able to hold it. As of March 31, Wells led Tenney in cash-on-hand $256,000 to $136,000. Tenney raised a pretty weak $66,000 for the quarter (though she loaned herself another $50,000), while Wells scooped in $262,000 and lent himself another $100,000. Wells undoubtedly starts out with less name recognition than Tenney, but it looks like he'll have the resources to get his name out in the next two months. By contrast, Phillips had just $126,000 on hand so while he also may have some room to grow, he'll probably have a tougher time than Wells introducing himself to voters.
Democrats are hoping to flip this seat in November, and national Democrats got some good news when Broome County Legislator Kim Myers entered the race. Myers raised a good $231,000 during the first month she was in the race, and she has about that much in the bank. Myers is the daughter of Dick's Sport Goods founder Dick Stack and while she's only done minimal self-funding so far, she may be able to write her campaign a few big checks if she needs more cash. Myers needs to get past ex-Oneida County Legislator Dave Gordon, a self-described conservative, in the primary, but that shouldn't be an issue: Gordon had just $66.06 in the bank (not a typo) at the end of March.
Rich guy Martin Babinec will be on the fall ballot as the Independence Party's nominee and while his chances aren't great, he has already loaned his campaign $1 million. It's unclear at this point which party Babinec is more likely to hurt in November. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● PA-09: House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster is up with one last ad ahead of his Tuesday primary showdown with businessman Art Halvorson in this safely red seat. Shuster's spot touts his conservative credentials and local roots. The narrator doesn't mention Halvorson but he throws in a quick shot at "[d]esperate politicians attacking Bill Shuster [who] don't get it and they don't get us."
Shuster has massively outspent Halvorson on the airwaves, and Shuster's allies have also run ads here in the closing days. However, Shuster decisively outspent Halvorson and another primary opponent last cycle only to finish with just 53 percent of the vote. Shuster also has earned some bad headlines over the last year after he helped pass a bill favorable to the airline industry while dating an airline lobbyist, and the story hasn't gone away. There's no polling here and while Halvorson hasn't run a particularly strong campaign, it makes sense for Shuster to keep campaigning hard until the end.
● WA-07: It looks like we may just have a real life "Distinguished Gentleman" situation on our hands. In the deeply unpopular but nevertheless memorable 1992 comedy, Eddie Murphy plays a Florida hustler named Thomas Jefferson Johnson who seizes upon the idea of running for Congress when his representative, who just happens to be named Jeff Johnson, dies in office. Dropping his first name, Murphy's character successfully runs for office on the slogan: "Jeff Johnson: The name you know."
Out in Seattle, the name they know is Jim McDermott, the Democratic congressman and progressive stalwart who has represented Washington's 7th District since 1989. His two seemingly most prominent successors are state Rep. Bradley Walkinshaw and state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, and indeed, they've both raised the most money. But a third candidate in the race just happens to be King County Councilman Joe McDermott, and he's released a new poll of August's top-two primary from EMC Research that gives him a hefty 35 percent of the vote, with Jayapal and Walkinshaw far back at 9 and 7 points, respectively.
McDermott's pollsters tried to anticipate exactly our reaction by noting in their memo, "Survey respondents were also asked about incumbent Congressman Jim McDermott, so it is not the case that Joe McDermott's name ID is because people think he is Jim." Well, they can certainly wish for that to be so, but just because they asked a separate question on favorability ratings that included both Joe and Jim McDermott doesn't mean voters don't associate the two men. Indeed, Joe McDermott's reported name recognition is so much higher than Jayapal's or Walkinshaw's—and they are all similarly situated local elected officials—that it's hard not to imagine respondents are bestowing some McDermott love on the county councilman (who is not related to the congressman).
But so what if they are? Yeah, "Jeff" Johnson was a con artist, but there's nothing wrong with sharing a famous name. Obviously everyone running for office wants to win because of his or her own qualifications, but if the McDermott name helps Joe to earn a spot in the November general election, then that's simply democracy at work. Call it a bug rather than a feature, but there are many worse problems to worry about. And for all we know, it won't work: Jayapal and Walkinshaw are both well-regarded and will work hard to boost their own names ahead of the primary. "The Distinguished Gentleman" was, after all, just a movie.
● NY State Senate: In a very important special election on Long Island Tuesday night, Democratic Assembly Todd Kaminsky looks to have defeated Republican attorney Chris McGrath in the race to replace former GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was automatically expelled from the Senate after his conviction on corruption charges last year. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kaminsky led by 780 votes, a margin of 50.0 percent to 48.8 percent, prompting him to declare victory on election night. According to election officials, there are still some 2,700 absentee ballots left to count, but more were cast by registered Democrats than Republicans, and it's extremely unlikely that they could alter the outcome.
While the 9th District voted for Barack Obama by a 54-46 margin, Nassau County has long been a Republican stronghold downballot—in fact, Kaminsky would become the only Democratic state senator on all of Long Island—and a late poll from Siena College showed McGrath with an 8-point lead. What's more, the competitive GOP presidential primary had generally boosted Republican turnout in earlier states, so Democrats had reasons to fret. However, more Democrats than Republicans wound up turning out to vote in the primary in Nassau, which may have boosted Kaminsky's fortunes.
With this apparent victory, there will now nominally be 32 Democrats in the state Senate, versus 31 Republicans. However, the GOP will retain control of the chamber thanks to five turncoat Democrats who are members of the so-called Independent Democratic Conference that operates in a coalition with the Republicans. But even if the IDC were to return to the fold, a sixth renegade Democrat, Simcha Felder, outright caucuses with the GOP and had previously said that wouldn't change even if Kaminsky won.
Still, the likely pickup here speaks well to Democrats' chances of making further gains in the Senate this fall, when the presidential election should juice Democratic turnout. Democrats would still need six more seats to render the IDC and Felder irrelevant, a task made very difficult by the absurd GOP gerrymander that's the only thing keeping Republicans in power. But a few more Republican losses might nevertheless cause the IDC to reconsider, and finally restore the Democratic majority that New York, a deep blue state, wants and deserves.
● Special Elections: New York hosted two other special elections on Tuesday. Johnny Longtorso gives us a recap:
New York AD-59: Democrat Jaime Williams easily prevailed here, defeating Republican Jeffrey Ferretti by an 81-19 margin.
New York AD-65: Democrat Alice Cancel won this seat with 41 percent of the vote, fending off a challenge from Working Families Party nominee Yuh-Line Niou, who came in second with 35 percent. Republican Lester Chang was third with 20 percent, while Green Party candidate Dennis Levy pulled in the remaining 4 percent.
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.