● CA-Sen: With the GOP presidential primary effectively ending this week, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez's chances to get to the general election are looking better than ever. As The Los Angeles Times' Phil Willon notes, GOP turnout is likely to be a lot smaller for the June top-two primary than it would have if Ted Cruz was still trying to stop Donald Trump in the Golden State. However, with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton still waging an expensive campaign in California, casual Democratic primary voters are still likely to show up.
Polls show that Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is the heavy favorite to grab one of the two general election spots, and Sanchez is likely to take second. The GOP has a few little-known contenders to choose from, and it's looked unlikely for a while that one of them will be able to deny Sanchez a place in the general; with GOP turnout likely to be relatively low next month, Sanchez is likely to get her chance to take on Harris in November.
Harris will still be the clear favorite even if she has to face a fellow Democrat. Harris is backed by plenty of powerful national and state Democrats, and she's consistently outraised Sanchez. The congresswoman is the more conservative of the two contenders, and she's likely to win the Republican vote in an all-Democratic general. Still, Sanchez will need to overwhelmingly win Republicans and do very well with independents, all while holding on to a big share of Democratic voters, which won't be easy to pull off. Harris would still be the candidate to beat, but Sanchez can't be counted out this early.
● CO-Sen: Jon Keyser had a little problem: The former state representative got knocked off the Republican primary ballot for failing to submit a sufficient number of valid signatures. But he solved that issue by getting a court to agree that his glitches were merely technical in nature and thereby restore his ballot spot. Now, however, Jon Keyser has a much bigger problem: Pamela Niemczyk, a Republican voter who signed a petition for another candidate, former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham, says that her signature was forged on one of Keyser's petitions. Yeah, not good.
The alleged fraud was first uncovered by a progressive advocacy group called ProgressNow Colorado, which says it conducted only a "cursory review" of "just a sample" of Keyser's petitions. In its brief analysis, though, ProgressNow adds that it found other signatures in Keyser's submissions that were duplicates of Graham's; under Colorado law, voters can only sign one petition, and if they sign more than one, that signature is valid only for the candidate who filed his petitions first—in this case, Graham.
The secretary of state's office says it's reviewing why it failed to catch the fake Niemczyk signature but also says that Keyser will remain on the ballot, thanks to that court ruling ordering him back on. It's therefore not clear what might happen if more problems are discovered with Keyser's signatures, but it would look awful—both for Keyser and the secretary of state—if he were permitted to keep his ballot line should he once again fall below the minimum signature threshold.
Meanwhile, two other candidates who also got bounced from the ballot, rich guy Robert Blaha and former Aurora City Councilor Ryan Frazier, are both in court this week in an attempt to overturn the secretary of state's decision in each of their cases. However, their signature problems sound worse than Keyser's were—at least, version one of Keyser's problems. For Blaha and Frazier, at least, we should get a verdict soon. Keyser's woes may yet linger.
● LA-Sen: Rep. John Fleming, one of the three major Republicans running in November's jungle primary, is already going up with his first TV spot. The narrator tells the audience that Fleming's "never had it easy," describing how he was the one who had to provide for his family when he was only a teenager, and that he worked his way through college before he served in the military. The narrator goes on to tout Fleming's career as a physician (with an obligatory shot of Fleming in a white lab coat with a stethoscope) and small businessman.
But the best part is when Fleming is praised for taking on his own party, "leading the way in removing John Boehner as speaker of the House." Yes, Fleming is a member of the infamous Freedom Caucus that convinced Boehner to ditch Congress, but it's tough to believe that Boehner specifically had Fleming on his mind when he quit last year. Of course, given what a pain in the ass Fleming has been for even his allies, Boehner probably wasn't devastated to lose Fleming as a co-worker.
● NV-Sen: The Koch-based group Freedom Partners is launching a $1 million ad campaign against ex-state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat. Their first spot is pretty weird: The narrator bemoans how the housing crisis hit Nevada hard, before accusing Masto of giving "a sweetheart contract worth millions to a DC law firm, that then donated thousands to her political campaigns." What's odd is that the commercial doesn't actually bother to establish a link between the housing crisis and the law firm, it just lurches from one idea to the next. The group's second spot accuses Masto of jetting off to luxury conferences on the taxpayer's dime and also of having "outsourced her work to high-priced DC lawyers" who then donated to her.
The Las Vegas Sun's Megan Messerly explains the background of these ads. In 2009, Masto signed a contract with the DC firm Cohen Milstein to "litigate fraudulent mortgage lending practices on behalf of the state during the foreclosure crisis." The firm would only get paid if they got a successful suit or settlement, which they did. Cohen Milstein negotiated a $38 million settlement with Bank of America, and they got a $5.6 million award from it; six partners donated to Masto's successful 2010 re-election campaign. Of course, the Kochs aren't going to highlight that Masto hired a team that won a settlement during the housing crisis, so they're hoping to portray her as corrupt. Masto will likely face GOP Rep. Joe Heck in November in a contest both parties are going to work hard to win.
● OH-Sen: The Constitutional Responsibility Project, a pro-Democratic group, is airing an ad attacking GOP Sen. Rob Portman for his support of the Republican blockade of Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court. The spot is essentially identical to a previous ad the organization recently launched hitting another Republican senator, Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey. CRP declined to divulge the size of its buy.
● IN-Gov: Democratic nominee John Gregg is launching his first TV spot in his rematch with Republican incumbent Mike Pence. Gregg decries Indiana's economic state without mentioning Pence directly, saying that while "politicians say there are more jobs, your pocketbook tells you the truth." Gregg continues by insisting that "Democrats, Republicans, and independents all have good ideas," and says that he believes "in hard work and higher take-home pay instead of higher taxes, and in helping those who need and deserve it."
● CA-24: Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's another Salud Carbajal ad! Yes, the well-funded Santa Barbara County supervisor is out with his fourth ad ahead of the June 7 top-two primary. This time Carbajal, the favorite candidate of influential national and state Democrats, features several college students noting that they're graduating with huge college debt. Carbajal then pledges to fight to expand Pell Grants, "allow students to refinance their loans," and "make community college tuition free." Carbajal is competing with fellow Democrat Helene Schneider, the mayor of Santa Barbara, for a spot in the general in this 54-43 Obama seat.
● CA-31: It's hard to see Republicans unseating freshman Democrat Pete Aguilar in this 57-41 Obama seat in a presidential year, but Republican economist Sean Flynn has been doing some real self-funding. Flynn, the author of "Economics for Dummies," has loaned his campaign $350,000, and he had $390,000 in the bank at the end of March. Flynn is using his cash to go up with his first spot ahead of the June top-two primary, which his campaign says is running for "six-figures."
Flynn's spot features cardboard cutouts of Aguilar as well as 2014 GOP nominee Paul Chabot and Joe Baca, a former Democratic congressman running as a Republican. All three fall down as the narrator proclaims they're "dummy politicians who don't have a clue." The rest of the spot focuses on Flynn's conservative economic views.
● GA-03: A few days ago, the NRA endorsed state Sen. Mike Crane, one of three notable Republicans competing in the May 24 primary for this safely red seat. It's unclear if the NRA actually plans to air any ads for Crane, who has struggled with fundraising. However, the organization's seal-of-approval carries plenty of weight with conservatives, and Crane will likely be reminding voters he's their man every chance he gets.
● GA-11: Self-funding businessman Daniel Cowan is freshman Barry Loudermilk's main foe in the May 24 GOP primary but another candidate, CPA William Llop, is going up with a TV spot. While Cowan's opening ad was positive, Llop's commercial immediately blasts the incumbent. The narrator says that Loudermilk voted to fund Planned Parenthood and Syrian refugee resettlement, before promoting Llop as a family man.
Llop only had $34,000 in the bank at the end of March (all from a $50,000 loan) so this ad probably doesn't have much cash behind it; the campaign only said, "This spot is currently being aired on cable TV inside the 11th district with an expanded ad buy planned for next week." If no one takes a majority in the primary, there will be a runoff in late July. This suburban Atlanta seat is safely red.
● IN-03: The Club for Growth had a bad night on Tuesday after their $1.6 million campaign against Donald Trump failed to do much to stop him from taking the Indiana primary (though they wisely decided not to waste money propping up Marlin Stutzman's doomed Senate bid), but they did get one win. State Sen. Jim Banks defeated well-connected farmer Kip Tom 34-31, with state Sen. Liz Brown taking 25. The powerful anti-tax group spent $266,000 for Banks, which probably made the difference in this tight race. Banks should have no problem winning the general in this 63-36 Romney Fort Wayne seat.
● IN-08: It was always very tough to see GOP Rep. Larry Buchson losing the general in this 58-40 Romney seat, and now it's all but impossible. While David Orentlicher had a non-trivial $202,000 in the bank in mid-April, he appears to have narrowly lost Tuesday's Democratic primary to fellow ex-state Rep. Ron Drake. Drake himself had less than $2,000 in the bank.
● IN-09: It seems that money can still buy you love. On Tuesday, wealthy carpetbagger Trey Hollingsworth defeated state Sen. Erin Houchin 34-25 to take the GOP nod for this reliably red southern Indiana seat; Attorney General Greg Zoeller won just 22 percent.
It's not uncommon for rich people to win elections, but Hollingsworth had very little connection to this area. Hollingsworth moved from Tennessee to Indiana just before he launched his bid, but he quickly self-funded his way into contention. Hollingsworth also got help from his father, who funded a super PAC that ran ads praising Hollingsworth and bashing Zoeller. Houchin, Zoeller, and state Sen. Brent Waltz had very little money between them, and none of them could effectively advertise. While Houchin ran an ad late in the race warning voters that Hollingsworth was "a Tennessee millionaire who just moved here to try and buy our seat in Congress," she didn't have the resources to blast that message far and wide.
Romney carried this district 57-41, and Hollingsworth should be the clear favorite against Monroe County Councilor Shelli Yoder in the fall. Yoder does have a decent $293,000 in the bank, but Hollingsworth can of course bury her in ads if he wants to. And even if Yoder can do what Hollingsworth's primary foes couldn't do and effectively hit Hollingsworth as an outsider, it may not be enough in a seat this red. In 2012, Republican Richard Mourdock lost his Senate race to Democrat Joe Donnelly 50-44, but Mourdock still narrowly carried the 9th. We'll keep an eye out to see if national Democrats decide to target this district, but for now, this race remains Safe Republican.
● NC-02: North Carolina's new congressional map (which still has not been approved in federal court) has pitted two Republican House members, George Holding and Renee Ellmers, against one another in the June 7 primary. Holding represents far more of this safely red Raleigh-area seat than Ellmers, but he's evidently not taking any chances next month. Holding's first spot features a woman telling the audience, "You've got to take Renee Ellmers with a grain of salt. She's just another Washington politician, and we've already got too many of those." She goes on to praise Holding as "a real conservative" who does what he says he'll do.
Before redistricting hit, Ellmers was locked in a tough re-nomination battle against a different opponent, but she had trouble raising cash. However, she finally had a strong quarter during the first three months of 2016, when she hauled in $410,000. But Holding, a well-connected former U.S. attorney, brought in $540,000 during this time, though Ellmers has a small $573,000 to $552,000 cash-on-hand edge. The wealthy Holding hasn't done any self-funding yet, but he shouldn't have any trouble outspending Ellmers if he feels he needs to. Greg Brannon, who took about a quarter of the vote in the 2014 and 2016 Senate primaries, is also running, but he faces very long odds. There is no runoff in North Carolina this year.
● NY-01: Ex-Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst is out with the first spot of the June 28 Democratic primary. Throne-Holst tells the audience, "They said we couldn't afford to help seniors, protect the environment, or attract good jobs. So I called for an audit and proved them wrong." Throne-Holst goes on to say she cut waste and debt and invested the savings in "new senior services, the environment and jobs," all without raising taxes. Throne-Holst faces venture capitalist David Calone next month; the winner will take on freshman Republican Lee Zeldin in a Long Island seat that Obama narrowly carried.
● NY-19: This sort of thing is going to get old fast, but businessman Andrew Heaney just became the first viable Republican House candidate running in a true swing seat to endorse Donald Trump's presidential bid. Heaney not only spoke out in favor of Trump but also criticized his GOP primary rival, former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, for "repeatedly dodg[ing] the Trump question." Then, to prove the depths of his new-found admiration for The Donald, Heaney declared that Trump is "in many ways is a favorite son" of Dutchess County (uh, yeah)—and that he wished Trump had run for governor in 2014! It sure will be interesting to see how Republicans try to out-Trump one another.
● NY-22: The Oneida Indian Nation has been involved in a long and ugly dispute with Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney over a revenue-sharing deal involving their Turning Stone Resort Casino. In 2014, the group donated at least $100,000 to a super PAC that opposed Tenney's campaign to unseat Rep. Richard Hanna in the GOP primary, and their relationship has only gotten worse since then: Tenney has denied that Ray Halbritter, the Oneida's representative, is actually a Native American, and she even called him "Spray Tan Ray" in 2015.
So it's not a surprise that the Oneida Indian Nation has announced that they'll be funding a new super PAC called Grow the Economy that will oppose Tenney in the three-way June 28 primary for this open swing seat. They haven't said how much they'll spend on this effort, but it probably won't be a small amount. An unanswered Tenney poll from mid-April gave her a strong 48-13 lead over ex-Broome County Legislator George Phillips, with businessman Steve Wells at 9. However, Tenney doesn't have much cash, so she may have a hard time fighting back against Grow the Economy's attacks.
● VA-10: While Democrats have, off and on, tried to capture Virginia's 10th Congressional District for years, it's a deceptively difficult seat for Team Blue. Mitt Romney carried it by just a 50-49 margin in 2012, but the following year, Democrat Ralph Northam only defeated Republican E.W. Jackson 52-48 in the race for lieutenant governor, even as Northam was winning a 55-45 blowout statewide. When even a suburban district in Northern Virginia refuses to turn hard against a raving lunatic like Jackson, you know its Republicans are particularly rock-ribbed.
That fact, along with freshman Rep. Barbara Comstock's big first win in 2014, motivated our initial rating of Likely Republican for this race. But national Democrats have made it clear they think real estate executive LuAnn Bennett (who used to be married to ex-Rep. Jim Moran) has what it takes to defeat Comstock. Bennett pulled in a very strong $419,000 in the first quarter of the year and has $554,000 in the bank. Comstock, with the advantages of incumbency, did better still, raising $580,000, and she has a hefty $1.8 million in her campaign account. But both the DCCC and the House Majority PAC plan to help make up the gap, making early fall TV ad reservations that totaling $2.8 million. (Republicans have yet to follow suit.)
Again, Democrats still have a difficult path to victory here, but this race is going to be a competitive one. It's also worth noting that the 10th was not exactly Trump territory: The Donald lost the district 37-29 to Marco Rubio, the presumptive GOP nominee's worst performance in a GOP-held district in Virginia. Consequently, we're changing our rating to Lean Republican.
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.