● NY-22: New York has some of the toughest ballot access requirements in the nation, and every election cycle, plenty of people fail to submit enough valid signatures and find their hopes flushed to the bottom of the Hudson River—or in this case, Lake Ontario. Two candidates in New York's 22nd Congressional District have thus been swept to the murky depths, though few will notice. One person who will care, though, is Broome County Legislator Kim Myers, whose lone opponent in the Democratic primary, former Oneida County Legislator David Gordon, just got bounced. Gordon, a self-described "conservative Democrat," had raised bupkes, though, so he wasn't going to be anything more than an irritant to Myers, the choice of the DCCC.
Meanwhile, venture capitalist Martin Babinec, who had been running under the Independence Party's banner, has also gotten the boot. While normally there aren't enough hours in the day to care about the fate of third-party candidates, Babinec had put $1 million of his own money into his campaign and could have affected the race in unpredictable ways—and he might yet still.
That's because Babinec says he might appeal his disqualification, or he might seek the Reform Party nomination. What makes this super-great is that Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, one of three Republicans running, already has the Reform line, but the state Board of Elections has allowed Babinec to challenge her in the primary as a write-in. And get this: There are only seven registered members of the Reform Party in the district! Voters still have until June 3 to join up, but no matter how many new party members Babinec can scour up, that will still be one hell of an election.
● CO-Sen: It was a crazy 24 hours in Colorado. Late on Wednesday, state court Judge Elizabeth Starrs upheld a ruling from the secretary of state that found former Aurora City Councilor Ryan Frazier and wealthy businessman Robert Blaha failed to submit enough valid signatures to appear on next month's GOP primary ballot. Starrs determined that a number of signatures rejected by the secretary of state were in fact acceptable but said that Frazier and Blaha still fell short of the minimum.
However, Blaha quickly filed an emergency motion arguing that Starrs had failed to account for one particular set of signatures. On Thursday, she determined that those, too, were kosher, restoring Blaha to the ballot—but not before he called for Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a fellow Republican, to resign for throwing "three people off the ballot for trivial meaningless reasons."
Frazier's status is much less certain. He promised to appeal to the state Supreme Court, but election officials were determined to move ahead with certifying the ballot, since, they said, counties need time to print and send ballots to overseas and military voters. Starrs resolved that issue by saying the secretary of state should include Frazier's name on the final ballot, but that votes for him won't count if he loses his appeal. Craziness!
Three other Republicans are also on the ballot: former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham, El Paso County Commissioner Daryl Glenn, and former state Rep. Jon Keyser, though one voter has accused him of forging her signature on his petitions. It's not clear yet what repercussions Keyser might face, or whether he could be dropped from the ballot—which would be his second time getting the boot.
Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet can only sit back, laugh … and release another positive ad. In this minute-long spot, a woman named Melissa Nolan explains how her son Caleb "was born with a rare form of cystic fibrosis" that doctors said would likely mean a lifespan of just 35 years. A new treatment was later invented but not approved for use in the U.S.; Nolan says that Bennet helped pass a new law to get medical treatments approved more quickly, helping her son to be "hospital free" for the past five years.
● WI-Sen: Democrat Russ Feingold is up with another spot and this time, he's going after Republican incumbent Ron Johnson. The ad is a response to a recent commercial from the Koch-backed Freedom Partners, which accused Feingold of ignoring problems at a veteran's hospital. The narrator in Feingold's spot argues that it was Johnson who did nothing to respond to horrifying reports from the Tomah VA facility.
● IN-Gov: Democrat John Gregg recently went up with his first commercial, and GOP incumbent Mike Pence didn't waste any time joining him on the airwaves. While Gregg's ad argued that wages weren't keeping up with job growth, Pence's spot focuses on job creation. The ad starts with various Hoosiers waking up as their alarm clocks go off, a good way to remind most people of the absolute worst part of their day. However, as the actors shower, brush their teeth, shave, put on makeup, and get dressed, the narrator claims, "There's a lot of people in Indiana waking up a tad earlier these days, and they couldn't be happier," explaining it's because Pence is bringing in new jobs.
● UT-Gov: Republican Gov. Gary Hebert is launching his first two TV ads ahead of his June 28 primary with wealthy businessman Jonathan Johnson. The first spot credits Hebert for Utah's strong economy, while the second praises him as a fiscally conservative leader.
● VT-Gov: Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is one of the very few Republicans who has a shot of winning this year on very blue turf, so it's no surprise that he's distancing himself from Donald Trump. Scott, who previously denounced Trump as "offensive," emphatically declared on Wednesday that, "I cannot vote for Donald Trump," though he also said he wouldn't be backing Hillary Clinton. Scott does need to get past rich guy Bruce Lisman in the August primary but so far, Lisman isn't trying to use Trump as a wedge issue. Lisman only says that he will "carefully evaluate Donald Trump's candidacy and listen to what he has to say."
● WV-Gov: On behalf of MetroNews West Virginia, Repass Research takes another look at next week's three-way Democratic primary, and they give coal billionaire Jim Justice a small lead. Justice edges ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin 32-27, with state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler taking 23; in February, Repass had Justice leading Goodwin 32-25. The only other recent primary poll we've seen comes from PPP, and they gave Justice a stronger 37-23 lead over Goodwin. Note that this poll was in the field April 22 to May 2, which is a ridiculously long time. Both Justice and Goodwin began running ads against one another in the middle of this period, so Repass may not have captured any effect those spots have had.
Repass also takes a look at the general and surprisingly, they give all three Democrats leads against Republican state Senate President Bill Cole. Justice crushes Cole 52-34, while Goodwin and Kessler lead him 47-39 and 45-39, respectively. PPP found Justice leading Cole by a much smaller 41-35 margin, while the other two Democrats trailed.
We still only have limited data, and it's not completely clear what's going on in the general. Democrats won most statewide elections in West Virginia in 2012 even as Mitt Romney was carrying the state 62-35 but last cycle, the GOP won almost everything there was to win. Democrats badly lost the open U.S. Senate race and a House seat that they'd held for generations and the GOP took control of both houses of the legislature for the first time since the 1930s, so it appeared that ticket-splitting in this conservative state was finally going out of style. However, these two polls suggest that Team Blue, especially with Justice at the helm, has a strong chance to retain the governorship even with Donald Trump poised to carry the Mountain State's five electoral votes.
Of course, it's still very early and we only have two recent polls to work with. It's very possible that both these polls are just badly underestimating Cole's chances in November. It's also possible that things will change once Cole and his allies start advertising in earnest. Hopefully we'll get some more polling after the Democratic nominee is chosen; Daily Kos Elections currently rates this as Lean Republican.
● CA-24: In an unusual move, the DCCC has started airing ads on behalf of Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal ahead of next month's top-two primary in California's open 24th Congressional District. The spot, which praises Carbajal for protecting California's central coast, is backed by a $136,000 buy, according to Politico, but the ad itself is not what's interesting. Rather, the motivations behind it are what matter.
The DCCC had, for unclear reasons, previously taken sides in this race. The committee added Carbajal to its "Red to Blue" program back in February while snubbing Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, but for the D-Trip to spend actual money here is quite unexpected. There are no reports of any personal pique at play here—a big factor that drove the DSCC to get heavily involved in Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary last month.
It's possible that the DCCC is just convinced that Schneider would be a weaker general election candidate in this 54-43 Obama seat, though any evidence for such an argument would be pretty slim. A couple of years ago, Schneider upset some local Democrats when she sought to block a popular freeway expansion, but could this issue truly be so damaging as to merit such extraordinary outside intervention? It's not as though Schneider is walking around with Todd Akin-level liabilities. Schneider has also raised far less money than Carbajal, though national Democrats' preference for him may have played no small part in that.
It's also very possible that DCCC is worried that two Republicans will advance to the general election, locking Democrats out entirely. That's happened before, most notoriously in California's 31st District back in 2012, but such a fate seems much less likely here. For one, there are three Republicans in the race who have enough cash to matter: Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, businessman Justin Fareed, and perennial candidate Matt Kokkonen, who's loaned himself $211,000. Carbajal and Schneider, meanwhile, are the only notable Democrats, so the GOP pie will get split up among three contenders versus just the two who are fighting over the Democratic side of the electorate.
Now, it is true that turnout tends to be lower for Democrats than for Republicans in California's primaries. Indeed, that's a key reason why we've seen shutouts like CA-31's. But not only did that race involve four Democrats and just two Republicans, this year's turnout picture looks different. The GOP presidential primary just concluded but the Democratic contest continues, even though it's clear who the nominee will be. Of course, Bernie Sanders could still drop out, or voters could lose interest, but right now at least, Democrats have more reason to show up in June than Republicans.
So perhaps this is just the DCCC playing it ultra-safe and cautious, but what makes this even stranger is that Carbajal has outraised Schneider more than three-to-one ($1.7 million to just $577,000), and he's released four TV ads to only one for his intra-party rival. In other words, he's not the kind of candidate you think would need help. However, we haven't seen any polling here this entire year, so it's hard to know exactly where the field stands.
● FL-10: National Democrats have already consolidated behind ex-Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, and this week, she picked up an endorsement from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Demings faces wealthy ex-state party chair Bob Poe in the late August primary for this safely blue seat; state Sen. Geraldine Thompson is also in, but she has very little money.
● NC-03: Rep. Walter Jones has been a complete pain for the GOP House leadership, but they may have to deal with him a bit longer. Even though former Treasury aide and political consultant Taylor Griffin only lost to Jones 51-45 in the 2014 GOP primary for this safely red seat, Griffin has struggled to raise cash for his second bid. In fact, the iconoclastic Jones actually outraised Griffin $171,000 to $51,000 during the first three months of 2016, and he holds a $167,000 to $59,000 cash-on-hand edge as of March 31.
Last time, some establishment groups aired ads on Griffin's behalf, but no one has shown much interest in getting involved in the June 7 primary. Retired Marine Phil Law is also in and even though he has few resources, he could take some votes from Griffin. While redistricting scrambled North Carolina's congressional map, about 80 percent of the new 3rd is the same as the old seat.
● NC-12: On Thursday, state Rep. Rodney Moore dropped out of the Democratic primary for this safely blue Charlotte seat. Rep. Alma Adams, who lost her Greensboro base due to redistricting, is trying to fend off ex-state Sen. Malcolm Graham and state Reps. Tricia Cotham and Carla Cunningham next month.
● TN-08: Rep. Stephen Fincher's retirement has set off a very crowded contest for this safely red West Tennessee seat. The early frontrunner might be Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, but his fundraising isn't off to a particularly strong start. Luttrell brought in $145,000 during his first month in the race, and he has about that much in the bank as of March 31.
One candidate has far more cash than anyone else, but his electoral history is not good. Physician George Flinn loaned his campaign $2.7 million, and he has about that much on-hand. Flinn, a former Shelby County commissioner, sought this seat when it was last open in 2010, but he lost the primary to Fincher 48-24. Flinn recently challenged Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 primary and spent $1.4 million, but ended up taking just 5 percent statewide and 14 percent in Shelby County. Flinn may have a shot in the crowded August primary, but his past campaigns are not a source of encouragement.
State Sen. Brian Kelsey and ex-U.S. Attorney David Kustoff got into the race about a month before Luttrell, and they've used their time to build up larger warchests. Kelsey has $426,000 in the bank while Kustoff has $314,000; neither man did much self-funding. However, Shelby County Clerk Tom Leatherwood had just $25,000 banked. Political consultant Brad Greer hasn't attracted much attention, but he raised a non-trivial $104,000 entirely from donors.
● TX-15: Plenty of rich people write their congressional campaigns huge checks, but it's rare for one to admit that he actually has no idea how much cash he's thrown down. But last week, wealthy lawyer Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat, was asked at a forum if he'd loaned his campaign more money since March 31, when the fundraising quarter ended. Gonzalez, who had self-funded a total of $1.65 million as of the end of March, replied, "I don't know the answer to that."
Gonzalez outpaced Edinburg School Board Member Sonny Palacios 42-19 in the first round of the Democratic primary in March, and the two will face off in the May 24 runoff. Palacios, who has raised very little cash, loaned himself $206,000 as of March. Gonzalez had a $210,000 to $102,000 cash-on-hand edge, though he's undoubtedly capable of throwing down much more money than Palacios is—in fact, Gonzalez may not even notice that he's done it!
Palacios hails from a prominent local political family, and observers told the Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston a few months ago that a Palacios "has never lost a political campaign." However, Palacios may achieve an unwelcome family milestone if his opponent controls the airwaves. Obama won this Brownsville seat 57-42, and it should be safely blue in a presidential cycle.
● VA-02: Republican Rep. Randy Forbes has a few problems in the June 14 GOP primary, but money isn't one of them. Forbes hasn't faced a competitive election since 2001, but he hauled in a strong $361,000 during the first three months of 2016. By contrast, state Del. Scott Taylor took in just $105,000 during this time ($10,000 of that from his own pocket), and Forbes has a very strong $875,000 to $53,000 cash-on-hand edge.
However, Forbes isn't a normal incumbent. Mid-decade redistricting turned Forbes' old 4th District dark blue, and Forbes decided to run for the new 2nd District after Rep. Scott Rigell announced his retirement. However, Forbes' doesn't represent so much as a centimeter of the new 2nd, nor did he represent any of this turf from 2003 to 2013. However, Forbes' soon-to-be-defunct 4th District is partially located in the Norfolk media market, so 2nd District residents have seen him on TV over the years; Rigell is also backing Forbes. Taylor is portraying Forbes as a carpetbagger, but he may not have the resources to spread that message very far next month. Romney narrowly won this seat, but Democrats only have a little-known perennial candidate running here.
● Deaths: Former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, who served in the Senate for 18 years, died on Wednesday at the age of 82, due to complications from pancreatic cancer and a stroke. In 2010, Bennett lost renomination when attorney Mike Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater both finished ahead of him at the state Republican Party convention, denying Bennett a chance to even run in the GOP primary. Lee went on to defeat Bridgewater and win the seat, making the establishment-oriented Bennett one of the most prominent victims of tea party anger.
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.