● FL-18: Rich guy Randy Perkins, the DCCC's choice to hold this competitive open seat, just declared in an interview with Politico that he's no longer going to fundraise for his campaign. Perkins called the practice "disgusting and appalling," and said he'll refund contributions to any donors who ask for them back. Instead, he plans to switch exclusively to self-funding, which he's done to the tune of $2 million so far. But this approach is both unwise and, given who it's coming from, kind of obnoxious.
For starters, fundraising isn't just about raising money. It's about getting people to buy in to your candidacy and feel invested in it. Donors are the sort of people who will tell their friends and family about you, and they give you a motivated base to draw on for volunteers. What's more, when you're forced to reach out to people, you make political connections of all kinds, which come in handy in all sorts of ways.
If you self-fund, sure, you can pay for all the ads and consultants you want. But you wind up with a hollow operation that has few stakeholders. In a rather stark lack of self-awareness, Perkins complained, "In order for me to keep raising money, I now have to go to people I don't know. They don't know who the hell I am." But that's exactly the point! Politics is all about "going to people you don't know" and getting them to learn who you are.
Perkins' griping is also unbecoming because, frankly, it comes from a place of extraordinary privilege. Perkins, who is worth $200 million, acknowledged that he's in "a unique position" because he doesn't "have to do what sucks," but except for one-percenters like him, everyone else does. So what is his plan to put everyone on a level playing field? Does he support public campaign financing? If he does, he apparently didn't tell that to Politico. Rich people seldom "have to do what sucks." But if Perkins is really a Democrat, he'll make an effort to ensure others can enjoy the kind of advantages he has. Otherwise, he's just whining.
● IL-Sen: GOP Sen. Mark Kirk is trying to capitalize on a recent decision by a state court judge to schedule a trial on allegations that Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth engaged in improper retaliation against two former employees by running an ad on the topic. Claims the narrator, "As Blagojevich's veterans director, Duckworth tried to silence whistleblowers who exposed shoddy care for American heroes. Now Duckworth's going to court, because she put her political career ahead of our veterans' care." According to Politico, the ad will only air as "part of a limited buy in Chicago" for just a single day, which suggests this is more of a "video press release" aimed at squeezing a few more headlines out of the latest chapter in this story.
● WI-Sen: Democratic ex-Sen. Russ Feingold has another ad out about the problems at the VA facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, very similar to his previous spot hitting his Republican opponent, Sen. Ron Johnson. The narrator begins by referencing that Koch brothers ad that stations yanked off the air after Feingold complained, calling it "untrue." The rest of the ad is basically the same as the prior one, blaming Johnson for ignoring the situation at Tomah (which was the subject of the original anti-Feingold ad).
● OR-Gov: The GOP primary to face Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is on Tuesday, which may come as news to Republican voters. On behalf of Oregon Public Broadcasting and FOX 12, DHM Research conducted a poll the weekend of May 7, and they found undecided ruling the day with 36 percent. Among actual candidates, physician Bud Pierce edges businessman Allen Alley 25-22. No one has released a general election poll here in ages, but Brown doesn't appear to have done anything to endanger herself in this blue state in a presidential year. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this seat as Likely Democratic.
● AZ-05: On Friday, ex-state Parks Director Bryan Martyn dropped out of the August primary for this safely red seat and endorsed former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley. Stapley is facing state Senate President and 1993 Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes winner Andy Biggs, former GoDaddy executive vice president Christine Jones, and underfunded state Rep. Justin Olson.
Stapley is an old antagonist of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and he was even indicted by Arpaio for financial improprieties. The charges were eventually dismissed and Stapley was awarded a $3.5 million settlement from the county. However, Arpaio is very popular with the Arizona GOP base, and primary voters probably won't want to send an Arpaio enemy to Congress. The fact that Arpaio was just found in civil contempt of federal court for violating an order to curtail racial profiling probably isn't likely to harm the sheriff's standing in conservative circles.
● GA-03: The May 24 GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland is coming up quickly, and rich guy Jim Pace is out with his first ad. The spot is about what you'd expect from a Republican candidate in a safely red seat: As several photos of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama flash by, Pace bemoans that "[c]areer politicians in Washington are putting their ambition first, jeopardizing the future of our children who hold the promise of tomorrow." Pace then notes that he's a conservative businessman and a "man of faith and family" who wants to "finally secure the border, to destroy radical Islamic terrorism and abolish Obamacare." Disappointingly, this is a Pace ad that doesn't end with a shot at "New York City?!"
Pace faces several other Republicans, and it's likely that this primary will go to a July runoff. West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson used his connections with fellow dentists to raise a surprising amount of cash at the beginning of the year, and he actually narrowly outspent Pace $130,000 to $129,000 from April 1 to May 4. However, Pace holds a strong $256,000 to $55,000 cash-on-hand edge, and he can self-fund more. State Sen. Mike Crane continues to be a disappointing fundraiser. Crane spent just $39,000 during this time, and he has only about $100,000 left. Crane has the support of the powerful Club for Growth but so far, they've dropped just $28,000 on his behalf.
● GA-10: Ex-Rep. Paul Broun's decision to challenge incumbent Doug Collins in the May 24 primary for this safely red seat hasn't exactly electrified Broun's old donors. From April 1 to May 4, Collins outspent Broun $207,000 to $46,000, and he holds a $399,000 to $8,000 cash-on-hand edge. Broun gave up a different House seat to unsuccessfully run for the Senate in 2014 and last year, a Broun consultant pled guilty to lying to investigators about whether he was paid in taxpayer money for Broun's Senate bid. Broun himself hasn't been implicated yet, but his old chief of staff was recently indicted for obstructing an investigation into the matter, as well as for stealing government property. Small wonder Broun's comeback bid isn't taking off.
● GA-11: Wealthy businessman Daniel Cowan launched a last minute GOP primary bid against freshman Rep. Barry Loudermilk, and unsurprisingly, he's outspent the incumbent. Cowan dropped $267,000 to Loudermilk's $154,000 from April 1 to May 4; Loudermilk holds a $154,000 to $106,000 cash-on-hand edge, though Cowan can probably self-fund more. However, Cowan's ads so far haven't attacked the congressman. The primary for this safely red Atlanta-area seat is May 24, so Cowan doesn't have much time left to make his case for why voters should fire Loudermilk.
A few other minor Republicans are running, but only CPA and perennial candidate William Llop has run any commercials. But Llop only spent $18,000 during this period, and he had just $34,000 left. If no one takes a majority, there will be a runoff in July.
● NJ-07: Republican Rep. Leonard Lance defeated perennial candidate David Larsen by a surprisingly narrow 54-46 margin in 2014 primary, and Larsen is back for a rematch. However, another candidate unexpectedly has started airing ads. Businessman Craig Heard's campaign says they're launching a "six-figure" buy, (even though Heard had just $22,000 on-hand at the end of March) and they're out with four different ads. (Here, here, here, and here.)
Each commercial features a different person complaining about an issue and how Congress has handled it before asking, "Is anyone listening?" The narrator then says Lance has had his chance and failed, before Heard tells the audience that they'll "be heard." As you can probably guess from that pun, the spots all look pretty cheap: In fact, the second half of each one just shows some words dancing by in front of a blue screen in what feels like a particularly boring PowerPoint presentation. But Lance won't complain if these ads help Heard get his name out and split the anti-Lance vote with Larson.
● NY-03: EMILY's List has endorsed North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, the only woman running in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Steve Israel. Kaplan faces three other legit contenders in the Democratic primary: Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (who has Israel's support), former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, and former Nassau Interim Finance Authority chair Jon Kaiman. Republicans, who are hoping to pick up this swingy Long Island-based seat, have coalesced around state Sen. Jack Martins.
● TN-04: GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais has been in danger since late 2012, when 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. DesJarlais pulled off a miraculous 38-vote win in the 2014 primary despite being badly outspent, and his campaign is arguing that he's in much better shape this time around. His team has released a Market Street Research poll giving him a 61-8 lead over former Romney aide Grant Starrett in the August primary for this safely red seat. The early May poll also finds that DesJarlais has a 61-25 favorable image, while Starrett is barely known.
Starrett's campaign didn't waste much time pushing back. His campaign manager says that a recent Wilson Perkins Allen poll "predicts a statistical dead heat between Grant Starrett and Scott DesJarlais in August," though they didn't reveal any toplines. The campaign also noted that 60 percent of primary voters were "angry about Scott DesJarlais' vote for $700 billion in food stamps." However, it's not clear if Starrett's poll showed things close before or after questions about DesJarlais' record were asked.
Starrett has never run for office before, so DesJarlais' team is probably right when they say he has little name recognition. Starrett has been doing some self-funding, and at the end of March, he held a $909,000 to $346,000 cash-on-hand edge over the congressman, so he can get his name out closer to Election Day. Still, if DesJarlais is really anywhere near as popular with the base as his poll says he is, Starrett won't have an easy time beating him.
● WA-07: Two of the most prominent gay people to hold federal office have both lent their support to Democratic state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, who is also gay, in the race to replace retiring Rep. Jim McDermott. Ex-Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank endorsed Walkinshaw this week, while wealthy Colorado Rep. Jared Polis hosted a fundraiser for him in DC.
While Walkinshaw is undoubtedly grateful for this backing, we don't usually take notice of out-of-state endorsements like these, since they aren't likely to influence many voters. However, what makes them notable is that they highlight something interesting and unusual about this contest: Not only is Walkinshaw gay, but so is one of his main Democratic rivals, King County Councilman Joe McDermott, which, as far as we're able to determine, makes this the first time we've seen a federal race with multiple credible LGBT candidates. (There's one other major Democrat running, state Sen. Pramila Jayapal.)
No matter who wins, though, the next person to represent this seat in Congress will definitely be a Democrat—Barack Obama absolutely swamped Mitt Romney in this Seattle-based district—and he or she will also be quite liberal.
● House: On Friday, the DCCC added 14 candidates to their "Red to Blue" program, which promises to help Democratic candidates the committee regards as its strongest recruits in the seats it considers its top priorities. The new arrivals are listed below:
AZ-01: Tom O'Halleran
CA-10: Michael Eggman
CA-25: Bryan Caforio
CO-03: Gail Schwartz
FL-13: Charlie Crist
MN-03: Terri Bonoff
MT-AL: Denise Juneau
NH-01: Carol-Shea Porter
NY-22: Kim Myers
NY-23: John Plumb
NY-24: Colleen Deacon
PA-08: Steve Santarsiero
VA-04: Don McEachin
WI-08: Tom Nelson
If Team Blue wants to retake the House, they'll need to net 30 seats. As of Friday, the DCCC lists a total of 29 Republican-held seats in Red to Blue, as well as four more in the DCCC's lower-tier "Emerging Races" list; three open Democratic-held districts (AZ-01, CA-24, and FL-18) are also included on Red to Blue.
Most of these new Red to Blue members are graduates from Emerging Races. The big exception is state Sen. Terri Bonoff in Minnesota, who only kicked off her campaign recently and avoided an Emerging Races apprenticeship. Back in February, the DCCC included FL-13, NY-24, and PA-08 in Red to Blue, but they didn't designate a favored candidate. Steve Santarsiero won the Democratic nomination in April, so adding him to the list was just a formality. Charlie Crist lost his only credible primary foe recently, so it's not surprising that national Democrats are just going ahead and giving him a whole-hearted endorsement.
New York's 24th District is a bit more interesting. Colleen Deacon, who used to run Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's local Syracuse office, faces two opponents in the June primary for the right to face freshman Republican Rep. John Katko: lawyer Steve Williams and college professor Eric Kingson. Gillibrand and incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer endorsed Deacon, but ex-DCCC chair Steve Israel is backing Williams. None of the three Democrats have been raising much cash, but maybe this move will help Deacon. The DCCC was already siding with Bryan Caforio and Carol-Shea Porter in their contested primaries.
Most of the DCCC's former Emerging Races inductees are now in "Red to Blue" (aside from Pennsylvania's Bill Golderer and West Virginia's Cory Simpson, who lost their primaries), with only four exceptions. Back in February, the D-Trip added IA-03 and NY-19 to the lower list without picking a candidate. Both seats will hold their primaries next month, so perhaps the DCCC is just waiting for the dust to settle before making any upgrades. However, MI-08's Melissa Gilbert and NY-21's Mike Derrick are still on Emerging Races. Derrick was only added last month, and maybe the committee is giving him some more time (though the other five candidates who were added to Emerging Races at that same time were upgraded on Friday).
But Gilbert was added back in February, so it's very notable that she got passed over for a promotion. Gilbert, a former actress, has been raising a credible amount of money for her campaign against freshman Rep. Mike Bishop in a light red seat. But Gilbert has been criticized by the local media for being unwilling to talk to them, and she drew some bad headlines after her 2009 comments where she suggested that director Roman Polanski's sentence for rape "may be excessive" resurfaced. It's very possible that the DCCC has decided that she's not a good investment right now.
P.S.: The NRCC has a similar program called "Young Guns." However, the GOP won't include any candidates on their top-tier list until we get closer to Election Day, and their lower "On the Radar" list always includes a mix of viable candidates and Some Dudes. For instance, the NRCC has added candidates in CA-20 (71-26 Obama), CA-27 (63-35 Obama), and MD-03 (61-37 Obama). NRCC chair Greg Walden can't possibly see those districts as competitive even in his wildest dreams.
● Honolulu, HI Mayor: On Friday, ex-Mayor Peter Carlisle announced that he would run this year to reclaim his old job from incumbent Kirk Caldwell. Carlisle identifies as an independent and Caldwell is a Democrat, but this contest is unlikely to come down to partisan affiliation. Instead, the controversial $6.9 billion Honolulu Rail Transit Project is once again likely to be the major issue here. Carlisle and Caldwell both support rail, but Carlisle is arguing that unlike the mayor, he'll let the professionals do their job.
This will be the third time Caldwell and Carlisle have faced off. In 2010, Caldwell became acting mayor but lost the special election to Carlisle. In 2012, Carlisle took third place in the summer primary; Carlisle endorsed Caldwell over ex-Gov. Ben Cayetano, who was running as the anti-rail candidate. Carlisle has pledged to step down after one four-year term.
Carlisle is Caldwell's first notable opponent, but he may not be his last. The filing deadline is June 7, and City Council Chair Ernie Martin and ex-Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, a two-time GOP gubernatorial nominee, have both flirted with getting in. Martin supports rail, but he's also criticized how the project has been handled. Aiona is a rail opponent, though he's acknowledged it can't be stopped at this point. A February Merriman River Group gave Caldwell a 40-38 approval rating. All the candidates will face off in the Aug. 13 non-partisan primary, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general.
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.