● FL-Sen: Wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff has quickly established himself as the Donald Trump of Florida politics. He began with a nativist ad campaign that declared, Charles Lindberg-style, "America first!" Now he's descending (if that's even possible) into rank Trumpian insults:
"Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he's an animal, okay—seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses. And they've all written books about it."
Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy immediately demanded that Beruff apologize, but so did one of Beruff's Republican rivals, Rep. David Jolly (whose campaign is apparently a backdoor audition for the role of "reasonable Republican" on some cable news show). Beruff, like his role model Trump, refused to do any such thing, and, in Rovian fashion, he accused Murphy of "resort[ing] to name calling and the politics of racial division." In fact, his campaign even pushed out the link to the tracker video that caught the remarks above!
Evidently, Beruff believes that standing his ground will only endear him further to GOP primary voters, and he's probably not wrong. The general election, though, is an altogether different story.
● CA-Sen: Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who are both Democrats, are going up with their first TV spots ahead of the June 7 top-two primary. Harris' most notable ad reminds viewers that she has the support of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and highlights her record as attorney general; the spot ends with a clip of Warren declaring, "Kamala Harris was fearless." Another spot praises Harris for taking on powerful special interests and trans-national gangs. Well-known labor leader Dolores Huerta also stars in a Spanish-language ad for Harris.
Sanchez is out with an English and Spanish-language version of her new commercial. The narrator touts her clout in Congress and praises her for voting against the Iraq War and Wall Street bailout, and calls her the only candidate with national security experience. Sanchez then appears and says she wants "to create jobs, expand educational opportunities and healthcare, and pass immigration reform." This definitely feels like another one of those ads that just tries to fit way too much into 30-seconds; Harris' spots were much more focused on her theme of standing up for the people against the powerful. Sanchez is also out with two 15-second Spanish TV ads (here and here). Polls show both Democrats outpacing the muddled Republican field and grabbing the two general election spots.
● CO-Sen: After former GOP state Rep. Jon Keyser's epic meltdown over his forged petition signatures last week, which involved him trying to terrorize a reporter by warning him about his "huge, very protective" dog, you knew things were going to get worse before they got better—and they probably aren't ever going to get better. Following a complaint from the progressive activist group ProgressNow Colorado, the Denver district attorney's office confirmed that it has begun an inquiry into Keyser's signatures. Explained a DA spokesperson, prosecutors will "review the original complaint and any accompanying documents to determine if there was a crime committed, whether the suspect is identifiable and if we have jurisdiction." There will undoubtedly be more to come soon.
● IL-Sen: GOP Sen. Mark Kirk recently ran an ad aiming 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, and Duckworth is hitting right back. Duckworth's spot reminds viewers that she lost her legs when the Blackhawk she was flying was shot down over Iraq, and the narrator says she "led important fights to get veterans jobs and fight homelessness and suicide." The ad then accuses Kirk of lying "about serving in combat" and throwing desperate and false attacks at her. The narrator concludes, "Tammy Duckworth sacrificed. Mark Kirk told lies."
The commercial doesn't go into much detail about Kirk's embellishments, but we will. In 2010, Kirk admitted that, despite his past statements to the contrary, he was not actually a veteran of the first Gulf War (he did not serve in either Iraq or Kuwait), nor had he received the Navy's intelligence officer of the year award in 1999. Kirk explained away the discrepancies as a bad attempt to translate "Pentagonese." Kirk's Democratic opponent Alexi Giannoulias did attack him as a liar, but between Giannoulias' own issues and the 2010 GOP wave, Kirk was able to pull off a narrow win.
● ND-Gov: The June 14 GOP primary is coming up, and it's not a huge surprise that wealthy businessman Doug Burgum has outraised Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, the favorite of the Republican establishment. However, what it surprising is that Burgum doesn't appear to have done any significant self-funding. Burgum, who retired as a Microsoft senior vice president in 2007, did get a $100,000 check from none other than Bill Gates though. Since Jan. 1,
North Dakota Vista Burgum took in a total of $966,000 to Stenehjem's $540,000. Stenehjem held a $369,000 to $175,000 cash-on-hand edge on May 4, but that doesn't include Gates' donation to Burgum.
State Rep. Marvin Nelson, the only Democrat in the race, has not received much donor love. As of May 12, Nelson raised $16,000, and he had just $9,300 on-hand. While both national parties are focusing on a few key gubernatorial contests, neither side has shown much interest in North Dakota, and that's unlikely to change. When this seat opened up, there was some small hope that Team Blue could win their first gubernatorial race in the Peace Garden State since George Sinner was re-elected in 1988, but the GOP's winning streak just doesn't look like it's in any danger this year. Daily Kos Elections is therefore changing our race rating from Likely to Safe Republican.
● NJ-Gov: On Monday, former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy, who also served as DNC finance chairman and as ambassador to Germany, announced that he would seek the Democratic nod next year. An organization Murphy created launched a multi-million TV buy on his behalf last year, so there was little question that he'd run to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Chris Christie. Murphy has already announced that he's donated $10 million to his campaign, though he says he'll seek cash from donors.
Murphy is unlikely to have the primary to himself. State Sen. Ray Lesniak said last year that he plans to run, and while state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop haven't declared, they've been making connections across the state for years in preparation for a bid; Assemblymembers John Wisniewski and Shavonda Sumter have also expressed interest. A number of Republicans could also get in, though Team Red will face tough odds in this blue state as long as Christie remains unpopular. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno recently launched a think tank: While she says it's not about politics, there's little doubt that the group is laying the groundwork for a Guadagno campaign.
● CA-07: Sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend—and sometimes, he's just an even worse enemy. Earlier this year, Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents 100,000 truckers in the northern parts of California and Nevada, endorsed Republican Scott Jones because his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ami Bera, had voted in favor of so-called "fast-track" trade promotion authority, which would help pave the way for a 12-nation trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that many unions vociferously oppose.
While the Teamsters almost never endorse Republicans, Jones cannily earned their support by coming out against the TPP. But it turns out, that's no longer enough. Jones made the mistake of saying he'd support Donald Trump as his party's nominee, which led the Teamsters to rescind their backing of Jones over the weekend. While labor groups still aren't likely to make much if any effort on Bera's behalf, the fact that a prominent union is abandoning his Republican opponent can only help the incumbent's re-election chances.
● CA-44: State Sen. Isadore Hall is out with his first two ads ahead of the June 7 top-two primary for this safely blue district. Hall's first commercial stars Rep. Janice Hahn, who is giving up this seat to run for the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Hahn tells the audience that Hall worked with her to "keep local ports safe and clean, and help small businesses to sell their goods overseas."
Hahn also makes a thinly veiled jab at former Hermosa Beach Councilor Nanette Barragán, Hall's main opponent. Hahn says that "[u]nlike other candidates who come and go, Isadore is from our community and for our community." Barragán grew up in the 44th but Hermosa Beach is in another district, and the city is far more white and affluent than the district she's now running to represent. There isn't much doubt that Hall will secure one of the two general election spots next month, but he'd rather face a minor Democrat or Republican in the fall instead of Barragán.
Hall himself narrates his second spot. Hall says that when he was eight, "I was told I wouldn't amount to anything. People said worse about where I grew up," with the camera showing a sign for Compton. Hall then says he wanted to prove the doubters wrong and he took inspiration from his mother, who "worked three jobs to support six kids."
● FL-09: Former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel, who rather remarkably went to work for Gravis Marketing earlier this year, has made a wiser decision about his future employment and dropped out of the Democratic primary for Florida's open 9th Congressional District. Instead, he'll run for his old seat in the state House, where he served for a single term before getting primaried out in 2014. Rangel's departure won't make much of a difference in the congressional race: A poll last year from state Sen. Darren Soto found Rangel taking all of 1 percent. But to the extent it matters, the handful of voters who had an interest in Rangel might prefer Soto, who like Rangel is Puerto Rican, as an alternative.
● IA-01: Former Cedar Rapids Councilor Monica Vernon is out with her third TV spot ahead of the June 7 Democratic primary, and this one stars ex-Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack. Vilsack praises Vernon as a "strong progressive Democrat," and touts her work building affordable housing for seniors and a shelter for homeless women and children.
● MN-02: Even though he fared poorly at the recent GOP convention in Minnesota's 2nd District, former state Sen. John Howe is forging ahead with a primary bid, calling himself "the most electable conservative candidate." He's definitely more electable than inflammatory radio host Jason Lewis, who earned the support of convention delegates, but another not-utterly-loony contender, businesswoman Darlene Miller, is also seeking the Republican nod. If Democrats are lucky, Miller and Howe will split the same pile of voters and allow Lewis to ride to victory. That would be a huge boon to healthcare executive Angie Craig, who is hoping to pick up this swingy suburban seat for Team Blue.
Lewis also picked up an endorsement from Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (the name you know), who served as the GOP's gubernatorial nominee in 2014 and didn't perform awfully. Johnson was also Marco Rubio's chair for Minnesota, the only state Rubio won, so perhaps he'll actually be useful to Lewis.
● MN-08: Republican rich guy Stewart Mills is up with his second TV ad for his rematch with Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan. Once again, Mills films at an Iron Range scrap yard. The candidate stands amid a field of wrecked cars and tells the audience, "Washington DC is a lot like this scrap yard: There's junk everywhere. But if you dig through the wreckage, you can find solutions." Mills then notes he worked at the yard growing up, and pledges to be "your junkyard dog," in Congress.
● NC-02: The Club for Growth recently promised to "actively oppose" Rep. Renee Ellmers in her June 7 GOP primary, and they weren't lying. The Club is re-airing a spot they first ran in February before redistricting dramatically reshaped Ellmers' Raleigh-area seat. The narrator accuses Ellmers of becoming part of the problem in DC after just five years in Congress. The ad hits her on votes "for massive corporate giveaways," and her support for the "sheep industry improvement center in Maine." Of course, there's the obligatory picture of a cute sheep and a bahhh sound effect. Ellmers faces fellow Rep. George Holding in the primary for this safely red seat, with tea partying physician Greg Brannon also in the mix. Bahhh.
● NC-13: The Club for Growth recently ran an ad for gun range owner Ted Budd ahead of the 17-way June 7 GOP primary. The commercial itself was pretty boring, but it was backed by a credible $285,000. (Hat-tip: Greg Giroux.)
● NV-04: Education activist Susie Lee is airing her first spot ahead of the June 14 Democratic primary. Lee tells the audience that she's not a career politician, and she notes her background in education "because I believe elected leaders should focus on helping other people get ahead, not themselves." State Sen. Ruben Kihuen also recently launched his first ad, while ex-Assemblywoman Lucy Flores has not taken to the airwaves yet. The winner will face freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in this 54-44 Obama seat.
● TX-15: Next week's Democratic runoff for this reliably blue McAllen-area seat pits wealthy lawyer Vicente Gonzalez against Edinburg school board member Juan "Sonny" Palacios Jr. Gonzalez dramatically outspent the rest of the field in the first round of the primary back in March, and he outpaced Palacios 42-19. However, Gonzalez appears to have taken his foot of the gas for the second round.
From April 1 to May 4, Gonzalez outspent Palacios $197,000 to $135,000, which is a whole lot less than the $480,000 to $113,000 edge he had in the leadup to the March primary. But Palacios only has $34,000 left in the bank while Gonzalez recently loaned himself another $200,000, so Gonzalez should be able to dominate the airwaves in the final week of the campaign.
As The Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston notes, DC Democrats are betting on a Gonzalez win. Gonzalez has received donations from several members of the House leadership, most notably Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, while no members have donated to Palacios yet. On Friday, Gonzalez also earned an endorsement from the 76-member Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congressional staffers tell Livingston that House members think that Gonzalez could be a good member of the Texas Democratic bench. And while neighboring Rep. Filemon Vela has not endorsed anyone, his friendship with Gonzalez gives the candidate another in with national Democrats.
But few locals seem to be ready to count Palacios out. The Palacios family is very well-connected in Rio Grande Valley Democratic politics, and few, if any, members of the clan have ever lost an election in the area. Turnout for the runoff will also be very different than it was in March. Two months ago, the presidential primary brought out plenty of casual voters, but the Palacios family's connections may carry more weight with the more dedicated voters who will show up for the low-turnout runoff.
● TX-19: The Republican runoff for this safely red Panhandle seat is next week. Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson edged Jodey Arrington, a former George W. Bush aide, just 27-26 in March. The wealthy Robertson outspent Arrington $458,000 to $315,000; while each candidate has a little less than $100,000 left, Robertson can probably afford to self-fund more for the final week if he wants to.
A little while ago, Robertson ran a TV spot against Arrington focused on his time on the Texas Tech Board of Regents. The narrator argued that under Arrington's watch, the college saw a 400 percent increase in undocumented immigrants at the same time that tuition increased. Three former members of the Board of Regents put out a statement in response saying that "notwithstanding Mr. Robertson's assertion to the contrary, Texas Tech did not establish the law which allows children of illegal immigrants to attend our university at in-state tuition rates." They also accused Robertson of making it sound like Arrington was the sole person who ordered tuition to increase. Something tells us that this statement isn't going to deter Robertson's attacks.
● VA-05: On Saturday, state Sen. Tom Garrett won the Republican nomination at the party convention, which was held instead of a primary. Garrett defeated real estate developer Jim McKelvey, a tea partier who badly lost the primary here in 2010; Michael Del Rosso, a fellow at Frank Gaffney's notoriously Islamophobic Center for Security Policy; and congressional intelligence adviser Joseph Whited. Garrett trailed Del Rosso on the first convention ballot, but he pulled ahead after McKelvey endorsed him, and he won 58 percent of the delegates on the third and final ballot.
Garrett will face Democrat Jane Dittmar, a former Albemarle County supervisor, in the general election for this 53-46 Romney central Virginia seat. While Democrat Tom Perriello narrowly won a previous version of this seat in 2008, this area is usually stubbornly Republican; even while E.W. Jackson was losing the 2013 lieutenant governor's race by a 55-45 margin statewide, he still took this district 51-49. Garrett hasn't raised much money, but national Democrats haven't shown any interest in targeting the 5th. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Safe Republican.
● Deaths: Ad executive James Travis, who created Ronald Reagan's famous "Morning in America" ad in 1984, died earlier this month at the age of 83. The New York Times' obituary goes into more detail on how the spot came together, but if you've never seen it, you should go watch it—both to appreciate the messaging and to see how dramatically production values have changed in the decades since.
● Where Are They Now?: The Washington Post has a great piece on former Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is now acting Secretary of the Army, that's worth reading in full. Murphy was a netroots hero who won a House seat in the Philadelphia suburbs in 2006 as one of the "Fighting Dems," veterans who, disgusted by George Bush's disastrous war in Iraq, decided to take their battle to Capitol Hill. (In fact, Murphy was the first Iraq vet to serve in Congress.)
He lost his re-election bid in the GOP wave of 2010 after leading the effort to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but last year, Barack Obama nominated him to serve as Undersecretary of the Army; since the top post has been vacant, he now holds the position of secretary, which makes him the senior civilian leader of the Army. There, he's redefined the role, due to his closeness to the troops because of his own prior service, making small but important changes to the lives of servicemen and women. With the respect he's earned, it's not hard to imagine Murphy returning to elective politics some day, since he's only 42.
But there's much more color in the article itself, and oh, did we mention the Amtrak crash he survived—and helped evacuate fellow victims from? Like we said, you'll want to read the story yourself.
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.