● NH-Gov: In an unexpected development, New Hampshire's Executive Council, a special five-member body that has veto power over state contracts, voted to restore over half a million dollars in funding to Planned Parenthood on Wednesday. The reinstatement came about because Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, a Republican who is running for governor, switched sides: Last year, he cast the deciding vote to defund the organization; this time, he was part of a three-to-two majority to restore the state's financial support for PP.
Sununu claimed that he voted against Planned Parenthood in 2015 because of the discredited videos that right-wing critics circulated to try to claim PP was involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. Sununu now admits that those allegations turned out to be utterly bogus (well, not exactly in those words), and so, he says, Planned Parenthood "should be treated like any other organization that comes before the council."
Whatever his justification, this high-profile about-face says something interesting about Sununu's bid for New Hampshire's open—and hotly contested—governorship. It shows that Sununu, who'd generally supported Planned Parenthood in the past, would prefer to risk giving his opponents in the GOP primary a fresh opening to attack him and potentially deny him the Republican nomination rather than go into a potential general election campaign cross-ways with Planned Parenthood, which remains widely popular both nationwide and in the Granite State. (An internal poll taken last year for the organization found that 66 percent of New Hampshirites don't support defunding.)
So whether he's motivated by rediscovered principal or election-year expedience, Sununu's vote indicates that Republicans are right to fear Planned Parenthood. It may be a conservative bogeyman, but it's a conservative bogeyman loathed only by a minority—and respected by most Americans. Republicans (like Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey) who insist on bashing the group to the very end do so at their own peril.
● CO-Sen: On Tuesday, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn defeated rich guy Jack Graham 38-25 to take the GOP nomination to face Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. Glenn entered the race in January of 2015, but he raised very little money and attracted almost no attention for over a year. However, he galvanized conservatives with a rip-roaring speech at the state GOP convention in April that earned him the party's official endorsement. Glenn, who is black, notably earned huge applause when he declared, "All lives matter!" Glenn's convention win drew the attention of Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who both endorsed him. And while Glenn didn't have the resources to advertise on television (or even to hire a single paid staffer), the Senate Conservatives Fund ran some ads for him.
Glenn also benefited from a weak field of primary opponents. While the NRSC tried to recruit Rep. Mike Coffman and George Brauchler, a district attorney in suburban Denver, both men decided to stay put. The assortment of plan Bs who actually ended up running was less than spectacular. Ex-state Rep. Jon Keyser tried to pass himself off as the establishment favorite, but if powerful Republicans were ever interested in helping him, they certainly weren't by Election Day after he got busted for submitting fraudulent signatures to get on the ballot.
And while Graham spent about $1 million on ads, his low-quality spots weren't very compelling. Conservative businessman Robert Blaha released a few somewhat more entertaining commercials but ran a disorganized campaign, while ex-Aurora Councilor Ryan Frazier, whose moment as a GOP "rising star" faded years ago, never made much of an impression. While Glenn had almost no money, Cruz and Palin's relative star-power helped him stand out from the pack in a low-energy, low-turnout contest.
Unfortunately for Glenn, Bennet is going to be much tougher to beat. Bennet proved his mettle by pulling off a narrow victory during the 2010 GOP wave, and he's spent the ensuring years stocking up a massive warchest. At the beginning of June, Bennet had $5.7 million on-hand while Glenn had just $50,000. Glenn may be able to make up some ground now that he's the GOP nominee, but Bennet's huge financial edge is all but insurmountable, especially if Glenn continues to take a Trump-like approach to staffing his campaign.
But perhaps the most ominous sign for Glenn is that Republicans haven’t made any major fall TV reservations for this race, though the DSCC reserved $5 million for the fall in April. Colorado is a swing state in presidential contests and airtime will get more and more expensive as we get closer to Election Day, so it makes sense for both parties to lock in better rates now. The fact that the GOP has passed over the state so far is a sign that neither think it will be competitive. (Update: This piece originally said that both parties have not made fall ad reservations here.)
There have been almost no polls here, so we don't have a good idea of Bennet's standing with voters. It's very possible that there are plenty of Coloradans who are at least open to replacing Bennet with a Republican. However, Glenn just doesn't look strong enough to actually beat him, and the GOP's reluctance to get involved here speaks volumes. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race as Lean Democratic, but we think it's likely to grow less competitive, not more so. Glenn could still have a shot if major Republican groups reverse course and start spending here. However, if he doesn't get some air support soon, this seat will slip out of the GOP's reach.
● FL-Sen: A new Florida poll from SurveyUSA echoes what other outfits have found in both the newly reshaped GOP primary and general election, but while the former offers good news for Marco Rubio, the latter decidedly does not. As in other surveys, Rubio crushes wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff by a hefty 63-10 margin; even if Beruff continues to spend heavily, thwarting Rubio will be a steep climb.
But even if Rubio does emerge as the GOP's nominee, he'd be walking into a 43-43 tie with Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy. That's almost exactly where PPP's two recent polls (both taken this month) found the race, and that isn't a good place for an incumbent to be. Rubio fares a bit better against Rep. Alan Grayson, leading 44-40, but Grayson trails Murphy 30-21 in the Democratic primary. (Notably, this poll was in the field after a local CBS affiliate aired a blistering report questioning Murphy's resume. But in a state as big as Florida, it's hard for traditional media coverage to drive a race, as we've seen with Grayson, whose own poll numbers have remained steady despite a year-long string of terrible headlines.)
In the unlikely event that Beruff wins the Republican primary, Murphy would beat him 47-30 and Grayson would also lead, 45-32. But there's still one more piece of bad news, and this time it's not just for Rubio but the GOP in general: This same poll has Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 46-42. That's very much in line with the polling averages, and if Clinton winds up carrying the Sunshine State by that kind of margin, either Rubio or Beruff will have a hard time keeping this seat red.
● UT-Sen, CO-05: Two women in two different states made history on the same night this week: They became the first transgender people to win Democratic nominations for federal office. Misty Snow, a grocery store cashier in Utah, defeated a self-described conservative Democrat for the right to take on GOP Sen. Mike Lee in November, while Army veteran Misty Plowright won her primary in Colorado's 5th Congressional District and will face Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn in the fall. Both races are on dark red turf, and it would take more than a miracle for either Democrat to win, but a first is still a first.
● ID-Gov: Republican Gov. Butch Otter has said he won't seek a fourth term in 2018, and this week, Lt. Gov. Brad Little announced that he would run to succeed his boss. Little, however, is unlikely to have the GOP primary to himself. The Idaho Statesman mentions ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher, who lost the 2014 primary to Otter by a surprisingly close 51-44 margin; Attorney General Lawrence Wasden; and Rep. Raul Labrador as potential candidates.
● UT-Gov: As the polls predicted, Gov. Gary Herbert decisively defeated Overstock.com chair Jonathan Johnson 72-28 in the GOP primary. Herbert entered the race popular with Republican voters, and while Johnson attacked the incumbent for being too close to lobbyists, it was far from enough. Herbert should have no trouble in November.
● CA-32: Assemblyman Roger Hernandez got a small measure of good news this week, as freshly counted ballots gave him a narrow 24.3-24.1 lead over Some Dude Republican Gordon Fisher for the second-place general election spot. However, even if Hernandez gets to face Rep. Grace Napolitano, a fellow Democrat, it's tough to see him unseating her. Hernandez has raised very little money, and his estranged wife has testified in court that he abused her. It's unclear how many votes there are left to count here.
● CO-05: Rep. Doug Lamborn defeated former legislative aide Calandra Vargas 68-32 for this safely red Colorado Springs seat. Despite Lamborn's decisive win, Vargas actually came incredibly close to denying him the GOP nomination at the party convention a few months ago. Vargas outpaced Lamborn 58 percent to 35 percent among delegates; if Lamborn had taken less than 30 percent of the delegates, he wouldn't have even advanced to the GOP primary.
But Vargas raised almost nothing for Tuesday's race, and the outcome helps underscore one of the key differences between conventions and primaries. In conventions, the delegates hear from all the candidates, and a great speech from a previously-unknown contender can propel an outsider to victory. But primaries don't work that way, and even if Vargas had a compelling case for ousting Lamborn, she didn't have the means to broadcast it to voters.
● NV-03: The DCCC's in-house polling shop has released a June 19 survey giving Democrat Jacky Rosen a solid 40-34 lead over Republican Danny Tarkanian. Barack Obama only carried this suburban Las Vegas seat 50-49, but the same survey also gives Hillary Clinton a 43-35 advantage on Donald Trump here. However, Obama defeated McCain 54-45 in Nevada's 3rd District in 2008, so Clinton's margin is certainly plausible. The full poll was not released, but Jon Ralston writes he's seen the whole memo and says of it, "The demographics look good, and no push questions were asked before the horse races."
● NY-01: The Democratic primary to face freshman GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin turned out to be Tuesday night's most exciting contest, with ex-Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst holding a too-close-to-call 29-vote lead over venture capitalist Dave Calone after all precincts had reported. On Wednesday evening, Newsday reported that 1,725 absentee ballots have been received by election officials—a number that could go up, since ballots only have to be postmarked by Election Day. The count is expected to take place "late next week" and could last "several days."
The tight outcome is somewhat unexpected. Throne-Holst outspent Calone, and EMILY's List also dropped $720,000 for her while no major outside groups came to Calone's aid. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also endorsed Throne-Holst and even appeared in an ad for her. However, the East Hampton Star's editorial page recently opined that Throne-Holst has a reputation for being difficult to work with, which the paper offered as an explanation for why Calone had the backing of far more local Democrats than his opponent.
Throne-Holst had also been a member of the Independence Party until she decided to run for Congress. Calone ran ads accusing Throne-Holst of not being a genuine Democrat, and he noted that she had contributed to the Conservative Party and even sought its nomination in the past; the group now backs Donald Trump, a fact Calone emphasized. It's very possible that Throne-Holst's weak ties to the local Democratic establishment, combined with Calone's attacks, helped Calone offset (or at least almost offset) her huge financial edge.
Obama narrowly carried this eastern Long Island seat, and Zeldin will be a top Democratic target. However, Zeldin has amassed a large warchest, and he won't mind that the eventual Democratic nominee will be distracted for a little while longer. Eastern Suffolk County has also tended to favor Republicans downballot, though Democrat Tim Bishop held this seat for 12 years until Zeldin beat him last cycle. And unlike many vulnerable Republicans, Zeldin isn't distancing himself from Donald Trump at all. But Zeldin explained the method to his apparent madness by claiming that his internal polls showed Trump beating Hillary Clinton "in a blowout" in New York's 1st Congressional District. However, he didn't release any actual numbers, and there have been no public polls here. (Zeldin's pollster? The clown-ass McLaughlin & Associates.) Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Republican.
● NY-03: Ex-Nassau County Tom Suozzi hasn't had a lot of electoral success over the last decade, but he'll have the chance to change that in November. Suozzi decisively won the Democratic primary for this open Long Island swing seat with 36 percent of the vote on Tuesday night; Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern, who had retiring Rep. Steve Israel's endorsement, and ex-North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman each took 22 percent, with North Hempstead Town Councilor Anna Kaplan at 15. Suozzi didn't run any ads, but he started the contest with a great deal of name recognition, which may have made all the difference in this four-way battle.
In 2001, Suozzi gave Democrats control of the county executive post for the first time ever, and he decisively won re-election four years later. However, the once-rising star waged an ill-advised gubernatorial primary campaign against Elliot Spitzer in 2006, and got crushed 82-18 statewide. The Great Recession hit Nassau hard a few years later, but Suozzi didn't recognize that he was in electoral danger until it was too late. In 2009, Suozzi narrowly lost re-election to Republican Ed Mangano by 386 votes in a complete shocker. Suozzi had $1 million left in his warchest after that campaign, so he obviously failed to take Mangano seriously. Four years later, with Mangano looking weak after the state seized control of Nassau's finances, Suozzi launched a comeback campaign. However, he lost his rematch to Mangano by a hefty 59-41, demonstrating that his popularity hadn't recovered.
Obama won this seat just 51-48, and Team Blue needs to hope that Suozzi's baggage won't drag him down, or that Donald Trump will at least offset it. The GOP, meanwhile, avoided a primary altogether by consolidating behind state Sen. Jack Martins, a former mayor of Mineola. Martins hasn't proven to be a very strong fundraiser so far, but he gives Team Red a shot at a House pickup in a year where they're mostly on the defensive. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● NY-13: State Sen. Adriano Espaillat appears to have won what became a nasty Democratic primary to replace longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel. With all precincts reporting, Espaillat leads Assemblyman Keith Wright, who had Rangel's endorsement, 37-34 percent, though Wright is not conceding yet.
Espaillat's win means that, for the first time since 1944, this safely blue seat will not have an African-American representative. The legendary and controversial Adam Clayton Powell Jr. won that year and held this district for decades, until Rangel unseated him in 1970. But while it would have once been unimaginable for Harlem not to have a black congressman, redistricting and demographic changes have changed this seat over the years: Now, 54 percent of the district is Latino, while only 25 percent is black. Espaillat challenged Rangel, who'd been censured by Congress over ethics issues, in 2012 and 2014, but narrowly lost both times.
Undeterred, Espaillat once again had to bank on the district's large Dominican-American population helping him pull off a win and make him the first Dominican member of the House. While Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, a fellow Dominican and a bitter rival, threatened to eat into Espaillat's base, Linares ended up taking just 6 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, three other African American candidates took a combined 22 percent of the vote, which likely cost Wright, who is also black, some critical support in the tight race. Wright had the backing of Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, a number of labor groups, and the Democratic parties in Manhattan and the Bronx, as well as a spending edge, but it wasn't quite enough.
Racial divisions were always present in this contest, and they took the center stage in the final days. A memo from a pro-Espaillat group surfaced just before primary day arguing that Espaillat could win if he "[p]revents or suppresses the White Progressive and African American" votes that would have gone to Wright. The organization wanted to send messages to those constituencies that would deter them from turning out rather than actually using illegal tactics to prevent them from voting, but the use of the word "suppress" invoked sinister overtones.
Espaillat denounced the memo, but that didn't stop his foes from hitting him over it. The weekend before the election, the Rev. Al Sharpton appeared at a Wright rally and invoked the memo, arguing that "outsiders" "are planning on suppressing our vote," saying that "[t]hey want to control who speaks for us. It's all a matter of control."
On election night, Wright also claimed that there was "evidence of voter suppression" and that "whether that suppression was illegal or not illegal, has to be looked at, has to be investigated." However, it seems very unlikely that there are enough votes out there to reverse Espaillat's lead, and there's no sign that anything illegal happened that would nullify the results. This seat gave Obama 95 percent of the vote, so the bitter Democratic contest doesn't threaten Team Blue's hold. But there's a good chance that Espaillat will face a credible primary foe in 2018.
● NY-19: As a recent Siena College poll predicted, both primaries were blowouts here. On the Democratic side, law professor Zephyr Teachout defeated Livingston Town Councilor Will Yandik 71-29. Teachout rose to prominence in 2014 when she waged a long-shot primary challenge against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014; while she lost 62-34, she did very well in the Hudson Valley. This time, Teachout earned endorsements both from establishment power-players like New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and more outsider-oriented figures like Bernie Sanders. Teachout's broad support, especially Sanders' endorsement, helped her raise a huge sum of cash for a House race. While Teachout only moved to the district recently from Brooklyn, Yandik didn't succeed in making it much of an issue in the primary.
Meanwhile, the much-nastier GOP primary ended with ex-Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, who was Team Red's 2006 gubernatorial nominee, defeating businessman Andrew Heaney 68-32. Heaney outspent Faso and eagerly embraced Donald Trump. However, two wealthy GOP donors financed a group called New York Wins that spent heavily attacking Heaney as a carpetbagger and a closet liberal. Obama carried this seat 52-46, but the GOP still does well here downballot. While Yandik didn't do much to portray Teachout as an outsider, Faso immediately began attacking her as a carpetbagger in his election night speech. However, Teachout won't lack the money she'll need to defend herself and hit back. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Republican.
● NY-22: While Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney was badly outspent, she still defeated businessman Steve Wells in Tuesday's GOP primary by a wide 41-33 in this competitive upstate seat, delighting Democrats and dismaying DC Republicans.
Tenney was a favorite of prominent conservatives like Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, but national Republicans wanted anyone but her to win. Tenney challenged Rep. Richard Hanna, one of the few moderate Republicans in the House, in 2014, and lost by an unexpectedly close 53-47 margin. Tenney kicked off another bid against Hanna just before the incumbent announced that he would retire. Hanna endorsed Wells in the final week of the race, and the NRCC notably snubbed Tenney when they added only Wells and ex-Broome County Legislator George Phillips (who took 25 percent) to their Young Guns program earlier this year. A GOP establishment group called Defending Main Street ended up spending about $215,000 boosting Wells and hitting Tenney.
Just as gravely, Tenney had a horrible relationship with the Oneida Indian Nation over a revenue-sharing deal involving their Turning Stone Resort Casino. Tenney drew the tribe's ire when she questioned whether its leader, Ray Halbritter, was actually a Native American, even calling him "Spray Tan Ray." (She'd be great in Donald Trump's cabinet, huh?) In response, the Oneidas financed a PAC called Grow the Economy that dropped $600,000, mostly on ads attacking Tenney and praising Wells. It wasn't enough, however, even though Wells himself also outspent Tenney by a wide margin. Tenney simple appears to have had enough support among hardcore conservatives to withstand it all. Phillips's surprisingly strong third-place finish also likely took votes from Wells.
This seat only narrowly backed Romney, and Democrats have recruited Kim Myers, a Broome County legislator. While Tenney's very conservative profile was an asset on Tuesday, it probably will be a liability in November. It's also very possible that the Oneida Indian Nation will keep attacking her in the general. However, this is another upstate seat where Republicans are strong downballot.
One wildcard is wealthy businessman Martin Babinec, who is running as an independent under the banner of his Upstate Jobs Party. Babinec also beat Tenney in the Reform Party primary on Tuesday by a 78-9 margin … which translates into 18 votes to her two. Babinec has already self-funded $1 million and is running ads, though it's unclear which party Babinec's presence will hurt more. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● NY-24: Colleen Deacon, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, decisively defeated college professor Eric Kingson 48-32 in the Democratic primary. Deacon had the support of her former boss, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and the DCCC, as well as a clear spending edge. Bernie Sanders held a rally for Kingson in the final week of the contest, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Deacon will face freshman Republican Rep. John Katko in this Syracuse seat. Obama won 57-41, but Katko pulled off a strong 59-40 victory against a Democratic incumbent two years later. Katko has stockpiled $1.2 million, and national Republicans have reserved $1.5 million in fall airtime here, so he's not going down without a fight. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● OK-01: Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine swamped oilman Tom Atkinson 81-16 in this safely red Tulsa seat. Atkinson largely self-funded his campaign and actually outspent the incumbent, but his ads never made a case for why voters should want to fire Bridenstine. However, Atkinson may soon get another crack: Bridenstine recently reaffirmed that he would retire in 2018.
● OK-02: Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin defeated Army veteran Jarrin Jackson 63-37 in this safely red eastern Oklahoma seat. The contest got a little interesting when ex-Sen. Tom Coburn, a conservative icon who represented this seat in the 1990s, backed Jackson late in the race. Coburn is a firm believer in term limits, and he became angry when Mullin started to back away from his pledge to call it quits in 2018. However, Jackson had little money, and the possibility that Mullin would break his term limits promise wasn't exactly the most compelling issue.
● NRCC: The NRCC has unveiled the first 11 members of the highest tier of its "Young Guns" program for top recruits. Like the DCCC's Red to Blue program, Young Guns is meant to signal to donors (and allied outside groups) that these are the contenders worth aiding:
CA-07: Scott Jones
CA-24: Justin Fareed
CA-52: Denise Gitsham
IL-11: Tonia Khouri
MD-06: Amie Hoeber
MN-08: Stewart Mills
NE-02: Don Bacon
NV-03: Danny Tarkanian
NY-03: Jack Martins
NY-19: John Faso
PA-08: Brian Fitzpatrick
Most of these picks make sense but there are a few weird inclusions. DuPage County Board Member Tonia Khouri is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Bill Foster in a seat that Obama carried 58-41, and her campaign hasn't raised an incredible amount of cash. Former Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Amie Hoeber is also waging an uphill climb against Democratic Rep. John Delaney in an Obama 55-43 seat. Hoeber is wealthy and her husband, Qualcomm executive Mark Epstein, has funded a super PAC to aid her campaign, but it's still incredibly tough to see Delaney losing in a presidential year.
Not counting seats such as Arizona's 1st and Florida's 18th where GOP voters still need to choose their nominees, the only notable omission is New York's 22nd, where conservative Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney just won the GOP nod (see our NY-22 item above). The NRCC notably left Tenney off the lower levels of Young Guns back in February when they endorsed both of her primary rivals, and it looks like they're not ready to bury the hatchet even now that she's their nominee.
P.S. As the Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel points out, few of these "Young Guns" are what you'd actually call "young": Their average age is 49, and Hoeber, the oldest person on the list, is 74. But "Blue to Red" just doesn't have a good ring to it, and now that Young Guns co-founder Eric Cantor is up on Boot Hill, he can't help the NRCC brainstorm something better.