● AK-AL: In mid-October of 2014, longtime Alaska GOP Rep. Don Young drew some deservedly awful headlines after he appeared at an assembly at Wasilla High School and made some incredibly offensive comments about a local student's recent suicide. Young first suggested that suicide was the result of a lack of support from friends and family. And as the school principle, Amy Spargo, and teacher Carla Swick recounted to the Alaska Dispatch News, Young's comments only got worse:
Both Spargo and Swick say a friend of the victim, moved by emotion, shouted at Young, "He had friends. He had support."
"The kid said, 'It's depression -- you know, a mental illness,' " Spargo recalled. As she remembers, Young replied, " 'Well, what, do you just go to the doctor and get diagnosed with suicide?' "
At some point during the exchange, several school staffers say, the congressman also used either the words "---hole" or "smartass."
Young went on to win re-election a few weeks later, but by only 51-41. Two years before, in a much worse year for Republicans nationally, Young triumphed 64-29. While the story almost certainly cost the incumbent plenty of votes, Young's 2014 Democratic opponent didn't have the time or money to run ads on Young's awful comments.
Luckily, Democrat Steve Lindbeck has the resources to make sure voters don't forget about this incident. Lindbeck is out with a commercial starring Zach Grier, who was one of the students who challenged Young at the assembly in 2014.
Grier speaks directly to the camera and delivers this message:
Two years ago, a friend of mine committed suicide. He was 16 years old. A few days later, Congressman Don Young visited our school. When we asked if there was anything he could do to help students with depression, first he blamed us for our friend's death. Then he mocked us. Then Mr. Young cursed us when we got upset. I don't know why anyone would do that. Or why he's still our congressman.
Young, who has represented the entire state of Alaska since 1973, has the luxury of running for re-election in a state that Donald Trump is likely to carry next month. But Lindbeck, a retired Alaska Public Media CEO, is Young's strongest challenger in years, and he has the chance to remind voters why they were so disgusted with Young two years ago, as well as present himself as a viable alternative.
3Q Fundraising: It's that time again! Be sure to check out our third quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in.
● FL-Sen: Patrick Murphy (D): $3.3 million raised
● NC-Sen: Deborah Ross (D): $4.3 million raised
● WI-Sen: Russ Feingold (D): $5.2 million raised
● CA-52: Denise Gitsham (R): $400,000 raised
● FL-Sen, IL-Sen: Politico reports that the DSCC has canceled a total of $2.9 million in ad reservations in three states. On the bad news side, Team Blue has axed their planned ad buy for the week of Oct. 17 in Florida, a cancelation that comes out to $1.9 million. A few weeks ago, the group nuked an additional $4 million from their reservation. The DSCC's decision comes as polls consistently show Democrat Patrick Murphy with mid-single digit deficits against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. The most recent poll we've seen is a Mason-Dixon survey giving Rubio a 47-40 edge even as Hillary Clinton leads 46-42.
By contrast, the DSCC's cancelations in Illinois and Wisconsin (see our WI-Sen item below for more on that race) are the good type of cutbacks. In Illinois, Team Blue has canceled their $600,000 ad buy for the week of Oct. 17. There haven't been many polls here, but Republican Sen. Mark Kirk will have a tough time beating Democrat Tammy Duckworth in this very blue state. On Monday, Duckworth also released a poll from Normington Petts giving her a 46-37 lead, up from the 44-37 edge her survey showed her with two months ago. This sample has Hillary Clinton leading 52-35.
Conservative groups have been reluctant to spend to prop up Kirk. A week ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the NRSC would launch a $750,000 buy on Kirk's behalf to demonstrate that they still believed he could win. However, that's a pretty small amount for a Senate race, especially one in an expensive state, and it doesn't seem to have persuaded other GOP organizations to open their wallets here. While the Senate Leadership Fund recently announced that they would spend an additional $21 million in six Senate races, they've continued to give Illinois a wide berth.
● WI-Sen: With Republican Sen. Ron Johnson continuing to trail Democrat Russ Feingold in the polls, national Republicans have just decided to wash their hands of this contest almost completely. On Monday, the news broke that the NRSC had canceled their entire $1.1 million TV reservation. The group says they'll still go ahead with their coordinated ad buy with Johnson, but that's not going to matter much: Under federal law, groups like the NRSC can spend no more than $430,400.
Democrats still have some TV reservations here, but that may not be true for much longer much longer. Last week, the DSCC axed their planned ad buy for the first week of October. And hours after the NRSC news broke, Politico reported that the DSCC has decided to cancel their buy for the week of Oct. 17 as well.
With the NRSC leaving the Badger State, it looks unlikely that other powerful conservative groups will come to RoJo's rescue. While the Senate Leadership Fund, an organization that is close to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, recently announced $21 million in new spending in six states, they are continuing to avoid Wisconsin. And while the Koch brothers group Freedom Partners spent $1 million on a TV buy two months ago, they haven't returned to the airwaves.
Johnson still has one thing going for him. Johnson has a net worth of $17 million and while he's sounded reluctant to self-fund this time, he still can. But while Johnson has the option to gamble his own moola on this race, his allies have evidently decided just to fold now.
● CO-Sen: Monmouth: Michael Bennet (D-inc) 53, Darryl Glenn (R) 35 (49-38 Clinton) (July: 48-35 Bennet)
● NC-Sen: Selzer & Company for Bloomberg: Deborah Ross (D) 46, Richard Burr (R-inc) 44 (46-45 Clinton)
● NC-Gov: Selzer & Company for Bloomberg: Roy Cooper (D) 50, Pat McCrory (R-inc) 44 (46-45 Clinton)
● NV-Sen: Bendixen & Amandi International for the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Joe Heck (R) 47, Catherine Cortez Masto (D) 45 (45-44 Clinton)
Note that while we use the four-way presidential results when pollsters include the option, we went with the Clinton vs. Trump head-to-head in North Carolina because Selzer tested Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who is not on the state ballot. Including Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson doesn't change much, however: Clinton leads 44-43.
Also note that the Nevada poll did not include "None of These Candidates," which is an option in Silver State elections. In the 2012 Senate race, None of These Candidates "won" 5 percent of the vote. (If None of These Candidates actually received the most votes in a Nevada race, the winner would be the human with the most votes.) The Bendixen & Amandi International survey was conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned and very much controlled by Republican uber donor Sheldon Adelson.
● WV-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in from the period of May 23 to Sept. 25. Even though Democrat Jim Justice has constantly led in the polls (including in a recent GOP survey), Republican Bill Cole actually outraised him $743,000 to $477,000. And while Justice is the wealthiest man in West Virginia, Cole still did more self-funding during this time; Cole contributed an additional of his own money $501,000 to Justice's $367,000. At the end of September, Cole held a large $419,000 to $150,000 cash-on-hand edge.
● AZ-01: During Republican Paul Babeu's campaign for Arizona's swingy 1st Congressional District, he has been dogged by accusations that he not only knew of the systematic child abuse at the Massachusetts boarding school for troubled youth that he ran, but that he also oversaw it. Babeu has long denied any knowledge of abuse that led to the DeSisto School closing down in 2004. But earlier this year, a damning 1999 home video surfaced that showed Babeu speaking glowingly about the supposed discipline measures a less sadistic person would recognize as abuse. These measures included sustained isolation, withholding food, and even forcing students to strip search other students.
Two weeks ago, Babeu held a press conference where he even denied that Massachusetts found the abuse even happened, a claim that ABC15 News in Phoenix wrote was "directly contradict[ed]" by the 1,700 page report that Babeu himself cited. And a few days ago, former DeSisto student Hilary Friedman came forward to call utter bullshit on Babeu's claims, saying, "There's no way in hell Paul Babeu did not know what was going on with every single student in that school. No way."
Friedman and other former students interviewed by ABC15 News in Phoenix say that there were daily meetings where students and staff talked about topics, including discipline, and that Babeu was at those meetings. Friedman goes on to say that discipline needed to be approved by a consensus vote, and that Babeu took part in those proceedings as well.
For his part, Babeu claims he "was there as a business manager and I've said that since day one." However, the 1999 home video features Babeu saying that, among other things, that students could be made to sit in a chair facing the corner of a room "for weeks." Babeu also indicated that food might be withheld, saying students "have to be free of anything, any distraction, like food to TV, radio." To get better, he insists, "They need to feel hopeless and feel depression and complete failure."
The practices that Babeu talks about in the 1999 video sound very similar to what Friedman says she went through when she was at DeSisto in 2001. Friedman says she was "farmed," a punishment that the Massachusetts documents investigating the abuse describe as a practice that sent students to a separate dormitory and forbade them from attending classes. The state also said that farmed students "must wear a 'Dickie' style jumpsuit; must go to the bathroom as a group with other farmed students; may be deprived of food and water for up to eight hours until he or she completes chores; and may have no contact with home, for months at a time."
A 2001 document from a state investigator also describes Friedman, saying, "She has been hospitalized due to her eating disorder and returned to the school from the hospital on December 22. When she returned she was immediately farmed. Hilary reported that DeSisto farmed her because of her eating disorder, not because of a particular incident."
The DCCC just started airing another ad hitting the former headmaster over his complicity in this horrific scandal. They show Babeu maintaining his denial during that recent press conference, while former students testify to the sordid practices, and the narrator notes the state of Massachusetts had ordered the school's mistreatment to stop after an extensive investigation.
Babeu faces Democrat Tom O'Halleran, and while this northern Arizona seat backed Romney by 50-48, the DCCC recently released a poll last week showing O'Halleran leading 45-38. National Republicans not only have yet to release contradictory numbers, they've also shown little interest in giving Babeu financial support even though Democratic groups have reserved millions in ad time here. Hopefully, voters in Arizona's 1st District will be as disgusted with Babeu as we are
● Congress: Hillary Clinton and many downballot Democratic candidates have avoided linking Donald Trump to the growing trend of extremism as Republican orthodoxy, and Stephen Wolf looks at why that is. He explains how Trump truly is a byproduct of long-standing trends in the Republican Party, which eschews compromise and has appealed to racism for decades, just with more subtlety than Trump. However, recent field experiments have sadly shown that voters simply don't see it that way. Conventional attacks on issues like the economy were often more potent than tying downballot Republicans to Trump, which could even backfire.
● AZ-Sen: Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick goes after GOP Sen. John McCain for his support for Donald Trump, arguing that he doesn't put country ahead of party anymore.
● FL-Sen: Democrat Patrick Murphy argues that while normal people don't get paid if they don't come to work, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio often didn't show up to vote "and failed us when he did." Murphy also pledges to protect Social Security and women's healthcare.
● MO-Sen: The NRSC continues to argue that Democrat Jason Kander "voted in favor of Obamacare." They are once again acting like Kander was actually in Congress to vote for Obamacare, when the bill he backed in the state legislature was a proposal to establish a state health insurance exchange in 2011, a year after Obamacare was passed. The commercial also says that Kander, like Hillary Clinton, wanted "an even bigger Obamacare," and accuses him of voting to raises taxes on pharmacies and ambulances while cutting hospital funding. The conservative non-profit One Nation again thanks Republican Sen. Roy Blunt for his work for military families.
● NC-Sen: Democrat Deborah Ross denounces unnamed attacks from GOP Sen. Richard Burr on her, with the narrator quoting an editorial that says Burr "doesn't have much of a record to run on." Ross then tells the audience that Burr is just trying to distract people from his record. The conservative non-profit One Nation praises Burr for voting to fund improvements for North Carolina bases.
● NH-Sen: Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte features her mother and her daughter, with the candidate calling her mom her inspiration. The DSCC argues that Democrat Maggie Hassan cut taxes and expanded education as governor, while Ayotte did the exact opposite in Congress.
● NV-Sen: Republican Joe Heck continues to blast Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto for taxing taxpayer-funded trips to luxurious places.
● PA-Sen: Republican Sen. Pat Toomey describes how he helped the family of a young girl cut through the red tape and get her a new lung when she had a week to live. The spot ends with a testimonial from the girl urging viewers to back Toomey. Democrat Katie McGinty is out with two spots (here and here). Her first ad highlights her middle class roots, while she argues Toomey is for wealthy special interests. In her second spot, McGinty calls for equal pay for women, and charges Toomey with voting against it.
● MO-Gov: Republican Eric Greitens is out with two spots painting Democrat Chris Koster as corrupt (here and here). His first ad throws a bunch of charges at Koster, including that he "made national news for his corruption" as attorney general, and that he "wasted millions redecorating his office." The commercial ends with the narrator summing up Koster as, "Another corrupt big-spending union boss-controlled Obamacare expanding career politician." (Good luck fitting that on a bumper sticker.)
Greitens' other ad features various people saying they won't vote for him, accusing him of backing Hillary Clinton and charging him with spending millions to redecorate his office and taxing $100,000 in taxpayer funding for luxury travel.
As with other Greitens' ads, this commercial plays very fast and loose with the truth. As KMBC News explains, Koster told the legislature that the office was run down and in need of repair; the money came "from settlements in consumer fraud and merchandising cases," and from a $400,000 federal grant. The charge that Koster "national news for his corruption" is a reference to an unflattering 2014 New York Times story that reported that Koster's office had dropped out of a multi-state investigation of 5-Hour Energy Drink's distributors for deceptive advertising, while the distributor's law firm had given money to Koster's previous campaigns. Koster reached a separate settlement, and he now refuses donations from companies his office is or has investigated.
● MT-Gov: Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's daughter praises him for working to close the pay gap between men and women.
● NH-Gov: The DGA's group "Put New Hampshire First" argues that Republican Chris Sununu inherited his family's name and a high position at their ski resort, only to cut jobs and hours to avoid giving employees health insurance. The narrator charges that Sununu opposes the minimum wage "because he never needed to work for anything."
● WV-Gov: Republican Bill Cole ties Democrat Jim Justice to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, while touting that he stands with Donald Trump.
● FL-13: Democrat Charlie Crist relates his biography before his service as governor, even playfully citing his fan kerfuffle from the 2014 governor's race. He promises to protect Social Security, Medicare, Planned Parenthood, and care for veterans.
● FL-18: Republican Brian Mast promises he'll fight the expanded rail line project All Aboard Florida, which would connect Miami and Orlando. He claims the proposed route would lower property values and could endanger children. Mast stands on a dock while speaking to the camera, a striking visual since he lost both of his legs during his Army service in Afghanistan.
● FL-26: Republican Carlos Curbelo's Spanish-language spot features several Hispanic voters praising his performance in office.
● MI-07: Democrat Gretchen Driskell attacks Republican Rep. Tim Walberg for supporting bad trade deals, claiming she will fight them if elected.
● MN-02: Republican Jason Lewis decries Democrat Angie Craig's attacks against him. He claims that while he might be politically incorrect — that would be a charitable way to describe his long history of racist and sexist statements — he will be an independent voice for Minnesota.
● MN-03: The DCCC continues to tie Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen to Donald Trump. This spot features a couple in a video store looking at DVDs of Erik Paulsen and Donald Trump, saying "No one buys these anymore." They subsequently frame Paulsen's efforts to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and criminalize abortion as relics of the past, before noting the Trump story features the same things, plus Trump mocking the disabled and degrading women.
● NE-02: The NRCC attacks Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, claiming he voted against funding for troops fighting ISIS, supported cities that don't enforce certain immigration laws, and voted to release terrorists from Guantanamo.
Ashford's votes were on amendments to force a formal war powers authorization vote, not against the principle of the anti-ISIS funding itself. The second vote would have deprived certain cities of federal grant money for law enforcement efforts, which Ashford claims he opposed instead of wanting to protect unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Finally, Ashford has voted against closing Guantanamo and transferring any more prisoners, but had previously voted against Republican proposals on the matter in 2015, claiming they went too far in limiting the president's authority.
● NH-01: In her first ad, Democratic ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter highlights her middle-class upbringing, promising she will "work to restore the American dream" for struggling middle-class families.
● NY-03: Democrat Tom Suozzi responds to a recent NRCC ad that attacked him for raising taxes, and he goes after Republican Jack Martins for the same thing. Suozzi smartly does not repeat the attacks against him, but calls Martins a hypocrite who raised property taxes 31 percent and his own pay by 61 percent during his tenure as mayor of Mineola. Suozzi's later claim might sound great in an attack ad, but that salary increase was only from $18,000 to $29,000. Even though it was a part-time position, it's hardly like we're talking about living in luxury on the public dime, but it will be up to Martins to try to make that defense.
● NY-19: Democrat Zephyr Teachout speaks directly to the camera and decries the negative attacks against her. She highlights one ad calling her dangerous and another that claims she wants to raise property taxes. It's usually not a good idea to highlight most specific attacks against you, since they will be on voters' minds for whatever the rest of your message is about. Teachout does castigate Republican John Faso for being a lobbyist in the pocket of the wealthy Wall Streeters who fund those negative attacks, but that's a strong enough message to stand on its own without doing Republicans any favors by repeating their specific charges.
● VA-10: Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock touts her bipartisanship and independence, claiming she successfully fought for a law giving $600 billion in tax breaks to families and businesses. That refers to the bipartisan 2015 omnibus appropriations compromise, which mostly just extended existing tax-breaks that were set to expire and delayed Obamacare taxes that were set to kick in.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.