● IL-Sen: Illinois primary voters went to the polls Tuesday and unsurprisingly, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who represents a suburban Chicago House seat, easily secured the nomination. When we put the Digest to bed, Duckworth, the overwhelming favorite of national Democrats, was taking 63 percent of the vote, far ahead of ex-Chicago Urban League head Andrea Zopp's 25. State Sen. Napoleon Harris was an even more distant third with just 12 percent. Duckworth will now face Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in what will be an expensive contest.
With the exception of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Kirk is the most vulnerable member of the GOP Senate caucus. Illinois is usually a reliably blue state in presidential years, and Kirk has drawn some ugly headlines recently. Kirk most notably referred to his unmarried Senate colleague Lindsey Graham as "a bro with no ho," then followed it up by explaining: "That's what we'd say on the South Side"—comments almost calculated to offend both women and African Americans. Duckworth also is far from a generic congresswoman. Duckworth lost both her legs in 2004 when the Army helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq, something Kirk's allies at the NRSC inadvertently reminded the public about in a disastrous tweet last week.
However, it's too early to count Kirk out. There haven't been many public polls released here, though that will probably change soon. Kirk also isn't afraid to fight dirty: He's repeatedly run xenophobic TV ads arguing that Duckworth is undermining America's security by allowing Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS to enter the country. Illinois is an expensive state, and we're expecting a big battle in the fall. This is an absolute must-win for Democrats if they're to retake the Senate. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as a Tossup.
● NC-Sen: On Tuesday, former state House Majority Whip Deborah Ross easily won the Democratic Senate primary, outpacing Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey by a 63-16 margin when we put the Digest to bed. Ross, who was the favorite of national Democrats, will now face Republican Sen. Richard Burr. Ross doesn't have much statewide name recognition, and she'll need to raise a lot of money quickly to take on the well-funded incumbent. However, North Carolina is a potentially swingy state in presidential years, and Burr hasn't made much of an impression on voters during his two terms in the Senate. Burr is favored to win, but he could have trouble if November goes badly for the GOP—particularly if Donald Trump were to put this state in play. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Likely Republican.
● NV-Sen: Politico reports that Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto has launched a three-week TV ad buy for $580,000. Masto doesn't face any credible primary foes, so it's pretty surprising to see her spending this much this early. Masto recently released an introductory spot, and she's out with a Spanish version of the same commercial.
● OH-Sen: On Tuesday, ex-Gov. Ted Strickland crushed Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld by a 66-21 margin at press time to win the Democratic nomination. The 31-year-old Sittenfeld relentlessly argued that Strickland's evolution away from his once pro-NRA views was insincere, and he made more than a few not-so-subtle jabs at Strickland's age (74), but Sittenfeld had trouble boosting his own meager statewide name recognition.
Strickland will now go on to battle GOP Sen. Rob Portman in the fall. Most polls show Strickland and Portman locked in a tight race in this swing state, but the incumbent has a massive fundraising advantage. Whichever party takes Ohio's 18 electoral votes will get a boost in the Senate race, but Portman's superior resources and incumbency gives him a better chance to win over crossover voters than Strickland.
The ex-governor has also made some avoidable mistakes on the campaign trail. These small stumbles don't appear to have done Strickland any damage yet, but Portman will be able to exploit any future errors Strickland might make far better than Sittenfeld ever could. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Republican.
● PA-Sen: A new group called Accountable Leadership PAC recently spent $250,000 on an ad buy for Joe Sestak, and the National Journal's Andrea Drusch reports that they're purchasing another week's worth of TV time for an additional $250,000. EMILY's List has pledged to spend $1 million to support Katie McGinty, Sestak's main rival in the April 26 Democratic primary, though her allies are unsubtly asking for more.
● MT-Gov, AL: Filing closed Monday in Montana, and there were no last-minute surprises for the state's two biggest races. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and rich guy Greg Gianforte each only face minor primary opposition; Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Lean Democratic. In the House race, GOP incumbent Ryan Zinke and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau don't have any primary foes; we rate the general election as Likely Republican.
● ND-Gov: Democrats finally have a candidate for this open seat. On Monday, state Rep. Marvin Nelson confirmed that he would run; the state party convention begins March 31 so if anyone wants to mount a serious challenge against him, they'll need to get in quickly. Nelson represents a heavily Democratic seat, so he doesn't have much experience winning over crossover support in this conservative state.
The GOP establishment pick is Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, though rich guy Doug Burgum is hoping to upset him in the June primary. Nelson will need a lot to go right if he's going to become the first Democrat to win a North Dakota gubernatorial race since George Sinner in 1988, but at least Team Blue has someone in case things go to hell for the GOP.
● AZ-05: On Tuesday, ex-Mesa Mayor Scott Smith announced that he would not seek this safely red open seat. Smith would have brought plenty of name-recognition to the table, and he probably would have had the best chance to defeat state Senate President Andy Biggs in the August primary. Biggs is wealthy and he has the support of retiring Rep. Matt Salmon, and Biggs is likely the frontrunner against state Rep. Justin Olson, though the contest is still taking shape.
● CA-29: On Friday, former Los Angeles City Councilor Richard Alarcon launched a last-minute bid against fellow Rep. Tony Cardenas, a fellow Democrat. Alarcon's odds can charitably be described as long. In 2014, he was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for allegedly living outside his city Council district and lying about it. Alarcon spent 51 days under house arrest before an appeals court found that the jury had received improper instructions: As a result, Alarcon's conviction was thrown out. Alarcon's political career wasn't going particularly well before that though: In 2012, he lost the general election for an Assembly seat to fellow Democrat Raul Bocanegra by a 58-42 margin.
Cardenas himself has had a mostly low-key career during his two terms in the House, with one exception. In April of 2015, the FBI began investigating his district director, and Cardenas awkwardly dodged questions about the matter. However, the story has largely disappeared from the headlines, and it doesn't seem to have done Cardenas any electoral damage. No Republicans are running for this safely blue San Fernando Valley seat, so it's likely that both Cardenas and Alarcon will advance past the June top-two primary to the November general. However, it will be a massive surprise if Alarcon gets anywhere close to unseating Cardenas.
● MD-04: Glenn Ivey recently launched an introductory ad ahead of the April 26 Democratic primary but right now, not many voters are seeing it. The National Journal reports that Ivey has bought only about $16,000 of TV time, which doesn't go very far in the expensive DC media market. However, Ivey had more money available than his two main primary rivals, Anthony Brown and Joseline Peña-Melnyk, at the end of 2015, so he should still be able to outspend them.
● MD-08: It's pretty uncommon for two different campaigns to release polls showing a third candidate ahead in the primary, but here we are. Earlier this week, former hotel executive Kathleen Matthews unveiled a survey showing her trailing state Sen. Jamie Raskin 31-28 in the April 26 Democratic primary, with rich guy David Trone at 13. Trone himself has a Hickman Analytics poll that shows Raskin leading him 30-25, with Matthews at 21. The Washington Post says that Trone has spent $3.5 million so far, and Matthews has also aired some TV ads. Raskin has yet to take to the airwaves, so it's extra-impressive that both his main opponents agree that he currently has the edge.
● MI-01: After months of silence, state Rep. Peter Pettalia has finally announced that he will not seek the GOP nod for this open seat. Republicans already have a primary between state Sen. Tom Casperson, who is backed by retiring Rep. Dan Benishek; ex-state Sen. Jason Allen; and former Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman. The Democratic establishment has consolidated behind former state party chair Lon Johnson, who faces 2014 nominee Jerry Cannon in the August primary. The filing deadline is April 19, so there's still a little time for someone else to jump in.
● PA-09: House Transportation Committee head Bill Shuster is out with his second spot ahead of the April primary for this safely red seat. Like so many longtime GOP congressmen, Shuster decries that D.C. is broken and blames Obamacare for it. The narrator also praises Shuster for "leading the conservative fight to end Obamacare." Given how frustrated conservatives are that their leaders are making no progress in actually doing away with Obamacare despite their many promises, that's kind of like Napoleon bragging how he's leading the fight against the Russian winter. Shuster faces a weak primary challenge from businessman Art Halvorson, but Shuster only won 53 percent of the vote during the primary last cycle.
● NY State Senate: Siena finds a tight race in the 9th District special election to succeed former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, with a new poll showing Democrat Todd Kaminsky up 47-45 on Republican Chris McGrath. Both sides sought to put a positive spin on the numbers and neither disputed the results, so the contest probably is quite close—or at least, it's perceived to be.
However, there's still quite a bit of time before Election Day, which is not until April 19. What's more, that date coincides with the state's presidential primaries, which could have an unpredictable effect on turnout, especially if one side or the other wraps things up in a month's time.
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