● FL-Sen: Rule no. 1 for political candidates: Never try to edit your own Wikipedia page. Rule no. 2: Definitely don't try to scrub out references to your links with Scientology. And rule no. 3: For godsakes, don't associate with those lunatic Scientology slave-lords in the first place! Republican Rep. David Jolly has, however, broken all three of these rules. Jolly's ties to the "Church" of Scientology are long-established and well-known. The group has a prominent headquarters in the town of Clearwater, which is located in Jolly's district, and Jolly has often participated in Scientology events: Just last year, he was feted as a "guest of honor" at a Scientology festival.
But the Scientologists have a justly abysmal reputation, so it's no surprise that Jolly would want to conceal his relationship with the organization as he runs statewide. In classic fashion, though, an attempted cover-up has simply brought renewed attention to the matter, as BuzzFeed just busted the Jolly campaign for deleting mentions of Scientology (as well as his work as a lobbyist) on his Wikipedia bio. Jolly tried to fob it off as a "careless staff mistake," even though his own spokesman told BuzzFeed that this was a very deliberate effort "to correct his page to be consistent with all of his public bios."
Jolly insisted that "I stand by my full record, relationships, and life experience," but we'll see how eager he is to talk more about Scientology on the campaign trail.
1Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our first quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in.
● AR-Sen: Conner Eldridge (D): $300,000 raised
● LA-Sen: John Kennedy (R): $800,000 raised
● FL-10: Bob Poe (D): $130,000 raised, $1.2 million self-funded, $1.25 million cash-on-hand
● PA-08: Steve Santarsiero (D): $400,000 raised
● KY-Sen: Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has a very difficult race against GOP Sen. Rand Paul in this conservative state, but it doesn't look like he'll need to worry about money. Gray, a Democrat, reports raising $750,000 from donors during the first three months of 2016, and he loaned himself another $1 million; as of March 31, Gray had $1.5 million on hand. Paul has not yet released his quarterly haul.
Paul spent most of 2015 focused on his presidential campaign, and a few polls from early this year show the senator with a horrible approval rating at home. However, while Democrats can still win state-level races in Kentucky (though Team Blue is still smarting from their surprisingly wide loss in last year's gubernatorial contest), the commonwealth has largely turned against federal Democrats. In 2014, Democrat Alison Grimes hoped that Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell's unpopularity would help her win, but McConnell, with the assistance of a GOP wave, turned the contest into a referendum on the Obama administration.
Paul's failed presidential campaign showed his weaknesses as a campaigner, but he's not going to hesitate to portray Gray as a tool of unpopular national Democrats. And if the GOP feels like they need to, you can bet that they'll remind Kentucky's numerous socially conservative voters that Gray is openly gay. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Safe Republican, though we'll keep an eye on Gray to see if he can make this a race.
● PA-Sen: Well, the DSCC is really, truly determine to make sure Joe Sestak doesn't win Pennsylvania's April 26 Democratic primary. In addition to the $425,000 the committee is spending in coordination with Katie McGinty, the DSCC has also reserved $1.1 million in TV time for the final two weeks of the race. That comes on top of a promised $1 million from EMILY's List and another $350,000 from the SEIU, so we're getting close to $3 million just to help McGinty win her party's nomination.
That's pretty amazing for a candidate whose sole electoral achievement to date was taking 8 percent in a four-way primary for governor two years ago. But either all of these groups are convinced to a moral certainty that McGinty is by far the superior option for taking on GOP Sen. Pat Toomey this fall, or they're engaged in some bizarre and self-destructive behavior. Let's seriously hope it's the former.
● AZ-01: Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has released yet another poll in his ongoing attempt to tell all his rivals in the GOP primary that they simply shouldn't bother. The survey, from OH Predictive Insights (which just bought local pollster MBQF; the "OH" stands for Owens Harkey, not Ohio), finds Babeu at 36, with businessman Gary Keihne and former Secretary of State Ken Bennett far behind at 9 apiece. The rest of the crowded field is all in the low single digits. An independent poll found similar results in January, as did an earlier Babeu poll from last October.
But Arizona's primary is not until the end of August, so Babeu's rivals still have plenty of time to get their names out there. And with this many ambitious pols in the race (there are seven Republicans running), we're likely to see some bitter attack ads, so the state of play could easily change. Democrats, on the other hand, don't face these same issues: They've united behind ex-state Sen. Tom O'Halleran, a former Republican. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race a Tossup.
● AZ-05: Former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, who has engaged in some high-profile tangles with notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is entering the GOP primary for Arizona's open 5th Congressional District. Stapley left office four years ago after Arpaio had investigated (and ultimately indicted) him for alleged financial improprieties; the case utterly blew up in Arpaio's face, with the charges getting dismissed in court and Stapley winning a $3.5 million settlement from the county.
Stapley briefly made a bid for what was then a brand-new 9th District in 2012 but didn't make it as far as the primary. This time, if he stays the course, he'll face a field that includes state Senate President Andy Biggs, state Rep. Justin Olson, and former Pinal County Supervisor Bryan Martyn. All the action in this dark red seat will take place on the GOP side.
● DE-AL: On Monday, state Rep. Bryon Short dropped out of the race for this safely blue seat, saying the fundraising demands were too much. Three notable Democrats are still running in the September primary: 2014 treasurer nominee Sean Barney, ex-state Secretary of Labor Lisa Blunt Rochester, and state Sen. Bryan Townsend. VoteVets is backing Barney, while EMILY's List is supporting Blunt Rochester.
● FL-18: Wealthy physician Mark Freeman is running his first TV ad, well ahead of the August GOP primary for this competitive open seat. In the spot, a narrator says Barack Obama "has made America weak" and tells viewers that the man who can "make us safe again" is "retired Lt. Cmdr. Dr. Mark Freeman." Freeman himself then pops into the frame to declare that "our enemies no longer fear us," so therefore we must "support our allies, especially Israel" and "we must destroy ISIS, no matter what it takes." Are Republican primaries nationwide going to be fought over who's most willing to start another ground war in the Middle East this year?
● MD-08: With three weeks to go before the primary for this safely blue seat, rich guy David Trone is continuing his ad barrage. There's no size of the buy for this ad campaign but Bethesda Magazine says that Trone had spent about $4 million by the end of March.
Trone's first spot features his dogs and it's one of the most substance-free ads we've ever seen. The narrator says that dogs take after their owners and argues the Trone pets are "loyal, love people, and refuse to roll over." He also adds that they're Democrats. Trone at one point says the dogs "must be chasing the neighbor's dog, Donald." Not sure what point he's making: The guy chasing Donald Trump is Ted Cruz, and Trone probably isn't saying that his dogs emulate the senator from Texas too. Usually if you see an ad that's basically a candidate with his cute pets and nothing else, it's a parody, not an actual campaign commercial.
In Trone's second new spot, he brags that he's not taking money from PACs. Trone doesn't dance around the fact that he's using his own fortune to air the spots, saying he'd "rather spend my own money than owe anything" to lobbyists and corporations. Trone's third commercial also tries to turn his decision to self-fund into an asset. The narrator claims that, because members of Congress spend so much time fundraising, they only do their job 40 percent of the time. The narrator then says that since "David Trone would rather spend his own money than take a dime from lobbyists or PACs," he'll spend 100 percent of his time working to help fund the NIH so they can end Alzheimer's and working to relive college debt.
Both Trone and former hotel executive Kathleen Matthews recently released polls showing state Sen. Jamie Raskin with the lead, though each survey argues its candidate is just behind. Both polls showed the rest of the field, including state Del. Kumar Barve, far back in the distance. Barve is hoping that his first TV ad will help him make up ground, and it's a good one. The minute-long commercial features a man named Osama Farrag who describes how his son was born with a rare disease, and Farrag feared he'd go into bankruptcy paying for the daily blood transfusions that were needed to keep him alive. Barve then describes how he wrote a law holding insurance companies accountable to protect people like Farrag.
● NJ-03: Filing closed Monday in New Jersey for the June 7 primary, and the state has a list of candidates available here.
Perhaps no district underscores how challenging it will be for Democrats to retake the House than New Jersey's 3rd. Obama carried this South Jersey seat 52-47, but Democrats have two unappealing candidates running to take on wealthy GOP freshman Tom MacArthur. Frederick LaVergne took 2 percent of the vote running as an independent on the "Democratic-Republican" line, while Jim Keady badly lost a 2015 state Assembly race in a seat that barely overlaps with the 3rd. This district is split between the ultra-expensive New York and Philadelphia media markets, and it's unlikely national Democrats will spend much to boost a weak nominee. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.
● NJ-05: Republican Rep. Scott Garrett has always won re-election in this North Jersey seat with ease, but his ultra-conservative record may finally have caught up with him. Last year, Politico reported that Garrett told the NRCC that he wouldn't donate to them because they supported gay candidates. A number of Garrett's old Wall Street allies refused to fund him any longer and some have even started donating to Democrat Josh Gottheimer, a former aide to both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Romney carried this seat 51-48, and it won't be easy for Gottheimer to win even against a damaged Garrett. However, Sen. Cory Booker narrowly won here in 2014, so there is a path to victory for Democrats. Gottheimer has been a strong fundraiser while national Republicans don't seem very motivated to help Garrett: The powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, angry about his opposition to the Export-Import Bank, refused to endorse Garrett even as they backed the rest of the state's GOP delegation. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Lean Republican.
● NJ-07: Rep. Leonard Lance only beat perennial candidate David Larsen by a 54-46 margin in the 2014 GOP primary, and Larsen is back for another round. Last cycle, Larsen barely spent any money, but he loaned himself $200,000 at the end of 2015. That's not a huge amount for a seat located in the New York media market, but it gives him something to work with. No other Republican filed to run here, so Larsen won't need to worry about losing anti-Lance votes.
Lance is relatively moderate, and that could cause him problems again. However, Lance did receive an endorsement from 2013 Senate nominee Steve Lonegan, a prominent conservative. Romney won 52-46 here, and Democrats don't appear to have anyone strong enough to win here even if Larsen pulls off an upset: Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.
● NJ-09: Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell faces a primary challenge from ex-Patterson Mayor Jeffrey Jones, who has been a Pascrell political rival for decades. However, the incumbent probably doesn't have much to worry about in this safely blue seat. Jones took just fourth place during his 2014 re-election campaign, and many of his old allies are already backing Pascrell. Jones is already flirting with running as an independent if he loses the primary, but Pascrell's likely isn't losing much sleep over that prospect in this 68-31 Obama seat.
● NY-22: Businessman Martin Babinec is running for this competitive open upstate seat as the Independence Party's nominee, and unlike almost all third-party candidates, he'll have the resources to get his name out: Babinec's campaign says he's dumped $1 million of his own money into the campaign. Babinec unsuccessfully auditioned for a county Republican Party endorsement in February, but it's far from clear which side he'll end up taking more votes from. While Babinec will likely have an impact on the general election, he still faces tough odds if he actually wants to win here in November. Both major parties will decide their nominees in the June primary, and Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● VA-02: Virginia's filing deadline closed late last week, but because the state had to spend some time verifying signatures, only now do we have official lists of candidates running for office. Note, though, that even these lists are incomplete, because they only cover congressional districts where primaries will be held on June 14; in some districts, parties choose to nominate their candidates by convention instead. You can find out what the plans are in each seat on this separate list.
In Virginia's 2nd District, unfortunately, Democrats will conduct neither a primary nor a convention. That's because the only person to qualify for the race is perennial candidate Shaun Brown, who's run for the city council in Newport News four times and lost; in 2010, she took just 15 percent, placing fourth in a four-way race. Had Brown failed to turn in enough signatures, the party, which had initially said it would hold a primary, could have instead nominated an alternative by convention, but now that option is foreclosed.
It's a terrible disappointment because Mitt Romney only carried this Hampton Roads district by a 51-49 margin, making this GOP-held open seat a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats. Instead, it's now all but guaranteed to stay red. Republicans still have to duke it out between Rep. Randy Forbes, who's carpetbagging from the 4th District, and state Del. Scott Taylor, who's been slamming Forbes for that very same act of carpetbagging, but Democrats almost certainly won't be able to capitalize.
Some Dude candidates do occasionally win congressional elections, but such victories require extraordinary circumstances, not least of which is an electoral wave. It's possible we could see something like that develop thanks to the chaos currently enveloping the Republican presidential primary, but it's also possible the GOP winds up, say, nominating Ted Cruz, who turns out to be only a slightly worse version of Mitt Romney.
But even if the political climate turns out to be great for Democrats, it's rare for candidates like Brown to win even in competitive seats. Yes, there are exceptions, like New Hampshire Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, who unseated a GOP incumbent in 2006 even though the DCCC had almost no idea who she was. Still, while unusual candidates do sometimes prevail in wave years, most surprise winners at least end up spending a credible amount of money to get to Congress.
If the overall political environment does in fact shift, then we will naturally revisit this race—and many others. But based on everything we know now, Democrats no longer have a shot in the 2nd District, so we're moving this seat from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.
● VA-04: Redistricting transformed what was a light red seat into a safely blue Obama 61-39 district. State Sen. Donald McEachin has the support of all five of Virginia's statewide elected officials, and he shouldn't have much trouble in the Democratic primary. McEachin faces only Chesapeake Councilor Ella Ward, who ran a low-key campaign for the old version of this seat in 2012. The GOP is fielding Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade, but most of his constituents are in the 7th District. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Democratic.
● VA-05: The GOP nomination for this open 54-46 Romney seat will be decided at a May 14 convention, so the field may not be set yet. State Sen. Tom Garrett is probably the favorite, but he faces three opponents right now: 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.
However, conventions are dominated by very ideological delegates, and little-known candidates can often prevail there. For instance, in the 2013 GOP convention for lieutenant governor, the delegates picked E.W. Jackson, a minister who had taken less than 5 percent in the 2012 Senate primary. Garrett would almost certainly be the clear favorite against this field in a primary, but we won't really know where things stand until next month. Team Blue will also select their nominee at a convention but right now, the only candidate is ex-Albemarle County Supervisor Jane Dittmar. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.
● VA-10: Freshman Republican Barbara Comstock pulled off a decisive win in this 51-49 Romney Northern Virginia seat last cycle, and Democrats want to take her down now before she can become entrenched or emerge as a strong statewide contender. Team Blue will officially pick their nominee at a May 14 convention, but there doesn't seem to be any doubt that their choice will be real estate developer LuAnn Bennett.
National Democrats have taken an interest in this contest and they've named Bennett to their Red to Blue program. However, Comstock is a monster fundraiser and she has a reputation as a formidable candidate. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Likely Republican.
● Special Elections, CA State Assembly: On Tuesday, California Democrats successfully defended the 31st Assembly District in the Central Valley. Physician Joaquin Arambula defeated GOP Fresno City Councilor Clint Olivier 52-42; because Arambula took a majority, he won the seat without needing to go through a runoff.
While Team Blue's control of the state Assembly is not in danger, there was a lot at stake here. This fall, Democrats need to net three seats to regain their supermajority, which would allow them to raise taxes without Republican support. (Democrats also need to net one state Senate seat to have complete control of the process.) If the GOP had flipped AD-31 on Tuesday, they would have forced Democrats to focus on yet another seat this fall, and both sides ended up spending a combined $2 million. Obama won this seat 62-36 and it's been blue for 40 years, but it's no secret that Democratic special election turnout is just awful in the Central Valley.
However, Team Red seems to realize that they've missed their one shot to win here. Olivier did file to run for a full term, but he says he'll need to decide if it's worth continuing his campaign. California's filing deadline has passed so Olivier's name will remain on the ballot whether he decides to actively campaign or not, and it's too late for the GOP to find someone new. Democrats will still need to work hard to win back their supermajorities in the Assembly and especially in the Senate, where they have no room for error, but at least they won't need to worry about this district.
● Milwaukee, WI Mayor, County Executive: On Tuesday, two prominent Milwaukee politicians pulled off decisive re-election wins. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a three-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate, defeated Alderman Bob Donovan 70-30. Meanwhile, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele beat state Sen. Chris Larson, a fellow Democrat, 56-44.
Back in February's preliminary elections, both incumbents turned in only meh performances. Barrett outpaced Donovan 45-34, while Larsen actually edged Abele 45-44. However, Tuesday's non-partisan general elections coincided with Wisconsin's high profile presidential primary. Both Barrett and Abele were already far better known than their challengers, and they each held a massive spending edge: It's likely that many of the voters who showed up for the presidential contest just voted for the more recognizable names. Barrett also made sure to highlight Donovan's past legal issues over the last few weeks; the mayor also likely benefited from President Barack Obama's endorsement.
● Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff: In 2012, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican, defeated Democrat Paul Penzone 51-45, Arpaio's closest re-election win ever. On Wednesday, Penzone announced that he would try again. Penzone will need to get past former prison guard Joe Rodriguez in the August Democratic primary; Rodriguez has the support of the Maricopa County Democratic Party.
Penzone was outspent 8-to-1 last time, and his relatively good performance almost certainly had more to do with Arpaio than with anything Penzone himself did. Arpaio is infamous for his abusive treatment of prisoners, for his appreciation of racial profiling, and for going hog-wild nuts with an "investigation" where he "proved" that Barack Obama's birth certificate is fraudulent. However, while Arpaio has alienated some conservatives, he has a lot of room for error in red Maricopa County: Romney won 54-44 in America's fourth-largest county. Arpaio also has $3.2 million on hand, and he's capable of bringing in a lot more from his far-right fan base.
● WI Supreme Court: In a disappointing outcome for Wisconsin progressives Tuesday night, state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by a 52-48 margin, earning a 10-year term on the bench and preserving a five-to-two conservative majority. While the contest was officially non-partisan, the battle lines were clear: Bradley had been appointed to fill a vacancy last year by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, while Kloppenburg, who narrowly lost an infamous Supreme Court race five years ago, had the support of state Democrats.
But Kloppenburg faced serious headwinds, chief among them higher turnout in the still-competitive GOP presidential primary: Some 1.1 million votes were cast on the Republican side, compared to 1 million for Democrats. Well-financed conservative interests also outspent liberal groups by a hefty four-to-one ratio. And as we well know, oddly timed elections almost always favor Republicans. Had this race taken place in November, when Wisconsin is set to give its electoral votes to the Democrats for the eighth time in a row, Kloppenburg would have had a much better chance. Of course, judges shouldn't be elected in the first place, but that's a fight for another day.
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.