● CO-Sen: The GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is coming up soon, and rich guy Robert Blaha is returning to the airwaves. Blaha's spot was made by the one and only Fred Davis, whose last spot for the campaign opened with an exploding toilet. This more-sanitary offering starts with several bobble heads with "Blah!" speech balloons coming out of them as the narrator declares, "There's only one cure for today's congressional blahs… Blaha." The rest of the commercial is the pretty standard "this guy is a conservative!" stuff, except for the part where Blaha declares that he'll only serve one term if he can't make a difference.
But Blaha will be lucky if he gets that one term, much less the chance to lose to Bennet. Blaha's campaign manager recently resigned over what The Denver Post's John Frank characterizes as "disagreements about political strategy." The campaign says they're "in talks with a replacement," but they declined to reveal if Blaha's general consultant is also still working for them, which is not an encouraging sign. Needless to say, a staff shakeup this close to the June 28 primary should not fill Blaha's supporters with optimism.
But as bad as things are for Blaha, at least he knows he'll be competing. Ex-state Rep. Jon Keyser was placed on the ballot by a judge, but that was before the news broke that several of his petitions were forged; we also recently learned that at least one dead voter "signed" a Keyser petition. At least two district attorneys offices are looking into the matter. Keyser is still on the ballot, but he's won no plaudits for how he's handled this. Keyser first insisted on repeating some variation of "I'm on the ballot" whenever he was asked about the forgeries—that is, when he wasn't subtly threatening to sic his dog on a reporter asking questions. Keyser eventually acknowledged that the fraud was "an extremely serious allegation" and blamed the company he hired to gather signatures for the mess.
But the story hasn't gone away at all. At a Tuesday primary debate, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn (who is indisputably on the ballot) got the chance to ask Keyser a question. After reminding Keyser that they're both Air Force Academy graduates who live by an honor code, Glenn asked him "if there is an independent audit of every signature on your petitions and there are enough illegal signatures so that you no longer qualify for the ballot ... will you withdraw from this race?" Keyser said that, while it's important for the truth to come out, "I will not drop out of this race. I'm sure that Michael Bennet wishes I would." Glenn responded, "I'm sure the academy will be glad to hear that answer." Ouch.
Rich guy Jack Graham, the former athletic director of Colorado State University, is the other candidate who is definitely on the ballot, and he may be the most viable contender on June 28. Unlike Blaha, Graham's campaign hasn't collapsed; unlike Glenn, Graham has money; and unlike Keyser, the dead aren't rising up to sign his petitions. Blaha did seize on his chance to remind debate watchers that Graham got fired from his post, though who knows if Blaha will be organized enough to effectively attack him on the air over it. Ex-Aurora City Councilor Ryan Frazier is currently on the ballot, but it's still unclear if he has enough valid signatures; Frazier also has very little money, so it may not matter whether he's in the contest. Meanwhile, Bennet's probably watching all this unfold and wondering what he's done to earn such a formidable group of opponents.
● OH-Sen: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC recently spent $850,000 on an ad against Republican Sen. Rob Portman, they've now reserved $9.5 million in TV fall time. A number of outside groups on both sides have made huge early reservations on Ohio to lock in cheaper rates.
● CA-Gov: Normally, the news that the environmental group NextGen Climate Action Committee is running an ad in California urging young people to register to vote to oppose Donald Trump would not be incredibly interesting. However, the spot prominently features billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who largely finances NextGen. Steyer is a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, and it makes sense that he'd be using these commercials to get his name out early.
● IN-Gov, Sen: Former Angie's List head Bill Oesterle, who briefly flirted with challenging Gov. Mike Pence in the GOP primary from the left, is out with a new poll arguing that Pence is in real trouble in November. The Bellwether Research Poll, conducted on behalf of Oesterle's super PAC Free Enterprise, gives Pence a 40-36 edge over Democrat John Gregg. Last month, a Public Opinion Strategies survey for the Indiana newsletter Howey Politics found Pence leading by a 49-45 margin, though they had far fewer undecideds than Bellwether does.
The news is not so great for Democratic Senate nominee Baron Hill. Bellwether finds Republican Todd Young leading 36-22; POS gave Young a 48-30 edge in April. Hill had just $387,000 in the bank a month ago, and national Democrats haven't signaled that they plan to make this seat a priority.
● HI-01: On Thursday, freshman Democratic Rep. Mark Takai announced that he would not seek re-election this cycle. Takai was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year; while his doctor initially cleared him to run again, he says that the disease has spread. This seat, which includes most of Honolulu, backed Obama 70-29. Ex-Republican Rep. Charles Djou only lost to Takai 52-48 during the 2014 GOP wave, but this seat should stay blue in a presidential year. The filing deadline for Hawaii's August primary is June 7, so potential candidates will need to decide what they're doing quickly.
● KS-01: Physician Roger Marshall is out with his first TV spot ahead of his August GOP primary with Rep. Tim Huelskamp. The narrator notes that "[f]or 5,000 Kansans, life began here, in the trusted hands of Dr. Roger Marshall." Marshall is seen caring for several pregnant women as the narrator continues, "For Dr. Marshall, pro-life's not a slogan, it's his life's work." The ad then briefly talks about how Marshall will protect farms and the Second Amendment and repeal Obamacare. Huelskamp, a tea partier who has a horrible relationship with the House leadership, is not mentioned.
● KS-03: A few months ago, the DCCC talked about finding a credible candidate to face Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in this 54-44 Romney seat, and they may finally have someone. This week, financial counselor Jay Sidie announced that he would challenge Yoder in this suburban Kansas City seat. Sidie says he's spoken to DC Democrats about his bid, but it's unclear how much support the DCCC and their allies plan to give him; we also don't know if Sidie is willing or able to self-fund, or if he has the connections he'll need to raise money. Yoder also has $2.4 million in the bank, so he won't be a pushover.
Sidie is already tying the incumbent to GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, which isn't a bad strategy here. While Brownback won statewide 50-46 in 2014, he lost the 3rd District 50-47. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this seat as Safe Republican, but we'll keep an eye out to see if Sidie and Democrats can put it into play.
● LA-03: Apparently the November jungle primary for this safely red seat wasn't crowded enough, because we have yet another Republican contender. This week Captain Clay Higgins, a former spokesman for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office, kicked off his bid for this Acadiana district. Higgins is a local celebrity from his "Crime Stoppers" videos, which featured him dramatically calling out criminals and have drawn national attention.
In perhaps his most famous segment, Higgins stood in front of a burglarized supermarket/restaurant and told the perpetrator, "The sheriff likes Stelly's Restaurant, and so do I. The food here is good, and the folks are friendly. We're going to identify you, arrest you, and put you in a small cell. After that, I'm going to have a cheeseburger here with fries and a Coke and leave a nice tip for the waitress. Meanwhile, your next meal will be served through a small hole in a cell door." Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who did well in the district during his 2015 gubernatorial bid, is the frontrunner, but he faces several well-funded opponents.
● MN-02: Former conservative radio host Jason Lewis, who has the Minnesota Republican Party's endorsement, is out with a poll arguing he's the favorite in the August primary for this swing seat. The WPA Opinion Research survey gives Lewis a 40-11 lead against ex-state Sen. John Howe, with businesswoman Darlene Miller at just 5. The survey says that 64 percent of respondents recognize Lewis while just under a third have heard of either of his opponents. Howe has been doing some self-funding and Miller has the backing of retiring Rep. John Kline, so they should both be able to get their names out. Still, many voters take the state party endorsement seriously, which will help Lewis in the summer.
Democrats would absolutely be elated if they get to face Lewis. The former host has a long history of on-air racist and misogynistic remarks that he continues to stand behind, and Team Blue wouldn't hesitate to make use of them. Former health care executive Angie Craig, who has no credible Democratic primary opposition, has already amassed a large warchest, so she'll have the resources to compete here regardless of who emerges with the GOP nomination. Democratic groups have also reserved millions of dollars worth of fall airtime in the Minneapolis media market, though many of those commercials will be run against Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen in the nearby 3rd District.
● NJ-07: Republican Rep. Leonard Lance is taking his June 7 primary with perennial candidate David Larsen seriously enough to air an attack ad against him. Lance's TV spot reminds viewers that they rejected Larsen three times, and the narrator calls him a "serial tax dodger who supported raising our taxes, but was delinquent paying his own 21 times." The narrator continues by accusing Larsen of wanting to cut anti-terrorism programs and border security. This is Lance's second TV ad for this race.
Lance, a relative moderate, only beat Larsen by a surprisingly narrow 54-46 margin in 2014, and Larsen has done some self-funding this time. A third candidate, businessman Craig Heard, is running some cheap ads, which could peel off some anti-Lance votes away from Larsen. Romney won 53-46 here, and Democrats haven't shown any interest in seriously contesting this seat.
● NV-04: Ex-Assemblywoman Lucy Flores has now joined her two main Democratic primary rivals on television. In Flores' first spot, the narrator declares that Flores "has walked in our shoes, and no one will fight harder for us." After laying out some progressive policies, the narrator says that Flores is backed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and "the leading progressive voices for change," as the logos for several progressive groups flash by.
Education activist Susie Lee is out with her second spot for the June 14 primary to face Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy. Lee tells a group of senior citizens how her parents depended on Social Security and Medicare, and Lee calls politicians who want to cut these programs "out of touch." State Sen. Ruben Kihuen is also competing here.
● WA-03: Washington's 3rd District, which is centered on Vancouver, across the river from Portland, is one of those competitive suburban seats that Democrats need to put in play in November if they're going to have any hope of flipping the House in 2016. No major Democrat has ever stepped up here since Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler picked up the seat in 2010 and the district got redder after redistricting, and it looked like Herrera Beutler would get another free pass.
A last-minute entry by Democratic state Rep. Jim Moeller, however, puts the 3rd onto the map. Moeller, who is openly gay and a member of state House leadership, is known as one of the most liberal members of the chamber, and he represents a reliably blue central Vancouver seat. Romney carried the 3rd 50-48. Moeller needs to prove he has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with Herrera Beutler, who had almost $1 million on-hand at the end of March, but this is a seat where things go really sideways for the GOP with Donald Trump atop the ticket.
Moeller had been running for lieutenant governor, but he was making little headway in the crowded field. A battle against Herrera Beutler will certainly be challenging, but it's probably a better use of his time than the lieutenant governor race. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this seat as Safe Republican, but we'll see if Moeller can make this a race and if national Democrats take an interest in him.
● NM-SoS: Thanks to Republican Dianna Duran's resignation as secretary of state last year after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and using them to gamble at casinos, New Mexico will hold a special election for the final two years of her term this fall. Democrats are running Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who ran in 2014 and lost to Duran by just 3 points despite the GOP wave, while Republicans have united behind state Rep. Nora Espinoza. An early poll from PPP for NM Political Report brings good news for Toulouse Oliver, who leads Espinoza by a 43-36 margin. Because New Mexico ordinarily conducts state elections in midterm years and it hosts no Senate race this year, the secretary of state contest will be the most prominent on the ballot after the presidential race.
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.