● CA-49: It won't be easy for little-known Democrat Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, to defeat Republican incumbent Darrell Issa in this 52-46 Romney seat, but the GOP can't laugh off the idea anymore. In last week's top-two primary, Issa outpaced Applegate by a surprisingly modest 51-45 margin in California's 49th Congressional District, and now the two will meet again in November. Some of Issa's weakness may have been from higher Democratic turnout spurned on by the greater interest in the Democrats' presidential primary. However, Republican Rep. Ed Royce, who represents a seat that backed Romney by a similar 51-47 margin, pulled off an easy 62-38 victory, a good sign that Issa's performance isn't just the result of heightened Democrat enthusiasm for the now-concluded Clinton-Sanders contest.
If Democrats are going to flip the House in 2016, they need to put light red seats like this in play, and defeating Issa would give Democrats a huge spring in their step. Issa jumpstarted the notorious 2003 recall campaign against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, and he planned to take down Davis himself and become governor. However, while Arnold Schwarzenegger ended up scaring Issa out of the race, the congressman eventually found a new way to frustrate Democrats in DC. After the GOP took the House in 2010, Issa became chair of the Oversight Committee, a post he used to launch several partisan "investigations" into Benghazi, the IRS, the Solyndra bankruptcy, and Healthcare.gov. Issa never found the smoking guns he was looking for, but you wouldn't know that listening to him, so it shouldn't be difficult for Applegate to appeal to Democratic donors' decades-long frustration with the congressman.
Issa, however, still holds a number of advantages. The incumbent is the wealthiest member of the House, while Applegate had just $14,000 on-hand at the end of May. Most of this seat is located in the San Diego media market, with a quarter of the district in the Los Angeles market, so advertising against Issa will be a very costly endeavor. What's more, national Democrats haven't shown much of an interest in investing in Applegate yet, and his surprisingly good performance last week doesn't guarantee that they will.
Still, while this area is reliably red, it isn't completely out of reach for Democrats. Obama carried the district 49-48 in 2008, and Hillary Clinton could take it if Donald Trump turns out to be as toxic in the suburbs as Team Blue hopes he'll be. And as David Wasserman points out, the GOP's voter registration advantage has shrunk over the last few years. While the GOP maintains a strong 39-31 edge, that's down considerably from their 43-28 lead just four years ago.
It's too soon to say whether Applegate will be capable of running a strong enough campaign to defeat Issa. And while Issa's meh 51-45 performance has now put Applegate on the map, it also means that the challenger won't have the element of surprise on his side in November. If Issa spends big in the fall, he could shore up whatever weaknesses he has now. But we can't discount the possibility of an upset, so Daily Kos Elections is changing our race rating from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.
● CA-Sen: One thing we do here at Daily Kos Elections that you won't find anywhere else is provide race ratings for contests where two candidates of the same party will square off in the November general election. It's not a common occurrence, but it does happen with some regularity in the three states that use a "top-two" or "jungle" primary: California, Louisiana, and Washington. In such races, all candidates from all parties run together on a single ballot, and the top-two vote-getters—regardless of party—advance to a second round. (The only quirk is that in Louisiana, the "primary" is on the same day as the November general election, and there's only a runoff if no one clears 50 percent.)
So with California's primaries now behind us, we now have a handful of same-party races that warrant our attention. All three—CA-Sen, CA-17, and CA-44—are safely Democratic, since they each involve a pair of Democrats, but the question is which Democrat will win. The frontrunner for Barbara Boxer's open Senate seat is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who edged out Rep. Loretta Sanchez 40-18 on primary night. (Note that these results might change slightly, as some 2.5 million ballots out of 8 million overall remained uncounted as of Thursday night.)
Harris is the establishment choice and the more liberal of the two candidates, though Sanchez retains a path to victory, albeit a tricky one. If she can win over Republican voters while managing not to alienate too many Democrats, she could outflank Harris. But Sanchez can be an undisciplined candidate, and Harris will have far greater financial resources at her disposal.
Only the unpredictable and unprecedented nature of this race (it's the first-ever same-party statewide election in California since the state began using the top-two system in 2012), as well as limited general election polling, keeps us from calling Harris the clear favorite. As a result, we're initially rating this contest Lean Harris, though we wouldn't be surprised to found ourselves shifting it to Likely Harris before all is said and done.
Note: CA-29, CA-34, and CA-37 also feature two Democrats running against one another, but in each case, a Some Dude challenger is running against an incumbent. All three incumbents (Reps. Tony Cardenas, Xavier Becerra, and Karen Bass) are safe for re-election.
● FL-Sen: Of all the revolting things to come out of Sunday's horrific mass-murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando, this is certainly up there:
Citing Orlando shootings, Rubio opens door to Senate run
We can't add anything to what Brian Beutler already said:
A mass killing in a gay club reminded Marco Rubio of his public calling to oppose gay rights and gun regulation.
● KY-Sen: It's tough to see Lexington Mayor Jim Gray unseating Republican Rand Paul in this very red state, but Paul's allies aren't taking chances. America's Liberty PAC, a super PAC that backed Paul's failed presidential bid, is out with a spot tying Gray to Hillary Clinton. The narrator sums up the ad by calling Gray and Clinton, "the same kind of liberal, big-government, coal hating politicians." There is no word on the size of the buy, but Politico says the commercial started airing during Friday's NBA Finals game, which is not a cheap time slot.
● LA-Sen: Back in March, Jeremy Alford reported that former Wall Street investment banker Abhay Patel was being encouraged by unnamed people to run for this open Senate seat. A few days ago Patel, a Republican, confirmed that he would make the jump. Several Republicans are already campaigning here, and we'll find out soon if Patel has the connections or personal wealth to make an impact in the November jungle primary, or if he turns out to be just Some Dude.
● NH-Sen: Candidate filing closed in New Hampshire on Friday for the Sept. 13 primary, and the state has a list of candidates available here.
Freshman Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte will face Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in a closely watched contest; Ayotte faces token primary opposition from ex-state Sen. Jim Rubens, who took 23 percent of the vote in the 2014 primary. On Monday, PPP released a survey on behalf of the liberal group MoveOn that gave Hassan a 47-44 edge, which is her largest lead to date, but not dramatically different from the many polls that have shown a tight race. The HuffPost average, which includes this poll, has the two deadlocked 45-45. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as a Tossup.
● OH-Sen: The conservative group One Nation is out with their first spot in what Politico says is a $4.8 million ad campaign that will last until July. The commercial stars an oncologist identified as "Charles L. Bane," who calls a proposed Obama administration change to Medicare "likely to reduce access to care and increase overall costs" to seniors. The narrator then praises GOP Sen. Rob Portman for fighting the proposal.
● PA-Sen: The conservative group One Nation recently launched a $2.7 million ad buy in Pennsylvania, and they're recycling a spot that aired in February that praised Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for protecting children from predators. According to Politico, this ad aired on Thursday during the Stanley Cup finals. Meanwhile, the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is throwing an extra $200,000 behind what was originally a $1.2 million buy. Their new spot bemoans nasty and false ads aimed at Democrat Katie McGinty, before tying Toomey to Wall Street. The narrator then pledges McGinty will stand up to Wall Street.
● Senate: On behalf of MoveOn.org, PPP has surveyed five key Senate races, and the results are generally quite positive for Democrats. We've collected all the toplines below, along with PPP's most recent previous numbers for each race in parentheses:
AZ-Sen: Ann Kirkpatrick (D): 43, John McCain (R-inc): 41 (May: 42-36 McCain)
NH-Sen: Maggie Hassan (D): 47, Kelly Ayotte (R-inc): 44 (Jan.: 44-42 Ayotte)
OH-Sen: Ted Strickland (D): 42, Rob Portman (R-inc): 46 (April: 38-38 tie)
PA-Sen: Katie McGinty (D): 42, Pat Toomey (R-inc): 45 (June: 41-38 Toomey)
WI-Sen: Russ Feingold (D): 51, Ron Johnson (R-inc): 41 (March: 46-39 Feingold)
The trendlines have all either stayed stead or moved in the right direction, except in Ohio. And in two races, the leads have flipped from Republicans to Democrats, most notably in Arizona, where a Kirkpatrick win would be a major upset. This is also the first poll to show Kirkpatrick ahead, but several other polls had found a very tight race there, so the results make sense. Indeed, all of these polls are in line with prior surveys, which means Democrats are well-positioned to make gains in the Senate this fall, perhaps enough to take the chamber back from the GOP.
● NH-Gov: Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan is leaving behind this seat to run for the Senate, and both parties have competitive and unpredictable primaries to succeed her. On the GOP side, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, a member of New Hampshire's powerful Republican family, looks like the early frontrunner, but he wasn't able to clear the field. Sununu faces wealthy state Rep. Frank Edelblut, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas. The only primary poll we've seen this year, a May survey from Franklin Pierce University, gave Sununu a gaudy 44-10 lead over Gatsas. Forrester recently agreed to limit her spending during the primary to $625,000, a pledge none of her intra-party foes have embraced.
On the Democratic side, we have a three-way race between ex-state Securities Regulation Director Mark Connolly, ex-Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand (who headed the state branch of No Labels), and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. Marchand has been out of office since 2008, and his decision to accept the $625,000 primary spending cap is probably a good sign that he doesn't have the resources to get his name out. The recent Franklin Pierce University poll found 74 percent of respondents undecided. Democrats have held the governor's mansion for all but two years since 1996, but New Hampshire is a volatile state, and it's far too early to say who has the edge in November. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
● CA-17: Rep. Mike Honda defeated Ro Khanna, a former Commerce Department official, 52-48 in the general election two years ago, and the two Democrats will once again face off again in November. Right now, the rematch looks ominous for Honda, an eight-term Silicon Valley congressman, who faces an ethics investigation about whether he improperly commingled campaign work with government business. Several local politicians who backed him in 2014 are either staying neutral this time or have switched their allegiance to Khanna. Even President Obama, who usually backs Democratic incumbents in competitive intra-party races, isn't endorsing Honda again. Khanna is also in much better shape financially this time. At this time two years ago, Honda and Khanna each had about $1 million in the bank; now, Khanna holds a big $1.6 million to $767,000 cash-on-hand edge.
Khanna edged Honda just 38.7 to 37.8 in last week's top-two primary (with some ballots still left to count), but the close second-place finish shouldn't be much comfort to the congressman: In 2014, Honda stomped Khanna 48-28 but only hung on for a narrow 4-point win that November. And as the more conservative candidate of the two, Khanna will have an easier time appealing to Republican voters, giving him more room to grow than the incumbent. It's too early to count Honda out, but it's pretty clear that Khanna starts the general election with an edge. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Lean Khanna.
● CA-44: State Sen. Isadore Hall is facing former Hermosa Beach Mayor Nanette Barragan in the general election for this safely blue coastal seat left open by Rep. Janice Hahn, who is seeking local office. Hall has the support of much of the California Democratic Party establishment, including Hahn and Gov. Jerry Brown, and he looks like the favorite going into the general. Hall outpaced Barragan 42-22 in the primary, and it doesn't help Barragan's cause that Hermosa Beach is actually located in another district.
However, Barragan can't be counted out. While Hall has outraised Barragan, she has still raised a credible amount of cash, thanks in part to the support of EMILY's List. Demographics also offer some potential upside for Barragan. Several little-known Latino candidates took most of the vote that didn't go to either Hall or Barragan, so if she can consolidate their support (Hall is black while Barragan is Hispanic), she will benefit. Hall also earned some bad headlines after he was served with a subpoena at his election night party. The case appears to be a fairly minor civil matter in which Hall allegedly owes some $10,000 in unpaid rent and utilities to his landlord. However, if there's more to this story, it could spell trouble for Hall. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Hall, but this contest is worth keeping an eye on.
● FL-18: Self-funding physician Mark Freeman is out with a TV spot ahead of the crowded August GOP primary for this competitive open seat, and he makes an early bid to become the most Trumpian candidate in the race. The narrator bemoans special interests, "So Like Donald Trump, Dr. Mark Freeman won't take their money." (Trump is actually gladly taking their money, but Freeman's probably correct that primary voters won't care.) Freeman then appears and complains that career politicians care more about themselves than the country. Freeman goes on to call for term limits and fiscal responsibility.
● FL-19: Major GOP donor and ex-ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney is using his first TV spot to argue that he's actually the outsider candidate in the primary for this safely red seat. After the narrator complains about "DC insiders from both parties," she praises Rooney as "a businessman, not a politician." She then talks about his background in the constriction industry and pledges he'll do generic conservative things in Congress. There is no word on the size of the buy, but Florida Politics says it's running in "heavy rotation."
● MN-08, OH-09: Bernie Sanders made two new House endorsements over the weekend, one potentially useful, the other utterly ridiculous. First, the ridiculous one, which Sanders issued on behalf of Rep. Marcy Kaptur in Ohio's 9th Congressional District. Barack Obama carried this seat by a very wide 68-31 margin, and there's no chance on earth Republicans could ever capture it. Even in the GOP wave of 2014, Kaptur still won re-election with 68 percent of the vote. This year, she faces a Republican opponent who has less than $3,000 in his campaign account. She just doesn't need any help. However, Kaptur is one of the few members of the House to back Sanders, and she said she'd continue to support him even after he lost the California primary, so this certainly looks like a reward for her loyalty.
The other beneficiary of Sanders' largesse is, naturally, another endorser, Rep. Rick Nolan. But Nolan's support of Sanders was not quite as full-throated as Kaptur's, since he specifically cited the fact that Sanders carried his district, Minnesota's 8th, in the state's Democratic caucuses earlier this year. But Nolan, at least, potentially faces a tough rematch with wealthy businessman Stewart Mills, so if Sanders' email list can steer some cash his way, that would help the Democrats retain this seat.
● NH-01: Influential state Republicans have wanted to part ways with Rep. Frank Guinta ever since last May, when the FEC ruled that he had illegally accepted a $355,000 campaign donation from his parents in 2010. Guinta has insisted on running for re-election anyway, but he won't have an easy time getting through the primary with businessman Rich Ashooh, who lost to Guinta 32-28 in 2010. Guinta had very little money at the end of March just before Ashooh entered the race, while several top Republican operatives have banded together to create a super PAC to support Ashooh. Only three Some Dudes are running, so Ashooh shouldn't need to worry about losing many anti-Guinta votes.
On the Democratic side, ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who lost to Guinta in 2010 and 2014 but beat him in 2012, has no opposition. However, rich guy Shawn O'Connor recently ditched his campaign for the Democratic nod and decided to run as an independent. Obama carried this seat 50-49, and Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup, though Guinta could complicate things for Team Red if he somehow survives the primary.
● NH-02: While both parties are gearing up for another fight for the 1st Congressional District, New Hampshire's other House member doesn't look like she'll have much to worry about in November. Seven Republicans are competing to face Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Ex-state Rep. Jim Lawrence has the support of a few notable Republican operatives, but his own electoral history is not encouraging: Lawrence ran for this seat in 2014 but raised little money and took just 19 percent in the primary.
Ex-state House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan is also in, but his fundraising has been horrible so far. State Rep. Eric Estevez also doesn't look incredibly formidable. The second quarter fundraising deadline is at the end of June, so we'll soon have a good idea if any Republicans are raising the type of money they need to put this 54-45 Obama seat into play, but it's not looking great for them right now. Daily Kos Elections currently rates the general as Likely Democratic.
● NJ-05: The past year on the campaign trail has been a miserable one for GOP Rep. Scott Garrett, whose retrograde views on gays have prompted his long-time Wall Street allies to abandon him. Those developments have Democrats everywhere excited about the prospects of his challenger, former Bill and Hillary Clinton aide Josh Gottheimer, who's raised a ton of money as a result. So how has Garrett reacted? By sharing a memo filled with predictable happy talk with "loyalists," according to Politico, in which he claims he leads his opponent by "double digits."
But when Politico asked to learn more about Garrett's polling, his campaign demurred, saying only that "we appreciate the enthusiasm from our supporters." Whatever that garbage means, it's not a sign of strength. If Garrett were really up 10 or 12 points, he'd be flashing those numbers all over town to try to deflate Democratic enthusiasm. But he's not, almost certainly because he can't.
● NY-24: Attorney Steve Williams, one of the three Democrats competing in the June 28 primary to face Republican Rep. John Katko, is up with a new spot. It features a union electrician who says that, just before he was to retire, he found out his pension fund had been hit hard by Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. He praises Williams, who was their attorney, for working to save the pension and "fighting until we got our money back."
● KY State House: The Democrats have held a majority in the Kentucky state House since the early 1920s, and the GOP hopes to finally take control in November. Kentucky is a conservative state and Donald Trump is unlikely to severely damage the ticket here, but Bluegrass State Democrats have proven that they're not pushovers. In 2014, the GOP made a huge effort to flip the chamber, but they didn't net a single seat. Earlier this year, Democrats held two vulnerable state House seats in special elections, and even picked up a Republican-held district. Team Blue currently has a 53-47 edge, and all 100 seats will be up in November. If Republicans can take the state House, they will have complete control over Kentucky's government.
Nick Storm of cn|2 takes a look at some of the critical seats. While Democrats are mostly on the defensive, they have a few chances to score some pickups. The lowest-hanging target is HD-38, a Louisville seat that backed Obama 54-44. Republican incumbent Denny Butler recently left the Democratic Party, and Speaker Greg Stumbo has made him a top target. However, Butler has a big financial edge over attorney McKenzie Cantrell, and he has a well-known family name in the area. Democrats are also targeting another party switcher, Jim Gooch, in HD-12. However, Romney won HD-12 67-31, which gives Gooch some room for error against Webster County Judge Executive Jim Townsend.
Most of the other major races are in Democratic-held seats. Romney won 83 districts and outside of Butler's constituency, Democrats are counting on the same ticket splitting that's protected them for years to save them once again. Check out Storm's rundown for more.
● Deaths: Over the weekend, ex-Sen. George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, died at the age of 79. Voinovich badly lost the 1971 GOP primary for mayor of Cleveland, but he soon won the county auditor post and was elected lieutenant governor in 1978. The next year, Voinovich launched a campaign to unseat Democratic Mayor Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich had made his share of enemies during his two-year term, and he had only barely survived a recall campaign. Voinovich defeated Kucinich 56-44 in this Democratic city.
Voinovich achieved a reputation as a moderate and served several terms as mayor, but he lost his Senate bid in 1988. With the polls consistently showing Democratic Sen. Howard Metzenbaum holding huge leads, Voinovich ran a controversial spot that accused the incumbent of being weak on child pornography enforcement. Metzenbaum quickly ran a response ad featuring Senate colleague John Glenn labeling the attack as "gutter politics," and Voinovich even admitted before Election Day that his commercial had "boomeranged" and that "[w]e got ourselves in big trouble." Voinovich ended up losing 57-43.
However, the incident didn't derail Voinovich's career for long. In 1990, Voinovich sought the governorship and defeated Democratic Attorney General Anthony J. Celebrezze, Jr. 56-44. After easily winning re-election, Voinovich sought to succeed Glenn in the Senate. Voinovich won the seat in 1998 by a 56-44 margin (the dude had more 56-44 wins than anyone in Ohio, apparently), and he carried every county in his bid for a second term. Voinovich retired in 2010 and was succeeded by Republican Rob Portman.
● Primaries: Tuesday brings us competitive downballot primaries in Nevada, North Dakota, and Virginia. The main event will be in Nevada's swingy 3rd Congressional District, where GOP establishment favorite Michael Roberson could lose to businessman Danny Tarkanian and endanger the GOP's hold over the seat. As always, Jeff Singer gives us our preview of what to watch. The first polls close at 7:00 PM ET in Virginia, and we'll be live-blogging the results at Daily Kos Elections, as well as live-tweeting.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and Stephen Wolf.