The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● MT-Sen: On Monday, Montana state Auditor Matt Rosendale kicked off his campaign against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, giving the incumbent his most prominent Republican challenger to date. Rosendale won his first term as auditor just last year, but had previously served in the legislature for six years, including a stint as state Senate majority leader. Rosendale's announcement video promises he'll fight for the Trump-Pence agenda, which is unsurprising rhetoric in a state Trump won by 56-35.
Despite having the distinct accent of his native Baltimore, some Republicans hope Rosendale's folksy image could help neutralize Tester's brand of being an everyday Montanan. A staunch conservative, Rosendale is probably best known for filming a 2014 campaign ad where he shot down a "government drone" to bemoan big government. That race, which was for Montana's sole House district, saw Rosendale take a close third place in the primary for what was then an open seat.
However, that 2014 race also saw Rosendale raise little money. While his self-loan of $1.3 million kept him in contention that year, a Senate race against a Democratic incumbent is a whole other ballgame. Rosendale will either need to write himself a much larger check or step up his fundraising to be a viable contender next year. Nevertheless, Rosendale can already count on one relatively influential ally in the primary: The hardline anti-tax group Club for Growth endorsed his candidacy almost immediately.
Rosendale faces state Sen. Albert Olszewski and businessman Troy Downing in the GOP primary, but neither rival raised much money in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Yellowstone County District Judge Russell Fagg has formed an exploratory committee, but previously said he won't announce whether he'll run until he steps down from the bench in October.
● AL-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund's latest ad in Alabama's Senate special election GOP primary again hammers Rep. Mo Brooks for saying "I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says." Of course, they once more conveniently leave out that Brooks' comment came amid the GOP primary and not the general election last year. The spot then pivots to slam Brooks for voting to "cut off funding to fight ISIS" while "siding with Nancy Pelosi and the liberals."
● MI-Sen: Target-Insyght, polling for MIRS, gives us our first independent survey of a hypothetical Senate matchup between Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and musician Kid Rock, a Republican whose real name is Robert Ritchie. The pollster shows Stabenow with a 50-42 lead over Ritchie, which is a little too close for comfort for a three-term incumbent against a celebrity who would be a first-time candidate if he runs. Target-Insyght also says Ritchie has a double-digit lead in the GOP primary, though his would-be rivals likely lack much name recognition at this point.
The only other recent survey was from the GOP outfit Trafalgar Group, which had Ritchie ahead 49-46. With so little polling, it's hard to tell just how truly vulnerable Stabenow is against a Republican who would be an unconventional candidate if he chooses to run. However, after Donald Trump eked out a razor-thin victory in last year's presidential race in Michigan, Democrats can't afford to rest easy in this swing state.
● MO-Sen: Republican Rep. Ann Wagner's surprising decision to not run for Senate next year shook up the GOP primary and left state Attorney General Josh Hawley as the presumptive frontrunner for the nomination, although he hasn't formally joined the race yet. However, Wagner is not going quietly into the night after she came just shy of outright endorsing state Rep. Paul Curtman, whose campaign is still in the "exploratory" phase. Wagner praised his candidacy on Twitter, while state Rep. Marsha Haefner had previously said that Wagner encouraged her to run. Wagner won't be on the ballot in next year's Senate primary, but it sure doesn't sound like she's eager to have Hawley as Team Red's nominee against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
● PA-Sen: Republican Rep. Lou Barletta has been considering whether to run for Senate next year against Democratic incumbent Bob Casey, and the Associated Press reported on Monday that Barletta has told party leaders that he has decided to run, according to an anonymous source "familiar with the discussions." Barletta himself stated that he will announce his decision in a few weeks, while a spokesperson also promised an announcement "in the near future." If Barletta does jump into the race, he'd give Casey his most prominent opponent thus far in this evenly divided swing state.
● IA-Gov, IA-01: AFSCME Council 61, which represents more than 40,000 public employees across Iowa, has waded into the crowded 2018 Democratic primary for governor by endorsing state Sen. Nate Boulton. Boulton has a close relationship with organized labor and made a name for himself earlier this year as a leading opponent of the GOP's new law that limits collective bargaining rights for state workers, so his winning support from unions is unsurprising.
AFSCME 61 also threw their backing to state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to face GOP Rep. Rod Blum in Iowa's 1st Congressional District. That House seat, which contains Dubuque and Cedar Rapids, favored Trump 49-45.
● KS-Gov: Despite last week's news that Trump will appoint Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to his administration, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer's path to the GOP gubernatorial nomination next year doesn't look like it'll get much easier even if he gets elevated to the governor's office soon. Secretary of State Kris Kobach already announced that Colyer's pending promotion doesn't "fundamentally change the dynamic" of the race, and the two other major primary candidates also don't sound ready to back down.
Businessman Wink Hartman recently said via email that a possible Colyer candidacy reinforced his desire to run for governor to fix "the mess" that his own party created in Topeka. Meanwhile, former state Sen. Jim Barnett conveyed that he thought Kobach and Colyer could split the arch-conservative vote and allow a relative moderate like himself to prevail in next year's primary. In a state where the GOP has waged civil war with itself over Brownback's failed experiment in tax cut radicalism, a divided primary field is about the only thing we can count on happening next year.
● NY-Gov: Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner faces term-limits at the end of 2017, and the Democratic incumbent has frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office. Miner once again refused to rule out running for governor, and she recently had especially harsh words for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat. Miner castigated Cuomo for the sorry state of infrastructure in New York, a problem that has received increased scrutiny amid recent horror stories about the overcrowded subway in New York City.
Miner said she will take her time in reaching a decision, but she really can't afford to wait much longer. Cuomo already had a staggering $26 million in cash-on-hand available at the end of June, and New York is one of the most expensive states in which to run TV ads, thanks to the pricey New York City media market. Public dissatisfaction with key government services like transportation and Cuomo's instrumental effort to prevent Democrats from running the state Senate could give a more progressive primary challenger an opening. However, Miner would have her work cut out for her if she challenges the two-term governor.
● OH-Gov: Buckeye State Republicans have a crowded primary for next year's open gubernatorial contest to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. John Kasich, and the conservative group American Freedom Builders gives us a glimpse at the horse race with a poll from the GOP outfit Tarrance Group. This survey finds state Attorney General Mike DeWine out in first with 42 percent, Secretary of State Jon Husted at 18 percent, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor at 11 percent, and Rep. Jim Renacci at 5 percent in the Republican primary. These numbers represent only a small drop in DeWine's lead since Tarrance's late-January poll, where he beat Husted 47-18.
If this poll is accurate, DeWine has to be liking that he's still cruising to a dominant plurality six months later, but the poll also gives his three major opponents reason for hope. Their name recognition is far lower than his, meaning they could have much more room to grow than DeWine does. Indeed, while only 4 percent of primary respondents said they hadn't heard of DeWine, who previously served in the U.S. Senate, a majority said they weren't familiar with Taylor or Renacci. There's still a long way to go until next year's primary, and DeWine's advantage doesn't appear insurmountable, but he's nonetheless looking like the frontrunner at this early stage in the race.
● MD-06: Democratic Rep. John Delaney only announced Friday that he would retire from the House next year to run for president, but local politicians have been preparing for an open seat race for a while. Two Democrats, state Del. Aruna Miller and state House Majority Leader Bill Frick, have been raising money for an open seat race for months, and both have confirmed that they're running here.
However, these two Montgomery County politicians are unlikely to have the Democratic primary to themselves. Businessman David Trone, who spent an astounding $12 million of his own money in his unsuccessful quest for the neighboring 8th District last year, has been flirting with a run for this seat for a while. Trone, who has also been eyeing a bid for the Montgomery County executive's office, says he'll decide what he's doing soon. State Sen. Roger Manno said back in May that he was interested, and he's used the following months to raise his profile in the district, though he hasn't announced he's in yet.
Clinton carried this seat, which includes part of the D.C. suburbs, Frederick, and the heavily Republican northwest, 55-40. However, Delaney had a shockingly close call in 2014, and a strong Republican could put up a fight here. Kelly Schultz, a former delegate who serves as Maryland's secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, says she's interested. Amie Hoeber, a former official in the Department of the Army who lost to Delaney 56-40 last year, also says she's thinking about another bid. Hoeber's wealthy husband, Qualcomm co-founder Mark Epstein, financed a super PAC called Maryland USA last time that spent a total of $3.5 million to aid her in the primary and in the general election.
● OH-16: State Rep. Tom Patton announced on Monday that he would run for the House in this northeastern Ohio district, which sprawls from the Cleveland suburbs to Canton. Patton currently serves as majority whip and was previously the state Senate majority leader until term limits forced him to step down. The legislator's long experience and leadership roles could give him key connections, but might also make him vulnerable against an outsider candidate in the age of Trump.
Despite Trump's punishing 56-39 margin in the 16th meaning the GOP is likely heavily favored to retain this open seat, Patton is surprisingly only the second notable Republican to jump into the race. He'll face fellow state Rep. Christina Hagan in next year's primary, and it's possible that others could still join them.
● UT-03: Outside groups are starting to put some money into the Aug. 15 GOP primary for the special election in Utah's 3rd Congressional District, which became vacant earlier this year when Republican Jason Chaffetz resigned. A mystery super PAC called Conservative Utah is spending $120,000 on a TV ad boosting businessman Tanner Ainge, whom they call "the only anti-tax candidate" while slamming ex-state Rep. Chris Herrod and Provo Mayor John Curtis as tax hikers.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, meanwhile, is shelling out $51,000 for their own TV ad backing Herrod, whom they'd previously endorsed, though their spot doesn't appear to be online. That's on top of a $123,000 pro-Herrod expenditure from a group named the National Horizon PAC, which UtahPolicy.com says is "loosely affiliated with the Club for Growth." That money's being spent on mailers and radio ads.
● New York, NY Mayor: Even though New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has looked unusually weak since almost from the time he took office in 2014, this year's filing deadline has come and gone with no major challengers emerging, either in the Democratic primary or the general election. Politico notes that no other Democrats have even been polled against de Blasio, whose least unknown opponent, former City Councilman Sal Albanese, has raised just $124,000, compared to $4.8 million for the mayor.
Despite his advantageous position, de Blasio has asked election officials to provide him with the maximum in allowable matching funds: an additional $2.9 million, on top of the $958,000 he received automatically. De Blasio has to demonstrate that the other candidates represent more than "minimal opposition," which he's trying to do by, among other things, noting that one Albanese tweet got 95 likes and 38 retweets. Hizzoner should be very afraid!
Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac survey finds de Blasio utterly swamping his likely Republican foe, Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, by a 57-22 margin. In a matchup with former Fox News contributor Bo Dietl running as an independent, de Blasio still cruises with 52 percent, while Malliotakis gets 15 and Dietl just 11. Snooze.
● Where Are They Now?: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican who finally lost re-election last fall to Democrat Paul Penzone after a 24-year reign of terror, was found guilty of criminal contempt of court by a federal judge on Monday and could face up to six months in prison. The judge determined that Arpaio, who made a career of abusing immigrants and prisoners, had willfully violated an earlier court order instructing him not to detain migrants who were not suspected of any crimes. Arpaio has vowed to appeal, claiming the original order was unclear.