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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, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● AK-Gov: Alaska Survey Research is out with the second of five planned polls for a "consortium of varied interests" that supports various candidates for governor, and it once again finds Republican Mike Dunleavy well ahead in the three-way race. It gives Dunleavy the lead with 47 percent, while independent Gov. Bill Walker and former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich are well behind with 27 and 23 percent, respectively. In late September, ASR found Dunleavy ahead of Begich 44-29, while Walker was at 23.
As we've noted time and time again, it's going to be hard to beat Dunleavy if both Begich and Walker keep campaigning, but this poll also finds the Republican well ahead of either candidate in a two-way race. Dunleavy defeats Begich 55-41, which is a huge swing to the right from his 50-47 edge weeks ago. Dunleavy also leads Walker 53-43, which is similar to his 54-41 lead before.
Still, as discouraging as those numbers are, they're much better than what ASR finds in a three-way race. The deadline to get off the ballot has passed, but if a candidate withdraws, votes cast for him won't be counted.
You can keep track of all the $1 million-plus House fundraising quarters announced so far right here.
● AZ-Sen: The NRSC continues to attack Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for supposedly being weak on efforts to fight human trafficking. Its newest ad features a former Maricopa County prosecutor excoriating Sinema for taking $53,000 in donations from the founder and employees of Backpage, a website accused of knowingly accepting ads offering sex with underage girls. The former prosecutor claims she only gave away the money "after she got caught," but Sinema's campaign previously argued they moved to donate the funds to charity as soon as they discovered the unsavory source.
● IN-Sen: Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly's latest TV ad features a man named Jim Songer, who is a former employee of Republican Mike Braun, telling his story about how Braun's company mistreated him. Songer details how he became seriously sick two months ago and was fired by Braun's company while in the hospital and had his termination backdated, causing his insurance to be canceled and devastating his personal finances.
● NM-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in from Sept. 4 to Sept. 30, and Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham outraised Republican Steve Pearce $1.1 million to $417,000. However, Pearce still held a $1.3 million to $782,000 cash-on-hand edge for the final weeks of the race.
● RI-Gov: The recent Supreme Court battle hasn't made it into many, if any, TV ads in gubernatorial campaigns, but the DGA-backed group Alliance for a Better RI is out with a spot using it against Republican Allan Fung.
The narrator declares that Donald Trump is appointing justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, and that Fung "has supported Trump every step of the way." The commercial again uses a photo of Fung in a Trump wool hat at the inauguration, and the narrator proclaims that Fung "refuses to support a state law to defend" a woman's right to choose.
Oregon's gubernatorial race has been very infrequently polled, especially by pollsters without a partisan affiliation. However, this is yet another survey since early September that has found Brown ahead, but not by an intimidating margin. Meanwhile, this is just the latest Georgia poll to point to a tight race, and it's unclear if either Democrat Stacey Abrams or Republican Brian Kemp will be able to win the majority needed to avoid a Dec. 4 runoff.
● CA-39, CA-49, MI-11: The Democratic group House Majority PAC has kicked off a $20 million TV ad campaign in 13 different House districts, and they're making their first general election advertisements in three GOP-held open seats where we've seen relatively little outside spending from at least one party.
Over in California's 39th District, the Congressional Leadership Fund has spent millions hitting Democrat Gil Cisneros, but the DCCC and HMP have spent very little here since the primary. However, HMP says it’s now deploying $2.7 million in an ad campaign against Republican Young Kim. The spot ties Kim to Donald Trump by declaring she supported his tax bill.
California's 49th District has also seen very little outside spending on either side, and the DCCC even canceled most of its October TV reservation in a sign of confidence in Democrat Mike Levin. However, HMP is now spending $800,000 on a spot hitting Republican Diane Harkey. The narrator declares that Harkey's family business was "looting investment funds and running a Ponzi scheme."
As we wrote back in January, Harkey and her husband, Dan Harkey, were indeed sued in 2013 for preying on the elderly in a Ponzi scheme. Diane Harkey was later dismissed from the case, but her husband was ultimately found culpable and ordered to repay $11.6 million. That didn't end Diane Harkey's involvement in the matter, however: After investors proved unable to recover money from either Harkey, they succeeded in garnishing Diane Harkey's wages as a state legislator.
The political arm of the League of Conservation Voters is also spending $778,000 on a TV campaign against Harkey. Its commercial argues that Harkey took over $100,000 from the oil and gas interests that want to drill off the California coast, and "refused to vote against drilling off our coast three times."
Finally, HMP is deploying $544,000 on its spot against Republican Lena Epstein in Michigan's 11th. We recently noted that this is one seat where groups backing Democrat Haley Stevens have decisively outspent GOP-aligned organizations. Almost all of the GOP's outside spending is from the Trump-inspired super PAC America First Action, which has deployed $612,000 so far. That's considerably less than the roughly $2.5 million we've seen in support of Stevens (a figure that includes this HMP buy). The only poll we've seen was a Siena survey that gave Stevens a 45-38 lead.
● IL-14: Following the recent entry into this contest of the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC, the NRCC is also getting in on the action by attacking Democrat Lauren Underwood in a new TV ad. Its spot claims she's "backed by the Mike Madigan machine," the Democratic state house speaker who is a favorite punching bag of Illinois Republicans. The commercial also contends she's "funded by California liberals like Nancy Pelosi" and supports a "government takeover of health care," even though “Medicare-for-all” wouldn't actually be that, and Underwood hasn't come out in support of it anyway.
● KS-02: The NRCC is joining its allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund and skewering Democrat Paul Davis over a strip-club-related incident from decades ago. They claim he "was caught with a stripper during a drug bust," and engage in one of our least favorite tactics of attacking lawyers for providing those accused of crimes with their constitutional right to legal representation, contending Davis got rich "representing shady clients."
However, as we've noted before, the strip-club incident happened when Davis was just 26 years old back in 1998, and he said he had been brought there by his boss because the owner was a client of their law firm. Furthermore, Davis wasn't charged with any wrongdoing, even though the club owner was charged with distributing meth following the drug bust.
● KY-06: A new super PAC called Friends of Racing, which bills itself as a supposedly "nonpartisan" group looking out for the horse racing industry's best interests, has gone up with a six-figure TV ad buy to support Republican Rep. Andy Barr. The ad praises Barr for protecting the $1 billion horse racing industry in Kentucky.
● MI-11: Democrat Haley Stevens' newest ad takes a page from ticket-mate Gretchen Whitmer’s playbook and bemoans the poor quality of Michigan's inadequately maintained roads. Stevens notes that she was on President Obama's auto-rescue task force and promises she will fight for Michigan's fair share of federal funding so that the state that built the auto industry will have top-quality roads.
● MN-02: While Democrat Angie Craig and her allies spent much of the 2016 campaign running ads highlighting now Rep. Jason Lewis' long history of racism and misogyny, Roll Call recently noted that Team Blue has changed course during their rematch. Craig notably summed up her strategy when she said that she's "more offended by his votes than by his words" and otherwise avoided talking about Lewis' offensive rhetoric when asked.
The DCCC's new spot against the GOP incumbent also adopts a similar tactic: It argues that Lewis is in the pocket of special interests and goes after his healthcare vote without ever mentioning his career as a conservative talk radio shock jock.
● NY-19: House Majority PAC has unveiled a new ad that showcases Republican Rep. John Faso being confronted by a woman at a campaign event who reveals she has brain cancer and implores him to promise he won't take away her health care after she was kicked off her insurance. After Faso is shown hugging her and telling her, "I promise," the ad segues to local news coverage that notes Faso was a key vote in favor of keeping alive the Trumpcare bill that would have stripped millions of their health coverage, and the spot closes by arguing he broke his promise.
● PA-09: Democrat Denny Wolff faces a very steep challenge in this 65-31 Trump open seat, but he isn't lacking for clever ads in his race against Republican Dan Meuser. A farmer, Wolff rides his ProTwin Slinger, a manure truck that spreads three tons of manure a minute; Wolff says that's "nothing compared to the lies Dan Meuser is spreading about me." Wolff argues that he doesn't support Nancy Pelosi, and says Meuser is trying to distract from the way his company "preyed on seniors" and was slammed for "significant and troubling abuse of ... Medicare," resulting in an $80,000 fine. A previous ad introduced Wolff as a dairy farmer who knows what it's like to work for a living.
● TX-32: Democrat Colin Allred launched a new TV ad featuring footage of Republican Rep. Pete Sessions at a 2017 town hall, playing a clip where he berates the audience by saying, "You don't know how to listen." The narrator then says it's actually Sessions who "stopped listening to us" by voting to take away protections for pre-existing health conditions. Allred promises he'll listen to voters and fight for access to health care.
● UT-04: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is making its first ad buy in this contest, placing $956,000 on broadcast from Wednesday through Election Day to support Republican Rep. Mia Love and oppose Democrat Ben McAdams.
● WV-03: Democrat Richard Ojeda speaks to the camera in his newest ad, where he starts off by noting that "people say that I'm angry. Well, ‘angry’ is an understatement." He argues he can't accept how he came home from war only to find that the kids "in my backyard" have it worse than those he saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, Ojeda berates companies that use bankruptcy loopholes to avoid paying coal miners their rightful benefits. Finally, he closes by blasting Washington insiders like Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell for selling out West Virginia, and contends he's willing to fight back.
● House: The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council is spending $2 million on a new TV ad campaign against five Republican incumbents in New Jersey and New York:
- NJ-03: Rep. Tom MacArthur
- NJ-07: Rep. Leonard Lance
- NY-19: Rep. John Faso
- NY-22: Rep. Claudia Tenney
- NY-24: Rep. John Katko
Meanwhile, the American Bankers Association has made ad buys for three Republican House incumbents:
- AR-02: $125,000 on cable ads for Rep. French Hill
- CA-10: $75,000 on digital ads for Rep. Jeff Denham
- ME-02: $125,000 on cable ads for Rep. Bruce Poliquin
- FL-15: WPA Intelligence (R) for the Club For Growth: Ross Spano (R): 46, Kristen Carlson (D): 39
- FL-16: Public Opinion Strategies (R) for Vern Buchanan: Vern Buchanan (R-inc): 52, David Shapiro (D): 42
- IL-14: Siena for the New York Times: Randy Hultgren (R-inc): 47, Lauren Underwood (D): 43
- NC-13: Siena for the New York Times: Ted Budd (R-inc): 47, Kathy Manning (D): 41
- NE-02: Meeting Street Research (R) for Don Bacon: Don Bacon (R-inc): 49, Kara Eastman (D): 40
- NJ-11: Monmouth: Mikie Sherrill (D) 48, Jay Webber (R): 44 (June: 44-40 Sherrill)
- NY-01: Siena for the New York Times: Lee Zeldin (R-inc): 49, Perry Gershon (D): 41
- PA-07: DeSales University for WFMZ-TV: Susan Wild (D): 50, Marty Nothstein (R): 31
- PA-16: Siena for New York Times: Mike Kelly (R-Inc): 50, Ron DiNicola (D): 42
- VA-10: George Mason University for the Washington Post: Jennifer Wexton (D): 55, Barbara Comstock (R-inc): 43
This is the first Republican internal poll we've seen in Florida's 15th, where previous Democratic surveys had found Carlson either narrowly ahead or trailing by a small margin. Meanwhile, in the neighboring 16th District, polling has consistently had Buchanan ahead, and his internal poll isn't that much worse for Democrats than a 50-43 lead in the independent St. Pete Polls survey from last week.
Siena's Illinois survey is the first the 14th District has seen in months and the first independent poll of the race, but it suggests the national parties were right to sense an opportunity for a flip there after they've recently made ad buys.
GOP Rep. Don Bacon's poll in Nebraska gives him a larger lead than his 49-45 edge in a recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner internal poll for Democrat Kara Eastman, but it matches the margin from a late-September Siena poll that had him up 51-42.
Siena's New York 1st District poll is the first independent survey of the race, and it gives Zeldin a more comfortable edge than a mid-September Democratic poll from Global Strategy Group that had him up a mere 47-44. Neither national party has taken much interest in this race.
DeSales University has released the first poll we've ever seen from it, and it gives Pennsylvania Democrat Susan Wild an implausibly large lead for the swingy open 7th District, which neither party is acting like is in the bag for Team Blue. Indeed, Siena had Wild up by 50-42 late last month, and Monmouth gave her only a 47-45 edge one month ago.
Finally, George Mason University's poll for the Washington Post is its first of Virginia's 10th District this cycle, and it also gives Democrat Virginia Wexton her biggest lead of any poll to date. However, all other surveys we've seen had shown Comstock trailing by at least several points or more, and there's little doubt that she's an underdog at this point.
● Deaths: Former Maryland Sen. Joseph Tydings, a Democrat who served from 1965 until he was defeated in 1970 thanks to an effort by the NRA and its allies, died Monday at the age of 90. Tydings was the stepson of Millard Tydings, who himself represented Maryland in the Senate for 24 years until Joseph McCarthy helped beat him in 1950 during the Red Scare.
The younger Tydings served in the Army before he was elected to the state House in 1954. Tydings went on to become U.S. attorney for Maryland during the Kennedy administration, and he later recounted in his autobiography that he'd prosecuted so many Democratic politicians that Attorney General Robert Kennedy once exclaimed, "My God, Joe, can't you ever find a Republican to indict?"
President Kennedy convinced Tydings to challenge GOP Sen. James Glenn Beall in 1964, and Tydings even held his farewell luncheon at the Justice Department on what turned out to be the same day that Kennedy was assassinated. In the primary, Tydings faced state Comptroller Louis Goldstein, who had the support of the state Democratic machine, and he beat him 59-33. Tydings decisively unseated Beall 63-37 as President Lyndon Johnson was carrying the state by a similar margin.
During his one term, Tydings was known for his support for civil rights and gun safety, as well as his opposition to the Vietnam War. Tydings angered President Richard Nixon when he helped defeat two of his Supreme Court nominees. His support for the Nixon administration's crime bill for D.C., which included "no knock" police entry provisions, infuriated many black voters.
Tydings faced a tough 1970 primary challenge from conservative George P. Mahoney, a perennial candidate who had run several high-profile but unsuccessful campaigns. The NRA worked hard to beat Tydings, who was also hurt by a Life article accusing him of "conflicts of interest" in office. Tydings won 53-38, but soon had to deal with a tough challenge from GOP Rep. John Glenn Beall Jr., the son of the man he'd defeated six years before. Anti-gun-safety groups once again opposed the senator, and in November, Beall unseated him 51-48.
Tydings went back to practicing law after his defeat, and in 1972 he successfully argued Eisenstadt v. Baird in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing the right of unmarried people to use contraception. Tydings sought a rematch with Beall in 1976, but he lost the primary 55-35 to Rep. Paul Sarbanes, who went on to win decisively in November.