● CA-Sen, CA-Gov: Over the weekend, California Democrats gathered for their annual convention where, among other things, party faithful handed out endorsements to preferred candidates—or chose not to. The most notable news came out of the race for Senate, where attendees declined to back longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein over her top challenger, state Senate leader Kevin de Leon, who won 54 percent of delegates' votes to 37 percent for Feinstein.
That outcome did not result in an endorsement for de Leon either, though, because candidates needed to get 60 percent of the vote to earn the party's official backing. But it still certainly counts as a snub of Feinstein, who last summer riled progressives when she insisted they show "some patience" toward Trump, saying he still had a chance to be a "good president." Obviously, activists aren't interested in showing much patience toward Feinstein any longer, though this race will play out on a much larger stage and the events that just transpired may not wind up mattering all that much.
Meanwhile, the showdown in the gubernatorial race also wound up as a push, though since that's an open-seat contest featuring several heavyweight candidates, the deadlock was less surprising. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has led in all public polling, also led among delegates with 39 percent of the vote, while state Treasurer John Chiang, took second with 30 percent. Interestingly, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has generally polled second, finished a distant fourth with just 9 percent, behind former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, who grabbed 20 percent despite the fact that her campaign has gained little traction among primary voters.
● TN-Sen: While there was a report last week saying that GOP Sen. Bob Corker would announce if he would un-retire by last Friday … that didn't happen. Instead, Corker said at a state party fundraiser on Saturday that "[a]t this point, nothing has changed." Tennessee's filing deadline is April 5.
● WI-Sen: After months of outside groups running ads in Wisconsin's Senate race, Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin is finally debuting the first ads of her own. Her first spot features a retired foundry worker who praises Baldwin for fighting for American steel. Baldwin then speaks to the camera to advocate for her bill that would force government infrastructure projects to use entirely American-made steel as a way to help Wisconsin's industry. Her second spot uses TV news clips to highlight how Baldwin has partnered with Arizona's Republican Sen. John McCain to fight pharmaceutical companies that raise their drug prices at skyrocketing rates.
● CO-Gov: On Friday, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton became the first Republican to turn in signatures for the June primary. As we've written before, signature-gathering in Colorado is a very tough process, and if a voter signs petitions for multiple candidates, it only counts in favor of the first candidate to turn their signatures in. Former investment banker Doug Robinson and wealthy former state Rep. Victor Mitchell are also gathering petitions, while Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is hoping to do well enough at the April party convention to make the primary ballot.
● CT-Gov: On Saturday, former Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris switched from officially exploring a run for governor to officially running. Harris is a former mayor and state senator from West Hartford, and he served as executive director of the state party during Gov. Dan Malloy's tight 2014 re-election campaign.
A number of other Democrats are running to succeed Malloy or still officially exploring (exploratory committees can collect larger donations, so candidates hoping to quality for public financing often want to stay in exploratory mode as long as possible.) In the officially running camp are businessman Guy Smith; Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim; businessman and 2006 Senate nominee Ned Lamont; and former Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs Sean Connolly. Former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin are still exploring.
This huge field will be winnowed in some way before the August primary, however. The state Democratic Party will hold its nominating convention May 18-19, and candidates need to win the support of at least 15 percent of the delegates to reach the primary ballot. It's mathematically impossible for all seven of these people to win at least 15 percent, so at least one of them will see their campaign end at the convention, assuming that someone doesn't drop out or decide not to run first.
● IL-Gov: State Rep. Jeanne Ives is hoping that the high-profile and deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease at an Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy will weaken Gov. Bruce Rauner ahead of the March 20 GOP primary, and she's out with a new TV spot attacking him over it. Various people are shown watching the news (Fox, of course) as anchors describe the outbreak, and quote Rauner saying "we're really on top of the situation." However, these anchors say that three more residents have tested positive for the bacteria, and a Korean War veteran recently died. A clip of Rauner then appears with him saying that his administration has handled everything "exceptionally well," as on-screen text tells the audience that there have been "13 deaths since July 2015" and "four new cases of Legionnaires reported in February."
The Legionnaires' outbreak has been a big source of trouble for Rauner in recent months. In January, the governor moved to the Quincy facility for a week to try to show he understood the problem and cared. However, while the state has spent $6 million to upgrade its water treatment, more residents have fallen ill. Last week, Rauner said his administration wasn't sure if moving the residents was the best course of action, but it would announce its next steps "in the near future."
● ME-Gov: Two Democrats exited the primary over the last few days. Former state Sen. James Boyle pulled the plug on Friday, while former Bangor Mayor Sean Faircloth dropped out and endorsed former state House Speaker Mark Eves.
● MI-Gov: Every poll of the August GOP primary has shown Attorney General Bill Schuette beating Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, and Schuette's campaign is out with yet another. Public Opinion Strategies gives Schuette, who has Trump's endorsement, a 42-15 lead over Calley, who has the support of termed-out Gov. Rick Snyder. State Sen. Patrick Colbeck takes 5, while Jim Hines, a physician who has done some self-funding, takes 2.
● PA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Paul Mango has a new ad out ahead of the Republican primary where he portrays himself as an outsider who will clean up corruption in Harrisburg. Mango argues that any politician convicted of corruption should lose their state pension. He then asserts "there should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment by any Harrisburg politician," although Mango notably has not joined the call for GOP Rep. Pat Meehan's resignation following credible allegations against the congressman. Nevertheless, Mango closes by saying politicians shouldn't get paid if they skip votes, using the opportunity to attack his opponent Scott Wagner over how many votes the latter has missed while serving in the state Senate.
● TN-Gov: Republican Rep. Diane Black has begun airing her first ad ahead of Tennessee's primary for governor. The spot starts off in an office where a TV shows footage of Trump praising Republican Congress members for passing their tax cut law last year; Trump invites Black to personally share the podium with him. Black then speaks to the camera to call the tax cuts "one of her proudest moments," but she claims she did it to help middle-class Americans like nurses. Black then segues to talk about her own middle-class background to relate to workers living paycheck-to-paycheck.
● CA-25: Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez, who represents a safely blue downtown Los Angeles district, has endorsed nonprofit director Katie Hill for the nearby 25th District. Hill is one of several Democrats competing for the top-two primary spot to face Republican Rep. Steve Knight in this swingy suburban Los Angeles-area district.
● CA-35: There are many memorable anecdotes from Robert Caro's "The Years of Lyndon Johnson" series, but one that always stuck with us was young Rep. Lyndon Johnson's conversation with a Capitol Hill elevator operator. Johnson, who grew up poor and was constantly worried about money (and more than willing to beg for it even after becoming a congressman) was horrified when he learned that the elevator operator used to be a congressman himself. Johnson feared that if he wasn't careful, this could be him too someday. However, at least that former representative (who goes unnamed) accepted his fate and didn't keep running for office time after time after time. The same cannot be said for Joe Baca, who recently filed to run for the 35th District as a Democrat against Democratic Rep. Norma Torres.
It's not unheard of for members of Congress to lose their seats and launch futile campaign after futile campaign to try to win them back: Louisiana's Clyde Holloway, for instance, lost his bid for a fourth term in 1992 after he was thrown into the same district as a fellow Republican, and he waged five unsuccessful campaigns to return to the House before he died in 2016. But what separates Baca from so many other former congressmen-turned-perennial candidates is that he actually had a long and prominent career first. Baca was first elected to a seat in the Inland Empire in Southern California in 1998, and he rose to lead the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Baca had little to worry about until 2012, when he lost re-election to fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod.
While Baca was always one of the more conservative Democrats in the House caucus, he had the support of much of the state Democratic establishment. Redistricting after 2010 split Baca's old House seat, so Baca chose to run for the 35th District, where he already represented about 60 percent of the population. But Baca was caught off guard when then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's group spent millions reminding voters about Baca's A-rating from the NRA. In a big surprise, Baca didn't just lose, he lost 56-44. That same day, Baca's son lost a state Assembly race to a fellow Democrat by an identical 56-44 margin.
While many congressmen would take a wide defeat like that as a sign that it was time to do something else, Baca wasn't most congressmen. In 2014, Baca sought the open 31st District, where he had represented about 44 percent of the population before redistricting. National Democrats weren't happy to see him, and they feared he could split the vote enough to send two Republicans to the general election for the second cycle in a row, and the DCCC even encouraged other candidates to attack him. Baca didn't help his case when he called Negrete McLeod "some bimbo." Baca ended up taking fifth place in the top-two primary with 11 percent of the vote, while Democrat Pete Aguilar only narrowly managed to avoid being locked out of the general election.
Baca didn't take his second defeat in two years as a sign he should quit running for office. He ran for mayor of Fontana (which was back in the 35th District) that same year, and he lost 61-19. Baca decided to run for Congress in the 31st District again in 2016, but this time, as a Republican. This time, Baca took third place with 12 percent of the vote.
Apparently, Baca still hasn't gotten the message, and he's filed to run as a Democrat for the safely blue 35th District. Baca hasn't announced he's in yet, but given how his last several campaigns have gone, we're not exactly going to be waiting at the edge of our seats for him to declare he's in. And somewhere on Capitol Hill, a young representative is watching what's happened to Baca and realizing with horror that, if they're not careful, they could be like him someday.
● CA House: On the House front, all 39 Democratic incumbents received the state party's endorsement for re-election (see our CA-Sen & CA-Gov item above). In the remaining 14 districts held by Republicans, delegates awarded their support in nine races:
- CA-01: No endorsement
- CA-04: National security strategist Jessica Morse
- CA-08: Nurse Marge Doyle
- CA-10: No endorsement
- CA-21: Attorney Emilio Huerta
- CA-22: Prosecutor Andrew Janz
- CA-23: Public relations consultant Tatiana Matta
- CA-25: No endorsement
- CA-39: No endorsement
- CA-42: Teacher Julia Peacock
- CA-45: Law professor Dave Min
- CA-48: Neuroscientist Hans Keirstead
- CA-49: No endorsement
- CA-50: Former U.S. Labor Department official Ammar Campa-Najjar
The "no endorsement" decisions were all pretty unsurprising, since most of those races feature large fields with multiple strong candidates, especially the open-seat contests for the 39th and 49th Districts. The one exception was in the 25th, where attorney Bryan Caforio earned a "pre-endorsement" at a local caucus last month, taking 73 percent of the vote. All of the other candidates above who earned official endorsements also won pre-endorsements, but only Caforio saw his support drop below the critical 60 percent mark at the convention, to 53 percent, with nonprofit director Katie Hill's 16 percent (plus a third of delegates voting for no endorsement) enough to deny Caforio's the party's seal of approval.
And what exactly does that seal of approval actually mean? Endorsees are listed by name on the sample ballot that gets sent out to all voters, which, for the lucky beneficiaries, is almost like having someone else pay for a mailer to every voter in their district. (These same candidates can, of course, also include information about their endorsement in their own literature and advertisements.) In expensive contests like these, that can be a real boon, though candidates who fail to earn the party's endorsement certainly can and do win primaries regardless.
● CO-06: End Citizens United is out with a new PPP poll that tested attorney Jason Crow as the Democratic nominee against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman. The survey finds Crow beating the incumbent by 44-39 in this suburban Denver-area district, which favored Clinton in 2016 by a slightly wider 50-41.
● MA-03: On Monday, nonprofit director Steve Kerrigan announced he was dropping out of the very crowded and very expensive September Democratic primary for this open seat. Kerrigan, who was Team Blue's 2014 nominee for lieutenant governor, cited the recent death of his mother.
This Merrimack Valley seat, which includes Lawrence and Lowell, backed Clinton 58-35, and a host of Democrats are running to succeed retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas. Daniel Koh resigned as chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to run here, and he's been making the most of his extensive connections. Koh raised $805,000 during the final quarter of 2017, a haul that's larger than what some top-tier Senate candidates have brought in, and he ended the year with $1.45 million in the bank.
However, he's far from the only Democrat with access to money. Lori Trahan, who used to serve as chief of staff to former Rep. Marty Meehan and reportedly has the support of much of his political network, raised $310,000 for the quarter and had $510,000 on-hand. Rufus Gifford, who was the 2012 Obama campaign's finance director before becoming U.S. ambassador to Denmark, took in close to $500,000 after his first month-and-a-half in the race, and he ended the year with $417,000 on-hand. Hotel executive Beej Das only raised $151,000 from donors, but he self-funded another $280,000 and ended 2017 with $412,000 on-hand.
A few local elected officials are also in. State Sen. Barbara L'Italien took in $270,000 for her first quarter as a declared candidate and ended the year with $245,000 in the bank. State Rep. Juana Matias, who unseated a longtime incumbent last cycle to win her seat, raised $212,000 for her first quarter and had $182,000 on-hand. Former Navy intelligence officer Alexandra Chandler, who would be the first openly transgender member of Congress, has gotten some national attention, but she had just $36,000 in the bank.
This seat will be a tough lift for Team Red, but they also have a candidate who has the resources to run a credible campaign. Auto-parts company owner Rick Green raised $339,000 from donors during his first quarter in the race and he self-funded another $120,000, leaving him with a $386,000 war chest.
● NC-03: Many Republicans have challenged Rep. Walter Jones, who once said he "like[s] to be a thorn in people's ass" when describing his relationship with the House GOP leadership, but he's been an elusive target. The closest anyone came to beating Jones in the primary was in 2014, when former George W. Bush aide Taylor Griffin held him to a 51-45 win with the help of establishment-oriented outside groups. But Jones beat underfunded former Marine Phil Law by a convincing 65-20 two years later, while Griffin took just 15. Still, Craven County Commissioner Scott Dacey is hoping that 2018 will be the year primary voters finally purge the longtime congressman, and he's begun a $150,000 TV ad buy ahead of the May primary for this coastal seat.
Dacey's commercial takes aim at Jones' many votes against GOP leadership bills, arguing that he sided with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi over Trump. The ad begins with Trump bragging about "the largest tax cut in the history of our country," before showing Nancy Pelosi denouncing it. The narrator then declares that Jones sided with Pelosi and "voted against your tax cut again and again," and claims he "votes with Pelosi more than any other Republican." The spot ends by the narrator proclaiming that Dacey will be a congressman who stands with Trump and against Pelosi.
Jones said he voted against the GOP's tax bill because it adds to the national debt, but of course, the commercial doesn't mention that. And Jones may struggle to inform voters about that, too. Jones has few friends in D.C. and he's long struggled with fundraising. At the end of December, Dacey held a $224,000 to $100,000 cash-on-hand edge over the incumbent. Jones has won tough battles before, but this may be his toughest.
However, the clown car could come to Jones' rescure. Law, who took second place in 2016, is running again. North Carolina only requires a primary runoff if no one takes more than 30 percent of the vote in the first round (until this year, candidates needed to take more than 40 percent), so if Law can take some support from Dacey, he could save the congressman. This seat backed Trump 61-37.
● ND-AL: This week, state Sen. John Grabinger announced he would seek the Democratic nod for this open statewide seat. Grabinger narrowly won a state Senate seat around Jamestown in 2012 as Romney was carrying the district 57-40, and he was re-elected 59-41 in 2016 as Trump was winning his seat 63-28 (which is almost identical to Trump's statewide showing). Grabinger argued as he kicked off his campaign that "[i]f I can get elected in Republican Jamestown, I must be somewhat moderate."
Grabinger faces former state Rep. Ben Hanson, who lost re-election after one four-year term in 2016, for the Democratic nod. Both candidates are competing for the state party endorsement next month, though it's not clear if they're willing to continue to the June primary if they don't win it.
● NJ-11: Are you a congressional candidate who didn't vote for your party's 2016 presidential nominee, or perhaps didn't even vote at all? If so, now's the time to prepare your explanation, because you can bet your primary opponent is going to try to use whatever you say against you. Investment banker Antony Ghee, who has served as an Army Reserve JAG officer, only switched his party registration from unaffiliated to Republican two days before he kicked off his bid for this open seat, so it was probably only a matter of time before people started asking about his political leanings.
And sure enough, Ghee responded to a question at a Saturday party event about who he voted for in the last three presidential elections with, "As a soldier, we learned a long time ago that he want all presidents to succeed." Not a great answer, and Ghee probably made it worse when he added, "It doesn't matter who your president is, we want every president to succeed, whether it's President Trump, whether it's President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton. I want them to succeed, period." Ghee concluded he's "never voted straight party line."
That speech really only brought up more questions than answers about Ghee, something that his GOP primary foe is counting on. Assemblyman Jay Webber, a hard-core conservative whose party bona fides aren't at all in question, informed the audience that Ghee's "answer is he voted for Obama, Obama and Clinton. Not only is he liberal but he's not forthcoming about it." Ghee tried to turn the tables on Webber and argued that, "If defending our country as a major in the Army means Jay Webber is able to exercise his First Amendment rights and accuse me of 'hiding behind the uniform' then I've done my job as a soldier." Of course, that's not likely to make Webber and his allies stop trying to portray Ghee as a dreaded Republican In Name Only.
Webber and Ghee are the main Republicans in the June primary for this open 49-48 Trump seat. Ghee will likely have the influential party lines in Essex and Passaic counties, but this stumble could make it a lot tougher for him to make inroads in large Morris County, where Webber is from. However, Ghee got a little good news on Monday when Sussex County Freeholder Deputy Director Sylvia Petillo announced that she would back him rather than run herself.
● NM-02: State Rep. Yvette Herrell won the state party convention over the weekend, a victory that ensures that her name will be first on the June GOP primary ballot. But perhaps more importantly, Herrell beat former state party chair Monty Newman by a decisive 58-26 among delegates. While Newman will still be on the primary ballot, this was a better showing for Herrell than observers anticipated.
Newman has been a stronger fundraiser than Herrell, and he led her $357,000 to $203,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of December. However, state political writer Joe Monahan argues that Herrell's win could help her raise more money and take away one of Newman's key advantages. A few other Republicans are running, but none of them look like they'll have the resources to compete in June. Trump won this southern New Mexico seat 50-40.
● NY-24: Syracuse University professor Dana Balter, who has been active with local progressive groups since the 2016 election, won the endorsement of the Onondaga County Democratic Party on Saturday. Balter had won the support of the other three county parties weeks ago for her bid against GOP Rep. John Katko, but Onondaga is by far the biggest one in the seat.
Businesswoman Anne Messenger and alpaca farmer Scott Comegys responded to Balter's Saturday win by dropping out of the June Democratic primary, while scientist William Bass says he'll stay in the race. However, Bass is a first time candidate who grew up outside this seat and only recently moved to Syracuse after spending five years working as a scientist in Saudi Arabia for the oil company Saudi Aramco, so he may not be the most appealing candidate for Democratic voters.
Katko represents a Syracuse-area seat that went from 57-41 Obama to 49-45 Clinton, and he's proven to be a very tough opponent for Team Blue. Balter has been running since September, but she had just $47,000 in the bank at the end of 2017. National Democrats have been searching for other candidates, but both former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Juanita Perez Williams, who lost the 2017 race to succeed her, said no this year. The candidate filing deadline isn't until April 12, but now that the local parties have sided with Balter, national Democrats have to decide if it's better to try to help Balter build up her campaign rather than to keep searching for an alternative.
● PA-03: Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans' safely blue Philadelphia seat didn't change much after redistricting, and about 80 percent of Evans' old 2nd District is in the new 3rd. However, Evans had just $103,000 in his war chest at the end of December, and while he doesn't appear to have done anything to alienate primary voters since his 2016 win, the freshman hasn't had time to become entrenched.
Evans did lose one potential primary rival when former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad announced that she would run for lieutenant governor rather than for the House. But Pastor Kevin Johnson, who heads a workforce development group, announced that he would run against Evans on Monday, though he didn't say why he thought the incumbent should be fired. Johnson had been seeking to replace retiring Rep. Bob Brady in the old 1st District, but the new congressional map broke that seat up into small pieces.
Johnson heads Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center, a group that City & State's Ryan Briggs recently described as "a storied job-training nonprofit based in North Philadelphia." Briggs added that Bright Hope, the church Johnson once led is "well known as one of the most politically influential houses of worship in a city where the black clergy wields considerable power."
However, Johnson resigned in 2014 from Bright Hope under not-so-great circumstances. Congregants said they were angry that Johnson wouldn't give them answers about his salary and other church financial affairs. Johnson also planned to run for mayor in 2015, and when congregants reminded him of his 2007 pledge to avoid city politics, he reportedly gave them an unsatisfactory, "I changed my mind." Johnson ended up staying out of that race, and he founded his own church.
But while Evans' campaign isn't exactly flush for cash, he's no pushover. Before his 2016 win, Evans represented Northwest Philadelphia in the state House for 36 years. While Evans' own attempts to run for higher office never panned out until 2016, his endorsement carried plenty of weight in Philadelphia with primary voters. In 2014, Evans was an early supporter of Tom Wolf, who went on to decisively win the governorship.
Evans played an even more important role in the 2015 Democratic primary for mayor when he endorsed Jim Kenney over state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams. Kenney won 56-26, and after the election, Philadelphia Magazine credited his wide victory in part to Evans decision to support the white former city councilor over Williams, who like Evans is black. Evans successfully challenged scandal-tarred incumbent Chaka Fattah the next year with the support of Wolf and Kenney and won the primary 42-34.
● PA-04: In a big relief, state Sen. Daylin Leach announced over the weekend that he wouldn't seek the Democratic nomination for this new Montgomery County seat. Multiple women accused Leach of sexual harassment in December, and some Democrats reportedly feared that he could put this 59-39 Clinton seat into play for the GOP if he won the May primary. However, while Gov. Tom Wolf called for Leach to resign from the legislature in December, he hasn't gone anywhere.
● PA-05: Last week, former political science professor Mary Ellen Balchunis announced she would seek the Democratic nomination for this new 63-34 Clinton seat. Balchunis was Team Blue's nominee against GOP Rep. Pat Meehan in the old 7th during the last two cycles, and she lost 62-38 and 59-41, respectively. However, it's possible that Balchunis has enough left over name recognition from those two bids in this new seat (the new 5th includes just over half the old 7th) that she could do well in what's shaping up to be a very crowded primary.
● PA-10: Democrats got some bad news on Monday when state Auditor Eugene DePasquale announced that he wouldn't challenge GOP Rep. Scott Perry. Team Blue will want a credible candidate against Perry, who infamously went on Fox and speculated, without the slightest bit of evidence, that the October Las Vegas massacre may have been carried out by ISIS and suggested evidence supporting his claims were being covered up. But this seat, which includes Harrisburg and York, backed Trump 52-43, and Democrats don't have much time left to find someone now that DePasquale has said no.
● PA-11: Rep. Lloyd Smucker was probably the one member of the state GOP delegation who is more likely to be re-elected thanks to redistricting. While Smucker's old 16th District backed Trump 51-44, the new 11th supported him 61-35, and he's unlikely to be a Democratic target. Still, nonprofit director Jess King, who ended December with $146,000 in the bank, says she'll still challenge him in this Lancaster County-based seat. As we always write, it's good to field credible candidates even in tough seats in case lightning strikes.
● PA-13: GOP state Rep. Stephen Bloom had been running in the GOP primary for Rep. Lou Barletta's open old 11th District, but redistricting moved him to the new 13th District. Luckily for Bloom, that's another safely red open seat, and he announced this week that he would run there. Unluckily for Bloom, only about a third of his Cumberland County legislative seat wound up in the 13th (the balance in GOP Rep. Scott Perry's 10th District), so he won't start with much name recognition. However, Bloom did have $200,000 in the bank at the end of December, and all of his new opponents only began running for Congress after Rep. Bill Shuster announced he would retire in January.
● PA-17: While the NRCC publicly acts bullish about the unlikely idea of the U.S. Supreme Court restoring Pennsylvania's old and gerrymandered congressional map, they're doing what they need to do to shore up one suddenly-endangered member. GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus' old 12th District backed Trump 59-38, but the new 17th supported him just 49-47. Appropriately, the NRCC has added Rothfus to their Patriot Program for vulnerable incumbents.
● PA-18 (special): Ad buys abound in the special election to replace disgraced former GOP Rep. Tim Murphy.
The pro-Trump America First Action super PAC has launched a $1 million ad buy, which began with digital ads and expanded to include TV ads this week.
The right-wing Congressional Leadership Fund has a 30-second spot hitting Democrat Conor Lamb and tying him to Nancy Pelosi via their shared opposition to Trump's tax package.
The NRCC has a 30-second spot attacking Lamb over a plea deal he made in a case involving a Navy professor accused of sexually assaulting multiple servicemembers. The spot accuses Lamb of not standing up for victims because he agreed to a plea deal that let the professor keep his retirement benefits and ends by asserting that "we can't trust" the Democrat.
On the pro-Lamb side, End Citizens United has made a $250,000 buy for a 30-second ad that hits Republican Rick Saccone's use of "taxpayer perks" as a state legislator and tout's Lamb's refusal of donations from corporate PACs.
Last week, the Lamb campaign spent $525,000 on a trio of ads, all 30-second spots. One features Lamb himself defending "entitlements" like Social Security and Medicare, framing them as "promises" members of Congress should keep to Americans. Another is a pure negative hit on Saccone's "hypocrisy" over the course of his time in the Pennsylvania legislature, accusing him of misusing taxpayer money even as he voted cut education funding. The third ad is a response to the NRCC spot attacking Lamb's plea deal with the Navy professor accused of sexual assault that uses a third-party validator to do double duty by highlighting Lamb's record as a federal prosecutor. In it, a former U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania defends Lamb's record to the camera and lauds him for taking on "the most dangerous criminals on our streets" and describes him as "one of the most effective people [he] had [on his staff] to deal with the heroin epidemic."
Finally, Lamb dropped a 30-second spot over the weekend that protests his opponent's attempts to tie him to Nancy Pelosi and pivots to "real issues" like protecting Medicare, Social Security, health care, and education. The ad ends with a jab at Saccone for being beholden to the "special interests that are spending millions to elect him."
● Special Elections and Midterms: We've seen some truly stunning results in special elections this year, but the races with the largest shifts towards the Democrat from 2016 presidential margins tend to have lower than average turnout. Does that mean this Democratic shift will evaporate in the higher turnout November elections? Daniel Donner explores the data and finds reassuring answers for Democratic chances.
● Special Elections: Senior legislative special election correspondent Johnny Longtorso brings us his report on Tuesday's legislative special elections:
Connecticut HD-120: This is an open Republican seat in Stratford, vacated by Laura Hoydick after she was elected mayor of Stratford. The Democratic candidate is Philip Young, and the Republican candidate is Bill Cabral; both are former members of the Stratford Town Council. This seat went 49-47 for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 53-46 for Barack Obama in 2012.
Kentucky HD-89: This is an open Republican seat located in the southeast of the state. It was vacated by Marie Rader due to health concerns. The Democratic nominee here is Kelly Smith, a librarian, while the Republican nominee is Robert Goforth, a pharmacist. This seat voted 79-17 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 77-21 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
New Hampshire House, Belknap-3: This is an open Republican seat in Laconia, north of Concord. It was left vacant by the death of Donald Flanders. The Democratic nominee is Philip Spagnuolo, a substance abuse recovery coach, while the Republican nominee is Les Cartier, a retired employee in the state Fire Marshal's office. This seat backed Trump by a 54-41 margin in 2016 but voted for Obama by a 50-49 margin in 2012.
There's one interesting thing to note about the Kentucky seat. HD-89 contains all of Jackson County, which has never voted for a single Democratic presidential nominee in its entire history. Even in 1936, when Franklin Roosevelt won 46 of the then 48 states, Republican Alf Landon still carried Jackson by an 89-11 margin. The seat is also home to part of Laurel County, which supported Woodrow Wilson in the three-way presidential race of 1912, but hasn't backed another Democratic presidential nominee since, and part of Madison, which hasn't gone blue since Jimmy Carter carried it in 1976.
● Site News: This week marks the ninth anniversary of the creation of the very newsletter you are reading right now—the Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest! Thank you to all our readers over the years, and a big thanks goes to our own David Jarman for first coming up with the idea that led to the Digest eventually taking its current form.
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