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.
● CA-48: Well, that escalated quickly. Little more than a day after the National Journal reported that the DCCC had been working behind the scenes to boost Democrat Harley Rouda in order to avoid a lockout in next month's top-two primary, the committee formally added Rouda to their "Red to Blue" list.
This list signals to donors and outside organizations which candidates the DCCC thinks are strongest and could thus put some momentum behind Rouda's campaign. But perhaps more importantly, it suggests the D-Trip itself might spend money on this race, just as it recently began doing in the nearby 39th after previously awarding their Red to Blue distinction to Democrat Gil Cisneros.
And as in the 39th, the problem here is a sticky one, best illustrated by a new poll from Rouda himself. His survey, conducted by Tulchin Research, finds GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in front with 30 percent, while Rouda is tied at 13 both with fellow Democrat Hans Keirstead and Republican Scott Baugh. (The rest of the field is in the low single digits.) Keirstead’s own fresh polling is almost identical: Anzalone Liszt Grove has Rohrabacher at 31, Baugh at 15, Keirstead at 14, and Rouda at 13.
One thing we don't know, though, is why the DCCC decided that Rouda, a wealthy real estate company owner, is the horse to back. Indeed, it's a little surprising, because when Keirstead, a prominent scientist who made a mint in stem-cell research, joined the race, the Los Angeles Times reported that he'd been recruited by "some national Democratic figures."
And the two candidates' finances tell a fairly similar story. Like his main rival Keirstead, Rouda has been a decent but not stellar fundraiser, and like Keirstead, he's also self-funded extensively. Rouda, though, has put in more than twice as much from his own pockets: $1.1 million versus $430,000 for Keirstead, who began his campaign by saying he wouldn't tap his personal resources at all.
But the DCCC must have concluded that Rouda offers the best chance to avoid a debacle in June. As is the case every time the committee intervenes in a Democratic primary, supporters of all the other candidates are likely to react angrily, and that may be especially true here, since Keirstead won the official endorsement of the state Democratic Party back in February. But the cost of missing out on the general election in this highly competitive district would be far, far worse.
● MT-Sen: VoteVets has thrown another $132,000 behind their ad campaign supporting Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s re-election, bringing their total to $352,000 so far.
● WV-Sen: The Senate Majority PAC is running another ad on behalf of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. This time, their minute-long spot (backed by a $450,000 buy) features the parents of Jessie Grub, a woman who died of an opioid overdose after receiving a prescription for oxycodone while hospitalized for a running injury, despite her parents informing doctors that she’d had a history of addiction. They express their gratitude to Manchin for helping to pass Jessie’s Law earlier this year, which requires hospitals to prominently flag addiction history for their patients.
● CO-Gov: Earlier this month, the secretary of state released a list of candidates for Colorado's June 26 primary. The state delayed producing its official candidate list due to a series of ballot eligibility challenges that didn't get resolved until recently. For example, the state Supreme Court threw GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn off the ballot, but a federal court put him back on a week later.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is termed-out of office, and both parties have four-way primaries to succeed him. There's no clear front-runner on the Democratic side right now. Former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who went on to serve as Denver's chief financial officer after losing re-election in 2010, won the party endorsement last month, which gets her the top spot on the primary ballot.
Rep. Jared Polis, who represents a seat in the Boulder area, is very wealthy, and he'd be the nation's first openly gay governor. However, while Polis has a strongly pro-environment and civil-libertarian streak that's helped him gain a following with many in the party, he has his detractors over his support for charter schools and trade deals.
Former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who represented a seat in Denver until he left office last year, likely began the race with little name recognition. However, Johnston is a strong fundraiser, and he has a well-funded super PAC on his side. Back in March, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $1 million to Johnston's allied committee, saying he was motivated by his support for gun safety measurers.
The final candidate is Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who is close to Hickenlooper (though the governor has not endorsed anyone). Lynne, a former Kaiser Permanente executive who previously served for 20 years in New York City government, was appointed lieutenant governor in 2015, and this will be the first time she's run for office.
Campaign finance reports were recently released for the period covering Jan. 1 to May 2, which gives us an idea of each Democrat's resources going into the final stretch of the race. Johnston raised $600,000 during this time, and his $838,000 war chest was the largest in the field. Polis self-funded $5 million, and he had $500,000 available. Kennedy took in $800,000, the largest haul of the period, and she had $435,000 to spend. Lynne raised $237,000 from donors and self-funded another $100,000, leaving her with $300,000 on-hand.
Things are a bit clearer on the GOP side. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who is a second-cousin of George W. Bush, won the party endorsement, and he has the support of much of the party establishment. Stapleton, who narrowly unseated Kennedy in 2010, raised $400,000 during the first four months of the year, and he had $831,000 on-hand; he also had a well-funded super PAC on his side.
None of the other three Republicans have raised much from donors. Former state Rep. Victor Mitchell loaned his campaign $3 million last year but he's already spent most of it, leaving him with only $260,000 on-hand. Mitchell may be able to throw down more money, but the self-described "long-shot" candidate admits he didn't back Trump in 2016, a problem that no amount of cash might be able to fix.
Investment banker Doug Robinson, a nephew of Mitt Romney, only made the ballot after he reached an agreement with the secretary of state to count some of his extra signatures, but it may not do him much good. Robinson raised only $90,000 in 2018, and he had just $100,000 to spend. But that's a whole lot more than former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, who had only $7,000 in the bank.
● IA-Gov: The Building Trades union has begun airing TV ads on behalf of state Sen. Nate Boulton ahead of next month's Democratic primary. The spot highlights how Boulton grew up in "working-class rural Iowa" where working overtime was "nothing new." The narrator calls out GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds and her predecessor Terry Branstad for attacking the rights of workers, while they praise Boulton for leading the fight against their policies and taking his case all the way to the state Supreme Court "to protect our health care."
As Iowa Starting Line's Pat Rynard explains, the late ending to this year's legislative session meant PACs can't contribute directly to candidates until after the primary, forcing them to run ads on behalf of their favored candidates instead. That could hurt Boulton and his primary rival Cathy Glasson, both of whom have significant support from labor.
● MS-Gov: Republican state Treasurer Lynn Fitch recently announced that she won't run for governor next year and will instead seek the attorney general's office, which is currently held by Democrat Jim Hood.
● PA-Gov: Campaign finance reports are available for candidates in Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, which is on Tuesday. State Sen. Scott Wagner led the field in expenditures, having spent $5 million in April alone thanks to his self-funding $12 million from his own personal fortune so far, leaving him with $2.2 million on-hand at the start of May.
However, Wagner isn't the only well-funded Republican. Businessman Paul Mango self-funded $200,000 and raised $335,000 last month, and he had $1.6 million on-hand after dropping $7.5 million so far. Lastly, attorney Laura Ellsworth doesn't possess the self-funding capacity of her rivals, but she had $410,000 in the bank after spending $560,000 to date.
Meanwhile, Republican pollster Susquehanna has conducted a survey of the primary on behalf of ABC27. The firm has state Wagner leading Mango by 37-23, while Ellsworth snags 18 percent. Polls have been very infrequent in this primary, but they have typically shown Wagner ahead.
● SD-Gov: Leverage Public Strategies, a firm we just recently encountered for the first time, has released a new survey of the very infrequently polled GOP primary between Rep. Kristi Noem and state Attorney General Marty Jackley. The pollster has Jackley beating Noem by a slim 39-38, but Noem's campaign criticized the poll's methodology for having a sample where 20 percent of respondents were either registered or identified as Democrats or independents. South Dakota, however, has closed primaries where only GOP registrants can vote; it's unclear whether this sampling decision skewed the results, though.
● CO-01: Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette has never faced a serious primary challenge since she was elected to this safely blue Denver seat in 1996, but this year is a bit different. Attorney Saira Rao, who runs a publishing company that creates diverse children's books, outraised DeGette $255,000 to $240,000 during the first three months of 2018, and the incumbent had only a small $213,000 to $184,000 cash-on-hand edge.
Rao, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, has argued that the Democratic Party is taking people of color like her for granted, and that new leadership is needed to stop corporate Democrats. DeGette doesn't seem to have alienated rank-and-file party voters, and it's tough to see her losing. But unlike most primary challengers, Rao does have the resources to get her message out.
● CO-02: Former Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Executive Director Joe Neguse, who lost a tight race for secretary of state in 2014, was the front-runner for this very blue seat pretty much from the moment that Rep. Jared Polis announced he would run for governor, and that hasn't changed in the last year. Neguse's only primary opponent is former Boulder County party head Mark Williams, who trailed Williams in cash-on-hand $380,000 to $15,000 at the end of March. If Neguse is elected, he would be the first Eritrean-American member of Congress, as well as Colorado's first black member of Congress.
● CO-03: GOP Rep. Scott Tipton holds a western Colorado seat that moved from 52-46 Romney to 52-40 Trump, and he's turned back serious Democratic attempts to beat him before. Former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, who resigned to focus on her bid, has the state party's endorsement, as well as a $164,000 to $65,000 cash-on-hand lead over attorney Karl Hanlon. Tipton ended march with a $561,000 war chest. So far, national Democrats haven't shown too much interest in this seat.
● CO-05: After one very scary week, GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn's team successfully convinced a federal district court to strike down a state law that would have kept him off the primary ballot. However, Lamborn's troubles aren't over, and he faces state Sen. Owen Hill and 2016 Senate nominee Darryl Glenn in the primary for this safely red Colorado Springs seat. The good news for Lamborn is that his two rivals may split the anti-incumbent vote and allow him to win with a plurality. Two other Republicans are on the ballot, which could also make Lamborn's math easier.
Lamborn has rarely had a smooth path to re-election even when he could, you know, make the ballot without going to court. In 2014, he only turned back an underfunded primary bid against retired Air Force General Bentley Rayburn by a 53-47 margin. Two years later, delegates at the GOP convention favored little-known legislative aide Calandra Vargas 58-35 percent; had Lamborn fallen below 30 percent, he wouldn't have made the ballot. Lamborn did beat Vargas 68-32 in the primary a few months later, but the whole experience showed once again that a significant number of local Republicans just did not like him.
It's not entirely clear why. Lamborn has a reliably conservative voting record, and he's never had a major scandal. It may just be personal: Back in 2006, retiring Rep. Joel Hefley accused Lamborn of running the "most sleazy, dishonest campaign I've seen in a long, long time" after Lamborn defeated one of his former aides, and the bad blood never really went away. And as we saw last Tuesday in GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger's primary defeat in North Carolina, these kinds of personal conflicts can cause a member serious problems years down the line.
However, while Hill and Glenn may each be strong enough to beat Lamborn in a straight fight, they may end up just dragging one another down. Hill, who graduated from the Air Force academy in Colorado Springs, won the state party endorsement in March after no other notable candidates competed there, which gives him the top spot on the ballot. Glenn, who is a county commissioner in Colorado Springs' El Paso County, lost the 2016 Senate race to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet by a surprisingly close 50-44 margin, and he may still have left-over name recognition. Lamborn has a large $585,000 to $218,000 cash-on-hand edge over Hill at the end of March, while Glenn had $160,000 to spend.
● CO-06: GOP Rep. Mike Coffman beat a well-funded Democratic opponent 51-43 even as this suburban Denver seat was moving from 52-47 Obama to 50-41 Clinton, but Democrats hope Trump will finally drag him down here. The state and national Democratic establishment has consolidated behind retired Army Ranger Jason Crow, who has proven to be a good fundraiser. At the end of March, Coffman held a $1.17 million to $884,000 cash-on-hand edge over Crow. Major outside groups on both sides have reserved fall TV time here.
Crow's primary foe is clean energy expert Levi Tillemann, a former member of the Obama administration's Department of Energy. Tillemann had just $92,000 in the bank, but he's hoping to win by running as the anti-establishment candidate despite having a grandfather who was a congressman and a grandmother who was a lieutenant governor. Last month, Tillemann released audio from a December conversation he'd had with where House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, where Hoyer encouraged him to drop out of the race so that Crow could have a smooth path through the primary.
● NM-01: It's a desperation heave, but an interesting one: Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, who is a long-shot in next month's Democratic primary for New Mexico's open 1st Congressional District, was set to air a 15-second TV spot on Friday that began with Davis himself delivering a very blunt message: "Fuck the NRA. Their program policies have resulted in dead children, dead mothers, and dead fathers."
Of course, "fuck" is one of George Carlin's famous "seven dirty words" you supposedly can't say on television, but as KQRE, the channel on which Davis purchased airtime, pointed out, federal law prohibits it from editing or censoring a congressional candidate's ads in any way. The station did say it would warn viewers immediately prior to the ad that potentially offensive comment was about to air, and why it was required to air it.
It's not clear how much Davis, a former police officer, is spending to air the ad, but he only had $61,000 in his campaign account at the end of March, far less than his three main rivals. And even Davis' own recent polling showed him in third place, behind both former state party chair Deb Haaland and former law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. He may earn some attention with this ad, but he'll need more than that to pull off an upset.
● NJ-07: The New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council, which is an influential union that sometimes supports Garden State Republicans, has given their backing to Republican Rep. Leonard Lance. Their endorsement is a snub to former State Department official Tom Malinowski, who is the likely Democratic standard-bearer for this swingy seat.
● NY-22: The House Majority PAC, which launched an early TV and digital blitz targeting freshman GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney a few weeks ago, just put another $100,000 behind their effort, bringing their total spend to $420,000 to date. Coming so far from Election Day, this sort of barrage is unusual, but Tenney is an unusually flawed candidate, and Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is a particularly strong challenger. It may therefore be that HMP is hoping to render Tenney's campaign DOA early on so that they can concentrate on other races in the fall.
● PA-05: On Friday, Bernie Sanders endorsed former Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer in the very crowded May 15 Democratic primary.
● PA-07: Just ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primary, No Labels is upping their support for pro-Trump, anti-choice prosecutor John Morganelli with a $107,000 TV ad buy on his behalf (the spot is not available online), plus $24,000 in digital ads attacking attorney Susan Wild. No Labels had previously spent $65,000 on mailers hitting both Wild and pastor Greg Edwards, but the fact that they’ve decided to concentrate their fire on Wild, who’s received a late boost from EMILY’s List, suggests they think she’s the candidate best-positioned to stop Morganelli.
● PA-13: A group called CLA, Inc. is spending $230,000 in support of dermatologist John Joyce and against state Rep. Stephen Bloom and state Sen. John Eichelberger ahead of Tuesday's primary for this safely red seat. The buy comes after the anti-tax Club for Growth, which has not endorsed anyone here, went up with ads hitting Joyce.
We don't know much about CLA other than their FEC filings were signed last year by Marc Himmelstein, who runs a company called National Environmental Strategies that lobbies for energy companies. However, they've come into conflict with the Club before. Last year, the Club backed now-Rep. Ralph Norman in a special House primary in South Carolina, while CLA supported the more establishment oriented Tommy Pope.
● TX-21: VoteVets is running a new cable ad, backed with a $60,000 buy, touting Army veteran Joseph Kopser’s service in Iraq (for which he won a Bronze Star) and his progressive aims, like protecting Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. Kopser is also airing his first TV ad of the May 22 Democratic runoff, where he faces Minister Mary Wilson in this open GOP-held district.
● TX-27: The Club for Growth is running a pair of ads in the May 22 GOP runoff in Texas’ 27th Congressional District, one slamming Bech Bruun as a career politician who opposes term limits, the other praising Michael Cloud as being “cut from the same cloth” as former Rep. Ron Paul, who used to represent about a third of the district before his retirement and redistricting in 2011.