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.
● WV-Sen: Turns out we get to dust off the phrase "disgraced coal baron" once more: Notorious Republican Don Blankenship announced he'll try to run for Senate under the fringe-right Constitution Party banner after losing the Republican primary to state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey earlier this month. However, West Virginia has what's known as a "sore loser" law that prevents primary losers from "recognized political parties" from turning around and running on the ballot line of a minor party, whose candidates have a later filing deadline of Aug. 1.
Blankenship says he intends to challenge the law in court, but he might not have much of a case. Other cases, such as one where a registered Democrat was precluded from running for county clerk as an independent, have upheld the law, and election law expert Rick Hasen says he thinks it's "highly unlikely" Blankenship will prevail, though a write-in campaign is always possible.
But if Blankenship nevertheless surmounts the sore loser law, he could create a major headache for national Republicans in their quest to defeat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Indeed, that's why the GOP establishment spent $1.4 million to defeat him in the primary via their Mountain Families PAC, which new FEC filings have unsurprisingly revealed was 100 percent funded by donations from the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If he ends up on the ballot again, Blankenship's willingness to spend millions on ads could force the national GOP to devote even more resources to tearing him down to prevent him from playing spoiler.
● Primary Day: Runoff with the Devil: We have more primary action on Tuesday in Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky, as well as runoffs in Texas, and we've put together our guide of what's on tap.
The big contest to watch will be in both parties' primary for governor of Georgia. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is the GOP front-runner, but he has a tough task ahead of him if he wants to win the majority he'd need to avert a July runoff. On the Democratic side, polls give former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams a clear lead over former state Rep. Stacey Evans; because no other Democrats filed to run, the nomination will be decided without a runoff. We also have plenty of House races to watch across all four states, including a truly nasty GOP runoff for Texas' 2nd District.
Things kick off at 6 PM ET when polls close in the part of Kentucky that's located in the Eastern time zone (this includes every county in the 6th Congressional District, which is the only race in the Bluegrass State in our guide). Georgia and the rest of Kentucky close at 7 PM ET. Polls then close in most of Texas at 8 PM ET and in Arkansas at 8:30 PM ET, while the small part of Texas in the Mountain time zone will close at 9 PM ET.
We hope you'll join us at Daily Kos Elections on Tuesday for our liveblog of all of the races on the docket: You can also follow us on Twitter, where we'll be live-tweeting the results. And check out our calendar for a look at primary nights to come.
● CA-Sen: Change California has dropped $352,000 on a TV ad in support of Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leon. The spot argues "Californians are leading the fight against Donald Trump. Our senator should, too." It praises de Leon for passing legislation "protecting immigrants from Trump," taking on climate change, and favoring Medicare for all.
● FL-Sen: Sen. Bill Nelson has been getting hammered on the airwaves for weeks by about $12 million in spending from Republican Rick Scott and his allies, but Senate Majority PAC is putting $2.2 million behind the first TV buy on the Democratic side. SMP's spot introduces Nelson as retired Army captain and one-time astronaut who is "one of America's most independent senators." They praise him for fighting against privatization of Social Security and Medicare, along with blocking insurance companies from "denying coverage for pre-existing conditions."
● WI-Sen: Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin's latest TV ad is a minute-long segment featuring the testimonial of a mother who lost her daughter to an opioid overdose praising Baldwin for fighting to get people the help they need to overcome addiction.
● AL-Gov: On Thursday, the NRA endorsed Gov. Kay Ivey ahead of the June 5 GOP primary.
● CA-Gov: Donald Trump has endorsed businessman John Cox, a move that could help Republicans avoid getting locked out of the general election after the June 5 top-two primary. Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen are the only two notable Republicans in the race, but in such a large an expensive state, both have struggled to raise or self-fund enough money to stand head and shoulders above the other in their fight to consolidate GOP voters, something Trump's backing might help change. While Republicans have little chance to actually win back the governor’s mansion, they badly want to avoid an all-Democratic general election that could hurt conservative turnout in more competitive races down ballot.
Meanwhile on the ad front, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest TV spot bemoans how mass shootings in schools have become commonplace while national Republicans refuse to take any actions to stop them. Newsom argues he took on the NRA and helped California pass gun-safety measures, which he'll continue to fight for if elected.
● CT-Gov: On Saturday, businessman Ned Lamont beat Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim 87-13 percent to win the Connecticut Democratic Party's endorsement for governor. Ganim needed the support of at least 15 percent of the delegates to earn a spot on the August primary ballot, but he announced weeks ago that he would collect signatures in case he didn't do well enough at the convention. A third Democrat, businessman Guy Smith, called the convention process "rigged" and didn't compete there, and he's also been collecting petitions to advance to the primary.
In order to make it to the ballot, Ganim and Smith need to turn in valid signatures from 2 percent of registered Democrats in the state, which amounts to about 15,500 voters, by June 12. As we've written before, only one candidate has ever successfully qualified for a statewide primary in state history by collecting signatures: In 2010, Peter Schiff pulled this off in the U.S. Senate race, an effort that cost a hefty $150,000. Ganim had $336,000 in the bank on April 10 while Smith had $155,000 to spend, so they may have the resources to pull this off.
But while convention delegates overwhelmingly favored Lamont, things didn't go quite as well for former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, Lamont's candidate for lieutenant governor. Bysiewicz did defeat labor organizer Eva Bermudez Zimmerman 60-40 to win the party endorsement, but political observers viewed that as a very impressive showing for Bermudez Zimmerman, who only had three days to put together a campaign. Bermudez Zimmerman earned more than enough support to secure a place on the primary ballot.
Bysiewicz had been running for governor until last week, when she and Lamont announced that they were forming a ticket. But candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries in Connecticut, and there was never any guarantee that both of them would be on the general election ballot. Plenty of Democrats were upset that a Lamont-Bysiewicz ticket would be all-white, and that helped give Bermudez Zimmerman, who is Latina, an opening despite her late start. Bermudez Zimmerman focused her campaign on economic inequality, though she said that having a "majority white ticket is not a positive step forward."
It's rare for only one member of a governor-lieutenant governor ticket to win their primary, but it's not unheard of. In 2006, then-Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy narrowly lost the Democratic primary for the top of the ticket, but his running mate Mary Glassman (who is now running for the 5th Congressional District) won 57-43.
On the GOP side, state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan announced on Monday that he was ending his campaign. Srinivasan had competed at the state party convention earlier this month and fell just one vote short of making it to the second ballot. Srinivasan initially announced he would try and petition his way onto the ballot (because there are fewer registered Republicans in the state, GOP candidates only need about 9,000 valid signatures).
Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti and wealthy businessmen David Stemerman and Bob Stefanowski are still collecting signatures: Lauretti failed to take enough support at the convention to make the ballot, while Stemerman and Stefanowski decided to avoid the event altogether. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton won the state party endorsement, while Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and businessman Steve Obsitnik each secured enough support to make the GOP ballot.
● FL-Gov: On Monday, freshman Rep. Matt Gaetz endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis in the August GOP primary.
● GA-Gov: Hillary Clinton has endorsed former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary for governor against former state Rep. Stacey Evans. Clinton has also recorded robocalls on Abrams' behalf.
● IA-Gov: A new poll by Iowa-based Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register takes a look at the upcoming June 5 Democratic primary. The survey has wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell in first place with 31 percent, followed by state Sen. Nate Boulton at 20 percent and labor leader Cathy Glasson at 13 percent. Three other candidates register in the single digits.
With nearly a quarter of voters undecided, the poll shows Hubbell is close to topping the 35 percent needed to avoid having a state party convention decide the nominee. However, Hubbell has been vastly outspending his rivals for months, and his lead might not hold now that his opponents have begun airing ads of their own. The only other recent poll we’ve seen was done by the GOP firm Remington Research for a local radio station a few weeks ago, and they gave Hubbell a stronger 46-20 lead over Boulton.
Meanwhile, Hubbell is out with yet another ad, with his latest spot attacking GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds for signing a constitutionally dubious new law that bans abortion after just six weeks of pregnancy. Hubbell also recently earned an endorsement from Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie.
● MD-Gov: In a blow to former Montgomery County Councilor Valerie Ervin, state election officials have said that her deceased running-mate, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, will remain on the ballot at the top of the ticket in the Democratic primary for governor.
This decision comes even though Ervin recently opted to take Kamenetz's place by joining the gubernatorial race in her own right after he died suddenly from cardiac arrest earlier this month. However, election officials said there wasn't enough time to reprint ballots ahead of the June 26 primary. Furthermore, Ervin also can't use the $2 million Kamenetz had raised, and she had only $164,000 on-hand as of Friday.
● MN-Gov: Education Minnesota, which has more than 80,000 members and is the state's largest union, has endorsed Rep. Tim Walz for the Democratic nomination for governor. This move comes after state Rep. Erin Murphy had recently garnered major endorsements from the state SEIU and AFSCME Minnesota Council 5.
● CA-48: Media-tracking firm Medium Buying reports that the DCCC and Democrat Harley Rouda are going up on broadcast TV with coordinated spending, which comes about a week after the committee added Rouda to their "Red to Blue" list for top candidates; there's no copy of the ad available yet.
Meanwhile, the GOP group American Future Fund has disbursed $537,000 on TV ads to help Republican Scott Baugh, although there's no copy available yet in that case, either. The DCCC recently began airing ads against Baugh to try and stop him from getting to the general election with GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
● CA-49: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has endorsed Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey ahead of next month's top-two primary, where she is one of several notable Republicans trying to earn a place in the general election.
Meanwhile, EMILY's List has added another $530,000 to their ad buy on behalf of Democrat Sara Jacobs, bringing their total to $1.7 million on her behalf. EMILY's ad argues that Congress has been an "old boys club" that's brought about "Healthcare at risk, and gun violence at our schools." The narrator then promotes Jacobs as "a new face in Congress," and reminds the audience that she's the only Democratic woman running.
● FL-06: Businessman and Navy veteran John Ward is out with his first TV spot with just over three months to go before the GOP primary. The narrator promotes Wards' military and business career and declares he "stands with President Trump fighting to take our country back from the swamp."
● FL-07: The Democratic group Patriot Majority USA is spending at least $432,000 on ads through the end of May in support of Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and they've reserved another $301,000 in TV time for the final weeks of the general election. Florida Politics writes that their commercials praise "Murphy's commitments to seniors, protecting Medicare, and work across party lines."
● IA-03: On behalf of the Des Moines Register, Selzer & Company is out with a poll of the June 5 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. David Young. They give insurance company owner Eddie Mauro a bare 27-26 edge over businesswoman Cindy Axne; longtime political operative Pete D'Alessandro is far back at 11 percent.
● KY-06: On Friday, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray launched a TV spot against retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath, his main rival in Tuesday's Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Andy Barr. Gray's ad, which is the only negative TV commercial of this very expensive race, argues that McGrath is running to represent a place where she's never lived.
The narrator declares that McGrath "moved here from Maryland just last year to run for Congress," adding, "We honor Amy McGrath's service, but shouldn't she live here for a while before she tries to represent us?" McGrath grew up in northern Kentucky outside this district, and she moved to the 6th in mid-2017 after 20 years in the Marines.
● MD-06: There's only a little more than a month to go before the June 26 Democratic primary, and that means we can expect to see a whole lot of ads from wealthy liquor store magnate David Trone.
Trone's newest offering features a lot of shots of the self-funding candidate kissing babies as the narrator begins, "Yeah, David Trone likes kissing babies. Lots of babies." The commercial explains that Trone "raised a bunch of them," and says the reason he's not taking any money from PACs, lobbyists, and corporations "is so he never has to kiss any …" After the narrator trails off, Trone nods as the words, "Well … you know" appear on-screen.
● MI-13: On Monday, Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett announced that hedge fund partner John Conyers III had not turned in enough valid signatures to make the August primary ballot for this safely blue seat. Garrett ruled that Conyers had turned in 935 valid signatures, 65 short of the 1,000 he needed to qualify. Conyers, the son and chosen successor to former Rep. John Conyers, said he had filed an appeal with the Wayne County Circuit Court.
The challenge to Conyers III's eligibility was brought about by state Sen. Ian Conyers, who is one of his cousins. Ian Conyers likely has the most to gain by being the only Conyers on the ballot in a race where plenty of voters hold the longtime former congressman in high regard even after the sexual harassment scandal that ended his career. A number of other Democrats are running for this Detroit-area seat.
● NM-01: With two weeks to go before the Democratic primary, the Latino Victory Fund has added an extra $100,000 to what is now a $420,000 buy for retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.
Meanwhile, another Democrat has taken to the airwaves here. Businessman Paul Moya, who has mostly been self-funding his campaign, went up with a spot the week of May 11 where the candidate declared that it was "time to stop fighting about who is right and instead start fighting for what is right."
● NY-11: GOP Rep. Dan Donovan has picked up an endorsement from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, whom longtime political watchers may remember from the 1993 "Seinfeld" episode "The Non-Fat Yogurt."
● TX-05: Over the last few days, the super PAC Our Conservative Texas Future dropped an additional $100,000 in support of state Rep. Lance Gooden in Tuesday's GOP primary runoff, taking their total investment to $400,000.
The group is primarily funded by businessman and rancher Monty Bennett, who was Gooden's largest individual donor in his legislative races. The Texas Tribune also writes that Gooden, who also owns an acre of property with Bennett, has passed legislation that has benefited Bennett's ranch. Gooden faces GOP fundraiser Bunni Pounds, who has been getting air support from the Club for Growth.
● VA-06: On Saturday, Del. Ben Cline won the GOP nomination for this very red open Shenandoah Valley seat at the party convention, which was held in lieu of a primary. Cline defeated Republican National Committee Member Cynthia Dunbar, the former head of a right-wing textbook company, 52-39 on the first and only convention ballot. His win came hours after a third candidate, Rockingham County Circuit Court Clerk Chaz Haywood, announced he was dropping out of the race and backing Cline.
The GOP contest to succeed retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte has been nasty for months. In January, Dunbar supporters successfully convinced the 6th District Republican Party Committee to only allow one round of voting at the convention, which would mean that the candidate earning a bare plurality of delegate support would win the GOP nomination outright. To argue their case, a Dunbar ally argued that an attorney in DC had supposedly had been recruited to run by a group called Anybody But Dunbar. The story went that this attorney had been instructed to campaign as normal until a few rounds into voting at the convention, when he would then throw his support to Cline.
Cline was miffed by all this, and he argued that the rules change was being done just to hurt him. In March, the state GOP overruled the district party and announced that the delegates would decide the convention rules. The delegates ended up agreeing to allow multiple ballots, though Cline's win in the first round made the whole battle moot in the end.
This seat backed Donald Trump 60-35, and even Ed Gillespie carried it 60-39 last year as he was losing the race for governor 54-45, so it's very unlikely to be competitive in the fall. And while Democrats will be looking for any opportunity to pick up the state House seat that would end the GOP's 51-49 majority in the chamber, Cline's district backed Trump by a nasty 64-31.
● VA-07: On Monday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney endorsed former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger in the June 12 Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Dave Brat. The entire city of Richmond is located in the neighboring 4th District, though most of this suburban district is in the Richmond media market, so most voters should be familiar with Stoney.
● WA-03: Candidate filing closed Friday for Washington's Aug. 7 top-two primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. All the candidates will run on one ballot, and the top two vote-getters, regardless of their party, will advance to the November general election. Note also that the deadline to run as a major-party candidate has now passed in 376 of the nation's 435 congressional districts.
GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has never faced a tough campaign since her first race in 2010, and her southern Washington seat moved from 50-48 Romney to 50-43 Trump. However, political science professor Carolyn Long has raised more money than most of Herrera Beutler's past foes, and she ended March with a $167,000 war chest.
Businessman David McDevitt is another Democrat seeking to take on the incumbent, and while he's raised very little money from donors, he had $406,000 in the bank thanks to the $400,000 he's loaned his campaign so far. McDevitt ran in 2016 and took just 10 percent in the primary, but he did considerably less self-funding last cycle. Two other Democrats and two more Republicans are also in.
Herrera Beutler won't be an easy target, and Long's March poll gave the incumbent an initial 49-29 edge; national Democrats also haven't shown much obvious interest in this race. Still, this seat is competitive enough that it could be winnable in a wave year. Herrera Beutler also seems to have started taking her race more seriously in recent months than she had: While the incumbent ended 2017 with a fairly soft $515,000 war chest, she had a stronger $767,000 in the bank at the end of March.
● WA-05: GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is accustomed to easy re-election campaigns in this Spokane-area seat, but this cycle is looking very different. National Democrats are excited about former Washington State University Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown, a former state Senate majority leader. Both candidates are strong fundraisers, and McMorris Rodgers, who is the only woman on the GOP House leadership team, held a $1.55 million to $837,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of March.
This seat went from 53-44 Romney to 52-39 Trump, and polls show McMorris Rodgers with a small early lead. An April survey from Elway Research for several local media outlets gave McMorris Rodgers a 44-38 edge, while the Democratic firm PPP found her ahead 48-45 a few weeks later in a survey for Patriot Majority USA.
● WA-08: GOP Rep. David Reichert is retiring from this competitive suburban Seattle seat, which went from 50-48 Obama to 48-45 Clinton. National Republicans very quickly consolidated behind former state Sen. Dino Rossi, who lost an extremely tight race for governor in 2004 and waged competitive losing battles for governor in 2008 and U.S. Senate in 2010. Rossi, who only faces two minor GOP foes, has been one of Team Red's strongest House fundraisers, and he ended March with a $1.51 million war chest.
Three noteworthy Democrats are competing to take on Rossi. Pediatrician Kim Schrier led in cash-on-hand at the end of March with a $782,000 war chest. Former Center for Disease Control and Prevention official Shannon Hader, who has done some self-funding, led employment attorney Jason Rittereiser $515,000 to $407,000 for second.
There is no clear Democratic front-runner right now, and two polls found that none of the candidates start out with much name recognition. Rittereiser's survey from March gave Rossi the lead in the top-two primary with 43 percent, while Schrier edged him 6-4; an April Schrier poll found Rossi in front with 48, while she led Rittereiser 14-6 for second, with Hader at 5.
While this seat will likely be a top Democratic target, it's far from a gimme even in a good year. This area has favored Republicans down the ballot even while backing Democrats in presidential elections: Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee notably lost it by 54-46 last year even as he was winning re-election statewide by that same margin last cycle.
● Special Elections: From the desk of Johnny Longtorso:
Arkansas SD-16: This is an open Republican seat in the northwest of the state. It was left open following the death of Greg Standridge. The Democratic nominee is Teresa Gallegos, a local Democratic Party official. The Republican nominee is Breanne Davis, a member of the Russellville Board of Education. This seat went 71-26 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Arkansas SD-29: This is an open Republican seat northeast of Little Rock. Eddie Joe Williams resigned following his appointment to the Southern States Energy Board. The Democrats have nominated attorney Steven McNeely, while the Republicans have nominated former Cabot School Board President Ricky Hill. This seat voted 77-21 for Romney in 2012.
We do not currently have 2016 results for Arkansas' legislative seats.
● International Digest: After six decades of unbroken rule by the right-wing governing party, Malaysia finally saw a progressive-backed opposition alliance win power in a major development for the state of democracy in the former British colony. Major corruption scandals ensnared Prime Minister Najib Razak, and voter outrage helped the opposition overcome rampant gerrymandering. Meanwhile in Costa Rica, a progressive candidate defeated an anti-LGBTQ zealot to win the presidential race. You can check out these elections and more in the May edition of Daily Kos Elections' International Digest.