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.
● GA-Gov: On Tuesday night, former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams made history by becoming the first black woman to win a major party's nomination for governor in any state, defeating her one-time colleague in the legislature, former state Rep. Stacey Evans, by a resounding 75-25 margin when we put the Digest to bed. While Evans spent heavily on TV, Abrams devoted most of her resources to direct voter outreach, though she did receive significant help on the airwaves from outside groups, including BlackPAC (which played a key role in electing Doug Jones in Alabama) and EMILY's List.
Abrams has long argued in favor of a strategy of maximizing turnout among the Democratic Party's base: black voters (especially black women), young people, and other voters of color. That stands in contrast to the traditional path Democrats have pursued statewide in Georgia, which revolves around persuading Republican-leaning white voters to switch sides. It's a path that's yielded nothing but futility for well over a decade now, though, so Abrams will have ample opportunity to test her approach as she seeks to become the nation's first-ever black woman governor.
Exactly whom she'll face in November is not yet known, however. Despite outspending his rivals by such a wide margin that it looked possible he could avoid a runoff, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle held only a 39-26 lead on Secretary of State Brian Kemp at press time, meaning the two will face off in a July 24 runoff. (Former state Sen. Hunter Hill was a distant third with 18.) While Cagle likely remains the favorite to win the GOP nod, he and Kemp will continue to whale away on one another as Abrams gets to spend two months replenishing her war chest and preparing for what will be an expensive and hard-fought showdown this fall.
P.S. Arkansas and Kentucky also held primaries last night, and Texas conducted runoffs. We'll run down all of the key races, including other contests in Georgia, in the next Digest, but in the meantime, you can find all the results here.
● MO-Sen: Senate Majority PAC has launched a new TV ad that tries to tie likely GOP nominee Josh Hawley to embattled Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and corruption in state politics. The spot blasts Hawley for "taking $50,000" from Greitens, then slow-walking an investigation into him in Hawley's capacity as state attorney general. It quotes newspaper editorials and former prosecutors criticizing Hawley's handling of the investigation to hammer home its point.
● OH-Sen: Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has added another $421,000 to his recent TV ad buy that attacks Republican Rep. Jim Renacci over his work as a lobbyist, bringing him to $750,000 so far.
● PA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Bob Casey has begun airing his first TV ad, which the campaign says is part of a "multi-million dollar" statewide buy. The commercial showcases a retired coal miner praising Casey for standing up for his healthcare coverage when Congress had been poised to let government-guaranteed benefits for miners expire.
● CA-Gov: Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has released two new negative ads ahead of the swiftly approaching June 5 top-two primary, but his choice of target in one of them is a bit eyebrow-raising. Newsom has begun attacking Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang for the first time on the air, blasting him for supposedly mismanaging billions, "with a 'B'," over his tenure as state controller and treasurer. The ad accuses him of helping to "steer millions in tax breaks to developer donors." What's unusual is that Newsom is even giving any attention to Chiang, who has frequently been polling closer to fifth place than making the top-two general election against Newsom.
Newsom's second spot is less surprising: It hits former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a fellow Democrat, over his shady ethics and connections to the pyramid scheme company Herbalife, which the ad asserts preyed upon "low-income Latino workers." With Villaraigosa frequently polling in close contention to make the top-two general election over Republican John Cox, he's a more logical target for Newsom's attacks, given how Newsom would prefer to face a Republican in the general election in this dark-blue state.
● HI-Gov: The Merriman River Group has conducted an early May Democratic primary poll for Civil Beat that shows Gov. David Ige might not be in as dire straits as the conventional wisdom holds, but only relatively speaking. The survey has Rep. Colleen Hanabusa defeating Ige by 37-31, while former state Sen. Clayton Hee took just 11 percent. However, that isn't anywhere near as bad for the incumbent as the only other poll we've seen, which was a March survey from Mason-Dixon that had him losing by a brutal 47-27 to Hanabusa.
The scarcity of polling makes it hard to know just what Ige's standing is, and Hawaii has been a notoriously hard-to-poll state over the last several election cycles. But regardless of which pollster is closer to the mark, no incumbent should feel happy about taking between 27 and 31 percent with nearly three months to go until the August primary, especially when his opponents haven't even begun attacking him on the airwaves.
● IA-Gov: Campaign finance reports are now available for the period of Jan. 1 through May 14 in Iowa's gubernatorial contest, where several Democrats are competing for the nomination to take on GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds. Leading the way was wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell, who raised $920,000, self-funded roughly $2 million, and had $248,000 on-hand after spending heavily on ads for months.
The few available polls have shown state Sen. Nate Boulton and union leader Cathy Glasson as Hubbell's biggest rivals, and that's reflected in the money chase as well. Glasson raised $593,000 and had $229,000 on-hand, while Boulton raised $510,000 yet had just $100,000 on-hand. Further back was former state party Andy McGuire with $291,000 raised, while John Norris, a former chief of staff to ex-Sen. Tom Vilsack, brought in $236,000. Lastly, former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn couldn't even crack five figures and looks like a non-factor.
While Democrats are battling for their nomination, Reynolds has been free to stockpile her resources. She raised $1.3 million and had a hefty $4.2 million in the bank.
● ME-Gov: Awful news for candidates relying on Maine's public funding: A drafting error in the state budget is set to prevent them from receiving supplemental funds after July 1. Public financing in Maine is unusual from other states in that not only can candidates qualify for a sizable round of initial funding for each of the primary and general election periods by raising a certain number of small-dollar donations, they can gain access to several supplement rounds of a smaller amount of public funds for each additional batch of small donations they raise.
Consequently, grass-roots candidates can attain some serious financial firepower simply through public financing, but this budgetary error will prevent candidates from unlocking any of those supplemental funds just weeks after the June 12 primary concludes. Furthermore, lawmakers have shown little intention of calling a special session to fix the error, and this debacle could hurt the chances of three candidates relying on public funds: Democratic activist Betsy Sweet, Republican state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, and independent state Treasurer Terry Hayes.
If Sweet or Mason wins their party's nomination, they'd only have access to the $400,000 in public funds they got for the primary, $600,000 for winning the nomination, and whatever they could raise in small donations of $5 to $100 dollars. Hayes will be stuck with the $200,000 she got for the primary period, $600,000 for already qualifying for the general election ballot, and any small donations.
Meanwhile, businessman Adam Cote isn't relying on public funds in the Democratic primary, and his latest ad takes aim at state Attorney General Janet Mills in what's the first negative TV ad of the contest. The first two-thirds of the ad is a cheery segment that touts Cote's work on clean energy and environmentalism, but Cote politely segues into saying, "I just think Janet Mills is wrong to join [GOP] Gov. [Paul] LePage in refusing to strengthen water protections," which concerns the state's fight against federal water quality standards supported by the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe.
However, where the ad raises a real ruckus is how Cote lists several prominent environmental groups like the Sierra Club under a graphic of those who "Disagree with Janet Mills," while he claims they "disagree with Janet, too." However, listing them in this fashion implies they've endorsed Cote rather than just opposed Mills and LePage on this particular issue. Consequently, both the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Conservation Voters called on Cote to remove their names from the ad, to which Cote's campaign reportedly agreed and said it would replace the ad with a modified version.
● MO-Gov: Following a request from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker will take over the case against embattled GOP Gov. Eric Greitens stemming from his felony indictment for invasion of privacy. This move became necessary after Gardner's office had to drop the original charges against Greitens after he successfully convinced a judge to allow him to call Gardner as a witness, which thereby made it impossible for her to also serve as prosecutor. But Greitens' victory in court is likely to be short-lived after Baker revives the case against him.
● SC-Gov: Businessman and former Marine Capt. John Warren's latest GOP primary ad attacks his rivals and "Columbia politicians" for corruption and driving up the debt while he was off fighting in the Iraq War. Warren calls himself a "conservative businessman" and "pro-life Christian" who will clean up state politics.
● SD-Gov: Rep. Kristi Noem is going into the final weeks of the June 5 GOP primary with a $1 million to $570,000 cash-on-hand lead over state Attorney General Marty Jackley.
Noem only has outraised Jackley $619,000 to $570,000 since Jan. 1, but she got a huge head start after she transferred her entire House campaign account into her gubernatorial war-chest when she kicked off her bid in November of 2016. Polling has been limited here, though most of the surveys we've seen have given Noem the lead. State Senate Minority Leader Willie Sutton, who has no Democratic primary opposition, took in $417,000 since the start of 2018, and he had $880,000 in the bank.
● CA-39: With Honor Fund has dropped $125,000 on digital ads in support of Navy veteran Gil Cisneros, while VoteVets has launched a $200,000 mail program for the Democrat.
● CA-45: Law professor Dave Min is out with another negative ad directed at two fellow Democrats, fellow law professor Katie Porter and businessman Brian Forde, ahead of the June 5 top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Mimi Walters. In what feels like a very thin attack, the narrator criticizes Porter, a Harvard-educated law professor at UC Irvine, for apparently lacking a California law license and having "never passed the state bar."
The commercial then reminds viewers that Forde, who worked as a technology adviser in the Obama White House, "was a lifelong registered Republican" until he ran here. Forde told the Orange County Register last year that he backed the Democratic presidential candidates from 2008 onward, and that his 2017 re-registration as a Democrat was a long overdue change. The rest of the ad reminds the viewer that Min has the state Democratic Party endorsement.
● CA-48: In a new article, Mother Jones's Bryan Schatz describes a newly publicized "anonymous whistleblower complaint" filed against Democrat Hans Keirstead in 2009, when he ran a stem cell research lab at UC Irvine. However, it takes until the seventh paragraph before the piece mentions that a university investigator determined the allegations were "unfounded" and "lacking in evidence," and it's only in the 12th paragraph that Schatz explains that the supposed "whistleblower" was in fact a businessman named Keith Roizman who sued Keirstead over a complicated series of business disputes that were eventually "thrown out" of court in 2013.
It's not clear who pushed all of this opposition research out into the public, though Keirstead suggested the campaign of his chief rival, real estate company owner Harley Rouda, was behind it. (Rouda's campaign manager denied the charge.)
Meanwhile, Rouda's getting some direct help from the DCCC, which previously added him to their Red to Blue list and last week started running ads attacking Republican Scott Baugh. Now the D-Trip is spending a reported $400,000 on a so-called "hybrid" ad saying that "Democrats and Harley Rouda" will "move us forward," expanding health care and protecting Planned Parenthood in the same way Barack Obama did—a rare spot that explicitly praises the former president. (To put that in context, just 1 percent of Democratic ads in the first half of 2014 did so.)
As Roll Call explained last cycle, hybrid ads allow campaign committees to split costs with campaigns, thereby allowing groups like the DCCC or NRCC to take advantage of lower advertising rates while spending more in direct coordination with campaigns than they'd otherwise be allowed to. The catch is that these ads have to reference both the candidates they're aiding (or attacking) and their party equally, so they only make sense in races where one national party or the other can be effectively deployed either as a positive or a negative. Since the DCCC is trying to help Rouda win over Democratic voters in next month's primary, it makes sense that they'd try this approach here.
● CA-50: Retired Navy SEAL Josh Butner's new ad begins with a shot of the Democratic candidate surfing and continues with an underwater explosion as he says that whether it's "out here or as a SEAL team member, it's always about getting the mission done."
Butner then explains he wants to invest in education, job creation, and affordable health care rather than spending on tax breaks for Donald Trump and Wall Street. Butner faces fellow Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former U.S. Labor Department official, as well as GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter and GOP El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells in the June 5 top-two primary.
● FL-06: This week, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry threw his support behind businessman Mike Waltz in the August GOP primary. None of Curry's constituency is in this district, though the mayor's connections could be useful for Waltz.
● FL-17: With Honor Fund, a super PAC that backs veterans from both parties, has endorsed state Sen. Greg Steube ahead of the August GOP primary. With Honor has spent a serious amount of money in a few House primaries, and if they come to Steube's aid, they could help him overcome his big cash-on-hand disadvantage against state Rep. Julio Gonzalez.
● FL-27: Democratic state Rep. David Richardson is up with his first two TV spots, and both of them portray primary front-runner Donna Shalala as too conservative on health care. Richardson says he's put $100,000 behind this ad campaign.
Richardson's first commercial argues that he's a "courageous progressive" who supports impeaching Donald Trump and has taken on private prisons and supported an assault weapons ban and Medicare-for-All. The narrator then argues that Shalala made millions on the board of a health insurer, then "sold out health care." It ends with a 2007 clip of her on "The Colbert Report" with host Stephen Colbert asking her, "You're not one of those universal healthcare people are you?" and Shalala responding, "No, actually I'm not." The second ad hits similar themes and once again uses that Colbert clip.
● HI-02: In a surprise, the influential Hawaii State Teachers Association announced on Monday that they were supporting environmental scientist Sherry Campagna against Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the August Democratic primary. While the HSTA, which is the fourth-largest union in the state, said they were supporting Campagna partially because she would support more funding for public education and paying for it by taxing "out-of-state residents who own investment properties here," they also took aim at Gabbard for cozying up to murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. And they very much let her have it in an email to their members:
"She was one of just three representatives, and the only Democrat who refused to condemn Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's genocidal chemical attack on his own people. After the attack, Gabbard traveled to Syria to meet with the genocidal dictator al-Assad without permission from the White House or Congress. Her trip was funded by a group with ties to al-Assad supporters and she only covered the expenses herself after the news media reported who paid for her trip.
"Then, after al-Assad bombed his people again, Gabbard continued to refuse to admit the attack had occurred. At the same time, she voted to practically ban Syrian refugees from coming into the United States after the Paris terrorist attacks, even though Syrian refugees were not involved in the attacks."
However, while Gabbard's relationship with Assad and her long refusal to criticize Trump (she was one of the only Democrats to meet with him right after the election) has infuriated us for years, she hasn't looked particularly vulnerable to a primary challenge. At the end of March, Gabbard had a massive $2.24 million to $2,000 cash-on-hand edge over her opponent, and the teacher's union is the first notable group to get behind Campagna.
Gabbard absolutely deserves to lose for all the reasons and more that the HSTA spelled out in their email, but that's only going to happen if Hawaii's other major power-players follow the teachers' lead.
● IA-01: The Iowa Federation of Labor has endorsed state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, the front-runner in the June 5 Democratic primary.
● NJ-05: Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan recently used an ad to tie himself to Donald Trump, but attorney John McCann's new commercial reminds June 5 GOP primary voters that Lonegan and Trump are far from BFFs.
The commercial begins with Lonegan declaring, "The threat to the Republican Party is Trump," before the narrator tells the audience that Lonegan "has lost seven elections in a row and has too much baggage to beat the Democrats." (Actually, he's only lost a mere four elections in a row.) The commercial then shows a clip of Trump saying "I've known Lonegan for 25 years" and, "He's always lost. He's a loser. Check his record —loss, loss, loss." The narrator insists that while Lonegan once was a conservative, now he's an embarrassment.
The final seconds of the spot promises that McCann will cut taxes and secure the borders. Both Republicans are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
● NM-01: Another No Labels front group—this one called "Forward, Not Backward"—is mucking about in yet another Democratic primary, this one in New Mexico's open 1st Congressional District. The sums are small, about $19,000 apiece on mailers attacking both former state party chair Deb Haaland and retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, the latter for supporting Medicare for all.
It's not entirely clear who these hits are designed to benefit, but the third major contender, according to the polls, is former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez. No Labels doesn't appear to be targeting him, though he told local reporter Joe Monahan that he, too, supports single-payer health coverage.
One group that's definitely helping Martinez, though, is VoteVets, which just threw down another $80,000 to continue airing a television ad on his behalf. That brings their total spending for Martinez to $186,000 with two weeks to go before the June 5 primary.
Haaland is also getting an outside boost of her own: A mystery super PAC called 7Gen Leaders has now spent about $190,000 on a TV spot touting Haaland as a progressive who will "stand up to Trump" and would be "the first Native American woman ever to serve in Congress." The group's name refers to the philosophy, attributed to the Iroquois, that those living today should strive to work for the benefit of those who will live seven generations from now.
● NM-02: State Rep. Yvette Herrell's newest spot ahead of the June 5 GOP primary declares that she's an alternative to those "dirty politicians lying about being conservative." The narrator argues she's the one candidate backed by the NRA, has the support of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List (that's the first time we can recall them getting name-checked in a candidate's TV spot), and is the "only candidate to support President Trump from day one of his campaign."
Former state GOP chair Monty Newman is also out with a new ad, and he throws a lot more red meat to the base than he did in his last commercial. The spot begins with a clip of an American flag burning and a headline from The Hill titled "Dem calls for all NFL players to kneel during national anthem" as the narrator bemoans, "Our values under attack. Liberals dishonor our flag." Another clip shows of protestors chanting in Spanish as the narrator adds how these liburals "push for open borders."
Newman then shows up and tells the audience, "Illegal aliens cross our border every day. We need leaders who have the courage to do something about it." The narrator pledges he'll stand with Trump to "fight sanctuary cities [and] oppose amnesty."
● NV-03: While education activist Susie Lee has no serious opposition in the June 12 Democratic primary, she's putting $110,000 behind a weeklong TV ad campaign. Lee's spot promotes her tenure as president of "the nonprofit Communities and Schools of Nevada," and Lee touts how it's served 60,000 students with high graduation and low dropout rates.
● NV-04: On Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed former Rep. Steven Horsford in the June 12 Democratic primary. Horsford, who is on the DCCC's Red to Blue list, also has the support of the powerful Culinary Union, and he had a big cash-on-hand edge over all his primary foes at the end of March.
● SC-05: On Tuesday, the Post and Courier reported that Democrat Archie Parnell had physically abused his wife in 1973, prompting her to obtain a restraining order and a divorce the following year, according to court records. Parnell did not dispute the allegations, calling his actions "inexcusable, wrong, and downright embarrassing" and saying he'd since "changed." But after his staff learned of his divorce records last week, they began quitting "en masse," says the paper, including his campaign manager, and both the DCCC and the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party have called on Parnell to drop out.
Parnell has thus far refused, but he'll have a hard time campaigning without any staff, and who would want to give him money at this point? If he does quit, though, his name would still appear on the June 12 primary ballot, where three other candidates (including a professional circus clown) who've raised next to nothing are also competing.
Whatever happens next, this development is a huge gift to GOP Rep. Ralph Norman, who barely beat Parnell in a special election last year. It's rather astounding that Norman's own opposition researchers failed to uncover this information a year ago, but despite his team's botch, he'll now either face off against a fatally wounded Parnell or a very weak alternative.
● VA-07: Marine veteran Dan Ward's new ad for the June 12 Democratic primary begins with news reports declaring that there's been another mass shooting. Ward then appears and says, "As a Marine Corp veteran, I've seen the damage assault weapons can inflict." Ward picks up an assault weapon and continues, "As a father, I know that these weapons have no place in our communities," and he pledges to work to ban them.
● Phoenix, AZ Mayor, AZ-09: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who is the leading Democrat seeking this open seat, announced this week that he would resign from office on May 29. Because Stanton's term as mayor does not end until early 2020, he is required to quit in order to run for Congress under Arizona's resign-to-run law.
Vice Mayor Thelda Williams will take over as mayor upon Stanton's departure, and the City Council will vote on an interim mayor at a later date. There will be a nonpartisan special election for the final year of Stanton's term: The Arizona Republic writes that the special will be on Nov. 6, with a March runoff in the event that no one takes a majority, though the local CBS affiliate says that city officials could schedule it for August instead.
Regardless of the special's date, anyone who wants to run needs to declare within 10 days of Stanton's resignation, and the winner will be up again in 2019 for a regular four-year term. So far, Democratic City Councilors Daniel Valenzuela and Kate Gallego (who is the former wife of Rep. Ruben Gallego) have announced they're in.
● ND-SoS: North Dakota's election for secretary of state has been totally upended by a sexual harassment scandal that could leave the GOP resorting to having an independent candidate being their sole hope of winning the race. Republicans chose businessman Will Gardner as their nominee in their April convention ahead of the June 12 primary. But Gardner dropped out of the race on Sunday after revelations surfaced that he had pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in 2006 when, as a 29-year-old with a wife and children, he was caught peeping into freshman dorm windows at North Dakota State University to watch young women undress.
Gardner had won at the convention by defeating 25-year incumbent Al Jaeger, in part on a message of pushing for a stricter voter ID law and bringing new leadership to the office. However, Jaeger decided not to proceed to the primary, leaving Gardner as the only Republican on the ballot. Consequently, Republicans would have to scramble for a last-minute campaign for a write-in candidate to prevent Gardner from winning the nomination. But if he wins it and declines, the GOP could simply not field a candidate and instead back an independent.
That scenario brings us to the GOP's current predicament: Jaeger has announced he'll try to gather the 1,000 signatures needed to run as an independent by the Sept. 4 deadline. The GOP state committee said they'll decide whether or not to support Jaeger, but it's possible the same insiders who chose to ditch him at the convention might not be so eager to give him another term. Democratic state Rep. Josh Boschee faces a very uphill challenge to win in this deep-red state, but having no Republican officially on the ballot and the prospect of a fractured field of Republicans running as independents would be about the best he could hope for in November.