Greitens had campaigned for office as a Trumpian outsider—his most notorious ads featured him literally blowing stuff up with a high-powered firearm—and his nonstop war with his own party ensured that lawmakers would forge ahead with their impeachment inquiry, even after Gardner was forced to dismiss the invasion of privacy charges for procedural reasons. (A special prosecutor, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, was quickly reassigned to the case.)
So even if Greitens had skated on all legal charges, he would likely still have faced impeachment. Now, though, the reverse may well be true. Following Greitens’ announcement, Gardner said she had reached a “resolution of the pending charges” with the governor, suggesting that he stepped down in exchange for a deal regarding the computer tampering charges. (Gardner promised further details on Wednesday.) But Baker, who has jurisdiction over the invasion of privacy case, said that her office had made “no deals” with Greitens, so he may still be in legal jeopardy.
As for the soon-to-be-vacant lieutenant governorship, it’s not clear what will happen. Missouri law appears to allow Parson to appoint his own replacement, but it’s somewhat less certain as to whether there’d be a special election this November for the final two years of his term, or whether the next election wouldn’t take place until 2020, when the post would normally be up.
But there’s one thing we do know for sure: Greitens’ political future is gone for good.
● AZ-Sen: In a recent interview with Politico, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell very much didn’t rule out the possibility that the Senate Leadership Fund may end up spending money in Arizona to ensure Rep. Martha McSally wins the late August GOP primary over former state Sen. Kelli Ward and disgraced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. SLF, which is allied to the Senate leadership (gasp!), has not been afraid to play in primaries this cycle to prevent damaged or flawed candidates from winning Senate nominations (though their success has been mixed), so this is no idle threat.
● CA-Sen: SurveyUSA turns out to have realized their error in testing only a few of the nearly dozen obscure Republicans on the ballot for California's Senate race last month, and their newest poll has Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leon both advancing to the general election with 36 percent and 11 percent, respectively. However, unheralded Republican James Bradley is close behind de Leon with 9 percent, while a horde of other Republicans each takes a trivial share of the vote ahead of next week's top-two primary.
Despite generating breathless headlines thanks to their April poll that had him advancing to the general election over de Leon, openly white-supremacist Republican Patrick Little earns 0 percent when he's no longer the only Republican with an Anglo name who was tested, which we noted at the time was a major flaw in the pollster's last survey. This unsurprising result is just another reason why you should always be extra skeptical of polls that have shocking results.
● FL-Sen: Republican Gov. Rick Scott's backyard money tree must be in full bloom, because he has thrown down another $2.2 million to attack Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Scott's latest multi-million dollar TV ad isn't subtle when it comes to hammering his 75-year-old opponent for being in politics for "a thousand years," according to the testimonials of several supposed Florida voters. They argue that a career in politics that began in 1972 is long enough and that Florida needs someone new.
● MT-Sen: The hardline anti-tax Club for Growth has added another $250,000 to their TV buy boosting state Auditor Matt Rosendale ahead of next month's Republican primary. That additional money brings them to $880,000 to produce and air an ad that attacks former Judge Russ Fagg for supposedly being too lenient on criminals.
Meanwhile, a mysterious group called Principles First PAC recently began hammering Rosendale in a TV ad that claims he's really a Maryland resident who only moved to Montana to run for office, and KRTV reports they put down $50,000 behind the spot. Few details exist about Principles First, but one of their officers is former Arizona GOP chair Randy Pullen.
● ND-Sen: Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's latest ad is part of a "six-figure buy" for cable, broadcast, and digital. The spot revolves around Tennessee’s Republican Sen. Bob Corker saying she's "stronger than battery acid," with the spot consisting of footage of Heitkamp changing the battery of a pickup truck. As Heitkamp works, the narrator praises her for fighting for North Dakota's oil industry, while they read on-screen text that features quotes from Republicans and newspapers touting her independence and how she's "the most conservative Democrat in Washington."
● NJ-Sen: If a poll looks too good to be true, it just may be, and that appears to be the case for Republicans after Fairleigh Dickinson University released a survey showing Republican Bob Hugin trailing Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez by just 28-24. Earlier polls from Monmouth and Quinnipiac have found Menendez prevailing by much wider margins of 53-32 in April and 49-32 in March, respectively. While both those surveys were done before the Senate Ethics Committee released a report at the end of April that severely admonished the senator, it’s very unlikely that alone caused his numbers to crater. This latest survey also has a comically high share of undecided voters for a general election matchup featuring an incumbent senator, and neither party is acting like they believe this race is razor-tight.
● RI-Sen: On Sunday, former Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced he would not challenge Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in the Democratic primary. Chafee, who lost this seat in 2006 to Whitehouse 53-46 back when he was still a Republican, unexpectedly said a month ago that he was "90 percent sure" he would run, and that he would decide within days. But the former governor soon procrastinated his decision and said he would commission a poll to assess his chances. We never saw his numbers, but Whitehouse's team dropped their own survey showing the incumbent demolishing Chafee 72-14.
● UT-Sen: On behalf of Utah Policy, Dan Jones & Associates has conducted a survey of the June 26 Republican primary that shows Mitt Romney trouncing state Rep. Mike Kennedy by a 67-24 landslide. Kennedy pulled off a 51-49 convention win last month, but as we noted at the time, Utah GOP delegates are considerably more extreme than the primary electorate. Romney still looked like the clear primary front-runner after his narrow convention loss, and this poll only underscores how tough he’ll be to stop next month.
● WV-Sen: Hart Research is out with a poll for the DSCC giving Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin a 52-40 lead over Republican Patrick Morrisey. Last week, Manchin unveiled a poll from Global Strategy Group that gave him a smaller 47-40 edge, while the GOP firm WPA Intelligence found Morrisey ahead 46-44 days after he won the May 8 GOP primary. We have not seen any independent polling of the general election yet.
Meanwhile, Manchin's allies at Senate Majority PAC have added $233,000 to their ad buy supporting the senator, bringing their total to $726,000 for the cycle. There's no copy of any new ad available yet.
● AK-Gov: Last week, former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell told the conservative blog Must Read Alaska that he was considering launching a late bid for the GOP nod ahead of Friday's filing deadline. Treadwell ran for the Senate in 2014 but had problems raising money and attracting major outside support, and he took a distant third place with 25 percent of the vote.
● AZ-Gov: Arizona State University professor David Garcia is out with a Garin-Hart-Yang poll of the late August Democratic primary that gives him the lead with 32 percent, while state Sen. Steve Farley and activist Kelly Fryer are tied with 11. Garcia released a PPP survey back in January that gave him a 43-22 edge over Farley (Fryer was not tested). The release did not include any general election matches against GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.
● CA-Gov: SurveyUSA finds Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom with a sizable plurality of 33 percent in next week’s top-two primary, and they show businessman John Cox edging Assemblyman and fellow Republican Travis Allen 17-12 for the second general election spot. Two Democrats, state Treasurer John Chiang and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, follow with 10 and 8 percent, respectively. That's a big drop for Villaraigosa from their April poll, which had him trailing Newsom just 21-18 to advance while Cox was in third at 15 percent.
SurveyUSA isn't the only pollster to indicate Newsom and Cox will face off in November. Competitive Edge Research & Communications, a pollster we've never heard of before, has Newsom up 26-22 over Cox, while Villaraigosa is far behind at 12 percent. Polling over the last few months from a variety of firms has typically shown a Newsom-Cox general election, and that result wouldn't be too surprising if Cox can consolidate the GOP vote over Allen.
Meanwhile, the ads keep flying ahead of next week's first round. Newsom's latest offering features former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, praising Newsom for fighting for gun-safety measures and standing up to the NRA.
However, Chiang's newest ad shows him speaking to the camera to criticize Newsom and Villaraigosa. Chiang blasts Newsom for trying to elevate Cox into the runoff spot (though he only mentions a nameless Trump-supporting Republican), while he calls out Villaraigosa for being heavily bankrolled by billionaire megadonors. Chiang promises to keep the budget balanced, lower housing costs, and enact universal health care.
● FL-Gov: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has released a PPP survey showing him with a 30-20 lead over former Rep. Gwen Graham in the Democratic primary, while Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum takes 12 percent and businessman Chris King just 6 percent. Relatedly, the poll gives Levine the highest name recognition among the four candidates, which is likely a result of his heavy TV ad spending ahead of the late-August primary, an advantage that may not hold once his rivals join him on the airwaves.
Meanwhile on the Republican side, wealthy and eccentric developer "Alligator" Ron Bergeron announced last week that he won't join the GOP primary despite considering a bid for over a year.
● GA-Gov: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is up with the first TV spot of the July 24 GOP runoff. The commercial features his wife, Nita Cagle, praising the candidate's faith and declares that he's "a leader who doesn't waver from doing what's right."
● MD-Gov: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has begun deploying his sizable war chest on TV ads, plopping down $1.3 million to air positive ads beginning on Tuesday in the Baltimore media market. However, there's no copy of any spot available yet.
On the Democratic side, former NAACP president Ben Jealous has a commercial touting his support from the Maryland State Education Association, while he calls out Hogan for not devoting sufficient resources to education. Meanwhile, state Sen. Richard Madaleno debuted an ad that will run on cable in the Baltimore area, which is well outside his Montgomery County seat. The spot hurriedly tries to cram as many progressive priorities as it can into just 30 seconds, lauding Madaleno as a "budget expert" and "fierce Hogan critic" who will fight for gun safety, improve health care, enact a $15 minimum wage, and stand up to Trump.
● MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Shri Thanedar has resumed airing TV spots ahead of the August Democratic primary, which comes about two weeks after his campaign said they were issuing a “temporary pause” on more spots. Thanedar went on to hire new campaign manager after that pause, a move that came after a recent string of negative news headlines. His latest spot advocates for universal child care, paid family leave, and a $15 minimum wage paid for by increased taxes on the rich.
● NM-Gov: The firm Research & Polling has conducted a survey of next week’s Democratic primary on behalf of the Albuquerque Journal, and it gives Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham a huge 57-15 lead over former Univision executive Jeff Apodaca; state Sen. Joe Cervantes takes third with just 9 percent. The only other poll of this race we’ve seen all year was a February internal for Lujan Grisham that gave her 72 percent of the vote.
● NV-Gov: The ads continue to fly ahead of the swiftly approaching June 12 Democratic primary for governor, and Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak's latest spot is a 15-second segment featuring Nevada political titan Harry Reid praising Sisolak as someone who will stand up to Trump effectively.
Meanwhile, fellow County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani's latest offering showcases the candidate drawing a contrast between herself and Sisolak. She hits him for insufficiently standing up for reproductive rights, his flirtation with the Republican Party (although she cites an article from way back in 1994), his calling himself "middle of the road" ideologically, and Sisolak's receiving an "A" rating from the NRA.
● OK-Gov: Former U.S. Attorney Gary Richardson is out with a poll from Oklahoma Strategic Solutions that shows him in a tie for third place in the June 26 GOP primary. They give Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb a narrow 20-17 lead over wealthy businessman Kevin Stitt, while Richardson and former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett each are at 13 percent. In the likely event that no one takes a majority, there would be an August runoff.
Richardson may have felt compelled to respond after Sooner Poll released a survey last week that showed Lamb edging Cornett 23-20, while Richardson barely registered with just 3 percent. A late April survey from Magellan Strategies showed Richardson in better shape, but still a ways away from making the likely runoff: They had Lamb and Stitt tied at 19, with Cornett and Richardson at 17 and 12, respectively.
● WI-Gov: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was the Democratic nominee in the 2010 gubernatorial election and 2012 recall, has opted against trying to mount a late third campaign against Republican Gov. Scott Walker this year.
● CA-39: Democrat Andy Thorburn has released his final TV ad ahead of next week's top-two primary. The spot emphasizes Thorburn's desire to tackle economic inequality. He argues for getting "big money" out of politics, raising wages, increasing funding for education, and Medicare for all.
● CA-45: 314 Action, which is promoting Democratic candidates with scientific backgrounds, is spending $175,000 on mailers and $110,000 on cable ads for Democrat Brian Forde, who served in the Obama administration as a technology advisor. There's no copy of any TV ad available yet.
● CA-48: Ho boy: The National Association of Realtors has pulled its endorsement of Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher over his recent refusal to support adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. However, it's also important to note that a past president of NAR was none other than Harley Rouda Sr.—the father of Harley Rouda Jr., a real estate company owner who has emerged as Rohrabacher's leading Democratic challenger.
NAR has a tendency to put their money where their mouths are, and they're no strangers to spending serious money on endorsed candidates. That could be bad news for Rohrabacher after the top-two primary, perhaps especially if Rouda is his general election opponent.
Meanwhile, the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC recently began a $650,000 ad buy against former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh in an attempt to ensure Team Blue isn't locked out of the top-two general election, and we now have a copy of their ad. The spot calls Baugh a "career politician" and "lawbreaker," claiming he was investigated for credit card fraud, indicted for an election-rigging scheme, and charged with 22 crimes. They note how he was "fined nearly $50,000" as a consequence of violating election law.
● CO-06: Attorney Jason Crow is airing his first TV ad ahead of next month's Democratic primary, putting $50,000 behind a cable buy for the first week. The spot highlights Crow's working-class upbringing and his service as an Army ranger in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Crow pledges he won't take any corporate PAC money because he wants to put people first.
● FL-15: On behalf of the news site Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls is out with the first survey of the late August GOP primary for this open seat. They give state Rep. Ross Spano a 29-23 lead over former state Rep. Neil Combee, while none of the other candidates take more than 4 percent each.
A few Democrats are also competing to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Dennis Ross in this central Florida seat, which moved from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump. Attorney Kristen Carlson, a former general counsel for the Florida Department of Citrus, entered the race just before the early May filing deadline, and she says she raised $100,000 during her first 13 days in the race. By contrast, Navy veteran Andrew Learned took in a total of $121,000 from late May to the end of March, though that was all before Ross retired. We won't have quarterly fundraising reports until mid-July.
● ME-02: With two weeks to go before the June 12 Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, state Rep. Jared Golden is up with a negative spot against businessman Lucas St. Clair. The narrator bemoans how a "secretive group [is] spending $300,000 to elect Lucas St. Clair," and says that, while St. Clair insists he wasn't involved, the group's "only officer was the best man at his wedding." The rest of the spot says that Golden "rejects dark money" and wants to repeal the Citizens United decision.
The organization the commercial refers to is the Maine Outdoor Alliance, which began airing TV ads praising St. Clair at the beginning of May and has continued to send out mail ahead of the primary. The group is a nonprofit, so while it doesn't need to disclose its donors or how much its spending, it can't tell people to vote for St. Clair or to reject Golden.
Instead, their TV spot featured a woman commending St. Clair for helping to revitalize northern Maine through the work he's best known for: brokering a deal to establish the Katahdin National Monument, an 88,000-acre federally protected woodland. And as the Golden commercial noted, the group's only listed officer was indeed the best man at St. Clair's wedding in 2007.
● MN-08: On Friday, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson endorsed state Rep. Jason Metsa for the August Democratic primary.
● NJ-05: With one week to go before the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan is out with a poll from Victory Phones giving him a 46-27 lead over attorney John McCann.
● NM-01: On behalf of the Albuquerque Journal, Research & Polling takes a look at next week's Democratic primary for this reliably blue Albuquerque-based seat. They give former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez a 22-19 lead over former state party chair Deb Haaland, while retired University of New Mexico law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is just behind with 17. The only other poll we've seen this month was a Lake Research survey for VoteVets, which is backing Martinez: They gave Sedillo Lopez a 25-23 lead over Martinez, while Haaland was at 20.
Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis took a distant fourth place in the Research & Polling survey with just 5 percent, and he dropped out of the race on Tuesday and endorsed Haaland. Davis briefly made waves earlier this month in a TV ad where he declared, "Fuck the NRA." Because federal law prohibits TV stations from editing or censoring a congressional candidate's ads in any way, the spot aired with Davis dropping the F-bomb. Davis was having a tough time raising money and his own poll showed him in third place, and while the spot did generate national attention, it’s safe to say it wasn’t the game changer he needed it to be.
A number of outside groups have been running ads here (all of which are free of profanity), and another organization has entered the ring in the final week. While EMILY's List has not endorsed either Haaland or Sedillo Lopez, they're launching a spot against Martinez; local political writer Joe Monahan says the ad is running for $200,000. The narrator argues that Martinez never prosecuted a single member of the Albuquerque Police Department for the 27 fatal police shootings that happened while he was U.S. attorney.
Meanwhile, the No Labels front group "Forward, Not Backward" reports spending $137,000 on an ad for Martinez, though we have not seen their spot yet. We haven't heard anything from any super PACs named "Upward, Not Forward" or "Twirling, Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom," but we do have a copy of With Honor Fund's commercial for Martinez.
The spot, which we wrote in our last Digest was running on TV for at least $118,000, stars former Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. She begins by remind the audience that President Barack Obama chose Martinez to be the Land of Enchantment's U.S. attorney, and a picture flashes by with the two men shaking hands. Ortiz continues by praising Martinez's work fighting gangs and drug cartels and protecting victims of sexual assault before declaring that Trump fired him, so now he's running to stand up to Trump.
● NY-18, NY-AG: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney had been publicly considering a run for attorney general, and now, according to a spokesperson, he's formed an exploratory committee and will make a decision by June 6. If Maloney does go for it, that would set up a massive collision in the Democratic primary with New York City Public Advocate Tish James, who has the overwhelming support of party insiders, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The clash would also represent a battle of firsts: James is hoping to become the first black woman ever to win statewide office in New York while Maloney would be the first gay person to do so.
But while James has a clear shot at higher office, a Maloney candidacy would also present a thorny legal problem. As things stand now, Maloney is assured of being renominated for in his bid for re-election to the House next month, when New York conducts its primaries for federal office. Consequently, if Maloney were to win the primary for attorney general—which takes place separately, in September—he would appear on the November ballot twice, something that's prohibited by state law.
Maloney would therefore have to find a way to remove his name from his House race, which might not be legally possible until after the September primary: Under New York law, it's usually only possible to get off the ballot for one position by getting nominated for a second—or by dying. Yet if Maloney were to wait until such a late date, whoever might replace him in the 18th Congressional District would have less than two months to run a campaign in a difficult district that swung from 51-47 Obama to 49-47 Trump in 2016.
And even if Maloney could somehow extricate himself from his re-election bid earlier, he might not want to: If he were to lose to James, he'd still have his House career as a fallback option. Thanks to New York's bizarre dual-primary system, we've seen state office-holders lose House primaries but then seek re-election to the legislature on several occasions, but we've never seen anyone try the reverse. Such a maneuver may nonetheless very well be possible.
● NY-19: VoteVets has launched what Politico reports is a $130,000 buy in support of former Army intelligence officer Pat Ryan in the crowded June 26 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Faso.
As gunfire sounds in the background, the TV spot's narrator declares, "The weapons Pat Ryan used in Iraq have no place in American schools.” The spot goes on to tout Ryan's local roots before pictures of an NRA leader and Donald Trump flash by. The narrator says, that after two tours in Iraq, neither of those guys is going to make the candidate back down. Ryan also focused on gun safety in his first TV ad.
● NY-21: Former MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, who inauspiciously began his campaign for Congress by admitting that he'd never voted in his entire life, told attendees at a recent luncheon that he "would have voted for Trump," despite the fact that he's running for [checks notes] the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik.
Though one guest said that "everyone's jaw dropped" in response—the gathering was organized by Democratic women's group—the blunder isn't entirely surprising. In explaining his apathy when he kicked off his bid, Ratigan declared that he'd been "disgusted by the choices available" and said that Donald Trump's candidacy "made a lot of sense" to him because Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush "had all become so detached from the American people."
And he's not really backing down now. When the local public radio station asked him about his remarks, Ratigan first claimed it was "not true" that he'd even said any such thing—even though several people corroborated the account—and even blamed a "dirty tricks campaign" aimed at undermining his bid. But he then tried to play it off as some kind of jape:
"I have said jokingly to people, I understand why people voted for Donald Trump. And when you get irritated, you know, heck, I considered voting for Donald Trump myself. That's not a meaningful statement."
The attendees who heard his remarks, however, dispute Ratigan's characterization of his remarks as humorous, and indeed, they're part of a pattern. When Trump first launched his campaign for president, Ratigan called him a "brilliant man" in a Facebook post, and when he completed his first 100 days in the White House, Ratigan declared that Trump "basically is somebody we should say to, I like what you're doing, sir, but you haven't gone far enough." He's also continued to attack Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, tweeting just last week:
Thanks to his TV career, Ratigan is the best-known of the five Democrats remaining on the June 26 primary ballot, and he also led the pack in fundraising in the first quarter of the year. But his views on Donald Trump will make him anathema to almost any primary voter, and since he seems congenitally incapable of expressing unequivocal support for Trump's 2016 opponent, he's going to have a hell of a time walking back what he's said.
● SC-01: Rep. Mark Sanford and state Rep. Katie Arrington each are out with a TV a spot ahead of the June 12 GOP primary where the candidate argues their opponent is misrepresenting the truth.
Sanford tells the audience that Arrington has "thrown a lot my way, hoping something will stick," and tries to "set the record straight" by insisting, "Overwhelmingly, I've voted with the president, and a long list of independent score keepers will tell you so." The incumbent continues by saying he's "fighting hard to protect your money, to limit government, and to keep the promises I made to change Washington." Just like in his first ad, Sanford curiously does not mention Trump by name, only calling him "the president." Sanford also may be putting to much faith in GOP primary voters’ trust of "independent score keepers" in their post-fact bubble.
Arrington uses her commercial to label Sanford as a "typical career politician trying to have it both ways," with her declaring that he "talks about working with President Trump on the border wall, [but] he was only one of five Republicans who refused to support our president, and voted against Trump's border wall." She also tells them, "We've all seen Mark on TV attacking our president. Who does he think he's fooling?" Arrington mentions Trump by name one more time and does not refer to "independent score keepers" once.
● SC-04: The National Association of Realtors is spending $100,000 on mailers for state Rep. Dan Hamilton ahead of the crowded June 12 Republican primary.
● SD-AL: Citizens for a Strong America Inc., which is connected to the "radical centrist" group No Labels, is spending $120,000 on ads and $50,000 on mailers to oppose Secretary of State Shantel Krebs in next week’s Republican primary. Krebs' main rival is likely former Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson, who recently acknowledged that he had met with No Labels late last year in DC, although they haven't formally endorsed him. State Sen. Neal Tapio is also running for the GOP nod.
● VA-05: On Monday, GOP Rep. Tom Garrett announced that he would not seek a second term after all, saying he wanted to focus on his fight with alcoholism. This seat, which includes Charlottesville and Danville in the southern part of the state, went from 53-46 Romney to 53-42 Trump, and Republican Ed Gillespie also carried it 54-45 while he was losing last year's race for governor 54-45. The 5th District Republican Committee will choose a new nominee, which the Richmond-Times Dispatch says needs to be done by June 12, the date of Virginia's statewide primaries. The Democrats have nominated journalist Leslie Cockburn earlier this month.
Garrett, who was a second-term state senator when he ran in 2016, won the GOP nominating convention to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Robert Hurt last cycle. National Democrats launched a late ad buy against Garrett that fall, but he won the general election 58-42. Despite his wide victory, national Republicans were reportedly worried for months that Garrett wasn't taking his re-election campaign seriously.
Things got stranger last Wednesday when his chief of staff quit and Politico reported that Garrett was thinking of dropping out of the race; Garrett only added fuel to the fire when all he said was he would not resign. The next day, the congressman used a bizarre long and rambling press conference to say that, while he had said in frustration that he didn't "know if I want to do this anymore," he had decided that "[t]here's no way in heck I won't be back here in 2019."
However, it turns out there was indeed a way in heck that he would not be back in Congress in 2019. On Friday, Politico reported that Garrett and his wife had made his staffers do menial tasks, including chauffeuring the congressman's children around, picking up the family's groceries, and even watching and cleaning up after their dog, which the couple sometimes forgot to bring home from the office. The aides said that they feared that they'd be yelled at or fired if they refused. Asking staffers to do personal tasks violates House ethics rules, and it could have led to an ethics investigation.
Three days later, Garrett said he would not run again, saying he wanted to focus on his family and his recovery from alcoholism. It's also possible that Garrett decided to leave in order to try and avoid an ethics investigation.
There are a number of Republicans who could end up replacing Garrett on the general election ballot. So far, Del. Michael Webert is the first elected official to announce that he will seek the 5th District committee's nod. Farmer Martha Boneta, whose fight with Fauquier County zoning officials made her popular in some conservative circles, is also in. Another declared candidate is distillery owner Denver Riggleman, who briefly ran for governor last year.
State Sens. Bryce Reeves and Bill Stanley also say they're considering, and Reeves says he'll make up his mind after the Tuesday local GOP meeting. However, Del. Rob Bell took his name out of consideration.
The GOP may be reluctant to nominate a state legislator, though. Team Red has a one-seat majority in both the state House and state Senate, so a special election upset could cost them control before both chambers are up in 2019. Reeves' SD-17 went from 49.5-49.0 Romney to 50-45 Trump, so it could be particularly vulnerable. Stanley's SD-20 is a bit more red at 51-47 Romney and 57-40 Trump, but it's hardly an unrealistic Democratic target. Webert's HD-18 is more secure at 58-40 Romney and 60-35 Trump.
● VA-10: State Sen. Jennifer Wexton has unveiled her first TV ad with just two weeks left until the June 12 Democratic primary. Wexton touts her record of fighting for progressive policies in the state legislature, including universal gun background checks and "taking on Republicans to expand Medicaid," while she highlights her endorsement from Gov. Ralph Northam. She promises to work toward passing gun-safety laws in Congress and "protect a woman's right to choose." Wexton closes by asserting she'll "show Donald Trump how progressive we are in Virginia."
Meanwhile, VoteVets will start airing a week's worth of TV ads on behalf of Army veteran Dan Helmer starting on Wednesday. Their spot praises his military service and argues he'll take on the NRA and bullies in Washington who want to limit access to health care like House Speaker Paul Ryan. The commercial even contends Helmer will push to impeach Trump for breaking the law.
Helmer himself just released a PPP survey of the race, but it only consists of a general election matchup with Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, whom he leads 48-40. He undoubtedly intends for this poll to convince primary voters of his electability, but it's rather notable that there are no primary numbers included.
● WI-07: Kyle Frenette, the manager of the band Bon Iver, dropped out of the August Democratic primary on Friday. Frenette was challenging GOP Rep. Sean Duffy in a rural northwestern seat that moved from 51-48 Romney to 58-37 Trump, and he had the most money of all the Democratic candidates at the end of March. Frenette had $165,000 to spend back then, while physician Brian Ewert had $85,000 in the bank; attorney and Navy veteran Margaret Engebretson had just $9,000 on-hand. National Democrats haven't shown too much interest in targeting Duffy, who had $2.25 million in the bank.
● Nashville, TN Mayor: On Thursday, interim Mayor David Briley won the special election for the final year-and-a-half of former Mayor Megan Barry's term. Briley, who like Barry is a Democrat, took 54 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan race, which allowed him to win without a June runoff; former Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain took a distant second with 23 percent in the crowded field. Briley will be up for a full term in August of next year.