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.
● MO-Gov: A day after Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced his resignation, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner belatedly sought to take credit for Greitens' departure, claiming that he stepped down in exchange for Gardner's decision to dismiss felony computer-tampering charges against him.
These allegations stemmed from an investigation into whether Greitens' gubernatorial campaign improperly obtained a list of donors from The Mission Continues, a charity for veterans that Greitens founded and ran until stepping down the year before he began his run for governor. State Attorney General Josh Hawley had referred the matter to Gardner in April, saying his office had "uncovered evidence of wrongdoing" and "potentially criminal acts" on Greitens' part, and Gardner saw fit to indict the governor.
But Gardner evidently concluded that allowing Greitens to escape any punishment on these charges was worth trading for his resignation, even though impeachment loomed and even though independent legal experts had suggested the case against the governor was strong. Gardner herself also benefited from her agreement with Greitens, since it included a provision barring Greitens from suing the circuit attorney's office in connection both with this matter and his original indictment on felony invasion of privacy charges.
Those latter charges, however, are still pending. That's because a judge recently reassigned that case to a special prosecutor, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, after Gardner withdrew because Greitens sought to call her as a witness. That might have been a pyrrhic victory for him, though, because Baker says she's made no deals with Greitens and continues to investigate the matter. And Hawley, meanwhile, is still looking into The Mission Continues as well as whether Greitens' use of social media violated Missouri's freedom of information laws.
Greitens may have gotten a deal from Gardner that few other criminal defendants could have secured, but he remains very much in legal jeopardy.
P.S. For more on Mike Parson, Greitens' soon-to-be successor as governor, see our separate MO-Gov item below.
● AZ-Sen: Rep. Martha McSally, who is the clear choice of the GOP establishment, is out with a poll from Remington Research giving her a wide 42-25 lead over disgraced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the late August primary; former state Sen. Kelli Ward is close behind with 23. The only other primary poll we've seen since January was a mid-April survey from OH Predictive Insights for the local ABC affiliate that showed Ward leading McSally 36-27, while Arpaio took 22.
● MT-Sen: Protect Freedom PAC, which is run by allies of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, is spending at least $100,000 on a TV spot boosting state Auditor Matt Rosendale and hitting former state Judge Russell Fagg ahead of next week's GOP primary. The commercial tries to cram a lot into 30 seconds, arguing that Fagg has "pushed for a coal tax in the 90s and an internet tax today," and "praised a liberal judge, a Clinton-Obama ally who is soft on illegal immigrants," before it switches to touting Rosendale as a true Trump ally.
● TX-Sen, TX-Gov: Quinnipiac's new survey finds the GOP in markedly better shape in Texas than they found a little more than a month ago. Sen. Ted Cruz leads Democrat Beto O'Rourke 50-39, a big change from the 47-44 lead they had in mid-April. The poll also finds GOP Gov. Greg Abbott beating Democrat Lupe Valdez 53-34, another shift from the 49-40 Abbott advantage in their last release.
It's hard to believe that GOP fortunes have improved dramatically over the last few weeks, and it's much more likely that the school's first poll was just off base. And indeed, we wrote back in April that we were skeptical about the Quinnipiac poll showing Cruz on the brink of defeat and Abbott in real danger. As we've been saying for years, if a poll feels too good to be true, it probably is (just as the inverse is often the case), and this new survey is only another reminder of that.
However, just because that April survey was probably too rosy for Democrats doesn't mean that this new one is right on target. The only other poll we've seen over the last month was from the GOP firm JMC Analytics on behalf of Red Metrics Group, and they found a more modest 47-40 lead for Cruz and a 48-36 edge for Abbott. Since we have no other data to work with, we can't say which poll is closer to the mark.
We'll also reiterate what we said even when we doubted Quinnipiac's first poll. O'Rourke has benefited from Democratic enthusiasm both in Texas and across the nation, and he has more resources than a Lone Star State Democratic Senate candidate has had in a long time. Cruz still faces a serious challenge —as Daily Kos Elections' David Beard argued he could from the moment O'Rourke launched his campaign a year ago.
● VA-Sen: Minister E.W. Jackson is out with his first TV spot ahead of the June 12 GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Jackson stands in front of a graphic of a giant American flag and declares, "I am not an African American, I'm an American!" Jackson goes on to explain that, while he's a former foster child and the great-grandson of slaves, "But because I'm an American, I'm a Marine, Harvard Law grad, pastor, and now, U.S. Senate candidate." He finishes by reciting part of the Pledge of Allegiance.
● CA-Gov: The super PAC Families & Teachers for Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor 2018 is spending at least $500,000 on a new spot against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who like Villaraigosa is a Democrat, ahead of next week's top-two primary. Their spot argues that Newsom skipped out on many of his responsibilities as mayor of San Francisco and as lieutenant governor and frequently oversells his achievements.
● CO-Gov: Teachers for Kennedy, a super PAC supporting former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy that is largely funded by EMILY's List, is up with a negative spot against Rep. Jared Polis and former state Sen. Mike Johnston ahead of the June 26 Democratic primary. The spot is part of a $660,000 TV reservation for the next month.
The narrator charges that Polis "supported a voucher program to take money out of public schools," while Johnston "pushed conservative anti-teacher laws that experts say hurt students." She then says Kennedy "authored the law to protect education funding, and helped restore over 380 schools." The fourth Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, goes unmentioned.
● MD-Gov: Former Montgomery County Councilor Valerie Ervin filed a lawsuit this week against the Maryland State Board of Elections to get her name listed on the June 26 Democratic primary ballot.
Ervin became a candidate for governor two weeks ago when she announced that she would take her running mate Kevin Kamenetz's spot at the top of the ballot after he died earlier this month. However, the state elections board soon said it was both too late and too expensive to reprint the ballots to swap out Kamenetz's name for Ervin's, so anyone who wanted to vote for Ervin would need to select Kamenetz.
The board argued that, not only would the $2 million price tag be prohibitively expensive, but that they couldn't even get the right type of paper for the ballots in time. They proposed putting up signs at polling places saying that a vote for Kamenetz counts for Ervin, but she said this would just confuse voters. Ervin's team also is arguing in their lawsuit that the ballots can be printed with another kind of paper.
● MI-Gov: Attorney General Bill Schuette is out with another poll from Public Opinion Strategies, and it gives him a 42-19 lead over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in the early August GOP primary. That's almost identical to the 42-20 they found for Schuette in a poll done one month ago. A Glengariff Group survey taken in late April for the Greater Detroit Regional Chamber PAC found Schuette up by a smaller 36-23 margin.
● MN-Gov: State Auditor Rebecca Otto announced on Tuesday that she has parted ways with her campaign manager, and the timing could hardly be worse for her. The state Democratic convention is this weekend, and Otto has pledged to drop out of the race if someone else wins the party endorsement. State Rep. Erin Murphy also says she'll end her campaign if someone else takes the endorsement, while Rep. Tim Walz says he'll continue to the August primary no matter what. It takes the support of at least 60 percent of the delegates to earn the endorsement.
● MO-Gov: Once Gov. Eric Greitens resigns on Friday, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson will serve out the remaining two-and-a-half years of his fellow Republican's term. While Parson and Greitens are both very conservative, they also have very different relationships with the GOP legislature. Parson, who was first elected to office in 1993 when he became sheriff of Polk County in the rural southwestern part of the state, is a former state representative and state senate majority whip who is close to party leaders. The Kansas City Star characterizes the soon-to-be governor as a "consummate insider" with a "reputation as a deal maker," which is a very big contrast to Greitens, who railed against his own party's leadership on the campaign trail and in office.
Parson ran for governor for a few months in 2015, but he dropped out to successfully seek the number two spot instead. Parson ended up winning an expensive primary with attorney Bev Randles, who was bankrolled by conservative zillionaire Rex Sinquefield, 52-44, and he defeated former Rep. Russ Carnahan 53-42 in the general election a few months later.
● NV-Gov: On behalf of EMILY's List, which is backing Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, Benenson Strategy Group is out with a poll of the June 12 Democratic primary giving fellow Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak a small 38-35 edge.
Benenson says this represents a 16-point shift in Giunchigliani's favor since a poll they conducted (but did not release) last month. The only other polls we've seen of the primary were a late March survey for Giunchigliani from Expedition Strategies that found her ahead 31-27, and a mid-April survey from the Mellman Group, a Democratic pollster, for the nonpartisan Nevada Independent that gave Sisolak a huge 44-16 lead.
But the landscape has changed plenty over the last month, thanks to a barrage of ads from both sides. Now, a PAC affiliated with Sisolak's allies at the Clark County Education Association are spending $300,000 on a new spot attacking Giunchigliani, suggesting the race is indeed up for grabs. The narrator of this new ad begins right off the bat by asking, "Should a teacher who has sex with a child be required to register as a sex offender?" and makes the rather heavy-handed claim that Giunchigliani "single-handedly protected perverts and kept parents in the dark about their child's teacher."
The Reno Gazette-Journal story the spot is referencing is a whole lot more complicated, though. Reporter James DeHaven writes that in 2005, Giunchigliani, then in the state Assembly, was responsible for shepherding a bill through the legislature that would have strengthened Nevada's sex offender registry law. The legislation, however, met with many objections, in part because opponents were concerned that the bill expanded the registry's scope without providing adequate resources for law enforcement to actually track offenders.
One such expansion would have required teachers, mental health workers, and prison employees convicted of certain sex offenses related to their jobs to register with the state. Then-state Sen. Dina Titus, who is now a member of Congress and a Sisolak supporter, had added these additional categories to the bill through her own amendment.
But as DeHaven explains, the legislation's "progress had slowed practically to a stop," at which point Giunchigliani introduced her own amendment to undo Titus'. According to one legislator sympathetic to Giunchigliani, former Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, the bill would have died but for Giunchigliani's move. Leslie, who has endorsed Giunchigliani, wrote her own op-ed in the Gazette-Journal attacking Sisolak for trying to make an issue out of this episode.
Giunchigliani herself revealed to the paper both that she was sexually abused by a family member as a child and that her sister was kidnapped and raped, and she said she was offended that anyone would suggest that she would go easy on predators. However, some child-safety advocates remain angry at Giunchigliani's actions.
● SD-Gov: Mason-Dixon is out with a survey of Tuesday's GOP primary on behalf of the Argus Leader and KELOLAND TV, and they give Rep. Kristi Noem a tiny 45-44 lead over Attorney General Marty Jackley. The only other poll we've seen all month was a mid-May survey from Leverage Public Strategies that showed Jackley leading by an equally slim 39-38. A few earlier polls from this year gave Noem a lead, but we have very little data to work with.
● TN-Gov: We recently wrote that Tennessee Jobs Now PAC has been running a negative TV ad against Rep. Diane Black ahead of the August GOP primary, and the Tennessee Star reports that the group is spending $400,000 over the next several weeks. The PAC is mostly funded by Joe Hollingsworth, a donor to businessman Randy Boyd and the father of Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.
● CA-49: EMILY's List has dropped an additional $441,000 on a TV buy in support of former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign policy adviser Sara Jacobs, which takes their total investment in this race to $2.27 million. Jacobs herself is also out with an ad staring Reps. Juan Vargas and Susan Davis, who each represent a nearby San Diego-area seat.
● CO-03: Karl Hanlon, who has served as chief legal counsel for the city of Glenwood Springs, has launched his TV ad campaign ahead of the June 26 Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Scott Tipton. Hanlon's commercials tie Tipton to Donald Trump, and he uses one to declare, "We've got the highest healthcare costs in the country, thanks to Tipton and Trump. It's time to protect our Colorado way of life, and fight for change." Hanlon's main primary foe is former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, whom former Gov. Bill Ritter endorsed a few weeks ago.
● IA-03: EMILY's List has launched a $137,000 TV ad buy for businesswoman Cindy Axne ahead of next week's Democratic primary; we do not have a copy of their spot yet.
● MA-03: The Massachusetts Teachers Association, which is the state affiliate of the National Education Association, has endorsed state Sen. Barbara L'Italien in the very crowded September Democratic primary.
● NC-09: It took three weeks, but Rep. Robert Pittenger has finally endorsed Mark Harris, who unseated him in the GOP primary. When Pittenger was asked last week about supporting his victorious rival, he demurred and said that he wanted Harris to "come out and say, 'Hey I'm sorry. I apologize for saying things that were not correct about my opponent, Robert Pittenger.'" However, Capital Tonight host Tim Boyum was told around the same time that Pittenger made his endorsement that Harris has yet to offer that apology. Harris faces well-funded Democrat Dan McCready for this 54-43 Trump seat.
● SC-01: If Rep. Mark Sanford fends off state Rep. Katie Arrington in the June 12 GOP primary, it probably won't be because of his campaign commercials. Sanford's newest offering features a bunch of text being typed across a grey background as the audience hears a typewriter in the background. As this riveting image confronts views, the narrator says that, while Sanford "was rated best in Congress for cutting spending and attacking debt," Arrington voted for the largest tax hike in state history and for more spending. The whole spot is dull, both in content and in color scheme.
● SD-AL: On Friday, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs launched what we believe is the first negative TV spot from a candidate ahead of next week's GOP primary. The narrator argues that rival Dusty Johnson misused a state plane when he was chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and hits him for resigning from the Public Utilities Commission. The only other negative spots we know of are from Citizens for a Strong America Inc., a No Labels affiliate that has been targeting Krebs but has not endorsed anyone.
Whoever wins on Tuesday should have little trouble winning the general election in this very red state, but it's far from clear whom that will be. However, it's worth noting that Krebs has been at a considerable spending disadvantage. Johnson outspent Krebs $254,000 to $212,000 from April 1 to May 16 (which the FEC defines as the pre-primary period), and he had a $306,000 to $224,000 cash-on-hand lead for the final weeks of the race. Citizens for a Strong America also has deployed a total of $241,000 against Krebs over the last two weeks (a total the includes direct mail), while the only outside spending against Johnson in May was $30,000 from a group called Hold Washington Accountable.
State Sen. Neal Tapio is also in the hunt, but he's spent considerably less than either of his two primary rivals. While Tapio said in September that he'd self-fund $300,000, he has only contributed about half that while raising very little from donors. Tapio spent $115,000 during the pre-primary period, and he had only $37,000 left in the bank, and outside groups have not come in to attack him or help him.
● TX-27: Former state Water Board Chair Bech Bruun has endorsed Michael Cloud for the late June special election for this 60-37 Trump seat. Cloud beat Bruun 61-39 last week in the GOP primary runoff to succeed disgraced former Rep. Blake Farenthold, but both of them previously filed to compete in the special election for the final months of Farenthold's term.
● VA-05: The 5th District Republican Committee has announced that they'll choose a new nominee to replace retiring Rep. Tom Garrett on Saturday, and that anyone who wants to be considered needs to notify the committee chairman by Thursday evening.
Five Republicans have announced they're running as of Wednesday evening. The new name to us is real estate developer Jim McKelvey, who lost the 2016 convention to Garrett. McKelvey joins farmer Martha Boneta; distillery owner and brief 2017 candidate for governor Denver Riggleman; and Del. Michael Webert in the race. State Sens. Bill Stanley and Bryce Reeves, as well as congressional intelligence adviser Joseph Whited (another unsuccessful 2016 candidate) are in the maybe camp. In the not running column is state Sen. Jill Vogel.
● VA-10: Army veteran Dan Helmer has launched what his campaign says is an overall $500,000 TV and digital buy for the final two weeks of the Democratic primary. Helmer uses his first ad to pledge to support Medicare-for-all and take on the gun lobby. But the most attention-grabbing part of his spot comes when Helmer declares, "After 9/11, the greatest threat to our democracy lived in a cave. Today, he lives in the White House." He concludes that GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock "has beaten every politician. I'm different."