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.
● Race Ratings: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to announce our first set of gubernatorial race ratings for the 2018 election cycle. Thanks to their strong performance in the last two midterm elections, Republicans are defending 26 seats. Democrats, by contrast, are defending just nine, while one independent who won in 2014 with support from Democrats, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, is also up for re-election.
Our full chart rating the competitiveness of each contest is below, with Democratic seats in blue, Republican seats in red, and independent seats in green:
These ratings represent our attempt to forecast the outcomes of this November’s elections, using the best information we have available. We’ve also put together brief explanations for each of our ratings, as well as descriptions of what each rating category means, all of which you can find here.
As circumstances warrant, we'll issue changes in these ratings from time to time. To keep up with any changes, please subscribe to our free newsletter, the Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest, which we send out each weekday. And for a comprehensive overview of how our ratings work, please check out our detailed methodology statement.
● AZ-Sen: Pretty much everyone agreed that a special election would be required this year if GOP Sen. John McCain had left the Senate before May 30, which was the filing deadline to run in this year's regularly-scheduled August primary, but that date has passed and McCain is still in office. Republicans think that Arizona law now would allow them to punt any special election until 2020, though there would almost certainly be a legal challenge to that interpretation if this seat became vacant over the next few months.
P.S.: We'll take a look at the state of affairs for Arizona's Senate, gubernatorial, and House races now that candidate filing has closed in a future Digest. In the meantime, the state has a list of candidates here.
● CA-Sen: This week, Planned Parenthood backed Sen. Dianne Feinstein. This endorsement comes too late to make much of a difference in Tuesday's top-two primary, but it could be valuable for her if state Sen. Kevin de Leon, a fellow Democrat, makes it to the general election with Feinstein.
● FL-Sen: The Democratic groups Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA are spending $600,000 on a joint digital ad buy in support of Sen. Bill Nelson.
● MI-Sen: Venture capitalist Sandy Pensler is out with a poll from Market Research Group giving him a 36-26 lead over businessman John James in the early August primary to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
● CA-Gov: UC Berkley's new poll is the latest to show GOP businessman John Cox advancing to the general election with Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. They find Newsom leading in Tuesday's top-two primary with 33 percent, while Cox edges Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa 20-13 for second place; Republican Travis Allen is just behind with 12 percent.
Villaraigosa's allies are still spending heavily to try to get him that second general election spot, however. The super PAC Families & Teachers for Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor 2018 recently launched an ad against Newsom, and the Los Angeles Times says its running for $2.5 million, much more than the initial $500,000 buy we had in our last Digest.
● CO-Gov: The super PAC Teachers for Kennedy created a bit of a stir this week when they released an ad ahead of the June 26 Democratic primary that praised former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy while arguing that Rep. Jared Polis and former state Sen. Mike Johnston had pushed for policies that hurt public schools. Termed-out Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has not taken sides, said Wednesday that he wasn't happy with the spot, arguing that, "Most polls I'd seen, it looked like Cary Kennedy was going to win anyway," and asking, "Why jeopardize her victory by turning this into a mudfest? I was disappointed."
No one has released any polls here since late March, so we don't have anything to confirm Hickenlooper's impression that Kennedy was "going to win anyway." The Denver Post reports that the ad is running for $1.1 million through the next month, which is considerably larger than the $660,000 price tag we had earlier.
● FL-Gov: The media-tracking firm AdvertisingAnalytics reports that Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has reserved $865,000 in TV time over the next two weeks, which takes his total spending for the late August Democratic primary to $6.24 million.
● GA-Gov: On Thursday, Democrat Stacey Abrams released a poll from Garin-Hart-Yang giving her a lead over both the Republicans duking it out in the July 24 primary runoff. The survey gives Abrams a 48-43 edge over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, while she leads Secretary of State Brian Kemp 49-40. A SurveyUSA poll released just before the May 22 primaries showed Cagle leading Abrams 46-41, while Kemp was not tested; we haven't seen any other hypothetical general election polls here in months.
Abrams will need to wait another two months to learn who her general election foe will be, and the GOP contest is already shaping up to be a nasty affair. Cagle has launched the first negative commercial of the runoff, and he parodies Kemp's controversial shotgun spot from a few weeks ago. While that ad featured Kemp sitting menacingly holding a shotgun as he made a young man "interested in one of [his] daughters" parrot campaign talking points, this one puts an actor portraying Kemp in the hot seat.
A grumpy voter holding a gun asks "Kemp" why he defaulted on $700,000 in loans he'd "personally guaranteed for a graining process," and interrupts the candidate when he nervously tries to explain by asking why he'd "refused to pay farmers millions of dollars [he]f owed them for their crops?" As "Kemp" anxiously taps his feet and squirms in his chair, the voter continues by asking why the state suspended Kemp's license to do business with farmers, and declares, "shame on you, Brian Kemp!" The guy then cocks his riffle and orders "Kemp" off his porch, and the candidate wastes no time following those instructions.
● ME-Gov: State Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason is up with an ad assailing two of his June 12 GOP primary foes, businessman Shawn Moody and former state cabinet official Mary Mayhew, as dishonest politicians. The narrator argues that both only joined the GOP to run for office and each worked to elect pro-choice politicians before he promotes Mason as a life-long conservative.
● PA-Gov: Republican Scott Wagner has announced that he will resign his state Senate seat on Monday to focus on his bid for governor.
● SC-Gov: On Thursday, freshman Rep. Ralph Norman backed former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton in the June 12 GOP primary. But Gov. Henry McMaster, the guy that Templeton and several others are hoping to beat, has rolled out a new spot focused on a much more high-profile endorser. The spot reminds the audience that Donald Trump supports McMaster, and argues the two have the same kind of supposedly pro-jobs, anti-sanctuary cities, and anti-Planned Parenthood agenda, and that they're each backed by the NRA.
● SD-Gov: Both Republican candidates had been mainly running positive spots ahead of Tuesday's primary, but things got a lot nastier over the weekend when they each launched a negative spot. Rep. Kristi Noem's commercial argues that Attorney General Marty Jackley spent years delaying charging anyone over a scandal over EB-5 immigrant visas, and when he finally did, he let a "Pierre insider" get off without any jail time, and that he has yet to recover $5 million that's still missing.
The EB-5 matter has been a complicated long-running story in South Dakota politics. The "Pierre insider" the Noem ad refers to is Joop Bollen, a state government employee who was charged with mishandling the state's EB-5 visa program, which allows foreign citizen to gain U.S. residency if they invest $500,000 in approved projects. Then-Gov. Mike Rounds, who is now a U.S. senator, expanded the state's EB-5 program, but a number of officials, including Bollen, were charged with wrongdoing related to it. Bollen reached an agreement with Jackley last year where he pleaded guilty to taking $300,000 from the program to make an unauthorized bond purchase, and he avoided jail time.
Jackley's spot against Noem focuses instead on national politics. The narrator argues that D.C. has changed Noem and declares that she broke her promises "to balance the budget, reduce the debt, and repeal Obamacare," and argues she's now slandering Jackley.
● CA-39, CA-48, CA-49: National Democrats have spent millions to try and prevent a top-two disaster in three Southern California seats, but just how much? According to FEC reports as of Thursday evening, The DCCC and House Majority PAC have deployed just over $6 million across all three seats.
In the open 39th District, the DCCC has spent $1.95 million to support Gil Cisneros or to try and weaken Republicans Bob Huff and Shawn Nelson, while HMP has dropped another $310,000. ($78,000 of HMP's spending was to boost Phil Liberatore, a minor conservative candidate also in the running.)
In the 48th, the DCCC has deployed $1.69 million against Republican Scott Baugh, while HMP has spent another $849,000. The DCCC and Harley Rouda have also spent a combined $400,000 on a joint ad buy. And in the open 49th District, the DCCC has unloaded $1.1 million on Republican Rocky Chavez, while HMP has spent $185,000 against him.
● CT-05: On Wednesday, former Senate staffer Shannon Kula launched a late bid to get on the August Democratic primary ballot. Kula, who worked as a chief of staff for then-Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski after serving as an aide to Connecticut's Chris Dodd, needs to turn in just over 2,700 valid signatures from registered Democrats by June 12. Former Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman and 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes already earned a place on the ballot at the party convention.
● MI-01, MI-06, MI-11: On Wednesday, the Michigan Secretary of State's office announced that seven House candidates had failed to turn in enough valid signatures to make the August primary ballot. A few were minor candidates, but there were also a few recognizable names:
MI-01: Matt Morgan (D)
MI-06: Paul Clements (D), Eponine Garrod (D)
MI-11: Dan Haberman (D), Kristine Bonds (R)
We'll start with the 6th District, which is probably the most surprising of this group. Clements was the 2014 and 2016 nominee against GOP Rep. Fred Upton, and he was running in a crowded primary to face him for the third time. A March Clements internal gave him a 21-12 lead over Garrod, a party activist who had raised little money; two better-funded candidates, physician and former YMCA national health officer Matt Longjohn and former Kellog lobbyist George Franklin, were in the single digits.
According to the secretary of state, Clements only turned in 991 valid signatures, which was just nine short of what he needed, while Garrod had 974. Garrod says she'll argue her case on Friday at a Board of Canvassers meeting, but it's not clear what Clements plans to do.
Over in the open 11th District, the state said that Haberman and Bonds needed 56 and 102 more signatures, respectively. Neither candidate raised much money (Bonds, who is the daughter of the late well-known TV anchor Bill Bonds, hasn't reported raising any), so their departure probably wouldn't impact their respective primaries much. It's also not clear if either plans to appeal the state's decision.
Finally, the state's ruling against Morgan in the 1st District was expected over the last month but still unwelcome. Morgan, who was the only Democrat who filed to challenge freshman GOP Rep. Jack Bergman, put a P.O. box rather than his home address at the top of the petitions themselves, which the state's Bureau of Elections said renders them unacceptable. Morgan said a month ago that he'd "pursue "all legal means necessary" to continue his campaign if the Board of State Canvassers ruled against him, and he said he'd run a write-in primary campaign if need be.
● NM-02: With days to go before the GOP primary, both major candidates are up with their first negative spots. Former state party chair Monty Newman struck first when he launched one of those ads that throws a ton of attacks at an opponent and hopes one of them will stick. The narrator argues that state Rep. Yvette Herrell is a "Santa Fe insider" who has voted for higher taxes and to "weaken penalties for child killers," and it declares she "got busted pocketing half a million dollars in state contracts as a legislator."
Herrell quickly hit back with a commercial dubbing Newman a "fake Republican" who "spent 19 years as a registered Democrat," and declares he voted for tax increases. The second half of the ad promotes Herrell as a Trump ally who has the NRA's support.
● NY-11: On Wednesday, Donald Trump waded into the nasty June 26 GOP primary for this Staten Island-based seat when he endorsed Rep. Dan Donovan over former Rep. Mike Grimm. Trump tweeted that Donovan "voted for Tax Cuts" even though the congressman had opposed the leadership's tax bill, claiming he "wanted nothing more than to vote for a tax plan that would put more money in the pockets of overburdened taxpayers and spur job creation." Trump also argued that Donovan would win in November but Grimm, who spent seven months in prison on 2015 after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges, would not.
That last bit is debatable, since Grimm did win re-election in 2014 while under indictment. And as we've written before, Grimm's time in prison may not be the liability that Trump (or at least, Trump's political advisers) think that it is. Grimm spent years building up a sort of proto-Trump cult of personality by portraying the Obama Justice Department as out to get him, an argument that has struck a chord in a community where plenty of voters believe they've been neglected by their city, local, and national governments. Donovan, by contrast, has been a pretty low-key Republican who doesn't inspire the same sort of intense base loyalty that Grimm has.
● NH-02: This week, former Hillsborough County Treasurer Bob Burns joined the September GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster.
● PA-16: Democrat Ron DiNicola is out with a PPP survey giving GOP Rep. Mike Kelly a 48-43 edge. This Erie-based seat moved from 52-47 Romney to 58-38 Trump, but it could be a plausible Democratic target in a wave year. DiNicola narrowly lost the general election for a previous version of this district back in 1996.
● SC-04: The National Association of Realtors is spending at least $183,000 on a TV buy in support of state Rep. Dan Hamilton ahead of the June 12 GOP primary; we do not have a copy of the ad yet.
● SD-AL: On behalf of the Argus Leader and KELO TV, Mason-Dixon is out with the first (and probably only) poll of next week's GOP primary, and they give former Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson a wide 41-23 lead over Secretary of State Shantel Krebs; state Sen. Neal Tapio is a distant third with 13. Johnston and the anti-Krebs No Labels affiliate Citizens for a Strong America Inc. have been decisively outspending the secretary of state, which could help explain why he posts such a large advantage here.
● VA-02: Navy veteran Elaine Luria is up with her first spot ahead of the June 12 Democratic primary, where she faces no serious opposition. Luria is shown standing amist a crowd of men in suits who are zooming around her at extreme speeds, and she tells the audience, "If you want to know how bad the chaos in Washington is, look at the people who are part of it." Luria then declares that GOP Rep. Scott Taylor "says it's his job to find clarity in the chaos he helped create," before she says that her 20 years in the Navy taught her "you don't live with chaos, you end it."
● VA-05: State Sen. Bryce Reeves has announced that he will not seek the GOP nomination to succeed Rep. Tom Garrett. The 5th District Republican Committee will pick the nominee on Saturday.
● VA-10: On Thursday, the White House condemned Army veteran Dan Helmer's new commercial for the June 12 Democratic primary. That spot featured a picture of Osama bin Laden as Helmer told the audience, "After 9/11, the greatest threat to our democracy lived in a cave. Today, he lives in the White House." A White House spokesperson argued that the commercial was "nothing short of reprehensible," and called for Nancy Pelosi to denounce it.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, whom Helmer is hoping to challenge in November, also called the spot "an outrageous and offensive thing to say." Helmer made it clear that he stands by the commercial, and he could benefit from this attention and GOP outrage just two weeks ahead of the crowded primary.
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