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.
● Primary Day: Henry McMaster and the Templeton of Doom: We have another big primary day upon us on Tuesday! Voters in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia go to the polls to choose nominees, and we've put together or guide of what's on tap.
Maine will feature the first-in-the-nation instant-runoff voting for a statewide or federal contest, as well as a referendum on whether to keep it. You can see a sample ballot for Democratic gubernatorial candidates at the top of this post, though note that election officials say they may not have final results until next week.
In South Carolina, Rep. and noted hiker Mark Sanford faces a serious GOP primary challenge from state Rep. Katie Arrington, while Gov. Henry McMaster is trying to avoid a runoff. We also have an expensive Democratic primary for governor in Nevada, as well as more competitive House contests to watch.
Things kick off at 7 PM ET when polls close in South Carolina and Virginia. Maine closes at 8 PM ET, and Nevada at 10 PM ET. North Dakota requires polls to close no later than 9 PM local time (most of the state is in the Central time zone, while a portion is on Mountain time). We hope you'll join us at Daily Kos Elections on Tuesday for our liveblog of all of the races on the docket: You can also follow us on Twitter, where we'll be live-tweeting the results. And check out our calendar for a look at primary nights to come.
● FL-Sen: Polling on behalf of Politico and the AARP, Morning Consult gives Republican Gov. Rick Scott a 40-39 lead over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Meanwhile, Cherry Communications conducted their own poll for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Scott, and their survey finds Scott ahead by 48-45. That result is very similar to Cherry Communications' last poll from all the way back in August of 2017, which had Scott up by 47-45 even though he wasn't yet a candidate. Polls in recent months from other firms have typically found a similarly close race.
Meanwhile, the New Republican super PAC has dropped a hefty $3.5 million on TV and digital ads attacking Nelson. Their spot uses pictures to show Nelson progressively getting older over the course of his 45 years in elected office as the narrator accuses him of allegedly raising taxes, cutting Medicare, weakening Social Security, and frequently voting with Hillary Clinton over the years.
Most of these hits are boilerplate GOP b.s., but the Social Security claim merits a closer look. That charge refers to a 2007 vote on a Republican amendment that its sponsor, then-Sen. Jim DeMint, characterized as creating a “reserve fund” for the Social Security program but that was in fact a stalking-horse for privatization. Several Republicans and all but one Democrat voted to sink it.
● ND-Sen: Senate Majority PAC is spending $220,000 to on a new TV ad to oppose Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer in North Dakota. Their commercial uses a clip from a recent Cramer ad where he amazingly enough had conceded, "We all like Heidi," to call him out for actually attacking her. The narrator argues Heitkamp has voted for "fiscally responsible tax cuts for the middle class, business, and farmers." They note that Cramer's vote for Trump's tax cut really increases the deficit by $1.9 trillion, and they ding Cramer for saying we'll have to cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for it.
● WV-Sen: The conservative nonprofit One Nation has launched an ad against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin claiming that the senator "voted for a bill that would have given amnesty to millions who broke our laws." The spot also features a clip from an interview last year that Manchin did with the program The Young Turks in which he said, "I'm not for building a wall. I'm not for building a wall at all." Manchin now claims he does support building a wall on the Mexico border.
● Senate: Senate Majority PAC, which is the main super PAC aligned with Senate Democrats, has unveiled their initial round of ad reservations for this year's elections. SMP didn't release the individual amounts they have reserved in each state, but their total of $80 includes at least seven figures in each contest listed below:
AZ-Sen: OPEN (R)
FL-Sen: Bill Nelson (D)
IN-Sen: Joe Donnelly (D)
MO-Sen: Claire McCaskill (D)
MT-Sen: Jon Tester (D)
NV-Sen: Dean Heller (R)
ND-Sen: Heidi Heitkamp (D)
TN-Sen: OPEN (R)
WV-Sen: Joe Manchin (D)
Notably, they're playing offense in three Republican-held seats, and flipping two of those three while defending every Democratic seat would give Team Blue a majority in the upper chamber. Furthermore, it's notable which states they haven't included, particularly Ohio and Wisconsin, where Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown and Tammy Baldwin are facing well-funded Republican opposition, respectively. Of course, these reservations are subject to change and could be canceled or see new additions depending on how the playing field looks over the coming months.
● CO-Gov: Republican firm Magellan Strategies has commissioned a poll of Colorado's GOP primary, although they claim they aren't working for any particular candidate. Their survey has state Treasurer Walker Stapleton leading businessman Victor Mitchell by 36-23, while former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez earns 10 percent and former investment banker Doug Robinson just 4 percent. This is so far the only poll to date that has tested the June 26 primary once the field of candidates was set, so it's hard to know how accurate these numbers are.
On the Democratic side, the Colorado Sierra Club is spending $600,000 on TV ads to support Rep. Jared Polis. Their spot praises Polis as "bold" for his plan to switch Colorado to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, and they also tout how he supposedly isn't taking any money from special interests.
Meanwhile, a pro-Polis super PAC called Bold Colorado has dropped at least $80,000 on an ad calling out former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy for allegedly breaking her campaign promise not to run negative ads, labeling a recent attack from her allies as "dishonest." They use quotes from Gov. John Hickenlooper saying he was "disappointed" to criticize Kennedy for the negative attacks.
● FL-Gov: In a damning story published on Friday, the Tampa Bay Times reports that GOP state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office failed to conduct full background checks on certain applications for concealed weapons permits for more than a year because an employee couldn't log into an FBI database used to review such applications. As a result, several hundred individuals who should have been ineligible may have been granted a permit without passing the required checks, potentially allowing people with a history of mental illness or drug abuse to carry a concealed firearm in public.
Under a policy implemented in 2003, Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which Putnam has run since 2011, is responsible for applications for concealed weapons permits, even though its employees aren't typically involved with law enforcement. The department is supposed to run all applicants through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (known as NICS) but the employee in charge of the process, Lisa Wilde, failed to do so from Feb. 2016 to March 2017, when another worker noticed the lapse. That prompted the state Inspector General to investigate and issue a report, which had not previously been reported.
In response to the story, a spokesman for Putnam argued that NICS was only used for "non-criminal" disqualifications—a bizarre claim to make about a system that literally has the word "criminal" in its name. (Among other things, it flags applicants who have served more than a year in prison.) Putnam's office also said that, after the Inspector General issued its report in June of last year, it re-reviewed 365 applications and revoked 291 improperly granted permits.
But while Putnam is trying to argue that a rogue employee was solely responsible for this debacle, he's made speeding up the concealed weapons application process a "top priority," according to the Times. In 2012, he held a celebratory press conference after the state issued its millionth concealed weapons permit and bragged that his office had reduced the time it took to process applications from 12 weeks to just five. And in an interview, Wilde told the Times that she was "under pressure from supervisors to quickly approve applications."
Compounding Putnam's problems is his zealous advocacy for looser gun-safety laws. Just this year, he supported a bill to require that permits be approved even when background checks were not entirely conclusive—legislation that got pulled after February's mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Putnam has also described himself as a "proud #NRAsellout" and has run digital ads touting his efforts to expand concealed carry.
In a year when gun violence, exemplified by the Parkland massacre, has emerged as a major political issue, Putnam could face serious problems, though more likely in the general election rather than the GOP primary. While Putnam's prospective Democratic opponents have called on him to drop out, his only major intra-party rival, Rep. Ron DeSantis, wasn't quite as harsh. DeSantis called the fiasco "very concerning" and dinged Putnam for spending "years" running for governor while seemingly not "minding the store" in the office he actually oversaw. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for Senate, also criticized Putnam, calling the episode "disturbing."
● MD-Gov: OpinionWorks has polled the June 26 Democratic primary on behalf of The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, and they find a 16-16 tie for first between Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and former NAACP president Ben Jealous, while no other candidate tops 5 percent. However, with 44 percent undecided, it's still anyone's guess who could win this contest.
● MO-Gov: And just like that, former GOP Gov. Eric Greitens won't face charges for his alleged sexual assault and blackmail of the woman he was having an affair with. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker concluded that statutes of limitations that had or were about to pass, plus possibly missing evidence, made it impossible for her office to prove his guilt, even though she believed the woman's accusations. Baker said she won't file new charges against him.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner had made a deal last month where Greitens resigned in exchange for her dropping charges in his other felony matter, which involved illegally using a list of donors from his veterans' charity for his gubernatorial campaign. While Greitens' deal with Gardner saw him concede that the prosecution had enough evidence to go to trial, this latest news means the former governor will escape any convictions for these two alleged crimes.
● NV-Gov: With little time to spare ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton gave one of her rare endorsements to Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani. Clinton also recorded a robocall on her behalf, which calls her a "progressive leader." Giunchigliani faces Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak, who has the backing of former Senate Leader Harry Reid and much of the state party establishment.
● MA-03: Massachusetts recently published their candidate list for the Sept. 4 primary, which you can find here.
With GOP Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren looking safe to win re-election, the big primaries to watch here will be for the House, and Massachusetts' 3rd District is one of the largest primaries in the nation. Ten different Democrats have filed to succeed retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas in a seat that includes the Merrimack Valley north of Boston. This district backed Obama 57-41 and Clinton 58-35 and the Democratic nominee will be the favorite to keep it blue.
There are a number of well-funded Democrats running here. Daniel Koh, a former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, has been one of the strongest House fundraisers in the country, and he had $2 million in the bank at the end of March. However, while Koh grew up in the district, he only moved back to his hometown of Andover just before he launched his bid.
Koh had considerably more money to spend than any of his rivals, but several others have enough money to run a credible campaign. Business consultant Lori Trahan, who used to serve as chief of staff to former Rep. Marty Meehan and reportedly has the support of much of his political network, had $706,000 to spend. Rufus Gifford, who was the 2012 Obama campaign's finance director before becoming U.S. ambassador to Denmark, had $504,000 in the bank, though he doesn't have strong ties to the area. Hotel executive Beej Das, who grew up and lived just outside the seat, had about $400,000 to spend, though just over half the money he's brought in was from loans he made to his campaign.
Two state legislators are also in the hunt. State Sen. Barbara L'Italien also had about $400,000 to spend, while state Rep. Juana Matias had $210,000; Matias, who was born in the Dominican Republic, would be the state's first Latina member of Congress. Four other Democrats are running, but none of them had much money. They include former Navy intelligence officer Alexandra Chandler, who would be the first openly transgender member of Congress, and local bank vice president Bopha Malone, who came to the country as a refugee from Cambodia. Still, an upset is always possible in a race this crowded.
On the GOP side, wealthy auto-parts company owner Rick Green has the field to himself, and he had just shy of $400,000 in the bank. It's unlikely Green will have much of an opening in what's shaping up to be a tough year for Team Red. Still, this seat has been open to backing Republicans down ballot, so Green may be able to put up a fight.
● MA-07: Ten-term Rep. Mike Capuano faces a credible primary challenge from Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in a safely blue seat that includes much of the city of Boston as well as some nearby suburbs.
Pressley, who would be the first woman of color to represent Massachusetts in Congress, has argued that this district, which is by-far the most racially diverse in the state, would bring a much-needed new perspective to Congress, and that the seat needs an activist instead of just a "reliable vote." Capuano in turn has argued that his experience and seniority are vital.
Capuano has the support of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and much of the local political establishment, as well as prominent black politicians like former Gov. Deval Patrick and Georgia Rep. John Lewis. Capuano also had a $1.16 million to $260,000 cash-on-hand lead over Pressley at the end of March.
● MA-09: Democratic Rep. Bill Keating faces a challenge from Republican businessman Peter Tedeschi, a former CEO of the ubiquitous convenience store chain Tedeschi Food Shops. However, Keating held a hefty $1.28 million to $214,000 cash-on-hand lead over Tedeschi at the end of March, and it would take a lot to beat him in a 53-42 Clinton seat.
● MI-01: On Friday, the state Court of Appeals rejected retired Marine Lt. Col. Matt Morgan's appeal to get on the August Democratic primary ballot. Morgan said he wouldn't appeal any further and would instead run a write-in campaign to win the Democratic nomination.
No other candidates filed to run here, so Morgan just needs to win the most write-in votes to get to the general election against GOP Rep. Jack Bergman. Morgan got tossed from the ballot because he put a P.O. box rather than his home address at the top of his petitions, which the state's Bureau of Elections said renders them unacceptable. This seat went from 54-45 Romney to 58-37 Trump, but Morgan has raised a credible amount of money. At the end of March, the Democrat had a small $317,000 to $307,000 cash-on-hand edge over Bergman.
● MI-06, MI-09, MI-11: AFSCME has endorsed three Democrats running in competitive August primaries. They've backed former Kellogg lobbyist George Franklin, who is seeking to take on GOP Rep. Fred Upton; attorney Andy Levin, who is running for a reliably blue seat; and state Rep. Tim Greimel, who is one of several Democrats running for a competitive open seat.
● MN-05: On Monday, state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion announced he was ending his bid for this safely blue Minneapolis seat. It's too late for Champion to remove his name from the August primary ballot, but while he said he was only suspending his campaign, he also said he would "actively campaign for another" Democrat in this race.
● NJ-02: Former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman was the surprise winner of last week's GOP primary, and we're already learning some very ugly things about him. At an April candidate forum recorded by the Democratic group American Bridge, Grossman ranted that "[t]he whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American," and declared that it was "an excuse by Democrats, communists, and socialists, basically, to say that we're not all created equal."
And surprise! Grossman didn't stop there. He also said that the last time America was great was when women didn't need child credits because one parent's paycheck was enough to support the family. He continued by theorizing that former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who lost last year's race for governor to Democrat Phil Murphy, was a "lesser-qualified candidate" who was nominated because Republicans decided, "Oh, she's a woman; she'll get more votes, because we're showing how diverse we are. Look how that turned out." Grossman also told the Philadelphia Inquirer Monday that he stood by his comments.
● NY-19: With Honor Fund is spending at least $150,000 on digital ads to promote Army veteran Pat Ryan ahead of the June 26 Democratic primary.
● NY-24: With two weeks to go before the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. John Katko, Politico reports that VoteVets is spending $200,000 on a TV buy in support of former Syracuse corporation counsel Juanita Perez Williams. Their spot tells the audience that Perez Williams grew up in a family that struggled to meet ends meet, and she worked hard to join the Navy JAG Corp and become an assistant attorney general. The narrator declares Perez Williams will stand up to Trump and for Planned Parenthood and Medicare for all.
● OH-12: Monmouth is out with a poll giving Republican Troy Balderson anywhere between a 7 and 10 point lead over Democrat Danny O'Connor ahead of the Aug. 7 special election in the first independent poll we've seen of this race.
Among registered voters, Monmouth has the Republican ahead 43-33. When Monmouth models likely voters based on historical November midterm turnout, they have Balderson leading by a similar 48-39 margin. Their final model, which tries to account for what the electorate would look like if Democratic turnout surged in blue counties, still found Balderson up 46-39.
The only other poll we've seen of the general election is a PPP survey for the pro-O'Connor End Citizens United, which found Balderson up by a smaller 45-43 a month ago. In any case, Republicans certainly aren't acting like they think Balderson is anything close to a lock. The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund launched a $250,000 ad buy last week, while Mike Pence will be holding a fundraiser for Balderson. O'Connor will reportedly begin airing his first general election ads on Tuesday.
● VA-10: Here's one late-breaking—and unexpected—development to be aware of in the Democratic primary for Virginia's 10th District: Former State Department official Alison Friedman put $1 million of her own money into her campaign in mid-April, which the Washington Post reported "helped pay for television ads." (Friedman's donation was disclosed in her pre-primary FEC report, which was filed as required 12 days before Tuesday's primary, but we only caught it now.)
Previously, Friedman had self-funded a comparatively small $50,000, so her seven-figure contribution came as a surprise. That money allowed her to decisively outspend her many rivals in the final two months of the race, but fortunately, the contest never turned negative.
● House: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund has released their second round of fall TV reservations (you can find their first round here), and Roll Call has a breakdown of each seat.
CA-39: OPEN (R-held): $2 million (51-43 Clinton, 51-47 Romney)
FL-26: Carlos Curbelo (R): additional $830,000, reservation now totals $2.5 million (57-41 Clinton, 55-44 Obama)
IL-12: Mike Bost (R): additional $700,000, reservation now totals $2.7 million (55-40 Trump, 50-48 Obama)
KY-06: Andy Barr (R): additional $100,000, reservation now totals $1.8 million (55-39 Trump, 56-42 Romney)
ME-02: Bruce Poliquin (R): additional $1.6 million, reservation now totals $2.8 million (51-41 Trump, 53-44 Obama)
MN-03: Erik Paulsen (R): additional $500,000, reservation now totals $2.8 million (51-41 Clinton, 50-49 Obama)
Minneapolis media market: $1.2 million
NJ-07: Leonard Lance (R): $2.1 million (49-48 Clinton, 53-46 Romney)
NY-19: John Faso (R): $1 million (51-44 Trump, 52-46 Obama)
PA-01: Brian Fitzpatrick (R): additional $2.7 million, reservation now totals $4.1 million (49-47 Clinton, 50-49 Obama)
WA-08: OPEN (R-held): additional $1.4 million, reservation now totals $3.5 million (48-45 Clinton, 50-48 Obama)
As we always note, while early ad reservations help lock in cheaper rates, they can be adjusted or cancelled, so this list could continue to change (and it will definitely grow).
Also note that the CLF reserved $1.2 million in the Minneapolis market without specifying which seat or seats it will be used for. Minnesota's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 8th Districts are competitive seats entirely or partially located in the Minneapolis market.
● Special Elections: The special elections Scott Walker really didn't want are on Tuesday. Johnny Longtorso brings us the rundown:
Wisconsin SD-01: This is an open Republican seat based in the Door Peninsula. Frank Lasee resigned after being appointed to run the worker's compensation division of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. The Democratic nominee is former banker Caleb Frostman, while the Republican nominee is Assemblyman Andre Jacque. This seat went 56-39 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 52-47 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Wisconsin AD-42: This is an open Republican seat north of Madison. Keith Ripp resigned to take a post in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. The Democratic candidate here is Ann Groves Lloyd, a University of Wisconsin career counselor and member of the Lodi City Council. The Republican candidate is Jon Plumer, a karate studio owner and member of the Columbia County Board. Also on the ballot is independent Gene Rubinstein. This seat went 55-40 for Donald Trump in 2016 but backed Barack Obama by a 51-48 margin in 2012.
These are the two legislative seats that Walker tried to keep empty until the regular November elections to prevent them from going blue. After a state judge ordered Walker to call the specials, Walker and the GOP legislature instead called for a special legislative session so they could change the law governing special elections. The GOP only gave up after the courts wouldn't give Walker more time to delay calling the special election.
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