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.
● TX Redistricting: On Monday, the Supreme Court gave Republican gerrymandering a major boost when it reversed a district court ruling that had struck down Texas’ GOP-drawn congressional map for intentionally discriminating against black and Latino voters. A fairer map could have allowed Latino voters to elect their preferred candidates in as many as three more districts, and could have allowed Democrats to win up to five more seats statewide, but now this map will remain untouched.
The GOP’s victory was almost total: The Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned the lower court as to every congressional district it had invalidated, and all but one of the state House districts it struck down. But beyond just this case, the high court’s five-to-four decision further erodes the Voting Rights Act on the fifth anniversary of its landmark decision that gutted a key part of the VRA.
This dispute, which has been trudging on for seven long years thanks in part to an apparent slow-walk by conservative judges, has hinged on a key aspect of the VRA that penalizes lawmakers when they act with discriminatory intent. Had the lower court’s ruling stood up, Texas would have been required to draw new maps, and it might have faced further sanction as well. Now it has avoided the former and very likely the latter, too.
The Supreme Court’s questionable ruling relied on the dubious notion that the Republicans who crafted Texas’ maps were entitled to a presumption that they acted in good faith. The record, however, shows otherwise, as we detail here.
Consequently, election law experts, including professor Rick Hasen, have argued that this presumption of good faith will make it almost impossible for plaintiffs to prove intentional discrimination in future cases, absent a very unlikely smoking gun. Furthermore, it makes it very difficult for challengers to try to force jurisdictions with a history of discrimination like Texas to have to “preclear” all their proposed election law changes with the Justice Department again, like they did until the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling removed that obstacle.
This ruling is yet another in a line of cases that has seen the conservative-dominated Supreme Court continue to chip away at the Voting Rights Act. Yet even the majority’s opinion didn’t go far enough for Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, who argued the VRA doesn’t apply to redistricting. And if Donald Trump ever gets to replace conservative swing Justice Anthony Kennedy or a liberal with another justice like Gorsuch, we can expect far darker days ahead for the future of voting rights.
● Primary Day: A Game of Trones: We have another big primary night ahead of us on Tuesday, with races in Colorado, Maryland, New York (though only for federal contests), Oklahoma, and Utah, as well as runoffs in Mississippi and South Carolina. We have a ton of exciting contests to watch, and we've put together our preview of the biggest election night from now until November.
We have several competitive primaries for governor on tap as well as numerous House contests, including the nasty Staten Island GOP duel between Rep. Dan Donovan and former Rep. Mike Grimm. We'll also be seeing if Maryland Democrat David Trone's $11 million personal spending spree will get him the victory his 2016 $13 million personal spending spree didn't.
The first polls close at 7 PM ET in South Carolina; at 8 PM ET in Maryland, Mississippi, and Oklahoma; at 9 PM ET in Colorado and New York; and at 10 PM ET in Utah.
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.
● AZ-Sen: On behalf of CBS, YouGov tests Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema against her three prospective GOP foes, and they find her leading each of them. Sinema outpaces Rep. Martha McSally 45-37, and she has a similar 46-38 lead over former state Sen. Kelli Ward. Infamous former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio does the worst with a 49-29 deficit against Sinema.
The local GOP firm Data Orbital also took a look at the August GOP primary, and they find McSally leading Ward 38-23, with Arpaio at 17. A recent survey from OH Predictive Insights gave McSally a similar 39-25 lead over Ward, with Arpaio bringing up the rear at 14.
● FL-Sen: YouGov's poll for CBS gives Republican Rick Scott a 46-41 lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Most recent polling, apart from a very strange survey from the very unreliable Gravis Marketing, has shown things a little closer. The conservative Florida Chamber of Commerce released a poll earlier this month finding Scott up 48-45, while PPP for a Democratic consulting group gave Nelson a 48-46 edge.
Scott and his allies have dominated the airwaves, but Democrats have aired some ads for Nelson. Senate Majority PAC is spending $1.1 million to re-air a commercial from AFSCME that promoted Nelson as a centrist.
● TN-Sen: Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's latest TV ad features him speaking from a distillery, where he describes how he'll stand with Trump when he thinks the administration does something good for Tennessee and oppose him when he thinks Trump is wrong. Bredesen says he's "fine" with Trump's outreach to North Korea, because, "You gotta try." But the former governor says he opposes Trump's tariffs because they'll hurt Tennessee's auto industry, farmers, and even "Tennessee exports like Jack Daniel's."
● TX-Sen, TX-Gov: YouGov has two different polls out of the Texas Senate race. Their survey for CBS gives GOP Sen. Ted Cruz a 50-40 lead over Democrat Beto O'Rourke, while their poll for the Texas Tribune and University of Texas has the incumbent up 41-36. The Tribune/ UT poll was in the field June 8 through the 15th and sampled registered voters, while the CBS survey was done June 19-22nd and sampled likely voters. The CBS poll also had a version looking at registered voters, and they had Cruz up 44-36. Two recent polls from O'Rourke allies each gave Cruz a 6-point lead, while the GOP firm JMC Analytics had the incumbent ahead 47-40. However, Quinnipiac found Cruz up by a larger 50-39 last month.
The poll for the Texas Tribune/UT also took a look at the race for governor, and they find GOP incumbent Greg Abbott leading Democrat Lupe Valdez 44-32.
● WI-Sen: On Monday, Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir received a major endorsement from House Speaker Paul Ryan and fellow Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. Vukmir faces businessman Kevin Nicholson in the August primary to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
● FL-Gov: Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis has begun airing his first TV ad, which is part of a $12 million buy for the final two months ahead of the Aug. 28 primary. The spot introduces him as an Iraq War veteran and JAG officer who has been willing to challenge the establishment of both parties. It calls him "100 percent pro-life," claims he's "leading the charge against illegal immigration," and notes he's endorsed by Trump himself, highlighting how Trump called him a "brilliant leader."
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is putting $1 million behind a TV commercial that pledges to expand Medicaid and ensure those with pre-existing conditions can get the affordable health care they need.
● SC-Gov: The GOP firm the Trafalgar Group, which says they're not working for a campaign, gives Gov. Henry McMaster a 54-37 lead over businessman John Warren in Tuesday's GOP primary runoff. That's a closer margin than the 60-31 McMaster lead they found just after the first round of the primary two weeks ago, but it's still a clear edge for the incumbent. The only other poll we've seen of this contest was a Fabrizio Lee poll for Warren that gave him a 46-42 edge against McMaster.
● TN-Gov: Businessman Randy Boyd's latest Republican primary ad features an endorsement from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who praises him as a "conservative businessman who can get things done." Huckabee calls him "pro-life" and says he opposes "sanctuary cities."
● WY-Gov: State Treasurer Mark Gordon has unveiled his first TV ad ahead of the Aug. 21 Republican primary. The spot showcases a man named Bryce Fisher who says he worked on Gordon's ranch in high school and Gordon later helped him get financing for his own business, even though "there wasn't much in it for him." Fisher contends Gordon will be a good governor because he "knows how to help people succeed."
● CA-48: On Sunday, stem cell researcher Hans Keirstead conceded to real estate company owner Harley Rouda, a fellow Democrat. Rouda will now face GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in a coastal Orange County seat that swung from 55-43 Romney to 48-46 Clinton.
With most votes counted, Rohrabacher took first in the June 5 to-two primary with 30 percent of the vote, while Rouda edged Keirstead 17.3-17.2 ―a margin of 126 votes―for second. Just behind was former Orange County GOP Chair Scott Baugh with 15.8 percent, putting him just under 2,600 votes away from that critical second place spot. The DCCC supported Rouda over Keirstead and ran joint ad buys with him, and they spent heavily to bring down Baugh's numbers.
● CT-05, CT-Gov: On Friday, the state AFL-CIO threw its support behind Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, in the August Democratic primary. They also endorsed businessman Ned Lamont for governor, though Lamont has a much easier path through his primary.
● FL-15: Attorney Kristen Carlson is out with a poll of the August Democratic primary from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner giving her a 25-14 lead over Navy veteran Andrew Learned. Coast Guard veteran Ray Pena, who has raised very little cash during his year-and-a-half on the campaign trail, takes another 10 percent. This open central Florida seat went from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump.
● FL-26: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made a $350,000 ad buy to support Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo. There's no copy of the ad available yet.
● MI-06: On Monday, 2014 and 2016 Democratic nominee Paul Clements ended his campaign and endorsed physician Matt Longjohn in the August primary. Clements had been waging another campaign against GOP Rep. Fred Upton, but the state Bureau of Elections ruled that he'd only turned in 991 valid petitions, which was nine short of the minimum he needed to get on the ballot. Clements sued, but last week a federal judge refused his request to delay primary ballots from being printed.
● NJ-02: The GOP headache in the race to succeed Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo has gotten even bigger as new details continue to emerge about little-known Republican nominee Seth Grossman's history of making bigoted comments online. CNN's KFILE team scoured Grossman's Facebook page and blog, revealing that he trafficked in conspiracy theories and frequently made racist charges against Muslims over the last four years. Among the worst offenses, Grossman once called Islam "a cancer" and said no practicing Muslims can be "good Americans," while he also likened Muslim immigration to hypothetically letting in Nazis and Japanese fascists during World War II.
But Grossman's bigotry doesn't stop with Muslims. He has repeatedly slammed "multiculturalism" and "diversity" as "un-American" and oppressive against white people, while he called Kwanzaa "a phony holiday invented in 1960's by black racists to weaken and divide Americans." Grossman also used an anti-Semitic dog-whistle to attack philanthropist and progressive donor George Soros as a shadowy puppetmaster and "international communist" like Leon Trotsky (who also happened to be Jewish). Finally, he also argued in 2014 that gay men with HIV should have been quarantined in the 1980s.
Grossman hasn't held elected office since the 1980s and had been running an unheralded campaign by the time he won the GOP primary earlier this month, but that didn't stop the NRCC from endorsing him after the primary for this open swing seat. However, the NRCC has refused to condemn or even comment on these latest revelations about their nominee.
● OK-01: We have some late outside spending ahead of Tuesday's crowded GOP primary. The Club for Growth has added another $75,000 to their ad buy supporting former Army intelligence officer Andy Coleman and opposing businessman Kevin Hern, which takes their total investment here to $345,000.
However, CLA Inc, which stands for the Conservative Leadership Alliance, has spent $80,000 on a media buy hitting Coleman, though it's not clear who they're supporting here. CLA has opposed the Club in a handful of GOP primaries this cycle, and they're also on opposite sides in Tuesday's runoff for South Carolina's 4th Congressional District.
● SC-01: On Friday evening, Republican nominee Katie Arrington and a friend were involved in a fatal car crash that left both of them seriously injured, but Arrington is expected to make a full recovery. Arrington was riding in the passenger seat on a highway south of Charleston when a woman driving the wrong way appeared, causing a collision that claimed the woman's life and left Arrington in need of two surgeries.
Arrington’s doctors said Monday they expected her to make a full recovery within two weeks, though it may take a bit longer for her to resume campaigning as planned. After he learned about the accident, Democratic nominee Joe Cunningham tweeted on Saturday that he was “suspending all campaign activities until further notice.”
● Kansas City, MO Mayor: Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who lost a tight 2016 Senate race to GOP incumbent Roy Blunt, announced on Monday that he would run for mayor of Kansas City next year. Kander seemed far more interested in running for president until last week, when the Kansas City Star first reported that he was eyeing the race to succeed termed-out Mayor Sly James.
Kander's interest caught many local Democrats off guard, but City Councilor Jolie Justus, whom the Star wrote was "widely seen as a strong contender," announced Sunday that she was dropping out of the race and endorsing him. However, fellow City Councilors Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed, Alissia Canady, Scott Wagner, and Scott Taylor, as well as a few other candidates, are all running. All the candidates will compete in the April 2 nonpartisan primary. The two contenders with the most votes will then face off in the June 25 general election.