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.
● GA-Gov: Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp's campaign has released a new segment of that embarrassing leaked recording where GOP Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had admitted to defeated primary rival Clay Tippins that he had supported a bad bill solely to stop a super PAC from backing another candidate. The latest bit, which Tippins apparently leaked to Kemp this time, features Cagle dissing primary voters for being too extreme and driven by identity politics:
"The issues you talk about are the issues I care about as well. The problem is in a primary—and you and I are just talking off the record frank—they don't give a shit about those things. Okay. In the general election, they care about it. Okay. But they don't care about it in a primary. This primary felt like it was who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck, and who could be the craziest."
Cagle has earned negative headlines over the prior release where he talked about cynically backing a bad bill, and this latest snippet is unlikely to do him any favors with the primary runoff taking place just two weeks from now.
Be sure to keep our Senate fundraising roundup handy, since we update that as new numbers come in. As per usual, we'll have a House roundup after reports are due at the FEC on July 15.
● FL-Sen: Rick Scott (R): $10.7 million raised (no self-funding)
● MN-Sen-B: Karin Housley (R): $1 million raised, $1 million cash-on-hand
● NV-Sen: Jacky Rosen (D): $3.5 million raised, $3.8 million cash-on-hand
● WV-Sen: Patrick Morrisey (R): $1.28 million raised, $895,000 cash-on-hand
● GA-Gov: Stacey Abrams (D): $2.75 million raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
● CA-45: Katie Porter (D) $1 million raised, $750,000 cash on hand
● IA-03: Cindy Axne (D): $650,000 raised
● NH-01: Maura Sullivan (D): $604,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
● NJ-03: Andy Kim (D) $1.03 million raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
● PA-07: Susan Wild (D) $865,000 raised
● TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones (D): $1.2 million raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
● TX-31: M.J. Hegar (D) $1.1 million raised
● TX-32: Colin Allred (D): $1.1 million raised, $900,000 cash-on-hand
● VA-10: Barbara Comstock (R-inc): $1 million raised, $1.71 million cash-on-hand
● WI-01: Randy Bryce (D): $1.2 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
● IN-Sen: Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is up with a new spot against Republican Mike Braun, and his campaign says it's a "six-figure" buy. The narrator argues that Braun has a "global network of foreign auto parts suppliers," and declares that the Republican’s company "uses foreign workers in Mexico, Taiwan, all across China." The spot then shows a clip of Braun saying he doesn't "know where they get them made. We distribute them." The narrator goes on to say that Braun's company website, which is available in Chinese, lists "over 200 foreign suppliers."
Meanwhile, Donnelly's allies at Senate Majority PAC have added $377,000 to their buy.
● MI-Sen: Rep. Bill Huizenga has endorsed businessman and Army veteran John James ahead of the Aug. 7 GOP primary.
● MO-Sen: Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley has debuted his first TV ad, which is part of a $500,000 buy on broadcast and cable. The spot claims Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill wants "liberals in charge" when it comes to judicial nominations and the Supreme Court, and Hawley says "our way of life is at risk." However, as McCaskill's campaign noted, the senator has supported 76 percent of Trump's judicial nominees, including everyone he has nominated to district courts.
● MT-Sen: The League of Conservation Voters is putting $990,000 behind a TV ad spot opposing Republican Matt Rosendale. The ad hits Rosendale for his connections to the "billionaire Wilks brothers," whom the narrator calls the "largest private landowners in Montana." The spot accuses "East Coast developer" Rosendale of favoring legislation that let the Wilks brothers block access to public lands after they supported his campaign.
● WI-Sen: Rep. Glenn Grothman has thrown his support behind state Sen. Leah Vukmir ahead of the Aug. 14 GOP primary. Fellow Wisconsin Reps. Paul Ryan, Jim Sensenbrenner, and Sean Duffy have also endorsed Vukmir over the last few weeks.
● AL-Gov: The GOP firm Atlantic Media & Research is out with the first poll of the general election, and they give GOP incumbent Kay Ivey a wide 53-28 lead over Democrat Walt Maddox.
● CT-Gov: Wealthy businessman Bob Stefanowski has announced he's spending "six figures" on a new TV spot ahead of the Aug. 14 GOP primary. Stefanowski dubs himself "Bob the Rebuilder" and puts on a hardhat, while the narrator declares that he'll fix the state economy that he claims outgoing Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy has wrecked. Luckily for all of us, "Bob the Rebuilder" resists the urge to try out a Bob the Builderesque theme song.
● FL-Gov: We learned last month that state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s department failed to properly conduct full background checks on concealed-weapons permits for more than a year, which led to at least 291 people wrongly getting approved, and the story only appears to be getting worse for him. The Tampa Bay Times reports that investigators found that problems with concealed weapons permitting went far beyond the lone former employee, Lisa Wilde, who hadn't been able to log into the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database.
Indeed, the state Inspector General's 2017 investigation found that the mailroom employees who were responsible for checking applications against the NICS were "overwhelmed" and had little understanding of what the database was or why it was important to check. Furthermore, Wilde's supervisor didn't realize the NICS checks weren't occurring for 13 months because she didn't even know Wilde was in charge of it.
Putnam had put the blame squarely on Wilde, calling her "negligent and deceptive," and he had tried to downplay the importance of the lapse by saying the system was only used for non-criminal disqualifications like a history of mental illness or drug abuse; he claimed the state used other state and federal databases to search for criminal histories. But one of the administrators who discovered the problem told investigators that the NICS database was "very vital" for catching people with out-of-state felonies who were missing from the other databases.
Putnam said in 2014 that, "Ultimately, I'm responsible if that system breaks down," but this incident isn't the first time Putnam's department failed to properly handle gun permits. Investigators previously found in 2012 that 48 employees hadn't followed the correct procedures. Back then, one person was fired, others were sanctioned, and safeguards were supposedly put in place, but that didn't prevent the subsequent incident with Wilde and the NICS.
Putnam has been an avid supporter of loosening gun-safety restrictions, and the self-proclaimed “proud NRA sellout” has boasted about how much easier he has made it to acquire a concealed-weapons permit. However, Putnam's department appears to have simply been inadequately prepared for the surge in applications, potentially putting public safety at risk.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ron DeSantis has released an internal poll from 1892 Polling that gives him a wide 47-28 lead over Putnam in the Republican primary. That's a big improvement for DeSantis from their April survey, where he led by 30-26, and these latest results are similar to a recent Remington Research poll on behalf of a pro-DeSantis Tenth Amendment Project that had him ahead by 43-26. However, polling from independent outfits has painted a very different picture of the race, and a Marist survey last month found Putnam up by 38-21.
● HI-Gov: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed Rep. Colleen Hanabusa over Gov. David Ige in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary.
● IL-Gov: Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's latest ad continues his strategy of running against Democrat J.B. Pritzker by trying to tie him to Democratic state House Speaker Mike Madigan. The spot features clips of former Democratic primary rivals Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy blasting Pritzker for supposedly being in Madigan's pocket and embodying "pay-to-play" politics.
Meanwhile, Pritzker's latest commercial uses a quote from a recent radio interview Rauner did to argue he looks down on downstate Illinois. Rauner had stated, "Champaign-Urbana is wonderful, but it's very hard to keep a company of more than six people there. There's no convenient transportation, not much of a workforce, and it's very hard."
● KY-Gov: On Monday, state Attorney General Andy Beshear kicked off his campaign for governor, giving Democrats their first noteworthy candidate to challenge Republican Gov. Matt Bevin next year. Beshear is the son of Bevin's Democratic predecessor, Steve Beshear, and he won his first term as attorney general by a razor-thin 50.1-49.9 margin in 2015 even as Bevin was taking the open governor's seat by a sizable 53-44.
Bevin hasn't yet said whether he will run for re-election in 2019, but he has made multiple moves that have sparked outcry among the public. Perhaps worst of all, Bevin declared in April, "I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them" when teachers went on strike in April over education funding. Andy Beshear has repeatedly fought him in court, winning battles over Bevin's state pension cuts and funding cuts to state universities.
Beshear is unlikely to have the primary to himself, however. State Rep. Attica Scott recently said she was leaning toward running, and state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and term-limited Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes have also previously expressed interest in the race. The filing deadline is in late January, and the primary will be in May.
● NV-Gov: The group Building a Stronger Nevada, which is affiliated with the Nevada Home Builders Association, is spending $37,000 to air an ad in support of Republican Adam Laxalt. The spot declares that Laxalt will "strengthen public education" and make sure schools are funded, as well as empower "parents and educators by promoting accountability and greater access to teacher scholarships."
● RI-Gov: Former state Rep. Joe Trillo, a Republican-turned-conservative independent, had a campaign moment straight out of "Arrested Development" over the weekend. As the Associated Press' Jennifer McDermott succinctly puts it, Trillo "had to be rescued by the Coast Guard on Sunday after his yacht hit a rock while blasting music at beachgoers to draw attention to his campaign."
In an instance of real life imitating The Onion, Trillo used the yacht, the Lady M, to approach beaches and pledge to beachgoers that he would install garbage cans so they'd no longer have to carry out their trash in bags. He would then use his "very, very big sound equipment" to play a John Philip Sousa march before leaving for the next beach. Trillo, perhaps also channeling his inner Buster Bluth, explained that he was navigating a route to pass by more beaches when the Lady M hit an uncharted rock and began taking on water.
Trillo, who had done this once before without incident, says he hasn't decided if he'll continue with this strategy once the ship is fixed.
● TN-Gov: Rep. Diane Black's latest TV spot against businessman Randy Boyd, who looks like her biggest threat ahead of the Aug. 2 GOP primary, argues that his company avoided paying millions in taxes. After trashing Boyd for disavowing Trump in 2016, the narrators declare that Boyd's company "put a company headquarters in Europe, [and] use the tax haven of the Cayman Islands." They go on to say Boyd himself "admits he built a tax avoidance structure" even while pushing for a big tax increase in Knoxville.
● CA-49: Democrat Mike Levin and the DCCC are out with a poll from The Feldman Group that gives Levin a narrow 49-46 edge over Republican Diane Harkey. This is the first poll we've seen of the general election for this competitive open seat.
● FL-15: On behalf of Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls takes a second look at the Aug. 28 GOP primary for this open central Florida seat, and they give state Rep. Ross Spano a 32-20 lead over former state Rep. Neil Combee; mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker is a distant third with 4 percent of the vote. St. Pete Polls' late May survey gave Spano a smaller 29-23 edge against Combee.
● FL-16: The Herald-Tribune reports that a new nonprofit called Floridians for a Fair Shake has spent $604,000 on an ad hitting GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan over the Republican tax bill. The spot declares that "Buchanan made millions selling used cars," and that he's now "making millions selling the new tax law he helped write," which the narrator says will result in more Americans paying higher taxes.
● MN-08: Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich is up with his first TV spot ahead of the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. As Radinovich is shown cycling, hunting, and canoeing through the countryside, the candidate tells the audience through a voice-over that he's a "fourth generation Iron Ranger" from a blue collar family. Radinovich goes on to say he's worked as union organizer and legislator, as well as a top aide to retiring Rep. Rick Nolan, and he pledges to "take on the special interests that rig the system against us." Radinovich concludes by declaring his support for Medicare for all.
● OH-04: A total of seven former Ohio State University wrestlers have now accused Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of knowing about allegations that team doctor Richard Strauss had sexually assaulted players in the 1980s and '90s, when Jordan was an assistant coach, following an initial report from NBC last week in which three athletes spoke out on the issue. Jordan has simultaneously denied the charges while also trying to downplay them, saying, "Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse."
But when pressed by Fox News' Bret Baier as to whether his players had ever told him about anything "short of abuse that may be considered abuse now in this current time," Jordan also insisted he "did not, did not" ever hear anything of the sort. So no one ever reported any abuse to him, but locker room conversations are different from abuse allegations, but he never encountered any such locker room talk anyway.
That might seem like an impossible line to walk, but Jordan has concocted a conspiracy theory to dismiss his many accusers, saying, "I think the timing is suspect when you think about how this whole story came together after the Rosenstein hearing and the speaker's race." (Jordan is a possible candidate to succeed retiring Rep. Paul Ryan as the leader of the House GOP.)
Jordan can probably continue to play things this way for as long as he likes: Donald Trump immediately gave the congressman his full support, and members of the House Freedom Caucus, which Jordan co-founded, are also standing with him. Despite the scandal, Jordan is almost certain to win re-election this fall (his district voted for Trump by a 64-31 margin), and he doesn't face another primary for almost two years. And as Trump's example has shown, Republican voters might not care anyway.
● OH-12: With a little less than a month to go before the Aug. 7 special election, Democrat Danny O'Connor is out with a new spot where he pledges to work with Trump and congressional Republicans to improve central Ohio's roads and bridges. Meanwhile, Politico reports that the NRCC and Republican Troy Balderson are spending $108,000 on a joint buy for this week.
● TX-23: Republican Rep. Will Hurd's newest ad features him telling how his "bosses" are the constituents he represents. He asserts he has fought to increase anti-terrorism funding, to better prepare kids for good jobs, and to expand healthcare clinics.
● Deaths: Former Iowa Gov. Bob Ray, a Republican who served from 1969 to 1983, died Sunday at the age of 89.
Ray served as chair of the state GOP before running for governor, and he was widely credited for revitalizing a party that was in bad shape after the 1964 Democratic landslide and divided by ideological infighting. Ray began the 1968 primary as the least-known candidate, but he got more attention after he survived a plane crash and campaigned in crutches. Ray ended up winning the nomination and defeating Democratic state Treasurer Paul Franzenburg 54-46.
Ray is remembered for accepting refugees from Southeast Asia, including people fleeing the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The move was controversial at the time, and leaders of Ray's Disciples of Christ Church were skeptical. Ray spoke at the church's national convention and challenged the audience, "Don't tell me of your concerns for these people when you have a chance to save their lives. Show me." He also helped form a charity that raised $500,000 ($2.1 million in 2018 dollars) to assist refugee camps in Thailand. Collective bargaining for state employees also began during Ray’s tenure, and he also pushed to reorganize and streamline the courts.
While Ray only won re-election 51-47 in 1970, he decisively won his next three terms. The state Constitution was changed during his governorship to extend gubernatorial terms from two to four years, and Ray won the first four-year term in 1974. Ray would retire in 1982 and be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Terry Branstad, who would serve until 1999; together, Ray and Branstad would give Iowa Republicans 30 uninterrupted years in the governorship.