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: On behalf of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the local Atlanta ABC affiliate Channel 2 Action News, the University of Georgia is out with a poll of the July 24 GOP runoff for governor of Georgia that gives Secretary of State Brian Kemp a 44-41 lead over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
This is the third poll we've seen here since late June: GOP firm Cygnal, which says they're neutral in the runoff, gave Cagle a 44-43 edge, while Kemp released a Public Opinion Strategies survey showing a 45-45 tie. Cagle outpaced Kemp 39-26 in the first round of the primary in late May, and it's probably not a good sign for him that these polls don't find him taking much more support despite his huge spending edge.
If Cagle or his allies have better number, they're not releasing them. What Cagle is releasing, though, is a whole lot of self-pity and vitriol in Kemp's direction. Cagle has been on the defensive since Clay Tippins, who took fourth place in May, released a recorded conversation with Cagle last month where the lieutenant governor admitted to supporting a bad bill solely to stop a super PAC from backing another candidate. Kemp has used that audio in an ad against Cagle, and earlier this month, his campaign released audio of Cagle telling Tippins that primary voters were too extreme and driven by identity politics.
On Thursday, just after a heated debate, Cagle accused Kemp and Tippins of engaging in a "set up" to hurt him and using his words out of context, and he predicted there was more audio to come. And Cagle did not stop there:
"Who does this? Who is a person that is that evil in their heart, to come in and mislead someone in a way that leads them down a path, to get them to say certain things, that they can then shape a narrative around? It's just an evil act. A very evil act. It's a dirty trick, and it's wrong, and I can't believe the news would continue to print this kind of horrible act."
We've seen a lot of very nasty primaries, but this is the first one where we can remember one candidate characterizing an intra-party rival as "evil." The GOP's post-runoff unity breakfast should be super fun.
Despite all his problems, Cagle does have a lot more money to spend over the next few weeks. Cagle outraised Kemp $3.7 million to $1.6 million from April 1 to June 30, and he had a $1.3 million to $700,000 cash-on-hand edge. Cagle also has some well-funded outside groups on his side. Democrat Stacey Abrams meanwhile took in $2.75 million during this period, and she ended June with $1.6 million in the bank.
You can bookmark our chart to track the second-quarter fundraising reports in all of the competitive Senate races, and check back soon for our complete House roundup.
● FL-Sen: Bill Nelson (D-inc): $4.4 million raised, $13.7 million cash on hand:
● IN-Sen: Joe Donnelly (D-inc): $1.9 million raised, $6.4 million cash-on-hand
● MT-Sen: Jon Tester (D-inc): $3 million raised, $6.1 million cash-on-hand
● PA-Sen: Lou Barletta (R): $1.3 million raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
● FL-06: Nancy Soderberg (D): $540,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand
● FL-27: David Richardson (D): $409,000 raised
● MN-05: Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D): $200,000 raised (in one month)
● MN-07: Collin Peterson (D-inc): $233,000 raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
● MN-08: Pete Stauber (R): $300,000 raised
● MO-02: Cort VanOstran (D): $300,000 raised, $540,000 cash-on-hand
● MT-AL: Greg Gianforte (R-inc): $822,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand; Kathleen Williams (D): $581,000 raised, $462,000 cash-on-hand
● NH-01: Bruce Crochetiere (R): $77,000 raised (plus $250,000 in self-funding), $231,000 cash-on-hand
● NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $4.5 million cash-on-hand:
● PA-06: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $840,000 raised
● TX-02: Todd Litton (D): $300,000 raised, $400,000 cash-on-hand
● TX-36: Dayna Steele (D): $200,000 raised
● UT-04: Mia Love (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.23 million cash-on-hand; Ben McAdams (D): $658,000 raised, $1.25 million cash-on-hand
● WA-05: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
● DE-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Delaware's Sept. 6 primary, and the state has a list of candidates available here. The only state where major party candidates can still seek state or federal office this cycle is Louisiana, and their July 20 deadline is coming up quickly.
Democratic Sen. Tom Carper is the heavy favorite as he seeks a fourth term, and the GOP is not seriously challenging him. Carper's primary foe is Air Force veteran and activist Kerri Harris, who is seeking to become the first lesbian of color to serve in the Senate. In recent days, Harris has hit Carper for his 2006 vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as an appeals judge (Carper quickly expressed regret about this vote about Trump announced he'd nominated Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court). It would certainly be a massive upset if Carper, who has been a prominent figure in Delaware politics since he was elected as the state's only congressman in 1982, went down.
● FL-Sen: Alianza for Progress, a progressive group aimed at targeting Puerto Rican voters in Florida, has announced they will air Spanish-language TV ads that attack Republican Gov. Rick Scott. A translation of one of the ads hits Scott for claiming he's an ally of Puerto Ricans yet "refuses to acknowledge climate change destruction" that has helped make disasters like last year's devastating Hurricane Maria more frequent. The ad labels him an ally of Trump and accuses him of being in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry.
● IN-Sen: National Journal reports that Senate Majority PAC has laid down $1 million for a two-week TV ad buy to attack Republican Mike Braun. Their spot begins with a woman who facetiously says she's the queen of England, a man who claims he's a rock star, and a young kid with a basketball who contends he plays in the NBA. The narrator then argues, "Just because you say it doesn't make it true," before a clip plays of Braun claiming he doesn't know where the products he distributes get made, but the ad cites an Associated Press report that revealed Braun's company distributes auto parts made in China.
● MT-Sen: Republican firm Remington Research has given us a rare Montana Senate poll, and they have good news for Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who holds a 49-46 lead over Republican Matt Rosendale. Publicly available has been extremely limited here, and we still have yet to see a survey from a well-regarded independent pollster, so this result should be treated with caution.
Meanwhile, the GOP-aligned Senate Reform Fund has launched a $371,000 TV ad buy to oppose Tester. Their commercial accuses him of taking a "$25,000 excursion to Israel with his wife" paid for by "special interests," voting "to keep wasteful earmarks," and voting "against repealing the 'death tax' eight times."
However, Tester's campaign disputed those allegations by noting the Israel trip was paid for by an education nonprofit that had previously taken Montana's Republican Sen. Steve Daines on a similar trip. Furthermore, Tester contends that he took the votes he did on those bills concerning earmarks and the estate tax because he supported provisions for additional education funding and for preventing the estate tax from increasing on Montana farms and ranches.
● ND-Sen: Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer's latest TV ad features footage of Trump giving a speech endorsing him and bashing Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Trump argues that Heitkamp supposedly wants liberal judges to "rewrite the Constitution," that she allegedly favors "sanctuary cities," and that she opposed the GOP's tax cuts. Meanwhile, Senate Majority PAC has made another $177,000 buy to support Heitkamp, although there's no copy available yet.
● NJ-Sen: A group called Patients for Affordable Drugs Action has launched a $1.5 million TV ad buy to oppose Republican nominee Bob Hugin. Their ad showcases a cancer survivor who hammers Hugin for massively raising the prices on drugs like the ones that kept her alive, all so that Hugin could make $100 million when he was CEO of the pharmaceutical company Celgene.
● NV-Sen: Democrat Jacky Rosen is up with a minute-long spot calling GOP Sen. Dean Heller spineless "because he bends with the political winds." It features a long clip of Heller saying how he can't support Trump's plan to repeal Obamacare because it would take insurance from hundreds of thousands of Nevadans, before it shows Heller voting for repeal after being pressured to by Trump.
● TN-Sen: On behalf of the Democratic group Duty and Country PAC, PPP is out with a poll giving Democrat Phil Bredesen a 44-41 lead against Republican Marsha Blackburn. The results aren't much different from the 46-43 Bredesen lead PPP found in early May for the progressive group Health Care Voter.
● CT-Gov: The State Elections Enforcement Commission has delayed businessman Steve Obsitnik from receiving $1.35 million in public financing as they investigate allegations that he violated campaign finance rules, and they've already rejected his requests to get the money six different times. Obsitnik's latest request will be held on Wednesday, but with so little time remaining ahead of the Aug. 14 GOP primary, his campaign has announced he's doing some self-funding to air their first TV commercial for six figures. The ad features Obsitnik talking about creating jobs despite the objections of an actor playing "Hartford Career Politician."
Obsitnik only had $46,000 in the bank at the end of June, so unless and until the State Elections Enforcement Commission comes through for him, he's going to be depending almost entirely on his own generosity if he wants to stay on the air. Two other Republicans, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton (who has the state party endorsement) and Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, successfully qualified for public financing. This gives them each access to the $1.35 million grant that Obsitnik is also trying to get, but it also caps their primary spending at $1.6 million.
Two wealthy GOP businessmen, David Stemerman and Bob Stefanowski, are mostly self-funding their campaigns. Stemerman has provided his campaign with a giant $12.8 million so far, and he had just shy of $10 million in the bank at the end of June. Meanwhile, Stefanowski has given himself a considerably smaller $1.75 million through the end of June, and he had $646,000 left.
On the Democratic side, neither candidate is taking public financing. Businessman Ned Lamont, who self-funded $605,000 during the last quarter, had just $81,000 in the bank at the end of June, but he should have the wealth and connections to refill his war chest for the final month of the race. Lamont has the state party's endorsement and the support of the state's major Democratic power players, and his only primary foe is Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who had $316,000 on-hand. Last year, a judge ruled that, because he was previously convicted of felonies related to public corruption, Ganim could not receive public financing.
● FL-Gov: On Tuesday, Rep. Ron DeSantis received an endorsement from Freedom Partners, a major player in the Koch brothers' empire. Freedom Partners is very well funded, and if they go to the mat for DeSantis in the Aug. 28 GOP primary, it could help him offset Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's financial edge.
On the Democratic side, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is up with an ad pledging to combat the state's latest algae crisis. Levine tells the audience that "[a]lgae pollution is poisoning the water and threatening local jobs, while moms are losing sleep over their children's health." He then says the answer is to declare a state of emergency, "get help to businesses that need it the most, and bring in our best ecologists to end this nightmare."
● HI-Gov: The few polls we've seen of the Aug. 11 Democratic primary have all shown Gov. David Ige trailing Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, but the incumbent does have a financial edge heading into the final month. While Hanabusa outraised Ige $1.04 million to $734,000 during the first six months of 2018, Ige held a $688,000 to $300,000 cash-on-hand edge on June 30.
● KS-Gov: State Sen. Laura Kelly is out with her first ad ahead of the Aug. 7 Democratic primary. Kelly says that she lived all over the place growing up in a military family, but Kansas was where she wanted to raise her daughters. Kelly talks about her work on education and says that to her, former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's "massive education cuts weren't numbers on a spreadsheet. They were an attack on who we are as Kansans."
● MD-Gov: The Republican Governors Association has gone up with a TV ad attacking Democratic nominee Ben Jealous. There's no copy of the ad available yet, but the Baltimore Sun says it accuses Jealous of being a "big spender" who will raise taxes.
● MI-Gov: Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's Making Government Accountable "social welfare" nonprofit has launched a $1.3 million TV ad buy to support Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in the GOP primary, although federal law prohibits them from directly telling viewers to vote for or against a candidate. The minute-long ad features people telling stories of previous economic distress, but Snyder and Calley take credit for their policies supposedly being responsible for Michigan's economic recovery during Snyder's two terms in office.
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Bill Schuette has released a new GOP primary ad of his own. His commercial touts Trump's endorsement and argues he'll be tough on crime and so-called "sanctuary cities."
● MN-Gov: The Democratic group Alliance for a Better Minnesota is launching a six-figure TV ad buy to oppose Republican primary frontrunner Tim Pawlenty. Their spot features the story of a woman named Sheryl, whose son was born with a defective heart and required costly medical treatments. She calls out Pawlenty for cutting health care for children when he was governor, even as medical costs and the uninsured rate surged.
● TN-Gov: Campaign finance reports are out for all the candidates ahead of the Aug. 2 primaries. On the GOP side, businessman Randy Boyd narrowly outraised Rep. Diane Black $662,000 to $620,000 from April 1 to June 30, while businessman Bill Lee and state House Speaker Beth Harwell took in $438,000 and $213,000, respectively.
These hauls are just a tip of the iceberg, however, compared to what the candidates have been giving to themselves. Boyd poured in $8.2 million during this quarter, while Black self-funded $6.2 million. Harwell also loaned her campaign $3.1 million, while Lee did not self-fund anything this quarter.
However, Lee's $3.6 million war chest was larger than what his opponents had; Boyd led Harwell $3.2 million to $2.8 million for second, while Black was just behind with $2.6 million in the bank. Still, Boyd and Black apparently very capable of parting ways with millions, we'd be surprised if they don't embiggen their campaign accounts a few times over the next few weeks.
On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean outraised state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh by a lopsided $813,000 to $75,000. Dean also self-funded another $500,000 during this period, while Fitzhugh contributed $200,000 of his own money. At the end of June, Dean held a $1.4 million to $467,000 cash-on-hand lead.
● AZ-01: A new group called Defending Rural Arizona PAC has commissioned a poll of the Aug. 28 GOP primary from the local Republican firm Data Orbital, though it's not clear what their interest is in the contest to face freshman Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran. The survey gives Air Force veteran and perennial candidate Wendy Rogers a 22-15 lead over attorney and farmer Tiffany Shedd, while state Sen. Steve Smith takes 10. This is the first poll we've seen of this contest.
● AR-02, ME-02: Politico reports that the American Bankers Association is spending six figures on ads promoting two vulnerable Republicans, Arkansas' French Hill and Maine's Bruce Poliquin. We do not have copies of the spots yet.
● KS-02: Republicans have struggled to find a viable candidate in this conservative-leaning district, and Army veteran Steve Watkins' first campaign may leave the GOP searching elsewhere in the crowded field after recent revelations about his past. 2nd District Democratic Party vice chair Ty Dragoo and two other party officials said they met Watkins at their Topeka headquarters in 2017 about the possibility of running here as a Democrat, claiming he espoused several socially progressive positions. Yet Watkins contends he was set up to meet Dragoo by someone who didn't inform him Dragoo was a Democrat and not just a mere transportation lobbyist (Dragoo works for a transportation union).
However, things don't end there for Watkins. The Kansas City Star reported that last year's local elections in Topeka were the first time the registered Republican had ever voted in Kansas, which was the same week he launched his campaign for the House. He had previously said he couldn't remember if he had been registered to vote when he lived in Alaska and Massachusetts before that, and the Star found no evidence he had ever voted before 2017.
Watkins is the only candidate in the field who hasn't held public office, but self-funding from himself and his father’s allied PAC made him one of the more viable options. He has run as a staunchly conservative Republican, and the NRCC had added him to their "Young Guns" list of candidates to watch in the primary, along with state Sens. Caryn Tyson and Steve Fitzgerald. Consequently, Republican primary voters may not take too kindly to finding out one of their more prominent choices may have flimsy political convictions.
● MI-11: Businessman Suneel Gupta is up with his first TV spot ahead of the Aug. 7 Democratic primary. As he stands next to Donald Trump (well, a body in a suit with Trump's mug digitally pasted on), Gupta argues he's "so different from this guy." Gupta says his parents started with nothing and he ended up starting a business, working with Michelle Obama, and helping families get healthcare. By contrast, he says Trump is out to cut Medicare, and their views on women are "very different."
● OH-12: With a little more than two weeks to go before the Aug. 7 special election, the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is up with another spot hitting Democrat Danny O'Connor. Their commercial isn't much different from the one they ran last month where they argue O'Connor skipped meetings (as we wrote then, state law does allow a county recorder to send a representative to board meetings) and stacked his office with cronies. They also declare that O'Connor would "vote with Pelosi to raise taxes and give amnesty to millions of illegals."
O'Connor quickly went up with an ad where he declares the commercials against him are false and bankrolled by Washington special interests, something that Republican Troy Balderson knows. O'Connor wisely does not repeat the charges and instead declares he supports "tax relief for working people, not tax giveaways to giant corporations that could force huge cuts to Social Security and Medicare." O'Connor pledges not to let anyone "touch your Social Security and Medicare," and declares he'll "take on the drug giants to stop the price gouging."