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.
● NC-09: Dan McCready, a Marine Corps Iraq veteran and solar energy businessman, may be running in a decidedly red district, but he's emerged as one of the strongest Democratic contenders in the nation this cycle. He also received a boost when an extremely conservative pastor, Mark Harris, unseated Rep. Robert Pittenger in the May GOP primary.
McCready has a wide $1.8 million to $296,000 cash-on-hand edge over Harris, who didn't respond to recent poll from a conservative think tank that put McCready up 43-36. This suburban Charlotte seat voted for Trump by a difficult 54-43 margin, but McCready has very much put this one in play, so we're moving our rating from Lean Republican to Tossup.
Race Ratings Changes
● AZ-Gov: Likely Republican → Lean Republican
● IN-09: Safe Republican → Likely Republican
● NC-09: Lean Republican → Tossup
● NY-19: Lean Republican → Tossup
● SC-01: Safe Republican → Likely Republican
You can bookmark our chart to track the second-quarter fundraising reports in all of the competitive Senate races. Our House fundraising chart can be found here.
● AZ-Sen: Kelli Ward (R): $679,000 raised, $363,000 cash-on-hand
● MI-Sen: John James (R): $1.8 million raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
● TN-Sen: Phil Bredesen (D): $2.43 million raised, additional $2 million self-funded, $3.65 million cash-on-hand
● IN-Sen: Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly's new ad features a constituent identified as Jordan McLinn describing how her four-year-old son Jordan was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and she had no hope he would survive. She then says she learned there was a drug out there that could help Jordan, but the family couldn't get it. McLinn praises Donnelly for his support for "right to try," a recently enacted law that allows terminally ill patients to seek drug treatments that are still in the clinical trial stage.
Donnelly then appears and says it's his job to help people like Jordan. The spot then shows a clip of Trump signing the legislation and declaring, "Sen. Donnelly, thank you very much."
● MO-Sen: The Club for Growth is up with what Politico reports is a $2 million ad against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. The narrator argues that McCaskill and her husband got rich ever since she got elected, and hits the senator for spending "big bucks chartering a private plane with public funds, a plane [the couple] co-owned." The commercial goes on to declare that her husband has "made a boatload investing in a Cayman Islands hedge fund."
McCaskill's campaign quickly noted that her husband was already wealthy when they married four years before she was elected to the Senate, that she reimbursed the treasury when she used a private plane, and that her husband's hedge fund is based in Massachusetts.
● MS-Sen-B: GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is up with a spot declaring that she's kept the conservative values in the Senate that she had as a state senator and agriculture commissioner, including "supporting conservative judges appointed by President Trump."
● ND-Sen: The NRSC recently launched their first TV ad of the cycle, and we now know they put $330,000 behind it.
● WI-Sen: While businessman Kevin Nicholson's allies have spent many months and many millions of dollars running ads on his behalf ahead of the Aug. 14 GOP primary, the candidate himself is only going up with his first TV spot this week. Nicholson declares that he and his fellow Marines didn't serve in Iraq and Afghanistan "to let career politicians waste this moment," adding, "The fact that Congress won't build President Trump's wall, repeal Obamacare, and refuses to end illegal immigration is a disgrace to everything we've ever fought for."
● WV-Sen: The GOR firm Trafalgar Group is out with a poll giving Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin a 50-40 lead over Republican Patrick Morrisey. The poll did not include Don Blankenship, who is trying to get on the ballot as a conservative third-party candidate (but may not be able to). The result isn't much different than what Democratic and independent polls have shown since the GOP primary ended two months ago.
Manchin got some other good news when Politico reported that One Nation, a nonprofit close to the GOP leadership, had canceled $750,000 in planned TV and radio spending for the next week that was to attack the incumbent as weak on immigration. It seems extremely unlikely that Team Red could be backing away from this very red state this early in the cycle even with Manchin ahead in the polls, but we'll want to keep an eye out to see if other major outside groups redirect their resources.
● AZ-Gov: While Republican Gov. Doug Ducey might not have appeared especially vulnerable at the start of this election cycle, things seem different now. The limited polling we've seen has shown a close race, and while it's mostly come from Democrats, Republicans haven't answered with any data of their own. What they have done is book TV ad time for the fall to shore up Ducey, an unexpected move given how many other governorships they have to defend this year.
In general, Arizona's looking more competitive than it has in some time. The state's open Senate race is naturally drawing more attention, but the governor's race has the chance to surprise us further. Ducey, as the incumbent in what's still a red state, retains the advantage, but regardless of which Democrat emerges from the Aug. 28 primary to take him on, that advantage has narrowed. As such, we're moving our rating from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.
● GA-Gov: On behalf of the local Fox affiliate, Opinion Savvy is out with a poll of Tuesday's GOP primary runoff that gives Secretary of State Brian Kemp a huge 55-37 lead over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. The poll was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, so much of it would have been completed before Trump backed Kemp on Wednesday afternoon. Kemp is making the most out of Trump's unexpected endorsement, and he quickly put together a TV spot promoting it. Mike Pence has also announced that he'll hold a rally for Kemp on Saturday.
● KS-Gov: Former state Sen. and 2006 nominee Jim Barnett is out with a TV spot ahead of the Aug. 7 GOP primary that focuses on him and his running mate and wife, Rosie Hansen, pretty much equally. The commercial features two people from Barnett's old company praising him and Hansen for having a great business partnership, declaring they support "more money for schools" and expanding Medicaid. While the narrators don't say the team is married, the commercial does show Barnett and Hansen at what appears to be their wedding.
● MN-Gov, MN-08: MinnPost's Sam Brodey reported on Thursday that Rep. Rick Nolan, who is Attorney General Lori Swanson's running mate in Minnesota's Aug. 14 Democratic primary for governor, hired a former aide for his 2016 re-election campaign even though the aide had previously left Nolan's legislative staff after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. The staffer, legislative director Jim Swiderski, left both posts without any public acknowledgment at the time about the allegations against him.
Eight women who had worked for Nolan in Congress or on his campaign spoke to MinnPost for the story, including three with specific allegations against Swiderski and five others who offered corroborating details. One intern, identified in the story as Rachel, says that Swiderski groped her multiple times while a former staffer, identified as Amanda, says that he'd sent her "very creepy" messages and comments on her appearance. Amanda complained about Swiderski to Nolan's chief of staff, Jodie Torkelson, and says that Torkelson acknowledged Swiderski's behavior was inappropriate; another woman also told Brodey she'd gone to Torkelson about Swiderski.
Several sources recount to Brodey that in mid-2015 Nolan, Torkelson, and district director Jeff Anderson agreed that Swiderski needed to leave the office. However, Anderson announced that Swiderski was resigning to pursue a presidential appointment to the Peace Corps, and the office even held a send-off party for him.
The next year, Swiderski was back in Minnesota, working remotely on behalf of Nolan's re-election campaign in the 8th District as an independent contractor; an unnamed source told MinnPost that the congressman was the one who suggested hiring Swiderski for a remote position. However, while Swiderski worked from his hometown, he'd frequently show up at campaign events, and word quickly spread that he was once again working for Nolan.
After the campaign's finance director complained, campaign manager Joe Radinovich, who is now running to succeed Nolan in the House, successfully urged Nolan to fire Swiderski. Radinovich's email to staffers, however, didn't mention the complaints and only explained that the campaign would take on Swiderski's tasks in-house. He added, "I suspect we'll continue to see Jim volunteer and be involved in the campaign in other ways."
Without referring to Swiderski by name, Nolan himself gave a statement to MinnPost acknowledging he had retained a "separated employee" as a "vendor" and emphasized that Swiderski had worked outside of the campaign office. Nolan added, "In hindsight, the vendor should not have been retained by the campaign committee."
Several of the women interviewed for MinnPost's story said the congressman was far from supportive during the entire episode. Rachel recounted that Nolan never acknowledged how Swiderski had treated her but did point out Swiderski's house when they drove past it, remarking, "There's your boyfriend's house." Other aides complained that Nolan and his senior staffers didn't seem to understand how serious Swiderski's behavior was, saying Nolan himself would tell "off-color jokes and stories," including one from his days in the legislature in the early 1970s when, supposedly, blindfolded lawmakers would play a "game" of groping secretaries.
As of Thursday afternoon, Swanson hadn't addressed the story.
● OH-Gov: The RGA has launched their first TV spot against Democrat Richard Cordray.
The narrator declares that after both Cordray and former Gov. Ted Strickland were "thrown out of office" (they both narrowly lost re-election in the 2010 GOP wave), Cordray "left to become a top Washington bureaucrat." The commercial accuses Cordray, who was serving as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of having "secretly collected hundreds of millions of credit card accounts and mortgages," adding he "failed to protect our information; it was hacked over 200 times." Strickland isn't mentioned again, but Team Red evidently thinks that he's still unpopular enough from his 2016 Senate bid and time as governor that Cordray could be damaged with the slightest association with him.
The Columbus Dispatch did a fact-check on the RGA's spot and pointed out that, while the GOP wants to make Cordray sound like some Big Brother data collecting guy, the Bureau had every right to gather this information as part of its mission to guard against financial crime. The assertion that it was "hacked over 200 times" comes from Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief who became acting director after Cordray left to run for governor and very much does not have the Bureau's best interest at heart.
Mulvaney said there were 200 "lapses" under Cordray, but he never revealed the extent of the breaches. And in May, Mulvaney even announced that an independent review of the Bureau's cyber security had "concluded that 'externally facing bureau systems appear to be well-secured.'"
● TN-Gov: While Rep. Diane Black and businessman Randy Boyd have mostly attacked one another ahead of the Aug. 2 GOP primary, they're each out with a new spot taking aim at businessman Bill Lee. Two recent polls showed Lee in third place while Black and Boyd were ahead, so this could be sign they're both worried he's surging in the final weeks of the contest.
Black's commercial sarcastically asks if Lee would be voting in the Democratic primary because he'd "see some familiar faces on the ballot." The narrator says that Lee gave money to both former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is the Democratic frontrunner, and former Gov. and Senate candidate Phil Bredesen. He then declares, "Too bad disgraced [former Nashville] Mayor Megan Barry isn't on the ballot—Bill Lee supported her too and she pushed sanctuary city policies, gun control and abortion."
According to The Tennessean, Lee donated a total of $1,750 to the three of them since 2005, with his Barry contribution coming in 2015. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands he's given Republican candidates, but of course Black doesn't care about that.
Neither does Boyd, whose spot accuses Lee of having "donated to disgraced liberal Democrat Mayor Megan Berry, who supported sanctuary cities." It also says Lee served as "state president of a group that lobbied for amnesty for illegals," and argues that Lee "didn't support Donald Trump in 2016," which is also a charge Black recently leveled against Boyd.
Boyd isn't letting up on his attacks on Black, though. He's out with a new spot declaring that in Washington, Black's "net worth increased by more than $40 million," and argues that while "enriching herself, D.C. Diane worked to raise our taxes by $160 million, while cutting her taxes by millions." While we initially wondered if that last bit was actually Boyd attacking Black over the GOP's tax bill, his campaign says he was really going after her for a 2002 vote in the state legislature to raise a tax on cigarettes.
● WI-Gov: With weeks to go before the Aug. 7 Democratic primary, both former state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys and attorney Matt Flynn are up with the first TV spots of the campaign.
Roys' ad, which the campaign says is a six-figure buy, features footage of Trump nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as she declares, "Just when you don't think it can get any worse, it does." Roys explains that abortion is still a crime in Wisconsin, and she doesn't believe she's still fighting the same fights as her grandmother. She goes on to say she tells her girls they can't look backwards, and she pledges "to lead Wisconsin forward from day one."
Flynn's first spot features him declaring he's the one veteran in the huge Democratic field and "the only one taking a stand to stop the Foxconn deal." Flynn goes on to take aim at GOP Gov. Scott Walker's much-criticized multi-billion tax incentive package to lure the electronics company to the Milwaukee area, saying it's happening "all while Trump and Walker put Harley-Davidson jobs at risk." Flynn pledges to use his first day as governor to go to court to stop the deal and put the funds in schools, health care, and roads.
● AZ-02: Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is up with a new spot ahead of the Aug. 28 Democratic primary staring Ron Barber, who represented this area from 2012 until his defeat in 2014, and his wife, Nancy Barber. The Barbers describe the 2011 shooting where then-Rep. Gabby Giffords was badly wounded in an assassination attempt at a constituent event and Barber was also injured. They say they're working hard to prevent these tragedies from happening, and praise Kirkpatrick for being "committed to banning assault weapons and passing universal background checks."
Former state Rep. Matt Heinz is also out with a spot focused on guns, but this one goes negative. The narrator charges that Kirkpatrick "bragged she'd fight gun-safety advocates every inch of the way." It then shows 2010 footage from Kirkpatrick's unsuccessful re-election campaign to a northern Arizona seat where she says, "and that's why I have an A-rating with the NRA."
● CA-49: Republican Diane Harkey has released a poll from Public Opinion Strategies giving her a 46-43 lead over Democrat Mike Levin. Harkey's move comes a little more than a week after Levin dropped a survey from The Feldman Group that showed him up 49-46.
While both sides seem to agree this contest is close right now, the money chase has been very lopsided. Levin outraised Harkey $1 million to $318,000 during the last quarter, though she threw in another $72,000 of her own money. At the end of June, Levin held a wide $850,000 to $170,000 cash-on-hand edge.
● FL-06: St. Pete Polls takes a look at the Aug. 28 GOP primary to replace Rep. Ron DeSantis and finds a very tight contest. Former state Rep. Fred Costello and businessman and Navy veteran John Ward each take 21 percent, while businessman and former Dick Cheney advisor Michael Waltz is just behind with 20. However, the money race is a lot more lopsided. Waltaz ended June with a $617,000 to $467,000 cash-on-hand edge over Ward, while Costello was left in the dust with just $51,000 to spend.
While this Volusia County-based seat went from 52-47 Romney to 57-40, national Democrats are excited about former deputy National Security Advisor Nancy Soderberg. Soderberg continues to be a strong fundraiser, and she ended June with a $982,000 war chest. Two other Democrats also had a credible amount of cash: radiologist Stephen Sevigny, who has self-funded much of his campaign, had $366,000 in the bank, while travel agency owner John Upchurch had $172,000 on-hand.
● FL-07: State Rep. Mike Miller is up with his first TV spot ahead of the Aug. 28 GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. The commercial features clips of Sen. Marco Rubio (who has endorsed Miller) and Gov. Rick Scott (who has not) praising him on taxes, education, and what Rubio calls "individual liberty."
● FL-15: Former state Rep. Neil Combee is up with his first TV spot ahead of the Aug. 28 GOP primary, which features the candidate stressing fiscal responsibility. The narrator then tells the audience that Combee, who briefly served in Trump's Department of Agriculture before leaving to run for Congress, is the "only candidate trusted and appointed by President Trump."
● FL-27: The National Education Association has endorsed state Rep. David Richardson in next month's Democratic primary.
● GA-07: Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux is up with a spot ahead Tuesday's Democratic primary runoff to take on GOP Rep. Rob Woodall. Bourdeaux tells the audience that she watched the GOP destroy the Affordable Care Act while her aging parents "were struggling with the rising cost of healthcare," and Trump was "the last straw" for her. Bourdeaux then says she's running for her 6-year-old son and children like him.
Bourdeaux is taking on wealthy businessman David Kim on Tuesday in this suburban Atlanta seat. Bourdeaux narrowly outpaced Kim 27-26 in the first round in May, and Kim outspent her $460,000 to $351,000 from May 3 to July 4 (which the FEC defines as the pre-runoff period.) Whomever wins next week will be in for a tough race against Woodall in a seat that moved from 60-38 Romney to a smaller 51-45 Trump.
● IL-12: Democrat Brendan Kelly is up with his first general election ad, which features him in a church bemoaning how "We're deeply, deeply divided, and folks in southern Illinois are losing faith." He continues by saying he came back home after serving in the Navy, and that as a prosecutor he's taking on corrupt politicians from both parties and "the drug companies who started the opioid epidemic." Kelly concludes by calling for new leaders in both parties and declares, "It's time to restore our faith and save southern Illinois."
● IN-09: Freshman GOP Rep. Trey Hollingsworth brazenly carpetbagged into southern Indiana from Tennessee three years ago and won an open-seat GOP primary thanks to heavy super-PAC spending from his wealthy father. He wound up running well behind the top of the ticket in the general election, but his district's deep red lean was enough to ensure his victory.
There's a chance he may not be quite so fortunate this year. Democrat Liz Watson outraised him almost 2-to-1 last quarter, and 2018 is shaping up to be a much stronger year for Democrats than 2016. Hollingsworth can always fall back on his family wealth, and this district remains very conservative, but he's the kind of weak incumbent who could be vulnerable in a wave. It's very much a longshot for Watson, but we're putting this race on the big board, shifting it from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.
● MN-02: CNN has unearthed a set of previously unnoticed broadcasts from Republican Rep. Jason Lewis' career as right-wing radio host, during which he unloaded a litany of misogynistic commentary. In his most disparaging remarks, he bemoaned the fact that he could no longer call women "sluts"; opined that women were "guided by more emotion not reason"; and even wondered whether women who consider the issue of birth control coverage when they vote are "human being[s]."
In response to CNN's reporting, Lewis stood by his comments. A spokesperson refused to offer an apology, saying only, "This has all been litigated before, and as Congressman Lewis has said time and time again, it was his job to be provocative while on the radio." And indeed, Lewis' history of hate-filled rhetoric was well documented during his initial 2016 election.
However, Democratic attacks failed to stop Lewis from narrowly winning his first term in office alongside fellow woman-hater Donald Trump, who also carried Lewis' district by a similarly slim margin. Back then, Lewis refused to release his full radio show archive, claiming his comments would be taken "out of context," but his views couldn't be clearer.
This year, Lewis faces a rematch against the woman he barely beat two years ago, Angie Craig. In the #MeToo era, when Democratic women have been especially fired up thanks in part to a backlash to Trump, renewed attention to Lewis' misogyny could very well help boot him from Congress.
● NY-19: After attorney Antonio Delgado won last month's crowded and expensive Democratic primary to take on freshman GOP Rep. John Faso, Republicans immediately seemed worried about him, launching a scurrilous, racist attack over a rap album filled with social critiques that Delgado released a decade ago. But while Republicans had plenty to say about Delgado's lyrics, they fell silent when the DCCC released a post-primary poll showing Delgado up 49-42. This will be an expensive race (this Hudson Valley district straddles the pricey New York City media market), and Faso is well-financed, but Delgado is a strong fundraiser and charismatic speaker as well. This is going to be a top-tier race, which is why we're moving it from Lean Republican to Tossup.
● OH-12: Republican Troy Balderson's latest ad tries to tie Democrat Danny O'Connor to Nancy Pelosi and "dangerous" Washington liberals who supposedly want middle class tax hikes and "socialized medicine." The narrator claims he abused his office as Franklin County recorder, alleging O'Connor used taxpayer money on "a life coach, gifts for friends, and a radical left-wing group," the last of which Balderson doesn't even bother to name.
However, as the Columbus Dispatch noted, those charges are simply bogus. The "life coach" referenced was an attorney who provided leadership consulting for businesses and entrepreneurs, not anything resembling the motivational fitness instructor portrayed on-screen. Furthermore, O'Connor's campaign said the "gifts" referred to "printing ribbon for the free veterans ID cards" his office issued and the "radical" group was actually just a gender-equality group called the Women's Fund of Central Ohio. And of course, O'Connor has explicitly vowed not to support Pelosi for speaker if elected.
Balderson isn't the only one trying to link O’Connor to prominent progressive Democrats, and the Congressional Leadership Fund has dropped $253,000 on one such spot of their own. Their ad claims the "liberal resistance" wants to elect O'Connor as images of Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren are shown, alleging that Democrats supposedly want "open borders."
Meanwhile, O'Connor's latest ad decries how big corporate donors have come to dominate campaign spending, trying to "buy elections." He calls out Balderson for taking in $400,000 from PACs like those funded by the pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil industries, and O'Connor touts how he "hasn't taken a dime of corporate PAC money."
Lastly, the DCCC is making its first ad buy in the race, which the New York Times' Alex Burns reports is for roughly $250,000. Their spot hits Balderson for supporting a $2 trillion corporate tax break and backing cuts to Social Security and Medicare by raising the retirement age.
● SC-01: State Rep. Katie Arrington's defeat of Rep. Mark Sanford in last month's Republican primary left her with almost no war chest—and cracked the door just a bit for Democrat Joe Cunningham, who has raised some decent money. Arrington's position on oil drilling off the coast of South Carolina could also cause her problems in a coastal district that relies heavily on tourism and fishing. While Arrington said she supported offshore drilling during the primary, she's now unconvincingly arguing she's always been against it. Cunningham has attacked her over the issue, and Sanford hasn't made things better for his old foe by calling her new stance "a complete lie."
The last time this seat was open, Sanford won it 54-45 in a 2013 special election despite his past affair scandal, so it's still very tough turf for Team Blue, but Arrington's weaknesses make it worth keeping an eye on. As such, we're changing our rating from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.
● TN-02: The group Defending Main Street, which was set up in 2013 to stop anti-establishment candidates from winning GOP primaries, is putting $97,000 behind a buy in support of Tennessee Air National Guard Lt. Col. Ashley Nickloes ahead of the Aug. 2 contest. Their ad extols Nickloes' military service, including her eight deployments since 9/11.
● House: The DCCC added three more candidates to their Red to Blue List on Thursday: David Shapiro, who is challenging Rep. Vern Buchanan in Florida's 16th Congressional District; Liz Watson, who is facing Rep. Trey Hollingsworth in Indiana's 9th; and Ron DiNicola, who is taking on Rep. Mike Kelly in Pennsylvania's 16th. All three Democrats are competing for seats that Trump carried by double digits, but they're all bringing in a credible amount of money.
● Statehouse Action: This Week in Statehouse Action: Dumas Are Forever edition has the latest on the impact of the #MeToo movement on some state lawmakers’ reelections, good fundraising news for down-ballot Dems, college student voter suppression in New Hampshire, and more!
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