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.
● TN-Gov: We have two new polls of the Aug. 2 GOP primary for governor of Tennessee, and they both find the race very much up for grabs.
The Arizona-based GOP firm Data Orbital gives Rep. Diane Black a slim 24-23 lead over former state cabinet official Randy Boyd, while former Higher Education Commission member Bill Lee is just behind with 19 percent; state House Speaker Beth Harwell brings up the rear with 10. The GOP firm Triton Polling & Research, which is polling on behalf of the Tennessee Star, finds Boyd leading Black 33-27, while Lee and Harwell take 20 and 7 percent, respectively.
Black released two polls in May that showed her ahead of Boyd by double digits. However, her first negative TV spot notably went after Boyd while spending considerably less time attacking Lee and completely ignoring Harwell, so she's certainly acting like Boyd is her main threat.
Boyd himself is pushing back on her attempts to portray him as a Trump-skeptical moderate with a commercial arguing that Black is the one who fails the Trump test. The spot features video from the 2016 campaign of Katie Couric asking four House members, including Black, what they thought of Trump's plan to make Mexico pay for his wall, which the congresswoman laughs off before declaring, "First of all you can't build a wall. That won't work." The rest of the ad argues that Black has repeatedly voted against border security and hits her for a vote from her time in the state legislature that would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses.
Boyd has also rolled out another ad starring former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee vouching for the candidate's pro-Trump credentials and declaring that Boyd is being falsely attacked by "[p]rofessional politicians and special interests." Another spot stars his cousin, Fred Boyd, touting his old family gun store before declaring that the candidate "is going to be the best governor this state has ever had defending the 2nd Amendment." The ad ends with the two cousins firing at a target as Fred Boyd implores the audience not to "miss the mark on this one."
Black herself is up with another commercial arguing that Boyd's company hired a lobbyist who would "make hunting illegal." She is also out with a spot that features Eddie Farris, the sheriff of Putnam County in Middle Tennessee, defending her on immigration. Farris argues that before 9/11, sheriffs and state troopers "asked Tennessee to regulate all drivers, citizens and non-citizens." He goes on to say that, after they realized the law needed to be changed, Black led the way to fix it. He concludes that Black "voted for the wall, and she backs the blue."
Race Ratings Changes
We’re making the following changes to our race ratings. A summary is below, and explanations for these changes can be found in the body of the Digest. For all of our ratings, click here.
● CO-Gov: Tossup → Lean Democratic
It's that time again! The deadline for House and Senate candidates to file their quarterly fundraising reports (covering the period from April 1 to June 30) is July 15, but it's common for campaigns to leak their numbers early to generate some press. (Deadlines vary by state for gubernatorial contenders and often aren't quarterly.) We'll be posting numbers as we get them; as always, we'll be releasing our House fundraising chart after the July 15 deadline.
And as we always urge campaigns every quarter, if you want to get attention for your most recent fundraising haul, issue a release now. Don't wait until the reporting deadline, when everyone's numbers come out at once.
● CA-04: Jessica Morse (D): $520,000 raised
● CA-39: Gil Cisneros (D) $479,000 raised; $715,000 cash-on-hand
● FL-16: Vern Buchanan (R-inc): $640,000 raised, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
● IL-06: Sean Casten (D): $790,000 raised
● OH-01: Aftab Pureval (D): $885,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand
● TX-07: Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D): $1 million raised, $800,000 cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: DefendArizona, a super PAC that's aligned with the Republican Party establishment, has reserved $5 million in TV ad time for the general election in Arizona on the hope that Rep. Martha McSally, the national GOP's favorite, wins the Aug. 28 primary.
● FL-Sen: The group New Republican PAC (guess what party they support) has thrown down another $771,000 against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, which takes their total investment in this race to $5.3 million so far.
● MI-Sen: Wealthy venture capitalist Sandy Pensler has released a Strategic National poll that gives him a 33-18 edge in the GOP primary against businessman John James. Pensler has led every poll here for months, though this internal survey was released about a day after an independent poll from Target-Insyght found him with a much narrower 32-29 advantage in the August primary.
● ND-Sen: Senate Majority PAC has put $93,000 behind their latest ad against Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer. They bemoan what they call his false attacks against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, while accusing him of lying about his own record. SMP also blasts Cramer for increasing the deficit by $1.9 trillion dollars and proposing to cut Medicare and Social Security to pay for it.
● TN-Sen: Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's latest ad focuses on Supreme Court justices, where he decries how partisan the confirmation battles have become and says he'll vote on a nominee based solely on whether they're highly qualified and ethical.
● WV-Sen: Senate Majority PAC has laid down another $466,000 to bash Republican Patrick Morrisey in West Virginia. Their latest TV ad uses a CBS news clip where Morrisey admits he lobbied for pharmaceutical companies. They follow up by accusing him of getting rich lobbying for opioid distributors and then going so easy on them when he became state attorney general that the Charleston Gazette-Mail called his handling of the opioid crisis "woefully negligent."
● Senate: The Senate Leadership Fund, which is the main super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment, has made another round of TV ad reservations on behalf of three red-state Republicans:
IN-Sen: Mike Braun: $7.1 million
TN-Sen: Marsha Blackburn: $4.2 million
WV-Sen: Patrick Morrisey: $5 million
Indiana and West Virginia feature two vulnerable Democratic incumbents, Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin, respectively. However, Tennessee's inclusion raises an eyebrow, since it's a Republican-held open seat in a state that backed Trump by a wide 61-35 margin. Nevertheless, reservations can be canceled if conditions change, and SLF will almost certainly expand the amounts it is spending as Election Day grows nearer.
● AK-Gov: On Monday, wealthy businessman Scott Hawkins announced that he was dropping out of the Aug. 21 GOP primary. Hawkins said he'd been planning for a one-on-one contest against former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, but former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell's last-minute entry "significantly complicated this contrast."
The only poll we've seen of this primary was an early June survey for Dunleavy's allied Dunleavy for Alaska PAC that showed him far ahead with 46 percent of the vote, while Treadwell and Hawkins took 19 and 7 percent, respectively. Hawkins said a poll he'd conducted a month ago but didn’t release also found both him and Treadwell trailing Dunleavy by quite a bit.
● AZ-Gov: The GOP firm Data Orbital takes a look at the Aug. 28 Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, and they give Arizona State University professor David Garcia a 33-11 lead over state Sen. Steve Farley; activist Kelly Fryer takes third with 6 percent. The only other poll we've seen in months was a May Garcia internal that gave him the lead with 32 percent, while Farley and Fryer each took 11.
● CO-Gov: Following last week's primary, which set up a November matchup in Colorado's open gubernatorial race between Democratic Rep. Jared Polis and Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the Colorado Democratic Party quickly released a new poll from PPP showing Polis up 47-40 and Donald Trump under water with a 44-52 job approval rating. Notably, neither Stapleton nor his allies have responded with contradictory data in the week since the poll came out, and a poll last month that also had Polis ahead likewise went unanswered.
While we always caution against reading too much into a single survey or even a pair of them, a number of other factors bode poorly for Stapleton. Though both parties hosted competitive primaries, far more votes were cast on the Democratic side than in the Republican contest: 629,000 to 498,000, a 56-44 differential on a percentage basis. In addition, independent voters were allowed to participate in party primaries for the first time, and more of them cast ballots for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.
Colorado is also the second most highly educated state in the nation (40 percent of residents hold a bachelor's degree or higher) and 12th-most affluent, and it's home to a large and growing Latino population (21 percent, the seventh-largest overall). These are demographics that have proven sharply hostile to Trump's GOP.
The main dynamic in Stapleton's favor is likely the fact that Democrats have held the governorship for 12 straight years. But if Coloradans have tired of the Democratic Party occupying the governor's mansion, they have yet to show it. Polis, a wealthy self-funder who's worth as much as $400 million, will have all the resources he needs from now until Election Day, and it looks like he has the edge. We're therefore changing our rating on this race from Tossup to Lean Democratic.
● CT-Gov: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who has the state GOP endorsement, is up with his first major TV buy ahead of the Aug. 14 primary, which the campaign says its running "in excess of six-figures". Boughton begins by discussing a recent health scare, with him telling the audience, "A neurologist discovered a large mass inside my brain," and that he "was told there was a chance I would never walk or talk again."
As footage of a surgeon at work plays, Boughton says he "went to the best surgeon in the world and with god's grace and his steady hands, the operation was a complete success." He concludes by saying that he wants "to give my time and voice to give Connecticut its own comeback story and to change our future and to turn our state around."
Boughton had the aforementioned surgery last year, but a few months ago, he collapsed due to what he said was "severe" dehydration and his failure to take anti-seizure medication. Boughton says that "[o]ther candidates have mentioned" his health, and that this commercial is his attempt to tackle the issue head on rather than shy away from it.
Boughton didn't name which of the “other candidates” he was talking about, but the Connecticut Post notes that Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst has repeatedly boosted about his own "physical stamina," and bragged that he does CrossFit workouts. Herbst underwent a successful operation last year to remove a cancerous thyroid, but he's declared that he's in excellent health and argues he's the best-positioned candidate in the five-way GOP primary to survive a "grueling campaign."
On the Democratic side, Rep. John Larson has endorsed businessman Ned Lamont.
● GA-Gov: Secretary of State Brian Kemp is out with a poll of the July 24 GOP primary runoff from Public Opinion Strategies that shows him tied 45-45 with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. The results are almost identical to the 44-43 Cagle edge that the GOP firm Cygnal, which says they're neutral in the contest, also found in late June.
● IL-Gov: The Economic Freedom Alliance, which was headed by wealthy businessman Ron Gidwitz until he was nominated to become ambassador to Belgium in May, has dropped $500,000 on TV ads for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, but there's no copy available yet. Meanwhile, the state Board of Elections has certified that state Sen. Sam McCann, who was elected as a Republican, will be on the ballot as the "Conservative Party" nominee. McCann’s Tory campaign undoubtedly won't do Rauner any favors in his uphill race against Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
● MI-Gov: Last week, GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette's allied super PAC Better Jobs Stronger Families PAC released a poll from NMB Research that showed him narrowly trailing Democratic frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer 40-39 and tied with businessman Shri Thanedar 40-40. The memo says that both matchups include another 20 percent or respondents "leaning or undecided," but they don't reveal which way the leaners are well, leaning.
The only other recent poll we've seen here was a Target-Insyght poll for the local tipsheet MIRS News that found Schuette trailing Whitmer and Thanedar 42-37 and 40-37, respectively. (Neither poll has results testing Schuette against the third Democratic candidate, former Detroit Health Commissioner Abdul El-Sayed.)
P.S. The NMB poll also included a look at the Aug. 7 GOP primary. However, the PAC has not responded to our inquiries about the poll's sample size, which is information we need to include a poll in the Digest.
Meanwhile, Thanedar's latest Democratic primary ad takes on Donald Trump, with Thanedar highlighting his immigrant background as a success story contrary to Trump's claims that immigrants are part of "an infestation." He says he'll fight for early childhood education, criminal justice reform, and keeping "Trump's racism" out of Michigan.
● WY-Gov: Gazillionaire megadonor Foster Friess' latest ad for the Aug. 21 GOP primary is a minute-long spot where he advocates for greater transparency regarding the state budget and how Wyoming makes its spending decisions. He claims he "can't be bought" by special interests and won't take a salary if elected.
● CO-03: A group called Colorado United for Families has launched an issue ad against GOP Rep. Scott Tipton, which they're saying is part of a six-figure buy in the Grand Junction and Colorado Springs media markets. The ad accuses Tipton of hiking insurance premiums by nearly $2,000 "by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act." The narrator also hits Tipton's vote for the "Age Tax," which he says lets insurance companies charge people 50 and older five times as much.
● CT-05: Former Senate staffer Shannon Kula launched a late campaign to get on the Democratic primary ballot, but state election officials have ruled that she didn't turn in enough valid signatures. Kula soon put out a statement acknowledging that she would not make the ballot and ending her campaign. The Aug. 14 Democratic primary for this seat is now a duel between former Simsbury first selectman Mary Glassman and 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes.
● FL-18: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed former state Department official Lauren Baer in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Brian Mast.
● FL-27: In a head scratcher, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro has responded to a GOP primary poll from former Spanish-language TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar that showed him trailing by double digits by releasing his own poll that … also shows him trailing by double digits. The Magellan Strategies survey poll for Barreiro gives Salazar a 24-10 lead, while the late June McLaughlin & Associates poll for Salazar found her ahead 38-16.
● HI-01: The Hawaii Government Employees Association, which the Honolulu Star-Advertiser says is the largest union in the state, has endorsed state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim in the crowded Aug. 11 Democratic primary.
● IL-12: Politico reports that the DCCC has launched a $256,000 TV ad campaign against GOP Rep. Mike Bost. We do not have a copy of the spot yet.
● KS-02: A new group called Kansans Can Do Anything PAC is spending $64,000 on an ad campaign for Army veteran Steve Watkins ahead of the Aug. 7 GOP primary. While the super PAC's name is reminiscent of then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's infamous 2009 "Americans can do anything" speech, it's actually funded entirely by a doctor named Steven Watkins, who just happens to be the candidate's father. Their spot is not available yet.
● MI-13: Hedge fund partner John Conyers III has given up trying to get on the Aug. 7 Democratic primary ballot to succeed his father, former Rep. John Conyers, and has announced he'll instead run in November as an independent. This Detroit-based seat backed Clinton 79-18, so Conyers III's campaign probably isn't going to leave many Democrats sweating about the general election. Conyers III has until July 19 to submit 3,000 valid signatures, which is three times the number he needed to qualify for the Democratic primary.
● NY-23: Cyber security expert Tracy Mitrano emerged as the Democratic nominee to take on GOP Rep. Tom Reed on Tuesday after veteran Max Della Pia conceded defeat a week after their tight June 26 primary. This district, which includes liberal Ithaca and conservative neighboring areas, has been a big source of frustration for Democrats over the last few cycles. Reed pulled off a surprisingly close 52-48 win in 2012 as Romney was carrying his upstate seat 50-48, but he did considerably better against touted Democratic foes during the 2014 Republican wave and in 2016, when Trump won the seat 55-40.
Neither national party has shown much interest this time and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Republican. However, after what happened in 2012, this seat is at least worth keeping an eye on.
● OH-01: A group called Ohioans for Economic Opportunity has launched what they say is a $252,000 TV spot against GOP Rep. Steve Chabot. The narrator begins by accusing Chabot of not showing up for a real town hall and proceeds to feature several people asking their questions to an empty podium. They proceed to ask why Chabot voted to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy even though they'll go up for most other people.
On the other side, the American Chemistry Council is out with an issue ad that praises Chabot for pushing "middle class tax cuts," and says the former teacher is pushing for bipartisan solutions to end school violence; there is no word on the size of the buy.
● OH-04: Just before the Independence Day holiday, NBC News reported that Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who was an assistant wrestling coach at the Ohio State University from 1986 to 1994, had been accused of willfully ignoring widespread sexual abuse allegedly committed by Dr. Richard Strauss, the team's doctor from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s. Several former wrestlers came forward with their allegations this spring, and the university launched an investigation in April into their claims that coaches and other OSU employees knew of Strauss' predatory behavior, something Jordan unequivocally denies.
Three former wrestlers discussed their claims of abuse with NBC, and two of them, Mike DiSabato and Dunyasha Yetts, went public with their identities. Both said it was widely known that Strauss was a predator who frequently groped athletes during examinations and would take long showers with students during which he would masturbate in front of them.
None of the former wrestlers has accused Jordan of sexual abuse, and they've spoken highly of him as a coach and mentor, but DiSabato and Yetts called Jordan a "liar" for pleading ignorance about the accusations against Struass. Yetts says he personally told Jordan about an incident where Strauss tried to pull down his pants when he went to see him for a thumb injury.
DiSabato estimates that Strauss, who also served as a physician for other sports teams, abused 1,500 to 2,000 athletes over two decades. The university itself confirms "reports of sexual misconduct" from former athletes in 14 different sports, as well as from former patients at the school's Student Health Services department, where Strauss also worked. DiSaboto says that the recent conviction of Michigan State University sports physician Larry Nassar inspired him and other athletes to speak out about Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005.
After NBC's story broke, a spokesperson for Jordan denied the congressman knew of the abuse and claimed he hadn't been contacted by investigators but would cooperate with them. However, the law firm appointed as legal counsel to OSU told NBC it had previously tried to reach Jordan by email and phone for an interview yet received no response.
While several members of the House have resigned over the last year in response to claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, none have been as powerful as Jordan, a founding member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and one of the leading conservative extremists in Congress. Jordan hasn't yet faced widespread calls to resign, but that may change as more details emerge.
● OH-12: Democrat Danny O'Connor's newest ad showcases a woman who talks about how she had previously voted for GOP Gov. John Kasich and Trump, but now she says she's backing O'Connor because he's "energetic, young, [and] kind of brings a new perspective." She says Kasich and O'Connor "don't worry about the [party] labels" and instead care about working with both parties to get things done.
● PA-01: Democrat Scott Wallace has debuted a TV ad that hits back against Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick's attacks while adroitly not repeating them outright. As a cutout image of Fitzpatrick's head drops into the pocket of Trump's suit, Wallace accuses him of being "in the pocket of Donald Trump, big oil, big insurance, and the NRA." Wallace decries what he calls false attacks against him and says the truth is that he "grew up in Bucks County," "is a strong supporter of Israel," and built a foundation that has led the fight against climate change and for clean energy jobs.
● TN-08: Wealthy perennial candidate George Flinn is up with a new spot in his Aug. 2 GOP primary with freshman Rep. David Kustoff. The commercial features an elderly woman accusing Kustoff of voting "with Nancy Pelosi to fund Planned Parenthood." She continues by deploying some air quotes and insisting that "like John Kerry" Kustoff "was for it before he was against it." You have to give Flinn some credit for going retro and tying Kustoff to John Kerry instead of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The woman concludes that Flinn will be an ardent conservative "who won't flip flop." Flinn lost a 2016 open-seat primary to Kustoff 27-23.
● TX-27: On Saturday, former Victoria County GOP Chair Michael Cloud won the all-party special election for the final months of disgraced Rep. Blake Farenthold's term. Cloud, who won the GOP nod in May for the full two-year term in the next Congress, took 55 percent of the vote, while Democrat Eric Holguin was second at 32; because Cloud won a majority, he does not need to go through a runoff. Altogether, the Republican candidates outpaced the Democrats 60-39 in a district that went from 61-38 Romney to 60-37 Trump.