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.
● NY-27: On Wednesday, federal prosecutors indicted Republican Rep. Chris Collins on charges that he engaged in insider trading when he privately received word that the principal drug of a pharmaceutical company in which he was a major investor had failed in clinical trials and then informed his son, Cameron, who sold over one million shares of the firm's stock before the news became public. Prosecutors say Cameron Collins and four other individuals he tipped off (including his fiancée) collectively avoided $768,000 in losses by selling before the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, announced the failure the following day.
Chris Collins, who at one point owned 17 percent of Innate, became indelibly linked with the company last year when, shortly after the sell-off prosecutors allege, he lost $17 million when the stock tanked. Collins had long encouraged others to buy in—a number of GOP colleagues in the House did in fact do so—and even bragged once, "Do you know how many millionaires I've made in Buffalo the past few months?"
That high-profile association prompted an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which concluded last year that there was "substantial reason to believe" that Collins had engaged in insider trading, as well as a separate, ongoing probe by the House Ethics Committee. Wednesday's indictment prompted House Speaker Paul Ryan to remove Collins from his lone committee assignment, though the congressman has much graver worries now—both legal and, perhaps, electoral.
The ultra-wealthy Collins made a name for himself in early 2016 when he became the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, and has often behaved like him. (He once compared a Jewish New York politician to Adolf Hitler and also opined that elected officials shouldn't have to release their taxes.) Protecting Collins is his congressional district: Like everywhere else in upstate New York, it veered to the right in 2016, voting 60-35 for his man Donald.
But it voted for Mitt Romney by a slightly less daunting 55-43 margin four year earlier, and Democrats actually won a special election for the predecessor version of this district in 2011. Now, with the congressman under indictment, could we see another upset? Collins, despite Innate's implosion, can still self-fund enormous sums, and his Democratic challenger, Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, had just $82,000 in the bank at the end of June.
But McMurray ought to be able to raise some serious cash off of his opponent's predicament, and there might be a few angry ex-millionaires in Buffalo eager for some payback, too. However, barring a resignation as part of a plea deal, odds are Collins will still win another term, and there's precedent, too—from New York, naturally: In 2014, then-Rep. Mike Grimm won re-election despite getting indicted for fraud earlier that same year. Of course, Grimm soon wound up resigning and serving seven months in prison, so even if Collins is victorious at the polls, his political future may nevertheless be quite short.
● FL-Sen: The Democratic groups Priorities USA and Senate Majority PAC are debuting a $1.1 million digital buy for a 15-second ad that attacks Republican Gov. Rick Scott over his refusal to expand Medicaid and his support for repealing protections for those who have pre-existing conditions.
● MO-Sen: The NRSC's first TV ad against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill continues the GOP's narrative of claiming the senator enriched herself when she went to Washington, alleging that McCaskill voted for $131 million in "federal subsidies" for her husband's businesses. However, not only does their insinuation grossly overstate the amount of actual profit made by her husband, who was already wealthy when they married in 2002, most of those subsidies went toward operating costs for low-income housing projects. Furthermore, there's no evidence that McCaskill had specifically directed federal funds to her husband's businesses, since they were part of a much larger spending bill.
● GA-Gov: The Republican Governors Association has launched a TV ad that hits Democrat Stacey Abrams over her personal finances. They claim she made $1 million over the last five years working as a tax attorney but didn't pay $54,000 in taxes she owed and instead loaned her campaign $50,000. However, Abrams has previously said she had worked out a payment-deferment plan with the IRS and her personal debt issues stem from having to financially support her elderly parents after the damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
● LA-Gov: Wealthy businessman and former state Democratic chair Jim Bernhard has quashed the rumor that he was considering challenging Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards next year. Bernhard unambiguously told the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report he was "not going to run for governor. I will not run," and that he was supporting Edwards.
● MD-Gov: GOP Gov. Larry Hogan and his allies at the RGA seem to have decided that the best way to beat Democrat Ben Jealous in this blue state is to portray him as a socialist who would bankrupt Maryland. The RGA's newest spot begins by insisting that fellow Democrats won't back Jealous because he's too extreme, and features a clip of him declaring, "go on, call me a socialist!" The second half of that quote was, "That doesn't change the fact I'm a venture capitalist," which you'll be just shocked to know did not make it into the ad.
The narrator then cites a nonpartisan analysis that days Jealous' healthcare plan alone could cost residents an extra $2,800. As the Baltimore Sun points out, that ad doesn't mention those fees would replace payments to insurance companies under Jealous' plan, which that same study says could save many Marylanders money. Jealous and his allies have not been on TV since the late June primary, while the Sun reports that the RGA spent $1 million on spots last month.
● ME-Gov: Suffolk has released the first publicly available poll of Maine's gubernatorial race since the June primaries, and they find a highly competitive contest to succeed GOP Gov. Paul LePage. Suffolk shows a 39-39 tie between Democrat Janet Mills and Republican Shawn Moody, while independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron take just 7 percent combined.
● MN-02: Archives of Republican Rep. Jason Lewis' previous stint as a right-wing radio host continue to make trouble for him in his bid for a second term, and Buzzfeed has reported on the latest in a string of offensive comments that have recently been unearthed. Back in 2013 when talking about his support for banning same-sex marriage, Lewis had compared gay people to rapists and polygamists in his advocacy for laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people. Lewis also suggested same-sex parents could "harm the kid" they raise together. Just like when Lewis' old racist and misogynistic comments recently came to light, he didn't issue an apology of any sort.
● OH-01: Incumbents usually like to begin their ad campaigns with a positive commercial or two before they start tearing into their opponent, but GOP Rep. Steve Chabot is going after Democrat Aftab Pureval right off the bat.
Chabot's first TV spot accuses Pureval of immediately firing employees on his first day as Hamilton County clerk of court and using tax dollars as "hush money" to buy their silence. Pureval's campaign says he fired some of the last clerk's political appointees but chose to give them severance payments. They also say his non-disclosure statement was a common agreement that they wouldn't disparage him and he wouldn't disparage them.
● Special Elections: Via Johnny Longtorso:
California SD-32: Democrat Vanessa Delgado appears to have prevailed, albeit narrowly, in defeating Republican Rita Topalian for the remaining few months of this seat's term. Delgado is currently ahead by a 52-48 margin.
This seat went 67-28 for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 64-34 for Barack Obama in 2012, so this is quite an underperformance for Team Blue. However, the incredibly low-stakes nature of this contest may have had something to do with that. While Delgado won a place in the special election in June, she lost the top-two primary for the full-four year term that same day to fellow Democrat Bob Archuleta. Because Delgado would need to resign as mayor of Montebello in order to serve a few months in the state Senate, she has said she may decline to take her state Senate seat if she won.
Assuming Delgado does get sworn in, she'll be the shortest-serving California state senator in over a century.
● MO-Sen: There was never any question that state Attorney General Josh Hawley would win the GOP nod against a pack of little known opponents, but he still pulled in a surprisingly weak 59 percent of the vote. Republicans have spent months complaining that Hawley isn't running a very strong campaign against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and this showing isn't going to get them to shut up.
● MI-Sen: Businessman and Army veteran John James, who picked up an endorsement from Donald Trump in the final days of the race, defeated wealthy venture capitalist Sandy Pensler 55-45 in the GOP primary. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow doesn't look like she'll be a major GOP target this year, though some Republicans have expressed excitement about James, who would be the state's first black senator. (Trump gushed on Wednesday that he was a "future star.") Daily Kos Elections rates this as Likely Democratic.
● KS-Gov: With all precincts in, Secretary of State Kris Kobach holds a 40.6-40.5 lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the GOP primary, a margin of 191 votes. State law allows ballots that were postmarked on Tuesday to be counted as long as they arrive three days after Election Day, and Kansas' election office estimates that there are as many as 10,000 provisional votes uncounted. The county election clerks won't finish counting mail-in ballots and investigating provisional until early next week, so we won't have a verdict at least for the next several days.
Under state law, the trailing candidate has the right to request a recount after all the ballots are tabulated. That recount would be carried out by one Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is under no legal obligation to recuse himself from this race. Kobach said Wednesday that, because a recount would take place at the county level, he wouldn't be participating in it so has no reason to step aside. State legislative leaders and Kobach estimate a recount could take weeks.
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, state Sen. Laura Kelly defeated former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer 52-20. Wealthy independent Greg Orman awaits both eventual nominees in November.
● MI-Gov: Both party frontrunners decisively won their primaries in the contest to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Rick Snyder. Former state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who had the support of the state party establishment and most prominent unions, beat former Detroit Health Department Director Abdul El-Sayed 52-30, while self-funding businessman Shri Thanedar took 18. state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who earned Trump's endorsement last year, defeated the Snyder-backed Lt. Gov. Brian Calley 51-25.
While Michigan swung hard towards Trump in 2016, this is one of Team Blue's better pickup opportunities. Polling has been limited here, which is one big reason we currently rate the contest as a Tossup. However, a late June Target-Insyght survey gave Whitmer a 42-37 lead over Schuette, while a July Marist poll showed her ahead 47-38. Morning Consult's poll of the second quarter of 2018 also gave Snyder a weak 35-50 approval rating, which won't make Schuette's job any easier.
Snyder also doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to help Schuette out. Not only is the governor ducking the unity dinner with Mike Pence, he declined to endorse the attorney general on Tuesday. Snyder may come around, but he'd first have to get over years of animosity with Schuette, who has filed criminal charges against several members of the governor's administration over the Flint water poisoning. The Detroit News' Nolan Finley writes that Snyder is convinced that Schuette brought the charges in order to distance himself from the administration, a claim Calley publicly shouted during the primary.
Dennis Muchmore, a former Snyder chief of staff, didn't even dismiss the possibility that Snyder would endorse Whitmer. Whether or not she'd want his support is another question, but it really doesn’t seem inevitable that the governor will end up endorsing his party's nominee.
● KS-02: Army veteran Steve Watkins defeated state Sen. Caryn Tyson 26-23 in the GOP primary for this open Topeka-area seat. Watkins will take on former state House Democratic Leader Paul Davis in the general election.
While this seat went from 55-42 Romney to 56-37 Trump, both parties acknowledge it's very competitive. Davis is a strong fundraiser, and he carried this seat 51-45 in his unsuccessful 2014 race for governor. Kansas' awful financial situation also gives Team Blue an opening, and national Republicans have fretted that Secretary of State Kris Kobach could drag them down in this seat if he wins his primary for governor. Daily Kos Elections rates this seat as a Tossup.
The good news for the GOP is that, unlike all his rivals, Watkins has access to plenty of money. While he'd only raised $165,000 from donors during his entire campaign through mid-July, he self-funded another $475,000. Watkins' father, physician Steven Watkins, has also been funding a super PAC that spent heavily for the candidate in the primary. However, the GOP contest left some very bad blood. Watkins has faced questions about his loyalty to the GOP and his connections to Kansas. State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, who ended up taking fourth place, summed Watkins up recently as "a charlatan, a fraud and an opportunist."
Both national parties have reserved ad time in this seat. The Democratic groups House Majority PAC and the DCCC have invested a combined $357,000 in the Topeka media market, while the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund has reserved $1.25 million. CLF began their ad campaign the day after the primary with a spot linking Davis to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Davis pledged a year ago that he would not support Pelosi for speaker.
● KS-03: Attorney Sharice Davids defeated labor lawyer Brent Welder, who had Bernie's Sanders' support, 37-34 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder. Davids, who is also a former mixed martial arts fighter, would be the state's first openly gay member of the House, and (along with New Mexico's Deb Haaland) the first Native American woman to represent any state in Congress as a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
This highly educated suburban Kansas City seat swung from 54-44 Romney to 47-46 Clinton, but Yoder is a tough opponent. The congressman had a hefty $1.79 million war chest in mid-June, and his allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund reserved $1.7 million to protect him. The DCCC and House Majority PAC has reserved $793,000 in the Kansas City media market, though some of that money could go to the neighboring 2nd District. Daily Kos Elections rates this seat as Lean Republican.
● KS-04: Rep. Ron Estes easily held off a GOP primary challenge from Some Dude Ron Estes 81-19. It helped that the incumbent was identified on the ballot as "Rep. Ron Estes," while the challenger was called "Ron M. Estes." Estes will face a rematch with Democrat James Thompson, who held him to a 52-46 win in last year's special election. However, Estes now has incumbency on his side as he defends a 60-33 Trump seat in the Wichita area, and we rate it as Safe Republican.
● MI-06: Former YMCA national health officer Matt Longjohn defeated former Kellog lobbyist George Franklin 37-29 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Fred Upton. This Kalamazoo-area seat went from 50-49 Romney to 51-43 Trump, and Upton has never faced a close race since he was first elected in 1986. The incumbent is also well-funded, and he had a $1.66 million war chest in mid-July. However, Longjohn has raised a credible $600,000 during this campaign, so it looks like he'll have the resources to run a serious campaign. Daily Kos Elections rates this seat as Likely Republican.
● MI-09: Attorney and businessman Andy Levin, the son of retiring Rep. Sandy Levin, defeated former state Rep. Ellen Lipton 53-42 in the Democratic primary. This suburban Detroit seat moved from 57-42 Obama to a modest 51-44 Clinton, but GOP nominee Candius Stearns has little money. It's very unlikely the GOP is going to spend much effort on this seat when they're on the defensive, and we rate this district as safe for Team Blue.
● MI-11: Both parties hosted crowded races for this competitive open seat in the Detroit suburbs. Haley Stevens, a former chief of staff to Barack Obama's Auto Task Force, defeated state Rep. Tim Greimel 27-22 in the Democratic primary, and EMILY's List endorsed her the next day. Wealthy businesswoman Lena Epstein, who co-chaired Trump's state campaign, beat former state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski 31-26 for the GOP nod.
The GOP did all they could to gerrymander this seat, which went from 52-47 Romney to a similar 50-45 Trump even as the whole state was swinging hard to the right. However, this is the type of well-educated suburban seat the GOP is most afraid of losing in the Trump era. Democratic groups have reserved $1.86 million in TV time in Detroit while the NRCC has invested $5.7 million, though some of that money will likely be used in the neighboring 8th District and possibly the 7th. We rate the general election as a Tossup.
● MI-13: Former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib defeated Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones 31-30 in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat, and she will soon be the first Muslim woman to serve in Congress.
However, there was also a special election primary the same day for the final months of former Rep. Jon Conyers' term, and Jones holds a 38-36 lead over Tlaib there. If this result stands, voters will have two different Democratic nominees in November: Jones for the last two months of this Congress, and Tlaib for the regular two-year term beginning in January.
Jones likely would need to resign from her prominent city council post in order to serve those few months in D.C., which she doesn’t seem eager to do. She said Wednesday that her campaign was “reviewing the results of last night’s election and a statement will be forthcoming.” However, state law requires a party nominee to stay on the ballot unless they leave the state, die, have a physical ailment that keeps them from serving, or are otherwise disqualified. Jones could presumably just refuse to take her seat in Congress, though it's possible that might result in yet another special election for a very short term.
This odd outcome came about in large part because of who was on the primary ballot for the regular term but not on the special election ballot. State Sen. Coleman Young II took 12.5 percent of the vote (about 11,200 votes) in the primary for the full term, while former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson took another 5 percent (5,000 votes): Both were absent from the special primary. Jones won about 5,800 more votes in the special than in the regular primary, while Tlaib took an extra 3,300 votes. Tlaib won the regular primary by just 887 votes.
It's quite ironic that Coleman's presence hurt Jones since last year he tried to unseat Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who was Jones' most high-profile supporter in this race.
● MO-01: Nine-term Rep. Lacy Clay beat nurse Cori Bush 57-37 in the primary for this safely blue St. Louis seat. While Clay didn't come close to losing, that's a very unimpressive performance for him, especially since Bush raised just $8,000 during her entire campaign.
● MO-07: We're not sure why, but GOP Rep. Billy Long keeps turning in meh primary showings in this safely red seat. Long won his renomination to this safely red Springfield-area seat 65-18 against three little-known foes. Long took between 60 and 62 percent in his last three primaries, so this showing was actually a career high for the four-term incumbent. Still, no strong intra-party foes have come out of the woodwork to take him on.
● WA-03: Political science professor Carolyn Long easily advanced through the top-two primary to take on GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, and the race for this southern Washington seat is now looking a whole lot more interesting that it did before Tuesday.
With 70 percent of precincts in (Washington votes entirely by mail, and it can take awhile for all the votes to come in), Herrera Beutler leads Long just 41-37. The combined vote for the four Democrats currently outpaces the total GOP vote 50.3-49.7, a very good and surprising showing for Team Blue in a seat that went from 50-48 Romney to 50-43 Trump.
There were already some signs that Long could give Herrera Beutler a serious race. Long raised $652,000 through mid-July, and she released a poll in late June giving the incumbent just a 42-37 lead. Herrera Beutler is well-funded and neither national party has made any reservations here, but that could change after Tuesday. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this seat as Likely Republican, but in light of Tuesday's results, that may change very soon.
● WA-05: While there was never any doubt that GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and former Washington State University Spokane chancellor Lisa Brown would advance through the June top-two primary, this was another result that was surprisingly good for Team Blue.
With 64 percent of precincts reporting, McMorris Rodgers holds a 47.5-47.1 lead over her Democratic rival. The combined GOP vote (two little known Republicans were also on the ballot, while Brown was the only Democrat) did outpace Team Blue 50.5-47.1, while an independent took the balance. This seat went from 53-44 Romney to 52-39 Trump, and Daily Kos Elections rates it as Lean Republican.
● WA-08: Former GOP state Sen. Dino Rossi had no trouble advancing through the top-two primary with 43 percent of the vote, but it's not quite clear who will be his Democratic foe. With 68 percent reporting, pediatrician Kim Schrier holds a 18.8-17.6 lead over employment attorney Jason Rittereiser; former Center for Disease Control and Prevention official Shannon Hader was much further behind with 12.6 percent, so she's almost certainly out of the running. Altogether, the combined Democratic vote outpaced the Republicans 49.9-47.1 in a swing seat that went from 50-48 Obama to 48-45 Clinton.
● MO Ballot: Voters overturned the "right-to-work" law passed by the GOP legislature last year in a 67-33 landslide. The law would have banned compulsory union fees for private sector groups in an attempt to cripple labor and a major source of Democratic fundraising and organizing strength, but opponents got enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot to repeal it. The legislature responded by moving the vote from the November general election to the August primary in order to weaken Democratic turnout.