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.
● AZ-Gov: Democrat David Garcia has released an internal poll from PPP that finds him trailing by just 44-43 against GOP Gov. Doug Ducey. There has been almost no polling here, but those numbers aren't too different from PPP's January poll for Garcia, where he led by 43-42.
Republicans are certainly acting like this is a close race, since the Republican Governors Association had reserved millions for TV ads here back in February, and they just released their first attack on Garcia. The spot fearmongers over Garcia's support for abolishing ICE, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, claiming he would allow immigrants to bring drugs and crime into Arizona by opposing Trump's border wall.
With his allies doing the dirty work for him, Ducey is sitting back and running positive ads. His latest commercial takes credit for job growth and touts his efforts to police the Mexican border. The spot even praises him for giving teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, although he omits how that measure only came about thanks to the threat of striking teachers and would still leave salaries well below the national average.
● DE-Sen: Thursday (yes, Thursday) brings us a primary in Delaware. The main event to watch is the Democratic contest for the U.S. Senate, where three-term incumbent Tom Carper, who previously served as the state's congressman and governor, is trying to fend off Air Force veteran and activist Kerri Harris.
Harris, who is seeking to become the first lesbian of color to serve in the Senate, is arguing that Carper is too conservative. In particular, she's hit him for his votes for the Keystone pipeline and to confirm some Trump administration officials, and declared that he's too close to the state's powerful banking industry. Harris is also pitching herself as a working person who would lend a much-needed perspective to the Senate.
A Harris win would be a huge upset, since Carper has near-universal name recognition, the support of the state's Democratic establishment, and a massive financial edge. During the pre-primary period (which the FEC defines as July 1 to Aug. 17), Carper spent $475,000, while Harris deployed only $32,000. However, there is no recent polling here.
Polls close at 8 PM ET on Thursday. We won't be liveblogging this one, but we'll be posting an open thread at Daily Kos Elections for anyone who wants to discuss the results as they come in.
Race Ratings Changes
● OK-Gov (Likely Republican to Lean Republican): In last week's GOP primary runoff in Oklahoma, Republicans nominated the weaker of their two options in businessman Kevin Stitt, whose mortgage company was accused of fraud in multiple states during the Great Recession and even lost its license in Georgia. That's a ready-made line of attack for Democrat Drew Edmondson, a former state attorney general whom limited polling has shown in a dead heat with Stitt.
Republicans are also hampered by outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin's epic unpopularity due to years of budget cuts: A GOP poll last month gave her an approval rating of just 11 percent, with 80 percent disapproving. That state of affairs helped Democrats flip four legislative seats in special elections this cycle and move the needle in several more. Oklahoma is a deep-red state, and Stitt is still favored, but this race is not a gimme.
● AZ-02 (Tossup to Lean Democratic): After an at-times ugly primary, Democrats last week nominated former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, the choice of the DCCC and EMILY's List. She'll face Lea Marquez Peterson, the president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who eked out a win over a penniless Some Dude. The most salient factor in this race, though, is the fact that this district went for Hillary Clinton by a 50-45 margin. In election years that strongly favor one party, it's very hard for the disfavored party to hold an open seat that supported the other side's last presidential candidate. That gives the edge to Kirkpatrick.
● VA-02 (Lean Republican to Tossup): Freshman GOP Rep. Scott Taylor has been teaching a master class in how not to respond to a crisis in the month since five of his staffers were accused of submitting forged signatures on behalf of an independent candidate they hoped would split the vote with their Democratic opponent. That's Navy veteran Elaine Luria, who's run a strong (and scandal-free!) campaign, while Taylor's campaign faces an investigation by a special prosecutor.
Taylor's troubles have yet to filter down to most voters, but they're about to, as the DCCC just started airing negative ads on the matter. While this district narrowly went for Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, Democrat Ralph Northam won it 51-47 in last year's gubernatorial contest, and Taylor's legal travails are only going to get more exposure in the final months of the race. This is going to be a serious battle.
● AZ-Sen: Former GOP Sen. Jon Kyl was appointed to the Senate this week to succeed the late John McCain, and according to the University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier, this is the first time in 43 years that a former U.S. Senator was appointed back to his old job. Ostermeier writes that back in 1975, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Norris Cotton had accepted this commission, but under very odd circumstances.
Cotton had retired the previous year, but the race between Republican Louis Wyman and Democrat John Durkin was so close that back-to-back recounts kept finding a different winner. Cotton had resigned in the final days of 1974 to allow Wyman to be appointed early, but the dispute prevented Wyman from being seated. Eventually, the seat was declared vacant in August and a special election was called for September, and GOP Gov. Meldrim Thomson appointed Cotton to fill his seat for the interim period. Cotton served for 42 days until Durkin decisively won his rematch with Wyman and took the seat.
Ostermeier writes that there were only five other former senators who returned to the chamber through an appointment since the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, which requires that senators be elected by voters rather than appointed by the state legislature. Before Cotton, the last former senator to be appointed back was Texas Democrat William Blakley in 1960, who was picked to replace Vice President-elect Lyndon Johnson.
Blakley had previously served in the Senate in 1957 when Sen.-turned-Gov. Price Daniel appointed him to replace him in D.C. Blakley didn't run in the ensuing special election in the 1950s, but he did try to hold his new seat in 1961. Blakley ended up losing a tight race to John Tower, however, who became the first Republican to win election to the Senate from a former Confederate state in the direct-election era.
● FL-Sen: Quinnipiac's first poll since the winter finds a 49-49 tie between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott. Almost every survey we've seen here has found a very tight race.
● NV-Sen: Democrat Jacky Rosen has run ad after ad comparing Republican Sen. Dean Heller to an inflatable tube man to argue he has no backbone when it comes to health care, and Heller has responded by … running his own commercial with an inflatable tube man.
As our red rubber friend flaps in front of a green screen, Heller argues that Rosen's idea of fixing health care is "a campaign commercial," and that she's done "nothing to fix health care" in her one term in the House. Heller then insists he's really "fighting to protect pre-existing conditions" and trying to expand health care, and the ad concludes with inflatable tube man deflating as he declares "actions speak louder than words."
Indeed, they do. As Rosen's campaign points out, Heller's support for a "skinny repeal" of Obamacare last year was hardly the first time during his career that he's voted to endanger or deprive people of their health care. They also note that, despite his insistence that Rosen has done "zero" to fix health care, she did introduce a bill to cap monthly costs for prescription drugs.
Heller isn't exactly repeating Rosen's attacks against him in his ad (which is a serious no-no in campaign commercials), but he's still risking only reminding the audience of Rosen’s own spots by borrowing the visual she's using to hit him with. Maybe he's just a huge Better Call Saul fan?
● WV-Sen: One big development we've seen this cycle is Democratic groups attacking Republicans, even in very red states, for wanting to do away with coverage for pre-existing conditions. Majority Forward's new spot against Republican Patrick Morrisey is the latest example of this trend.
Their ad stars a woman identified as Julie Schleier describing how she needs to pay $6,000 a month for medicine to treat her autoimmune disease, and she says could lose "practically everything that we have worked so hard for" if she lost her health care. Schleier then tells the audience that Morrisey "has joined a lawsuit to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions," a move that would harm many people in the state.
● AK-Gov: Tuesday was the deadline to get off the general election ballot in Alaska, but both independent Gov. Bill Walker and former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich remain in the race. The state AFL-CIO, which recently endorsed Walker, was very vocal in trying to pressure Begich to quit, and they released a poll at the end of August showing Republican Mike Dunleavy leading the governor 36-26 and Begich just behind with 24, but Walker beating Dunleavy 47-43 in a two-way race. However, Begich held a press conference on Tuesday to declare he wasn't going anywhere.
Still, Walker and Begich's camps may not give up trying to persuade the other candidate to drop out in order to stop Dunleavy. According to the state Division of Elections, a candidate who drops out between now and the general election will still be on the ballot, but any votes for them won't be counted. However, both sides seem dug in right now, and unless someone blinks, that's only going to benefit Dunleavy in a three-way contest we rate as Likely Republican.
● FL-Gov: Democrat Andrew Gillum has unveiled his first general election ad, which features footage of him and his family at their election night victory party as voiceovers of local news coverage play. The news commentators highlight the underdog story of Gillum’s upset victory and working-class upbringing, noting that he would be the state's first black governor if elected.
Meanwhile, the RGA has made their first TV ad reservation for Republican Ron DeSantis, plopping down a hefty $7.4 million, which will only go so far in a state as big and as expensive as Florida.
● GA-Gov: The state Democratic Party is out with what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says is Team Blue's first TV spot against Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and they revive an attack leveled against him in the final weeks of the GOP primary.
The commercial argues that Kemp's office, which regulates massage therapists, renewed the license of someone who had pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman during a massage, and the narrator declares that this wasn't even the perpetrator's first offense. Allies of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tried to use this story against Kemp during the primary with a weird (but safe for work) ad that resembled a softcore video. However, this new spot wisely does not take such a cartoonish approach and instead focuses on the horror of the allegations.
The AJC explains the background of this story. The therapist mentioned in the ad, Brandon Knox, was accused of sexual assault in 2012 at a Massage Envy clinic and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal battery. A separate civil complaint against the company alleged that this wasn't the first time that Knox had been accused of inappropriately touching a client. In 2016, Knox's license lapsed without any public disciplinary orders.
An AJC investigation from earlier this year also found that 25 of the 26 sexual misconduct complaints leveled against massage therapists over the past three years resulted in no public action by the state. Kemp has argued that, while the state Board of Massage Therapy is under his jurisdiction, only members appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal can investigate claims or suspend and revoke licenses.
● ME-Gov: One of the most effective ways to attack an opponent in a campaign ad is to use their own words against them, and the DGA affiliate A Better Maine does just that in their first spot against Republican Shawn Moody. Their spot shows a clip of Moody at a candidate forum being asked, "Do you feel that Maine schools are adequately funded?" and Moody responds, "They're overfunded." The narrator then bemoans the state of school buildings and how teachers are underpaid, before the ad once again uses the clip of Moody declaring schools are "overfunded."
● MI-Gov: The Detroit Free Press reports that the RGA has diverted $1.5 million in planned TV advertising away from this race, though they still have $5.6 million reserved. However, Politico writes that the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity has launched a new $1.6 million TV and digital ad campaign against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer.
● NY-Gov: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is continuing to make the most of his massive war chest as the Sept. 13 Democratic primary approaches. Cuomo outspent actress and activist Cynthia Nixon $8.5 million to $450,000 in just the last three weeks, and he had a $16 million to $467,000 cash-on-hand edge for the homestretch. The New York Daily News writes that Cuomo spent $10 million during this same period four years ago in his primary against law professor Zephyr Teachout, which he won 62-34. Cuomo is also up with a new ad staring former Vice President Joe Biden.
● WI-Gov: Republican Gov. Scott Walker is the latest to run an ad blaming Democrat Tony Evers for not revoking the license of a teacher who had looked at pornography at school a decade ago. However, as we have previously noted when Walker's RGA allies made this same attack, state law at the time prevented Evers from firing a teacher who hadn't directly "endanger[ed] the health, safety, welfare, or education of any pupil." Walker furthermore ignores that he himself told a parent of a student in the district that it was up to their local school board, not him, and that the issue was supposedly "decided in the courts" when two judges had upheld an arbitration ruling to give the offending teacher his job back after years of suspension.
● CA-08: Rep. Paul Cook already looked safe in his all-GOP general election against underfunded former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, but that didn't stop Donald Trump from endorsing the incumbent on Tuesday. But while you may cynically guess that Trump just tweeted out almost exactly the same thing for Cook that he tweets out for all his endorsed candidate, you'd be wrong: This time, Trump used an Oxford Comma.
● IA-01: On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee announced it was extending their investigation into GOP Rep. Rod Blum and planned to announce "a course of action" on or before Dec. 17. The committee didn't specify what it was investigating Blum for, but he quickly released a statement confirming it was about reports that he'd broken House ethics rules for failing to disclose a company he played a role in. Blum also emulated Donald Trump in his statement and declared:
"Rather than present solutions, the Democratic elite aim to destroy their opponents' reputations through distortions. In my case they scream 'ETHICS VIOLATION!' over a clerical error on a form."
Blum also continued to pick fights with the local media when he complained it "continues to take its cues from the Democratic Party, and they work to make mountains out of molehills." In the last week, Blum tweeted out the contact information for an Iowa-based Associated Press reporter who was inquiring why Blum was a moderator on a racist Facebook group. Blum's tweet declared he was unaware he'd been added to the group and said of the reporter, "This 'journalist' is obsessed w hating on Republicans & abuses his position."
Blum already faced a tough race with Democrat Abby Finkenauer, and the NRCC reportedly has reportedly been considering leaving him to fend for himself while they send money in more winnable races. All of this probably isn't going to persuade them that the incumbent is a good investment.
● NC-02: Democrat Linda Coleman is out with a poll from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner that gives her a narrow 45-44 lead over GOP Rep. George Holding. This is the first survey we've seen of the contest for this suburban Raleigh seat, though Holding oddly sent out a fundraising email in late August claiming that his unreleased poll found him trailing by 3 points.
● NC Redistricting: The federal court that struck down North Carolina's GOP congressional gerrymander last month ruled this week that the map can nevertheless remain in place for this year's elections, which is an unsurprising outcome after the plaintiffs themselves told the court last Friday that there wasn't enough time to redraw the map before Election Day. That means the ruling will almost certainly get overturned on appeal next year once Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, leaving state court as the last option for gerrymandering opponents.
● NE-02: The Congressional Leadership Fund recently went up with an ad attacking Democrat Kara Eastman for supporting single-payer health care, and she's wisely using her own commercial to put a human face on those very policies. Eastman tells the audience that her mother died last year after fighting cancer five times, and the candidate holds up a single small pill that she says cost $2,500 and that her mother couldn't afford. Eastman continues by declaring, "It's wrong that families have to choose between paying for life-saving medicine and paying their bills," and pledges to support "affordable healthcare for all."
● OH-01: Medium Buying reports that the DCCC has canceled TV advertising for the week of Sept. 18, though they still have their planned spending reserved for Sept. 25 to Election Day. It's not clear what the DCCC is thinking here, but it seems unlikely that they're making a week's worth of cuts because they're not feeling so good about this contest.
Indeed, the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund recently began running ads for the first time here against Democrat Aftab Pureval, and Republicans complained to Politico near the end of August that they feared GOP Rep. Steve Chabot wasn't prepared for a tough race. One unnamed national GOP strategist even told Politico, "The question is, can some of these incumbents, including Chabot, be defossilized?" However, we've seen no polling for this 51-45 Trump seat since the spring, and it also feels unlikely that Team Blue is confident about beating Chabot in a seat this red with two months to go.
● PA-08: The NRCC has made a foray into Pennsylvania's 8th District, which Politico reports is "close to a half-million dollars on broadcast and cable TV and digital advertisements" for most of September. The spot accuses Cartwright of hypocrisy for supposedly refusing to pay his own taxes while voting to raise taxes on others. However, Cartwright has called the $3,700 in interest and penalties on his late taxes for his D.C. condo the result of an oversight, not an intentional act of refusing to pay up, and he noted that he eventually paid everything he owed, including penalties and interest.
● SC-01: Commissioned on behalf of End Citizens United, Democratic pollster PPP has released a survey that finds Republican Katie Arrington holding a 49-42 lead over Democrat Joe Cunningham. This is the first poll we've seen in this contest, which so far hasn't drawn major involvement from national party organizations on either side.
● UT-04: Democrat Ben McAdams has released an internal poll from the Mellman Group that has him trailing by just 46-44 against Republican Rep. Mia Love. While McAdams is behind in the poll, he pointed to Love having 91 percent name recognition compared to his 69 percent to argue he still has room to grow. These numbers are similar to Mellman's 43-40 edge for Love in their March poll, although they're slightly more favorable than a 45-39 deficit McAdams saw in the University of Utah's June survey.
● VA-02: On Wednesday, a state court judge removed independent candidate Shaun Brown from the November ballot, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the state Democratic Party that her attempt to gather signatures was beset by "out and out fraud." Those are extremely unwelcome words for GOP Rep. Scott Taylor, whose campaign staff is accused of forging signatures on Brown's behalf. A special prosecutor is already investigating the matter in a separate criminal proceeding, and ominously, the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Patrick Wilson noted, "A Virginia State Police investigator sat through the testimony Wednesday in the civil case." Brown says she'll appeal.
● House, OH-Gov: Obama Alert! The former president has announced his first set of 2018 campaign appearances will be in Orange County, California, where all seven Dems seeking to flip Clinton-won House seats are expected to attend, and in Ohio for Democrat Richard Cordray's gubernatorial campaign.
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Mayor Rahm Emanuel caught the city by surprise on Tuesday when he announced he wouldn't seek re-election next year. Several candidates were already challenging the mayor, and it didn't take long for several potential Democratic candidates to show some interest.
Attorney Gery Chico, a former chair of the Illinois State Board of Education who lost the 2011 race to Emanuel 55-24, publicly acknowledged he was interested. Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who is seeking re-election this year, refused to rule anything out, and she only said "right now I'm running for comptroller." Additionally, multiple unnamed sources told NBC 5 that Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Rep. Mike Quigley have started polling.
Crain's Chicago lists several people "actively exploring" including former Obama White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and son of former Mayor Richard J. Daley; former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; former top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett; Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas; and businessman and close Emanuel ally Michael Sacks.
The Chicago Tribune also adds city Treasurer Kurt Summers, city Clerk Anna Valencia, and a number of city councilors to the list of people who are "not ruling out bids or making phone calls looking for support." The filing deadline is in late November.
● DKE Live in 3D!: If you'll be in the Boston area on Thursday, we invite you to come join Daily Kos Elections editor Jeff Singer and contributing editor Arjun Jaikumar for an in-depth Q&A about special elections, general elections, the 2018 midterm landscape, and everything in between! NO speeches—just your questions (and our answers) on any race in the nation you care about.
The free event will be held Thursday at 7:30 PM local time in Cambridge, Massachusetts near Porter Square. For more information, please check out our Facebook event. We hope to see you there!
● Where Are They Now?: It took him four tries over 20 years in two different states, but former California Rep. Frank Riggs has finally won a GOP primary for a statewide office. On Wednesday, the local media called the Aug. 28 primary for Arizona superintendent of public instruction for Riggs, who held a 359 vote lead over Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Branch, a margin of 21.84-21.77; incumbent Diane Douglas was just behind with 21.2 percent. Riggs will face educator Kathy Hoffman in the fall.
Back in the 1990s, Riggs represented a seat along California's northern coast that stretched from Sonoma to the Oregon border. Riggs, who had lost his seat in 1992 but regained it 1994, faced a very tough challenge in 1998 from then-state Sen. Mike Thompson, and he decided to run for the Senate instead. (Thompson won the seat in November and continues to represent what is now California's safely blue 5th Congressional District.) Riggs ended up dropping out of the race to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer before the primary, though his name remained on the ballot.
Riggs moved to Arizona in 2002 and kicked off a 2006 campaign against Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. However, his campaign ended after he discovered he needed to be a state resident of at least five years in order to run. Riggs tried again eight years later but barely attracted any attention, and he finished dead last in the GOP primary with less than 5 percent of the vote. However, Riggs finally got his long-sought after Arizona primary win this year.
● MA-01: Longtime Democratic Rep. Richie Neal defeated attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud 71-29 in the primary for this safely blue western Massachusetts. Neal is in line to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee in a Democratic House.
● MA-03: With 100 percent of precincts reporting in the crowded Democratic primary, business consultant Lori Trahan holds a 52 vote lead over Daniel Koh, a former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a margin of 21.64-21.58 percent; state Rep. Juana Matias, state Sen. Barbara L'Italien, and former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford each took around 15 percent of the vote.
Trahan, a former chief of staff to former Rep. Marty Meehan, declared victory on Tuesday evening, but added that she was preparing for a recount. Koh has not conceded, and whomever emerges with the Democratic nomination will be the heavy favorite in November in this 58-35 Clinton seat, which includes the cities of Lowell and Lawrence.
On Wednesday afternoon, the secretary of state's office said there were still provisional ballots left to count, though they did not estimate how many. Koh's campaign said they were "reviewing the process for a recount to ensure everyone who voted is properly counted," but they didn't seem too confident they'd be ahead when all was said and done since they added, "if—at the end of this process—Lori is declared the winner, Dan will offer his enthusiastic support for her in the general election."
According to the Boston Globe, a candidate can petition for a recount if the margin of victory is within half a percentage point, which this contest very much is. However, they add that Koh would need to collect 500 signatures and turn them in by 5 PM ET on Friday if he wanted to go through with it. The secretary of state's office says there could be as much as a 16-day window between Election Day and the end of a recount.