The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● KS-Sen: State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former moderate Republican who switched parties last year, announced Wednesday that she'd join the August Democratic primary for Kansas' open U.S. Senate seat. Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom and Manhattan Mayor Pro Tem Usha Reddi were already competing for the nod.
Bollier was appointed to a state House seat in Johnson County in the Kansas City suburbs as a Republican back in 2010, and she was elected to a full term that year. In 2016, Bollier won an open state Senate seat 54-46 even as Hillary Clinton was winning her district 57-36, which was Team Red's only victory in a Clinton Senate seat.
However, Bollier was hardly an ardent conservative during her near-decade in the GOP's legislative caucus. She was a prominent opponent of then-Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cuts, which ended up devastating schools in Johnson County, and she stood out as a rare Republican who backed abortion and LGBTQ rights. In 2018, Bollier also backed Democrat Sharice Davids over local GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder, and she supported Democrat Laura Kelly in the race for governor.
In December, a month after strong performances in Johnson County helped carry both Davids and Kelly to victory, Bollier announced that she was switching parties. Bollier declared, "When the party adopted an anti-transgender piece to their platform, that really, as a physician, set me over the edge, because we have more than XX and XY, and gender is a very complicated and important thing."
Bollier also hit her old party for opposing Medicaid expansion and gun safety legislation and added, "My moral compass is saying, 'I can't do this anymore,' and you throw that in with Donald Trump, and just from a moral position, I can't be complicit anymore." Two more Republican state legislators soon followed Bollier into the Democratic fold.
Bollier told the Kansas City Star this week that she'd spoken to both Kelly and former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius before she decided to enter the race. However, when the paper asked if Kelly had encouraged her to run, Bollier simply responded, "no." Bollier also said that, while she'd called Sebelius "just to understand what's at stake, as far as what you have to do," she had been "talking to everybody" before she announced.
So far, though, prominent state and national Democrats haven't taken sides in the primary. Grissom entered the race in July and raised $467,000 during his first quarter and ended September with $366,000 on-hand. Reddi launched her campaign at the end of August and raised just $61,000 and had $54,000 to spend. Democrats haven't won a Senate seat in Kansas since 1932, though both parties believe that this race could be competitive if former state Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whom Kelly beat last year, wins the GOP nod.
● NC-Sen: While the local media reported back in May that former state Treasurer Janet Cowell was just days away from announcing that she'd enter the Democratic primary, that Senate campaign never happened. It doesn't look like Cowell will belatedly run, either, since she donated to former state Sen. Cal Cunningham's campaign during the third quarter.
● WY-Sen: Rep. Liz Cheney's spokesperson recently told the local NBC affiliate KPVI that the congresswoman would decide after the end of the year whether she'd seek the GOP nod for this open seat, but Cheney's fundraising very much indicates that she's preparing to run. Cheney raised $414,000 during the third quarter of the year, which KPVI called one of her strongest hauls to date.
Cheney's total was considerably more than the $150,000 that former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who still has the August primary to herself, raised during her opening fundraising quarter, though Lummis self-funded an additional $155,000. Cheney held a $758,000 to $312,000 cash-on-hand over her predecessor at the end of September.
● KY-Gov: Mason-Dixon is out with an extremely rare poll of next month's race for governor of Kentucky, and they find a 46-46 tie between GOP incumbent Matt Bevin and Democrat Andy Beshear. Mason-Dixon's survey, which was done for several media outlets, is the first poll we've seen here since August, when two Democratic surveys showed Beshear ahead 48-39. Mason-Dixon's December poll had Beshear ahead 48-40, and apart from a June survey from the unreliable Gravis Marketing, we haven't seen any other polls here at all.
Mason-Dixon's new survey, while showing a deadlocked race, does have one very encouraging sign for Bevin. They find the governor only slightly underwater with a 45-48 approval rating, which is a huge improvement from his 38-53 score last year. Kentucky is a very red state so if Bevin is only slightly unpopular, he'll have a strong chance to win on Nov 5.
Of course, as we always caution, you should never let one poll determine your view of a race, even when there is literally one poll to go off of. Hopefully we'll see some more numbers soon to indicate if Bevin's standing has recovered after four acrimonious years in power or if voters are still ready to fire him.
● LA-Gov: Republican Eddie Rispone's first two ads for the Nov. 16 runoff feature clips of Donald Trump at his Friday evening rally in Lake Charles. The first spot shows Trump praising Rispone, while the second commercial is entirely footage of Trump trashing Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
● WV-Gov: Former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher is out with another TV ad, which his campaign says is his fourth ahead of the May GOP primary.
Thrasher is shown driving as he tells the audience, "We want our children to stay here in West Virginia and have a brighter future. And is it too much to ask? We want conservative government policies that help pave the way." The candidate then pulls over and asks, "And, shoot, maybe we could get somewhere in West Virginia if we just fixed the dang roads," which sounds like a G-rated version of the "fix the damn roads" slogan Michigan Democrat Gretchen Whitmer used during her successful bid for governor last year. Just like in his previous ads, Thrasher does not mention GOP incumbent Jim Justice.
● AZ-01: On Tuesday, famed Red Sox pitcher turned disgraced video game businessman turned pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Curt Schilling announced that he would not add Arizona congressional candidate to his long resume. Schilling, a far-right Twitter troll who recently deleted his Twitter account, had spent the last two months talking about relocating from Massachusetts to challenge Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran in Arizona's 1st Congressional District, but he said this week that he wouldn't enter the race.
Schilling, who went to high school in the Grand Canyon State and pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2000 to 2003, first publicly expressed interest in an Arizona House bid in August, and Donald Trump quickly and publicly pledged his support. Schilling initially refused to say which House seat he was looking at, other than it was "one of the blue ones," but he soon revealed he was thinking about taking on O'Halleran.
Schilling had sounded eager to run, and he said earlier in October he was "leaning very heavily toward doing it" even though he was still a Massachusetts resident. However, a few days later, several publications reported that Schilling was interested in managing the Philadelphia Phillies or becoming the Red Sox's pitching coach. On Tuesday, Schilling said he'd decided not to run for Congress, telling an Arizona sports radio program that "[t]he things that have been said and done to my wife and kids since I announced interest in running" weren't worth it.
This isn't the first time that Schilling has sounded likely to run for office only to not go through with it. Schilling actually said back in October of 2016 that he would challenge Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren the following cycle by declaring, "I've made my decision. I'm going to run." However, Schilling bizarrely continued, "But—but—I haven't talked to Shonda, my wife," and he added, "And ultimately it's going to come down to how her and I feel this would affect our marriage and our kids." The following March, Schilling announced that he would not actually run.
● AZ-06: Scandal-tarred Republican Rep. David Schweikert got our attention back in July after the news broke that he'd spent more money than he'd raised on lawyers as he dealt with multiple ethics investigations, but his campaign argued there was no problem. Chris Baker, who works as a consultant for the Arizona congressman, said, "It's a one-off situation. It's not going to continue," and he quickly repeated, "We're quite confident this is a one-off situation."
Well, Schweikert's third quarter fundraising report is now available and despite his team's confidence, this was anything but a one-off situation. As the Arizona Republic's Ronald Hansen notes, Schweikert, who is still under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, raised just $136,000 for the quarter while he spent another $105,000 on legal fees. Unsurprisingly, Schweikert's high burn rate continued, and he went from having $170,000 in the bank in June to just $144,000 on Sept. 30, which Hansen says gives him the smallest war chest in Arizona's nine-member House delegation.
Baker once again responded to the bad news, and this time, he didn't try to argue that this wouldn't continue. Instead, Baker said, "Congressman Schweikert has always run well-funded campaigns and will again in 2020," and, "He has easily defeated every Democrat challenger by double digits and we expect 2020 to be no different."
While Schweikert has indeed consistently won re-election by double digits, 2020 is already shaping up to be a very different year, and it's not just because of the ethics investigation that's dogging him. Arizona's 6th Congressional District, which includes Scottsdale and North Phoenix, moved from 60-39 Romney to 52-42 Trump, and even more alarming for Schweikert, Republican Martha McSally carried it by only a modest 51-47 margin in last year's Senate race.
Democrats haven't seriously targeted this seat in years, but that's also changing. Physician Hiral Tipirneni, who ran last year in the neighboring 8th District, has been campaigning here since April, and she's been a strong fundraiser. Tipirneni brought in $333,000 during the third quarter, and she ended September with $603,000 in the bank.
Tipirneni has considerably more money available than both Schweikert or either of her two opponents in the August Democratic primary. Anita Malik, who lost to Schweikert 55-45 last year, raised $39,000 for the quarter and had $41,000 to spend. Businesswoman Stephanie Rimmer raised only $12,000 during this time and had $87,000 in the bank.
● FL-19: GOP Rep. Francis Rooney earned himself a place on the retirement watchlists after he raised just $800 from donors during the second quarter, and he somehow outdid himself by bringing in only $650 over the following three months. Florida Politics' Jacob Ogleso noted that all of this money, such as it was, came from just one person, contractor Kevin Jensen.
Rooney, who still has a $598,000 war chest, demonstrated in 2016 that he's willing and able to self-fund, so he certainly can defend himself if he ends up attracting a serious primary in this safely red southwestern Florida seat. However, Ogleso wrote in July that local party leaders believe that Rooney, unlike so many of his other House GOP colleagues, means what he says when he advocates term limits for members of Congress, and that he'd leave office no later than January of 2023 after the end of a third term.
● MA-04: This week, state Rep. Patricia Haddad announced that she would not seek the Democratic nod for this open seat.
● MN-01: Farmer and businessman Ralph Kaehler announced Tuesday that he'd seek the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn. Kaehler, who is running for office for the first time, will compete with 2018 nominee Dan Feehan, who lost a very tight race last year.
Kaehler said he'd compete for the state party endorsement, but he said it was too early to know if he'd drop out if he lost it. Winning the party endorsement is not the same thing as winning the nomination, but many politicos in Minnesota take it very seriously, and there's often pressure on candidates to drop out if they lose it. As a result, it's common for candidates in both parties to, in local parlance, "abide" by the party endorsement process and end their campaigns instead of proceeding to the primary if they aren't chosen. In 2018, for example, Feehan defeated three opponents at the party convention, and they each quickly ended their campaigns.
● MO-02: While there's been some speculation that GOP Rep. Ann Wagner could retire, she continues to fundraise like she plans to run for a fifth term. Wagner took in just over $450,000 during the third quarter, and she ended September with $2.2 million on-hand.
Wagner only beat Democrat Cort VanOstran 51-47, but according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, VanOstran has decided not to seek a rematch. (There's no quote from VanOstran.) So far, no notable Democrats have entered the race for this suburban St. Louis seat. Morning Consult wrote in late June that gun safety activist Becky Morgan was planning to jump in as soon as the following month, but that was the first and last thing we ever heard about a potential Morgan campaign.
● NY-02: EMILY's List endorsed Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon's bid against longtime GOP Rep. Pete King on Wednesday. Gordon is the only notable Democrat running for this Southern Long Island seat, but she raised just $77,000 for the third quarter and had $123,000 in the bank.
King said last month that he hadn't decided if he'd run again, and he brought in only $154,000 during the third quarter. That haul is comparable to what King raised at this point in the last cycle, though his war chest was much larger back then: The incumbent had $2.7 million to spend in September of 2017 while he has $1.1 million in the bank now.
● NY-17: On Wednesday, former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton appeared on The View and responded to speculation that she could run for this open seat by saying, "I'm not considering running for Congresswoman [Nita] Lowey's seat." When co-host Whoopi Goldberg asked Clinton if she'd ever consider running she replied, "I don't know, but right now the answer is no." That's not quite a firm no, but it doesn't sound like Clinton is eager to seek this reliably blue House seat.
● PA-07: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller on Wednesday, a move that comes two days after she launched her campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. Scheller leads Silberline Manufacturing, a multi-million-dollar paint pigment company started by her family, and the National Journal wrote back in May that she could self-fund.
● TX-23: Navy veteran Tony Gonzales announced in August that he’d seek the GOP nod for this competitive open seat, and his campaign said early this month that he’d raised $150,000 during his first quarter in the race. However, Gonzales’ FEC report reveals that only $85,000, or just over half, of that amount came from donors, while he self-funded the rest.
That’s a very weak haul for a seat that hosted a very expensive race last year and it’s especially bad compared to the monster $1 million haul that 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones brought in for the quarter; Ortiz Jones, who did not self-fund at all, ended September with a $1.44 million to $107,000 cash-on-hand lead over Gonzales.
Gonzales is so far the only notable Republican who has entered the race in the more than two months since GOP Rep. Will Hurd surprised everyone by retiring, and the early December candidate filing deadline isn’t too far away. A few weeks ago, NRCC chair Tom Emmer said of the GOP’s one candidate, “We have a great candidate named Gonzales,” though he awkwardly didn’t mention his first name and predicted that others would run. Emmer is probably hoping his prediction comes true over the next six weeks if he wants to keep this 50-46 Clinton seat.
P.S. This wasn’t the first time that Gonzales talked about his fundraising without making the distinction between money he’d brought in from donors and cash he’d self-funded. In September Gonzales said he’d raised $100,000 during his first 30 days in the race, which is less than the total amount he raised from people who weren’t himself during the quarter.
● WI-05: Former Gov. Tommy Thompson endorsed state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on Wednesday in the GOP primary for this open seat.