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.
● NY-22: On Monday, former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney accidentally announced that she would seek a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a move that came one day before she intentionally launched her comeback bid for New York's 22nd District. The New York Daily News reports that Tenney was trying to solicit feedback from her advisors about her launch video, but instead of sharing an encrypted file, she posted it publicly to Vimeo.
Unfortunately for Tenney, her botched campaign launch is hardly her most embarrassing moment in politics. Last year, she lost her bid for a second term 51-49 in an upstate New York district that had backed Donald Trump by a wide 55-39 margin, making it the Trumpiest seat that a House Republican managed to lose in 2018.
In fact, of the 235 Democratic-held House seats in the nation, the only Trumpier one is Minnesota's 7th, which has been represented by Rep. Collin Peterson for decades. Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro also carried New York's 22nd by a wide 56-36 margin as Tenney was losing, so she managed to alienate quite a few conservative voters on her way out the door.
Indeed, Tenney had a knack for attracting plenty of bad headlines for herself during the campaign. Tenney notably mused that "so many" mass shooters "end up being Democrats;” declared that the "deep state" was responsible for the scandal over Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson's $31,000 dining room set; said that members of Congress who didn't applaud Trump during his State of the Union address were "un-American;" and argued that former White House official Rob Porter didn't commit a "crime of character" for beating his wife.
Tenney's biggest mistake, though, was likely her decision to hurl hoary anti-Italian slurs at Brindisi in 2017 by saying his father had represented "some of the worst criminals in our community" who were members of "organized crime"—in other words, mafia figures.
None of this had anything to do with her actual opponent—especially since the elder Brindisi ceased doing criminal defense in 1983—and it was also a terrible strategy in a seat where one in seven residents are of Italian descent, one of the higher rates in the country. Indeed, a former president of the local Sons of Italy declared, "Anytime your name ends in a vowel people feel it's fair to take the mafia shot at you. It's really horrible."
Rather than stop, though, Tenney doubled down on line of attack the following year. Tenney drew condemnation from Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, a fellow Republican who called Tenney a "national embarrassment" months before, as well as from GOP state Sen. Joseph Griffo.
Tenney could very well end up beating Brindisi in this red seat, but if she campaigns this time like she did in 2018, she could struggle again. First, though, Tenney will need to get through a primary against Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell, who kicked off his bid in early July.
It's that magical time again! The deadline for House and Senate candidates to file their quarterly fundraising reports (covering the period from July 1 through Sept. 30 of this year) is Oct. 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, and we’ll be releasing our House and Senate fundraising chart after the Oct. 15 deadline.
● AK-Sen: Al Gross (I): $800,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $700,000 cash-on-hand
● GA-Sen-A: Jon Ossoff (D): $800,000 raised (in 21 days), $1.3 million cash-on-hand (includes money transferred from 2017 House campaign)
● MI-Sen: John James (R): $3 million raised
● CA-50: Ammar Campa-Najjar (D): $550,000 raised
● NJ-04: Stephanie Schmid (D): $100,000 raised (in 25 days)
● NY-01: Nancy Goroff (D): $520,000 raised
● MT-Sen: Public health expert Cora Neumann announced on Tuesday that she was entering the Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Steve Daines. Neumann is the founder of Global First Ladies Alliance, a group she launched in 2009 in partnership with Laura Bush and Michelle Obama that utilizes the influence of first ladies from around the world to improve health and economic development.
● NH-Sen: While former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has sounded eager to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, he acknowledged Tuesday that "it's fair to say" he's reconsidering. Lewandowski said that he wanted to help defend his old boss from impeachment, and he added that his "top priority" was re-electing Trump. However, Lewandowski did reiterate that he wants to see how much money his would-be primary rivals raised before making up his mind.
A number of state and national Republicans have dreaded the idea of having Lewandowski as their nominee, and they'd certainly be relieved if he returned to Trump Tower. Other members of Trumpworld, though, wouldn't be so happy: Back in August, CNN's Jeremy Diamond tweeted that some campaign officials hoped that, if he was busy challenging Shaheen, Lewandowski would be too busy to interfere with the Trump's re-election campaign.
● SC-Sen: Change Research (D) for Collective PAC: Lindsey Graham (R-inc): 50, Jaime Harrison (D): 43 (June: 51-35 Graham).
● KY-Gov: The DGA's newest TV ad attacks Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for trying to take away health care from "400,000 Kentuckians" by attempting to end their Medicaid benefits and protections for pre-existing conditions.
● LA-Gov: It took two weeks for Rep. Ralph Abraham to launch a response ad to an attack from wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone, a fellow Republican who is competing in the Oct. 12 all-party primary. Abraham’s narrator declares, “Eddie Rispone is desperate, and is running dishonest attack ads against Ralph Abraham.” The spot goes on to defend the congressman’s conservative credentials and concludes, “Eddie Rispone is lying to you, and that’s the truth.”
This is a very different response to what Abraham said after Rispone’s ad hit the airwaves in mid-September. The congressman said at the time that he’d continue to only go after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, and he tried to shame Rispone for attacking a fellow Republican.
Abraham even reiterated on Monday he was “absolutely not gonna” resort to negative campaigning against a fellow party member, and he criticized Rispone for going back on his word to do the same. However, it’s easy to take the moral high ground when you’re ahead in the polls, and even Abraham’s own numbers show him slipping in the closing weeks.
Gumbo PAC, a group funded in part by the DGA, of course never made any pledge to be nice to Rispone, and they’re out with another spot attacking him as a phony.
● MS-Gov: Democrat Jim Hood's latest TV ad blasts Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, claiming that Reeves used "political pressure" to try to get taxpayers to fund a $2 million road that would have been built between the gated community where he lives and a nearby shopping mall. Hood, standing on a dirt road he says he built on his farm "with horsepower and my sweat," promises that the only roads he'll use taxpayer money to build are ones for Mississippians, not himself.
● NH-Gov: 2018 Democratic nominee Molly Kelly announced Tuesday that she would not seek a rematch against GOP Gov. Chris Sununu. State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes currently has the September Democratic primary to himself, though state Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky formed an exploratory committee over the summer and indicated that he'd announce by the end of October.
● UT-Gov: While there were some reports earlier this year indicating that former state House Speaker Greg Hughes would defer to former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Hughes is now very much acting like he expects to face Huntsman in the June GOP primary.
Neither man has entered the race yet, but Hughes told Utah Policy that he anticipates that Huntsman, whose resignation as ambassador to Russia will take effect on Thursday, will run, and he showed no interest in backing off. Instead, Hughes has been raising money to demonstrate he's a "viable candidate." The former speaker has brought in a total of $522,000 so far for his leadership PAC, and he ended September with $444,000 on-hand.
While Hughes previously said he'd decide whether to run by early fall, he now says he expects to announce his own campaign in December so he'll have enough time to gather signatures to make the primary ballot. He went on to say that "serious" candidates need to have hired campaign staff by early January, so it doesn't look like Hughes will be delaying his decision again.
● GA-07: Attorney Marqus Cole announced on Tuesday that he was ending his campaign for the Democratic nod. Cole had trouble raising money in the crowded race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Rob Woodall in this competitive seat.
● HI-02: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has refused to say if she'll seek a fifth term representing Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District if her quixotic presidential bid fails, and a new survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling finds that she could be in for a very rough homecoming if she does.
The survey, which was not done for a client, gives Gabbard a 48-26 lead against state Sen. Kai Kahele in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat. That's a wide lead, but it's not a strong showing for a well-known incumbent this far from Election Day, especially since Kahele likely will have room to grow once he becomes better known.
Gabbard, by contrast, has just a 44-34 approval rating with primary voters, so she may struggle to expand her support. Voters also say they'd prefer to nominate "someone else" over Gabbard by a 50-38 margin.
For now, though, Gabbard seems content to keep seeking the White House even though 60% of 2nd District primary voters think she should drop out while only 28% want her to keep running. More time away from home is unlikely to help Gabbard solidify her support, especially since she has a well established habit of alienating progressives.
Indeed, just last week Gabbard was one of the few House Democrats, and the only presidential candidate, who opposed opening an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. Even after the White House released its “memo” confirming that Trump urged Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, Gabbard responded, "I'm not a lawyer, but I think most people reading through that transcript are not going to find that extremely compelling cause to throw out a president that won an election in 2016." She continued, "Instead, what I think most people will see is, 'Hey, this is another move by Democrats to get rid of Donald Trump,' further deepening the already hyperpartisan divides that we have in this country."
Two days later, Gabbard belatedly said she supported an impeachment inquiry "after looking carefully" at the “memo.” The congresswoman and her team did not say why she changed her mind after reading through the document again.
● IA-02: GOP state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks announced Tuesday that she would run to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat who defeated her three times in the last decade, in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District. Miller-Meeks, perhaps unintentionally, alluded to her trio of failed bids for the seat in a tweet that day when she declared in all caps, "I'LL NEVER QUIT ON YOU."
Miller-Meeks will face Bobby Schilling, a former congressman who represented a neighboring district in Illinois for one term, in the GOP primary for this southeastern Iowa seat. Former state Sen. Rita Hart is the heavy favorite to claim the Democratic nod for a seat that swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump. Last year, though, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell, who had Hart on his ticket as his nominee for lieutenant governor, carried the district 51-47 as he was narrowly losing statewide.
Miller-Meeks, who is an ophthalmologist, ran for this seat for the first time in 2008 against Loebsack, who had pulled off a shocking victory two years before. This was a horrible cycle for Republicans across the nation, though, and Loebsack beat her 57-39 as Barack Obama was carrying the seat 60-38. Miller-Meeks came back for a rematch in 2010, and this time, she gave the incumbent a tough contest. However, while the red wave helped propel Schilling to victory just across the Mississippi River, Loebsack hung on to win 51-46.
Miller-Meeks landed a good gig one month after her defeat when incoming Gov. Terry Branstad named her head of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Miller-Meeks remained there until early 2014, when she resigned to launch her third bid against Loebsack. The incumbent looked like the clear favorite until the final weeks of the campaign, when major outside groups on both sides began spending here. This was another horrible year for Democrats, but Loebsack won by a 52.4-47.5 margin. (This time, Schilling also lost in what would ultimately be his final Illinois campaign when he tried to regain the seat he'd lost in 2012.)
Miller-Meeks decided to set her sights on lower office in 2018, and that proved to be a good decision. Miller-Meeks campaigned for the 41st Senate District, an open GOP-held seat that had swung from 53-46 Obama to 57-38 Trump, and she won 52-48 as GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds was carrying the seat 52-45. Iowa senators serve four-year terms, so Miller-Meeks can go back to her new post if she loses her fourth campaign for Congress.
● MA-04: Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux didn't rule out seeking the Democratic nod for this open seat on Monday, but he called the idea "highly unlikely." Heroux is up for re-election this November, and he told The Sun Chronicle that this may be his last campaign.
● MN-01: Democrats got some good news on Tuesday when 2018 Democratic nominee Dan Feehan announced that he'd seek a rematch against freshman GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn. Feehan lost last year's open seat race just 50.1-49.7 in a southern Minnesota district that had swung from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump. DCCC chair Cheri Bustos was impressed, and she said a month after his narrow defeat that she wanted Feehan to run again.
Feehan, who earned a Bronze Star while serving with the Army in Iraq and later served in the Defense Department, was on the receiving end of one of most xenophobic GOP campaigns of the 2018 cycle. The NRCC's favorite punching bag here was philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, and they ran anti-Semitic ad after anti-Semitic ad tying him to the Democrat.
One such commercial showed Soros surrounded by stacks of cash as the narrator argued that he "owns" Feehan. Other anti-Soros spots also went after former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who is black, and argued that Feehan was anti-military. The Congressional Leadership Fund also went up with a commercial late in the cycle focused on the migrant caravan that was slowly walking toward the United States from Central America (and that the GOP immediately forgot about after Election Day) and declared that Feehan "would vote with Pelosi for open borders and amnesty, putting Minnesota families at risk."
The GOP made heavy use of a clip of Feehan saying that "every time the Army complains, every time the Marine Corps complains … I ask them to please stop. Stop complaining." The GOP, to no one's surprise, edited the video to exclude the part where Feehan finished "because at the end of the day I worry about the Air Force."
● NY-27: On Tuesday, one day after he resigned from New York's 27th District, former GOP Rep. Chris Collins pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of lying to federal investigators. Collins is scheduled to be sentenced in January, and Politico writes that he could face up to 10 years in prison: As part of his plea deal, Collins agreed not to appeal any sentence of up to 57 months. The Republican was arrested last year for insider trading, and he narrowly won his final term while under indictment.
Collins' resignation will set off a special election for this 60-35 Trump seat in western New York, but no one knows when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo will schedule it for. The governor said Tuesday that, while it was too late to hold the race this November, he'd like it to happen "sooner rather than later." Under New York special election law, the nominees will be picked by local county party committees rather than through a primary.
State Sens. Rob Ortt and Chris Jacobs both kicked off primary bids against Collins earlier this year, and they both reaffirmed that they'd compete in the special election. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, who has repeatedly said in the past that he'd run if Collins didn't, said on Monday that he'd announce his plans within days.
However, these Republicans may be overshadowed if Army veteran David Bellavia, who received the Medal of Honor in June, gets in. Bellavia very much didn't rule out running on Monday, saying, "I'm not going to make a public decision without talking to the people, not only in the party, but a lot of close leaders in the Republican movement in western New York. I really want to sit down with them and hear what they have to say." Multiple Republicans have suggested over the last few months that Bellavia would be the frontrunner, and Mychajliw said in July that he wouldn't oppose him.
On the Democratic side, 2018 nominee Nate McMurray reaffirmed that he'd keep running now that Collins is gone.
● TX-07: Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Army veteran Wesley Hunt, who has the support of national Republicans, on Monday in the primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher.
● TX-23: 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones announced Tuesday that she’d raised a massive $1 million during the third quarter of 2019, and she ended September with a $1.4 million war chest. The GOP’s prospects of holding this 50-46 Clinton seat in west Texas took a tremendous hit over the summer when GOP Rep. Will Hurd retired, and Team Red will probably struggle to find a candidate who can match Ortiz Jones’ fundraising.
The only declared candidate is Navy veteran Tony Gonzales, who NRCC chair Tom Emmer spoke well of over the weekend … sort of. Emmer told the Texas Tribune Festival, “We have a great candidate named Gonzales,” though he awkwardly didn’t mention his first name and predicted that others would run. The Texas Tribune also writes that national Republicans like Gonzales, though they believe the field is still taking shape. The candidate filing deadline is in early December.
● VA-07: Andrew Knaggs, a Green Beret veteran and former Trump Defense official, announced on Tuesday that he would seek the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. Knaggs is a first-time candidate.
Knaggs, who would also be the first black Republican to represent Virginia in Congress since Reconstruction, joins nonprofit director Tina Ramirez in the race for this 51-44 Trump seat, and other local politicians may also take a look at this race after this year’s election takes place next month. The Washington Post writes that the GOP nomination will be decided through a convention rather than through a party primary.
● WA-08: Republican Jesse Jensen, who is a senior program manager at Amazon and formerly served as a captain in the Army, kicked off his campaign against first-term Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier on Tuesday. Jensen hasn't previously run for office before, but Jim Brunner at The Seattle Times reports that he "has been lining up support and endorsements for months from local and national Republicans."
● WI-05: Digital strategy consultant Matt Walker, who is a son of former Gov. Scott Walker, announced Monday that he would stay out of the GOP primary for this open seat. So far, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has the contest to himself.
● WI-07: On Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced that he'll be rescheduling the special election to replace former GOP Sen. Sean Duffy to sometime in early 2020. State law requires that primary take place 28 days before the general election, and last month, Evers set the primary for Dec. 30 and the general for Jan. 27. However, this provision violates federal law, which mandates that absentee ballots be shipped out to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before Election Day in federal contests.
Right now, Evers is considering two different timelines for the special. In one scenario the primary would take place Feb. 4 and the general would be April 7, which is the day that Wisconsin will host its presidential primary and nonpartisan general election for a state Supreme Court seat. The other plan would have the primary occur Feb. 18 to coincide with the primary for the state Supreme Court, while the general would be May 5.
Evers' office says that the 7th District primary and general elections can't both take place on the same days as Wisconsin's regularly scheduled elections because federal law sets certain timelines for when results must be certified and ballots need to be available.