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-27: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth is spending a total of $32,000 on ads on Fox News and local conservative talk radio on spots arguing that GOP state Sen. Chris Jacobs didn’t support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The TV commercial utilizes a clip of a reporter asking Jacobs if he supported Trump’s candidacy and Jacobs responding, “I am 100% focused on my campaign. I’m running for state office.” The GOP nominee for this still unscheduled special election will be chosen by county party leaders rather than primary voters, so the Club’s media campaign is aimed at persuading this small but important group not to pick Jacobs.
This isn’t the first time this year that the Club has implemented this type of strategy. In March, just before party delegates were to meet and select their special election nominee for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, the group spent $16,000 on targeted mailers and an opposition research packet targeting state Rep. Jeff Wheeland. Wheeland, citing negative attacks, ended up removing his name from consideration just before the party assembly began.
However, while the Club is relying on New York GOP leaders’ love of Trump to knock out another opponent, neither they nor Jacobs actually showed any enthusiasm about him in 2016. During the primaries, the Club spent millions on ads declaring, “There’s nothing conservative about giving money to the Clintons. There’s nothing conservative about Donald Trump.” As recently as the fall of that year, the Club’s then-spokesperson, Doug Sachtleben, still used his private account to tweet that his party’s nominee was “petty,” “thin-skinned,” and “like a teenage boy.” However, the Club quickly embraced Trump after the election and never looked back.
It was a similar story for Jacobs, who was running to flip a Democratic-held state Senate seat in the Buffalo area in 2016. During that campaign Jacobs notably refused to say whether or not he was supporting Trump.
That may have been the right call at the time, since Jacobs won the state Senate race 59-39 even as Hillary Clinton was carrying the seat 50-45, but the Club is making him pay for it now despite their own apostasies. But just like the Club, Jacobs has turned himself into a Trump true believer. In May, as he was launching his congressional campaign, Jacobs that he "ran for re-election to assure that President Trump had an ally in this seat." We wonder if his constituents knew that last year when they re-elected him.
Meanwhile, another Republican says he’s close to entering the race to succeed former Rep. Chris Collins. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, who said earlier this year that he would run if Collins didn’t, said Monday that he and his wife would “make a decision in the next few days.”
● KS-Sen: State Senate President Susan Wagle announced back in August that she'd raised $400,000 during the first week of her campaign for the GOP nod for the Kansas' open U.S. Senate seat, and she declared in early October that she'd hauled in a total of $500,000 for the quarter. However, what her campaign didn't mention at the time was that she'd only raised $248,000 during the entire quarter from donors, while another $275,000 came from Waggle herself.
Wagle ended September with a $495,000 war chest, which is more money than all but one of her August primary opponents has available. Rep. Roger Marshall entered the race in September with plenty of cash in his House account, and he raised another $570,000 for the quarter and had close to $1.9 million in the bank. Kansas Turnpike Authority chair Dave Lindstrom raised just $135,000 from donors but self-funded an additional $100,000, and he had $241,000 to spend.
Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is utterly despised by national Republicans, brought in only $248,000 during his opening fundraising quarter, and he had just shy of $200,000 to spend. That's still far better than the $2,000 war chest that Bryan Pruitt, the former director of Red State, had to spend, though.
● LA-Gov: Republican Eddie Rispone launched four new TV ads against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards over the weekend, and they all begin and end with the same clips of Donald Trump attacking the incumbent at a rally.
One of Rispone's commercials goes after the governor for his criminal justice reforms, which were supported by a number of prominent Republicans and only applied to non-violent and non-sex offenders. Another Rispone spot focuses on the state economy and argues that things are getting worse under Edwards while ignoring that the state's unemployment rate is at an 11-year low.
The other two Rispone ads (here and here) declare that Edwards wasted $85 million with his Medicaid expansion, a figure that comes from a questionable study by the state's auditor. As we've also noted before, individuals not eligible for Medicaid received benefits largely because of an outdated system that allowed recipients to self-report employment status—a system that was upgraded last year. The commercials also throw in some xenophobia by arguing that undocumented immigrants are benefiting from $16 million in welfare under Edwards.
● FL-19: The local NBC affiliate writes that state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman, and attorney Steve Martin are each considering running in the GOP primary for this safely red seat, but there's no quotes from any of them.
Meanwhile, while former state Rep. Matt Caldwell initially ruled out running here over the weekend, he later opened the door just a crack. Caldwell said he was reluctant to run because he has a young child, but, "I would never say never." Caldwell was the GOP's nominee for state agriculture commissioner last year and he lost to Democrat Nikki Fried 50.04-49.6, a result that gave Florida Democrats their first victory in a race for a state cabinet office since 2006, when Alex Sink won her only term as state chief financial officer.
Caldwell also mentioned former Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott as a possible contender for Congress, but there's no word if Scott is interested.
● IN-01: Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott is once again contemplating a Democratic primary bid against longtime Rep. Pete Visclosky in Indiana's safely blue 1st Congressional District.
News of McDermott's interest in this northwestern Indiana seat first surfaced last week when he announced on social media that Visclosky's campaign had requested extensive public records from city hall, including information about the mayor's salary, travel reimbursements, and personal financial disclosures. McDermott told The Times of Northwest Indiana that he believed the congressman was trying to intimidate him for criticizing Visclosky for supporting an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.
Those comments came at the start of the month when McDermott argued that the Senate would keep Trump in office, and, "I don't think the country, as badly divided as we are, is ready to go through a year of impeachment and a removal trial." McDermott continued, "I think we're going to beat him in 2020 anyway. Let's embarrass the guy, censure him and then kick his butt in 2020."
McDermott also insisted that Visclosky's support for impeachment could cost the region federal funding for a commuter rail extension to Chicago, saying, "We're asking for a lot from the federal government in Congressional District 1 right now, and if we lose this train over this decision I think it's going to be unforgivable." He added, "Is it really worth it if we think the ultimate result is going to be that the Senate is going to do nothing anyway?" McDermott instead advocated a censure resolution against Trump.
While McDermott said last week that Visclosky was trying to scare him into silence, he insisted that he was only focused on winning re-election this November and helping local Democratic candidates. However, he continued, "I'll deal with the congressman's stuff, and the situation with me and Pete Visclosky, after Nov. 5."
McDermott also added, "I am interested in, one day, moving up the ladder. I've always been interested in state politics, and now I'm very interested in what's going on in Washington, D.C." While McDermott didn't mention any office and added, "Heck, I might even run for president," Howey Politics writes that he told them he was indeed considering running against Visclosky.
McDermott may indeed be serious about taking on Visclosky, who was first elected to the House in 1984, but this isn't the first time he's considered challenging him. Back in November of 2015 McDermott, after months of flirting with running for governor or for Senate, said that he wouldn't seek a statewide office, but he pointedly did not rule out challenging Visclosky.
McDermott also said four years ago that he believed Visclosky was retaliating against him. Back then, the mayor pointed to Lake County Democratic Party chair John Buncich's decision to remove a McDermott ally from the county election board, a move that Buncich said had nothing to do with the congressional race. However, we learned that McDermott wouldn't run a few months later when the candidate filing deadline passed and the mayor didn't send in any paperwork to get on the ballot.
If McDermott does run this time, he would be in for a very difficult race. McDermott is a self-described moderate, and his comments opposing impeachment likely won't play well with Democratic voters. Indiana's May congressional primary will take place on the same day as its Democratic presidential contest, which will likely bring voters to the polls who are only interested in the White House race and are inclined to vote for familiar names like Visclosky's down the ballot. (McDermott's Hammond constituency is the largest city in the district, but it still only makes up about 10% of the seat.)
McDermott would also need to quickly raise money to go on TV in this seat, which is entirely in the expensive Chicago media market. Visclosky ended September with $515,000 in the bank, which is hardly overwhelming for an incumbent, but it does give him a large head start.
● MI-10: Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum announced Monday that he would seek the GOP nod for this safely red open seat. Slocum, who is a first-time candidate, flew fighter jets (under the call sign "Odie," which he still uses as a nickname) and later went on to command Selfridge Air National Guard Base in the southern part of this district. State Rep. Shane Hernandez is also competing in the August GOP primary.
● MN-07: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did his best Donald Trump endorsement on Tuesday as he tweeted out his "complete and total endorsement!" for former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach. (McCarthy, though, at least has the self-control to limit himself to just one exclamation mark.)
Fischbach is the GOP frontrunner to take on longtime Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson in this 62-31 Trump seat in western Minnesota, but she only raised $100,000 during her first month in the race. That wasn't too far behind the $159,000 that Peterson, who has a long history of barely raising cash during off years, brought in for the quarter. The incumbent, who says he'll decide if he'll run again in January of February, ended September with a $917,000 to $85,000 cash-on-hand lead.
One Republican does have more money in the bank that Fischbach, though it's only because of self-funding. Physician Noel Collis took in just $22,000 from donors but gave himself another $114,000, and he had $129,000 to spend at the end of last month. Collis ran here all the way back in 1992 when Peterson was a freshman, but his campaign ended before the primary.
Another former Peterson foe, 2016/2018 nominee Dave Hughes, brought in just $19,000 and had that same amount on-hand. Hughes raised very little money during either of his past two campaigns and came surprisingly close to beating Peterson both times, but his third campaign once again isn't attracting much outside attention.
● NJ-10: Stephen Green, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor and former NAACP youth director, launched his primary bid against Democratic Rep. Donald Payne in late July with a long profile in Buzzfeed, but he doesn't seem to be running much of a campaign nearly three months later. Green hasn't so much as set up a fundraising committee with the FEC, and he only has a minimal website set up for what he's calling an exploratory committee. That's still more than Green's social media accounts, which don't even identify him as a congressional candidate.
● Baltimore, MD Mayor: Jack Young announced Tuesday that he would seek his first full term as mayor of Baltimore next year rather than go with his original plan to run for his old job as president of the City Council.
Young led the City Council in the spring when Mayor Catherine Pugh was engulfed by a scandal over the massive payments she received for a crummy series of self-published children's books. Young, who was first in line to succeed Pugh, said before she resigned that he would only serve out the remainder of her term and would not make a bid for his own four years in office.
Pugh resigned in May and Young became mayor, but he began to publicly discuss seeking a full term in July. Young explained that he had made an agreement with City Council Vice President Sharon Middleton where she would replace him as Council president and, at the completion of Young's term, the pair would then run for their previous positions. However, Councilman Brandon Scott unanimously won a Council vote to succeed Young as president, upending Young's arrangement with Middleton.
Young openly acknowledged in the summer that this turnabout led to his reconsideration, saying that "Sharon and I had an agreement. And then this thing with Brandon, it threw off the plan." Scott announced last month that he would run for mayor rather than try to stay on as head of the Council.
Young, Scott, and former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah are all running in the April Democratic primary, where it takes just a simple plurality to win; the Democratic nominee should have no trouble prevailing in the general election in this very blue city. Several other local politicians have also expressed interest in running ahead of the January filing deadline.
● Wichita, KS Mayor: Businessman Lyndy Wells, who took a close third place in the August nonpartisan primary, announced last week that he would launch a write-in campaign for the Nov. 5 general election. Over the summer GOP Mayor Jeff Longwell took 32% in the primary while Democratic state Rep. Brandon Whipple edged Wells 26-25 for the second general election spot.
Wells said that he hadn't planned to wage a write-in campaign until last month when The Wichita Eagle reported that Longwell had steered a large and crucial city contract for a new water treatment plant to his political allies and friends. Wells argued that this represented a "breach of trust," but he also insisted that Whipple had only "limited leadership experience." Wells' announcement came about a week after two former mayors, Republican Bob Knight and Democrat Carl Brewer, appeared in a commercial urging him to run.