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.
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● CO-Sen: While Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse repeatedly refused to rule out a Senate bid as recently as July, the Colorado Sun writes that he decided not to run sometime after former Gov. John Hickenlooper entered the race the following month.
● IA-Sen: End Citizens United, which is supporting businesswoman Theresa Greenfield in the June Democratic primary, is out with a survey from Public Policy Polling that gives GOP Sen. Joni Ernst a 47-41 lead over Greenfield. So far, we've seen very few other polls of this contest.
● ME-Sen: On Wednesday, GOP Sen. Susan Collins finally confirmed that she's seeking a fifth term. While Collins waited until now to make her announcement, there was little indication that she was actually thinking about retiring. Collins raised $2.1 million during the third quarter of 2019 and ended September with $7.1 million on-hand, and Advertising Analytics reports that she's already spent over $1.1 million on ads.
Collins faces no serious primary opposition, but she's in for a very expensive general election. State House Speaker Sara Gideon, who has the support of national Democrats, ended September with $2.8 million in the bank, which was considerably more than any of her primary foes. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will also benefit from about $4 million that several organizations, including Daily Kos, raised after Collins became the decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
● NH-Sen: ARG: Jeanne Shaheen (D-inc): 58, Corey Lewandowski (R): 35 (Sept.: 56-34 Shaheen)
● WV-Gov: Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango picked up a Democratic primary endorsement this week from Gaston Caperton, who served as governor from 1989 to 1997.
● CA-25: On Friday, Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna said he was rescinding his endorsement of political commentator Cenk Uygur because the candidate's past comments "were wrong and hurtful which he has acknowledged." Among other things, Uygur used a 2013 episode of his The Young Turks show to rank women based on how likely men would be to receive oral sex from them.
Khanna made his move right after presidential candidate Bernie Sanders retracted his own endorsement of Uygur after several progressive groups loudly protested. Uygur responded by saying, "Going forward from today I will not accept endorsements, so it means Bernie Sanders has not endorsed me."
● FL-03: Former Rep. Cliff Stearns endorsed businessman Judson Sapp this week in the August GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Yoho. One thing both Stearns and Sapp have in common is that they've both lost GOP primaries to Yoho: Stearns lost his seat in 2012 in a 34-33 surprise, while Yoho fended off Sapp 76-24 last year.
● GA-14: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia Department of Natural Resources chair Bill Carruth is considering seeking the GOP nod for this safely red open seat.
Carruth previously served on the Paulding County Board of Commissioners, and he became the body's first Republican chair in 1997. Carruth, who left office in 2000, was appointed in 2003 to the Board of the Directors of the state Department of Natural Resources, and he served as its chair in 2009. Carruth lost a 2012 primary for the state Senate 55-45, but a parkway bearing his name was finished four years later.
● MA-03: On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was furthering its investigation of freshman Massachusetts Rep. Lori Trahan over loans totaling $300,000 that she made to her campaign last year ahead of her narrow victory in the Democratic primary.
The development came after a September report on the matter from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was made public for the first time on Tuesday. That report concluded there was “substantial reason” to believe Trahan had “accepted personal loans and contributions that exceeded campaign contribution limits” and “failed to disclose required information in her congressional candidate financial disclosure reports or FEC candidate committee filings.” Investigators also noted that Trahan did not cooperate with their probe.
In March, a Trahan spokesperson sought to explain the problem by saying that the congresswoman had “enjoyed professional success that allowed her to support her own campaign.” However, the Boston Globe reported that Trahan’s own financial disclosures from the previous summer showed that she didn't have the resources to contribute anywhere close to $300,000 to her race. Trahan's husband, home builder David Trahan, is very wealthy, but his assets appear to be solely under his name, which would have prevented him from legally contributing more than the allowable maximum of $2,700 for the primary to his wife's campaign.
OCE investigators found that cash from David Trahan’s personal and business funds, however, was transferred to the couple’s joint checking account three times last year, and that Lori Trahan then loaned her campaign almost all of that money. The OCE concluded, “The process of transferring these funds from David Trahan’s accounts to a joint account did not transform these funds into Rep. Trahan’s assets, or even jointly owned assets,” meaning that David Trahan far exceeded the amount he was allowed to contribute.
The report goes on to say that not only the transfers but their timing was questionable. For instance, on March 31 of last year, which was the final day of the fundraising quarter, Lori Trahan wrote a $50,000 check to her campaign from the couple’s joint account, which her campaign recorded in its FEC report. However, the joint account had just $55 in it at the time. On April 7, David Trahan transferred $50,000 to the joint account; two days later, the campaign finally deposited the candidate’s check.
The same thing happened three months later on June 30 for $50,000 and again on Aug. 20, just weeks ahead of the primary, for $200,000. On the first two occasions, those transfers allowed Trahan to file reports with the FEC showing inflated fundraising totals, even though the money in question was not received until after the reporting period.
In late October of this year, after the OCE report was sent to the Ethics Committee but before it was released to the public, Lori Trahan published a post on Medium saying that her prenuptial agreement with her husband stipulated that the money they earned separately would belong equally to them, meaning that “[w]hat I earned was our money and what he earned was our money.”
The congresswoman went on to say that during last year’s campaign “we decided to move $300,000 from income Dave had earned to our joint checking account; Dave deposited $50,000 and $55,000 into our joint checking account before I filed my first and second quarterly reports in 2018, and in August, he deposited an additional $200,000.” Trahan continued, “I loaned money to my campaign in similar amounts from that joint checking account—$50,000 on March 31st, $50,000 on June 30th, and $200,000 on August 22nd. Later in the campaign, I used a home equity line of credit to loan my campaign an additional $71,000.”
Trahan further said, “I now know that the way I contributed those funds constitute a gray area in campaign finance law” and claimed there were “inadvertent omissions and errors in my initial filings.” However, Trahan argued that prior FEC rulings “suggest what I did was not a violation.” After providing several examples, she wrote that “perhaps most tellingly, several commissioners on the Federal Election Commission looked at the question of how to determine when funds belonged to one family member versus another family member, and described it all as ‘hopelessly muddled.’”
Trahan was already facing the prospect of a September primary rematch with Andover Selectman Dan Koh, whom she beat by just 145 votes last year. Koh hasn’t said when he expects to decide, but he said Tuesday, “The voters of the Third District deserve a full, honest account of her conduct during the election and the consulting clients she claims funded her campaign." Massachusetts’ 3rd District, which includes the Lowell area and the Merrimack Valley, backed Hillary Clinton 58-35.
● NC-09: On Wednesday, Hoke County Commissioner Harry Southerland filed with the state to seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Dan Bishop. Bishop won September's expensive special election for the old version of the 9th District by a 51-49 margin, and the new seat is 20% new to him. The new 9th District is a little less conservative than the seat Bishop won, but not by much: While the old 9th supported Donald Trump 54.4-42.8, the new one backed him 53.7-43.3.
● NJ-02: While there were reports saying that Rep. Jeff Van Drew would make his switch to the GOP official on Wednesday, he said he wouldn't be announcing anything that day. However, Van Drew began sitting on the GOP side of the floor during the impeachment debate.
While Donald Trump hasn't officially endorsed Van Drew, who decided to flee the Democratic Party after loudly opposing impeachment, he's repeatedly praised the man who will soon be the GOP's newest member. Trump's enthusiasm also is giving the congressman some air cover with GOP leaders in the 2nd District.
Earlier this month, when there was only mere speculation that Van Drew could switch, Cape May County Republican Chairman Marcus Karavan said that the incumbent should remain a Democrat. This week, though, Karavan said that the county party "strongly supports President Trump and will give all appropriate deference to the president's ultimate position with regard to the Van Drew party change."
State Sen. Michael Testa, who is also the chair of the Cumberland County GOP as well as Trump's state co-chair, said he'd support Van Drew if that's what Trump wants.
● NY-17: Democrat Catherine Parker, who serves as majority leader on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, filed paperwork with the FEC this week for a possible bid to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey.
This seat backed Hillary Clinton 59-38, but one notable Republican recently entered the race. Businessman Josh Eisen, who is a self-described "progressive Republican," declared that he'd self-fund $500,000. Back in 2012 the GOP ran another wealthy candidate, Joseph Carvin, but he lost to Lowey 64-35.
● OK-02, TX-12, VA-05: On Tuesday, Donald Trump tweeted out endorsements for GOP Reps. Markwayne Mullin, Kay Granger, and Denver Riggleman, who each have notable intra-primary opposition. Granger faces wealthy businessman Chris Putnam in Texas' March primary, while Mullin is fending off a challenge from Oklahoma state Sen. Joseph Silk in June.
Over in Virginia's 5th District, Riggleman is being challenged by Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good. The nominating convention, which will be held instead of a primary, has not yet been scheduled.
● Special Elections: Here's a preview of the last special election of the year (and decade!), which is taking place in Tennessee. In true Volunteer State fashion, this election is being held on a Thursday.
TN-HD-77: This is a Republican district in West Tennessee, anchored by Dyersburg. This seat became vacant after the resignation of former Rep. Bill Sanderson, who said that he was leaving office because of a family health issue and to pursue his business interests. However, local media also reported that Sanderson had sent explicit messages on the gay dating app Grindr, despite being married to a woman and having compiled an anti-LGBTQ voting record in the legislature. Sanderson claimed that he was not leaving due to scandal.
Casey Hood was appointed to serve as interim representative and ran in the Republican primary to hold this seat on a permanent basis but was defeated by farmer Rusty Grilis 56-25. Grilis will face Mike Smith, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination and is the first Democrat to contest this district since 2012. There are also three independent candidates running: Ronnie Henley, Billy Jones, and Max Smith. This is a strongly Republican district that Donald Trump won 78-20 and Mitt Romney carried 72-27. Republicans hold a wide 73-26 advantage in this chamber.