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.
● FL-26: The NRCC has loudly touted restaurateur Irina Vilariño's campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida's 26th District, but they're being a whole lot more quiet now that her numerous tweets touting far-right conspiracy theories have surfaced.
This week, Talking Points Memo's Cameron Joseph reported that in March, a month before she kicked off her congressional bid, Vilariño shared a video that was faked to make Barack Obama sound like he was saying, "It's true, I'm not an American. I wasn't born in Hawaii, I wasn't born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya." And sadly, there's much more from the muck where that came from.
Last year, Vilariño spread an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory alleging that Jewish financier George Soros was working to destroy Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, with Vilariño adding that readers should "follow the money." Around the same time she approvingly retweeted an account promoting the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy movement that smeared Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
Vilariño told TPM in response, "I don't think any of these tweets warrant an apology, and I am not going to fearfully pander every time someone thinks they might be offended." She specifically defended the tweet with the phony Obama audio, saying, "It was a very interesting video of the president in his own words. I can see how that could be controversial. However, I don't see how rehatching [sic] this tweet could be beneficial to finding solutions to our pressing problems."
While Vilariño's messaging is, sadly, perfectly at home in today's Republican Party, it's unlikely to resonate well in a Miami-area seat that reacted badly to Trump. This district backed Hillary Clinton 57-41, and according to analyst Matthew Isbell, all five statewide Democrats carried the seat last year.
● NH-Sen, NH-Gov: On Tuesday, GOP Gov. Chris Sununu announced that he would seek a third two-year term as governor rather than challenge New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. National Republicans had unsuccessfully tried recruiting Sununu, who won re-election last year 53-46 even as New Hampshire Republicans were taking big losses down the ballot, and it's not clear who their second-choice candidate is.
Morning Consult gave Shaheen a strong 53-32 approval rating during the first quarter of 2019, and with Sununu out of the contest, she starts out as the favorite to win a third term. However, neither side can take anything for granted this far from Election Day in New Hampshire, a very swingy state where each party's political fortunes tend to change dramatically depending on the national political climate.
One familiar Republican is making noises about jumping into the Senate race, though he's probably not high on Team Red's wishlist. Former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien reiterated his interest in challenging Shaheen just after Sununu said he was out, and the Concord Monitor writes that O'Brien "said that he has a loose timetable to start setting up an organization by the summer."
O'Brien became speaker after the GOP flipped the state House in the 2010 wave, and he quickly developed a reputation even with some fellow Republicans as an extremist and a bully. Despite the GOP having gerrymandered the map, the state House flipped back to the Democrats in 2012, and some Republicans blamed O'Brien for their defeat. Team Red was back in the majority after the 2014 elections, and it initially looked like O'Brien would return to the speaker's chair. However, that's not what happened. A group of renegade Republicans sided with the Democratic minority and elected a different Republican, Shawn Jasper, as speaker.
While Sununu's decision to seek re-election is good news for national Democrats, it's not so great for Granite State Democrats who want to retake the governor's mansion next year and gain full control of state government. Sununu pulled off a clear win in an otherwise bad year for his party, and Morning Consult's quarterly poll gave him a 64-23 approval rating.
However, some Democrats have expressed interest in taking on the governor including 2018 nominee Molly Kelly, state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky. Additionally, Steve Marchand also said Wednesday that he wasn't sure if he'd run again after he came in a distant second in both the 2016 and 2018 Democratic primaries.
● TX-Sen: State Sen. Royce West has reportedly been considering entering the Democratic primary, but he seems to be playing coy publicly. The Texas Tribune writes that West told them he's focused on the legislative session, which is set to conclude May 27.
● MS-Gov: Hickman Analytics (D) for Jim Hood: Jim Hood (D): 45, Tate Reeves (R): 40
● FL-13: Florida Politics reported Tuesday that attorney Amanda Makki would seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, though she still has not said anything publicly. Makki is a former U.S. Senate staffer who went on to lead external affairs for pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.
This St. Petersburg-based seat moved from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton, and Crist won this district in 2016 by beating GOP incumbent David Jolly 52-48. However, Crist had no trouble two years later beating an underfunded Republican foe 58-42. According to analyst Matthew Isbell, four of the five 2018 statewide Democrats also carried the 13th District, with Sen. Bill Nelson taking it 55-45 during his unsuccessful re-election bid and gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum winning it by a similar 53-45 spread. The one Republican to prevail in the 13th was Ashley Moody, who carried it 51-47 as she was winning the statewide race for attorney general 52-46.
● MA-01: Author David Daley, a former Salon editor-in-chief who wrote a well-regarded book exposing Republican gerrymandering called Ratf**ked, told New England Public Radio this week that he was considering challenging longtime Rep. Richie Neal in the Democratic primary.
Daley used an op-ed in The Boston Globe to blast Neal, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, for raising large sums of campaign contributions from corporate interests. Daley didn't accuse Neal of any legal wrongdoing but attacked him as the sort of politician who "immediately rush[es] to auction their positions to the nation's business elite."
But while the corrosive influence of big money in politics has become a major issue for progressives (witness the increasing number of Democrats who've sworn off corporate PAC donations), it won't be easy for Daley—or anyone else—to unseat the incumbent. Neal has represented the safely blue 1st Congressional District in Western Massachusetts since 1989, and last year, he turned back an underfunded primary foe 71-29.
Earlier this year a number of progressives, including billionaire Tom Steyer, criticized Neal for taking too long to request Donald Trump's taxes. Steyer began spending $250,000 on mailers and billboards urging Neal to formally ask for Trump's taxes and start the impeachment process. Neal asked for Trump's taxes last month, and Steyer switched the messaging to thanking Neal.
It's also not clear how strong Daley's ties are to the area. In 2016, The Connecticut Mirror described him as a Connecticut native living in Brooklyn, while in his Globe op-ed, which ran earlier this month, his bio said that he was now living in Haydenville, Massachusetts, a community located in the 1st District.
Daley also isn't the only Democrat who seems to be eyeing this contest. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse didn't rule out running here a few weeks ago, and Politico reports that he and Daley recently met to discuss this race. Morse confirmed the meeting but would only say he was focused on his current job and hadn't made any 2020 decisions.
● NC-09: On Tuesday night, North Carolina's 9th District held its primaries for the do-over special election after last year's race was invalidated due to Republican election fraud, and state Sen. Dan Bishop won the GOP nod outright. He'll now face Marine veteran Dan McCready, who was the Democratic nominee in 2018, in the Sept. 10 general election for this suburban Charlotte seat.
Bishop led the 10-person field with 48%, well above the 30% threshold he needed to avoid a runoff, while Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing was a distant second with 20%. Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour finished third with 17%, while real estate agent Leigh Thomas Brown ended up in fourth with just 9%, despite the fact that the deep-pocketed National Association of Realtors, where she's once served as an official, spent a massive $1.3 million to help her.
Bishop is infamous for authoring a notorious piece of anti-LGBT legislation, House Bill 2—better known as the North Carolina "bathroom bill." The law, which required anyone using bathrooms at schools or public facilities to use the restroom associated with the sex on their birth certificate regardless of their gender identity, caused a national backlash and led a number of major corporations to cancel planned expansions in the state.
It not only gave North Carolina a black eye but also contributed to GOP Gov. Pat McCrory's narrow defeat in 2016. (The measure was rolled back the following year under McCrory's Democratic successor, Roy Cooper.) Bishop's career survived, though, and last year, he was re-elected 53-47 in a seat that Donald Trump carried 50-47.
McCready and Bishop will face off in a congressional district that's even more conservative—the 9th backed Trump by a challenging 54-43 margin. However, McCready performed very well last year: The voided results showed him just 905 votes back of his Republican opponent, Mark Harris, and he may well have won were it not for the fraud perpetrated by Harris operatives.
McCready is also a very strong fundraiser, and he had a hefty $1.57 million to $184,000 cash-on-hand lead over Bishop as of April 24. However, national Republicans are going to do everything they can to score a win here, and we should expect them to spend whatever it takes to defend this seat over the next four months.
Bishop also quickly launched his first TV of the general election on Wednesday, which Politico reports will run for two weeks for $100,000. The commercial begins with Bishop telling the audience that there are two Dans in the race, and the Republican is the "right Dan" who is "pro-life, pro-gun and pro-wall."
Bishop then labels McCready "wrong Dan," insisting that he'll "fall right in line with his friends: socialists, radicals. They hate the values that make America great." The spot also shows a cardboard cutout of McCready in front of the national GOP's favorite punching bags: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and freshmen Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
● NJ-11: This week, financial industry executive Reinier Prijten dropped his bid for the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill. Prijten's month-long campaign got off to a bad start when his 2010 anti-Muslim blog posts surfaced, and things didn't get better days later when the New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein reported that Prijten didn't live in New Jersey and never had. Wildstein tweeted just after Prijten dropped out that the last time he'd called Prijten, he "tried to pretend that his name was Antonio and that I had the wrong number."
● NM-03: On Tuesday, First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC and said he'd have "a formal announcement by the end of May regarding my plans." Serna set up an exploratory committee for a possible bid for the Democratic nod last month.
● NY-02: On Tuesday, Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon announced that she would seek the Democratic nod to take on longtime GOP Rep. Pete King. Gordon is the first notable Democrat to announce a bid against King, who has represented Long Island in Congress since 1993, but she may not have the primary to herself. Last year, Liuba Grechen Shirley held King to a 53-47 victory, which was the first time he'd failed to win by double digits since his first campaign 26 years ago, and she confirmed last month that she was considering seeking a rematch.
Gordon is a Jamaican immigrant who was first elected to the Council in Babylon, a town with over 200,000 residents (on Long Island, towns tend to be heavily populated), in 2006. Gordon also served in the Army Reserves, and she deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Gordon later retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
The 2nd District, which is home to Babylon and most of Islip, swung from 52-47 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but it lurched back to the left last fall. While Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 60-36 statewide win was very similar to Hillary Clinton's 59-37 victory, Bloomberg's Greg Giroux reports that Cuomo carried King's seat by a 51-47 margin.
● TX-23: 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones tweeted on Wednesday morning that she'd raised $100,000 during the first day of her new campaign. Ortiz Jones, who served as an Air Force intelligence officer, also picked up an endorsement from VoteVets.
● Dallas, TX Mayor: Democratic state Rep. Eric Johnson unveiled endorsements on Wednesday from two very different Dallas-area U.S. House members for next month's general election. In Johnson's corner are Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (no relation), a Democrat who has represented part of the city of Dallas since 1993, and freshman GOP Rep. Lance Gooden.