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: National Republicans have done little to hide how little they relish the idea of having former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost last year's general election for governor 48-43, as their Senate nominee, and the Kansas City Star reports they're willing to back up their talk with action.
The paper writes that NRSC officials have quietly told state Republicans that if Kobach runs for this open seat, they would "get involved to make sure he doesn't make it past the primary." When asked to comment, the NRSC didn't name Kobach, but they did say that they have the right to get involved in primaries to make sure they get an electable nominee.
The Senate Leadership Fund, the well-funded super PAC funded by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was even less subtle. Their spokesperson told the Star that, while they've made no decisions about this race, "[G]iven the party's loss in the gubernatorial race last year, it is vitally important that we put our best foot forward in the Senate race." Now who could they possibly be talking about?
Kobach himself doesn't seem especially bothered by the idea of national Republicans directing their fury on him. Kobach said at the end of February that he'd decide whether or not to run over the following six months, and he recently confirmed that he was still eyeing this seat.
● VA-Sen, VA-02: On Wednesday, former GOP Rep. Scott Taylor said in an interview that he was considering a bid against Virginia Sen. Mark Warner or a rematch against freshman Rep. Elaine Luria. The latter option is one Taylor hadn't previously ruled out, but this is the first time we've heard him say he's openly mooting a Senate bid. Taylor added that he knows if he does want to run, he'll have to make a decision "rather quickly." Last year, Luria unseated Taylor 51-49 in a competitive Virginia Beach-area district.
Taylor also used his interview to agree with conservative radio host Jeff Fredericks' declaration that he'd been acquitted by a special prosecutor in the investigation over the role that his campaign operatives played in gathering bogus signatures to help a 2016 Democratic nominee, Shaun Brown, get on the ballot as an independent last year. However, as Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell noted earlier this month after he indicted former Taylor staffer Lauren Creekmore, that investigation is still ongoing.
Caldwell himself acknowledged that "what actually happened within the [Taylor] campaign headquarters is still a subject of investigation due primarily to the lack of cooperation of key individuals," and even concluded, "The full explanation of what happened will hopefully be answered in the months to come." However, that didn't stop Taylor from taking another victory lap this week and insisting once again that he's really been cleared of any wrongdoing.
● IA-02: Christopher Peters, who was Team Red's nominee in both 2016 and 2018, announced Thursday that he would not run again for what is now an open seat. Peters raised little money for either of his campaigns against Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack and never came close to winning, so his decision probably won't devastate many Republicans.
However, the GOP will likely care a whole lot more about what state Rep. Bobby Kauffman does. Kauffman told KBUR on Friday that he would decide "soon" (the relevant part of the interview begins at the 20:30 mark). Kauffman, whose father is the state party chair, did not indicate which way he was leaning, though he said, "It's going to take a lot to get me off my farm."
● NY-12: Attorney Erica Vladimer told Politico that she was considering challenging longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary for this safely blue New York City seat.
Vladimer used to work as a staffer for the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democrats that kept the GOP minority in power for years, where she reported to a top aide for state Sen. and IDC leader Jeff Klein. Last year, Vladimer told the Huffington Post that in 2015, Klein grabbed her head and "shoved his tongue" down her throat. She further recounted that she'd immediately told him, "Senator, absolutely not," but Klein only proceeded to act like he'd done nothing wrong.
Vladimer told HuffPost she quit her job a month later because of what had happened. Klein's attorney responded to the story by saying the senator "unequivocally" denied it. Several months after the story broke, Klein and five other members of the now-former IDC lost their Democratic primaries. Vladimer went on to co-found an organization that Politico describes as "developing stronger workplace protections against gender-based discrimination and harassment" in the New York state capitol.
● NY-27: State Sen. Chris Jacobs announced on Thursday that he would run for New York's 27th Congressional District even if he has to face incumbent Chris Collins, who is under federal indictment for insider trading, in next year's GOP primary.
Jacobs said of Collins, who is scheduled to stand trial in February, "It's hard for anyone to say Chris Collins is fully capable of advocating for this district." Collins responded to the challenge by declaring, "While I haven't made a final decision on running for re-election, the last thing we need in this seat is a never-Trump Republican who supports abortion rights and has supported savings plans and taxpayers-funded legal aid for illegal immigrants. That would be the same as electing a Democrat."
This seat, which includes some of the Buffalo suburbs, backed Trump 60-35, and it would ordinarily be very safe red turf. However, Collins turned in a weak 49.1-48.7 performance against Democrat Nate McMurray, who says he'll run again if Collins does. The incumbent's campaign isn't in particularly great shape six months later, either. Collins raised just $5,000 during the first quarter of 2019, and he had only $167,000 to spend.
Jacobs, by contrast, probably won't need to worry much about fundraising. Jacobs' family founded and still owns the food service giant Delaware North, and the wealthy candidate did some self-funding during his successful 2016 campaign for the state Senate. Jacobs previously served as the appointed secretary of state under George Pataki, New York's last Republican governor, and he later was elected clerk in Buffalo's Erie County. All of this could give Jacobs a base and connections for what could be a tough race.
However, as Collins alludes to, Jacobs was reluctant to get on the Donald Trump bandwagon that year. That fall Jacobs, who was running to flip an open Democratic-held seat, 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. However, GOP primary voters may be a whole lot less understanding next year. Collins himself was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, so while he might face plenty of obstacles in another primary, his opponents will have a tough time out-Trumping him.
● PA-07: The National Journal reports that former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller is considering a bid for the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. They write that Scheller leads Silberline Manufacturing, a multi-million-dollar paint pigment company started by her family, and that she could self-fund. Scheller retired from the county commission in 2015, but she was in the news last year when The Morning Call ran a story about a coffee shop she started that hires and aids other people recovering from addiction.
This seat, which is located in the Lehigh Valley north of Philadelphia, backed Clinton by a narrow 49-48 margin. Last year Wild decisively beat Marty Nothstein, whom the national GOP abandoned before Election Day, by a strong 53-43 margin. Former Lehigh Commissioner Dean Browning, who narrowly lost the primary to Nothstein, kicked off a bid in January. However, while Browning self-funded $100,000 for his new campaign, he only raised $6,000 from donors through March.
● Denver, CO Mayor: Urban planner Jamie Giellis earned some bad headlines over the last week as her June 4 general election with Mayor Michael Hancock, a fellow Democrat, drew ever closer. In an interview on Tuesday, Giellis, who is white, was asked what the acronym "NAACP" stood for. Giellis began by saying it could start with, "National African American," and she was told she was incorrect. Giellis said the following day that she remembered that the civil rights organization's name stands for "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" just after the interview ended, and she apologized for her "momentary lapse."
A short time later, a 2009 Giellis tweet surfaced where she asked, "Here's a question: Why do so many cities feel it necessary to have a 'Chinatown'?" Giellis quickly deleted her Twitter and Instagram accounts, saying she was "coming into the realization that we're a public figure, and it was a private account."
Hancock, who is Denver's second-ever black mayor, didn't waste much time going after Giellis over all of this. The incumbent said in response, "I don't think not knowing what the acronym for NAACP is necessarily a disqualifier," before adding, "What's disturbing to me is the pattern of racial and cultural insensitivity and ignorance that seems to be present here." It's not clear what impact all this will have on the race, but with only a few weeks left before Election Day and with ballots being mailed out the week of May 20, any time Giellis spends dealing with these stories is precious time she's not using to convince voters to fire Hancock.
On Friday, Hancock also picked up an endorsement from Hillary Clinton. The incumbent already had former Mayors Wellington Webb and John Hickenlooper in his corner.