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.
● MI-03: GOP Rep. Justin Amash spent the weekend tweeting that Donald Trump deserved to be impeached for obstruction of justice, and on Monday, he picked up a primary challenge from Michigan state Rep. Jim Lower. Lower declared that he had been planning to announce a bid against Amash around Independence Day, but that he wanted to get in immediately after Amash's tweetstorm. Afghanistan veteran Tom Norton kicked off his own primary bid a few weeks ago, but given his poor prior electoral history, it's not a surprise he's already getting overshadowed by Lower.
This weekend was hardly the first time that Amash has gone where no other Republican member of Congress dares to go, and it's very possible it's because Amash might not be a Republican for much longer. In March, Amash said that, while running for president against Trump as a Libertarian Party candidate was "not on my radar right now," he didn't rule it out. He also mused to CNN at the time that he "never stop[s] thinking about" launching a third-party bid against Trump, saying, "It's not because I have any immediate plans or anything like that, but I never stop thinking about those things because there is a big problem with the current two-party system we have, and someone has to shake it up." He added that he didn't know if it were "possible for anyone to shake it up and make a difference."
No matter what Amash ends up doing, or what party he ends up doing it with, it's quite clear he doesn't care about making enemies in the GOP. Amash has been an iconoclast in the Republican caucus ever since he was first elected to this Grand Rapids-area seat in 2010, often voting against the leadership's priorities on libertarian grounds, but the Trump era has only isolated him even more from his colleagues. In March, for instance, Amash was the one Republican in the House to vote to condemn Trump's bogus emergency declaration. But Amash went even further than usual this weekend when he took to social media and wrote that, after reading the redacted version of the Mueller Report, he believed that Trump "has engaged in impeachable conduct."
While Trump's associates have spent years railing against Amash and calling for his defeat in a primary, Trump himself waited until Sunday to let loose. He tweeted, "Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy," and added, "Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!" Amash's nominal boss, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also threw the Michigander some shade, saying he wasn't sure "whether he's even in our Republican conference as a whole."
Amash hasn't faced a primary challenge since 2014, the year he turned back a foe backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by a 57-43 margin. However, if Amash does seek re-nomination this cycle (and that looks like a very big if), he's likely in for an extremely tough and nasty campaign. No matter what, all of this gives Democrats a good incentive to target Michigan's 3rd District for the first time in decades. This seat went from 53-46 Romney to 52-42 Trump, but according to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, it backed 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette by a very slim 48.6-48.2 margin, and GOP Senate nominee John James carried it by a modest 51-47.
● KY-Gov: Kentucky holds its statewide primaries on Tuesday, and we’ll be liveblogging the results at Daily Kos Elections starting at 6 PM ET, when polls close in the portion of the state located in the Eastern time zone; the rest of the state closes an hour later. We’ll also be tweeting from DKElections.
The main event will be the three-way Democratic primary. A few campaign polls from last month found Attorney General Andy Beshear with a clear lead over both former state Auditor Adam Edelen and state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, but we haven’t seen any fresh numbers in weeks. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is also fending off a primary from state Rep. Robert Goforth. The only survey we’ve seen came last week from the GOP firm Cygnal (on whose behalf it's not clear) and it found Bevin smashing Goforth 56-18.
● IA-Sen: On Monday, insurance company owner Eddie Mauro announced that he would seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst. Mauro, who has worked as a teacher and coached youth baseball in Des Moines, has unsuccessfully run for office twice. In 2016, he lost a state House primary to incumbent Jo Oldson 67-33. Last year, Mauro took a second place in the primary for the 3rd District, losing to eventual winner Cynthia Axne 58-26. Mauro only raised $248,000 from donors during his entire congressional campaign, though he self-funded another $571,000.
● MA-Sen: Labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan announced on Monday that she would challenge Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey in the Democratic primary. Liss-Riordan didn't mention the incumbent in her kickoff, and instead framed the race as a question of whether voters would "maintain the status quo in Washington, or vote for me and break it." Whomever wins the nomination should have little trouble in the general election in this very blue state, especially in a presidential year where Donald Trump will be leading the GOP ticket.
Liss-Riordan has never run for office before, but she's attracted national attention by suing ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft on behalf of drivers who were classified as "independent contractors" rather than as employees. The Boston Globe further writes that Liss-Riordan has made a name for herself representing "waiters, fast-food workers, drivers, exotic dancers, and cleaners—among other low-paid workers—against wage theft and misclassification as independent contractors by their employers." WBUR also says she's won lawsuits against giants like American Airlines, FedEx, Harvard University, and Starbucks.
Markey was first elected to the House in 1976, and he served there until he won a 2013 special election to the Senate. Last year another longtime Democratic politician, Rep. Mike Capuano, badly lost renomination in a Boston-based seat to Ayanna Pressley, which could be a sign that primary voters are open to the type of change argument that Liss-Riordan is presenting. However, Markey's allies point to last year's primary for secretary of state where incumbent William Galvin decisively turned back a high-profile progressive challenger as evidence that Capuano's loss doesn't mean much ahead of a statewide race.
Markey also has been working to align himself with some of the new progressive voices in Congress. Markey, who has championed high-profile environmental legislation during his career, and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez notably both introduced the Green New Deal resolution in Congress in February. The senator also has been raising money ahead of his re-election campaign, and he ended March with over $3.5 million in the bank.
● LA-Gov: Axios' Jonathan Swan reports that last week, Donald Trump tried to convince House Minority Whip Steve Scalise to challenge Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in this year's contest, but that Scalise turned him down.
Swan, citing two unnamed "sources familiar with the president's private conversation," writes that Trump used a trip on Air Force One to show Scalise polls that found him popular statewide, and that Trump also offered to help Scalise beat Edwards. However, Swan says the congressman "seemed flattered by Trump's pitch, but politely dismissed the idea."
A "source close to Scalise" also tells The Advocate's Elizabeth Crisp, "Scalise has said numerous times he isn't running for governor and nothing has changed." Scalise hasn't said anything publicly about this conversation, and Crisp adds that in past interactions, he "has declined further comment when speculation has come up about his potential entry into the gubernatorial race."
Scalise has indeed publicly said several times over the last year that he's not running for governor, but as Trump's interaction with him last week showed, not everyone is crossing the minority whip off the potential candidate list. In late February, Scalise again said no after what Politico described as weeks of "buzz" that he was "toying with the idea of running for governor" and that unnamed "[o]peratives in D.C. and Louisiana have been approaching Scalise, asking him to run."
At the time, we noticed that Scalise followed up that latest denial with a series of comments that sound exactly like the sort of thing that politicians dodging this type of question always say, and we wondered if this meant he was keeping the door open to running statewide after all. However, his latest no, and to the leader of his party no less, indicates he really is serious about not wanting to seek the governorship.
Scalise's allies still have until the Aug. 8 filing deadline to change his mind, though. Two notable candidates, businessman Eddie Rispone and Rep. Ralph Abraham, are already running, but they've left some Louisiana Republicans decidedly unimpressed and looking for alternatives. LAPolitics summed up the knocks against both declared Republicans in February, writing that "Abraham has the personality but not the money to win" while Rispone's detractors say he "has the money but not the personality to shake trees and move rooms."
● GA-07: Over the weekend, emergency room physician Rich McCormick joined the GOP primary for this competitive open seat.
● IA-02: On Sunday, state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann announced that he would not seek the GOP nod for this competitive open seat. The only announced Republican candidate for this southeastern Iowa seat remains Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley, though it's possible that other would-be candidates were waiting to see what Kaufmann, whose father is the state party chair, would do.
● ME-02, ME-Sen: To no one's surprise, freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden confirmed Monday that he would seek re-election rather than challenge GOP Sen. Susan Collins. Republicans haven't landed a credible candidate yet for this northern Maine seat, which swung from 52-43 Obama to 51-41 Trump, but one old foe sounds like he's hungering for another shot.
Last year, Maine became the first state to implement an instant-runoff voting (IRV) law, and Golden unseated GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin 50.6-49.4 margin once votes were assigned to subsequent preferences as minor candidates were eliminated. Poliquin, who took a slim plurality among first-preference votes, spent a full seven weeks waging a frivolous legal battle to try to keep his seat by getting IRV struck down.
Poliquin finally conceded defeat, but that didn't at all stop him from griping about the election system. Poliquin's political adviser said at the time he had "nothing to report" about the defeated congressman's plans for 2020, and while Poliquin still doesn't seem to have said anything about a rematch, he sounds like he badly wants one.
In late April, Poliquin spoke to the New England Political Science Association and as one attendant told the Bangor Daily News' Amy Fried, the former congressman "seem[ed] very angry." Poliquin insisted, "We won in 2018," and his defeat was illegitimate because, "We have this thing called ranked voting" that he called "the biggest scam I've ever seen in my whole life."
Poliquin, whom Fried said used the word "scam" several more times in his talk, also argued that the law violated the constitutional principle of one-person, one-vote, an argument that was rejected in federal court during Poliquin's unsuccessful lawsuit last year. If Poliquin cared that Maine voters had twice voted in favor of IVR, including months before his defeat, he didn't show it.
● MI-11, MI-Sen: The NRSC and NRCC are each trying to recruit 2018 Senate nominee John James, and Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports that White House very much wants James running for the House rather than against Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. However, he adds that their pitch is motivated by fear of how James could hurt Donald Trump's 2020 chances in Michigan. Isenstadt says that White House "aides have warned Senate GOP officials that a statewide campaign by James could force Democrats to spend more money in the state, driving turnout on the other side and potentially hurting the president."
That seems like a very strange strategy, though. After Trump's 2016 surprise win in Michigan, there's no question that national Democrats will spend as much as they think they need to in order to secure the state's 16 electoral votes. A James race for the House (the NRCC reportedly wants him to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens in the 11th District) would also mean even more national money would be poured into the Detroit media market, which takes up about half of the state.
● NJ-03: Engineer and GOP fundraiser Frank Sadeghi recently told the National Journal's Alex Clearfield that he was considering a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. The New Jersey Globe recently reported that Sadeghi had planned to run here until longtime Ocean County GOP Chair George Gilmore stepped down in April after being convicted in federal court on tax charges. Sadeghi campaigned to succeed Gilmore but he narrowly lost the leadership fight last week, even though InsiderNJ writes that Gilmore backed him late in the contest.
This South Jersey seat swung from 52-47 Obama to 51-45 Trump, and Kim unseated GOP incumbent Tom MacArthur last year 50-49. This district may be the most expensive in the nation to advertise in: About 57 percent of the 3rd is in the pricey Philadelphia media market, while the balance is in the very expensive New York City market. Kim ended March with just over $500,000 in the bank.
● NV-03: Former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz recently told the Nevada Independent that he was considering seeking the GOP nod to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, and he was willing to self-fund "a good portion." Last year, during his disastrous run for governor, Schwartz self-funded almost all of his campaign's $650,000 haul. No other notable Republicans have shown any obvious interest in seeking this suburban Las Vegas seat, which both Obama and Trump very narrowly carried, but party leaders may not be so keen to see Schwartz as their standard bearer.
Last year, Schwartz ran in the primary for governor against then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who had the support of the party establishment, and got destroyed 71-9. That landslide defeat came after Schwartz spent four years feuding with fellow Republicans in state government. In 2015, lawmakers from both parties trashed his alternative budget proposal. Two years later, Schwartz pissed off then-Gov. Brian Sandoval when he dubbed the governor's budget "Saint Brian and His Bag of Goodies." Schwartz has also gone after local billionaire and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a national megadonor with major local influence.
Republicans will almost certainly prefer a different candidate, but it's not clear who will step up. For once, though, we can probably rule out a bid from perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who was Team Red's nominee here in both 2016 and 2018. Tarkanian lost last year's open seat contest to Lee 52-43, and he soon relocated well outside the Las Vegas area to rural Nevada. GOP Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents the 2nd District, suggested last month that Tarkanian might challenge him in the primary, but we haven't heard anything from Little Tark since then.
● NY-15: Marlene Cintron, the president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, tells CNN she's considering running for this safely blue open seat and will decide in either June or July. Cintron's organization, which is part of the overall New York City Economic Development Corporation, is a government agency that describes its role as "provid[ing] incentives and assistance to new and expanding firms in the Bronx."
A number of other Democrats are running here, though one is sending mixed signals about whether he's already in the race or not. City Councilman Ritchie Torres told Gay City News he was "running for Congress" in an interview earlier this month, but he told CNN later that he was "extremely probable" to jump in.
● NY-18: 2018 GOP Senate nominee Chele Farley recently picked up an endorsement from Rep. Elise Stefanik. Farley is the only notable Republican currently in the race to take on Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney in this competitive Hudson Valley seat.
● NY-19: Former GOP Rep. John Faso announced Monday that he would not seek a rematch against Democratic incumbent Antonio Delgado. Last year, Delgado beat Faso in this Hudson Valley seat 51-46 in an expensive race where Faso's allies ran racist ad after racist ad against Delgado, who is both black and Latino.
So far, we haven't heard any other Republicans express interest in running here, though that may change now that Faso has made his plans known. However, we don't expect Team Red to ignore a seat for long that backed Trump by a 51-44 margin. This seat has also remained friendly to the GOP in other races: According to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, whose constituency is entirely located in this seat, beat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo here last year by a wide 53-42 despite his landslide statewide defeat.
● NY-27: State Sen. Chris Jacobs is the first Republican to announce he'll run for this seat regardless of whether Rep. Chris Collins, who is scheduled to stand trial next year for insider trading, seeks renomination, but he may not be the last. State Sen. Rob Ortt told The Batavian he was considering running for this conservative suburban Buffalo district, and that he was willing to run even if Collins did too.
Conservative radio host David Bellavia also said he was willing to take on the incumbent, saying he was "[n]ot afraid of primaries," adding, "Especially ones involving Rep. Collins and Sen. Jacobs." Both Bellavia and Collins ran in the 2012 GOP primary for the right to take on Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul; Collins beat Bellavia 60-40, and he went on to narrowly defeat Hochul.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley also said he was thinking about seeking the GOP nod. Hawley said he'd take Collins' situation into account before making his decision, but he also doesn't seem to have ruled out a primary bid against the incumbent.
Another Republican made it clear he'd run for this seat, but only if Collins isn't on the ballot. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw praised the congressman and attacked Jacobs as an "Albany moderate and never-Trumper" as well as a "borderline liberal that would make New York City proud." Jacobs indeed refused to back Trump in 2016, though he insists now that last year he "ran for re-election to assure that President Trump had an ally in this seat." (We wonder if Jacobs' constituents, who voted for Hillary Clinton 50-45, knew that when they re-elected him.)
However, that response is unlikely to appease Trump fans. It doesn't help that when Jacobs ran for lieutenant governor in 2006, his running mate was none other than Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor who is currently challenging Donald Trump in the presidential primary.
To complicate things even further, The Buffalo News' Robert McCarthy writes that Jacobs identified as pro-choice during his failed 2006 race. Jacobs has voted in the state Senate against expanding access to abortion, but that didn't stop Collins from dubbing his would-be rival "a never-Trump Republican who supports abortion rights and has supported savings plans and taxpayers funded legal aid for illegal immigrants."
● UT-04: Former GOP Rep. Mia Love didn’t rule out seeking a rematch against Democrat Ben McAdams last week, but Utah Policy’s Bryan Schott writes that Republicans doubt she’ll go for it. One unnamed Republican close to Love said of the former congresswoman, “She likes to be mentioned, but I don’t think she’ll run again.” Love, who now works as a CNN commentator, recently said, “It would take a lot to convince me” to get in, though she said her dislike for McAdams could motivate her to run after all.
Schott also mentions a number of other Republicans who might be interested, including a few names we hadn’t heard before. Schott reports that state party communications director Kathleen Anderson recently met with party officials in D.C. There’s no word from Anderson, whose husband recently stepped down from leading the state GOP. Schott further says that some Republicans in the legislature are encouraging state Rep. Jefferson Moss to get in, but there’s no other information about what Moss is thinking. Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie is also mentioned as a possibility, but we don’t know if he’s considering.
Schott also writes that some Republicans have mentioned Corey Norman, who is chief of staff to neighboring Rep. John Curtis, but that Norman is unlikely to do it. He also says that the NRCC spoke to Cedar Hills Mayor Jenney Rees about a bid, but she said no.
● Special Elections: There are three special elections, all in Pennsylvania, on tap for Tuesday.
PA-SD-33: This is a Republican district located in south-central Pennsylvania. The grim political environment in Washington has apparently made its way north to Harrisburg, as this seat became vacant after former state Sen. Richard Alloway resigned in February, citing gridlock and burnout.
In Pennsylvania, nominees for special elections are selected by the parties. The Democrat is municipal worker Sarah Hammond and the Republican is Army veteran Doug Mastriano. Last year, Hammond was the Democratic nominee for the 196th State House District while Mastriano was a primary candidate for Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District. Both bids were unsuccessful.
This is a safely red district, having backed Donald Trump 67-29 and Mitt Romney 64-35. However, Mastriano, like so many Republicans, has become embroiled in social media controversy after sharing conspiracy theories and Islamophobic posts on his official campaign Facebook page. Hammond and the state Democratic Party have denounced these posts, but Mastriano's own party, predictably, has not. Most local GOP officials have declined to comment, while the few who have said anything have taken a page from Paul Ryan and claim they haven't seen the offending posts.
PA-SD-41: This is a Republican district in western Pennsylvania, located north of Pittsburgh. This vacancy was created by former state Sen. Don White's retirement in February due to health concerns. The Democratic nominee is Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor Susan Boser, who lost a congressional bid against GOP Rep. Glenn Thompson 68-32 last year. The Republican is Joe Pittman, who was White's chief of staff for 19 years. This is a dark red district, having gone for Trump 69-27 and Romney 65-34.
Republicans hold a small 26-22 advantage in the Pennsylvania Senate, with this seat and the 33rd District as the only vacancies.
PA-HD-11: This is a Republican district in southwestern Pennsylvania located in the Butler area. The seat became vacant after former state Rep. Brian Ellis resigned in disgrace due to sexual assault allegations. The Democrat is crane worker Sam Doctor and the Republican is GOP committeewoman Marci Mustello. Doctor ran against Ellis as an independent candidate in 2018, taking 24% of the vote. Mustello also once lost to Ellis, falling to him in the 2004 Republican primary by an 41-33 margin (a third candidate took 25%).
This is a deep red district that supported Trump 67-29 and Romney 64-35. Notably, this election is one of the rare occasions a Democrat has been on the ballot in this district. Since first winning office in 2004, Ellis only faced a Democratic opponent twice. The composition of this chamber stands at 109-93 in favor of Republicans, with only this seat vacant.