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: Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash picked up a new primary challenge from state Rep. Jim Lower days after he called Donald Trump's behavior "impeachable," and the incumbent's old allies are in no hurry to rescue him.
The anti-tax Club for Growth spent $218,000 to support Amash in 2014 during his last serious primary campaign, but they declared Tuesday that the congressman was "absolutely wrong on the standard for impeachment." The Club, which added that "[i]n spite of his excellent voting record on economic issues, we completely disagree with him on this," didn't say if they'd oppose him in 2020, but it doesn't sound like they're likely to aid him again.
The Club isn't alone in souring on Amash. The powerful DeVos family, whose membership includes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, helped Amash in the crowded 2010 open seat race and contributed a total of $65,000 to him in his hour of need in 2014. However, they announced Wednesday through a spokesman that they "have no plans" to give to him this time. They also claimed that they'd made this decision before Amash's impeachment tweets. Even the nihilistic Freedom Caucus, which Amash co-founded, formally condemned him on Monday, though they didn't expel him.
However, if Amash seems bothered by any of this, he's not showing it. The congressman said Monday, the day after Trump and several other Republicans unleashed their vitriol against him, that he remains "very confident" in his position in Michigan's 3rd District. He also said that his two primary foes, Lower and veteran Tom Norton, were "not serious."
Indeed, it sounds like Amash is just as unconcerned about his 2020 re-election prospects in private as he is in public. The Daily Beast wrote Wednesday that a source close to Amash "said the lawmaker believes that most of the GOP voters in Grand Rapids, the largest city in his district, aren't actually all that enthralled by Trump, and that any true primary threat to him wouldn't be from a Trumpist conservative."
That seems like a very naive reading of what GOP politics has become since Trump's 2016 win. Yes, it's always possible that Amash is right and that Republican voters in Michigan's 3rd District, which moved from 53-46 Romney to 52-42 Trump, are, in the words of a former Amash communications director, "[N]ot very Trumpy." However, that's a very risky bet for Amash to be making in an era where other Republican politicians have seen their primary prospects dramatically skyrocket or collapse based on just a single Trump tweet.
Of course, it's also possible Amash won't be seeking re-election. Back in March, the congressman didn't rule out challenging Trump as a Libertarian, and he also didn't shoot down the idea on Tuesday. However, Amash insisted to The Hill, "It's not something I've thought about," and added, "I don't take things off the table like that, but it's not something at the forefront of my considerations right now."
● IA-Sen: There are smart ways to attack GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, but this is not one of them. Businessman and Democratic candidate Eddie Mauro said of Ernst, who was the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate, "In military service, you kind of fall in line, they tell you what to do and you do what they tell you to do, that's what it's supposed to be about." Mauro added, "In public service I think there are times you need to step out of line to say, I'm sorry Mr. Trump, you're wrong."
Mauro kept to his metaphor in an interview with the Carroll Times Herald. He told the paper that Ernst was still taking orders from her superiors, who now are the Koch brothers and her party. Mauro argued that he wasn't saying that veterans shouldn't serve in office, but, "What we're saying is that this requires a different kind of courage. This requires standing up and saying, 'I'm not falling in line because that line is not the right line.' All I'm saying is it's a different kind of service." As anyone who remembers Ernst's 2014 bid against Democrat Bruce Braley can attest, she and her allies are quite willing to use her opponent's gaffes against them.
● NH-Sen: Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc told The Laconia Sun that he expects to decide next month whether he'd seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. Bolduc said he's considering whether he can raise enough money to compete, adding, "I'm not independently wealthy. I can't just write myself a check. I'm going to need support from others."
● CA-15: On Wednesday, Democratic state Sen. Bob Wieckowski announced that he would run for this safely blue Bay Area seat. However, Wieckowski told the San Jose Mercury News' Casey Tolan that he'd drop out of the race if incumbent Eric Swalwell ends up seeking re-election.
Swalwell, who is running for president, has said he won't seek both offices at once, but that he will make a final decision on what election to compete in around the time of the December filing deadline. If Wieckowski is in the congressional race next year, though, he'll have one advantage. Wieckowski's state Senate seat takes up about 60% of California's 15th District, which gives him a good base of support.
The only other declared Democratic candidate here is Hayward City Councilor Aisha Wahab, and she and Wieckowski present quite a contrast with one another. Wieckowski, who first won elected office in 2004 to the Fremont City Council, has generally been a low-key politician, and he told Tolan he'd focus on "policies that don't make the front page of the newspaper but have a real effect on working people and helping them stay alive."
Wieckowski, who is white, also acknowledged, "There's an impatience of the progressive side of the Democratic Party for having more women of color, more younger people," but he argued that voters "want to get stuff done… They want to see results, see there's somebody that's going to deliver for us, not make speeches."
Wahab has quite a different image. She won elected office for the first time last year, a victory that made her one of the first two Afghans elected to office in the United States and generated national attention. During her few months in elected office, Wahab has clashed with other members of Hayward's city government as she's tried to push through progressive legislation including rent control and putting the police through de-escalation training. Wahab has also not committed to dropping out if Swalwell seeks a fifth term, though she's said she'd "reevaluate" her campaign.
● CO-03: 2018 Democratic nominee Diane Mitsch Bush said this week she was considering seeking a rematch with GOP Rep. Scott Tipton and would announce her plans before the end of this month. Mitsch Bush, who resigned from the state House last cycle to focus on her congressional bid, lost 52-44 in a western Colorado seat that Trump carried 52-40 two years before.
● IA-02: Former state Sen. Rita Hart rolled out a long list of endorsements this week from local Democrats, including a few would-be rivals. State Sen. Zach Wahls said last month that he'd back Hart if she got in rather than run himself, and he made good on that pledge. The local media had also mentioned state Rep. Wes Breckenridge as a possible candidate, but he endorsed Hart as well.
● IL-14: Politico's Burgess Everett recently spoke to former Rep. Randy Hultgren and writes that the Republican "said he's unlikely to run for Congress again." Last year, Hultgren lost his bid for a fifth term to Democrat Lauren Underwood by a 52.5-47.5 margin.
● MA-06: Attorney Angus McQuilken, whom the Boston Globe calls a "longtime activist against gun violence who is now involved with the life sciences industry," said this week that he was considering running for the seat currently held by Rep. Seth Mouton, a fellow Democrat. Moulton has said in the past that he'll seek re-election if he fails to win Team Blue's presidential nod, and while McQuilken doesn't sound inclined to challenge the incumbent, he didn't rule it out.
McQuilken instead told the Salem News, "A lot can happen in a year. I like Seth Moulton," but added, "I'm not announcing here that I'm considering a primary challenge. I'm considering running for this office." McQuilken did take issue with Moulton's unsuccessful quest to deny Nancy Pelosi the speakership last year, though, telling the Globe it was "not on the right track."
McQuilken, a former communications specialist at Planned Parenthood, lost his only two campaigns to none other than Republican Scott Brown. In 2004, then-state Rep. Brown beat McQuilken in a special election for the state Senate by a narrow 50-49 margin, and the Republican won their rematch that year 51-47. Brown went on to use that state Senate seat as a launching pad for his successful 2010 special election campaign for the U.S. Senate.
● NY-27: Michael Caputo, who worked as a strategist for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and now serves as a pro-Trump cable news talking head, said Tuesday that he was considering a bid for the upstate New York seat now held by GOP Rep. Chris Collins. Collins, who is awaiting trial next year for insider trading, has said he's still deciding whether to run again, and Caputo didn't rule out challenging him.
Caputo, a veteran of New York and national GOP politics, worked for Trump's communications team until mid-2016, when he left after celebrating the firing of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski with a tweet reading, "Ding dong the witch is dead!"
Caputo remained involved in Trump world, though, and he ended up getting a small mention in Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Caputo, who had been interviewed by Mueller's team and testified before Congress in 2017, responded to the release of the redacted version of the report by accusing the special prosecutor's team of being "mischievous" towards him. Caputo also declared that "all the haters can go to Hell."
As for Caputo's 2020 plans, he told Politico, "If Rep. Collins will not run, or cannot win, I cannot allow this seat to go to someone who has not supported the president 100%, from the beginning, in their bones." That might be a reference to state Sen. Chris Jacobs, who launched a primary bid against Collins last week. Jacobs refused to say during the 2016 campaign whether he would support Trump, and while he now presents himself as a Trump ally, Collins and his allies wasted no time labeling the challenger as a "never-Trumper."
Caputo does seem reluctant to run against a few other Republicans, though. He told Spectrum News that he's close to conservative radio host David Bellavia, Assemblyman David DiPietro, and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino, and that he'd never want to have any of them to run against one another. Bellavia, who lost the 2012 primary to Collins, has been publicly considering another bid, while Spectrum says the others "have expressed interest" in running here in the past.
Spectrum adds that Tea Party organizer Rus Thompson, who like Caputo worked for Paladino's 2010 campaign, has said on social media that he's considering. In 2017, Thompson accepted a plea deal where, in exchange for prosecutors dropping felony charges against him, he admitted to illegally voting in a community where he no longer resided: Thompson ended up getting sentenced to three years of probation. Caputo said that if Thompson runs, "He can add to the discussion," and called him "a smart guy with energy." However, Caputo didn't say he wouldn't run against Thompson.
● PA-12: State Rep. Fred Keller won the special election to succeed former Rep. Tom Marino, a fellow Republican, by a 68-32 margin against Democrat Marc Friedenberg. This seat, which is located in the rural north-central part of the state, moved from 61-37 Romney to 66-30 Trump, and last year, Marino beat Friedenberg 66-34.
It won't shock you to learn, though, that Trump is spinning Keller's win in this very red district hard. Trump insisted on Wednesday that Keller "was a 50-50 shot, but won in a landslide." As we wrote last week ahead of Trump's election eve rally for Keller, "[W]e won't be surprised when Trump rushes to claim credit for a victory in a district that the GOP would need to try hard to forfeit," so mark us down as very unsurprised.
● TX-23: EMILY's List has endorsed 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones for her rematch against GOP Rep. Will Hurd.
● TX-32: Republican Demetrick Pennie, who serves as a sergeant in the Dallas Police Department, filed with the FEC Tuesday for a possible bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Colin Allred. Pennie runs two charities whose stated mission is to raise money for the families of fallen local officers. However, the Dallas Morning News reported in August that between 2016 and 2017, only about 22% of the $3.2 million raised by Pennie's groups went to these recipients. The paper said that most of the cash went to "three telemarketing companies, one of which is owned by Pennie's friend."
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's three special elections in Pennsylvania.
PA-SD-33: Republican Doug Mastriano defeated Democrat Sarah Hammond by a 70-30 margin. Despite (or perhaps due to) his Islamophobic Facebook posts during the campaign, Mastriano slightly overperformed Donald Trump's already strong 67-29 margin.
PA-SD-41: Republican Joe Pittman defeated Democrat Susan Boser by a 66-34 margin, running behind Trump's 69-27 win. The Pennsylvania Senate returns to full strength with this and the 33rd District filled and Republicans hold a 28-22 advantage.
PA-HD-11: Republican Brian Ellis defeated Democrat Sam Doctor by a 57-43 margin. Doctor is somewhat of a known commodity in this area, having run as an independent here in 2018 and taking 24% of the vote in the process. This may have helped him overperform Hillary Clinton's 67-29 loss in 2016 and Barack Obama's 64-35 loss in 2012. This was the only vacancy in the Pennsylvania House, meaning both chambers are now operating at capacity. Republicans control this chamber 110-93.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Mayor Jim Kenney decisively won Tuesday's Democratic primary with 67% of the vote, while state Sen. Anthony Williams was a distant second with 24%. Four years ago, Kenney won what was an open seat contest against Williams by a 56-26 margin. Kenney, who is seeking his second and final term, faces only minor GOP opposition in this November's general election.
Tuesday's primary results weren't so good for two other notable citywide Democrats, though. Former police officer Rochelle Bilal defeated two-term Sheriff Jewell Williams 41-27, while community advocate Tracey Gordon toppled 10-term Register of Wills Ron Donatucci 40-36. Neither woman faces any GOP opposition in November, though independents still have time to run. Bilal would be the first black woman elected Philadelphia sheriff (Barbara Deeley was appointed to the post in 2011 and didn't run that year), as well as the first ever-woman elected to the post. Gordon would also be the first woman elected register of wills.
Both defeated incumbents had earned some bad headlines. Williams had been repeatedly sued for sexual harassment, and Bilal, who ran an organization for black police officers, pledged to clean up the sheriff's office. Donatucci, meanwhile, was involved in an ugly lawsuit brought by the finance of his late son, Michael Donatucci: The lawsuit alleges that the elder Donatucci used his office to try to take control of Michael Donatucci's estate after his death in 2016.
Both Williams and Donatucci were also longtime allies of the once-powerful Democratic City Committee, which has been falling into decline for years. The party, also known as the city machine, didn't endorse Williams, though many ward leaders still backed him. The party did more to aid Donatucci, whose office the Philadelphia Inquirer described as "a source of Democratic patronage," but he still fell short. Bob Brady, a former congressman who has led the Democratic City Committee for decades, expressed his surprise at Donatucci's loss Wednesday, telling the paper he "still can't figure out what happened."