● KY-Gov: While Kentucky's Democratic gubernatorial primary had already gotten a bit chippy, it's only just now turned negative on the airwaves. Kentuckians for a Better Future, a super PAC with close ties to former state auditor Adam Edelen, is running a new TV spot that bashes Edelen's front-running rival and starts with a narrator intoning, "In Andy Beshear's world, it's all about the money."
But the "money" the ad complains about isn't money that Beshear himself earned or even raised for his campaigns for public office. Rather, it refers to donations to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which spent on Beshear's behalf during his successful bid for state attorney general in 2015. Are Edelen's allies seriously suggesting they'd have preferred that DAGA not help elect a Democrat as Kentucky's top law enforcement officer? (Well, if they're cynical enough, maybe.)
The ad then specifically calls out one of those DAGA donors, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, as "the manufacturer of the OxyContin that caused the opioid epidemic." Beshear's campaign, however, notes that, as attorney general, Beshear has filed nine lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors.
The spot concludes by attacking Beshear over the fact that his former top deputy, Tim Longmeyer, went to prison for accepting bribes, saying he'd donated some of his bribe money to Beshear's last campaign. However, as the Lexington Herald Leader notes, no evidence has ever surfaced indicating Beshear knew of the bribery; in addition, Beshear donated the $14,000 remaining in his campaign account to the good-government group Common Cause to make amends for what Longmeyer had done (it's unclear how much bribe money he actually gave).
In a very strange twist, the ad's final shot features a clip of Beshear opening a door and entering a building. As Insider Louisville reporter Joe Sonka notes, that footage was taken directly from a tracking video created by the notorious GOP super PAC America Rising. There's no word on the size of the buy, but Kentuckians for a Better Future is well-funded by wealthy donors, including the mother-in-law of Edelen's running-mate, Gill Holland, who previously gave the PAC $500,000. That makes it a rather imperfect vehicle for blasting big money in politics.
Mid-April internal polls from both Edelen and Beshear showed the attorney general with wide leads over the field, which also includes state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins. With the May 21 primary now less than three weeks away, it's exceedingly likely that Edelen's supporters continue to see him trailing in their own surveys, given their decision to go on the attack.
On a separate note, former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, one of the most prominent Democrats in the Bluegrass State, just gave his endorsement to Beshear. Gray lost a high-profile primary in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District last year to former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, while two years earlier, he unsuccessfully challenged GOP Sen. Rand Paul.
● CA-22, Fresno, CA Mayor: Democrat Andrew Janz, a prosecutor who held Republican Rep. Devin Nunes to by far the tightest re-election of his career last year, has announced that he will run for mayor of Fresno rather than seek a rematch. Janz capitalized on progressive disgust with Nunes for his role in slavishly protecting Trump as chair of the House Intelligence Committee and raised millions as a result (so did Nunes, since of course the MAGA crowd loved him). In the end, Nunes, who'd never won by fewer than 24 points, prevailed by just a 53-47 margin, despite representing a deeply conservative district that voted for Trump 52-43.
As close as Janz came, though, a second encounter would have been very unlikely to lead to a different outcome, simply given the lean of the 22nd District. He'll likely have a better shot in taking on incumbent Mayor Lee Brand, who won his first term by a narrow 51-49 in 2016. Though the race is officially nonpartisan, the battle lines are clear, as Brand identifies as a Republican. The two, along with any other candidates who might enter, will face off in a primary in March of next year, with the top-two vote-getters advancing to the November general election if no one takes a majority in the first round.
Since moving to its current system for electing mayors more than 20 years ago, Fresno's been governed by an uninterrupted string of Republicans. However, shifting demographics have made the city bluer—Democrats now outnumber Republicans in voter registrations—and last year, for the first time in a decade, voters elected a Latino majority to the city council (about half the city identifies as Latino). With strong turnout from these constituencies, Janz could plausibly unseat Brand and bring the GOP's streak to an end.
● IA-02: Democratic state Sen. Kevin Kinney, who'd recently floated the possibility of seeking Iowa's open 2nd Congressional District seat, announced on Thursday that he would not run. Kinney declined to endorse any alternative candidates, saying it was too soon to do so, and indeed, no one else has entered the race yet. However, a number of potential contenders in both parties are still weighing their options.
● KS-03: Former Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder filed paperwork for a comeback bid this week, but have no worries, he's not actually running. A consultant explained that the FEC flagged a recent refund from the landlord Yoder used for his last campaign; in order to properly accept that reimbursement, Yoder needed to declare his candidacy for 2020, so he submitted a new filing to that end.
However, it's purely a matter of legal compliance: Yoder's consultant says he's "definitely not running" against freshman Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, who unseated him by a healthy 54-44 margin last year. Yoder could still appear on the ballot next year, since he's reportedly been approached by donors and operatives about seeking Kansas' open Senate seat. That seems unlikely, though, since Yoder has never publicly discussed the idea and in fact took a job with a lobbying firm.
● MI-03: Republican Rep. Justin Amash feels so alienated from his own party that he's openly mused about challenging Donald Trump as a Libertarian, so it's little surprise that he's now drawn a primary challenger. Afghanistan veteran Tom Norton kicked off a bid late last week, though he doesn't appear to have gotten much in the way of press coverage.
He also definitely doesn't cut an impressive profile: Norton's twice run for state representative, finishing fifth in GOP primaries with just single digits both times. However, in a paywalled report at MIRS News graciously shared with us by Kyle Melinn, Norton says he's earned some endorsements from local politicians and claims to have the support of grassroots conservatives frustrated with Amash's apostasies. Whether or not he can put a serious scare into the incumbent is, of course, another question entirely.
● MI-06: Democratic state Rep. Jon Hoadley, who's challenging longtime GOP Rep. Fred Upton, just received an endorsement from Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who'll headline a fundraiser for Hoadley in Kalamazoo later this month. Hoadley is the only declared candidate so far, but 2018 nominee Matt Longjohn is still reportedly considering a rematch.
● NY-22: High school teacher Franklin Sager just became the second Republican to announce a campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, and he claims he's already raised $200,000. Sager says he worked at the insurance giant AIG for more than a decade until 2012—a tenure that would have included the 2008-09 financial crisis during which AIG played a starring role—but it's unclear whether his work made him wealthy (and thus potentially able to self-fund).
Sager calls himself a "big supporter" of Trump, but he complained that former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney, who was unseated by Brindisi last year, failed to "push harder" to do away with the $10,000 limit on federal income tax deductions for state and local tax payments (often known as the "SALT cap") that was a centerpiece of Trump's tax bill. Tenney, incidentally, hasn't ruled out a possible rematch, though there's no telling when she'll decide. Already running is teacher George Phillips, who lost the 2016 primary to Tenney.
● Baltimore, MD Mayor: On Thursday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned from office after a scandal over the massive payments she received for a crummy series of self-published children's books engulfed her and prompted her to take a leave of absence last month.
As a result, Jack Young, who'd been acting mayor in Pugh's absence, has now assumed the job on a permanent basis. He'll serve until next year, when Baltimore will hold its next elections. Young has said he won't run for a full term, but now that the job is open, we're likely to see a rollicking Democratic primary. (As any Tommy Carcetti fans well know, winning the Democratic nomination is a guarantee of winning the mayoralty in Charm City.)
Pugh, meanwhile, remains under local, state, and federal investigation over the $500,000 she received for her books from the University of Maryland Medical System while she sat on the UMMS board.