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.
● NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is poised to draw his first notable primary challenger after Garland Tucker, the wealthy former CEO of Triangle Capital Corporation, filed to run with the FEC. A formal announcement is reportedly coming soon, and Tucker may be capable of some serious self-funding. Tucker has also written a book on "conservative heroes," and he has previously served on the boards of two prominent conservative think tanks in the state. Tucker has the support of prominent state GOP political consultant Carter Wrenn, who was involved with producing Sen. Jesse Helms' infamously racist "Hands" ad during the 1990 election against black Democrat Harvey Gantt.
Tillis has been a reliable Republican vote in the Senate and passed a deeply right-wing policy agenda as the first GOP state House speaker to preside over a unified Republican state government since Reconstruction. However, Tillis pissed off pretty much everyone this winter when he published an op-ed in The Washington Post declaring that he would vote for a resolution rolling back Donald Trump's bogus emergency declaration regarding the border wall because it was his "responsibility" to "preserve the separation of powers" and to "curb" "executive overreach," but then voted against the resolution three weeks later.
Tillis' camp immediately dusted off comments Tucker made in September 2016 where he stated that, despite being a lifelong Republican, he was adamantly against Trump in the primary and reticent to support him in the general. Indeed, citing his Christian faith, Tucker disparaged Trump as "a twice-divorced, self-acknowledged adulterer who has, in the course of this campaign, uttered some of the most unkind, disgusting comments ever made by any American politician."
Tucker said at the time that his fervent opposition to Hillary Clinton ultimately left him with no other choice than to back Trump, and he now says he's a strong supporter of Trump. However, you can be sure that Tillis won't include that context in his attack ads if Tucker does indeed run.
● AL-Sen: State Rep. Arnold Mooney is the latest Republican to join the primary to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Mooney first won his heavily Republican state House seat in Birmingham's southern suburbs in 2014, and he more recently served as the campaign chairman for Rep. Mo Brooks, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in the 2017 Senate special election.
Brooks announced last week that he wouldn't run, and it's possible he could be supporting Mooney instead, although the congressman hasn't said anything publicly about Mooney yet. Mooney joins Rep. Bradley Byrne and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in the primary.
Meanwhile, Byrne recently went on the attack against Tuberville, calling him a carpetbagger. Byrne accused Tuberville of residing in Florida so that he can avoid paying a state income tax, since the Sunshine State doesn't have one. Indeed, it was recently revealed that Tuberville voted in Florida last November, and he had repeatedly tried to sell his Alabama home after leaving the coaching position at Auburn in 2008. We can likely expect Byrne and other rivals to continue to play up Tuberville's weak ties to Alabama.
● WY-Sen: On Saturday, Republican Sen. Mike Enzi announced he would retire in 2020. Enzi has represented this staunchly Republican state since his initial victory in 1996, and Republicans should have little trouble holding this seat in what was Trump's very best state in 2016. Consequently, Enzi's retirement could set off a scramble for what is one of the most securely Republican seats in the Senate.
The Casper Star-Tribune looked at some of the Republican candidates who could run, and topping the list is Rep. Liz Cheney, who has represented the state's sole House seat since her 2016 victory and is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who also represented Wyoming's At-Large District before her from 1979 to 1989. However, Liz Cheney is also the chair of the House Republican Conference, making her the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House. It's possible she might decide to seek re-election in the hopes of becoming the first Republican woman speaker, but a safe Senate seat could also be too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Other potential Republican candidates they mentioned include state Superintendent of Public Education Jillian Balow, who earlier this year hadn't ruled it out when asked about a rumor that Enzi could retire. Balow doesn't appear to have said anything publicly since Enzi made his retirement official, though.
Another Republican is wealthy businessman David Dodson, who challenged Sen. John Barrasso in the 2018 GOP primary and lost by 65-28 but spent $1.6 million of his own money in doing so, meaning he could have the wealth to self-fund another campaign. However, the Star-Tribune says Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr ruled out running back in January, although she doesn't seem to have said anything further now that Enzi's retirement is public knowledge.
On the Democratic side, the Star-Tribune mentions businessman Gary Trauner, who lost to Barrasso 67-30 last cycle. Trauner was the Democratic nominee for Wyoming's House seat in 2008 and 2006, the latter of which he lost to Rep. Barbara Cubin just 48.3-47.8. However, that was practically another era in terms of voters being willing to split their tickets, and Trauner would almost certainly struggle to avoid another landslide loss like 2018 if he or any other Democrat tries to seek this open seat.
● KY-Gov: Gov. Matt Bevin debuted his first Republican primary ad during Saturday's widely watched Kentucky Derby, with the primary against state Rep. Robert Goforth coming up in just two weeks. The minute-long spot features the now-wealthy Bevin talking about his upbringing, playing up how he grew up in a "financially humble home" with "Christian values." He details how he struggled economically until he joined the Army, then worked his way up to where he is now.
Bevin argues he's turning around a century of bad policies in Kentucky and praises Trump, taking credit for the "lowest unemployment in Kentucky history" and 50,000 new jobs (Fact check: Unemployment was similarly low in the late 1990s under President Bill Clinton and Democratic Gov. Paul Patton). In a brazen display of chutzpah, Bevin takes credit for "fully funding public pensions," even though he tried to pass pension cuts that sparked a teachers' union strike and resulted in the state Supreme Court unanimously striking down those cuts last December. Bevin contends he's fought for conservative values and that he's "just getting started."
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, former state Auditor Adam Edelen has launched his first TV attack ad with two weeks to go until the primary, and it's very similar in theme to a dubious spot that a pro-Edelen super PAC started airing last week. Edelen narrates the spot himself and starts off by pretending to loathe ads like this one, saying, "If you're like me, you don't like negative political ads. But sometimes you have to hear the facts."
He then rips into state Attorney General Andy Beshear, the frontrunner for the Democratic nod, using the exact same barbs his super PAC did. First, he complains that Beshear's "top aide is in jail for taking bribes," then he charges that "the cigarette companies and makers of OxyContin have spent hundreds of thousands getting [Beshear] elected."
As we explained previously, though, Beshear had no knowledge that his former top deputy, Tim Longmeyer, had been bribed. In addition, the campaign spending Edelen claims to have an issue with wasn't money raised by Beshear. Rather, he's referring to funds spent by a third-party group, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which worked hard to elect Beshear in 2015.
● WV-Gov: Rep. David McKinley, who is the longest-serving Republican in West Virginia's House delegation, said on Friday that he has talked with Gov. Jim Justice "extensively" and would "seriously" consider running for governor if the incumbent declines to seek a second term. The strange thing, though, is that Justice kicked off his bid for re-election back in January, and there’ve been no reports that he’s thinking about bailing, though perhaps McKinley knows something we don’t. McKinley lost the GOP primary for governor in 1996, and ever since he won a House seat in 2010, his name has frequently come up as a potential contender for higher office.
● GA-13: Former Cobb County Democratic Party chair Michael Owens, who said in March that he was seriously considering a primary challenge to longtime Rep. David Scott, kicked off a bid on Monday. Owens has criticized Scott, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, for often siding against his party on key issues and publicly supporting Republican candidates. That should make for good fodder with primary voters in this safely blue Atlanta district, but Owens has a lot of minds to change: Scott previously dispatched him by a lopsided 82-18 margin in 2014.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tamar Hallerman also reports that former East Point Mayor Jannquell Peters is weighing a run, too. Because Georgia requires primary runoffs if no candidate wins a majority, that means Scott can't be saved by the proverbial clown car and win renomination with a plurality even if multiple challengers split the anti-incumbent vote.
● IA-02: Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley, a Republican, has filed with the FEC to run for this open seat, although he doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about whether he's actually running or simply testing the waters. If he does run, Kedley would likely start with little name recognition, since Osceola only has about 5,000 residents, making up less than 1% of the district's population.
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, Iowa City business owner Veronica Tessler has decided not to run after all. A stalwart progressive, Tessler had previously opened a campaign account and appeared highly interested in potentially running, but she said she made the decision to stay out of the race "with a heavy heart."
● IL-03: On Monday, half a dozen progressive organizations, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY's List, collectively announced their endorsement of businesswoman Marie Newman, who's seeking a rematch in next year's Democratic primary against Rep. Dan Lipinski. Last year, several of these groups set up a super PAC that ultimately spent $1.6 million on behalf of Newman, who lost to Lipinski by a narrow 51-49 margin.
EMILY's List's early involvement is notable. In 2018, the group, which seldom opposes incumbents, only backed Newman about six weeks before the primary, following a lobbying effort by allies, including NARAL. EMILY is capable of opening doors to major dollars, so this move could help provide a big boost to Newman as she works to finish the job.
● NC-09: The anti-establishment Club for Growth is launching an ad buy on Fox News for at least $41,000 ahead of next week's Republican primary. The Club is backing state Sen. Dan Bishop, although it's unclear if this ad buy will be to boost Bishop or attack one of his numerous rivals.
● NY-27: Democrat Nate McMurray hasn't officially kicked off a second bid against indicted GOP Rep. Chris Collins, but he did file paperwork with the FEC last month and recently began raising money for a potential rematch. Last month, McMurray said he'd run again if Collins did, but the congressman has yet to announce a decision. More importantly, his trial on insider trading charges will begin in February of next year, so the outcome of that proceeding could make Collins' decision for him.
● Special Elections: There's one special election in Connecticut on tap for Tuesday:
CT-HD-130: This is a Democratic district located in Bridgeport. This seat became vacant after former state Rep. Ezequiel Santiago died in March. This is one of the most strongly Democratic districts in Connecticut, having backed Hillary Clinton 87-11 and Barack Obama 92-7. However, this election has not been without controversy.
In Connecticut, the parties choose candidates for special elections, and the Democrats nominated Antonio Felipe, who only moved to Bridgeport from nearby Stratford after his selection. Felipe is 23 years old, which would make him one of the state's youngest lawmakers. He is also closely connected to local Democrats, including his father, who was an aide to former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.
Felipe's residency and his closeness to the establishment has caused a backlash among local party members and has led three Democrats, Hector Diaz, Christina Ayala, and Kate Rivera, to run as petitioning candidates. There is also a Republican running, Josh Parrow, who, like Felipe, is on the younger side (29). This chamber stands at 90-60 in favor of Democrats with only this seat vacant.
● Dallas, TX Mayor, Fort Worth, TX Mayor, San Antonio, TX Mayor: Three of Texas' five largest cities held mayoral elections on Saturday, though two races were inconclusive and will advance to runoffs on June 8.
In Fort Worth, matters wrapped up with just a single round of voting, as incumbent Betsy Price defeated challenger Deborah Peoples 56-42. This race, like the others, was officially nonpartisan but Price is a Republican and Peoples is chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. Price won a record fifth two-year term, but her margin was considerably closer than her 41-point win two years earlier.
Next door in Dallas, two Democrats will face off again in the race to succeed term-limited Mayor Mike Rawlings (also a Democrat): state Rep. Eric Johnson, who took 20%, and City Councilman Scott Griggs, who finished closed behind with 18.5%. While Johnson and Griggs are both in their early 40s and have each served in elected office for about a decade, the two are running very different campaigns: Johnson has dominated in fundraising thanks to support from the city's business community while Griggs, as the Dallas Morning News puts it, is "an anti-establishment leader known for his opposition to big projects."
Finally, in San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg, a left-leaning independent, narrowly missed avoiding a runoff. Instead, he'll have to contend with conservative City Councilman Greg Brockhouse, whom he led 49-46 in the first round. Nirenberg has focused on mass transit and affordable housing while Brockhouse, predictably, rejects those priorities and has instead campaigned on property taxes. Two years ago, Nirenberg himself came from behind to unseat relatively conservative incumbent Ivy Taylor in a runoff.