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.
● MA-06: On Thursday, women's health advocate Jamie Zahlaway Belsito announced that she would challenge Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District. This seat, which includes Salem, Lynn, and other communities north of Boston, backed Hillary Clinton 56-38, and it should stay blue without much trouble no matter what happens in the primary.
Belsito argued that Moulton is neglecting his constituents while he runs for president, declaring, "It is time to make the people of the 6th Congressional District the top priority." Belsito also went after Moulton for criticizing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is one of his many White House rivals. Belsito argued, "During a time where we are being desperately underrepresented, he has chosen to single out and attack our own sitting U.S. senator, seeking to score political points, which exemplifies his disconnect from our district, and our commonwealth."
Belsito runs a group that brings attention to postpartum depression, and GOP Gov. Charlie Baker recently appointed her to the Salem State University Board of Trustees. Belsito opened a fundraising account in April, but she only just confirmed that she would run for this seat.
Moulton has said that he'd seek a fourth term if his White House bid falters, but he could be in for a rough homecoming. Moulton angered progressives across the nation late last year when he led an unsuccessful campaign to keep Nancy Pelosi from returning to the speaker's chair, and his longshot presidential bid may not help his standing at home.
However, Belsito has her own potential vulnerabilities. In 2014, she volunteered for Richard Tisei, who was Moulton's Republican opponent. Commonwealth Magazine's Andy Metzger also wrote in April that Belsito, who was not registered with either party at the time, gave Tisei a "friendly interview on Beverly community access television." Metzger spoke to Belsito in the spring about that campaign and wrote that she explained her support for Tisei by "noting his status as an openly gay, married Republican who also supported women's reproductive rights and who had connections with some of her family members."
Belsito may not be the only Democrat who ends up challenging Moulton. Several other potential candidates have shown interest in this race including former Rep. John Tierney, whom Moulton unseated in the 2014 primary. If too many candidates split the anti-incumbent vote, Moulton could claim renomination with just a plurality.
● AL-Sen: On Friday, disgraced former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley once again said he wasn't ruling out a bid for the GOP nod to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Sean Ross of the conservative site Yellowhammer News says that he contacted Bentley after a source told him that the former governor was seriously considering running. Bentley emailed back and said he'd "seen some interesting and encouraging poll results" and had heard "from a number of people offering their support." Bentley concluded, "We must protect the Republican Senate majority and our president's agenda."
However, with the likely exception of 2017 nominee Roy Moore, Bentley is probably the Republican that Jones would most like to face. That's because back in 2017, the governor was under investigation for allegedly misusing state resources to cover up his affair with a top staffer named Rebekah Mason, and the GOP state legislature was getting ready to impeach him.
Before that happened, though, Bentley agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. He resigned, pleaded guilty to some campaign finance violations, received a one-year probation sentence, and agreed he would never run for office again. However, that last part may not be enforceable now that Bentley's probationary period has ended.
Bentley talked about running for the Senate again the same week that his scandal was once again in the news. On Thursday, the public learned that the state had spent $500,000 in taxpayer money in legal defense costs for four defendants, and that $131,000 of that was used for Bentley's defense. Alabama taxpayers also found out they were on the hook for another $525,000 that was used to settle a lawsuit brought by former Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier against Bentley and several other defendants.
Back in 2016, Bentley fired Collier because of what the governor called "possible misuse of state funds" and leadership problems at the agency. Collier responded by denying the allegations and holding a press conference where he revealed Bentley's affair with Mason and said that it was the governor who had misused state resources to cover it up. Collier then sued both Bentley and Mason and a few others and accused them of smearing him in order to justify his firing.
Collier announced a few weeks ago that he'd reached a settlement, but the terms only became public on Thursday. Collier has talked about running for Congress in the 1st District this cycle, though he was later arrested for allegedly filing a false police report in an unrelated matter.
● SD-Sen: Freshman GOP state Rep. Scyller Borglum said Thursday that she's "made a thoroughly-considered decision regarding the upcoming U.S. Senate race" and will announce her 2020 plans on Monday at three different events around the state. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds, who previously served as governor, is up for re-election next year, and there's little indication that he's in any danger in either a primary or a general election.
Back in late April Borglum (who says she is not related to the late Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum) issued a news release in late April that accused Rep. Dusty Johnson and two of his allies of trying to intimidate her out of the Senate race. She said Johnson told her both that Round's team would "expose the 'dirt'" on her, and that the senator was already calling donors to make sure she was "completely boxed out and unable to run for any future office." Johnson acknowledged meeting with Borglum about the Senate race in what he believed was a "friendly conversation," but he denied making any threats.
● WY-Sen, WY-AL: Robert Grady, a private equity executive, is the latest Republican to say he's considering running to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mike Enzi next year. Grady served as an adviser to former Gov. Matt Mead, and before that he was a policy adviser and campaign speechwriter for George H.W. Bush. It's unclear if he's ever run for office himself before, but the Casper Star-Tribune reports he has further ties to prominent Republicans, so he may have the connections needed to run a strong race. Grady said his time frame and choice of office will depend on which other Republicans are running, and he could run for House if Rep. Liz Cheney leaves her seat open to run for Senate.
● FL-01: On Friday, the House Ethics Committee announced it will investigate Rep. and Trump sycophant Matt Gaetz over his tweet appearing to try to intimidate Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen shortly before Cohen was set to testify to the House Oversight Committee last February about Trump's malfeasance. Gaetz had tweeted and later deleted, "Hey @MichaelCohen212 - Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot..."
Needless to say, witness intimidation is a violation of the code of conduct for an attorney like Gaetz. The Florida Bar had previously announced it was moving forward with an investigation into Gaetz's conduct, and if they determine there is probable cause that Gaetz violated their rules, they will file a complaint with the state Supreme Court that could lead to him getting disbarred.
● MI-03: Army veteran Peter Meijer, who is a member of a prominent Michigan billionaire family, told Michigan Advance's Nick Manes Friday that he was being encouraged to challenge Rep. Justin Amash in the GOP primary and would announce his plans "shortly." Meijer's family owns an eponymous retail chain with almost 200 locations in the Midwest, though he says he has no "official role" with the company. Manes writes that the Meijer family has an estimated net worth of $7 billion.
Amash, who has loudly and repeatedly spoken and voted against Trump, seems to be doing everything he can to lose his primary in this Grand Rapids seat. However, Amash's intra-party detractors seem just as hell-bent on giving the incumbent a path to victory. State Reps. Lynn Afendoulis and Jim Lower, as well as Afghanistan veteran Tom Norton, are already running, and it only takes a plurality to win a primary in Michigan.
● MN-07: While Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson opened a 2020 fundraising account a month ago, he tells the Star Tribune that, as usual, he won't announce his re-election plans until January or February. Republicans would love for Peterson to retire and free up this 62-31 Trump western Minnesota seat. However, the congressman says that right now, he's "doing all the stuff you need to do" to run again, including "parades, raising money."
● NC-03: Campaign finance reports are out ahead of the July 9 GOP primary runoff, and state Rep. Greg Murphy and pediatrician Joan Perry each spent about $245,000 from April 11 through June 19. Murphy ended the period with a $95,000 to $55,000 cash-on-hand lead, but the outside spending very much favors Perry. Politico writes that Winning for Women has spent close to $500,000 for Perry as of Friday, while Murphy's allies at House Freedom Action have deployed $236,000.
● NE-02: The Intercept reports that the DCCC has been working to recruit Gladys Harrison, who is the general manager of the well-known Omaha restaurant Big Mama's Kitchen, to challenge GOP Rep. Don Bacon. Harrison, who said in May that she was considering, recently said that "at this time I am not ready to comment." The DCCC also said they would "not confirm or deny" they were trying to land Harrison, though Omaha City Council President Ben Gray relayed that the committee has "been reaching out to her, and they're considering supporting her for Congress." Harrison, who is black, would be the first woman of color to represent Nebraska in Congress.
This seat, which includes all of Omaha and some of its suburbs, backed Trump 49-47, and it's hosted several tight races in recent years. Bacon very narrowly unseated Rep. Brad Ashford in 2016, and the DCCC supported Ashford's comeback campaign last cycle. However, Ashford ended up losing his primary to nonprofit head Kara Eastman in an upset. National Democrats weren't very optimistic about Eastman, who ran to Ashford's left, and they didn't air any ads here in the general election. However, Bacon won just 51-49, and Eastman announced that she'd seek a rematch in December.
Eastman isn't the only familiar name running here. Attorney Ann Ashford, who is the wife of the former congressman, is also competing in the Democratic primary. However, neither candidate raised so much as $40,000 during the first quarter of the year. Second quarter fundraising numbers are due July 15, so we'll soon know if either Eastman or Ashford improved during the spring.
● NY-22: Fox 40 reports that Broome County District Attorney Stephen Cornwell will announce on Tuesday that he's seeking the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi. The station also reports that Binghamton Mayor Richard David is being encouraged to run as well; David responded with a "no comment."
● PA-10: 2018 Democratic nominee George Scott announced Friday that he would not seek a rematch against GOP Rep. Scott Perry.
● UT-04: Utah Policy recently reported that GOP state Rep. Kim Coleman would challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, and she's hardly denying it. Coleman recently posted a video on Facebook titled, "FAQ: Is Coleman running for Congress?" Coleman didn't say yes or no, but declared, "We have been exploring a run and hope to announce something soon."
If she runs, Coleman may have some primary competition. State Sen. Dan Hemmert, who serves as majority whip, told the Deseret News that he's considering running and had met with the NRCC. Several other Republicans have also expressed interest in this race.