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.
● VA State House, VA-07: On Thursday, Virginia state Del. Nick Freitas announced that he was ending his re-election campaign because of a paperwork error, and it remains unclear if the state party will be able to put him back on the November ballot, or even have any candidate on the ballot. The GOP is defending their narrow 51-49 majority this fall, and the last thing they'll want to do is wage an expensive write-in campaign to protect Freitas' seat—normally safely red—from Democrat Ann Ridgeway.
The consequences of Freitas' problems could also impact the contest to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger next year in Virginia's 7th Congressional District. Back in March, the anti-tax Club for Growth said they were trying to recruit Freitas and predicted that if he ran they would "invest more money there than any House race in the history of the club." They may be rethinking that investment decision now.
So, what exactly happened here? As the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Graham Moomaw explains, Freitas turned in multiple important forms to the State Board of Elections well after the deadline, including one document that was supposed to be filled out by the candidate himself.
The Board was to meet Friday to decide how to proceed, and Moomaw writes that, by dropping out just before he could be officially disqualified, Freitas was trying to give his party the ability to put a new candidate, perhaps even himself, on the ballot. State law allows parties to pick someone new if "the nominee dies, withdraws, or nomination is set aside," but not if the nominee is "disqualified for failing to meet the filing requirements." The Board did indeed meet as planned on Friday, but they adjourned without doing anything to resolve this situation.
● TN-Sen: Donald Trump endorsed outgoing Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty earlier this month, but orthopedic surgeon Manny Sethi says he's still continuing his campaign for the GOP nod. On Wednesday, Sethi put up a Facebook post where he claimed that the state and national party establishment, including the NRSC, had tried to dissuade him from running in the first place and later attempted to convince him to drop out in favor of Hagerty. Sethi went on to frame the upcoming GOP primary as a battle between himself and a "consummate Washington insider, someone handpicked by the entire GOP establishment."
● TX-Sen: Democratic state Sen. Royce West filed paperwork with the FEC, a move that comes just ahead of his Monday announcement.
● MS-Gov: A new poll conducted by SurveyMonkey and NBC on behalf of Mississippi Today finds the two main Republican candidates in next month's primary with wide leads over state Attorney General Jim Hood, the likely Democratic nominee in November's gubernatorial election.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves beats Hood 51-42, while former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller wins by a slightly larger 53-41 margin. Polls of this race have been all over the place, though the most recent survey, conducted last month by Republican pollster IMG, also found Reeves and Waller ahead by spreads similar to SurveyMonkey's.
Note: The SurveyMonkey poll was in the field for 15 days, from July 2 through July 16. Ideally, a poll should only take three to five days to complete, and it's our general practice not to write up polls in the field longer than two weeks. However, because SurveyMonkey is a well-known pollster, and because this poll was conducted for an independent news site (rather than a partisan entity), we've chosen to include it.
● CO-06: Colorado Republican Party CEO Steve House, who served as party chair from 2015 through 2017, told Colorado Politics that he was considering challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Crow and would decide by the end of July. This suburban Denver seat backed Hillary Clinton 50-41, and Crow unseated GOP incumbent Mike Coffman last year by a wide 54-43 margin.
House hasn't enjoyed many political successes in the last few years beginning with his 2014 campaign for governor, which ended when he failed to advance past the state convention. House became party chair the following year but quickly got into an ugly public confrontation with then-state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, whom he accused of trying to oust him. House remained in charge, though, and he considered another gubernatorial run in late 2016. However, House ended up deciding to both stay out of the race and step down as party chair.
House went on to head the state GOP's independent expenditure operations during the disastrous 2018 cycle. This year, after Rep. Ken Buck took over as state party chair, House became the Colorado GOP's first CEO, a volunteer post that runs much of their day-to-day operations.
● IA-04: State Sen. Randy Feenstra's GOP primary bid against white supremacist Rep. Steve King picked up an endorsement on Thursday from prominent Iowa social conservative Bob Vander Plaats. Vander Plaats, who leads an evangelical group called The Family Leader, used to be a King ally. However, he denounced the incumbent in January after King asked a New York Times reporter, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?'"
King's comments, which came just months after he only won his general election by a 50-47 margin in what's usually a safely red seat, also convinced congressional GOP leaders that it was time to drop him. National Republicans had spent over a decade tolerating King's vehement racism and alliances with international white supremacists, but they stripped him of all his committee assignments in January. King remains committee-less six months later, and he's also nearly cash-less. The incumbent has been a weak fundraiser for years, but the $18,000 war chest he had at the end of June was terrible even for him.
Feenstra isn't the only Republican campaigning against King, but he has by far the most money. Feenstra raised $138,000 during the second quarter of 2019, and he had $337,000 to spend at the end of June. Two other candidates, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and Army veteran Bret Richards each had less than $50,000 to spend, though they both still had more cash-on-hand than King.
However, Taylor and Richards, as well as anyone else who enters the GOP primary before next March's filing deadline, could still help the incumbent if they can take some anti-King votes away from Feenstra. In Iowa, a candidate needs to win at least 35% of the vote to win the primary outright, and it's very possible King could take a plurality with a split field. If no one hits this threshold, though, the nomination would be decided at a party convention.
● IL-03: Businesswoman Marie Newman is seeking a rematch against anti-abortion Rep. Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary, but this time, she's not Lipinski's only challenger.
Activist Rush Darwish kicked off his campaign in May and hauled in $135,000 for the quarter, and he ended June with $133,000 in the bank. That's considerably less money than the $327,000 that Newman brought in over the past three months, and she also had a stronger $352,000 war chest. However, Darwish may still have enough resources to get his name out and split the anti-Lipinski vote enough to allow the incumbent to win with just a plurality. Another Democrat, attorney Abe Matthew, is also running, but he raised only $29,000 and self-funded another $49,000, and he had $72,000 to spend.
Lipinski fended off Newman 51-49 last year in an expensive campaign, and he's still rebuilding his once-formidable war chest. Lipinski ended this quarter with $713,000 in the bank, which is a little more than half of what he had available at this point in 2017. However, Lipinski also is raising money at a much faster pace now than he did last time, which could be a sign that he's taking this race more seriously. The congressman hauled in $363,000 for the quarter compared to $205,000 two years ago.
● IL-11: Arguing that her district needs "a more vocal leader," Will County Board member Rachel Ventura says she'll challenge Rep. Bill Foster in next year's Democratic primary.
Ventura first won her seat on the board last year with the backing of Our Revolution, a group founded by Bernie Sanders supporters, and says she expects the organization's support this time as well. Ventura specifically criticized Foster for "inaction on major issues like climate change, meaningful health care reform, wealth inequality and campaign finance reforms" and claims he "blew off" a meeting to discuss single-payer health care in June.
Foster has one of the more moderate voting records among House Democrats, but he's always been firmly within the party's mainstream and has never before earned a primary challenge. He's also a well-connected member of the Democratic establishment and personally wealthy, with a net worth of about $9 million. Ventura herself called her campaign an "uphill battle," and she's not wrong.
But whoever wins the nomination should have an easy time in the general election: Hillary Clinton carried this suburban Chicago district 59-35, and Republicans haven't put up a serious challenger here in years.
● TX-32: Republican Demetrick Pennie, who works as a Dallas Police sergeant, filed paperwork back in May to run for this seat, but he won't be on the 2020 ballot. Pennie's campaign quickly sent a message to the FEC saying he "he has decided to change his run for Congressional office to year 2022."
● Houston, TX Mayor: Campaign finance reports are out for the first six months of 2019, and Houston is in for another expensive mayoral race this year.
Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner raised $1.7 million during the period, and he has $3.2 million in the bank. Businessman Bill King, a conservative independent who narrowly lost to Turner in 2015, took in $685,000 and self-funded another $100,000, and he has $318,000 on-hand.
Wealthy trial lawyer Tony Buzbee has continued to pump millions into his campaign. Buzbee, who has pledged to self-fund his entire race, lent himself an additional $5.5 million this year on top of the $2 million he invested in 2018. Buzbee, who successfully defended then-GOP Gov. Rick Perry, refuses to identify himself with any party, and he's hosted fundraisers with Donald Trump as well as Hillary Clinton.
Buzbee began a very early TV ad campaign attacking Turner, and the Houston Chronicle writes that he'll have spent $1.8 million from December through August. The only other candidate who has gone on the air so far is Turner, who ran a single ad touting his work helping the city recover after Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017. No one has released any polls here, so we don't have a good sense for how much Buzbee's ad campaign is helping him.
City Councilor Dwight Boykins, a Democrat and a former Turner ally, entered the race last month with the support of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, which has been at the center of a high-profile pension feud with Turner. Boykins took in a total of $140,000 during 2019, and he has $70,000 in the bank. Another candidate, former City Councilor Sue Lovell, jumped in earlier this month after the reporting period ended.
Houston's candidate filing deadline isn't until Aug. 26, so there's still time for more candidates to get in. All the contenders will compete on one nonpartisan ballot on Nov. 5, and if no one takes a majority, there would be a runoff Dec. 14.
● Memphis, TN Mayor: Candidate filing closed Thursday for Memphis' Oct. 3 election and Mayor Jim Strickland faces nine opponents in the nonpartisan contest. That's potentially very good news for the incumbent because it only takes a simple plurality to win the mayor's office: Strickland himself prevailed in the 2015 contest by unseating incumbent A C Wharton 41-22 in a 10-way race, a victory that made him this predominantly black city's first white mayor in 24 years. (Voters backed a 2018 referendum to introduce an instant-runoff system, but state election officials soon ruled that it could not be implemented.)
Strickland's two most prominent opponents are former Mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer. Herenton made history in 1991 when he became the city's first black mayor, and he went on to serve for almost 28 years. Herenton resigned in 2009 as a federal grand jury was investigating a real estate deal he was involved in, but he was never charged with anything. Herenton challenged Rep. Steve Cohen in the Democratic primary the following year, but he lost by a lopsided 79-21 margin. Herenton began his comeback bid last year, and he's earned the endorsement of the Memphis Police Association for the first time in his career.
Sawyer, by contrast, was a prominent local activist when she won a spot on the county commission last year. Sawyer was best known for successfully urging city officials to remove Confederate monuments, and she said that she received death threats during these protests. Sawyer also learned that she was one of several activists that the Memphis Police Department was spying on, a practice the police director argued was "simply good police work." Sawyer also accused cops of yelling at her at protests and following her home. Sawyer would be the first black woman to serve as mayor, as well as the city's first-ever woman leader.
Both Herenton and Sawyer are arguing that the local status quo, including Memphis' high homicide rate, are unacceptable and that change is needed, an argument that Strickland used against Wharton four years before. Strickland's pitch to voters is that things are improving, and that the city has "momentum."
Strickland begins the campaign with a massive financial advantage over the field. The mayor ended June with $918,000 on-hand, while Herenton and Sawyer had $62,000 and $45,000 available, respectively.