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.
● CO-Sen: Former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has sounded incredibly uninterested, if not downright hostile, to the idea of serving in the Senate, but the New York Times’ Reid Epstein reported Tuesday that he was indeed considering dropping his presidential bid to challenge GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.
Unnamed Democrats say that last week, Hickenlooper and White House rival Michael Bennet, who is Colorado’s other senator, took a ride in Bennet’s car to an event in Iowa where they talked about Hickenlooper’s future. Hickenlooper’s team refused to comment on his plans.
Hickenlooper acknowledged earlier this month that his presidential campaign may be over before long, and he didn’t rule out a Senate run when pressed. There’s little question that, despite his struggles during his White House bid, he’d start out as the clear primary frontrunner if he campaigned against Gardner. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spent months trying to recruit Hickenlooper and reportedly still wants him to run, and two recent polls also showed Hickenlooper dominating in a hypothetical primary.
It remains to be seen, though, whether Hickenlooper, who has said, “I'm not cut out to be a senator,” can actually be persuaded to run. In June, when Hickenlooper was asked about calls to run for the Senate instead of staying in the presidential race, he responded, "Well, if the Senate's so good, how come all those senators are trying to get out" by seeking the White House. Hickenlooper even said last month that several of his presidential campaign staffers encouraged him to drop out and take on Gardner instead, but he didn’t seem interested in heeding their call at the time.
● KS-Sen: Bloomberg reports that an unnamed ally of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has asked GOP donors to avoid giving money to anyone running for this open seat just in case Pompeo runs. Kansas' filing deadline isn't until early June, so if contributors take this advice and Pompeo keeps dragging out his decision, the Republicans who are already running could be in for some very long months.
It's too early to tell, though, if major donors actually are staying away from the rest of the field, especially since several of the candidates only announced they were running after or just before the end of the second fundraising quarter. The only candidate who spent the entire quarter in the race was state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who took in just over $200,000 during this time. Another candidate, Kansas Turnpike Authority chair Dave Lindstrom, raised $100,000 in the few days after he entered the race in late June.
Rep. Roger Marshall's fundraising did noticeably decline since the winter, though. While Marshall has not yet announced if he's running, he's able to raise cash for his House campaign that he could immediately transfer to a Senate bid. This seemed to be just what he was doing during the first quarter of 2019 when he hauled in a hefty $706,000. However, Marshall took in just $216,000 during the following three months, though he still ended June with a strong $1.4 million in the bank.
● NC-Sen: Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson announced Wednesday that he would not challenge GOP Sen. Thom Tillis.
● NH-Sen: Fabrizio, Lee & Associates is out with a hypothetical GOP primary poll for Citizens United president David Bossie, a close ally of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, that gives Lewandowski the lead with 30% of the vote. Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc and former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien are far behind with 11% and 10%, respectively.
Lewandowski has been considering challenging Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, but plenty Republicans are far from enthusiastic about the idea. Former Sen. Judd Gregg, who retired in 2011, angrily said, "He's part of Trump's cadre of thugs. If he were to run and become the nominee, it would be an outrage." Politico also writes that some senior Republicans fear that Lewandowski's "lobbying career could come back to haunt him in a statewide campaign as could his past history of controversial statements." The NRSC also seems to prefer Bolduc, though they haven't endorsed him.
● LA-Gov: Wealthy Republican businessman Eddie Rispone's new ad features the candidate talking about his Christian faith.
● NC-Gov: On behalf of the conservative Civitas Institute, the GOP firm Harper Polling is out with a survey that finds Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper leading three potential Republican rivals:
- 48-36 vs. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
- 48-30 vs. state Rep. Holly Grange
- 47-38 vs. former Gov. Pat McCrory
Forest and Grange are currently running, while McCrory hasn't shown any obvious interest in this contest since February. If McCrory is still considering seeking a rematch against Cooper, he'll need to decide in time for the December filing deadline.
Harper's June poll for Civitas gave Cooper a similar 47-37 lead, though a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling taken that same month had the incumbent up just 45-41. This is the first poll we've seen testing Grange against Cooper.
● IA-04: Republican Rep. Steve King, speaking before the Westside Conservative Club just outside of Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday:
"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" he said in Urbandale, Iowa. "Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can't say that I was not a part of a product of that."
The Kiron Republican was discussing his defense of not allowing exceptions for rape and incest in the anti-abortion legislation he tried to pass in Congress.
● NC-09: National Democrats are about to begin airing TV ads in support of Dan McCready ahead of the Sept. 10 special election. Advertising Analytics reports that the DCCC will spend $477,000 from Aug. 16 through Sept. 2 while House Majority Forward, a nonprofit affiliated with House Majority PAC, says they'll spend $500,000 for a week starting Aug. 20. The NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund began airing ads a few weeks ago.
● NY-19: Republicans got their first noteworthy candidate for this swing seat on Wednesday when Anthony German, who recently retired as an adjutant general in the New York National Guard, announced that he would challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado. The Times Union writes that German has been "involved in responding to every disaster in the state since 1990," including Hurricane Irene, which hit the region in 2011.
German is a first-time candidate, and he doesn't yet seem ready to address what was the biggest issue of the 2018 cycle. German charged that both parties have failed on health care and need to compromise, but when he was asked about his own plan, he responded, "We'll flush out the details as we move forward."
This seat, which includes much of the Hudson Valley, backed Donald Trump 51-44, but Delgado is a formidable candidate. Last year, the Democrat unseated freshman GOP Rep. John Faso 51-46 in an expensive race where Faso's allies ran racist ad after racist ad against Delgado, who is both black and Latino; that win came at the same time that Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro beat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo here last year by a wide 53-42 margin despite his landslide statewide defeat. Delgado has always been a strong fundraiser, and he took in a hefty $669,000 during the second quarter and ended June with just over $1 million in the bank.
● NY-24: Earlier this month, the FEC notified 2018 Democratic nominee Dana Balter, who is running again, that she'd violated campaign finance rules by accepting a salary from her campaign during the last quarter. FEC rules only allow candidates to take a salary from their war chest after their state's candidate filing deadline has passed, and New York's isn't until early April. Balter's team says she'll reimburse the campaign for the $6,700 she accepted.
● UT-01: On Tuesday, Morgan County Councilor Tina Cannon became the first Republican to announce a bid for this safely red open seat. Cannon, who was named the 2018 Utah Mother of the Year by the American Mothers Association, echoed Donald Trump in her campaign kick-off by pitching herself as "someone who stands for the values that made America great and will make America great." Morgan County makes up less than 2% of this district, so Cannon doesn't start out with much of a geographic base.
Several other Republicans are considering seeking this northern Utah seat including Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, who recently formed an exploratory committee. Witt said this week that she would decide whether to run in the next few weeks.
● Salt Lake City, UT Mayor: Salt Lake City held its nonpartisan mayoral primary on Tuesday, and City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall secured a spot in the November general election by taking first place with 23.7% of the vote. However, it may be a little while before she learns who her opponent is, though there's no question that she'll end up facing a fellow Democrat in this very blue city.
Former state Sen. Jim Dabakis ended Tuesday evening with a 21.6-21.2 lead over state Sen. Luz Escamilla for the second general election spot, a margin of 109 votes. Dabakis has declared victory, but there are more ballots to be counted and Escamilla is not conceding. Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen says the results will be updated Thursday at 5 PM ET/ 3 PM local time, and there will be another update at the same time on Friday. No one, including Swensen, knows how many mail votes still need to be tallied.
Mendenhall, who also serves as chair of the Utah Air Quality Board, has emphasized improving air quality during her campaign to succeed Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who is retiring after one term. Mendenhall has also pledged to clean up the city's most polluted buildings and to combat unfair eviction practices.
Dabakis, who was the Utah legislature's only gay member when he retired last year, has called for free-fare local public transit. Dabakis has also argued that he'll be able to work well with the GOP-dominated state government to achieve "big ideas."
Escamilla, who emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and would be the first person of color to lead Salt Lake City, says she'd bring a new perspective to city government. Escamilla has also argued that she'll be able to work well with the GOP legislature. Biskupski showed up at Escamilla's election night party on Tuesday and while she said she wasn't making an endorsement, the outgoing mayor said of Escamilla, "I think she has all the characteristics it takes to be a very good mayor."