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.
● UT-04: State Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert announced Wednesday that he would seek the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams in Utah's 4th Congressional District, and he began his campaign by describing how the Trump administration had … hurt his business.
Hemmert talked about how his chain of dry cleaners, Red Hanger Cleaners, could no longer use their namesake red hangers because they're made in China and affected by Donald Trump's steel tariffs against the country. Hemmert said, "We do need a strong economy. We do need certain industries that we've lost and there's value in having those industries. But in general, I do not support tariffs." However, Hemmert still said he "like[s] the results of his presidency."
Hemmert was only appointed to the state Senate in 2016, but he quickly rose through the ranks to become majority whip. However, Hemmert won't start with much of a geographic base of support because almost 99% of his 14th State Senate District is located in the neighboring 3rd Congressional District rather than in this seat.
However, one prominent 4th District politician is enthusiastic about his campaign. Former Rep. Mia Love, who narrowly lost this seat to McAdams last year, previously said that she would run if she felt the GOP wasn't running a strong candidate, but that Hemmert was someone she'd feel comfortable deferring to. Love reaffirmed Wednesday, "He was one I was hoping would get in," but she said they'd need to "have another conversation" before she could decide not to run. State Rep. Jefferson Moss, though, made it clear this week that he'd sit out this race.
A few other Republicans are already seeking the GOP nod including former radio host Jay Mcfarland and former state GOP communications director Kathleen Anderson, while state Rep. Kim Coleman has filed paperwork to raise money. Utah Policy also reports that attorney Nathan Evershed is considering running as well. Evershed ran for Salt Lake County district attorney last year but lost to Democratic incumbent Sim Gill by a wide 56-44 margin.
● CO-Sen: Former state Sen. Mike Johnston doesn't sound like he plans to drop out if former Gov. John Hickenlooper enters the Democratic primary, and he's out with a new poll from Global Strategy Group arguing that Team Blue hardly needs Hickenlooper to beat GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.
The survey gives Hickenlooper a 49-39 advantage over Gardner, while the memo says that a generic Democrat posts the same margin-of-victory over the incumbent. The survey also gives Hickenlooper just a 46-42 favorable rating, while Gardner is down in the dumps with a 32-44 favorable score. GSG argues that these numbers show that "Hickenlooper is not special. He's not a savior. We don't need him."
Interestingly, these numbers aren't too different than what the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found in a recent survey for 314 Action Fund, a group that's trying to recruit Hickenlooper. That poll gave Hickenlooper a similar 51-38 lead against Gardner but found the former governor with only a modest 45-38 favorable score. That survey gave the senator a negative 30-49 approval rating.
Johnston's poll also finds that, after respondents are "exposed to a short profile of Johnston that was meant to simulate his likely primary message," he leads Gardner 50-39; the memo did not say how well Johnston did before the informed ballot test.
Two other Democratic candidates, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and state Sen. Angela Williams, have already said that they won't drop out if Hickenlooper runs, but not everyone is ruling out exiting the race should this come to pass. Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh said, "At this point, I'm not convinced that he's getting in, but if that happens we'll have a conversation and we'll move forward."
Former Ambassador Dan Baer's team only said that they wouldn't comment until Hickenlooper makes his plans known, so he seems to be keeping his options open. Former state House Majority Leader Alice Madden didn't say what she'd do if the former governor jumped in, though she added that it was long past time for the state to have a woman senator.
● KS-Sen: The Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry reports that former GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer is more likely to run for office in 2022 than to seek the state's open Senate seat this cycle. Colyer expressed interest in a Senate bid back in January when incumbent Pat Roberts announced that he would retire, but he hasn't said much about this race since then.
● MS-Gov: Mississippi holds its GOP primary runoff next week, and as of Saturday, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves held a massive $3.4 million to $350,000 cash-on-hand edge over former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. Reeves also picked up an endorsement on Tuesday from former Gov. Haley Barbour, who served from 2004 to 2012.
● AZ-01: This week, former professional baseball pitcher-turned-far-right troll Curt Schilling confirmed that if he runs for Congress in Arizona next year, it would be against Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran. Schilling, who still lives in Massachusetts, told his Facebook fans, "Am I going to run? I don't know yet. I honestly don't know yet. It's still an ongoing discussion in our home."
● IA-04: While GOP leaders have made it no secret that they want white supremacist Rep. Steve King to retire so they can nominate a much stronger candidate, King reaffirmed this week that he's not going anywhere voluntarily. When the conservative Washington Examiner asked King if there was any chance he'd step aside this year he responded, "No. Unless I'm dead. That's the only circumstance."
● OH-01: VoteVets has endorsed Air Force veteran Nikki Foster in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Steve Chabot.
● MD-02: On Tuesday, GOP state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling announced that he would challenge veteran Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger in this suburban Baltimore district. Salling faces a decidedly uphill climb in this 60-36 Clinton seat, a constituency that is considerably to the left of his own 55-41 Trump legislative district. Because Maryland only holds legislative elections in midterm years, though, Salling doesn't need to give up his state Senate seat to run here.
● TX-22: On Tuesday, Roger Clemens spared us the possibility of having two former Major League Baseball pitchers running for the House as Republicans. Clemens told ESPN that he has “no interest” in running to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Pete Olson. There’s no word if Clemens conducted the interview clucking all the while.
However, another Houston-area Republican is making moves to run for this competitive open seat. On Tuesday, major GOP fundraiser Kathaleen Wall set up a fundraising committee with the FEC. Wall ran last year in the nearby 2nd District, but while she looked like the clear frontrunner for most of the campaign, she unexpectedly ended up narrowly missing the primary runoff.
Wall poured close to $6.2 million of her own money into her campaign, which allowed her to decisively outspend all of her many primary foes and dominate the airwaves: A Texas Tribune story from last year even wrote that she might have been one of the most famous people in Houston at the time thanks to her many ads. Wall also had some big names in her corner, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, and the Tribune suggested there was a chance that she could win a majority of the vote and avoid a primary runoff.
However, there were signs that Wall wasn’t the strong candidate she was cracked up to be, especially because her own performance on the campaign trail. The Houston Chronicle wrote that at events "she struggled to remember talking points during forums. Her campaign also avoided interviews with the media, turning down repeated interview requests with the Houston Chronicle." And after watching this cringe-inducing video of a time Wall did speak and badly garbled her talking points multiple times, we can see why.
There were also other indications that Wall's campaign didn't really have their finger on the pulse of the GOP electorate. Abbott appeared in an ad for her late in the race calling Wall "a behind the scenes mover and shaker in Houston politics for years." In an era where almost every candidate is tripping over each other to portray themselves as the real enemy of the establishment whether they actually are or not, it was quite jarring to hear someone embracing a label like that.
Still, it was a surprise when Wall took just third place in the primary. State Rep. Kevin Roberts took first with 33% while Navy SEAL veteran Daniel Crenshaw edged Wall 27.4-27.1 for the second runoff spot; Crenshaw ended up winning the runoff and the general election. After that performance, Republicans probably shouldn’t feel too good about having her as their nominee in Texas’ 22nd District, a seat that’s been trending away from the party during the Trump era, no matter how big of a check she’s willing to write this time.
● UT-01: GOP state Rep. Logan Wilde announced this week that he would not run for this open seat.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special elections in Pennsylvania and South Carolina:
PA-HD-85: Republican David Rowe defeated Democrat Jennifer Rager-Kay 63-37 to hold this central Pennsylvania district for the GOP. While still a sizable Republican victory, Rager-Kay outperformed her 68-32 loss against now-Rep. Fred Keller in last year's election. Additionally, Rager-Kay did 8 points better than Hillary Clinton's 65-32 loss and 3 points better than Barack Obama's 63-35 defeat.
Republicans retain their 110-93 advantage in the state House with this win.
SC-HD-19: Republican Patrick Haddon was victorious in this Greenville-area seat against Democrat Carrie Counton. Haddon won 61-39, the same margin Counton lost by to former state Rep. Dwight Loftis last year. This outcome still represents a Democratic overperformance in this deep-red district. While not as large as Tina Belge's huge overperformance in a state Senate race in this area earlier this year, Counton still improved on Clinton's 60-35 loss by 3 points and Obama's 63-35 loss by 6 points.
Republican control the state House 79-44, with one other seat vacant.
P.S. It's been a while since we've had Democratic vs. Republican special elections to track, so we'd like to give an update on our Big Board tracker. This cycle, Democrats are outperforming Hillary Clinton's margins by 5.5 points and Obama's margins by about 1 point.