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.
● NY-02: Longtime GOP Rep. Pete King told Newsday last week that he had not yet decided if he'd seek another term. The paper's question came after King's daughter and long-rumored successor, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, announced that she wouldn't seek re-election this November and was moving to North Carolina for family reasons.
Newsday asked King if King Sweeney's departure could impact his own 2020 plans, and he responded, "Right now, I fully intend to run for re-election," and he noted that he was about to hold a campaign fundraiser. However, the congressman continued, "This is all just part of a new world for me," and added, "I'll have to think everything over." The only definitive thing King would say is that, while he and his wife hoped to visit King Sweeney and her family as often as possible, "I'm never moving to North Carolina."
This southern Long Island seat, which is home to Babylon and most of Islip, swung from 52-47 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but it lurched back to the left last fall. While Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 60-36 statewide win was very similar to Hillary Clinton's 59-37 victory, Cuomo carried King's seat by a 51-47 margin. King himself beat Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley 53-47, which was the first time he'd failed to win by double digits since his first campaign 26 years ago. Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon is seeking the Democratic nod to take on King, while Grechen Shirley expressed interest in another campaign back in the spring.
● AZ-Sen: Bendixen & Amandi (D) for Arizona Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 359: Martha McSally (R-inc): 42, Mark Kelly (D): 42
● MA-Sen: The Boston Globe, citing two unnamed people close to Rep. Joe Kennedy III, reports that the congressman will announce Saturday that he's challenging Sen. Ed Markey in next September's Massachusetts Democratic primary. Kennedy's spokesperson told the paper in response, "Joe plans to make a campaign announcement this Saturday in East Boston," which is a community located outside of his 4th Congressional District.
This would likely become an expensive contest, and a recent pair of polls found Kennedy leading Markey in a hypothetical race. However, Markey has repeatedly said that he'll fight to defend his seat against Kennedy, who is a member of Massachusetts' most famous political family.
Markey already has been preparing to contrast his own background against his challenger's prominent lineage. Markey used the recent state party convention to declare that he grew up the son of a milkman "in a blue-collar neighborhood in Malden" where his mother "figured out how long we could keep the heater on during the cold winter nights." Markey's decades-long service in Congress (he was first elected to the House in 1976) could be a liability against the far younger Kennedy, though the well-connected congressman is hardly an anti-establishment insurgent.
● NC-Sen: The North Carolina-based Democratic firm Public Policy Polling is out with a general election survey for End Citizens United, which is supporting former state Sen. Cal Cunningham in the Democratic primary, and they give Cunningham a 45-43 edge over GOP Sen. Thom Tillis. That's very similar to the 41-40 Cunningham edge that PPP found in their June survey for VoteVets, which is also backing him in the primary.
● KY-Gov: Gov. Matt Bevin's new commercial makes use of what is probably the most common line of attack in the red state Republican playbook and hits his opponent on abortion. After highlighting Bevin's anti-abortion bona fides, the narrator declares that Democrat Andy Beshear was "endorsed by Planned Parenthood, funded by abortion clinic owners."
● LA-Gov: This week, wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone fired off his first negative TV spot against Rep. Ralph Abraham, who is the other notable Republican competing in the Oct. 12 all-party primary. Rispone's commercial begins by going after Abraham for accepting his congressional salary after promising to donate it to charity instead, something that the DGA-backed Gumbo PAC has also attacked Abraham over.
Rispone's ad goes on to declare, "Abraham personally called on President Trump to step down but joined Nancy Pelosi to oppose a border wall and voted with her over 300 times." The Monroe News Star writes that Abraham encouraged Trump to step aside as the GOP presidential nominee in October of 2016 so Mike Pence could lead the party ticket after the "Access Hollywood" video was released where Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and his allies very much hope that the battle between Rispone and Abraham escalates over the next month. Edwards needs to take a majority of the vote to avoid a November runoff against one of the Republicans, and a nasty intra-GOP fight would almost certainly make his job easier. However, Republicans are also doing whatever they can to hit Edwards and drive down his numbers. The RGA has been airing negative ads for months, and Rispone also has unveiled a racist new spot against the governor.
Rispone's commercial begins by showing the mug shots of several men, who are mostly people of color, as the narrator declares that Edwards put criminals "back on our streets, where they robbed, attacked, [and] murdered." The narrator goes on to claim that the state crime rate has increased under Edwards and that New Orleans has become a "sanctuary city Mecca." She then insists that Rispone will "ban sanctuary cities and leave the forgiveness to God, not government."
Edwards' team was ready for this attack, and they quickly went up with a response ad starring several current and former sheriffs and district attorneys. The assembled group declares, "Criminal justice reform is making Louisiana safer," and is "strongly supported by Republicans and Democrats, law enforcement professionals, and business leaders." They also note that Edwards is a military veteran and grew up in a law enforcement household (his father was the sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish, and his brother now occupies that office).
Edwards' campaign also has a fact-check of Rispone's ad, where they point out that, while the Republican makes it sound like the governor's criminal justice reforms led to a spike in crime, there aren't actually complete FBI statistics since the policies went into effect in late 2017. They also note that the reforms only applied to non-violent and non-sex offenders. The Advocate's Stephanie Grace writes that even former Sen. David Vitter, the Republican that Edwards defeated in 2015, lobbied for the criminal justice reforms that Rispone is trying to bludgeon Edwards with.
On Wednesday, Edwards also picked up an endorsement from the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association, which also supported him during his successful 2015 campaign. In Louisiana, sheriffs tend to be very influential figures: When he turned down a gubernatorial bid, the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee famously asked, "Why would I want to be governor when I can be king?" However, the group also backed Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu ahead of her 56-44 loss in 2014, so their influence has its limits among voters in such a red state.
Abraham, meanwhile, earned an endorsement from Rep. Clay Higgins, who is the first member of the state's GOP congressional delegation to take sides in this contest.
● MS-Gov: Democrat Jim Hood's newest TV spot begins with the candidate telling the audience, "My grandfather practiced medicine in Chickasaw County in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Sometimes he got paid with chickens for delivering a baby." Hood adds, "Hospitals don't take chickens anymore," (CC: Sue Lowden) before he pledges to "work with both parties to keep our rural hospitals open, cover 300,000 working people, and in the process create 9,000 jobs."
Reeves' commercial doesn't mention Republican nominee Tate Reeves, who said over the summer, "I do not think it's good public policy to put 300,000 more Mississippians on government health care." That's in reference to Medicaid coverage expansion under Obamacare, of which the federal government would pay for the vast majority of costs.
● CA-08: On Tuesday, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte announced that he would run to succeed Rep. Paul Cook, a fellow Republican who is retiring to run for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. Obernolte entered the race with endorsements from a number of prominent San Bernardino County Republicans, including Cook. About two-thirds of the residents of the 8th Congressional District also live in Obernolte's Assembly seat, which gives him a big geographic base of support.
Marine veteran Jeremy Staat, who played for the NFL until 2003, also announced Tuesday that he would run as a Republican. Staat was a friend and college teammate of Pat Tillman, who went from the NFL into the military as well and was killed in a friendly fire incident in 2004. A 2018 23ABC article identified Staat as a resident of Bakersfield, which is located about 100 miles outside this seat.
This district, whose population is concentrated around northern San Bernardino County, backed Trump by a 55-40 margin, and it's very likely to stay red. However, engineer Chris Bubser has been running for Team Blue for months, and she had a noteworthy $170,000 war chest at the end of June.
● CA-50: While former Republican Rep. Darrell Issa has been considering running against indicted GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, he may end up getting a different gig in D.C. Last year, Donald Trump picked Issa to be director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, but until this week, his nomination has been stalled in the Senate. However, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will finally hold confirmation hearings for Issa on Thursday morning.
It's anyone's guess how long it could take for the full chamber to vote on his nomination, though Issa said last week, "Quite frankly, if I'm not confirmed by Nov. 3, then I expect I'll be a candidate for the congressional seat." We don't know why Issa picked that precise date (though it may be because it's exactly one year to Election Day), especially since he actually has until the December candidate filing deadline to decide.
Meanwhile, another Republican has taken his name out of contention. While Temecula City Councilor Matt Rahn set up a fundraising committee with the FEC just before Thanksgiving, he announced Tuesday that he wouldn't run because of the "tremendous uncertainty" surrounding this seat.
● IL-15: A former campaign spokesperson for Erika Harold, who was the GOP's 2018 nominee for attorney general, confirmed this week that she would not run for this safely red open seat. Meanwhile, WCIA reporter Mark Maxwell tweets that party insiders expect state Sen. Jason Plummer to announce a bid soon.
● ME-02: Real estate agent Adrienne Bennett, a Republican who previously served as former Gov. Paul LePage's press secretary, said Tuesday that she'd decided if she'd challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, but would not announce her plans for another few weeks.
The Sun Journal writes that Bennett lives in the safely blue 1st Congressional District near Portland, and one of her potential intra-party foes is already portraying her as a carpetbagger. 2018 Senate nominee Eric Brakey, who still has the primary to take on Golden to himself, told the paper he was excited when he'd supposedly learned that Bennett planned to run in the 1st District against Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree. Brakey kept up his trolling when he said, "That would be an excellent thing for her to do."
● NY-12: On Wednesday, attorney and hotel executive Suraj Patel announced that he'd seek a rematch with longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat. Last cycle, Patel went after Maloney for voting for the Iraq War and her initial opposition to the Obama administration's nuclear agreement with Iran, and he also decisively outspent the incumbent. However, Patel attracted some unflattering headlines during the race (Tinder-banking? No thanks), and he lost 60-40.
Patel says he plans to focus on more conventional (and less creepy) election tactics than Tinder-banking this time. Patel kicked off his new campaign with a video that didn't mention Maloney by name, but argued that the district hasn't seen "real progress" in the almost three decades she's represented it. Three other candidates are running in the primary for this seat, which is centered around Manhattan's affluent Upper East Side, but none of them have raised a serious amount of money.
● OH-01: One of the strangest political stories of the year just keeps getting stranger. Earlier this month, when we first learned that the FEC was looking into $124,000 in receipts that had mysteriously showed up on Republican Rep. Steve Chabot's first-quarter fundraising report, one James Schwartz told the Cincinnati Enquirer that, contra a decade's worth of filings, he was not in fact the campaign's treasurer.
Schwarz, a jeweler by trade, released a statement a few days later reiterating this startling claim, saying, "I am not, nor have I ever been, the treasurer of the Steve Chabot for Congress campaign"—despite the fact that his name and electronic signature have appeared on Chabot's FEC reports for at least eight years.
The Chabot campaign issued its own statement expressing befuddlement: "As far as the campaign was aware, James Schwartz, Sr. has been the treasurer since 2011," it read. This week, though, Chabot filed new paperwork with the FEC designating Natalie Baur as his treasurer. Presumably Baur, who's served as Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's treasurer since 2009, was at least made aware of the move, though Chabot's campaign has pretty much gone silent since this whole scandal unfurled, so good luck asking them.
That silence has contributed to the even deeper mystery about Schwartz's son Jamie, who is—or was—Chabot's campaign manager and who reportedly is at the center of the inquiry into the surprise appearance of that $124,000 in campaign funds. The younger Schwartz disappeared as soon as the story broke (his father claims he doesn't know where he is) and hasn't resurfaced since. Jamie Schwartz ran the top GOP consultancy in Cincinnati, but the firm is now shuttered, so you have to wonder what all of his other clients are thinking right now.
Democrats, by contrast, haven't hesitated to accuse Chabot of running a corrupt campaign, including the two main candidates hoping to unseat him, former healthcare executive Kate Schroder and former Air Force pilot Nikki Foster. No criminal charges have been filed yet, though, and in fact there have not been any reports of any law enforcement agencies opening an investigation.
● UT-04: While it's not clear when GOP state Rep. Kim Coleman publicly announced that she'd challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, her website now lists her as a congressional candidate.
Coleman, who represents a portion of Salt Lake County, attracted some attention during this year's legislative session by introducing a bill that would make it considerably easier for communities to secede and form new counties. It's been 100 years since Utah created a new county, but Coleman's legislation came about as some conservatives called for new jurisdictions to be formed out of San Juan and Salt Lake Counties.
Coleman, citing her own heavily populated Salt Lake County, pitched her bill by arguing that "sometimes that government gets so large that it ceases to be responsive to the people." This reasoning, though, could hardly apply to San Juan County, which has a population of just 17,000. However, Coleman's bill came about just months after Election Day, where Navajo candidates won a majority on the commission for the first time ever in this majority-Native American county. Utah was one of the last states in the country to repeal its outright ban on voting by Native Americans living on reservations, only doing so in 1957 following federal litigation.
That 2018 result came about months after a federal court, ruling that white Republicans had illegally gerrymandered the county commission and school board districts to suppress the power of Navajo voters, redrew the lines. Soon after Election Day Republicans, including local state Rep. and former County Commissioner Phil Lyman, began proposing that the heavily white areas in San Juan County split and form their own new county and take their tax base with them, but the session ended without Coleman's bill going anywhere.
Meanwhile, family nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger also recently announced that he was joining the GOP primary. Biesinger, who is a captain in the Utah National Guard, promoted himself as someone who is "new to the political game." Biesinger and Coleman join party activist Kathleen Anderson, state Sen. Dan Hemmert, and former radio host Jay Mcfarland in the primary.
● WI-07: GOP state Sen. Tom Tiffany recently picked up an endorsement from former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, who was last on the ballot in 2012 when he lost that year's open-seat Senate race to Democrat Tammy Baldwin. Scott Walker, who is the only other surviving Wisconsin Republican to be elected governor, is already breakfasting at Tiffany's.
Tiffany is still the only noteworthy Republican who has entered the race to succeed GOP Rep. Sean Duffy, who will resign on Sept. 23. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has not yet scheduled the special election, though Associated Press reporter Scott Bauer says he's expected to set the date next week.
● VA State House: GOP Del. Nick Freitas decided to run a write-in campaign after he failed to properly file the candidacy papers he needed to be listed on the ballot, but one wealthy conservative is backing him to the hilt. Freitas raised a massive $513,000 during July and August, and $500,000 of that came from just one man: billionaire Richard Uihlein, who is a megadonor for right-wing causes.
Democrat Ann Ridgeway, who is challenging Freitas in this 60-36 Trump seat, took in $18,000 during this time. That's actually about $5,000 more than what Freitas raised from people who aren't named Richard Uihlein, but unfortunately, Virginia is one of a handful of states that allows individuals to donate as much money as they want to state-level candidates.
Uihlein's largess allowed Freitas to haul in more money than any other legislative candidate in Virginia during this two-month period, and the delegate seems to have decided he has more than enough resources to defend his red seat. During this time, Freitas donated a total of $60,000 to about two dozen GOP state House and Senate candidates who will be on the ballot this year. The Illinois-based Uihlein has a history of contributing millions to his favored candidates, and the Center for Responsive Politics says he dropped $37 million during the 2018 cycle alone.
● Manchester, NH Mayor: New Hampshire's largest city held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, and Democratic Mayor Joyce Craig outpaced former GOP state Rep. Victoria Sullivan by a wide 57-39 margin. The two will face off again in the Nov. 5 general, but it would be quite a surprise if Sullivan managed to win, especially since Craig scored a higher vote percentage than any primary candidate in the last 20 years. Craig has been mentioned as a possible 2020 candidate for governor, but she doesn't appear to have said anything about her interest in taking on GOP Gov. Chris Sununu.
● KY-AG: In a new lawsuit filed this week, a Kentucky man is asking a court to remove the GOP's candidate for state attorney general from the ballot, saying that Daniel Cameron lacks the eight years as a "practicing lawyer" required by the state constitution for anyone wishing to serve in the post.
While Cameron was admitted to the state bar in October of 2011—just barely eight years before the November election—he clerked for a federal judge for two years before entering private practice. According to the suit, ethics guidelines for clerks forbid them from practicing law, and, it says, the Kentucky Supreme Court has previously concluded that "the practice of law" involves rendering services to a client.
If this challenge is successful, it could leave Kentucky Republicans without a candidate in this open-seat race (incumbent Andy Beshear is running for governor), since ballot printing should have already begun by this point.