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.
● SC-Sen: Quinnipiac's newest poll of the South Carolina Senate race finds Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham deadlocked 48-48 with Democrat Jaime Harrison, which is the same result that the school found two weeks ago.
However, the school also finds Donald Trump dropping from a 51-45 edge in mid-September to 48-47 now. That would be the closest presidential contest in the Palmetto State since 1980, when Ronald Reagan edged out Jimmy Carter 50-48. The state has been reliably red turf through 2016, when Trump carried the state 55-41.
It would still be a massive surprise if Joe Biden became the first Democrat to capture South Carolina's electoral votes since Carter in 1976, but a strong showing here would be good news for his party's Senate nominee. Harrison will almost certainly have to win over some conservatives to prevail in November, and the better Biden does, the fewer crossover voters he'll need.
Interestingly, two other firms have released surveys of both South Carolina contests over the last two weeks, and while they also find a very tight Senate election, they find Trump in better shape than Quinnipiac does now. Morning Consult showed Graham up 46-45 as Trump led 50-44, while YouGov had Graham and Trump ahead 45-44 and 52-42, respectively. (A Harrison internal from Brilliant Corners publicized Sunday gave the Democrat a 45-43 edge, but the release did not include presidential numbers.)
● GA-Sen-A: Democrat Jon Ossoff is up with a commercial pushing back on Republican Sen. David Perdue's message that he would "defund the police." Ossoff tells the audience, "Nothing's more important than keeping Georgians safe. I'll fight for Georgia's military bases. I'll defend our Second Amendment."
The Democrat continues, "And police officers put their lives on the line to protect us. Of course I don't support defunding the police." According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this spot has been airing in "Savannah and other mid-sized cities this month," but not in the Atlanta media market.
● KS-Sen: Three polls were released on Wednesday, and while they all show a single-digit contest, they disagree on the state of the Kansas Senate race.
Keep Kansas Great PAC, which backs Republican Roger Marshall, dropped a survey from co/Efficient taken two weeks ago that gave him a 43-39 edge over Democrat Barbara Bollier, with 2% going to Libertarian Jason Buckley. The sample also showed Donald Trump ahead 53-41, which is a drop from his 56-36 victory here in 2016.
Bollier's campaign responded to these numbers by publicizing a more recent internal from GBAO to the Kansas City Star that showed Bollier in the lead 45-43, with Buckley taking 7%; the campaign did not disclose presidential results. Civiqs, polling on behalf of Daily Kos, also released a late September survey hours later, but it found Marshall and Trump ahead 50-43 and 52-42, respectively. This poll did not offer Buckley as a choice, though 2% of respondents opted for an unnamed third option.
Civiqs' poll gave Marshall his best result in any poll released since he won the Republican primary nearly two months ago. They're also a big improvement for the Republican from early June, when Civiqs found him ahead just 42-41.
● TX-Sen: On Wednesday afternoon, hours before the third fundraising quarter of 2020 came to an end, Democrat MJ Hegar announced that she'd raised $13.5 million since the start of July. This is a massive increase from the $1.8 million that Hegar brought in during the second quarter when she was still locked in a competitive runoff for the right to take on Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
● AZ-06: Democrat Hiral Tipirneni has released a GQR poll that shows her leading Republican Rep. David Schweikert 49-45, which is similar to her 48-45 edge in the firm's August internal; the release did not mention the presidential results in this suburban Phoenix seat. Tipirneni publicized her numbers a day after her allies at House Majority PAC unveiled a Public Policy Polling survey that had Schweikert up 45-43 as the presidential race was tied 48-48.
● CO-03: The DCCC uses its opening commercial in this contest to highlight how, despite claiming to want "law and order," Republican Lauren Boebert has "been arrested and summonsed to court four times." The narrator says this includes her "being detained and handcuffed after an altercation with law enforcement and she even refused to show up to face the consequences in court—twice." The spot does not mention Boebert's affinity for the bonkers QAnon conspiracy theory.
Back in late August, the Denver Post's Justin Wingerter reported that Boebert had been "arrested and summonsed at least four times" since 2010. Wingerter says that "the three arrests and one court-ordered summons were for petty crimes — and in one case all charges were dropped." The only time Boebert appears to have been convicted was in 2017 when she pleaded guilty to an unsafe vehicle charge, though that only happened after she failed to appear in court and spent 100 minutes in the Garfield County Jail as punishment before she was released on bond.
The "altercation with law enforcement" the commercial refers to happened at a 2015 music festival after, as Wingerter writes, Boebert “allegedly shouted at people detained on suspicion of underage drinking, urging them to flee from police, which caused the young drinkers to become unruly." He also says that, according to deputy reports, Boebert "tried to twist away from police" after she was handcuffed. Wingerter continues, "She allegedly shouted that her arrest was unconstitutional, that 'she had friends at Fox News and that the arrest would be national news.' It did not become national news."
Boebert was released but did not show up for her court appearance, later telling the judge she had gotten the date wrong. Boebert did not attend her rescheduled hearing, though, or give a reason for her absence. Wingerter writes that she was arrested again that year for failing to appear, but the prosecutor wrote that the charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed since there was "no reasonable likelihood of conviction should (the) case go to trial."
● GA-05: The all-party special election for the final weeks of the late Rep. John Lewis' term took place on Tuesday, and unsurprisingly, two Democrats advanced to the Dec. 1 runoff. Former Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall took first place with 32%, while former Morehouse College President Robert Franklin beat a third Democrat, state Rep. "Able" Mable Thomas, 28-19 for the second-place spot.
Whoever prevails in December will only spend a few weeks representing this safely blue Atlanta seat in Congress, though. The state Democratic Party selected state Sen. Nikema Williams, who also serves as the party chair, back in August to replace Lewis on the ballot as the nominee for the regular two-year term in the next Congress, but Williams decided not to compete in the special election. This means that either Hall or Franklin would serve about a month in the 116th Congress before they're succeeded by Williams in early January.
● PA-10: House Freedom Action, which is the electoral arm of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, has launched a commercial declaring that Democrat Eugene DePasquale “made it easier for trial lawyers to bankrupt businesses,” an argument that WGAL’s Matt Barcaro declared was false.
Barcaro explains that when DePasquale was a state representative in 2011, he voted against a bill backed by business groups that “ensures a defendant found liable or negligent in civil court only has to pay damages proportionate to its share of the injury.” The GOP controlled the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature, though, and the bill became law despite DePasquale’s opposition.
Barcaro writes, “We find the argument cannot be made that DePasquale's vote in the minority made it easier for trial lawyers to bankrupt businesses, as the ad alleges.” DePasquale’s campaign also defended his vote, saying he believed the legislation “would strip everyday Pennsylvanians of their ability to get justice when victims of negligence.”
● TX-21: EMILY's List is spending $375,000 on a TV ad campaign that features clips of freshman Republican Rep. Chip Roy expressing his pleasure that pharmaceutical companies are making "a lot of money." Roy is later seen declaring, "I hope they make a lot more," and telling the head of Gilead Sciences Inc., "I mean it is just offensive! ... I hope you make a lot of money." These quotes are interspersed by narration going after Roy for "taking thousands from drug company lobbyists" and having "opposed lower drug costs."
The footage comes from a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing last year focused on the cost of Truvada, an HIV prevention drug made by Gilead that cost $2,100 a month. Roy was furious after his Democratic colleague, then-California Rep. Katie Hill, asked a number of tough questions to Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day about his personal compensation and his company's profits.
Roy responded by saying that Gilead had made a drug that he'd used in his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, and he went on to say, "To sit here and attack the capitalistic system that produces and distributes medicines that are saving lives around the world, I mean, it is just offensive."
● TX-24: The DCCC uses its first TV spot of the race to attack Republican Beth Van Duyne for pushing to reopen Texas without a plan to deal with the pandemic, which isn't an argument we've seen often this cycle. The narrator declares, "as COVID increased, she pushed to open up even more. Now she supports gutting protections for pre-existing conditions." A second anti-Van Duyne ad also focuses on healthcare.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Texas:
TX-SD-30: An all-Republican runoff is in the cards for this deep red district that covers parts of North Texas. As of Wednesday afternoon, salon owner Shelley Luther was narrowly ahead of state Rep. Drew Springer 32.1-31.9, with the lone Democrat, Jacob Minter, in a distant third with 21%. Three other Republicans split the remainder of the vote.
Luther gained notoriety and admiration among conservatives when she was arrested earlier this year for defying the state's COVID-19 restrictions and keeping her Dallas-area salon open. Luther wasn't the least bit contrite, and she used her campaign to blast Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican, as "our tyrant governor [who] has embarrassed us completely." Abbott, for his part, has yet to endorse.
The date for the runoff has yet to be announced for this seat that backed Donald Trump 75-22 and Mitt Romney 76-23.
● CA Ballot: SurveyUSA's new poll for a trio of Southern California media outlets finds Prop. 17, a proposed constitutional amendment that would end felony disenfranchisement for citizens on parole, leading by a 55-19 margin, which is more than the simple majority it would need to pass. The sample also favors Joe Biden 59-32 in a state that Hillary Clinton took 61-31 four years ago.
The only other survey we've seen of Prop. 17 was an August poll from the Democratic firm David Binder Research taken for its proponents, and it found it ahead 63-31. As we wrote in June in the Voting Rights Roundup, this ballot measure would make California the 18th state to no longer disenfranchise anyone who is not incarcerated. Two additional states, Maine and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia, allow all citizens to vote, including those in prison.
SurveyUSA also shows Prop. 15, the so-called "split roll" initiative that would scale back a significant part of a property tax freeze passed by anti-tax crusaders in 1978, ahead 49-21. We've seen two other polls here, and they've each shown a very different state of play. An early September poll from the Republican firm Probolsky Research had Prop. 15 losing 49-41, while a survey from the Public Policy Institute of California released two weeks later gave the yes side a 51-40 edge.
● Colorado: Democrats supporting criminal justice reform are competing to replace three retiring Republican district attorneys this fall in Colorado, and The Appeal's Daniel Nichanian has a comprehensive rundown of each race.
One big contest is the race for the 18th Judicial District, a competitive constituency that's made up of Arapahoe and Douglas Counties in the southern Denver suburbs and Elbert, and Lincoln Counties in the more rural eastern part of the state. (Colorado has 22 different judicial districts, and the only one that's located entirely in one county is the 2nd District in Denver.)
Republican incumbent George Brauchler is retiring after eight years in office, a move that comes two years after he lost the contest for attorney general 52-45 to Democrat Phil Weiser; longtime Digest readers may also remember Brauchler as the dude that national Republicans unsuccessfully tried to recruit to take on Sen. Michael Bennet in 2015.
The Democratic nominee is Amy Padden, who is a prosecutor in another jurisdiction, while the GOP is fielding John Kellner, who serves as Brauchler's chief deputy. Padden supports the state's recent death penalty repeal and is arguing there are "too many life sentences" in the state, while Kellner has campaigned on a far more conservative platform that includes support for capital punishment.
This district, which is home to a sixth of the state's residents, supported Donald Trump 45.8-45.6 in 2016, though Democrat Jared Polis took it 50-47 in the 2018 contest for governor. Brauchler, for his part, also won 50-47 here during his statewide campaign last cycle.
Another seat to watch is the contest to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Peter Weir in the 1st District, which consists of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties. This seat, which is also located in the western Denver area, went for Clinton and Polis 49-42 and 54-42, respectively. Democrats are running former prosecutor Alexis King, while the GOP nominee is another chief deputy, Matthew Durkin. King has called for the state to "minimize the criminalization of addiction," while Durkin has opposed reducing drug penalties.
We also have an open GOP-held post in the 8th District in the Fort Collins area. This seat, which is made up of Jackson and Larimer Counties, narrowly went for Clinton 47-43 while Polis, who represented most of it in Congress, carried it 55-42 last cycle. The Democratic nominee is former prosecutor Gordon McLaughlin while Republicans are running Mitch Murray, who serves as chief deputy to retiring incumbent Cliff Riedel. McLaughlin opposes expanding the local jail, arguing the money should be spent for initiatives like "substance abuse and mental health treatment," while Murray backs the project.
Nichanian also gives us a rundown on the contest to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Dave Young in the 17th District, which is home to Adams and Broomfield Counties in the northern Denver suburbs. Young attracted plenty of scorn when he refused to file charges in the case of Elijah McClain, a Black man who died last year after an Aurora police officer placed him in a chokehold. However, Nichanian writes that neither Democrat Brian Mason nor Republican Tim McCormack, who both work as prosecutors, "are willing to discuss the specifics of the case and what, if anything, they would have done differently during it."
Mason told The Appeal that he did support many aspects of the criminal justice package passed by the Democratic legislature this year in response to George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, though he was wary about many other proposed reforms. McCormack, who has the support of the state and local police unions, did not comment. The district supported Clinton and Polis 50-41 and 55-40, respectively.