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.
● NC-Sen: We have a trio of new surveys of the North Carolina Senate race, and each of them gives Democrat Cal Cunningham the edge over Republican incumbent Thom Tillis. Two of these pollsters even find Cunningham expanding his lead since their last surveys, which were taken before the candidate acknowledged on Oct. 2 that he'd had a relationship with a woman who was not his wife:
- Monmouth University: Cal Cunningham (D): 48, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 44 (49-46 Biden) (Sept.: 46-45 Cunningham)
- Morning Consult: Cunningham (D): 47, Tillis (R-inc): 41 (50-46 Biden) (Sept.: 47-38 Cunningham)
- SurveyUSA for WRAL-TV: Cunningham (D): 49, Tillis (R-inc): 39 (50-45 Biden) (Sept.: 47-40 Cunningham)
We've seen one other poll that was taken entirely after Oct. 2, which was also the day that Tillis announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, one of many top Republican officials who contracted the disease after attending a September White House ceremony where Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling conducted a survey Oct. 4-5 that showed Cunningham up 48-42, which was slightly larger than his 48-44 edge in July.
Tillis and his allies, though, are still very much betting that Cunningham's affair will damage him next month. The NRSC is out with a new commercial that, just like recent commercials from Tillis and the Senate Leadership Fund, argues that the story means that Cunningham cannot be trusted. Democrats, meanwhile, have continued to focus their ads on healthcare.
● NH-01: Matt Mowers (R): $668,000 raised
● NJ-07: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): $1.7 million raised, $1.67 million cash-on-hand
● VA-05: Cameron Webb (D): $2.7 million raised
● AK-Sen, KS-Sen: The Republican firm Medium Buying reports that the NRSC is launching its first TV spots in Alaska on Thursday, while The Hill reports that the committee will also start spending in Kansas this week. We do not yet know the size of either buy.
● AZ-Sen: Former Rep. Gabby Giffords stars in a minute-long commercial for her husband, Democrat Mark Kelly. Giffords does not directly mention the 2011 assassination attempt that almost cost her her life, but she recounts how Kelly has "helped me through my darkest moments."
● CO-Sen: Gov. Jared Polis takes center stage in a new commercial for his predecessor, Democrat John Hickenlooper. Polis implores the audience to ignore the attack ads and calls Hickenlooper "one of the most decent public servants I've ever known."
● GA-Sen-B: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia United Victory, a super PAC run by allies of Gov. Brian Kemp, has reserved an additional $2.5 million to aid appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
● TX-Sen: State Sen. Royce West made news over the weekend when he said he was not supporting MJ Hegar three months after she beat him in a close Democratic primary runoff, and Republican Sen. John Cornyn wasted little time using West's comments in a TV ad. West responded by putting out a statement condemning Cornyn’s “antics” and saying that he’d be “voting for Democrats on my ballot from the White House to the Court House.”
Meanwhile, a super PAC called Texans for a Conservative Majority is spending at least $625,000 on a commercial portraying Hegar as too liberal for Texas. We last saw this group back in 2014 when it helped Cornyn turn back a primary challenge from then-Rep. Steve Stockman, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for money laundering.
● Polls: Morning Consult has released a new batch of Senate polls:
- AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D): 49, Martha McSally (R-inc): 41 (49-46 Biden) (early Oct.: 51-38 Kelly)
- CO-Sen: John Hickenlooper (D): 50, Cory Gardner (R-inc): 40 (54-40 Biden) (Sept.: 49-42 Hickenlooper)
- GA-Sen-A: David Perdue (R-inc): 46, Jon Ossoff (D): 42 (49-47 Trump) (Sept.: 44-43 Ossoff)
- MI-Sen: Gary Peters (D-inc): 49, John James (R): 40 (51-44 Biden) (Sept.: 47-40 Peters)
- SC-Sen: Lindsey Graham (R-inc): 48, Jaime Harrison (D): 42 (54-42 Trump) (Sept.: 46-45 Graham)
- TX-Sen: John Cornyn (R-inc): 47, MJ Hegar (D): 39 (49-47 Trump) (Sept.: 45-39 Cornyn)
SC-Sen: This is the first poll we've seen since late July that's given either candidate more than a 2-point lead. It's also one of the few surveys we've seen all year that shows Donald Trump coming close to matching his 55-41 margin from four years ago: FiveThirtyEight's polling average currently gives Trump a 51-44 edge in South Carolina.
● Senate Forecast: In the weekly Daily Kos Elections Senate forecast, with Iowa moving more firmly into the Democratic column and North Carolina not experiencing any significant erosion, it’s looking likelier that the result of the 2020 Senate elections will be a net gain of around five seats. There also remains a lot of upside for additional pickups, with a large number of Democratic candidates in typically-red states falling short by only low-single-digit margins.
● MO-Gov: The DGA-backed group A Stronger Missouri is out with a new commercial going after Republican Gov. Mike Parson for putting healthcare at risk as COVID-19 infections continue to rise on his watch. The narrator also takes Parson to task for opposing the ballot measure to expand Medicaid to as many as 250,000 Missouri residents, which statewide voters approved back in August by a 53-47 margin.
- MO-Gov: YouGov for St. Louis University: Mike Parson (R-inc): 50, Nicole Galloway (D): 44 (52-43 Trump) (July: 41-39 Parson)
- NC-Gov: Monmouth University: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 51, Dan Forest (R): 44 (49-46 Biden) (Sept.: 51-40 Cooper)
● ME-02: Freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden is running a new commercial starring retired Maine State Chief of Police Craig Poulin, who praises the congressman as a friend of law enforcement.
● MI-03: On Tuesday, the NRCC became the first major outside group on the Republican side to air TV ads in the race to succeed Republican-turned-independent-turned-Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash. The committee goes after Democrat Hillary Scholten's career as an immigration attorney, which the narrator caricatures as "helping people evade the law."
The DCCC, which had spent over $345,000 through Sunday, is also up with a new spot declaring that Republican Peter Meijer "doesn't care about healthcare costs—he's got a $50 million trust fund." The narrator continues, "But for the rest of us? Peter Meijer wants to let insurance companies 'gut coverage to people with pre-existing conditions' and charge older Americans five times more."
This seat, which is located in the Grand Rapids area, supported Trump 52-42 four years ago, and it hasn't been competitive in a general election in some time. However, a mid-September internal from GSG for House Majority PAC showed a 41-41 tie, while Joe Biden led 49-41; weeks later, Scholten released numbers from ALG Research that had her ahead 44-42. Meijer did get better news, though, when a late September survey from the conservative firm We Ask America had him leading 48-41 as Biden and Trump deadlocked 47-47.
● NC-08: National Republicans recently began airing ads in this unexpectedly competitive race, and House Majority PAC is joining the battle with what it says is a $420,000 buy against Republican Rep. Richard Hudson. The narrator declares that "Congressman Hudson skipped out on a vote to give our troops a hard-earned raise. When Hudson finally showed up, he voted to underfund the Department of Veterans' Affairs—as our veterans face backlogs and bureaucratic red tape."
● NM-02: EMILY's List has launched a $615,000 TV buy against Republican Yvette Herrell that says of the former state legislator, "It's egregious she took nearly $500,000 of taxpayer money for her businesses and funneled another $500,000 to an organization run by her family. Disingenuous because she tried to hide it." Democrats ran commercials last cycle hitting Herrell on ethics, and other groups have already been airing spots focusing on the same topic during her rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.
● OK-05: Democrats have run multiple ads going after Republican state Sen. Stephanie Bice for siding with now-former Gov. Mary Fallin and weakening public education, and EMILY's List does the same in what it says is "a six-figure television program." The narrator declares, "Bice voted to cut education funding by $31 million. Then another $78 million." She continues, "And Bice voted against giving teachers the pay raise they were promised, leading to one of the biggest teacher walkouts in Oklahoma history."
● OR-04: The DCCC is up with its first TV spot in Oregon's 4th Congressional District, which makes it the latest outside group to spend in a seat that Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio has easily held for decades. The narrator declares that Republican Alek Skarlatos, who placed third on "Dancing With The Stars" in 2015, is "an out of touch reality dancer who doesn't want to waste his 15 minutes of fame. Big insurance companies just can't wait to use him to let them gut protections for nearly 2 million Oregonians with pre-existing conditions."
This seat, which includes the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon's southern coast, backed Hillary Clinton by a tiny 46.1-46.0 spread, and both national parties are spending serious money for the first time in a very long time. The Congressional Leadership Fund deployed about $255,000 against DeFazio through Sunday, while House Majority PAC has dropped almost $600,000 on anti-Skarlatos ads.
● PA-01: National Democrats hadn't spent any money here until this week, but House Majority PAC announced Tuesday that it was putting $1.2 million behind its opening ad buy against Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. The commercial declares that "when Trump killed more bipartisan coronavirus relief in Congress, what did Brian Fitzpatrick do? Nothing." She adds that Fitzpatrick "voted with Trump 84% over two years."
● VA-05: House Majority PAC announced Tuesday that it was spending $320,000 against Republican Bob Good, a development that comes shortly after its allies at the DCCC also began airing ads here. The narrator says, "Bob Good worked for a predatory payday lender that scammed working families," and argues that he also "supports a risky tax plan that shifts the burden onto the middle class, jeopardizes Medicare, and adds trillions to the debt."
● WA-03: There was no serious outside spending from either side until this week in the rematch between Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democrat Carolyn Long, but that very much changed on Tuesday. The NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund each launched their opening commercials against Long, while the DCCC also went after Herrera Beutler for the first time. This southwestern Washington seat backed Donald Trump 50-43 in 2016, and Herrera Beutler beat Long by a similar 53-47 spread in a very expensive contest two years later.
The NRCC argues that Long wants to raise taxes, while the Congressional Leadership Fund declares that she "has accepted the support of groups that want to defund the police." The CLF's narrator doesn't bother to actually accuse Long of supporting that proposal (she doesn't) or even name these groups. The DCCC, meanwhile, goes after Herrera Beutler for going back on her word and backing "Trump's tax giveaway that gave $80 billion tax breaks to drug companies."
We've seen only two polls here. RMG Research released a survey in early August for U.S. Term Limits that had Herrera Beutler ahead 44-40, while a late September GQR internal for Long showed the incumbent up 49-47; GQR also gave Trump a narrow 48-47 advantage here.
- NY-01: GQR (D) for 314 Action: Lee Zeldin (R-inc): 49, Nancy Goroff (D): 48 (49-45 Biden)
- PA-01: Public Policy Polling (D) for House Majority PAC: Christina Finello (D): 47, Brian Fitzpatrick (R-inc): 46 (55-42 Biden) (June: 40-38 Fitzpatrick)
- SC-01: GQR (D) for DCCC: Joe Cunningham (D-inc): 55, Nancy Mace (R): 42
- TX-10: GBAO (D) for Mike Siegel: Michael McCaul (R-inc): 47, Mike Siegel (D): 45 (48-47 Trump) (Sept.: 45-43 McCaul)
NY-01: This is the first poll we’ve seen since mid-August, when a Tulchin Research internal for the DCCC had Nancy Goroff ahead 48-46. Since then, outside groups on both sides have been spending plenty of money on commercials in this eastern Long Island seat, which favored Donald Trump 55-42 four years ago.
PA-01: HMP began a $1.2 million buy here the same day it released these numbers (see our PA-01 item above). We’ve seen one other poll from each side over the last few weeks: A mid-September American Viewpoint survey for the Congressional Leadership Fund had Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick ahead 52-36, while an early October GSG internal for Christina Finello put the incumbent up just 47-45. Hillary Clinton won by a narrow 49-47 here, but this is the type of well-educated suburban seat that has become extremely hostile turf for Republicans over the last four years.
SC-01: Believe it or not, this is the first poll we’ve seen here since Nancy Mace won the Republican primary in June, but it doesn’t sound like Team Red has better numbers at all. Politico, which originally reported these numbers, writes, “Privately, Republicans concede their chances of reclaiming Cunningham’s coastal South Carolina district are dimming.”
Still, both sides are very much behaving like they think this seat is in play: The NRCC and CLF spent a total of $4.2 million here through Sunday, while the DCCC and HMP deployed $2.6 million.
TX-10: The memo notes that Rep. Michael McCaul’s edge actually is one point, but it rounds out to 47-45. So far none of the big four House groups have run independent expenditure ads in this seat, which backed Trump 52-43 in 2016, though the NRCC has been doing coordinated ad buys with McCaul.
● Honolulu, HI Mayor: MRG Research’s new poll for Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now finds independent Rick Blangiardi, who stepped down in January as HNN’s general manager, leading Democrat Keith Amemiya 48-28. This is the first survey we’ve seen of next month’s officially nonpartisan general election.
Honolulu, which is home to about 70% of Hawaii's residents, is usually reliably blue turf, but as this poll shows, it's quite possible a non-Democrat like Blangiardi could prevail here. Democratic Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who is now termed-out, only defeated former Republican Rep. Charles Djou 52-48 in 2016 as Hillary Clinton was carrying the city 61-32. (Djou later left the GOP to become an independent.) Blangiardi also has the backing of former Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who took a close third in the August nonpartisan primary.
● Orleans Parish, LA District Attorney: Former criminal court judge Keva Landrum earned an endorsement last week from New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell in the Nov. 3 all-party primary to succeed retiring incumbent Leon Cannizzaro, who is one of the most punitive district attorneys in the entire country. Landrum, like her three opponents in the campaign for this six-year term and nearly all notable politicians in New Orleans (the city is coterminous with Orleans Parish), is a Democrat, but there are some important differences between the contenders.
The Appeal’s Katie Jane Fernelius notes that Landrum, who served as interim district attorney in 2007 and 2008, has adopted fewer progressive stances than her two major opponents, former criminal court judges Arthur Hunter and New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams. (Disclaimer: Jeff Singer performed work for a consulting firm employed by Jason Williams in 2014.) A fourth candidate, former criminal court Judge Morris Reed, is also on the ballot, but he’s done little campaigning and hasn’t reported raising money.
Notably, Fernelius writes of a recent forum, “Unlike Hunter and Williams, she [Landrum] did not indicate that she would oppose arresting defendants on grounds relating to their immigration status.” Landrum also did not say if she would support a city ordinance sponsored by Williams and backed by Hunter that would require the local public defender’s office to receive 85% of the amount of funding that is assigned to the DA. Landrum, who has campaigned on her prior experience as district attorney, has responded to critics by arguing, “The best way to change a system is to work within it and learn that system.”
Williams and Hunter, by contrast, have adopted more reform stances. Notably, both men have said they would drop all marijuana possession charges, while Landrum said she would either transfer these cases to a lower court or drop them herself. Unlike each of his two main opponents, though, Hunter has not ruled out seeking the death penalty.
Fernelius also writes that Williams has stood out as the only contender who has promised “to never make use of the habitual offender statute to enhance defendants’ sentences,” which Cannizzaro has often employed during his 12 years in office. Hunter has said that he’d make use of the habitual offender statute while still pushing the Louisiana legislature to abolish it, and he’s also called for the legislature to do away with capital punishment. Landrum has also said she’d charge people as habitual offenders, though she said she’d limit the use of this power.
But while Williams, who holds a citywide Council seat, may have started the race out with the most name recognition, he got bad news in June when he was indicted by federal prosecutors for alleged tax fraud. Williams has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled for after the election in January.
Williams, who had been challenging Cannizzaro before the incumbent retired 90 minutes prior to the July filing deadline, had a head start over his opponents in fundraising, but Landrum posted strong opening numbers. Landrum outraised Hunter $212,000 to $102,000 from late July to late September, while Williams took in $76,000 during this time. Landrum held a smaller $124,000 to $116,000 cash-on-hand edge over Williams, though, while Hunter was in third with $95,000.
All the candidates will compete on one ballot on Nov. 3 and if no one takes a majority, a runoff would take place Dec. 5.
● WA-SoS, WA-LG, WA-Gov: SurveyUSA’s new poll for King 5 shows Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee leading Republican Lauren Culp 54-40 as Joe Biden beats Donald Trump 55-34, but things are more interesting downballot.
In the contest for secretary of state, SurveyUSA finds Republican incumbent Kim Wyman leading Democratic state Rep. Gael Tarleton 45-40. The GOP has held this office since the 1964 elections, and Wyman prevailed 55-45 in 2016 as Donald Trump was losing the Evergreen State 53-37.
However, while Wyman has made national news this year by repeatedly touting mail-in voting as Trump tries to undermine it, Tarleton has argued that Wyman hasn't done enough to oppose voter suppression. The challenger has also hammered Wyman for testifying against H.R. 1, the landmark measure House Democrats passed last year to expand voting rights and end gerrymandering.
In the all-Democratic contest for lieutenant governor, meanwhile, Rep. Denny Heck posts a 31-18 lead over state Sen. Marko Liias, while a 52% majority say they’re undecided. The poll, though, does not give respondents the opportunity to prefer a write-in candidate even though one Republican, former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed, is trying to win the office this way.