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.
● Race Ratings: Daily Kos Elections is changing our race ratings in five more contests—four shift in the direction of the Democrats, while one moves to the right. We also now have a total of 10 GOP-held seats rated as Lean Republican or better for Democrats. You can find all our Senate, gubernatorial, and House ratings at each link.
● AK-Sen (Likely R to Lean R): Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan began the year looking like a lock for re-election, but his standing has continually eroded the closer we get to November. We’ve seen only a few polls of Alaska's Senate race, but they’ve all shown Sullivan in a tight race against orthopedic surgeon Al Gross, an independent who won the Democratic nomination in August.
Importantly, major outside groups on both sides are behaving like this seat is quite competitive and have continued to spend millions as Election Day draws nearer. Gross has also proven to be a very strong fundraiser, and the senator’s campaign has reportedly said it expects to be badly outspent. Sullivan still has the advantage in Alaska, which has long been a reliably red state, but the possibility of an upset looms large.
● KS-03 (Lean D to Likely D): Democrat Sharice Davids won an expensive race two years ago to flip Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, but her first re-election campaign in the Kansas City area is looking considerably less eventful. This constituency backed Hillary Clinton 47-46 after supporting Mitt Romney 54-44, and well-educated suburban areas like this have moved even further to the left since then: Democrat Laura Kelly, for instance, romped to a 56-37 win in the 3rd District in her successful bid for governor two years ago.
The only poll we’ve seen was a late September survey from the Republican firm VCreek/AMG, and it showed Davids beating former state Republican Party chair Amanda Adkins 56-36. Importantly, major outside groups haven’t spent anything here this cycle.
● NY-24 (Lean R to Tossup): Republican Rep. John Katko held off Democrat Dana Balter 53-47 last cycle, but their rematch in New York’s 24th Congressional District looks like it will be even more competitive. A late September poll from Siena College showed Balter ahead 42-40, while Joe Biden led 53-34 in a Syracuse-based seat that Hillary Clinton carried just 49-45. Outside groups from both parties have also already spent considerably more money here than they deployed during the entire 2018 contest.
Katko is a strong campaigner who ran dramatically ahead of Trump in 2016 and managed to survive the midterm blue wave. However, political conditions look even worse for the GOP this time than they did two years ago, and Katko will have a tougher time holding on in November.
● OR-04 (Safe D to Likely D): Veteran Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio has always won re-election in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District with ease, but 2020 is shaping up to be his toughest contest yet. DeFazio faces a credible challenge from former Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, who attracted international attention in 2015 when he helped stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train. And while there has been next to no outside spending here in decades, both parties have been airing ads in recent weeks.
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 it’s possible that Donald Trump could carry it this year even if Nov. 3 is otherwise a bad night for the GOP. DeFazio has never had trouble winning votes from ticket-splitting Republican voters before, and he’s still the frontrunner, but this is one to keep an eye on.
● PA-10 (Lean R to Tossup): Republican Rep. Scott Perry narrowly held Pennsylvania's 10th District 51-49 last cycle, but he faces an even tougher challenge next month from state Auditor Eugene DePasquale. National Democrats have released several polls showing DePasquale leading Perry, and they've simultaneously found Joe Biden out front in this Harrisburg-area seat that supported Donald Trump 52-43 in 2016. Perry’s allies, meanwhile, have yet to release contradictory numbers. This district is red enough that Trump could still carry it even if he loses Pennsylvania and help get Perry across the finish line, but the incumbent no longer looks like the favorite to hang on.
● MN-Sen: Jason Lewis (R): $2.5 million raised, $1.4 million cash-on-hand
● SC-Sen: Lindsey Graham (R-inc): $28 million raised
● CA-45: Katie Porter (D-inc): $5.2 million raised
● FL-18: Pam Keith (D): $938,000 raised
● IN-05: Victoria Spartz (R): $900,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded
● MN-02: Tyler Kistner (R): $1.4 million raised
● MN-07: Collin Peterson (D-inc): $682,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
● NY-24: Dana Balter (D): $1.3 million raised, $280,000 cash-on-hand
● GA-Sen-A: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Senate Leadership Fund has booked an additional $4.5 million to aid Republican Sen. David Perdue.
● GA-Sen-B: Two new polls show pastor Raphael Warnock in first place in next month's all-party primary, though they disagree about which Republican holds the crucial second-place spot. First up is SurveyUSA's poll for WXIA-TV, with its August numbers in parentheses:
- Pastor Raphael Warnock (D): 30 (17)
- Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-inc): 26 (26)
- Doug Collins (R): 20 (17)
- Matt Lieberman (D): 8 (13)
- Ed Tarver (D): 3 (3)
The sample also favors Joe Biden 48-46.
Next up is Quinnipiac, which last surveyed here in late September:
- Warnock (D): 41 (31)
- Collins (R): 22 (22)
- Loeffler (R-inc): 20 (23)
- Lieberman (D): 5 (9)
- Tarver (D): 2 (4)
Quinnipiac shows Biden ahead 51-44, which is one of his strongest showings in any Georgia poll.
The school also tested Warnock in hypothetical January runoffs and found him leading both Loeffler and Collins 52-44 and 54-42, respectively. However, it's anyone's guess what turnout would actually look like next year.
Before Loeffler and Collins can worry about that, though, they actually need to get to the all-but-assured second round of voting. Collins is out with a new commercial going after the stock trades the incumbent made in the leadup to the pandemic, arguing that "while Kelly does a great job looking out for herself, I will always look out for you."
● ME-Sen: Senate Majority PAC's new commercial goes after Republican incumbent Susan Collins for having voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as well as numerous other anti-abortion lower court judges, including Amy Coney Barrett. Several former Collins supporters tell the audience that the senator "put Roe v. Wade at risk" and "caves every time we need her to stand up."
- GA-Sen-A: Quinnipiac: Jon Ossoff (D): 51, David Perdue (R-inc): 45 (51-44 Biden) (Sept.: 49-48 Ossoff)
- GA-Sen-A: SurveyUSA for WXIA-TV: Perdue (R-inc): 46, Ossoff (D): 43 (48-46 Biden) (Aug.: 44-41 Perdue)
- MI-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters: Gary Peters (D-inc): 52, John James (R): 44 (51-44 Biden) (early Oct.: 50-43 Peters)
- NC-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters: Cal Cunningham (D): 46, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 42 (48-48 presidential tie) (early Oct.: 47-42 Cunningham)
- NC-Sen: RMG Research for PoliticalIQ: Cunningham (D): 46, Tillis (R-inc): 36, Bray (L): 4 (47-45 Biden)
- NC-Sen: Siena College for the New York Times: Cunningham (D): 41, Tillis (R-inc): 37, Bray (L): 4, Hayes (C): 3 (46-42 Biden) (Sept.: 42-37 Cunningham)
- NC-Sen: Susquehanna Polling and Research (R) for Center for American Greatness: Cunningham (D): 46, Tillis (R-inc): 44 (48-46 Biden)
- NH-Sen: Suffolk University for the Boston Globe: Jeanne Shaheen (D-inc): 51, Corky Messner (R): 36 (51-41 Biden)
- SC-Sen: ALG Research (D) for LMG PAC: Lindsey Graham (R-inc): 46, Jaime Harrison (D): 46, Bill Bledsoe (C): 3 (July: 49-45 Graham)
GA-Sen-A: This Quinnipiac poll is the best result we've seen for Jon Ossoff in any survey that's been released. Prior to the inclusion of this poll and the one from SurveyUSA, the Daily Kos Elections polling average stood at 46-44 Perdue.
NC-Sen: We've seen four other polls that were entirely taken after Oct. 2, which was also the day that Cal Cunningham acknowledged he had a relationship with a woman who wasn't his wife and Sen. Thom Tillis announced he'd tested positive for COVID-19, and they've all given Cunningham the lead.
If Republicans have numbers showing Tillis up, they're not revealing them. Tillis' pollster, Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies, took to Twitter on Wednesday to argue that an unreleased poll showed Cunningham would suffer if voters kept hearing about the story, but he notably didn't mention any toplines.
SC-Sen: LMG PAC, which sponsored this poll, is an abbreviation for "Lindsey Must Go." You can guess how they feel about the senator.
Note: Montana State University also released a poll of its home state, but the survey was in the field for 19 days. The Morning Digest only covers polls that have a field period of a maximum of 14 days, though shorter field times are always preferable, especially this close to Election Day.
IN-Gov: Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign by election enthusiasts on Twitter led by Andrew Ellison, we have a rare poll of Indiana.
A mid-September survey from the Democratic firm Change Research for IndyPolitics.com attracted attention after it found Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb leading Democrat Woody Myers only 36-30, with a hefty 24% going to Libertarian Donald Rainwater. Holcomb's campaign, though, soon responded with a BK Strategies internal that showed him beating Myers 60-21, with Rainwater at just 6%.
● CO-03: The League of Conservation Voters, House Majority PAC, and EMILY's List's announced Tuesday that they were launching a $2.2 million TV and digital campaign against Republican Lauren Boebert in this western Colorado seat. The opening spot is the first TV ad we've seen that explicitly takes Boebert to task for sympathizing with QAnon, which the narrator describes as a "conspiracy theory saying the world's controlled by a Satanic cabal of pedophiles including Tom Hanks, Oprah, and the pope."
The audience then sees a clip of Boebert saying, "Everything I've heard of Q, I hope that this is real." The narrator jumps back and says, "Its followers have engaged in violence and murder. Trump's FBI calls it a 'domestic terror threat.'" The clip of Boebert plays once again before the voiceover concludes, "Lauren Boebert's the real danger to Colorado."
● IN-05: Democrat Christina Hale's new commercial stars former state education superintendent Suellen Reed, a Republican who served from 1993 to 2009. Reed and her husband tell the audience that, while they're "voting Republican," they're also backing Hale because she believes in seeking common ground.
● NY-24: On Tuesday, a group of state appellate judges rejected Democrat Dana Balter's attempt to remove Steve Williams as the nominee for the Working Families Party.
WFP, which usually backs Democratic candidates, picked Williams as a placeholder nominee months ago, and he planned to step aside later so the party could give its nomination to the winner of the June Democratic primary. (New York allows candidates to be nominated by multiple parties.) Republicans sued, though, and convinced a lower court judge that the WFP did not follow the proper rules to get Williams off the ballot. Williams himself supports Balter in her contest against Republican Rep. John Katko.
It's possible that Williams' involuntary presence in the race could make a difference in a tight race. A recent poll from Siena College found Balter leading Katko 42-40, with Williams taking 6%; when Williams was removed as an option, Balter's edge expanded slightly to 45-42.
● TX-24: Democrat Candace Valenzuela pushes back on GOP attempts to portray her as weak on public safety in an ad starring Tracy Fisher, a Republican who serves on a local Dallas-area school board. Fisher praises Valenzuela's accomplishments on the board of a neighboring school district, including "security measures to keep kids safe," and declares that the candidate "doesn't support defunding the police."
● TX-32: Democratic Rep. Colin Allred's new commercial features footage of Republican Genevieve Collins giving Donald Trump a thumbs up as she talks to him on an on an airport tarmac to tie her to the White House. Trump narrowly lost this Dallas-area seat in 2016, and he's become incredibly toxic in suburban districts like this since then.
- CA-49: SurveyUSA for KGTV-TV/San Diego Union-Tribune: Mike Levin (D-inc): 56, Brian Maryott (R): 36 (56-39 Biden) (Sept.: 49-37 Levin)
- FL-18: Clearview Research (D) for Pam Keith: Pam Keith (D): 45, Brian Mast (R-inc): 43, K.W. Miller (I): 4
- IL-17: Tarrance Group (R) for NRCC: Cheri Bustos (D-inc): 49, Esther Joy King (R): 44
- PA-07: DeSales University for WFMZ: Susan Wild (D-inc): 54, Lisa Scheller (R): 36 (54-39 Biden)
- TX-22: GBAO (D): Sri Preston Kulkarni (D): 48, Troy Nehls (R): 43 (52-43 Biden)
- VA-05: GSG (D) for 314 Action: Cameron Webb (D): 47, Bob Good (R): 45 (50-44 Trump) (early Oct.: 45-42 Webb)
- VA-10: Garin-Hart-Yang (D) for Jennifer Wexton: Jennifer Wexton (D-inc): 58, Aliscia Andrews (R): 36 (58-37 Biden)
FL-18: The only other numbers we've seen of this contest was a mid-September St. Pete Polls survey for Florida Politics that showed Rep. Brian Mast up 50-42. So far, there has been no serious outside spending in this seat, which extends from the Palm Beach area north to the Treasure Coast.
IL-17: This is the first survey we've seen of the race between DCCC chair Cheri Bustos and real estate attorney Esther Joy King. This northwestern Illinois swung from 58-41 Obama to 47.4-46.7 Trump, but Bustos has never had trouble winning re-election.
Still, there are some indications that Bustos and her allies are taking this contest seriously. The DCCC didn't really dispute the idea that this race could be competitive, instead telling Politico:
"The rumors are true -- Chairwoman Bustos represents a district that swung 17 points toward Republicans in 2016 to vote for Donald Trump, and her constant focus on the needs of the communities she serves is why she's continued to win her district handily year after year. What's unclear is who the NRCC troll factory thinks they're surprising with this poll when they have much bigger problems to deal with on every front."
Bustos herself also went up with a negative commercial this week arguing that King is an outsider from Chicago who is a threat to healthcare. There has been no notable outside spending here, though, so neither side is acting like they think this contest is close.
PA-07: Another Pennsylvania school, Muhlenberg College, released a survey in late September that gave Rep. Susan Wild a 52-39 lead.
TX-22: This is the first poll we've seen in more than two months in this seat in the southern Houston suburbs, a historically red constituency that has been becoming increasingly competitive in recent years. This well-educated and diverse area collapsed from 62-37 for Romney to just 52-44 Trump, and GOP Sen. Ted Cruz took it only 50-49 last cycle. The NRCC notably cut its ad reservations in the Houston media market in late September in an apparent sign of pessimism for Troy Nehls' prospects, but other outside groups on both sides have continued to spend heavily here.
The memo says that two unreleased polls were conducted here. GBAO found a 46-46 tie in early August, while Kulkarni led 47-44 in late September.
VA-10: Last cycle, the NRCC spent more money in this seat than it deployed in any other House contest. That's not going to happen this time.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's four special elections in Mississippi:
MS-SD-15: Businessman Bart Williams defeated educator Joyce Meek Yates 54-46 to win this Starkville-area seat. Williams will join the GOP caucus when he is seated in this chamber.
MS-SD-39: Attorney Jason Barrett defeated Bank of Brookhaven chairman Bill Sones 54-46 to win this seat. Barrett will align himself with the Republicans when he takes this seat.
This chamber is now at full strength with Republicans in control with a 36-16 majority.
MS-HD-37: Former Lowndes County School District superintendent Lynn Wright easily beat businessman David Chism 64-36 to win this seat. Chism is the cousin of former Rep. Gary Chism, who just retired in June. That connection was not enough to keep this race close, though, and Wright will join the Republican caucus when he is seated.
MS-HD-66: Jackson City Councilman De'Keither Stamps turned back former teacher Bob Lee Jr. by a 61-39 spread. Had these races been partisan contests, this would have been the only traditional Democrat vs. Republican battle of the lot: Stamps will join the Democratic caucus in this chamber, while Lee would have joined the GOP.
Republicans maintain a 74-46 majority in this chamber with one independent member and one other seat vacant.
● Anchorage, AK Mayor: Democratic Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced Tuesday that he would resign, effective Oct. 23, because of “unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required.”
Berkowitz’s decision came days after a local news anchor named Maria Athens said both that she’d had a relationship with the married mayor and that there were graphic photos of him on an “underage girls website.” Berkowitz acknowledged Monday that the two had a “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship,” but he denied her other allegations.
The Anchorage Police Department also said that its investigation with the FBI had uncovered “no evidence of criminal conduct on the mayor.” The FBI in turn said that it had uncovered “no immediate evidence to support a violation of federal law; however, the FBI Anchorage Field Office continues to monitor the situation.”
A few days before his resignation announcement, Berkowitz’s office released a voicemail from Athens where she fired off anti-Semitic insults and threatened to kill the mayor and his wife. Athens was also arrested on Friday after she allegedly attacked her boss, whom court documents said she was also in a relationship with.
Berkowitz was due to be termed-out next year as the leader of Alaska’s largest city, and it’s not clear who will take over once his resignation takes effect next week. The chair of the local city council, the Anchorage Assembly, is first-in-line to become mayor, and that post is currently held by fellow Democrat Felix Rivera. However, several assembly members told Alaska Public Media that they would likely reorganize before Oct. 23, and that they could pick a new chair who would then ascend to the mayor’s office.
It also remains to be seen how long the new mayor would serve. The city charter requires a special election if the city’s leader departs more than 90 days before the next regularly-scheduled mayoral election, which is set for April 6. This would mean that the city would host its special election shortly before the race for the regular three-year term (Anchorage is the only major city in America we know of where mayoral terms last for an odd number of years), but Rivera said Tuesday that he wanted a legal analysis to see if the special was needed.
What is clear, though, is that Berkowitz’s resignation ends a long career in Alaska Democratic politics. Berkowitz served as minority leader in the state House before he was nominated for lieutenant governor on the 2006 ticket led by former Gov. Tony Knowles. While Knowles and Berkowitz hoped to face the extremely unpopular Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, though, the incumbent ended up taking third place in his primary. The winner was Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, who defeated the Knowles-Berkowitz ticket 48-41.
The following cycle, Berkowitz challenged Republican Rep. Don Young, who had served as Alaska’s only House member since 1973 and faced numerous allegations of ethics violations. Young had only fended off Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who was backed by Palin, by just over 300 votes in the primary, and a number of polls showed Berkowitz leading in the general election.
Young, though, turned back Berkowitz 50-45 as John McCain, whose running mate was none other than Palin, was decisively winning Alaska. Voters also narrowly unseated Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in favor of Democrat Mark Begich that day, and it’s quite possible that too many voters were unwilling to fire both of their senior members of Congress at once.
Berkowitz went on to run for governor in 2010 against Parnell, who had been elevated to the top job the previous year after Palin resigned, but he lost 59-38. Berkowitz later went on to become the liberal co-host of a political radio show, but he got his chance to run for office in 2015 after Begich decided not to try to regain his old post as mayor of Anchorage. Democrats quickly rallied behind Berkowitz, who won an unusually nasty runoff contest 59-41 and was decisively re-elected in 2018.
● IN-AG: SurveyUSA, polling on behalf of election enthusiasts on Twitter led by Andrew Ellison, finds former Republican Rep. Todd Rokita leading ex-Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel 48-35; the sample also gives Donald Trump a 49-42 lead. The only other poll we've seen here in weeks was an early September survey from the Democratic firm Change Research for IndyPolitics.com, and it had Rokita leading his Democratic rival by a similar 49-34 spread.