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.
● CA-50: With three weeks to go, the March 3 top-two primary to succeed disgraced former GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter has become one of the most expensive and nasty House races in the nation.
A few weeks ago, former Rep. Darrell Issa made headlines when he ran a commercial that repeatedly highlighted the fact that his top rival, former San Diego City Councilman and fellow Republican Carl DeMaio, is gay. Issa also launched another TV spot against DeMaio this week that goes all-in on the racism that has become standard in Trump-era GOP commercials.
Issa's ad once again argues that DeMaio is on the wrong side of Donald Trump when it comes to immigration. It begins with a clip of Donald Trump at the State of the Union proclaiming, "Tragically, radical politicians provide sanctuary for these criminal illegal aliens." The narrator then declares that DeMaio said that "it's not the job of police to enforce immigration law." The ad continues, "DeMaio opposed a bill to let law enforcement detain illegals. Instead, he'd give them citizenship."
The commercial continues by featuring several photos, including the shot of three shirtless and tattooed men taken in a Latin American prison that has become a staple of racist GOP ads during the Trump era, as the narrator insists, "Amnesty. Open borders. Citizenship. Carl DeMaio is dangerous."
But DeMaio has hardly been going easy on Issa, who spent 18 years representing a neighboring House seat before retiring last cycle. DeMaio recently began running a spot that, borrowing a theme from a different Issa ad, begins with the narrator saying, "Congress is a circus. And career politician Darrell Issa is its snake oil salesman."
The commercial continues by arguing that Issa wants to "con" voters by pretending to support Trump when he really "opposed Trump's border wall, calling it 'unnecessary.'" The narrator also accuses the former congressman of backing amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants and says he "betrayed Trump as the only Republican to call for a special prosecutor to investigate the president."
Both Issa and DeMaio are among the candidates competing in next month's top-two primary for a spot in the general election in this 55-40 Trump seat. Ammar Campa-Najjar, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee, has a strong chance to advance since he's the only notable Democrat running here, but no one knows who would join him on the November ballot. The only poll we've seen here this year was a January poll from SurveyUSA that showed Campa-Najjar in first with 26% as Issa barely edged out DeMaio 21-20 for second; a third Republican, state Sen. Brian Jones, was further behind with 12%.
DeMaio and Issa each raised more money during the final three months of 2019 than any non-incumbent Republican candidate in any of the nation's other House races. DeMaio, who lost tight races earlier in the decade for mayor of San Diego and for the 52nd Congressional District, outpaced Issa $937,000 to $819,000 among donors. The wealthy Issa self-funded an additional $1.2 million, but DeMaio still held a narrow $1.7 million to $1.6 million cash-on-hand lead at the end of December.
Campa-Najjar took in $436,000 during this time and had $959,000 to spend. Jones, though, was far behind all his main rivals with just $151,000 raised and $65,000 on-hand.
● KY-Sen: On Thursday, the DSCC endorsed retired Marine pilot and 2018 House candidate Amy McGrath's campaign to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McGrath faces state Rep. Charles Booker in the May Democratic primary.
Both McConnell and McGrath are very strong fundraisers, and the incumbent ended December with a $11.6 million to $9.1 million cash-on-hand lead; Booker entered the race last month after the start of the new fundraising quarter. However, it's going to be incredibly tough for any Democrat to unseat McConnell in this very red state, especially with Donald Trump leading the GOP ticket.
● NC-Sen: Carolina Blue has thrown down an additional $463,000 to support former state Sen. Cal Cunningham in the March 3 Democratic primary, which takes its total spending here to $810,000.
● WA-Gov: Conservative activist Tim Eyman announced Wednesday that he'd be running as a Republican rather than an independent in the August top-two primary to face Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. Eyman entered the race in November without a party affiliation and said that both Democrats and Republicans had frustrated him equally, but he began talking about joining the GOP last month.
● AL-02: Businessman Jeff Coleman very much looks like the frontrunner in the March 3 GOP primary for this open seat, but his rivals are hoping that an old fraud lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice against his moving business will hurt his chances.
Back in 2012, the DOJ sued Coleman's company for allegedly overcharging the Department of Defense more than $700 million by falsifying the weights on moving trucks used by military families. Coleman's business reached a settlement three years later where, without admitting to any wrongdoing, it paid the government $5 million. Months later, one of its warehouse managers was convicted of fraud.
When Coleman was asked about this lawsuit in January he declared, "It was unfair. It was unmeritless. Our people did nothing wrong." He continued, "We were hit by the United States government—an Obama U.S. attorney—and it was wrong." Coleman's campaign also said that the company had only agreed to the settlement in order to avoid more legal expenses.
None of Coleman's primary rivals have aired any TV ads about this matter yet, but one of them is hoping to keep it in the news. Former state Attorney General Troy King held a press conference last week with Bill Nettles, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted that suit.
Nettles said that the investigation revealed that "the Coleman family business was systematically stealing from the government," and he took the candidate to task for claiming that the lawsuit was unfair. Nettles also declared he had allowed the business to settle for just $5 million because if the government made it "pay back what they had stolen, it would bankrupt the company and put them out of business," an event that would cost innocent employees their jobs.
Nettles also said of Coleman, "His family business got caught stealing, and his response is, 'The United States attorney who caught us stealing is a Democrat, as if somehow, because I'm a Democrat, that absolves them of all wrong." Coleman's campaign, unsurprisingly, responded by dismissing Nettles as "an Obama-appointed, Trump-hating, radical left-wing Democratic donor whose crusade against an honest, wiregrass business fell flat."
Coleman's primary opponents may need this story to hurt him because right now, he looks like a strong prospect to win the GOP nod. The only survey we've seen here came from the conservative firm We Ask America in January, and it showed Coleman at 43%, only a bit below the majority he'd need to avoid a March 31 runoff.
While this is just one poll, Coleman also ended 2019 with a large financial advantage over his rivals. Coleman, who has self-funded a portion of his campaign, had $491,000 in the bank, while former state Rep. and 2018 candidate Barry Moore had $181,000 available. Businesswoman Jessica Taylor and King were further back with $169,000 and $100,000 to spend, respectively. This week, Coleman also received an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has a history of spending plenty of money in primaries it cares about.
Coleman began airing ads last year, and he's out with another one this week. After telling the audience that he has three daughters, the candidate pulls out a baseball bat imprinted with the words "The Respect Her." Coleman explains that when one of his daughters dates comes by, "With my girls' permission, I had a little chat with those boys."
Coleman, still holding the bat, continues, "We talk respect, boundaries, honor, and integrity. If they agreed, they'd sign right here." After displaying the signatures on the bat Coleman adds, "I protected my girls like I'll protect your family in Congress. Sometimes, a little visual aid helps." At least he didn't point any shotguns at anyone.
● CA-53: UC San Diego professor Tom Wong, who was one of a few Democrats competing for this open seat, announced last month that he was dropping out of the race.
Another Democratic candidate, San Diego City Council president Georgette Gómez, also recently launched her first TV spot ahead of the March 3 top-two primary. The narrator begins by declaring, "Donald Trump has met his match. Meet Georgette Gómez." The ad informs the viewer that Gómez is the "daughter of immigrants, San Diego's first LGBTQ Latina council president," and that she "sued to protect Dreamers." The narrator also praises the candidate for standing up to Trump to protect the environment.
● IN-05: Sen. Mike Braun will headline a fundraiser next week for businesswoman Beth Henderson, who is one of the many Republicans competing in the May primary for this open seat. Braun does not appear to have publicly endorsed her, but there's no indication that he'll be aiding any other GOP contenders.
● MA-04: This week, labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan said that she would not join the Democratic primary for this open seat.
● MI-03: GOP businessman Joel Langlois announced on Thursday that he was suspending his campaign to face Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash. Langlois, who had self-funded $400,000 through December, only said he was departing for "personal reasons," and he didn't address the possibility that he could rejoin the August primary.
● NJ-05: GOP Assemblyman Robert Auth announced Thursday that he was leaving the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer less than two weeks after he entered it. Auth admitted that he didn't think he could raise enough money to compete here against Gottheimer, who has been a prodigious fundraiser for a seat located in the pricey New York City media market.
● NY-17: While there was some speculation last year that White Plains Mayor Tom Roach could seek the Democratic nod for this open seat, he recently endorsed Assemblyman David Buchwald instead.
● PA-10: State Auditor Eugene DePasquale is out with a poll that gives him a 68-16 lead over attorney Tom Brier in the April Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Scott Perry. DePasquale ended December with a $468,000 to $203,000 cash-on-hand lead over Brier, while Perry had $622,000 to spend. This Harrisburg-area seat backed Trump 52-43, but Perry only narrowly won re-election last cycle.
● SC-01: Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert is out with his first TV spot ahead of the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham. It's not clear how much Covert is spending to air this ad, which highlights his biography. The candidate had just $27,000 to spend at the end of December, though, so it's probably not much.
● TX-13: Former White House chief physician Ronny Jackson fills his new TV spot with clips of Donald Trump praising him to the heavens. The ad, which is airing ahead of the March 3 GOP primary, ends with Trump declaring, "Ronny Jackson is a great man. Ronny Jackson has led a great and beautiful life." It won't surprise you to learn that the commercial doesn't mention his disastrous 2018 nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is certainly the most famous part of Jackson's life.
● House: On Wednesday night, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsements in seven different GOP House primaries. We wrote about Trump's decision to support Army veteran Westley Hunt in Texas' 7th District in our last Digest, and here are the other six candidates who got their long-sought endorsement tweet:
CA-08: Assemblyman Jay Obernolte
MT-AL: State Auditor and 2018 Senate nominee Matt Rosendale
NY-11: Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis
NY-22: Former Rep. Claudia Tenney
TX-11: Air Force veteran August Pfluger
TX-24: Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne
Each of these candidates already looked like the frontrunner to win their primaries, and they'll be especially hard to stop now that they have Trump's backing.
Malliotakis and Tenney, as well as Hunt, are running to defeat Democratic freshmen, while the other four are competing in open-GOP held seats. And with the exception of Hunt, all of these contenders are running in seats Trump carried in 2016.
Democratic Rep. Max Rose may have tried to deter the White House from throwing its support behind Malliotakis in New York's 11th District by running a commercial aimed at Trump on his favorite show. Rose recently began airing a spot on Fox & Friends in both New York City and in Washington that featured a clip of a reporter asking Malliotakis, "What is Trump doing well right now," only for the assemblywoman to respond, "I don't know. I couldn't tell you."
But while the Fox binger-in-chief may well have seen Rose's commercial, it didn't stop him from copying and pasting his usual endorsement tweet on behalf of Malliotakis on Wednesday.
● Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: While most of the local Democratic establishment is supporting incumbent Jackie Lacey, Rep. Maxine Waters has instead endorsed former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón in the March 3 nonpartisan primary.
● San Diego, CA Mayor: SurveyUSA has a poll on behalf of San Diego Union-Tribune and 10News that shows Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria with a clear lead in the March 3 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out GOP Mayor Kevin Faulconer, while two city councilors are battling for the second general election spot.
Gloria, who served as interim mayor for six months until Faulconer was elected early in 2014, takes 29%, while Republican Scott Sherman leads Democrat Barbara Bry 18-13 for second place. SurveyUSA conducted a poll a little more than two weeks prior to this for these same clients, and it showed all three of these candidates with the exact same percentage of the vote that they have in the new poll.
Republicans have controlled city hall with only a few brief interruptions since 1992, but the GOP will have a tough time keeping it in November even if Sherman makes it out of next month’s primary. Sherman, who only entered the race in December, had just $51,000 to spend at the end of December while Gloria and Bry had $591,000 and $259,000, respectively. It doesn’t help Sherman that the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, a prominent group that usually backs Republicans, is supporting Gloria instead.