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-Gov: Democrat Roy Cooper was narrowly elected governor in 2016 due in large part to a backlash against the transphobic "bathroom bill" passed by GOP incumbent Pat McCrory and his legislative allies, and Team Red may still be reaping the consequences three years later. Campaign finance reports for the second half of 2019 are now available for the major candidates, and Cooper left his Republican foes in the dust by raising $4 million and finishing the period with $8.3 million in the bank. By contrast, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest raised $1.4 million and had only $933,000 on-hand.
While Forest trailed far behind Cooper heading into 2020, his haul was leaps and bounds better than his primary rival, state Rep. Holly Grange, who raised just $106,000 and only had a mere $27,000 in cash-on-hand. Grange has been pitching herself as a less extremist and thus more electable alternative to Forest, a far-right social conservative who used Martin Luther King Jr. Day to declare, "There is no doubt that when Planned Parenthood was created, it was created to destroy the entire black race."
However, unless Grange's fundraising seriously picks up in the final two months of the primary, she's going to have a tough time getting her message out to Republican voters with the March 3 primary only a month away. That could also be bad news for Tar Heel State Republicans as they try to avoid the mistakes of 2016.
● GA-Sen-B: Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver appears undeterred by the DSCC's recent endorsement of Rev. Raphael Warnock, and he says he'll join his fellow Democrats in the race by kicking off his campaign on or before Feb. 15.
● TN-Sen: Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty has launched a TV ad starring Donald Trump Jr., which shows the younger Trump touting his father's endorsement of Hagerty in the GOP primary.
● TX-Sen: University of Texas at Tyler poll of the Democratic primary for the Dallas Morning News: MJ Hegar: 8, Royce West: 6, Annie "Mamá" Garcia: 5
● UT-Gov: On behalf of the University of Utah and the Deseret News, pollster Scott Rasmussen is out with a survey of the June GOP primary that gives former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman a 35-25 lead over Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. Wealthy businessman Jeff Burningham is a distant third with 6% of the vote, while former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, former state party chair Thomas Wright, and Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton are each at 3%.
This is the first poll of this contest that we've written up since Huntsman, who served as governor from 2005 to 2009, entered the race in November. A few other surveys have been released in the last few months, but we did not include them in the Digest because they either sampled fewer than 300 GOP primary voters or were in the field longer than 14 days.
P.S.: Pollster Scott Rasmussen should not to be confused with Rasmussen Reports, the company that he founded but has not been affiliated with since 2013.
● CA-50: National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals executive director Marisa Calderon, a Democrat, has announced "the end" of her campaign, citing her father's illness. California doesn't let candidates get off the ballot after filing closes, but Calderon's departure leaves 2018 candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar as the sole notable Democrat in the March 3 top-two primary for this decidedly red-leaning seat.
● FL-07: Republican Chelle DiAngelus, a healthcare and technology consultant, filed with the FEC a few weeks ago to challenge Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. DiAngelus does not appear to have officially announced whether or not she's running.
● GA-09: Former Republican Rep. Paul Broun has thrown his hat into the ring for the now-open and dark-red 9th District. Broun represented the neighboring 10th District from 2007 to 2015, and his old district contained roughly 42% of the current 9th under the 2006-2010 congressional map.
However, Broun's electoral record has been far from stellar over the last several years, starting with a distant fifth-place finish with only 10% of the vote in the 2014 GOP primary for an open Senate seat. Broun later moved to the 9th District and challenged Rep. Doug Collins in the 2016 Republican primary, but he lost by a 61-22 drubbing after failing to raise much money.
Broun has long been prone to making far-right statements, including when he said in 2012 that "[a]ll that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." However, it remains to be seen whether his political career can climb out of the pit of hell or whether he'll once again fail to win over his fellow Republican primary voters. Broun joins a field that includes state Sen. John Wilkinson and state Rep. Kevin Tanner.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Matt Gurtler recently said he's considering joining either the Republican primary here or a bid for state Senate instead.
● IL-15: Farmer Mary Miller has launched a new TV ad ahead of the March 17 Republican primary for this safely red open seat. The spot highlights her background running a "grain and cattle farm" and how she's been endorsed by the Illinois Farm Bureau. Miller says the "crop she's most proud of" is her seven children, who she says grew up to be "Trump-loving, Christian conservatives." Dusting off the Cold War-era playbook, Miller says she'll put an end to "godless socialism."
● KY-04: In a sign of how the modern Republican media-Trump feedback loop has truly jumped the shark, Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie has purchased $3,000 in TV ads for Fox News in South Florida with the aim of catching the attention of Fox News' most prominent viewer: Donald Trump.
The right-libertarian Massie is facing a primary challenge in May from a more standard-issue Republican, Todd McMurtry, and Massie's ad attacks McMurtry as a "Trump hater" with the goal of getting Trump to endorse the incumbent just as Trump has done with a number of other Republicans he's seen on Fox News. Massie is also paying $13,000 to air the same ad on Fox News in Kentucky, the state he actually represents.
● NE-02: At some point since last fall, restaurateur Gladys Harrison went from exploring a bid to joining the Democratic primary for this swing seat. However, despite reports that the DCCC had been trying to recruit her, she may not be that formidable of a candidate after having only $17,000 on-hand at the end of 2019. Harrison faces 2018 nominee Kara Eastman and attorney Ann Ashford in the primary to take on Republican Rep. Don Bacon.
● NJ-05: Assemblyman Robert Auth is the latest Republican to enter the crowded primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Auth joins a GOP field that includes 2018 nominee John McCann, former Wall Street banker Frank Pallotta, Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali, and 2018 Bergen County executive candidate Paul Duggan.
Auth's 39th Legislative District makes up about a quarter of the 5th District, which could give him a good geographic base of support in the June primary. However, Pallotta and especially Ghassali have already self-funded hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it remains to be seen if Auth will have the resources he'll need to get his message out with just four months to go before voters go to the polls. Whoever wins the GOP nod will also be in for a very expensive race against Gottheimer, who ended December with a massive $7.12 million war chest.
● TX-22: Wealthy Republican Kathaleen Wall is running another Trump-focused TV ad ahead of the March 3 primary. The spot consist of conservative boilerplate, calling her a "Christian, conservative political outsider," who will "drain the swamp" and support Trump's immigration policies. The narrator says Wall will fight for term limits, a lobbying ban, and a law preventing Congress from getting paid if they don't pass a budget.
● WI-07: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is wading into the special election primary on behalf of Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany, laying down what they call a "substantial six-figure" ad buy. The spot, which is a dark money "issue advocacy" spot that doesn't outright urge viewers to vote for Tiffany, praises him for promoting the interests of the logging industry.
● Special Elections: There are three special elections on tap for Tuesday:
GA-SD-13: This is a Republican district in the Tifton area that became vacant when former Sen. Greg Kirk died last year. The two Republicans vying for this seat are former Lee County Mayor Jim Quinn and Crisp County Commissioner Carden Summers, while retiree Mary Egler is the lone Democrat.
Quinn and Egler faced each other just a few months ago in another special election in Georgia's 152th State House District. The pair were part of a four-way field where Quinn led the way with 42% while Egler, once again the only Democrat, came in third with 15%; Quinn went on to narrowly lose to second-place finisher Bill Yearta 51-49 in the runoff. Summers has also sought higher office in the past, including an unsuccessful bid for a previous version of this seat in 2002.
If no candidate takes a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will take place on March 3 in this 68-30 Trump seat. Republicans control this chamber 34-21 with just this seat vacant.
MN-HD-30A: This is a Republican district in the Elk River area that became vacant after former Rep. Nick Zerwas resigned last year. Sherburne County Sheriff's Office sergeant Paul Novotny is the Republican candidate and the Democrat is businessman Chad Hobot.
This is a solidly Republican district that supported Trump 62-30 and Mitt Romney 59-40.
MN-HD-60A: This is a Democratic district in Minneapolis that became vacant after former Rep. Diane Loeffler died last year. Activist Sydney Jordan is the Democratic candidate and only major party candidate running after no Republicans filed for this safely blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 76-14 and Barack Obama 77-19. However, Jordan faces nominal opposition from Marty Super of the Legalize Marijuana Now Party.
Democrats have a 74-58 advantage in the chamber with these two seats vacant.