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.
● VA-07, Conventions: In a move that hasn't been well publicized, Republicans in Virginia's 7th Congressional District have decided to nominate their candidate for the November general election at a convention, which is scheduled to take place on April 25, rather than through a party primary. It's a notable change from past practice: Anyone who followed elections in 2014 will readily remember Dave Brat's shocking upset of then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in that year's GOP primary.
There will be quite a lot less drama this year, by contrast, when Republican delegates gather to pick a challenger for Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who unseated Brat in one of 2018's most impressive upsets. This week, Brat endorsed Del. Nick Freitas, who already had the support of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Freitas, though, is just one of several notable Republican who will be competing for the GOP nod next month: Also in the race are Del. John McGuire; nonprofit director Tina Ramirez; and Andrew Knaggs, a former Department of Defense official.
However, with many states and localities now forbidding large public gatherings in an attempt to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, these sorts of conventions may wind up getting postponed or canceled altogether. In fact, that's already happened in North Dakota, where Democrats have called off their convention, which had been set to take place March 19-22, and say they are "working on alternate plans."
In North Dakota, though, the most important thing at stake is the party's formal endorsement. While it's not uncommon for candidates who fall short at the convention to drop out (something we saw in races both for the House and secretary of state in 2018), access to the primary ballot is unaffected by any decisions made by delegates.
In other states, however, conventions can have a big impact, even when delegates aren't directly picking nominees like in Virginia. For example, both major parties held their conventions in New Mexico last weekend, with candidates required to win a minimum of 20% to earn an automatic spot on the June 2 primary ballot. Anyone who fell short must now instead collect signatures. Other states, such as Colorado and Utah, have similar setups.
Given the importance of many conventions, we've added a new section listing dates for key gatherings across the country at the bottom of our 2020 calendar. We’ll be keeping close tabs on any schedule changes, so bookmark our calendar today.
● AL-Sen: The anti-tax Club for Growth is out with a poll from WPA Intelligence taken in the two days following last week's GOP primary that gives former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville a 49-45 edge over ex-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the March 31 runoff.
While that's only a small deficit for Sessions, the survey gives him good reason to be pessimistic it will stay that way. After WPA asked respondents how they'd vote if Trump endorsed Tuberville, the former coach's lead ballooned to 58-34; days after the survey was completed, Trump tweeted out his support for Tuberville. The Club for Growth opposed Rep. Bradley Byrne in the first round of the primary, but they have not taken sides in the second round.
● CO-Sen: Politico reports that a conservative group called Unite for Colorado has launched a $550,000 TV and radio buy that will last from March 13 through March 23, which is over three months ahead of the June Democratic primary to face GOP Sen. Cory Gardner. The group has been criticizing former Gov. John Hickenlooper on social media, and its FEC filings say that its spot will mention him.
● MI-Sen: Senate Majority PAC is up with its opening TV spot, which it says is "backed by a seven-figure TV and digital buy."
The commercial opens with footage of Republican John James saying during his 2018 campaign, "Our failure to repeal and replace Obamacare is the surest sign that we need someone who will go and work their tail off to remove this monstrosity." The narrator then declares, "James' plan: Increase the cost of prescription drugs. Charge an age tax on older Americans. Eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions."
● MT-Sen: The progressive group Protect Our Care is up with a spot against GOP Sen. Steve Daines that has what we believe is the first mention of the coronavirus in a political TV ad. (It certainly won't be the last.)
The narrator begins by saying how so many Montana families are worried about "[c]overage, costs, now the fear of coronavirus." The commercial goes on to hit Daines for voting to both "eliminate protections from 425,000 Montanans with pre-existing conditions" and "scrap Montana's Medicaid expansion and let insurance and drug companies drive up healthcare and prescription drug costs for seniors."
● NC-Sen: GOP Sen. Thom Tillis recently released a dusty Public Opinion Strategies poll from mid-January that gave him a small 48-44 lead over Democrat Cal Cunningham.
Those old numbers are better for Tillis than what a trio of polls taken in the final days of February poll showed, though. East Carolina University found the incumbent up 44-42, Marist survey taken around the same time gave Cunningham a 48-43 lead. A survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling taken for an unidentified client also found Cunningham ahead 46-41.
● NH-Sen: Attorney Corky Messner announced this week that he would self-fund an additional $2 million, which takes his total investment in this contest to $3 million. Messner faces two fellow Republicans, retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc and former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien, in the September primary to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
● TN-Sen: Former Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty is out with a TV spot that starts out by reminding the audience that he's Donald Trump's chosen candidate for the August GOP primary. Donald Trump Jr. later appears and says, "Bill Hagerty stood by my dad and now our family is standing with him. Let's keep America great by putting Bill Hagerty in the Senate."
● VT-Gov: Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who is so far the only woman to ever hold this post, endorsed former state Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe this week in the August Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Phil Scott.
● WV-Gov: Former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher's latest ad ahead of the May GOP primary seems to compare Gov. Jim Justice, intentionally or not, with Thanos.
Thrasher's commercial begins with the candidate, who is seated in a crowded restaurant, telling the audience, "You know, the greatest thing about West Virginia is our people." The diners then each turn into black dust and vanish, a special effect that's more than a little reminiscent of the immediate aftermath of the Mad Titan's snap at the end of Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War. One guy disappears along with the burger that he was eating at the time, which helps explain why all the now-empty tables are extremely clean.
Thrasher, who is the only person left, keeps talking. "Sadly, thousands have left," Thrasher says, "In fact, since Jim Justice has been governor, more than 37,000 people have left. That's like losing the entire population of Martinsburg and Fairmont combined."
Thrasher continues by saying this is the reason he's running, and suddenly, the black dust reforms into the once-departed people. (The guy with the burger is now chewing but no longer holding his meal, which must mean that he shoved the entire thing into his mouth before he was blipped.) Thrasher pledges to fix the problem "'cause I'm tired of having our children and grandchildren having to say goodbye."
● NH-01: Gov. Chris Sununu announced this week that he was nominating 2018 GOP nominee Eddie Edwards to lead the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification. Edwards didn't rule out seeking a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas as recently as October, but he doesn't appear to have shown any interest since then.
● NY-17: Former prosecutor Adam Schleifer is out with his first TV spot of the June Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Nita Lowey, which his campaign says is running for six figures. Schleifer describes how his brother has special needs and says that "seeing him overcome so many challenges has inspired me to empower others." The candidate continues, "As a consumer protection regulator and federal prosecutor, I fought for everyone's right to pursue their American dream. In Congress, I'll do the same for you."
Election Result Recaps
● Fresno, CA Mayor: On Wednesday, Democrat Andrew Janz conceded defeat in last week's nonpartisan mayoral race to Republican Jerry Dyer. Dyer needed to win a majority of the vote to avoid a November general election, and he had 52% on Thursday afternoon with 96,000 ballots counted. Janz, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee against GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, was in second place with 40%.
Dyer, who served as police chief until last year, will succeed fellow Republican Lee Brand, who decided not to seek a second term. Fresno backed Hillary Clinton 57-37, and Democrats were hoping to win control of the mayor's office for the first time since the city moved to its current system for electing mayors more than 20 years ago.