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.
● Election Calendar: Election officials across the country are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and a number have begun postponing elections to protect public health. The situation is extremely fluid, however, so by the time you read this, it's possible some of the information contained in this update could be out of date. If you have concerns about when and how to vote, please check with your state or local election authorities.
Louisiana was the first state to act on Friday, with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin moving the state's presidential primary from April 4 to June 20. Louisiana has experience with rescheduling elections: In September of 2008, Hurricane Gustav prompted then-Gov. Bobby Jindal to delay that year's primaries and runoffs a month.
Georgia followed suit on Saturday, with Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announcing that the state would consolidate its presidential primary, set for March 24, with its May 19 primaries for all other offices. Nikema Williams, the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, signaled her agreement with the move and said that any votes already cast will be counted.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico lawmakers say they are planning to vote on Monday to move the commonwealth’s presidential primary from March 29 to April 26, and Wyoming Democrats have cancelled the in-person portion of their caucuses, which had been scheduled for April 4. Voters may still pick up and drop off ballots on either March 28 or April 4.
However, top election officials from the four states with primaries on Tuesday—Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio—issued a joint statement on Friday saying they would go forward as planned. The governors of Illinois and Ohio, both of which are also conducting primaries for downballot races, have issued directives in recent days curtailing large gatherings, but polling locations will remain open. However, all four states with elections on Tuesday have reported shortages of poll workers, many of whom are elderly.
Other races further down the ballot have also been impacted. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that a March 24 special election for Queens borough president had been canceled, with no new date set as yet.
One elected official in Pennsylvania, however, has refused to budge. While Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has placed much of southeast Pennsylvania on total lockdown—going so far as to order residents to stay home—Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai has refused to reschedule a special election for the state House taking place in the affected region on Tuesday. It is possible that Wolf could use his emergency powers to overrule Turzai and postpone the election, which is being held to fill a vacancy in the 18th State House District.
We’ll continue to stay on top of all changes to election dates as soon as we learn of any. In addition, you can bookmark our two 2020 calendars, one for statewide primary dates and the other for key downballot elections. Ultimately, the best and safest way to ensure all elections can continue as planned is for every state to adopt universal voting by mail, where every registered voter would be automatically sent a ballot which they can then return by mail.
● AL-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions got some rare good news on Friday when he picked up the backing of the NRA in the March 31 GOP runoff. Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, though, is using his new ad to make sure voters don't forget that he's Donald Trump's endorsed candidate. Tuberville, who awkwardly stands in a gym while people lift weights around him, says that Sessions was "not man enough to stand with President Trump when things got tough."
● AZ-Sen: Latino Decisions is out with a new poll for Arizona State University and Univision that gives Democrat Mark Kelly a hefty 48-36 lead over GOP incumbent Martha McSally. This is considerably larger than the 5-7 point edge that Kelly has posted in a trio of recent surveys.
● KS-Sen: Free Forever PAC, a group bankrolled by billionaire Peter Thiel, is spending $70,000 on a spot airing on Fox News attacking Rep. Roger Marshall ahead of the August GOP primary. The commercial features 2017 footage of Marshall questioning the idea of a border wall, as well as video from the previous year where the congressman admitted he had supported John Kasich over Donald Trump in the presidential primary. Thiel is backing former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is Marshall's main intra-party rival.
● ME-Sen: Senate Majority PAC is up with a new spot hitting GOP Sen. Susan Collins over the high cost of insulin prices. The group says this ad is part of a six-figure buy.
Meanwhile, Collins' allies at the 1820 PAC are spending $1 million on a commercial attacking state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who has the backing of national Democrats. This ad, like a recent Collins' spot, tendentiously calls Gideon is a "hypocrite" for saying she won't accept corporate PAC money, claiming she has "taken thousands from corporate PACs."
This attack is based on an extremely chutzpahdik understanding of campaign finance. Gideon has not, in fact, taken a dime from corporate PACs. Instead, 1820 PAC is hanging its hat on the fact that Gideon has accepted contributions from other groups that do accept corporate PAC money. If Gideon were to somehow forego donations from such organizations, you can bet that Collins' buddies would still chastise her for taking money from groups that take money from groups that take money from corporate PACs. It's bad faith all the way down.
● MI-Sen: Senate Majority PAC recently went up with a commercial attacking Republican John James' healthcare plan, and he quickly went up with a response spot. The candidate spends most of the ad griping that Democratic Sen. Gary Peters would tell "a lie about healthcare during America's worst health crisis in decades," even though the commercial wasn't from Peters and didn't mention the coronavirus. James briefly pledges he'll "always protect anyone with a pre-existing condition and every senior in our state" before he goes back to slamming Peters. (If James actually is bothered by real lies about health care right now, he should take it up with his buddy Donald Trump.)
● MT-Sen: Politico reports that the size of the buy for Protect Our Care's TV commercial against GOP Sen. Steve Daines was $250,000.
● TX-Sen: Former Rep. Chris Bell, who finished sixth in the March 3 Democratic runoff with 9% of the vote, endorsed state Sen. Royce West ahead of the May runoff.
● NY-24: Navy veteran Roger Misso announced Friday that he was dropping out of the June Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. John Katko. The contest for the nomination in this 49-45 Clinton seat in the Syracuse area is now a two-person race between fellow Navy veteran Francis Conole and 2018 nominee Dana Balter.
● TN-01: On Thursday, pharmacist Diana Harshbarger became the latest Republican to announce a bid to succeed retiring Rep. Phil Roe in this safely red East Tennessee seat. The filing deadline for the August primary is April 2.
● Portland, OR Mayor: Filing closed Tuesday for the May 19 nonpartisan primary, where Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler faces 17 opponents in his bid for a second term. Wheeler is the first incumbent to run for re-election here since Vera Katz won her third and final term all the way back in 2000, and he needs to take a majority of the vote to avoid a November general election.
The contest to take on Wheeler was slow to develop, and two notable candidates entered the race relatively late. Former Nike executive Piper Crowell launched her bid last month, and she's said the city's homelessness rate is her most important issue.
Crowell, who describes herself as "the only candidate I know of who is part of the LGBTQ community," has argued that she'll do a better job working with the City Council than Wheeler, though she largely avoided attacking him at a recent debate. Real estate developer Randy Rapaport, whom Oregon Public Radio described last year as "an effusive presence in arts circles," also entered the contest on the final day of qualifying.
Another contender to watch is 2016 candidate Sarah Iannarone, who so far is the only contender who has qualified for city public financing. (Wheeler announced in November that he would not participate in the program.) Iannarone has raised $39,000 from small donors as of late January, which entitles her to $165,000 in city matching funds. Iannarone can accept no more than $250 from each donor, and she'll be able to receive a total of $304,000 from the program for the primary and another $456,000 if she makes it to the general election.
Iannarone, who took a distant third place with 12% of the vote in 2016, is arguing that Wheeler has done a poor job reforming the police department and dealing with homelessness. Iannarone also repeatedly has faulted Wheeler's response to last year's rally by the far-right hate group The Proud Boys, saying that he allowed the police to protect the white supremacists just weeks before the cops forcefully arrested a pair of climate change protesters. Wheeler, for his part, said last year that one of his "proudest moments" in office was organizing community leaders to speak up against white supremacy right before the group held its rally in the city.
● Cook County, IL State's Attorney: Kim Foxx's victory in the 2016 Democratic primary gave criminal justice reform groups one of their most high-profile wins, and she now faces a well-funded challenge for renomination in the nation's second-largest county.
Former prosecutor Bill Conway has raised about $11.5 million, with the vast majority of his funds coming from his billionaire father, investor William Conway. Also in the contest are former federal prosecutor Donna More and perennial candidate Bob Fioretti, who is a former Chicago alderman. It takes just a plurality of the vote to earn the Democratic nomination, and the winner should have little trouble prevailing in heavily Democratic Cook County.
Conway has focused his campaign on Foxx's handling of the high-profile 2019 case involving actor Jussie Smollett. A grand jury initially indicted Smollett after he was accused of faking a racist and homophobic attack on himself, but Foxx's office soon dropped the charges. The story attracted renewed attention in February after a grand jury indicted Smollett again, and Conway has been running commercials attacking Foxx's handling of the situation.
Foxx, who has endorsements from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, has focused her campaign on her work reforming the state's attorney office. The incumbent has raised $3.5 million, and billionaire philanthropist George Soros has contributed $2 million to a pro-Foxx group. A mid-February Conway poll from ALG Research gave Foxx just a 28-26 edge, but an early March Foxx internal from GBAO had her ahead 39-28. A March survey taken by the Republican pollster Ogden & Fry for a local GOP group also had Foxx up 33-20.
Election Result Recaps
● CA-45: The Associated Press recently projected that Republican Greg Raths, who serves as mayor of Mission Viejo, claimed the second spot in the March 3 top-two primary. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter is in first with 50% with 206,000 ballots counted as of Friday afternoon, while Raths edged Laguna Hills Mayor Don Sedgwick, a Republican who had raised considerably more money than any of the other challengers, 18-13 for second.
This suburban Orange County seat, which includes the Irvine area, swung from 55-43 Romney to 50-44 Clinton, and the GOP is hoping to reclaim it this fall. Porter, though, is one of the strongest fundraisers in the House freshman class, and she had a massive $3 million on-hand in mid-February. Porter also generated plenty of positive coverage on Thursday when she aggressively questioned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield about the high cost of coronavirus testing for uninsured Americans; the encounter ended with Redfield saying that his agency would pay for the tests.
Raths, by contrast, has unsuccessfully run for this district twice. Back in 2014, Raths competed in the top-two primary for what was an open seat and took third place with 24%, while fellow Republican Mimi Walters, who was the frontrunner for the entire contest, led a little-known Democrat 45-28. Walters won the general election with ease but Raths decided to challenge her in 2016 and took third with 19%, with Walters outpacing another Democrat 41-28.
Raths formed an exploratory committee in 2018 for a potential third bout with Walters, but he didn't end up running; Walters went on to lose the general election to Porter.
● CA-53: The Associated Press recently projected that San Diego City Council president Georgette Gómez would join former State Department official Sara Jacobs, a fellow Democrat, in the general election for this safely blue seat. With 181,000 votes counted for the March 3 top-two primary as of Friday afternoon, Jacobs is in first with 29%, while Gómez leads Republican Chris Stoddard 20-13 for second.
Jacobs, who unsuccessfully ran for the nearby 49th District last cycle, used her personal resources to decisively outspend her many opponents. Gómez still raised a credible amount, though, and she also earned the support of the state party and several unions. Gómez identifies as "a queer Latinx," and if she won, she'd be the first LGBTQ Latino to serve in Congress.
● TX-17: In a move that got little attention at the time, rocket scientist George Hindman conceded defeat one day after the March 3 GOP primary. Former 32nd District Rep. Pete Sessions took first place with 32% of the vote, while businesswoman Renee Swann beat Hindman 19-18 for the second spot in the May runoff.