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.
Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas held their downballot primaries on Super Tuesday, and you can find the results at the links for each state. We’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.
● NC-Sen, NC-Gov: On Tuesday, primary voters in North Carolina picked their nominees in what will be two of the most closely watched contests in the nation. With 99% of precincts reporting statewide, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham defeated state Sen. Erica Smith 57-34 in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest also beat state Rep. Holly Grange by a massive 89-11 margin in the GOP contest to face Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
National Democrats consolidated behind Cunningham, who served with the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan and lost the 2010 primary for the state's other Senate seat, months ahead of the primary. Tillis’ allies, though, decided to meddle in the Democratic primary by spending $3 million on ads praising Smith, who had raised little money herself, and attacking Cunningham from the left. Cunningham’s supporters, in turn, ended up deploying about $12 million on positive commercials for him.
This will be a crucial race in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, and two recent polls find that the Tillis-Cunningham contest starts out close. East Carolina University found the incumbent up 44-42, while Marist gave Cunningham a 48-43 lead. Tillis, though, held a huge $5.4 million to $1.5 million cash-on-hand advantage in mid-February over Cunningham, who had to spend plenty of money to win the nomination. North Carolina has tilted to the right in recent cycles, but the landscape could shift in a year where both sides are all but certain to fight over its 15 electoral votes once again. Daily Kos Elections rates the Senate race as Lean Republican.
The GOP primary for governor, by contrast, attracted little outside attention. Forest has been raising money for years for this race, while state Rep. Holly Grange entered the contest in July without much cash. While some Republicans reportedly wanted an alternative to Forest, who was an ardent supporter of the anti-LGBTQ "bathrooms bill" HB2 and warned about the "diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today" in a hate-filled sermon in June, that concern wasn’t shared by many primary voters or donors. Granger raised very little money, and Forest had absolutely no trouble defeating her on Tuesday.
Forest has a chance to unseat Cooper in this competitive state, but the incumbent begins the general election campaign with the advantage. Cooper consistently enjoyed a positive approval rating during his tenure, and a recent East Carolina University poll found him beating Forest 49-41. Cooper also held a $9.46 million to $754,000 cash-on-hand lead over Forest in mid-February. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.
● GA-Sen-B: The Senate Leadership Fund, which is supporting GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is spending $450,000 on TV and radio ads opposing Republican Rep. Doug Collins. Their spot uses racist dogwhistling to attack Collins over criminal justice reform, linking him to 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams as text flashes on the screen claiming that the policies both supported would mean "murderers avoid death penalty."
● ME-Sen: Former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse is spending $200,000 on a new ad, which his campaign says is his second in the Democratic primary; LaJeunesse's first ad was in November. The newest ad is a minute-long spot where LaJeunesse takes on both Republican Sen. Susan Collins and state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who has the support of national Democrats. LaJeunesse blasts Collins for helping Trump get away with his crimes, and he also hits Gideon for what he claims is taking corporate PAC money despite her having decried corporate money in politics. LaJeunesse spends the rest of the spot touting his background as a political outsider.
● SC-Sen: Security is Strength PAC is spending $500,000 on a TV ad attacking Democrat Jaime Harrison with a minute-long spot that tries to paint him as a dreaded "Washington insider." They claim he was a lobbyist and note that he once worked at the Podesta Group, with Republicans trying to guilt him by association with Hillary Clinton and her 2016 campaign chairman, John Podesta, both of whom are named in the commercial.
● WY-Sen: Conservative mega donor Foster Friess announced Monday that he would stay out of the GOP primary for this open seat. Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis currently faces no prominent opponents in the August nomination contest, and there's no indication that anyone else is considering getting in ahead of the late May filing deadline.
● IA-02: Engineer Newman Abuissa dropped out of the Democratic primary on Monday after failing to get much traction, a development that leaves former state Sen. Rita Hart as the party's only candidate ahead of the March 13 filing deadline.
● MN-07: Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement on Monday for former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach ahead of the August GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. Fischbach, who also has House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's support, was already the clear favorite to claim the GOP nod.
● Nebraska: Candidate filing closed Monday for Nebraska's May 12 party primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. The state has a unique law that required any current officeholders, regardless of whether they are seeking re-election or running for another post, to file by Feb. 18, while the deadline for everyone else was Monday.
● NE-01: GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry faces a stronger than usual challenge this cycle from Democratic state Sen. Kate Bolz, though Fartenberry is still very much the favorite to hold this 57-36 Trump seat in Lincoln and rural eastern Nebraska.
Bolz outraised the incumbent $132,000 to $104,000, but Fortenberry ended 2019 with a huge $1.9 million to $75,000 cash-on-hand lead. Security analyst Babs Ramsey, who would be the first transgender person to serve in Congress, is also seeking the Democratic nod, though she had just over $3,000 on-hand at the end of December.
● NE-02: Three Democrats are competing to take on GOP Rep. Don Bacon in this 48-46 Trump seat in the Omaha area.
The most familiar name at this point in the race is probably 2018 nominee Kara Eastman, who announced she'd run again just a month after losing 51-49 in a race that national Democrats appeared to have given up on. Attorney Ann Ashford, who is the wife of former Rep. Brad Ashford, is running to Eastman's right and arguing that the party needs a moderate nominee. (Eastman famously beat Brad Ashford last cycle in a big surprise.)
The final candidate is Gladys Harrison, who is the general manager of the well-known Omaha restaurant Big Mama's Kitchen. The Intercept reported over the summer that the DCCC was trying to recruit Harrison, who would be the first woman of color to represent Nebraska in Congress, and the committee would "not confirm or deny" this was the case. However, national Democrats haven't shown an obvious preference for Harrison since she entered the race.
Eastman outraised Ashford $202,000 to $54,000 during the final quarter of 2019, while Ashford self-funded another $35,000, and Harrison took in just $10,000. Eastman ended December with a $93,000 to $68,000 cash-on-hand edge against Ashford, and Harrison had only $17,000 to spend. Bacon, for his part, raised $343,000 during this time and had $687,000 on-hand to defend this seat.
However, it's very likely that both presidential nominees will also be spending plenty of money here, which could impact the race to represent the 2nd District. Aside from Maine, Nebraska is the only state that awards an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district, and both sides will try to score a win in the 2nd District after Trump won it only 48-46 in 2016.
● TN-01: Former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden announced on Monday that he would compete in the August GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Darden served on the Johnson City Commission from 2001 through 2011, and he spent part of that tenure as mayor of the 1st District's largest city.
Darden joins former Kingsport Mayor John Clark and state Sen. Rusty Crowe in the contest, and more Republicans may get in ahead of the April 2 filing deadline. One prospective candidate, former state Rep. Charles Allen, said on Monday that he'd decide within two weeks.