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.
● NY-14: Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez picked up a primary challenge in February from former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, and their June contest is already shaping up to be a very expensive and high-profile fight.
Caruso-Cabrera's campaign announced this week that she'd raised $1 million during her first 47 days in the race and said that she had $800,000 to spend at the end of March. The well-funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which mostly backs Republicans, also announced that it would support Caruso-Cabrera's campaign against AOC. Ocasio-Cortez has not yet unveiled her first quarter numbers, but she ended 2019 with $2.9 million in the bank.
Caruso-Cabrera has argued, "The national and local messages are clear: I will unite. AOC's reign of division will end." However, there's no data yet to indicate if AOC's national prominence and progressive stances have alienated enough voters in this Bronx and Queens district to make her vulnerable to a primary challenge.
Caruso-Cabrera herself could also have a difficult time appealing to Democratic voters in this safely blue seat. The challenger wrote a 2010 book titled, "You Know I'm Right: More Prosperity, Less Government" where she expressed her admiration for Ronald Reagan. (The book contained a forward by Larry Kudlow, who is now Trump's economic adviser.) Caruso-Cabrera's ties to big business groups like the Chamber may help her raise plenty of money, but her allies could also be an effective foil for AOC.
Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.
● Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill says she plans to send an absentee ballot application to every voter ahead of Connecticut's June 2 presidential primary, though she has also asked candidates who are no longer running to withdraw their names by the state's April 27 deadline so that she can cancel the primary altogether.
With only Joe Biden still running on the Democratic side and Donald Trump having mathematically eliminated his competition for the Republican nomination, Merrill says that "it doesn't make sense to put the health and safety of Connecticut's voters and poll workers at risk." However, Bernie Sanders has said he'll remain on the ballot in upcoming primaries in the hopes of amassing enough delegates to influence the Democratic convention this summer.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont says his office is researching whether he can relax the state's requirement that voters present an excuse in order to vote absentee, as Merrill and others have exhorted him to do.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece said that Connecticut lawmakers had passed a constitutional amendment that could one day repeal the excuse requirement to vote absentee. That provision was stripped from the amendment before its final passage.
● Florida: In response to a request by local officials, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has delayed several local elections in Pasco County, Florida that were set to take place on April 14. A new date has not yet been set. Pasco is a mid-sized county located in the Tampa suburbs on Florida's Gulf Coast.
● Georgia: Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has postponed Georgia's primaries a second time, moving the state's presidential and downballot primaries from May 19 to June 9 and primary runoffs from July 21 to Aug. 11. In March, Raffensberger consolidated the presidential primary, which had been set for March 24, with the original May date for downballot primaries. Raffensperger was able to make the move on his own after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia's state of emergency through May 13.
Separately, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit asking that Georgia election officials include postage-paid return envelopes both for absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots, arguing that the cost of postage amounts to an illegal poll tax in the absence of safe in-person voting.
● Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear says he's "absolutely willing" to conduct Kentucky's June 23 presidential and downballot primaries by mail, adding that doing so would offer a good test in the event that it's necessary to make the November general election an all-mail affair. Beshear says he has been in discussions with Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, who has said he supports expanding the availability of mail voting.
● New Hampshire: Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a nominal Democrat who usually sides with Republicans, says that if the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing when New Hampshire conducts its Sept. 8 downballot primaries, all voters will be able to vote absentee despite the state's excuse requirement. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu echoed those remarks in a press conference on Thursday.
Gardner also attacked voting rights activists who have called for permanently eliminating the requirement, saying, "It's obviously an orchestrated campaign to accomplish something certain individuals have wanted to do for a long time. And they're trying to take advantage of an emergency situation." He went on to claim his office had recently received two dozen emails on the topic and said his staff "looked up the names and more than half of the people who wrote these emails are not registered to vote in the state." It is not clear how Gardner might have made this determination based solely on researching email addresses.
● New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says that the option of conducting New Jersey's July 7 presidential and downballot primaries entirely by mail is "still on the table" but added that the state doesn't have to decide "for a number of weeks."
● NH-Sen: Corky Messner (R): $42,000 raised, additional $2.1 million self-funded, $3 million cash-on-hand
● NM-Sen: Mark Ronchetti (R): $650,000 raised, $564,000 cash-on-hand
● IA-02: Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R): $256,000 raised, $397,000 cash-on-hand
● PA-08: Jim Bognet (R): $275,000 raised, $240,000 cash-on-hand
● TX-21: Chip Roy (R-inc): $455,000 raised, $1.46 million cash-on-hand
● TX-32: Genevieve Collins (R): $720,000 raised (includes at least $250,000 in self-funding)
● VA-02: Scott Taylor (R): $467,000 raised
● SC-Sen: Democrat Jaime Harrison has launched what Politico describes as a "seven-figure" opening TV buy. Harrison's ads, which come in 60 and 30-second versions, highlight the Harrison family's struggles while he was growing up and his work on education. The candidate talks about the coronavirus in his minute-long spot, saying, "We will defeat this virus the way I was taught to overcome adversity, through mentors, community and family looking out for each other."
● WV-Gov: Quarterly campaign finance numbers are in for all the candidates for the primary, which was recently moved from May to June 9.
On the GOP side, all three contenders are continuing to self-fund most of their campaigns. Gov. Jim Justice outraised former state Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher $94,000 to $84,000, but Thrasher loaned himself an additional $1 million to the incumbent's $526,000. Thrasher, who began airing ads last year, also outspent Justice by a wide $1.2 million to $619,000 margin during the first three months of 2020. Justice ended March with a $68,000 to $42,000 cash-on-hand lead, but that figure doesn't tell us much in a contest where both sides can throw down more money whenever they feel like it.
The third Republican, former Del. Mike Folk, continues to badly trail his two adversaries. Folk raised $17,000, self-funded another $36,000, and had $30,000 in the bank.
On the Democratic side, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango continues to have far more money available than anyone else. Community organizer Stephen Smith actually outraised Salango $201,000 to $137,000, while state Sen. Ron Stollings took in $45,000. However, Salango led Smith $787,000 to $184,000 in cash-on-hand, while Stollings had $119,000 to spend.
Salango has the support of Sen. Joe Manchin, as well as the state AFL-CIO. Last week, Stollings also picked up a union endorsement from the West Virginia Education Association.
● Arizona: Candidate filing closed this week for Arizona’s Aug. 4 primary, and the state has a list of candidates available here. We’ll take a look at the state of play after the first quarter fundraising deadline passes on April 15.
● MA-04: The coronavirus has made it very difficult for campaigns all over the country to gather the signatures they need to appear on the ballot, and WPRI's Ted Nesi reports that most of the Democrats running for this open seat are still collecting petitions with less than a month to go before Massachusetts' May 5 deadline for federal candidates.
Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss was the only one of the 10 candidates who said that he'd already turned in the necessary 2,000 signatures to election authorities, while everyone else who responded said they were still working on it. While several of Auchincloss' rivals did express confidence that they'd hit their targets, they all urged the state to change its signature rules in light of the current situation. Secretary of State Bill Galvin's office said Tuesday that it was up to the legislature to make any changes, and a bill was indeed introduced before this week that would reduce the number of petitions required.
However, while state Senate President Karen Spilka said Thursday that she was "in favor of reducing the number of signatures," the legislation has not advanced so far. Also on Thursday, three candidates running for office in Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Galvin that asked the courts to either extend the deadline or reduce the number of petitions needed.
● MI-03: Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash once again hinted at a third-party or independent run for president on Wednesday when he tweeted, "Trump versus Biden is not the contest America deserves or the one it needs right now." Michigan does not allow candidates to be on the ballot for both Congress and for president, though, so Amash would need to give up his Grand Rapids-area House seat if he decided to mount a White House bid.
While the filing deadline for candidates competing in the August primary is April 21, independent contenders have until July 16 to turn in paperwork. Amash would be required to collect signatures to make the ballot, though, so he'll need to make a final decision on whether to seek re-election before then.
● MN-02: Both parties have decided to turn their endorsement conventions into virtual events this year due to the coronavirus. The GOP will hold its congressional district conventions on May 3, while the Democrats will convene online May 16 and 17. The GOP's statewide convention will also take place on those two days, while Team Blue's event will be on May 30 and 31.
This cycle, though, only the GOP gathering in Minnesota's 2nd District looks like it will matter. Former state Sen. Regina Barr, Air Force veteran Erika Cashin, Marine Veteran Tyler Kistner, and former Michigan state Rep. Rick Olson are all running to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. Unlike in Colorado and Utah, candidates in the Gopher State cannot reach the ballot, much less win the nomination, by prevailing at their party convention, but these events still matter.
The party endorsement is awarded at Minnesota conventions, which many politicos take very seriously. There's often pressure on candidates to drop out if they lose it, and as a result, it's common for candidates in both parties to, in local parlance, "abide" by the party endorsement process and end their campaigns instead of proceeding to the August primary if they aren't chosen. Both Barr and Cashin said they'd abide by the endorsement when they launched their bids in January.
● NH-01: GOP state Rep. William Fowlers announced this week that he would not challenge Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas and would instead back former Trump aide Matt Mowers.
● PA-01: While the League of Conservation Voters usually supports Democrats, the group endorsed GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick on Thursday.
● House: The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the largest spender on House races among outside groups on the Republican side, announced Thursday that it had reserved $43 million in fall TV time. We've assembled this new data into a spreadsheet, but, as you'll see, it's organized by state or media market rather than district. We've included our best guesses as to which House seats CLF is targeting or defending, though in a few cases, the PAC did identify specific districts.
This CLF reservation comes a few days after House Majority PAC, its counterpart on the Democratic side, announced that it had booked $51 million in airtime for the stretch run. However, while HMP's opening wave was focused on races in media markets that will likely attract hordes of advertising from presidential and Senate campaigns and lead to higher prices later in the year, CLF made a number of reservations outside the swing states. For instance, while both groups booked millions in Philadelphia and Detroit, only CLF has reserved airtime in markets like New York City, Los Angeles, and Charleston so far.
HMP and CLF also provided different information about their early moves. All of HMP's bookings were organized by market rather than district, but CLF was both more specific and more vague. CLF specifically said how much money it was devoting to NJ-07, NY-11, NY-22, NY-24, and TX-07, but it didn't provide much information in some other cases. The group, for instance, said that it was booking $3.9 million "across Iowa," even though the state includes four House seats spread across nine different markets. In most cases, though, CLF, like HMP, revealed how much money it was purchasing by market.