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.
● WI Supreme Court: Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky unseated Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly on Monday night in a key race that will narrow the court’s conservative majority and also sets progressives up to take control of the court when its next member is up for election. With nearly all votes tallied, Karofsky held a 55-45 lead.
Last Tuesday’s contests went ahead amidst the coronavirus pandemic despite a last-minute order from the state’s governor, Democrat Tony Evers, seeking to postpone them. Evers’ order, however, was quashed by the conservatives on the state Supreme Court, forcing Wisconsinites to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting their health. An extreme shortage of poll workers led to excessively long lines in the few precincts that were able to open.
In a separate case, conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal judge’s ruling that extended the deadline to return absentee ballots, instead mandating that they be postmarked by Election Day, April 7 (the justices left standing the judge’s order that results not be reported before April 13, the last day by which ballots count be received and still counted). That decision disenfranchised an untold number of voters, including some who only received ballots after the deadline and others whose ballots, for a variety of reasons, failed to acquire a postmark. Some voters reported never receiving a ballot altogether.
Litigation has already been filed over the way the election was handled, and more suits may come. It’s not clear, however, what sort of remedy a judge might fashion, if any, or whether the courts would be willing to step in to set aside the results.
Should Karofsky’s victory stand, though, conservatives will now hold just a 4-3 edge on the Supreme Court, which has never restrained the extremist legislative agenda pushed through by state Republicans over the last decade. That includes efforts to suppress the vote, undermine workers’ rights, and gerrymander electoral maps. With only a one-seat advantage, Republicans may encounter legal roadblocks they had long grown unaccustomed to.
And in a few years’ time, they could be facing a liberal court. In 2023, 79-year-old Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, another conservative, will see her current 10-year term expire. If progressives can flip her seat, they’ll have a majority on the bench and finally be able to place a check on the GOP. Most importantly, if Republicans are able to gerrymander yet again following this year’s census, a progressive state Supreme Court would be able to revisit any unfair maps.
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.
● Maine: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has postponed Maine's June 9 downballot primaries until July 14.
● Missouri: Republican Gov. Mike Parson says he has no interest in changing Missouri's voting procedures due to the coronavirus pandemic. "Our system is fine," Parson told the Kansas City Star late last week. "Right now, I believe everyone is going to get to go to the polls to go vote." Parson so far has not taken any action to relax the state's requirement that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot, as local election officials have asked.
Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is also opposed. "In-person voting is the most secure way to have an election and make sure Russian spies or North Korea or whoever can’t mess with our election," he said. State lawmakers likewise have shown no interest in expanding access to mail voting. The legislature met briefly last week to pass an emergency funding bill, but it's currently not scheduled to reconvene and may not address election-related issues if and when it does.
● South Dakota: Republican Secretary of State Steve Barnett says his office will mail absentee ballot applications to every registered voter ahead of South Dakota's June 2 presidential and downballot primaries.
● Utah: Utah's director of elections says he believes the state is "in a good place" to hold its downballot primaries as planned on June 30 because approximately 90% of all voters already cast ballots by mail. Previously, Republican state Sen. Wayne Harper had said lawmakers would have to consider whether to delay the primary until Aug. 4, but local news radio station KSL reports that such a move is "not likely to happen."
The main exception to mail balloting is for those who register for the first time and vote simultaneously, which must be done in person. Harper, however, says he thinks the state should "go strictly to mail-in," though a complete elimination of all in-person voting options would open the state to a voting rights lawsuit.
● Vermont: Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos' office says it's considering sending every voter a mail-in ballot both for the Aug. 11 downballot primaries and the November general election. The state's director of elections told lawmakers last week that a decision must be made "within this month, if not within the next few weeks." Condos can change how the election is carried out under temporary emergency powers the legislature recently granted him, though any alterations must also be approved by Republican Gov. Phil Scott.
● Virginia: Republicans in Virginia's 5th Congressional District have indefinitely postponed their April 25 convention to pick a nominee and say the earliest they could meet would be the end of May. Party leaders also say they are preparing to sue the state in an effort to extend the June 9 deadline by which they must select a candidate for the November ballot.
The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is April 15. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available soon afterwards.
● MS-Sen: Mike Espy (D): $520,000 raised, $400,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-10: Ted Howze (R): $85,000 raised, $101,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-48: Michelle Steel (R): $510,000 raised
● FL-18: Brian Mast (R-inc): $728,000 raised, $1.52 million cash-on-hand
● IL-06: Jeanne Ives (R): $500,000 raised
● MI-03: Lynn Afendoulis (R): $190,000 raised; Peter Meijer (R): $350,000 raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand
● NH-01: Chris Pappas (D-inc): $382,000 raised, $1.25 million cash-on-hand; Matt Mayberry (R): $105,000 raised
● NJ-02: Amy Kennedy (D): $566,000 raised, additional $250,000 self-funded, $407,000 cash-on-hand; Brigid Callahan Harrison (D): $112,000 raised, additional $101,000 self-funded, $178,000 cash-on-hand
● OH-04: Jeff Sites (D): $196,000 raised, $40,000 cash-on-hand
● PA-08: Earl Granville (R): $112,000 raised, $73,000 cash-on-hand
● GA-Sen-B: On Monday, Rep. Drew Ferguson endorsed fellow GOP Rep. Doug Collins in the November all-party primary. Ferguson is the first member of Georgia's Republican delegation to take sides in the contest between Collins and appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
● IA-Sen: The progressive group Iowa Voices has launched what Iowa Startling Line reports is a seven-figure buy against GOP Sen. Joni Ernst. The opening commercial stars physician Daniel McGuire, who says that many of his patients have a pre-existing condition. The narrator then declares, "We're in a public health crisis, and those with pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable. But Joni Ernst voted to take away their health care." McGuire then says, "Many of my patients would no longer have health insurance. Tell Sen. Joni Ernst to stop voting to deny my patients health insurance."
● MA-Sen, MA-04: Sen. Ed Markey and most of the candidates running for the open 4th District are still trying to collect petitions to make the Democratic primary ballot, but they got some potentially very good news over the weekend. State Senate President Karen Spilka introduced a bill that would halve the signature requirements for Senate and House candidates, as well as for contenders for the governor's council and county offices. However, the measure would not impact state legislative candidates.
The current rules require Senate candidates to turn in 10,000 signatures by May 5, while House contenders need to collect 2,000. Social distancing has made this task considerably more difficult, and Markey's campaign manager said last week that the senator had only gathered 7,000.
● WV-Gov: GOP Gov. Jim Justice is up with his first spot against primary rival Woody Thrasher to attack his former commerce secretary over an expensive trip to China that Thrasher took while serving in the administration. The ad spends most of its time going after Thrasher himself, but it also utilizes the anti-Chinese racism we've seen especially prevalent on the right in recent months when the narrator declares, "Hold the eggrolls, there's more." In case it wasn't obvious enough, the screen also shows a picture of a stack of egg rolls.
● GA-14: Neurosurgeon John Cowan is out with his first TV spot for the June GOP primary in this safely red seat. Cowan appears in scrubs and tells the audience, "I operate on brains in bags. Helping President Trump defend our God-given rights is not brain surgery." After making fun of Nancy Pelosi, Mitt Romney, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cowan concludes his commercial by aiming his rifle at a plastic virus model labeled "COVID-19" and firing. (We hope this is not Cowan's usual approach to medicine.)
● NM-03: Former CIA agent Valerie Plame is out with two TV spots ahead of the June Democratic primary for this reliably blue seat.
Plame's minute-long commercial is adapted from her viral web ad from last year. As she drives her car backwards in the desert, the candidate tells the audience how Scooter Libby, who was serving as Dick Cheney's chief of staff, "took revenge against my husband and leaked my identity" and was recently pardoned by Donald Trump.
Plame goes on to say she moved to New Mexico afterwards and is running for Congress now "because we're going backwards on healthcare, climate change, and immigration. We need to turn our country around." Plame's vehicle makes a sharp turn and the candidate declares, "And yes, the CIA really does teach us how to drive like this."
Plame's 30-second piece shows her going through an obstacle course as her brother, who narrates the spot, says, "Valerie never shied away from a challenge. It's why we need her national security experience to fight the coronavirus." As Plame climbs over a wall, her brother says, "And she thinks Trump's wall is immoral."
● Oklahoma: Candidate filing closed Friday for Oklahoma's June 30 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. A runoff will take place Aug. 25 in contests where no one takes a majority of the vote. We'll take a look at the state of play after the first quarter fundraising deadline passes on April 15.
● WA-LG: On Thursday, Rep. Denny Heck confirmed that he'd compete in the August top-two primary to succeed Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a fellow Democrat. Heck, who had decided to leave Congress months before Habib announced his own retirement, entered the contest with the support of former Gov. Christine Gregoire, while Habib is backing state Sen. Marko Liias.