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.
● 1Q Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our first quarterly fundraising charts of the 2020 election cycle for both the House and the Senate.
The fundraising period that just concluded, of course, ended in a way that no campaign could have anticipated when it began on New Year's Day. While the coronavirus pandemic has altered how candidates raise money—in-person events are a thing of the past—we don't yet know how it will impact bottom-line totals as candidates switch their focus to online fundraising. And given that stay-at-home measures were ordered toward the end of the quarter, it may be several more months before we really have insight.
Now, to the numbers. Vulnerable House Democrats have been raising money all cycle at a pace that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago, and our data shows that Democratic incumbents remain in very good shape. Seven Democrats holding competitive seats took in over $1 million for this quarter alone, while another five broke $900,000. An additional 12 Democrats who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018 raised more than $600,000.
Republicans, meanwhile, have struggled in several of the districts that they lost last cycle and badly want to win back now. The most telling example of the lopsided fundraising battle may be in New York’s 19th District, a Hudson Valley seat that swung from 52-46 Obama to 51-44 Trump.
Democrat Antonio Delgado unseated Republican John Faso in an expensive race last cycle, and the new incumbent raised $758,000 to defend his seat during the first quarter and ended March with $2.65 million on-hand. Fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh, who had by far the most money on the GOP side, took in just $59,000 from donors and self-funded another $201,000, and she had $254,000 in the bank. However, that was considerably better than the $14,000 that attorney and Army veteran Kyle Van De Water had on-hand.
This isn’t the only competitive House district where Republicans are struggling. In Minnesota’s 2nd District, a suburban Twin Cities seat that narrowly voted for both Obama and Trump, freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig ended March with $2 million in the bank while Marine veteran Tyler Kistner led the GOP field with just shy of $100,000 on-hand.
In Utah’s 4th District, which favored both Mitt Romney and Trump, Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams had $2.2 million on-hand compared to the $156,000 that former state party official Kathleen Anderson had to spend ahead of her crowded June primary. And in Washington’s 8th District, a seat that narrowly backed Obama and Hillary Clinton, Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier held a $1.87 million to $37,000 cash-on-hand lead over former Amazon project manager Jesse Jensen.
Of course, the GOP does have some strong fundraisers. Republican Mike Garcia and Democrat Christy Smith each took in just over $1 million ahead of the May 12 special election for California’s 25th District, and Garcia held a $447,000 to $357,000 edge in cash-on-hand. Republican Wesley Hunt also hauled in a hefty $874,000 in his bid against Democratic incumbent Lizzie Fletcher in Texas’ 7th District, but he only had $432,000 on-hand after winning his primary last month. Fletcher also took in a larger $1 million for the quarter, and she had a huge $2.69 million in the bank.
Overall, though, the big picture for House Republicans remains bad in plenty of competitive seats. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy himself reportedly told his GOP colleagues at the end of January that Democrats "are kicking our ass" in fundraising, and our new data shows that remains just as true now as it did back then.
The fundraising battle for the Senate is more even, though Team Blue still has some very strong candidates. Team Blue's fundraising all-star once again was Arizona's Mark Kelly, who outraised appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally $10.9 million to $6.3 million and had a $19.7 million to $10.2 million cash-on-hand lead.
Democrats also outraised Republicans in Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and South Carolina; in addition, Alaska’s Al Gross, who is seeking the Democratic nod while still remaining an independent, outraised GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan. All these GOP incumbents still had more money than their opponents at the close of March, though.
And for the third quarter in a row, the top GOP challenger, and the only one who outraised a Democratic incumbent, was Michigan's John James. James outpaced Democratic Sen. Gary Peters $4.8 million to $4 million, and Peters had just a small $8.8 million to $8.6 million cash-on-hand lead.
● Connecticut: Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has postponed Connecticut's presidential primary once again, this time consolidating it with the state's regularly scheduled downballot primaries on Aug. 11. Previously, Lamont had delayed the presidential primaries from April 28 to June 2.
● Michigan: A federal judge has postponed Michigan's candidate filing deadline from April 21 to May 8, halved the number of signatures candidates must gather, and ordered the secretary of state to establish procedures for campaigns to collect signatures electronically. This ruling makes Michigan the first state to delay its filing deadline for federal candidates due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Michigan law, candidates for the U.S. Senate must ordinarily submit 15,000 signatures while U.S. House candidates must submit 1,000. Candidates for the state legislature can pay a filing fee in lieu of submitting signatures.
● Missouri: The ACLU has sued the state of Missouri on behalf of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters asking a judge to permit all voters to request absentee ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. State officials have given wildly varying instructions to voters on whether they may vote absentee: Republican Gov. Mike Parson has said he believes it's not permissible and some local jurisdictions agree, but others say voters are allowed to ask for absentee ballots on account of COVID-19, and still others are actively encouraging citizens to vote by mail. Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has refused to provide any guidance.
● Pennsylvania: Officials in Allegheny County say they will send absentee ballot applications to all voters ahead of Pennsylvania's June 2 primaries. The county had previously asked Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for permission to conduct the primaries by mail but had not received a response from the governor. With 1.2 million residents, Allegheny is the second-largest county in the state and is also home to Pittsburgh.
● Texas: As he'd said he would, state Judge Tim Sulak has issued an injunction allowing all Texans to vote absentee due to the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans have said they plan to appeal.
● CO-Sen: On Saturday, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff won the state Democratic Party convention, which ensures him the top spot on the June primary ballot. Romanoff will face former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who did not compete at the party gathering, for the right to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.
Colorado allows candidates to reach the primary ballot either by turning in enough signatures or by taking at least 30% of the vote at their party convention. A few other Democrats competed with Romanoff at the convention, but because the former speaker took 86% of the vote, none of them advanced to the primary.
In addition to Hickenlooper, one other candidate, nonprofit head Lorena Garcia, pursued the signature route, but state election officials said Friday that she hadn't turned in enough valid petitions. Garcia has announced that she'll sue to get her name on the ballot, but she's unlikely to make much of an impact on the contest even if she prevails in court: At the end of March, Garcia reported having a negative amount of money on-hand.
For now, at least, the primary is a duel between Hickenlooper and Romanoff. Hickenlooper has the backing of the DSCC, and he ended March with a huge $4.88 million to $806,000 cash-on-hand lead. Romanoff, for his part, is portraying himself as a progressive alternative to Hickenlooper, who ran for president last year as a moderate.
Whoever prevails in June will start out the favorite against Gardner, who is running for re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton carried 48-43, but he won't be going down without an expensive fight. The incumbent ended March with $9.57 million in the bank, and the former NRSC chair has the connections to haul in a lot more.
Polls taken last year showed Hickenlooper leading Gardner by double digits, but we haven't seen any fresh numbers since October. Major outside groups from both sides haven't booked as much TV time as they have in many other Senate contests, but no one is acting like Gardner is doomed: The NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund recently reserved $6.4 million and $5.5 million to boost Gardner, while Senate Majority PAC has booked $5.2 million to oppose him. (The DSCC, the other major Democratic Senate group, has not yet announced its first wave of TV reservations.)
There's little question that Gardner is the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate, though, and Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.
● IA-Sen: Senate Majority PAC has begun a new seven-figure ad buy supporting businesswoman Theresa Greenfield in the June Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst. The TV spot praises the candidate as "Iowa tough" and declares, "Greenfield will take on the big drug companies to lower prescription prices, force insurance companies to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions. And Greenfield will stand up to Wall Street to keep their hands off our Social Security."
● MT-Sen: GOP Sen. Steve Daines is out with a commercial praising his work during the coronavirus pandemic.
● IN-Gov: The Democratic firm Change Research is out with a survey for Indy Politics that finds GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb with a 45-25 lead over Democrat Woody Myers. This is the first survey we've seen from this contest, which Daily Kos Elections rates as Safe Republican.
● CA-25: The NRCC's latest TV ad against Democrat Christy Smith finds Republicans once more attacking her over taxes. The spot claims Smith supported higher income and sales taxes and "gutting Prop. 13," which has limited the annual increase in property taxes for more than four decades. Republicans imply that she's calling for tax hikes in response to the coronavirus-induced economic crisis without citing any evidence.
The ad also claims Smith supported teacher layoffs, but Smith's campaign has disputed that assertion. Smith contends that when she was serving on the school board in Newhall during the Great Recession, the school district rehired every employee who had been given a layoff notice after lawmakers revised the state budget.
Meanwhile, the anti-tax Club for Growth is spending $187,000 on get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Republican Mike Garcia.
● GA-07: Former Gov. Nathan Deal has endorsed state Sen. Renee Unterman ahead of the Republican primary in June.
● IA-04: Defending Main Street, a super PAC set up to stop anti-establishment candidates from winning GOP primaries, has announced that it will spend $100,000 on mail and get-out-the-vote efforts against white supremacist Rep. Steve King in the June GOP primary. The group is supporting state Sen. Randy Feenstra, who is King's main intra-party opponent.
King has been a weak fundraiser for a long time, but he's been in an especially bad place since he was stripped of his committee assignments last year after musing, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?" Feenstra ended March with a wide $416,000 to $27,000 cash-on-hand lead over the incumbent, while another Republican, Army veteran Bret Richards, had $83,000 to spend.
Two other Republicans, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and real estate developer Steven Reeder, had less money than King, but their presence could have an impact on this race. In Iowa, a candidate needs to win at least 35% of the vote to win the primary outright, and it's very possible King could take a plurality with a split field. If no one hits this threshold, the nomination would be decided at a party convention.
Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will take on Democrat J.D. Scholten, who lost the 2018 general election to King by a surprisingly close 50-47. Scholten ended March with $715,000 on-hand as he tries to flip this 61-34 Trump seat.
● KY-04: High-ranking Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney donated to attorney Todd McMurtry's primary campaign against Republican Rep. Thomas Massie after the incumbent pissed off all of his colleagues and Donald Trump last month by using a procedural move to require all Congress members to travel back to D.C. to vote in-person on the $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill, but Cheney is now asking for her money back after 2019 tweets surfaced that showed McMurtry using bigoted language.
In one tweet, McMurtry touted a blog post subtitled "A Very Brief Primer on Being Alt Right," which included a part about "telling the truth about transsexualism being a mental illness, or about the implication of IQ disparities between different racial groups." In another, he described how he's pushing back against the "demonization of white people" as "scapegoats for someone else's agenda," and another tweet found him bemoaning a "cartel-looking dude [...] playing a video of some wild Mexican birthday party at full volume" in an airport as a reason to "question unlimited immigration."
As of Monday, McMurtry hasn't deleted or disavowed the tweets, but he instead has attacked Massie for using them against him.