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.
● Utah: Utah Republicans and Democrats will hold their virtual party conventions on Saturday, and several campaigns are counting on a strong performance to make it to the June 30 primary ballot. Not all of them will get their desired results, though, and at least some contenders for governor, U.S. House, and attorney general will see their campaigns come to an end this weekend.
First, the rules. Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by competing at their party conventions, though contenders have the option to try both methods. Any candidate who has handed in enough signatures will be in the primary no matter how well or poorly they do at the convention.
Utah Republicans will use a ranked-choice ballot at this year's convention in contests with more than two candidates. The convention will take place online because of restrictions on in-person gatherings. In place of the traditional speeches, delegates will be able to watch a pre-recorded video from each candidate. Voting, which will be done over an app, opened on Thursday and closes Saturday at 5 PM local time (7 PM ET), and the results will be announced sometime afterwards.
If one contender ends up taking more than 60% of the delegate vote, they will be the only candidate to reach the primary ballot. If, however, no one hits this threshold, then the two competitors left standing will advance to the primary. Utah Democrats are operating under similar rules, though Team Blue's delegates will only be able to vote on Saturday.
The biggest race to watch this weekend will be the GOP contest to succeed retiring Gov. Gary Herbert. Businessman Jeff Burningham, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton, and perennial candidate Jason Christensen are only pursuing the convention route to the ballot, so if they fare poorly, their campaigns are over. Former party chair Thomas Wright, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, and former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman have each turned in enough signatures to reach the primary, though they're each also taking part at the convention.
There will also be some drama in the GOP races for the 1st and 4th Congressional Districts. A total of 12 Republicans are running in the safely red 1st District to succeed retiring Rep. Rob Bishop, who is Wright's candidate for lieutenant governor, and they all are attending the convention.
However, just two of these candidates, Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, turned in the requisite number of signatures to make the ballot, while election officials are still verifying businessman Blake Moore's petitions. It's definitely convention or bust, though, for the rest of the field, including Morgan County Councilor Tina Cannon, former state Commissioner of Agriculture Kerry Gibson, and Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd.
The convention will also winnow the field in the GOP contest to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams in the 4th District. All seven Republicans are competing, but the only three who also turned in the requisite number of petitions are former radio host Jay Mcfarland; former NFL player Burgess Owens; and Trent Christensen, who served as a regional finance director for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. The four contenders who are depending on the convention are party activist Kathleen Anderson, nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger, state Rep. Kim Coleman, and businesswoman Cindy Thompson.
The final major GOP race to watch is the contest for attorney general, where none of the three candidates decided to collect signatures. Incumbent Sean Reyes faces both John Swallow, who is running to regain the office he resigned from in 2013 due to corruption charges that he was later acquitted of, and Utah County Attorney David Leavitt. This has become a very nasty contest, with Swallow accusing Reyes of being part of a political "assassination" to remove him from office. Leavitt has also declared that Reyes is "shameless" for keeping large donations from an energy company whose leaders were convicted of fraud in federal court.
Things are far less eventful in any of these contests on the Democratic side. Republicans have held the governorship, the 1st District, and the attorney general's office for decades, and that's very unlikely to change this cycle. Over in the 4th District, McAdams should have little trouble winning his convention against a little-known challenger.
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 Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has reversed his stance in favor of conducting Maine's July 14 primary by mail, saying now that he "would not recommend sending every voter a ballot, because people move a lot." Earlier this month, however, Dunlap told reporters that an all-mail election would be the easiest option.
● New York: In response to a report on Monday from NY1's Zack Fink saying Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo would order that every voter be mailed a ballot for New York's June 23 primaries, an unnamed Cuomo adviser tells Syracuse.com that "the governor never stated he would issue such an order" but would not answer questions about Cuomo's plans. Unusually, voting rights advocates have come out against the idea, saying that while they support mail voting in principle, they believe New York is not ready to implement such a dramatic change in such a short timeframe and are concerned that a lack of in-person voting would make it impossible for some to vote.
● Virginia: While the Virginia state House passed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's proposal to consolidate the state's May 5 local elections with the November general election, the state Senate declined to take up the measure, rendering the plan dead. A Northam spokesperson said the governor would "carefully review next steps" but did not indicate what those might be.
However, with the legislative session now over, Northam would have to call a special session of the legislature to pass any new bills, a move he has opposed. He could also use his executive powers to postpone the elections two weeks, as he did with the state's June 23 primary, which had originally been scheduled for June 9.
● AZ-Sen: Appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally is out with a positive TV ad that touts her work during the coronavirus pandemic.
● KY-Sen: The Hill reports that the Democratic group Ditch Mitch Fund has booked $1 million in TV ads for the final weeks of the contest, which is larger than the $648,000 investment we had in our last Digest. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's allies at the Senate Leadership Fund previously reserved $10.8 million in fall TV ads.
While Kentucky is a deep-red state, this is already turning into one of the most expensive Senate races of the cycle. Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath, who has the support of the national Democratic establishment, outraised McConnell $12.7 million to $7.3 million during the first quarter of the year, though the incumbent still had a narrow $15.0 million to $14.8 million cash-on-hand lead at the end of March. A few other Democrats are also competing in the June primary, but Marine veteran Michael Broihier and state Rep. Charles Booker each had less than $80,000 in the bank.
● MI-Sen: On behalf of Fox News, the Democratic group Beacon Research (formally known as Anderson Robbins Research) and the GOP firm Shaw & Company Research are out with a survey with some good news for Team Blue. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters leads Republican John James 46-36, while the sample gives Joe Biden a 49-41 edge against Donald Trump.
We've seen two other polls of this contest this month, and they've also found Peters ahead. The GOP pollster Spry Strategies' survey for the conservative think tank American Principles Project gave Peters a small 42-40 edge, while the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed the incumbent up 45-38 in its monthly tracking poll for Peters' allies at Progress Michigan.
● NC-Gov: On behalf of the progressive group Protect Our Care, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling is out with a survey that gives Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper a 53-40 lead over Republican Dan Forest; this sample finds Joe Biden leading Donald Trump 49-46. The margins for both races are very similar to what PPP found earlier this month.
● VA-Gov: Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a University of Virginia politics class on Wednesday that he was still mulling a 2021 bid for his old job and would decide after this year's election.
● AZ-02: Former University of Arizona lobbyist Shay Stautz announced Wednesday that he was dropping out of the August GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. Stautz's decision came after two petitions were filed arguing that he didn't have enough valid signatures to make the ballot. Stautz responded by saying that, because he felt that he would have reached "this point in the coming months anyway," he would not "challenge the challenge."
The only remaining Republican who had a notable amount of money at the end of March was businessman Noran Ruden, who has mostly been self-funding his campaign for this 50-45 Clinton seat. Ruden, who owns a pest control company, had $156,000 on-hand, which was well short of the $690,000 that Kirkpatrick had to spend.
● FL-03: Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn announced this week that he was dropping out of the crowded August GOP primary for this reliably red open seat. Guinn, who had raised very little money, wrote that he was departing "so that I can focus all of my attention on the local recovery efforts from effects of the COVID-19 and my duties as Mayor." The filing deadline for federal candidates in Florida is on Friday, so the field will be set here soon.
● FL-26: Restaurateur Irina Vilariño said Thursday that she was dropping out of the GOP contest to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a decision that came one day before candidate filing closed. Vilariño's departure from the race means that Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, has no serious opposition in the August primary.
NRCC recruiting chair Susan Brooks touted Vilariño in April of last year as one of the House candidates who was "representing the very diverse country that we have," but she quickly lost her luster. Talking Points Memo reported the next month that Vilariño had a habit of spreading far-right conspiracy theories, including a video that was faked to make Barack Obama sound like he was saying, "I wasn't born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya."
Vilariño remained in the race even after Giménez launched his campaign in January and Trump quickly endorsed him, but she barely raised anything in the first quarter of 2020 and finally bowed out on Thursday.
● NM-03: Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez is out with her second spot ahead of the June Democratic primary for this safely blue seat. Leger Fernandez tells the audience she beat cancer 12 years ago, but "only because I had insurance that covered my treatment." The candidate continues, "In times like these, too many just can't afford to get sick," and she declares, "It's time to lower healthcare costs and finally bring down the price of prescriptions."
Leger Fernandez, who won the state party convention last month and has EMILY's List endorsement, is one of several Democrats campaigning for this northern New Mexico seat. The top fundraiser in the first quarter of 2020 was former CIA agent Valerie Plame, who outpaced Leger Fernandez $579,000 to $371,000; Plame ended March with a small $690,000 to $640,000 cash-on-hand edge.
First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna was further behind with $140,000 raised and $256,000 on-hand, while former New Mexico deputy secretary of state John Blair took in $104,000 and had $141,000 in the bank. State Rep. Joseph Sanchez had just $29,000 in the bank, while the rest of the field had less than $7,000 to spend.