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.
● CA Ballot: California voters will likely have their chance this November to scale back a significant part of Proposition 13, the notorious 1978 ballot measure spearheaded by anti-tax activist Howard Jarvis that has undermined everyone who's tried to govern the nation's largest state over the last 42 years. In a new piece, David Jarman explains how the passage of the so-called "split roll" initiative would dramatically alter California's property tax landscape and lead to a massive increase in tax revenue.
Prop 13, as it's commonly known, was one of the first and best-known examples of taxpayer revolts using the initiative system. The measure limits the annual property tax on a particular property to no more than 1% of its assessed value and, most importantly, limits the increase in a property's assessed value to no more than 2% per year—even if its actual market value has soared. This has resulted in municipalities and school districts taking in revenues far smaller than they ought to be.
Back in 1978, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown denounced Prop. 13 as a "fraud" and a "rip off," but voters passed it in a 65-35 landslide. For decades afterwards, even during terrible economic times, Prop. 13 was considered untouchable: During his successful 2010 campaign to regain the governorship, Brown himself said, "Messing with 13 is a big fat loser," and he avoided touching it during his eight years back in office.
However, voters will have their chance to finally modify the system Prop. 13 set up if the split-roll initiative makes the 2020 ballot. This measure would essentially split the "roll" of properties every municipality maintains by requiring commercial and industrial properties to be reassessed at actual market value while keeping residential and agricultural properties under Prop. 13's rules. However, as Jarman explains, this will be an expensive battle, and the state's deep-pocketed commercial landowners are prepared to fight to preserve the status quo.
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.
● Maryland: Maryland's Board of Elections reversed itself on Thursday and recommended to Gov. Larry Hogan that each of the state's 24 counties provide at least one in-person voting location for the June 2 presidential and downballot primaries. An earlier version of the board's plan to mail ballots to all voters would have eliminated in-person polling sites altogether, which would have risked disenfranchising many groups of voters. Hogan must now decide whether to approve the board's recommendations.
● New Jersey: The New Jersey Globe reports that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has told Democratic Party county chairs that the state's June 2 presidential and downballot primaries may be postponed.
● Ohio: On Friday, a federal district court rejected a lawsuit that had been brought earlier in the week by civil rights groups seeking an order that Ohio officials delay the state's April 28 primaries and mail ballots (with postage-paid return envelopes) to every voter who has not yet voted.
Under a new law recently signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, the state will eliminate almost all in-person voting. Instead, it will send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in. (Applications cannot be submitted online, but GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose said voters who lack a printer could make a hand-written request so long as they provide the necessary information.) They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots.
The voting rights advocates who brought this suit had argued that there isn't enough time to complete this multi-step process before April 28 and wanted the court to pick a new date. Plaintiffs also said the state's voter registration period, which ended on Feb. 18, must be immediately re-opened until 30 days before voting concludes in order to comply with federal law, but the judge denied their motion for a temporary restraining order.
● Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico Democrats have indefinitely postponed their presidential primary, which last month the legislature delayed from March 29 to April 26. Party officials explained that the legislation that enacted that initial postponement allowed Democratic leaders to further delay the election if warranted.
● Texas: Texas' secretary of state's office has taken a small step toward expanding access to mail voting by advising county election officials that voters may request an absentee ballot if they have any condition that precludes them from voting in-person "without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter's health." If officials are lenient, that provision of law could allow voters concerned about the coronavirus to obtain absentee ballots. Texas Democrats filed a lawsuit last month asking that all voters be allowed to vote absentee for this reason.
The office's new letter, from Director of Elections Keith Ingram, also suggests that county officials seek court orders to allow expanded mail voting options for "those affected by quarantines." However, as the Houston Chronicle notes, the secretary of state's guidance is not mandatory, only advisory.
Separately, Ingram sent an email to local election officials telling them that if they decline to delay any local elections set for May 2, they would be "subjecting voters to health risks and potential criminal violations" and could face a "severe risk" that someone could attempt to contest the election results. Many jurisdictions have in fact postponed their races, but some have not, though, as the Texas Tribune explains, it's "impossible to know how many": Texas elections are so decentralized that there is no unified list of all local contests.
● Wisconsin: After fellow Democrats spent weeks imploring him to take action, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers finally announced on Friday that he'd convene the legislature for a special session to postpone Tuesday's elections—and was immediately shot down by Republican leaders.
Evers had asked that lawmakers consider measures to have officials send mail ballots to every voter who hasn't already received one, allowing them to be postmarked through May 19 and received as late as May 26. However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald rejected Evers' plea, questioning whether his concerns about safely conducting an election were "legitimate."
"Hundreds of thousands of workers are going to their jobs every day, serving in essential roles in our society," the two Republicans wrote.
"There's no question that an election is just as important as getting take-out food." But as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observed, both men "had no answer to how local election officials are supposed to keep people safe as a massive shortage of poll workers has resulted in the closure or reduction of polling locations." A special session indeed took place on Saturday afternoon, but Republicans almost immediately ended it as soon as they had begun.
Separately, Republicans quickly appealed Thursday's federal lower court ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which blocked part of district court Judge William Conley’s ruling but let part of it stand. The appellate court allowed the extension of the absentee ballot deadline to April 13 to stand, but it blocked the part of Conley's decision that had allowed voters to cast absentee ballots without a witness’ signature if they affirmed that they were unable to obtain one due to the ongoing pandemic. However, Republicans subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the deadline extension, and the high court is expected to act swiftly.
Conley did issue two clarifications on Friday to his order from the previous day, one of which remained in place following the appellate ruling: He ordered election officials not to release any results until 4 PM local time on the 13th, which would avoid a situation where voters could see the in-person results on April 7 before deciding whether to return their absentee ballots. Now, no results will be reported until the deadline to cast votes by either method has passed.
● TX-23: Tony Gonzales (R): $400,000 raised
● VA-07: Nick Freitas (R): $400,000 raised
● GA-Sen-B: Last month, the Daily Beast reported that GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler had liquidated a number of assets just before the markets tanked as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. Now, recently released financial disclosures reveal that she dumped even more stock than we previously knew.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that $18.7 million in Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) stock was sold between Feb. 26 and March 11 on Loeffler's behalf; the senator's husband, Jeff Sprecher, is the CEO of ICE, which owns the New York Stock Exchange. Loffler's team said in response that these sales had previously been arranged as part of the couple's compensation package, which allowed them to buy ICE stock at a discounted rate.
During this time, Loeffler and Sprecher also invested in a company that makes protective gear needed to fight the coronavirus. In addition, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the pair sold $46,000 in stock in a travel company one day before Donald Trump announced a ban on most travel between the United States and Europe—stock they had only purchased days before. Loeffler's campaign has maintained that her investment decisions are made by "third-party advisors" without her knowledge.
Loeffler's opponents from both parties in the November all-party primary have issued a fusillade of press releases attacking her over these transactions, but no one has spent any money communicating with voters about the scandal yet. However, GOP Rep. Doug Collins is out with another survey that suggests his support has edged upward as more details emerge. The results from Collins' March 31-April 1 Battleground Connect poll are below, with the numbers from a March 24 survey from the same firm in parentheses:
- Rep. Doug Collins (R): 36 (34)
- Pastor Raphael Warnock (D): 16 (13)
- Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-inc): 13 (14)
- Businessman Matt Lieberman (D): 11 (18)
- Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver (D): 3 (5)
A past Battleground Connect from mid-March found Collins at 30%, while Loeffler led Lieberman 19-18 for the second runoff spot; Warnock and Tarver were at 10% and 5%, respectively. Interestingly, these surveys also show Warnock, who has the support of national Democrats, overtaking Lieberman for that all-important second slot, even though nothing has happened in the last few weeks to directly impact either of their standings.
Collins is also using this poll to argue that Loeffler could jeopardize Team Red's hold on this seat if she makes it to a January runoff with Warnock. Battleground Connect finds Collins beating the pastor 49-36, but Warnock edging Loeffler 41-40. The survey also shows Loeffler with a horrible 20-55 favorable rating, while Collins is on positive ground at 35-29.
● MI-Sen: Democratic Sen. Gary Peters' allies at Progress Michigan are out with the first of what they say will be monthly surveys from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, and they give the incumbent a 45-38 edge over Republican John James.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority PAC has launched what Advertising Analytics reports is a three-week $1.4 million buy. The group's new spot features several Michigan residents arguing that James “supports a plan that will allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions like me." They also declare that if James has his way, "The cost of prescription drugs would go up even more. And John James supports an age tax on older Americans that could cost us thousands more a year."
● NH-Sen: Former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the September GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and endorsing wealthy attorney Corky Messner. O'Brien said that he would instead try to return to the state House, which will probably be very unwelcome news for most of his once-and-potentially future colleagues.
● IN-05: State Sen. Victoria Spartz is up with her first TV spot ahead of the June GOP primary for this open seat. The narrator tells the audience, "Born in the socialist-controlled Ukraine, she experienced the ills of socialism but rejected those ideas and came to America, legally." After highlighting her career in business and farming, the ad concludes, "Victoria Spartz experienced the horrors of socialism. That's why she'll stand with President Trump to defeat its spread and fix Congress."
A number of other Republicans are running to succeed retiring Rep. Susan Brooks in a suburban Indianapolis seat that's gradually been moving to the left, but Spartz may have some advantages the rest of them don't. Nathan Gonzales writes at Roll Call that the state senator has told people that she's willing to self-fund up to $1 million, which is far more than any of her rivals had at the end of 2019. Spartz also recently picked up an endorsement from the anti-tax Club for Growth, which often spends in GOP primaries. The winner of the primary will take on former state Rep. Christina Hale, who is unlikely to face much trouble winning the Democratic nomination.
● NJ-05: Montvale Mayor Michael Ghassali announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer and endorsing 2018 nominee John McCann.
Ghassali, who has mostly been self-funding his campaign, ended 2019 with considerably more money than anyone else on the Republican side. However, Ghassali got some bad news earlier on Thursday when McCann received the organization line from the GOP in Bergen County, which makes up over 70% of this seat. County organization lines play a major role in New Jersey primaries, and Ghassali said that he didn't "see a path to winning the primary" without the Bergen County line.
McCann still faces former Wall Street banker Frank Pallotta, who has also done some self-funding. Gottheimer, though, would probably be quite happy if he gets to face McCann again in this 49-48 Trump seat.
McCann struggled to raise cash last time, and he did himself no favors when he responded to the news that the home of a Gottheimer supporter had been defaced with swastikas with a Facebook post blaming Nancy Pelosi and California Rep. Maxine Waters for the hate-crime. That claim was made even more absurd given that one of the Gottheimer supporter's campaign signs was also defaced with a #MAGA hashtag, and even NRCC chairman Steve Stivers said McCann's statement was not "appropriate or correct." Republicans gave up on this race long before Election Day, and Gottheimer won his second term by a convincing 56-42 margin.
● PA-08: The National Journal's Kirk Bado reports that Army veteran Earl Granville, who is one of several Republicans competing to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, trashed Donald Trump supporters as "Trump-Tards" in an Instagram post from just last year. Granville has House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement in the June primary, though Trump himself has yet to take sides.
● WI Supreme Court: Progressive Jill Karofsky's campaign filed a lawsuit on Friday to take down ads smearing her for a plea deal she had absolutely nothing to do with. A hearing is set for Monday morning, which is just one day before Election Day.
The commercials came from the Republican State Leadership Committee and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which are backing conservative incumbent Dan Kelly in Tuesday's contest. Karofsky outspent Kelly $1.4 million to $658,000 from Feb. 4 through March 23, but the Brennan Center for Justice estimates that these two groups have spent a total of $1.3 million on anti-Karofsky spots.
● San Diego, CA Mayor: The final results are in for the March 3 nonpartisan primary, and San Diego is in for its first all-Democratic general election in an extremely long time. Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria took first place with 41%, while Democrat Barbara Bry edged Republican Scott Sherman, who is her colleague on the City Council, 22.9-22.6 for the other spot in November.