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.
● Race Ratings: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to announce our initial House race ratings for the 2020 election cycle. Including vacancies, Democrats hold 234 House seats while Republicans control 200 (the final seat is held by independent Justin Amash), meaning that the GOP needs to net 18 seats this year to retake control of the chamber. However, as our ratings illustrate, Republicans have a monumentally difficult task ahead of them.
Altogether, we give Democrats an advantage in 222 seats to 197 for the GOP, while the remaining 16 we classify as Tossups (you can find specific descriptions of each category in our post). This means that, even if Republicans were to hold every seat where they have the edge and sweep the entire Tossup column, they'd still need to take five districts we rate as Lean Democratic or better in order to seize the majority.
The big problem for the GOP is that a combination of strong Democratic incumbents and poor GOP fundraising has narrowed the map for Republicans long before Election Day. One telling example comes in Michigan's 11th District, which backed Donald Trump 50-45 but changed hands in 2018 when Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens captured it as an open seat.
This suburban Detroit district should have automatically been a top GOP target, but Stevens ended March with a huge $2.5 million war-chest while her best-funded Republican opponent, self-funding businesswoman Carmelita Greco, had less than a tenth that sum. Trump could still do well enough to put his party over the top, but Stevens is very much the favorite in a race we rate as Likely Democratic.
The scene that's unfolded in Michigan's 11th is not unique. Under ordinary circumstances, seats held by freshmen members of Congress and carried by the opposite party in the most recent presidential election would be among the most vulnerable. Nevertheless, we rate another five such seats as Likely Democratic and half a dozen more as Lean Democratic. Republicans don't need to win all of these seats to take back the House, but there's no way for them to seize the speaker's gavel without a good chunk of them.
A failure to put a sufficient number of seats in play is by no means the only problem facing the GOP, though. Check out our post for our expansive take on the big picture, as well as our complete set of ratings and maps and a bonus appearance by the Whig Party.
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.
● Indiana: A group of Indiana voters and a local voting rights organization have filed a federal lawsuit asking that all voters be allowed to cast absentee ballots in the November general election. Last month, officials waived the state's requirement that voters present an excuse to vote absentee for the state's June 2 primaries but did not include the November elections in that order.
● KS-Sen: This week, the Kansas Farm Bureau endorsed Rep. Roger Marshall in the August GOP primary. The group, which is a powerful force in rural Kansas, previously supported Marshall in his successful 2016 primary bid against Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who had a terrible relationship with agriculture interests.
● SC-Sen: Security is Strength, a super PAC supporting GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, has reserved $1.6 million in TV time for October and early November. The State reports that the group spent $755,000 on ads earlier this year attacking Democrat Jaime Harrison.
● Senate: Daily Kos political director David Nir was the inaugural guest on Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas' new short-form YouTube show, The Brief, on Thursday. The two ran down the entire Senate picture, hitting every competitive seat from Arizona to Texas in a quick, concise summary—with a few jokes thrown in, too. Click here to subscribe! (And if you're curious, this is the map on the wall behind David.)
● NC-Gov: The Democratic pollster Garin-Hart-Yang is out with a survey for the progressive group Real Facts NC that gives Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper a 55-36 lead over Republican Dan Forest; this sample also shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump 48-45.
● UT-Gov: On Wednesday, wealthy businessman Jeff Burningham filed a lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to either dramatically lower the number of signatures he needs to advance to the June 30 GOP primary or to put him directly on the ballot. Burningham noted that the court had responded to a lawsuit by another Republican, businesswoman Jan Garbett, by reducing the amount of signatures she needed to reach the primary from 28,000 to 19,040, and he argued that he deserved a remedy as well.
Burningham's campaign had collected about 19,150 signatures until mid-March, a little less than a month before the deadline, when he announced that he would stop because of the dangers of the coronavirus. Burningham also tried to advance to the primary by competing at the April 25 convention, but he did not earn enough support from delegates. That seemed to be the end of his campaign, but he filed a lawsuit this week arguing that, if a judge won't order him onto the ballot, Burningham should be placed there if election officials found that at least 70% of the petitions he collected were valid.
Meanwhile, Garbett got some unwelcome news Wednesday when state attorneys announced that, despite the judicial order lowering the number of signatures she needed, she still did not have enough. Garbett had turned in about 21,000 petitions, so she could only afford to have about 10% rejected. However, the state said that election officials had reviewed 3,000 of her signatures and rejected around 60% of them, and that it was "mathematically impossible" for her to have the required 19,040. Garbett's team responded by asking the judge to once again reduce the number of valid signatures she needs to make the ballot.
● KY-04: While GOP Rep. Thomas Massie found himself on the receiving end of a Donald Trump Twitter tirade last month after the congressman delayed the $2 trillion coronavirus economic bill, Massie's allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth are out with a poll showing him easily winning renomination. WPA Intelligence finds Massie crushing attorney Todd McMurtry 70-13 in the June primary for this safely red northern Kentucky seat.
Massie's antics came during the final days of the first fundraising quarter, and so far, he seems to be benefiting financially from his time in the spotlight. Massie took in $646,000 for the quarter, which is almost four times what he brought in during all of 2019, and he ended March with $690,000 on hand. McMurtry raised $185,000 during this time and self-funded an additional $136,000, and he had $237,000 to spend.
McMurtry may need to do more self-funding to compete, because he may have a tough time raising money from major donors. While Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney initially endorsed McMurtry and contributed to his campaign, she asked for her money back weeks later after tweets surfaced that showed him using bigoted language.
● New York: Candidate filing closed April 2 for New York’s June 23 primaries, but as usual, we had to wait several weeks before we could get a (mostly) complete list of congressional candidates. The state does publish a list of candidates who've filed for Congress, but it doesn't include all House seats. Candidates running for a district that is contained entirely within a single county or within the five boroughs of New York City file with their local election authorities, while everyone else files with the state.
As a result, the state's list only covers 14 of New York's 27 congressional districts; the rest we've had to obtain from New York City, Suffolk County, and Monroe County. We've consolidated these various lists and put them into a single document here. We're still missing NY-04 (which is entirely located in Nassau County), but Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice faces minimal opposition for a fourth term.
● NY-01: GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin won re-election last cycle 51-47 against Democrat Perry Gershon, and Gershon is once again running for this eastern Suffolk County seat. However, two other notable Democrats, Stony Brook University professor Nancy Goroff and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, are also competing in the June primary.
Goroff, who has the support of EMILY’s List, ended March with a $646,000 to $504,000 cash-on-hand lead over Gershon, though Gershon demonstrated last cycle that he’s capable of some serious self-funding. Fleming, who is the only elected official in the primary, was further behind with $305,000 on-hand.
While Zeldin only pulled off a modest win in 2018, he’ll be difficult to unseat in a presidential year. Although this seat narrowly supported Barack Obama in 2012, Donald Trump took it 55-42 four years later. Zeldin also had a hefty $1.80 million to defend himself in a race Daily Kos Elections rates as Likely Republican.
● NY-02: Longtime GOP Rep. Peter King’s retirement makes this southern Long Island one of Team Blue’s top pickup opportunities in the nation, but Republicans still have a good chance to keep it. The district swung from 52-47 Obama to 53-44 Trump, and Republicans do well downballot in this area. Daily Kos Elections rates this contrast as Lean Republican, but it’s one we’ll be watching closely for developments.
While plenty of Republicans jumped in the race in the months after this seat opened up, almost all of them dropped out after Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino picked up endorsements from King and the leaders of the Nassau and Suffolk County Republican Parties. Fellow Assemblyman Mike LiPetri decided to stay in the primary, but Garbarino ended March with a $322,000 to $136,000 cash-on-hand edge.
On the Democratic side, Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon faces little intra-party opposition. Gordon, an Army veteran who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, spent months challenging King before he retired, and she ended the last quarter with $536,000 to spend.
● NY-09: Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke defeated community organizer Adem Bunkeddeko in an unexpectedly close 53-47 primary last cycle, and Bunkeddeko is back for a rematch.
This time, though, three other candidates are also running for this safely blue seat in central Brooklyn. The most notably newcomer is New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, a self-described "conservative Democrat” who has a record of consistently opposing LGBTQ rights. Clarke ended March with a $267,000 to $116,000 cash-on-hand lead over Bunkeddeko, while Deutsch had $65,000 to spend.
● NY-10: Longtime Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler faces a primary challenge from Lindsey Boylan, a former economic advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a safely blue seat that includes the West Side of Manhattan and part of southern Brooklyn. Boylan entered the race last spring arguing that the incumbent had been slow to use his powerful post as chair of the House Judiciary Committee to fight the Trump administration. Nadler, though, later went on to play a prominent role in impeaching Donald Trump.
Nadler ended March with a $957,000 to $147,000 cash-on-hand lead over Boylan. One other Democrat, political organizer Jonathan Herzog, is also in, but he had just $27,000 on-hand.
● NY-11: Democrat Max Rose’ 53-47 win over GOP incumbent Dan Donovan was one of the biggest upsets of 2018, and this is a constituency that Republicans badly want to take back.
National Republicans, including Donald Trump, have consolidated behind Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. While a few other local Republicans, including disgraced ex-Rep. Mike Grimm, talked about running here (Grimm even said at one point he was “90% of the way there to run”), Malliotakis’ only intra-party foe is former Brooklyn prosecutor Joe Caldarera. Malliotakis ended March with a wide $884,000 to $51,000 cash-on-hand lead over Caldarera, though, and she should have no trouble winning in June.
The November election will be a much tougher affair for Team Red, though. Rose is one of the strongest fundraisers in the House, and he had $3.33 million in the bank at the end of the first quarter. Rose, who is a captain in the National Guard, also earned national attention in early April when he was deployed to Staten Island to set up an emergency hospital to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
However, this is still a difficult area for Democrats. This seat, which includes all of Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn, swung from 52-47 Obama to 54-44 Trump, and even a strong incumbent like Rose will be in for a real fight. National Republicans have also reserved $1.4 million in fall TV time for a contest that we rate as a Tossup.
● NY-12: Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney defeated attorney Suraj Patel 60-40 in an expensive 2018 primary, and Patel is back for a rematch. However, while Patel outraised the congresswoman last time, Maloney ended March with a $427,000 to $195,000 cash-on-hand lead. Two other candidates are also running, which complicates Patel’s task. This seat, which includes the East Side of Manhattan and nearby parts of Queens and Brooklyn, is safely blue.
● NY-14: Freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pulled off one of the most shocking primary wins we’ve ever seen, faces an expensive intra-party challenge from the right from former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.
Caruso-Cabrera has the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and she ended March with a large $854,000 war chest after just seven weeks in the race. AOC, though, has a national base of support to draw on, and she had a massive $3.51 million in the bank. Two other Democrats are also running for this safely blue seat in the East Bronx and northern Queens.
● NY-15: Longtime Rep. José Serrano is retiring from the bluest district in the entire country, and 12 fellow Democrats are running to succeed him. However, the crowded field in this Bronx seat could allow New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who has a long and ugly history of homophobia, to win the nomination with just a plurality.
A number of other candidates are running well to Diaz’s left. The best-funded contender at the end of March by far was fellow New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, who held a $939,000 to $125,000 cash-on-hand lead over Diaz. Torres, who would be the first gay Latino member of Congress, also has the backing of the Hotel Trades Council, which is one of the most influential unions in city politics.
Assemblyman Michael Blake has the support of two other powerful unions, SEIU 32BJ and 1199 SEIU, but he had just $77,000 in the bank. Other notable candidates include former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez; and activist Samelys Lopez, who has the endorsement of neighboring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Working Families Party.
● NY-16: Longtime Rep. Eliot Engel faces four Democratic primary opponents in this safely blue seat, which includes southern Westchester County and the northern Bronx. The challenger who has attracted the most national attention so far is middle school principal Jamaal Bowman, who has the support of the Working Families Party. Engel ended March with a huge $1.05 million to $217,000 cash-on-hand lead over Bowman while two other contenders, educator Andom Ghebreghiorgis and attorney Chris Fink, each had about $80,000 to spend.
● NY-17: Longtime Rep. Nita Lowey is retiring from a safely blue seat that includes much of Westchester County and all of Rockland County, and 10 fellow Democrats are running to succeed her. The best-funded contender is former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer, who had $1.52 million in the bank in March after self-funding most of his campaign. Behind him in the money race is former Obama administration official Evelyn Farkas, who had $688,000 on-hand.
Another candidate to watch is attorney Mondaire Jones, who was challenging Lowey before she retired. Jones, who had $544,000 in the bank, would be the first openly gay black member of Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.)
The contest also includes two state legislators. Assemblyman David Buchwald had $496,000 in the bank while state Sen. David Carlucci, who was a founding member of turncoat Independent Democratic Conference, had only $99,000. Also in the race are former NARAL board chair Allison Fine; Catherine Parker, who is the majority leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators; and Army veteran Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, though none of them had much money to spend.
● NY-18: Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney is seeking re-election in a Lower Hudson Valley seat that swung from 51-47 Obama to 49-47 Trump, but it doesn’t look like the GOP will be making much of an effort to beat him. The only Republican candidate is 2018 Senate nominee Chele Farley, who lost that contest to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 67-33. Maloney ended March with a wide $893,000 to $258,000 cash-on-hand lead in a race we rate as Safe Democratic.
● NY-19: Freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado should have been a top GOP target, but national Republicans failed to recruit a strong candidate after their top choice, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, declined.
Delgado ended March with a massive $2.65 million to $254,000 cash-on-hand lead over fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh, who has been self-funding most of her campaign; the other Republican, Army veteran Kyle Van De Water, had a mere $14,000 in the bank. This Hudson Valley seat swung from 52-46 Obama to 51-44 Trump, so it’s still possible for the GOP to score a win here if the political climate is good for them, but we’re rating this swing seat as Likely Democratic.
● NY-21: GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik defeated Democrat Tedra Cobb 56-42 last cycle in a contest that didn’t attract much attention, but their rematch has turned into a nationally-watched affair. Stefanik infuriated progressives and delighted Trump and his fans with her antics during an impeachment hearing in November when she sought to violate House Intelligence Committee rules and then lied about why the committee's chair, Democrat Adam Schiff, had cut her off. Both candidates raised millions afterwards, and Stefanik ended March with a $4 million to $2.38 million cash-on-hand lead.
However, as Stefanik’s large win last time demonstrated, this is a very difficult race for Team Blue. The district, which includes the farthest upstate reaches of New York, swung from 52-46 Obama all the way to 54-40 Trump, and we rate this contest as Safe Republican.
● NY-22: Democrat Anthony Brindisi unseated GOP incumbent Claudia Tenney 51-49 in 2018, and Tenney is back for a rematch. The former congresswoman only faces minimal intra-party opposition, but Brindisi ended March with a wide $2.16 million to $408,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Despite Brindisi’s huge financial edge and Tenney’s many mistakes last cycle, this is still a tough race for Team Blue. This seat, which includes Binghamton, Utica, and Rome, moved from a tiny win for Mitt Romney all the way to 55-39 Trump, and national Republicans have reserved over $2 million in fall TV time here. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.
● NY-23: GOP Rep. Tom Reed beat Democrat Tracy Mitrano 54-46 last cycle in an expensive race, and Mitrano is running again. This seat, which includes Ithaca and southwestern New York, moved from 50-48 Romney to 55-40 Trump, and Reed ended March with a wide $763,000 to $206,000 cash-on-hand lead. So far this contest hasn’t attracted much outside attention, and we rate it as Safe Republican.
● NY-24: Rep. John Katko, who is one of just two Republican incumbents seeking re-election in a Clinton seat, defeated Democrat Dana Balter 53-47 in 2018, and Balter is running again. First, though, Balter has to get past Navy veteran Francis Conole, who held a small $313,000 to $268,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of March.
Whoever wins the June primary will be in for a difficult race against Katko, who had $1.19 million to defend himself; the incumbent’s allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund have also reserved $600,000 to aid him. This Syracuse seat moved from 57-41 to just 49-45 Clinton, and this is an area where Republicans do well downballot. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.
● NY-27: The special election to succeed disgraced GOP Rep. Chris Collins, who is scheduled to report to prison on June 23 after pleading guilty to insider trading charges, will take place on the same day as the regular two-year primary. (The contest was originally set for April, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo moved it due to the coronavirus pandemic.) That’s created a bit of an awkward situation for state Sen. Chris Jacobs, who is the GOP’s special election nominee but faces primary challenges from the right from both attorney Beth Parlato, who has the Conservative Party’s backing, and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
However, the split field could give Jacobs the advantage as the de facto incumbent; Parlato and Mychajliw will also need to win over plenty of Republican voters at the same time that they’re supporting Jacobs in the special election. Jacobs ended March with a $521,000 to $451,000 cash-on-hand lead over Parlato, while Mychajliw had $72,000 to spend.
The Democratic candidate for the special election is 2018 nominee Nate McMurray, who faces no intra-party opposition in the regular primary and had $267,000 in the bank. McMurray held Collins, who was under indictment but had not been convicted, to a 49.1-48.7 win last cycle, but he’s in for an even tougher race in June. This seat in the Buffalo suburbs moved from 55-43 Romney to 60-35 Trump, and Jacobs doesn’t have Collins’ problems. We rate the special election as Safe Republican.
● OH-01: EMILY's List has endorsed Democrat Kate Schroeder, who won the primary Tuesday to take on GOP Rep. Steve Chabot.