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.
● AZ Corporation Commission: Republicans looking to preserve their 4-1 majority on Arizona's powerful Corporation Commission are trying to patch up a gnarly self-inflicted wound as four of the party's six candidates failed to turn in enough valid signatures to make the November ballot.
The commission is tasked with regulating utilities throughout the state, and its members are elected statewide to four-year terms. The GOP can still field a full slate for the three seats up this year—all of which they hold—if a write-in candidate can win at least 6,663 votes in the August primary, which is the minimum number of petitions needed to make the ballot. But that would only repair part of the damage.
Unfortunately for Team Red, one of the two candidates who did turn in enough signatures is Eric Sloan, whom the Arizona Capitol Times' Dillon Rosenblatt describes as "a former Democrat who was fired from the Arizona Department of Gaming for singing slavery-related songs when he passed the desk of black co-workers, among other harassment claims."
Sloan's electoral history is little better: He ran for the commission once before in 2018 and took last place in a five-person GOP primary. The other Republican on the ballot is incumbent Lea Marquez Peterson, but she's never faced voters in an election for the commission: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey appointed her to her post a year ago, not long after she'd lost a race for the 2nd Congressional District to Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick 55-45.
Democrats, meanwhile, successfully fielded candidates for each of the three seats up this cycle. One is Bill Mundell, who was elected to the commission in 2000 and 2004 as a Republican but said he switched parties because utilities had too much influence over Republican members. Four years ago, he narrowly lost a comeback bid. The other two contenders are Anna Tovar, a former state senator who now serves as mayor of Tolleson, and Shea Stanfield, a former town council member in Cave Creek (Tolleson and Cave Creek are both small cities in the Phoenix area).
The Corporation Commission has been nicknamed Arizona's "fourth branch of government," due to the distinct role the state constitution lays out for it. Because a trio of seats are up this year (the other two will be on the ballot in 2022), each party may nominate three candidates, and voters can cast up to three votes in the general election. The three contenders with the most votes in November will be elected, so Democrats need to take two of the top three spots to flip the commission.
● Arkansas: Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he will implement no-excuse absentee voting for the November general election but only if "we're still in a public health emergency." Hutchinson did not, however, specify a deadline by which he might act. Previously, the governor waived the excuse requirement for Arkansas' late-March primary runoffs.
● Georgia: A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by voting rights advocates asking that Georgia be required to delay its June 9 primary until at least June 30 and implement several safety measures, including curbside voting and the elimination of touchscreen voting machines. The judge, George W. Bush appointee Timothy Batten, concluded that plaintiffs had presented "a nonjusticiable political question," meaning that the relief requested should not be addressed by the courts but instead by the political branches of government, in this case the state legislature.
This is the first such case decided in the COVID-19 era to dismiss claims based on the political question doctrine, a move that election law expert Rick Hasen called "troubling." Plaintiffs have said they are "considering alternatives" but have not yet said whether they will appeal.
● Minnesota: Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon says he's considering mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters after Minnesota's Republican-run state Senate rejected his plan to conduct this year's elections by mail. Previously, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz refused to rule out ordering all-mail elections for either the Aug. 11 primary or the November general election.
● Nevada: A right-wing group that previously had a challenge to Nevada's plan to conduct its June 9 primary by mail rejected by a federal judge has filed an amended complaint in an attempt to revive its case. The plaintiffs claim, "Expanding mail balloting is unnecessary to combat COVID-19" and insist that "the spread of the virus is being controlled." Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak recently said of the state's efforts to combat the pandemic, "I see some folks saying mission accomplished. That's not true."
● New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that New Jersey will conduct its July 7 primaries predominantly by mail, though each of the state's 565 municipalities will be required to open at least one polling site. Active registered Democrats and Republicans will be sent mail-in ballots while inactive and unaffiliated voters will receive applications that will allow them to request a ballot for one of the two major parties' primaries; all will include pre-paid return envelopes.
● Virginia: Republicans in Virginia's 7th Congressional District voted on Thursday to hold their convention on July 18, when they'll finally choose a candidate to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in this 51-44 Trump seat in the Richmond suburbs.
The gathering was originally set for late April, but it was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Party leaders haven't decided yet how the estimated 5,200 delegates will convene, but they say they'll decide by June 18. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Justin Mattingly writes that the options being considered are a "drive-by convention," where delegates would vote from their cars (party officials in the neighboring 5th District opted for this method), a virtual gathering, or an in-person event.
A number of Republicans are competing to face Spanberger including Dels. Nick Freitas and John McGuire; nonprofit director Tina Ramirez; and Andrew Knaggs, a former Department of Defense official. The far-right Club for Growth is backing Freitas and promised last year that it would "invest more money there than any House race in the history of the Club" on his behalf. So far, OpenSecrets reports that the Club has spent close to $200,000 for Freitas.
● GA-Sen-A: We have our third Republican poll this month giving GOP Sen. David Perdue a small lead over investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff: BK Strategies' survey for the Republican State Leadership Committee shows Perdue ahead 46-41, while Donald Trump edges Joe Biden 48-46. The memo did not mention any of the other Democrats competing in the June primary or include numbers for the November special election for the state's other Senate seat. (If you're wondering why the RSLC, which typically concerns itself with legislative races, released this poll, the group says in its memo that it's trying to warn Republicans that they could be at risk at all levels in Georgia, including the state House.)
● GA-Sen-B: GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler's office said Thursday evening that she had turned over documents to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as to the Senate ethics committee, regarding the large stock trades she and her husband made right before the markets collapsed in mid-March. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tia Mitchell noted that Loeffler's team did not say whether the senator had voluntarily provided these records or if federal investigators had asked for them.
● IA-Sen: Democratic businessman Eddie Mauro is out with a general election survey from RABA Research, a firm started by a bipartisan team of strategists, that shows him tied 42-42 with GOP Sen. Joni Ernst. The release did not include horserace numbers for any of Mauro's Democratic rivals, nor did it mention the June 2 primary. A recent poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling for an issue advocacy group found Mauro tied for third in the fight for the Democratic nomination with just 4%.
● KS-Sen: The Washington Post reported Thursday that Donald Trump had encouraged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run for the Senate "about two weeks ago," but according to the paper, Pompeo "rebuffed the request." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies are still hoping that Pompeo will change his mind and get in the race ahead of the June 1 filing deadline, but McConnell recently acknowledged to Politico, "There's not been a development yet."
● NC-Sen, NC-Gov: East Carolina University takes another look at its home state and finds Democrat Cal Cunningham narrowly leading GOP Sen. Thom Tillis 41-40, while Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper swamps Republican Dan Forest 51-36; this sample also finds Donald Trump ahead 46-43. Back in late February, ECU had Tillis and Cooper up 44-42 and 49-41, respectively.
● WV-Gov: Former Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher has released another TV ad ahead of the June 9 GOP primary arguing that Gov. Jim Justice released "violent criminals early from jail" despite pledging not to.
● GA-07: The anti-tax Club for Growth is out with a poll from WPA Intelligence that shows its endorsed candidate, physician Rich McCormick, with a wide lead in the June 9 GOP primary for Georgia's competitive 7th District. McCormick takes 41%, which is short of the majority he'd need to avert an August runoff, while state Sen. Renee Unterman leads businesswoman Lynne Homrich 23-7 for second. The memo includes the results of an unreleased April poll that gave McCormick a smaller 33-18 lead over Unterman.
The Club also tells Politico that it is spending $295,000 on an ad buy on Fox. One of its spots praises McCormick as a pro-Trump veteran and an emergency room doctor who has treated COVID-19 patients. The other commercial goes after Unterman for having "called Trump her last choice for president and backed Jeb Bush instead." The narrator continues, "After Trump won the nomination, Unterman bashed him as just a reality TV show host." There's also a weird Elvis theme running through this spot that we don't really understand.
● IA-04: White nationalist Rep. Steve King has spent nearly a month insisting that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would push to get King's committee assignments restored, but McCarthy finally spoke on Friday and contradicted King. McCarthy said that, should King win his June 2 primary and the November general election, he "has the right to go to the steering committee and the steering committee would take up the committee assignments just like every Congress, just like every single member."
However, McCarthy argued that it was unlikely that the steering committee, which unanimously voted to strip King of all his committee assignments in early 2019 after a particularly egregious tirade of racist comments, would side with the Iowa congressman this time. McCarthy said that after "talking to members on the steering committee, I think he'd get the same answer that he got before." He also insisted, "Congressman King's comments cannot be exonerated."
King faces a competitive primary next month against state Sen. Randy Feenstra, who has been portraying the incumbent as ineffective and unable to look out for his rural western Iowa seat without his committee memberships.
● NY-17: Assemblyman David Buchwald has picked up an endorsement from 32BJ SEIU, a heavyweight union that represents building workers, ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary for New York's open 17th District.
● OH-01: The DCCC's Targeting and Analytics Department is out with a poll showing GOP Rep. Steve Chabot leading Democrat Kate Schroder 50-43, while Joe Biden holds a 50-46 edge in Ohio's 1st District, which Donald Trump carried 51-45 four years ago. The release argues that Schroder has room to grow and only trails 48-47 after respondents hear "short biographies on each of the candidates."
● Oakland County, MI Executive: Dave Coulter became the first Democrat to lead Oakland County, Michigan since the office of executive was created in 1974 after he was appointed to succeed the late Republican L. Brooks Patterson last year, and now he faces serious opposition from both parties in his bid for a full four-year term.
The Aug. 4 Democratic primary pits Coulter, who previously served as mayor of the small city of Ferndale, against County Treasurer Andy Meisner. Meisner had announced his campaign for executive almost a year ago, a few months before Patterson's death, and Coulter had initially endorsed him. But Coulter shifted gears in October, saying he wanted to stay in office because he could "see all the possibilities" of what he could accomplish. Meisner, meanwhile, has tried to argue that Coulter "got it right when he endorsed my campaign."
The GOP primary is a contest between former state Sen. Mike Kowall and attorney Jeffrey Nutt. Kowall is a longtime local politician who left the legislature in 2018 to mount a bid for the 11th Congressional District, a seat that contains 38% of Oakland County. Kowall ended up taking third place in the GOP primary with 18%; the winner, Lena Epstein, went on to lose the general election to Democrat Haley Stevens. Nutt, by contrast, appears to be running for office for the first time.
Oakland County, a large county in the Detroit suburbs, backed Hillary Clinton 51-43, but Republicans may have a chance to take this office back: The conservative Patterson won his seventh and final term 54-46 in 2016, and Republicans have also done well in other local downballot races.