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-Sen: The Arizona GOP pollster HighGround Public Affairs is out with a new survey that shows Democrat Mark Kelly leading appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally by a wide 51-41 margin, which is up from the 46-39 edge Kelly enjoyed in February. This poll, which HighGround says it paid for itself, also finds Joe Biden leading Donald Trump 47-45.
Ominously for McSally, this is the second local Republican pollster to find her down by double digits in as many weeks. OH Predictive Insights, which also did not have a client, recently found Kelly up 51-38 as Biden led 50-43.
Kelly's allies at Honest Arizona are also out with a new commercial as part of what the National Journal's Madelaine Pisani reports is a seven-figure buy. The Spanish-language ad goes after McSally on healthcare.
Daily Kos Elections has published a new spreadsheet tracking more than 40 separate federal and state lawsuits related to pandemic-related changes to elections and voting procedures or dates. We'll be keeping this resource up to date as we continue to follow the latest developments in our Morning Digest and Voting Rights Roundup newsletters, and we welcome any additions or corrections.
● Arizona: Some county election officials in Arizona, including those in its largest county, Maricopa, plan to send a mail ballot request form to every voter who has not already signed up to receive one. Arizona already votes largely by mail, but Republican lawmakers have blocked Democratic attempts to transition to a system where mail voting is the default option.
● Connecticut: Following a recent executive order by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont that allowed concerns about the coronavirus to count as an excuse for requesting a mail ballot in the August primary, Democratic state House Majority Leader Matt Ritter recently said, "I don't know how the legislature doesn't do [the same] for November," adding that he wants a vote to take place by July 4. Democrats hold full control over state government.
● Kentucky: The ACLU and other civil rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Kentucky's voter ID law, which Republicans passed in April, as well as a longstanding requirement that voters provide a specific excuse to be able to vote absentee. Republicans have made Kentucky the only state so far to pass a new voting restriction since the pandemic began. Opponents of the voter ID law noted that, at the time the bill was passed, government offices that provide driver's licenses were closed due to the pandemic, making it effectively impossible for many citizens without a suitable ID to obtain one.
● Pennsylvania: A lower state court has rejected a request by officials in populous Montgomery County in the Philadelphia suburbs to extend the absentee ballot return deadline in the county from Election Day to a week afterward, so long as ballots are postmarked by Election Day. A county official said the county would appeal the ruling. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently rejected a request in a separate lawsuit to extend the deadline statewide.
● South Carolina: A federal district court has blocked South Carolina from enforcing a requirement that absentee voters have a witness sign their ballot return envelope. The result is a victory for the voting rights groups and Democratic Party organizations that had sued in two separate lawsuits that were later consolidated.
However, the court's ruling rejected Democrats' demand that ballots count if postmarked by Election Day but received a few days afterward, as well as a request that the state prepay postage. The court also held that plaintiffs' challenge to a requirement that voters under age 65 have an excuse to vote absentee was mooted after state lawmakers passed a law temporarily waiving the excuse requirement for the June 9 primary and June 23 primary runoff. However, the requirement is still in effect for November. Republican officials have not yet said whether they will appeal.
● Tennessee: Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to waive Tennessee's excuse requirement to vote absentee by mail during the pandemic. A set of other civil rights groups is currently waging a separate federal lawsuit that was filed at the beginning of May and is pending before a lower court.
● Vermont: A committee in Vermont's Democratic-run state Senate has passed a bill that would remove a requirement that both Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos agree to emergency election changes, instead leaving only the secretary's approval as necessary. Condos has proposed moving forward with preparing to hold November's elections near-universally by mail, which Scott has expressed skepticism about as being impractical to try to implement. Nevertheless, Scott has said he is fine with Democrats removing him from the process.
● CA-Sen, GA-Sen-B, OK-Sen, NC-Sen: The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the Justice Department has closed the investigations into the stock transactions of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and Jim Inhofe. Federal investigators are still reportedly probing another Republican senator, Richard Burr of North Carolina.
● SC-Sen: A new poll from Democratic pollster Civiqs on behalf of Daily Kos finds Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tied at 42 with his likely Democratic opponent, former state party chair Jaime Harrison, even as Donald Trump leads Joe Biden by a 52-42 margin in the presidential race.
The key reason Graham trails Trump by 10 points is his weak performance both with Republicans and independents. Among members of his own party, Graham leads 78-5, which might seem high until you compare it with Trump's 93-6 share of GOP voters. As for independents, Trump holds a small 44-40 edge, but Harrison actually leads 46-28 with these voters.
However, those who say in the Senate matchup that they prefer "someone else" or are undecided—16% of the total electorate—lean heavily Republican: By a 74-7 margin, they favor Trump. That means that, while Graham's unpopularity is hurting him right now, the fence-sitters are overwhelmingly likely to come back to him by Election Day. Put another way, for Harrison to find a path to victory, he'll have to win over a large chunk of Trump voters, but it's not clear how he might accomplish that.
● DE-Gov: GOP state Sen. Bryant Richardson, who represents the most Trumpy district in the chamber, announced this week that he would challenge Democratic Gov. John Carney. Delaware hasn't elected a Republican governor since Mike Castle won his second term in 1988, and there's no indication that Carney is vulnerable.
● VA-Gov: Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy announced Wednesday that she would seek the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Gov. Ralph Northam next year. Carroll Foy would be Virginia's first woman governor as well as its second-ever African American chief executive, as well as the first Black woman elected to lead any state.
Carroll Foy earlier made history in 2003 when she was among the first Black women to graduate from the Virginia Military Institute. She sought elected office for the first time in 2017 in a GOP-held open seat in Northern Virginia, and Carroll Foy told the Associated Press that Donald Trump's win and the previous Republican-majority legislature's "anti-woman" laws had motivated her to run.
Foy won the primary by 12 votes against Joshua King, who had narrowly lost the 2015 general election, but she had no trouble in November. Foy was easily re-elected in 2019, and she was the main supporter of this year's successful effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
● WV-Gov: The GOP firm Triton Polling and Research, polling on behalf of the radio station WMOV, is out with the first poll we've seen all year of the June 9 Republican primary, and it finds Gov. Jim Justice far ahead of his two intra-party rivals. The survey shows Justice leading former Del. Mike Folk 53-15, while former Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher, who appeared to be Justice's main opponent, is in third with 14%.
P.S. Triton also polled the Democratic primary but only sampled 231 voters, which is below the 300 minimum we require to include in the Digest.
● CO-03: Businessman James Iacino is out with his first TV ad for the June 30 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Scott Tipton. Iacino appears in the warehouse of his family business and tells the audience, "I started here, on the midnight shift, and worked my way to CEO."
What turns out to be the green screen behind Iacino shifts throughout the commercial to show parts of the warehouse, a hill, and a town street, as he talks about how his business has become "a progressive model for success." Iacino, who is shown at the end to be filming the commercial in his living room with his family, concludes, "I'll use that experience to fight climate change, lower healthcare costs and beat Scott Tipton. But for now, from my family to yours, stay safe."
● ME-02: Former Gov. Paul LePage stars in former state Rep. Dale Crafts' first TV ad for the July GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Jared Golden.
LePage, who led a protest against Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' emergency coronavirus measures right after he returned from a short post-gubernatorial residency in Florida, adopts the hard-right rhetoric we've come to expect from him. LePage tells the audience, "Maine is at a crossroads. Liberals want a total shutdown, but President Trump wants America open for business." The ex-governor then promotes Crafts as "a proven fighter" who will support Trump.
● MI-08: The state Board of Canvassers ruled this week that Michigan state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder did not have enough signatures to make the August GOP primary ballot. Snyder had raised very little money for her campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, so it's unlikely her departure will have much of an impact on the race.
● NM-02: Democratic groups have been running commercials boosting 2018 GOP nominee Yvette Herrell, whom Team Blue believes is a weak candidate, ahead of next week's primary, and a national Republican group is now taking action to undermine her. Politico reports that Defending Main Street, a PAC that was set up years ago to stop anti-establishment candidates from winning GOP primaries, is spending $100,000 on an ad against Herrell.
The narrator begins, "What happened that night in San Diego Yvette Herrell won't say, but what we know is bad enough. Herrell jetted off to California to attend invitation-only meetings with Never Trumpers." As people are shown clinking champagne glasses he continues, "Shrouded in secrecy, they plotted. Partied. Hung a Trump piñata from the ceiling." The spot goes on to accuse Herrell of charging taxpayers for this expedition, where she "plotted behind the scenes to defeat Donald Trump."
Businesswoman Claire Chase, who is Herrell's main intra-party rival in the race to face freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, and her allies have also spent the last few weeks running commercials hitting Herrell over this piñata story. The event in question was the annual meeting of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in San Diego, California in the summer of 2015, a gathering that Herrell attended as ALEC's state chair.
Conservatives normally would have absolutely no problem with a Republican doing this, but as the Times of San Diego noted at the time, this crowd, like almost the entire GOP leadership at the time, was decidedly anti-Trump. As the site reported, GOP pollster Frank Luntz addressed the event and got absolutely no response when he asked, "How many of you are supporting Donald Trump?" The story also included a photo of a grotesquely orange Trump piñata at the event labeled #HowMoneyWalks.
Herrell herself responded to the attacks from Chase and her allies by insisting she's "proudly supported President Trump from day one, including voting for him in both the primary and the general election." However, in a March 2016 email, Herrell asked her colleagues in the legislature, "If you support (Ted Cruz) and would like to add your name to the growing list of State Legislators that are endorsing him around the country, please fill out the attached card and return it as directed." While Herrell didn't explicitly endorse Cruz or attack Trump, that hasn't stopped Chase from portraying her as a Trump opponent.
Herrell, as well as the Democratic groups that want her to win on June 2, have in turn run commercials going after Chase for her 2016 anti-Trump social media posts. Herrell notably employed a narrator who used what Nathan Gonzalez described as a "ditzy tone" to impersonate Chase and read her past messages, including, "(Donald Trump)'s an a**hole unworthy of the office... of the President."
● NV-03: Ending Spending, the ironically named conservative super PAC funded by the Ricketts and Adelson billionaire families, has started spending against former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz ahead of the June 9 GOP primary for this competitive seat. The Nevada Independent's Riley Snyder writes that the group has "purchased at least 6 figures in TV ad buys."
The commercial argues, "Washington has enough Trump hating career politicians. They don't need swampy Dan Schwartz." The narrator then goes after Schwartz for "saying he wasn't 'super enthusiastic' about Trump" and for supporting tax increases. The commercial doesn't mention former wrestler Dan Rodimer, who is Schwartz's main intra-party rival, or Democratic Rep. Susie Lee.
Ending Spending tried to influence another GOP primary here back in 2016 when it spent $1.6 million to stop perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian from winning the nomination against state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson. Tarkanian won by a surprisingly wide 32-24 margin, though, and he went on to lose the general election in both 2016 and 2018.
● NY-17: Attorney Mondaire Jones is out with his opening TV ad ahead of the crowded June 23 Democratic primary. The narrator declares, "Mondaire Jones grew up poor, but East Ramapo public schools helped Mondaire work for Barack Obama and make it to Harvard Law."
The commercial goes on to tout Jones as "the only Democrat who supports Medicare for All, the only Democrat endorsed by leading progressives." That line is accompanied by pictures Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Jones supporters. The candidate then recounts, "I remember being scared of getting sick because we couldn't afford a doctor. I won't stop until we make healthcare more affordable, and help everyone afford to live here."
● PA-01: GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick uses his first TV ad to attack China. The narrator opens, "For decades, China has been stealing our jobs. Now, they are trying to steal our future." The commercial continues, "But Brian Fitzpatrick is fighting to make China pay for the damage caused by coronavirus and working to bring production of critical medical equipment back home, controlling our own destiny, putting our own people back to work."
● PA-07: Former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller is out with an ad ahead of next week's GOP primary that touts her recent endorsement from Donald Trump. The commercial also once again goes after intra-party opponent Dean Browning, who is also a former Lehigh County commissioner, for having "cast the deciding vote for a $16 million tax hike."
● PA-08: Former Trump administration official Jim Bognet is out with another TV spot ahead of next week's GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright.
The ad features Bognet, who played on Hazleton Area High's football team, telling the audience, "Around here, we used to win a lot. But things have changed." Bognet goes on to utilize the racism that permeated his previous commercial when he declares, "China cheated us on trade and sent us the Wuhan flu. Illegal immigrants took our jobs, spread crime, and sent taxpayers the bill." After pledging he'll be a teammate to Trump, Bognet concludes his ad by kicking his football, a move that elicits applause from off-camera.
● TX-04: The Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek writes that state Sen. Pat Fallon attended the Hunt County GOP convention over the weekend and "left attendees with impression he's running" for the nomination at the Aug. 8 party meeting to replace John Ratcliffe on the ballot. Fallon has not yet said anything publicly about his plans.
Last year, Fallon announced that he'd set up an exploratory committee for a possible primary challenge against Sen. John Cornyn, whom Fallon argued wasn't conservative enough. Reality eventually set in, though, and Fallon soon ended his effort.