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.
● GA-14: Self-funding conspiracy theorist Marjorie Greene took first place in the GOP primary, while neurosurgeon John Cowan was a distant second. Greene was at 41%, while Cowan was outpacing former state School Superintendent John Barge 19-9 for the second place spot. Greene and Cowan will face off in the runoff to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Graves in this very red seat in the northeast corner of the state.
Greene has repeatedly used social media to spread far-right lies about the 2017 Las Vegas massacre as well as defend the notorious pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon. Among other things, Greene has encouraged her followers to send her any questions about QAnon so she could "walk you through the whole thing." Longtime white supremacist Chester Doles also called Greene "part of the Q movement" and a "[g]ood friend to have" in a Facebook post.
Greene herself posed for a photo with Doles earlier this year, and she was not remotely contrite when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked her about it. Greene's campaign instead dismissed the AJC's questions as "silly and the same type of sleazy attacks the Fake News Media levels against President Trump."
Greene's own campaign ads have been just as awful. In one recent commercial, she appeared holding an assault rifle and told the audience that "antifa terrorists have declared war on America." She then casually threw out some antisemitic talking points by declaring, "George Soros, Hollywood elites, and Joe Biden's staff are funding antifa." Facebook later removed the ad from its platform, saying it “advocates the use of deadly weapons against a clearly defined group of people.”
Cowan, who has run his own commercials going after Nancy Pelosi, Mitt Romney, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and firing his rifle at a plastic virus model labeled "COVID-19," is hardly a moderate, though. But while Cowan may not win many votes over the next two months going after Greene's ugly beliefs, he may be able to gain ground by highlighting her weak ties to northeast Georgia.
Greene was living and running in the 6th Congressional District, a suburban Atlanta district that's very different from this rural constituency, until just after Graves retired in December. At the time, Greene was based in Alpharetta, which is located about 20 miles from the nearest community in the 14th District.
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● South Carolina: Last month, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster finally rescheduled a number of local elections that had been set for March, April, and May after he postponed them in April without setting a later date. The new election date is on July 14.
● Texas: The Democratic Party and the civil rights organizations that had sued Texas to expand absentee voting access have indicated they are dropping their state-level lawsuit seeking to let anyone vote absentee by mail without needing an excuse. This capitulation comes after the state Supreme Court, which is composed entirely of Republicans, recently ruled that lack of COVID-19 immunity does not qualify as a disability for voting absentee and had stayed a lower court ruling that would have allowed all voters to vote absentee during the pandemic, which the GOP was appealing. However, multiple federal lawsuits remain ongoing over this same issue.
● IA-Sen: EMILY's List is out with a commercial declaring that GOP Sen. Joni Ernst has been "taking over $200,000 from big drug and insurance interests and repeatedly voting to let them discriminate against pre-existing conditions." EMILY is putting at least $450,000 behind this ad campaign.
● KS-Sen: Rep. Roger Marshall is out with his first commercial going after wealthy businessman Bob Hamilton in the August GOP primary. The ad begins by accusing Hamilton of backing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump before the narrator declares that he also "bankrolled a transgender rights group, pushing liberal judges and pro-abortion policies." And as if that bit of transphobia wasn't blatant enough, the spot constantly adds the color pink to pictures of Hamilton.
● MA-Sen: Rep. Joe Kennedy III's newest TV ad for the September Democratic primary focuses on the protests against police brutality. Kennedy tells the audience, "We will not look away as innocent black lives are taken. We will not look away from the racism and hate." Kennedy continues, "We will not return to normal, because normal was broken."
● ME-Sen: If you thought that the widespread protests against police brutality would lead Republicans to rethink the "soft on crime" attacks they've been lobbing at Democrats for decades, think again. The NRSC's second commercial against state House Speaker Sara Gideon declares that she voted to weaken sentences.
● UT-Gov: Suffolk University, polling on behalf of the Salt Lake Tribune, finds a very close June 30 GOP primary between Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman. Cox leads the ex-governor 32-30, while former state House Speaker Greg Hughes and businessman Thomas Wright are at 14% and 8%, respectively. A recent survey from Scott Rasmussen had Cox ahead of Huntsman 28-24, with Hughes at 18% and Wright at just 4%.
Meanwhile, Huntsman picked up an endorsement on Tuesday from Orrin Hatch, who left the Senate last year after 36 years in office.
● FL-19: GOP state Rep. Byron Donalds picked up an endorsement this week from the radical anti-tax Club for Growth for the crowded August primary.
● MA-04: The state SEIU has endorsed Jesse Mermell, the former head of the Alliance for Business Leadership, in the crowded September Democratic primary. WPRI's Ted Nesi writes that the SEIU is the largest labor group to take sides in the contest for this safely blue seat.
● NJ-02: Rep. Jeff Van Drew uses his first TV ad as a Republican to remind the audience that he has Donald Trump's endorsement.
● NY-15: Conservative New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. is out with his first TV spot for the June 23 Democratic primary, and Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin writes that its running on Univision and Telemundo for $30,000.
The Spanish-language commercial does not mention Diaz's far-right views, it simply extols him for "[h]onesty. Dedication. Responsibility. Compromise." And as Rubashkin notes, the ad also refers to the candidate merely as Ruben Diaz, which may be a deliberate choice: His son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., is almost certainly better known than the city councilman.
● NY-17: EMILY's List, which is supporting former Obama administration official Evelyn Farkas, has launched a $65,000 mail campaign. Most of this expenditure is going to mailers against former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer, who is another candidate in the crowded June 23 Democratic primary.
● NY-24: 2018 Democratic nominee Dana Balter is out with a survey from GBAO that gives her a 60-31 lead over Navy veteran Francis Conole in the June 23 primary. The only other poll we've seen of the contest to face GOP Rep. John Katko was a late-March internal from Balter that had her beating Conole 64-21.
● Baltimore, MD Mayor: On Tuesday night, the Associated Press called the June 2 Democratic primary for City Council President Brandon Scott, who led former Mayor Sheila Dixon 29-28 with almost all the votes in. (Tabulation had been delayed due to a ballot printing error in one City Council district.) In Baltimore, as any fans of "The Wire" well know, winning the Democratic nomination is a guarantee of winning the mayoralty, and this November will be no different. Scott, who is 36, would also be the youngest person elected mayor in the Charm City's history.
Scott positioned himself as a progressive in the very crowded field to take on incumbent Jack Young, who had been in office for just over a year and ended up taking fifth place with just around 6% of the vote. Scott, who had several unions on his side, also argued that his victory would "change the guard" in a city with a high homicide rate that had also experienced several corruption scandals. The city council president ended up performing well on the ballots that were mailed close to Election Day, a strong indication that he won over voters who decided whom to back late in the contest.
Dixon, who led until Sunday, looked like the frontrunner throughout most of the race. While Dixon resigned as mayor in 2010 after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families, many residents credited her for lowering the violent crime rate and were willing to give her another chance to serve. Dixon ran here in 2016 and ended up losing to then state Sen. Catherine Pugh 37-35 (Pugh herself would leave office in disgrace last year), and she fell just short of another comeback this month.
Election Result Recaps
● GA-Sen-A: The Associated Press projected on Wednesday evening that investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff had outright won the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue, and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson also conceded to Ossoff that night. With 900,000 votes counted as of late Wednesday, Ossoff was at 50.7% of the vote—just above the majority he needed to avert an Aug. 11 runoff—while Tomlinson held a 15-13 edge over 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico for second.
Georgia backed Donald Trump 50-45, but the state has been becoming more and more competitive over the last few years. Three recent GOP internals also gave Perdue only a small lead over Ossoff, while a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos found the Democrat ahead 47-45. Perdue, though, will start out the general election with a huge financial lead in what’s still a difficult state for Team Blue. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.
● GA-07: Emergency room physician Rich McCormick outright won the Republican primary to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Rob Woodall in this competitive seat, while 2018 Democratic nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux will face an August runoff with state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero.
McCormick had the backing of the anti-tax Club for Growth, which spent over $1 million to aid him, and his margin over state Sen. Renee Unterman stood at a wide 55-17. Bourdeaux, who lost to Woodall by a shockingly narrow 433-vote margin last cycle, was at 46%, a few points short of the majority she needed to avoid a second round of voting. The second runoff spot went to Lopez Romero despite her raising little money, and her lead over former DNC official Nabilah Islam stood at 14-13. State Sen. Zahra Karinshak, who looked like Bourdeaux's main intra-party foe, was in last place in this six-person field with just 7%.
This seat, which includes Atlanta's northeast suburbs, is another well-educated diverse district that has been lurching to the left in the Trump era. Georgia's 7th District moved from 60-38 Romney to 51-45 Trump, and Democrat Stacey Abrams carried it 50-49 despite being hampered by the flawed 2018 election for governor. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as a Tossup.
● GA-09: State Rep. Matt Gurtler and gun store owner Andrew Clyde advanced to the August Republican runoff to succeed Senate candidate Doug Collins in this ultra-red seat in northeastern Georgia. Gurtler, who benefited from a total of $625,000 in spending from the Club for Growth and Protect Freedom PAC, was in first place with 22%, while Clyde held a 19-16 lead over state Rep. Kevin Tanner to secure the second spot. Former 10th District Rep. Paul Broun's career remains trapped in the pit of hell following his fourth-place finish with around 13%.
Gurtler has a hostile relationship with the state party establishment, and the powers that be may work to stop him from getting a promotion. Clyde himself has also already been airing ads against his opponent. Clyde, who served in Iraq, launched a commercial last month arguing, "Matt voted with Democrats against a resolution praising President Trump for the killing of terrorist Gen. Soleimani. Matt said President Trump was wrong when he chose to have a terrorist killed."
However, anti-establishment groups have already demonstrated that they'll back Gurtler to the hilt. Last month, after a picture emerged of him at an event hosted by a local white supremacist, the Club made it clear that this wouldn't impact its support.
● GA-13: Rep. David Scott, who has long been one of the lousiest members of the Democratic caucus, was close to being forced into an August runoff against former state Rep. Keisha Waites. With 115,000 ballots tabulated as of Wednesday evening, Scott was taking just 51% of the vote, while Waites, who raised a grand total of $875 through mid-May, was in second with 28%. The Associated Press initially projected a runoff after ballots counted on election night put Scott at just 47%, but it uncalled the race the following day after additional ballots gave the congressman a boost. This seat in the southwestern Atlanta suburbs is safely blue at 71-27 Clinton.
As we've written before, Scott is as shabby as they come. In 2016, he endorsed Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, declaring of his home-state senator, "He's my friend. He's my partner. And I always look out for my partners." Later that year, Scott donated $1,000 to Utah Rep. Mia Love, a Republican who at the time was in a competitive contest. Both Republicans won and spent the next two years loyally voting for Donald Trump's agenda; Love finally went down in defeat in 2018, while Isakson resigned the following year for health reasons.
It's not just Scott's damaging displays of "bipartisanship" that makes him so awful: He's often a bad vote, too. He's vocally sided with Republicans, for instance, to undermine regulations aimed at reining in predatory payday lenders and preventing auto dealers from charging higher interest rates to people of color.
It was still a big surprise, though, that Scott is so close to getting forced into a runoff after each of his three opponents barely spent anything. However, he would be hard to stop in a second round unless Waites brought in considerably more money or attracted some outside help.
● SC-01: State Rep. Nancy Mace, who had the backing of both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Club for Growth, decisively won the GOP nod. Mace, whose lead over Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing stood at 57-26, will now take on freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham in a race that both parties will be fighting hard to win.
This coastal South Carolina seat backed Donald Trump 53-40, and it was a huge surprise when Cunningham flipped it 51-49 two years later. Cunningham has been a strong fundraiser, but this is a district that Republicans may be able to win back even in a bad year for Team Red. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as a Tossup.
● NV-03: With 23,000 ballots counted in the GOP primary as of Wednesday afternoon, former wrestler Dan Rodimer held a 43-33 lead over ex-state Treasurer Dan Schwartz. While the Associated Press had not called the race, Schwartz acknowledged, "We lost."
Rodimer, who had the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, will take on freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in this seat based in Las Vegas' southern suburbs. While both Barack Obama and Donald Trump only narrowly prevailed here, Lee won by a decisive 52-43 last cycle. Rodimer, who so far hasn't brought in much money for a competitive seat, also has some big potential liabilities in his past. Rodimer pleaded guilty to battery after a 2010 altercation and was later accused, but never charged, of assault two additional times.
However, both parties are preparing for an expensive contest here. Lee's allies at the DCCC and House Majority PAC have reserved a total of $6.7 million in the Las Vegas market, while the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund has booked $900,000. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.
● NV-04: With 25,000 votes counted in the GOP primary as of Wednesday afternoon, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant held a 34-30 lead over insurance agency owner Samuel Peters. The Associated Press had not yet called the race.
Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in this seat in the northern Las Vegas area. This seat moved from 54-44 Obama to 50-45 Clinton, but Horsford won an expensive contest 52-44 last cycle. Neither Marchant or Peters has brought in much money, and it remains to be seen if the national GOP will target this race in the fall. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.
● WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice decisively defeated former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher by a 63-18 margin, which gave the party-switching governor his first victory in a GOP primary. The Democratic nomination went to Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, who was leading community organizer Stephen Smith 39-33.
While some polls taken last year gave Justice a middling approval rating, his decisive win with his new party does indicate he's in strong shape in this very conservative state. West Virginia still has backed Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin, in recent years, but it's going to be tough for Salango to win unless there's significant discontent with Justice. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Georgia:
GA-SD-04: The race to replace former state Sen. Jack Hill is heading to an Aug. 11 runoff after no candidate received a majority of the vote. As of Wednesday afternoon, Billy Hickman led Scott Bohlke 33-32, and the pair of Republicans are on track to be the participants in the runoff. Independent Stephen Jared Sammons was in third with 16%, while the other two GOP candidates, Kathy Palmer and Neil Singleton, round out the voting 15% and 3%, respectively.