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.
● VA-05: Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good won the Republican nomination on Saturday by defeating freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman at the party convention by 58-42, a result that ends Riggleman’s brief career in Congress. While Riggleman had Donald Trump’s endorsement, Good and his allies portrayed the congressman as insufficiently conservative. Riggleman notably pissed off the base last summer when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers, a move that quickly led to a homophobic backlash at home.
Good will now be Team Red’s standard bearer in a district which includes Charlottesville and south-central Virginia, and that moved from 53-46 Romney to 53-42 Trump. Riggleman, though, only won 53-47 in 2018, and Good could be vulnerable in the fall. Democrats, who opted to hold a traditional party primary, will choose their nominee to take on Good on June 23 in a contest that features several well-funded contenders. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this contest as Likely Republican.
Riggleman’s loss comes after a short and at times bizarre career in politics that began with a 2017 run for governor. Riggleman, a distillery owner and former Air Force intelligence officer, pitched himself as an aggravated outsider and focused his anger at the utility giant Dominion Energy, which had tried to route a natural gas pipeline through his property. However, Riggleman dropped out of the contest after a few months of weak fundraising, declaring that he'd sadly learned that "money seems to be the most important part of a campaign."
Riggleman surprisingly got another chance to run for office the following year, though, after first-term GOP Rep. Tom Garrett unexpectedly dropped out in bizarre fashion after winning renomination. The 5th District Republican Committee was tasked with picking a new nominee, and Riggleman ended up defeating Republican National Committee member Cynthia Dunbar, who had lost a convention for the neighboring 6th District just weeks prior, on the fourth and final ballot.
This race always looked like a longshot for Democrats, but the contest attracted national attention. Riggleman’s opponent was journalist Leslie Cockburn, the mother of actress Olivia Wilde, and Cockburn ended up raising a credible amount of money. And perhaps more importantly, Riggleman himself turned out to be an aficionado of Bigfoot erotica.
National Republicans ended up spending $600,000 in the final weeks of the campaign to aid Riggleman, which was a costly rescue mission at a time when the GOP was on the defensive in numerous other House seats. Riggleman won, though, and he showed up to his first day in Congress wearing … Bigfoot socks.
Riggleman soon had a more human political concern, though. After the congressman officiated a same-sex wedding over the summer, local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions. Good, who worked as an athletics official at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, soon launched his campaign against Riggleman, whom he'd describe as “out of step with the base of the party on life. He's out of step on marriage. He's out of step on immigration. He's out of step on health care.”
Falwell himself backed Riggleman, but local party leaders weren’t so supportive. The 5th District Committee voted to decide its nominee through a convention, a gathering that tends to be dominated by conservative activists, rather than a primary. It also didn’t escape Riggleman’s attention that the convention was taking place at Good’s own church.
Riggleman himself publicly bashed the 5th District Committee’s handling of the nominating contest, especially after the coronavirus pandemic indefinitely delayed the convention. Chairman Melvin Adams also didn’t hide his frustration with the congressman, telling Roll Call, “I know the congressman and some of his staff and other people have been putting out false information, or at least implying this committee is trying to rig things. This committee is not trying to rig things.”
The party ended up holding its convention in the parking lot of Good’s church, an event that allowed 2,537 delegates to eject Riggleman from Congress from the comfort of their cars. Riggleman claimed that “[v]oting irregularities and ballot stuffing” took place, insinuating that it decided the outcome, and he said his campaign is evaluating its options, which could include legal action.
Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete compilation of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to election and voting procedures.
● Iowa: Iowa's Republican-run state House has almost unanimously approved a bipartisan compromise that would require Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate to seek approval from a special panel of lawmakers to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. A day earlier, the state Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans, passed a bill that would forbid Pate from sending out applications altogether, as he did before the state's June 2 primary.
Under the House measure, Pate would have to get the sign-off of Iowa's Legislative Council, which describes itself as a "steering committee" that, explains the Quad-City Times, is empowered to act on behalf of the full legislature when it's not in session. The 20-member panel includes 11 Republicans and nine Democrats. It would have to approve any emergency changes Pate might propose, including mailing applications or altering the absentee voting period (something Pate also did before the primary, increasing it from 29 days to 40).
It's not clear whether the Senate will concur with the House, though, and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has not expressed a view on either bill.
● North Carolina: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a bill that will make mail voting easier by reducing the requirement that voters have two witnesses or a notary sign their ballots, instead requiring just a single witness. However, the legislation also prevents local election officials from conducting all-mail elections, and it contains a provision that could help Republicans revive their voter ID law, which two separate courts have blocked from taking effect.
● Tennessee: A state court judge warned Tennessee officials that they could be held in criminal contempt for their refusal to follow an order she recently issued instructing them to provide absentee ballots to all voters during the pendency of the coronavirus pandemic. "Shame on you for not following that procedure and just taking matters into your own hands," Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle told the defendants, who emailed local officials after Hobbs' initial ruling and told them to "hold off" on sending out absentee applications.
A spokesperson for Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the office was "working on complying" with Lyle's latest instructions, according to Courthouse News Service.
● Vermont: Vermont's Democratic-run legislature has passed a bill that would remove Republican Gov. Phil Scott's power to block Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos from ordering that the November general election be conducted by mail. Scott has said that he doesn't oppose the measure, which passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities. Condos has for months promoted a plan for holding nearly all-mail elections this year.
● NH-Sen, NH-01: Donald Trump has waded into two Republican primaries in New Hampshire, which doesn't hold nominating contests until Sept. 8. In the race to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Trump's given his backing to wealthy attorney Corky Messner, despite the fact that retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc has claimed the NRSC supports his candidacy (the committee has, however, declined to confirm).
Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional District, where the GOP is trying to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, Trump has endorsed Matt Mowers—an unsurprising move, given that Mowers previously worked as a Trump aide. Mowers faces former state party vice chair Matt Mayberry in the primary. Republicans are underdogs in both contests: Daily Kos Elections rates the Senate race as Likely Democratic and the 1st District as Lean Democratic.
● GA-13: The Associated Press has now called the Democratic primary in Georgia's 13th District for Rep. David Scott outright, after first saying that Scott had been forced into an Aug. 11 runoff but then later retracting that call. Scott was leading former state Rep. Keisha Waites 51-27 on Friday afternoon, just over the 50% mark needed to avoid a second round. Waites entered the race late and spent virtually nothing, suggesting that the veteran Scott could be very vulnerable to a more aggressive challenger if he seeks another term in 2022.
● NY-01: A Global Strategy Group poll for chemistry professor Nancy Goroff finds her trailing businessman Perry Gershon by a small 29-27 margin ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary in New York's 1st Congressional District, with Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming at 17. GSG says that the numbers represent a substantial shift from a previously unreleased early April survey that gave Gershon, who was the party's 2018 nominee against GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, a 33-16 lead over Fleming, with Goroff at just 11.
Thanks to a $1 million personal loan, Goroff was able to outspend Gershon $1.1 million to $453,000 during April and May (Gershon self-funded extensively last time but hasn't materially done so this cycle). Fleming was not far behind, spending $405,000 in the same timeframe. Goroff had a large $758,000 to $190,000 cash edge over Gershon for the final three weeks of the race, with Fleming sitting on $112,000, though presumably the wealthy Gershon could once again dip into his own bank account if he wanted to.
● NY-16: Former principal Jamaal Bowman outraised Rep. Eliot Engel during April and May in new reports filed with the FEC, though Engel held a cash edge as of June 3, the close of the "pre-primary" filing period. Bowman brought in $431,000 versus $389,000 for Engel, but Engel had $826,000 left to spend in the final weeks compared to $345,000 for his challenger. However, Bowman finished the period strong, thanks to Engel's viral "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care" blunder on June 2, and that surge appears to have continued past the FEC's reporting deadline, as the Bowman campaign says it raised $345,000 in the week following the gaffe.
Bowman has sought to further capitalize on Engel's misstep. A few days ago, Bowman released his first TV ad, which features a clip of Engel's now-infamous gaffe. The second half is more positive and shows images of Bowman alongside his would-be constituents, while a voiceover of the candidate himself proclaims, "We need a representative that cares about our communities year-round, not just during election season."
● NY-17: End Citizens United, which has a track record of both spending and fundraising for its endorsees, has backed attorney Mondaire Jones in the June 23 Democratic primary for New York's open 17th Congressional District. Candidates also just filed so-called "pre-primary" fundraising reports with the FEC on Thursday, covering the period of April 1 through June 3. During that timeframe, Jones reported raising $295,000 and spending $500,000, leaving him with $339,000 for the stretch run.
In terms of spending, which is probably the most important metric at this late stage of the campaign, that puts Jones in the middle of the pack among notable contenders:
- Adam Schleifer: $62,000 raised (plus $2.1 million loan), $3.3 million spent, $369,000 cash-on-hand
- Evelyn Farkas: $340,000 raised, $787,000 spent, $242,000 cash-on-hand
- David Buchwald: $47,000 raised (plus $300,000 loan), $329,000 spent, $514,000 cash-on-hand
- Allison Fine: $53,000 raised, $100,000 spent, $29,000 cash-on-hand
- David Carlucci: $89,000 raised, $86,000 spent, $101,000 cash-on-hand
● UT-01: A poll of the GOP primary from Dan Jones & Associates on behalf of former U.S. Foreign Service officer Blake Moore in Utah's open 1st Congressional District finds an unsettled race, with Moore tying Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson at 16 apiece, former state Agriculture Commissioner Kerry Gibson taking 13, and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt bringing up the rear with 7. That leaves a giant 48% undecided ahead of the June 30 primary.
Oddly, Moore is an employee of the consulting firm Cicero Group, which just so happens to be the parent company of Dan Jones. A memo from Dan Jones says that Moore was not involved "in poll gathering," but unsurprisingly, rival campaigns took shots at Moore over his connection to the pollster and questioned the results, though none offered alternate numbers.