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.
● KY-Sen: With less than a week to go before Tuesday's primary, the battle for the Democratic nomination has moved on to turf where underdog Charles Booker has enjoyed sure footing—and that longtime frontrunner Amy McGrath has, until now, largely avoided.
Booker, a state representative who has been a highly visible presence at protests of police violence, is airing a new ad that features a clip of McGrath explaining at a debate earlier this month why she hadn't joined in with protesters. "Well, I've been with my family, and I've had some family things going on," said McGrath. The spot concludes with footage of Booker addressing a protest: "I stand before you as a brother, as a cousin, as a neighbor, as a fellow good troublemaker," he says. According to HuffPost, the ad is backed by a $640,000 buy, an expenditure made possibly by a late fundraising influx.
McGrath, meanwhile, has long benefited from a colossal financial advantage and is reportedly spending at least $1 million on the airwaves during the final stretch on three different advertisements. The most notable is narrated by McGrath herself, who says she will "never forget watching the murder of George Floyd" and promises she will "stand up to any president who treats people as less than human."
While Booker's last-minute surge has been fueled in part by his appeal to outsider sensibilities, he has also secured more endorsements from notable in-state figures and media outlets than McGrath. His latest prominent supporter is former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who was Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's last Democratic opponent in 2014, a race she lost 56-41.
Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete compilation of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to election and voting procedures.
● Alabama: A federal court has issued a ruling blocking Alabama's Republican-run state government from enforcing a requirement that voters in the July 14 primary runoff in Jefferson, Mobile, and Lee Counties include a photocopy of their ID and the signatures of a notary or two witness when casting absentee ballots. Additionally, the order requires that all of the state's counties be allowed to establish curbside voting to help maintain social distancing. Voting in this manner isn't banned under state law, but Republican Secretary of State John Merrill has shut down multiple curbside voting efforts before.
The ruling, however, leaves these same absentee voting restrictions in place for Alabama's other 64 counties. The plaintiffs have said they are "considering their options" about how to proceed and potentially expand the decision's scope to cover the whole state, as well as additional elections beyond next month's runoff. Republican officials have yet to say whether they will appeal the decision.
● Illinois: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed two bills into law that would expand voting access in Illinois. The legislation will require the state to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters who cast a ballot in the 2018 general election, local elections in 2019, or the 2020 primary election this past March, as well as to voters who've registered or updated their registrations since the primary.
The new laws will also require the state Board of Elections to create an online portal to request an absentee ballot and allow voters to sign up to receive a ballot when they register to vote online. Other provisions will let voters return their mail ballots via dropbox locations instead of just by mail or at election offices; expand early voting hours; and expand the Election Day state holiday to local government employees instead of only state employees.
● Kentucky: Kentucky's state Board of Elections has advised all counties to wait until June 30 before releasing results for the state's upcoming primary, which is taking place on Tuesday. This move comes in response to a massive anticipated increase in votes cast by mail thanks to a deal between Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams that waived the excuse requirement needed to vote absentee.
Ballots that are postmarked by Election Day will count so long as they're received by June 27, so a delay in reporting returns could limit confusion often sparked when a candidate who appears to be leading on election night ultimately winds up losing.
● Ohio: Officials in Ohio have authorized Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose to use federal funds to mail request forms for absentee mail ballots to all registered voters for this November, something Ohio has done in previous election cycles in recent years.
● Tennessee: Republicans are asking the state Supreme Court to take up an expedited appeal of a recent lower court ruling that blocked Tennessee from requiring an excuse to vote absentee by mail for the duration of the pandemic. These same officials have also filed an appeal with an intermediate appellate court in case the high court doesn't fast-track their appeal.
Meanwhile, after being threatened with criminal contempt of court for failing to comply with the lower court's ruling, Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett's office has finally implemented a new absentee application form as ordered by the court. The form makes it clear that voters can cite COVID-19 under existing categories such as illness instead of as a separate designation.
● Texas: Texas Democrats will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that stayed a lower court ruling that had ordered that all voters be allowed to vote absentee due to the pandemic. Democrats have challenged Texas' law on the grounds that it violates the 26th Amendment's ban on age discrimination in voting because the state permits voters 65 or older to request mail ballots without an excuse.
While a number of legal experts have criticized the 5th Circuit's ruling, some have also expressed alarm at the prospect of a similar outcome at the Supreme Court, which could set a nationally binding precedent that renders much of the 26th Amendment's protections meaningless. Given the Supreme Court's track record, Democrats face difficult odds of success in pursuing this appeal.
● AL-Sen: The Club for Growth is reportedly spending $750,000 to run TV ads on behalf of former college football coach Tommy Tuberville from now through the July 14 GOP runoff, starting with a spot that features nothing but news anchors reciting the text of Donald Trump's March 11 endorsement by tweet. Former Sen. Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, has a new spot focused on a clip of Tuberville very awkwardly acknowledging, "I'm not an everyday resident of Alabama."
● AZ-Sen: A new survey from Democratic pollster Civiqs on behalf of Daily Kos finds Democrat Mark Kelly thumping Republican Sen. Martha McSally 51-42 while Joe Biden legs out to a 49-45 lead on Donald Trump. The numbers are very similar to what we've seen in other recent polls, which have generally shown Kelly bordering on or eclipsing a double-digit advantage and Biden up a handful, despite the fact that Trump carried the state 48-45 four years ago.
● CO-Sen, ME-Sen, NC-Sen: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is reportedly spending seven figures across three states on positive TV ads to support a trio of Republican senators: Cory Gardner in Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine, and Thom Tillis in North Carolina. Politico's James Arkin reports that the exact buy for each race is not known, though he says the Maine expenditure is at least $605,000.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, both the NRSC and Gardner are running new ads attacking former Gov. John Hickenlooper, the likely Democratic nominee. The NRSC's spot runs through a series of extremely short (and therefore context-free) clips of news anchors reporting on a recent finding by Colorado's ethics commission that Hickenlooper had twice violated the state's gift ban by allowing corporations to pay for out-of-state trips. Gardner's ad, by contrast, features several clips of Hickenlooper expressing antipathy toward serving in the Senate, on one occasion even saying he'd "hate" the idea.
● GA-Sen-A: The first survey of Georgia's regularly scheduled Senate race following Democrat Jon Ossoff's victory in last week's primary finds the newly minted nominee edging Republican Sen. David Perdue 45-44 while Joe Biden holds a narrow 48-46 lead on Donald Trump. The poll was conducted by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling on behalf of End Citizens United and Let America Vote, both of which have endorsed Ossoff. The results are similar to a poll last month conducted on behalf of Daily Kos by another Democratic firm, Civiqs, that had Ossoff ahead 47-45 and Biden up 48-47.
● NM-Sen: NM Political Report has commissioned the first public poll of this year's open-seat Senate race in New Mexico and unsurprisingly finds Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján well in command. The survey, from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, has Luján beating Republican Mark Ronchetti 48-34 while Joe Biden enjoys a comfortable 53-39 lead on Donald Trump. An April poll from PPP for a different client didn't test the Senate contest but had Biden ahead by a similar 52-40 spread.
● UT-Gov: A new poll from Dan Jones & Associates for the Salt Lake Chamber finds a tight race in the GOP primary for governor, with former Gov. Jon Huntsman edging past Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox 35-33 while former state House Speaker Greg Hughes is well back at 10 and former state party chair Thomas Wright takes just 5. Polling has generally shown a close battle between Huntsman and Cox, which will get resolved on June 30.
● AK-AL: A newly released survey from progressive pollster Data for Progress conducted in late May finds education advocate Alyse Galvin edging out veteran Republican Rep. Don Young 43-42 in the race for Alaska's lone House seat, which is elected statewide. Galvin, an independent who is seeking the Democratic nomination, lost a challenge to Young in 2018 by a 53-47 margin. The release did not include numbers for the Senate race between Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and orthopedic surgeon Al Gross, another independent who is running in the Democratic primary.
● AR-02: EMILY's List has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott, who is challenging Republican Rep. French Hill in Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District based in the Little Rock area.
● GA-07: The Associated Press has called the Democratic primary in Georgia's 7th Congressional District for 2018 nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux, a week after election night. As we've repeatedly been stressing, all election watchers should prepare for the likelihood that many election calls will take some time as election officials adjust to the influx of mail ballots, which take longer to count.
With all votes now tallied, Bourdeaux has clocked in a dominant 53-12 win over her nearest opponent, state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, and avoided an August runoff by clearing the 50% mark. She'll face Republican physician Rich McCormick in what will be one of the most competitive House races in the country.
● MI-03: A new poll from Anzalone Liszt Grove for Democrat Hillary Scholten finds her neck-and-neck with either of her two likeliest Republican opponents, state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis and Army veteran Peter Meijer: Scholten ties Afendoulis at 40 apiece and posts a similar 40-39 score against Meijer. Most notable, though, is the survey's finding in the presidential race, which has Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump 49-44, despite the fact that Trump beat Hillary Clinton 52-42 in the 3rd District four years ago; Democratic Sen. Gary Peters also edges out Republican John James 47-44.
If the figures showing Biden's advantage are accurate, they suggest that a considerable proportion of undecided voters in this typically conservative district in the Grand Rapids area in fact lean toward Democrats. That in turn would create headwinds for the GOP as they try to reclaim this seat held by Republican-turned-independent-turned-Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash, who has said he won't seek re-election. Amash has, however, changed his mind a few times (even launching a brief bid for the Libertarian presidential nomination at one point), and he could still file to run again as an independent until July 16.
● NY-15: Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon, has endorsed Assemblyman Michael Blake, who is one of the two most prominent Black candidates running in next week's Democratic primary for New York's open 15th Congressional District (the other is City Councilor Ritchie Torres, who is both Black and of Puerto Rican descent).
● NY-16: Hillary Clinton has given her backing to veteran Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, citing her work with the congressman, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "as first lady, as senator from New York and as secretary of state." The endorsement is Clinton's first this year in a House primary, which has seen Engel increasingly threatened by a challenge from educator Jamaal Bowman, who picked up the support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren the same day.
Earlier in the week, Bowman, who has rallied a broad coalition of progressives groups and figures to his side, was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders. According to The Green Papers, Clinton, who lives in a neighboring district and enjoyed a home-state advantage, carried Engel's district 69-31 in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
Bowman's rise has also prompted significant outside spending seeking to stop him. A group called the Democratic Majority for Israel reported spending $260,000 this week on a new TV ad attacking Bowman, accusing him of having unpaid taxes. In total, the PAC has spent $629,000 to aid Engel's re-election bid.