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: It’s been almost a week since Bob Good unseated Rep. Denver Riggleman at the GOP convention, and despite Good’s claims to the contrary, the spirit of unity-breakfast forgiveness is absolutely nowhere to be found in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Riggleman, who riled the party base after he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers, told NBC29’s Alana Austin this week that he was not ruling out a third-party bid or challenging the results of the convention in court, declaring, “Everything’s on the table.”
However, an independent campaign may indeed be off the table since that filing deadline passed on June 9―four days before the convention. Good himself failed to turn in paperwork on June 9 that he needs in order to appear on the November ballot, though the Board of Elections could grant him an extension at its July 7 meeting.
While it’s possible that Riggleman could get a reprieve as well, the circumstances would be different: Good (along with 7th District GOP candidate Nick Freitas) said that he didn’t submit his document on time because he misunderstood the rules, while Riggleman presumably had no plan to run as anything other than a Republican before he lost the nomination.
Riggleman also didn’t close the door on filing a legal challenge over the convention results, where he said that long lines disenfranchised delegates. Riggleman also argued that 5th District party leaders had deliberately hurt him by selecting a site that his supporters needed to drive for hours to reach (Riggleman and his allies have pointed out in the past that the convention took place at Good’s own church.)
Democrats will select their nominee next week in a traditional primary, and Marine veteran Claire Russo is out with a commercial pledging she’ll “stand up to Bob Good and Donald Trump, and I’ll protect a woman’s right to choose.” This seat backed Trump 53-42, but GOP in-fighting could give Democrats a larger opening.
Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.
● Alabama: Republican Secretary of State John Merrill has appealed a ruling by a federal court that bars election officials from enforcing a requirement that voters in three Alabama counties (including its two largest) include a photocopy of their ID and the signatures of a notary or two witnesses when casting absentee ballots in the state's July 14 primary. The order also forbids Merrill from blocking local officials from implementing curbside voting.
● California: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that will send mail ballots to all voters for the November general election. Newsom had previously issued a similar executive order; though seemingly duplicative, Newsom's order has been challenged in court by Republicans, who say he usurped lawmakers' authority. This new legislation could therefore undermine those lawsuits.
Those suits also suffered a separate setback when an appeals court stayed a trial judge's order blocking a different Newsom order from taking effect. That later order had set out rules allowing to provide reduced in-person voting as a result of shifting the election principally to mail.
● Florida: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has rejected a long-standing request from local election officials to give them greater flexibility in carrying out Florida's Aug. 18 primary and the November general election in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In an early April letter, officials asked DeSantis to act "as soon as possible" to allow them to make changes on a number of fronts, including an expansion of the number of days allotted for early voting and an increase in the number of early voting locations.
Instead, this week, DeSantis only granted officials the option to begin counting mail ballots earlier than when the law currently allows (which is 22 days before Election Day). Even that minimal change comes too late, according to the group representing election officials that made the original request: Most counties "have already solidified their plans for the August primary election," the organization said in a statement.
● Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Elections Commission has finalized a plan to send absentee ballot applications to the state's 2.7 million registered voters for the November general election. The effort will not apply to the state's Aug. 11 primary. In April, the city of Milwaukee passed legislation to send applications to all voters in the city, and other jurisdictions had contemplated similar plans.
● CO-Sen: Senate Majority PAC is up with a spot ahead of the June 30 Democratic primary defending former Gov. John Hickenlooper from GOP attacks on his ethics. The spot is part of a $1 million buy.
The narrator declares, "National Republicans are spending millions of dollars on 'politically motivated lies' against John Hickenlooper, but you deserve the facts. The truth is 95 of the 97 Republican allegations were dismissed." The commercial continues, "The Denver Post calls Hickenlooper an 'ethical public servant' who made 'an honest mistake. Republicans know John Hickenlooper is the one who will beat Cory Gardner, who's voted 98% of the time with Donald Trump."
● KY-Sen: A new survey conducted by Democratic pollster Civiqs for the progressive group Data for Progress finds state Rep. Charles Booker with a 44-36 lead on Marine veteran Amy McGrath ahead of Tuesday's primary. Earlier this week, a Booker internal from YouGov Blue found McGrath in front 49-39.
Civiqs also pitted both Democrats against Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who beats McGrath 53-33 and Booker 52-38. That's by far the worst showing for McGrath in any public poll to date. It's also the first time Booker's ever been tested in a general election matchup.
● NC-Sen: Democrat Cal Cunningham uses his first TV spot for the general election to declare, "Affordable health care and medicine shouldn't be a battle. It's a right." Cunningham goes on to pledge that he'll "[t]ake on the corporate corruption that's been rigging the system for the big drug and insurance companies."
● MT-Gov: The DGA-backed group Good Jobs Montana is out with its first TV commercial against Republican Greg Gianforte. The narrator declares that Gianforte "praised a bill that would cut our healthcare, but give him nearly $800,000 in tax breaks. Us, higher healthcare costs, 70,000 Montanans losing coverage." The ad also accuses Gianforte of pushing for a tax cut that benefited "rich people like him" while backing a sales tax increase.
● NH-Gov: The conservative pollster We Ask America finds GOP Gov. Chris Sununu with a huge 59-20 lead in a hypothetical general election with state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes. The survey did not test Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, the other major candidate in the September Democratic primary, nor did the release include presidential numbers.
Campaign finance reports are also in for the period covering Dec. 4 through June 5, and Feltes outpaced both his rivals. Feltes took in $415,000 to Sununu's $346,000, while Volinsky raised $270,000. Sununu, though, led Feltes $729,000 to $480,000 in cash-on-hand, while Volinsky had $110,000.
● VA-Gov: On Thursday, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan announced that she was joining the 2021 Democratic contest to succeed termed-out Gov. Ralph Northam. McClellan would be the first Black woman elected governor of any state.
McClellan won a safely blue state House seat in Richmond back in 2005, and she earned a promotion to the state Senate in 2017 to succeed Donald McEachin after he was elected to Congress. This year, McClellan sponsored the successful Virginia Clean Economy Act, which the Washington Post writes "made Virginia the first Southern state to commit to carbon-free power by 2050." McClellan currently chairs the legislature's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission as well as the Task Force on Preservation of the History of Former Enslaved African Americans.
● FL-19: Last week, state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen dropped out of the crowded August GOP primary and announced that she would run for an open state Senate seat instead.
● GA-07: The DCCC has added Carolyn Bourdeaux, who won last week's primary for this competitive open seat, to its Red to Blue list for top candidates.
● GA-14: On Thursday, GOP Rep. Jody Hice announced that he could "no longer support" QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Greene in the August runoff, a decision that came a day after Politico reported on Greene's litany of racist and antisemitic rantings. Greene, who refused to apologize last month for posing with a longtime white supremacist, once again wasn't the slightest bit chastened, though.
Greene instead issued more racist and antisemitic tweets as she labeled her intra-party opponent, neurosurgeon John Cowan, a "globalist Never Trumper who wants even more money for the Chinese-controlled WHO." She also took shots at the party establishment she said was backing Cowan (the NRCC, in reality, has stubbornly refused to take sides in the contest) and claimed that the "the Fake News Media cheers on Antifa terrorists, BLM rioters, and the woke cancel culture, as they burn our cities, loot our businesses, vandalize our memorials, and divide our nation."
Cowan, for his part, is out with a Battleground Connect poll that gives Greene a small 43-40 edge. The National Journal's Kirk Bado reports that the survey was taken June 16, which was one week after Greene outpaced Cowan 40-21 in the first round of the primary but a day before the Politico story broke.
● KS-02: Freshman GOP Rep. Steve Watkins is out with a new commercial for the August GOP primary informing the audience that Donald Trump endorsed him … two years ago. The narrator does declare that Trump "asked Steve Watkins to lead his Kansas re-election campaign," though as the on-screen text notes, the congressman is merely an "honorary co-chair." Trump has not yet taken sides in the contest between Watkins, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, and former Brownback administration official Dennis Taylor.
● TX-13: A super PAC called Ag Together PAC is out with a commercial starring retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry, who urges voters to support lobbyist Josh Winegarner in the July 14 GOP runoff.
Meanwhile, a group called Miles of Greatness Fund is spending at least $203,000 on a commercial touting former White House chief physician Ronny Jackson, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, and going after Winegarner. We don't have a copy yet, but Winegarner put out a statement blasting the commercial for attacking him for "supporting selling US beef, pork, crops, and oil and gas to China."
● House: The NRCC has announced that it has booked $23.5 million in 17 media markets for its first wave of TV reservations, and Politico reports that it intends for this money to go entirely towards Democratic held seats. We've assembled this new data into a spreadsheet, which includes our best guesses as to which House seats the NRCC plans to target.
● Richmond, VA Mayor: Alexsis Rodgers, a former state director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, launched her campaign for mayor earlier this month, and she quickly raised more money than any of her opponents had over the last two-and-a-half months.
Rodgers outpaced City Councilwoman Kim Gray $58,000 to $43,000 during the period covering April 1 to June 11, though about half of Gray’s haul came from a transfer from her City Council campaign. Attorney Justin Griffin took in $14,000 during this time, while Mayor Levar Stoney raised just $6,000. Another candidate, Tracey Mclean, took in only $500.
However, the Virginia Public Access Project reports that Stoney still had the largest war chest of the field. The incumbent held a $78,000 to $52,000 cash-on-hand lead over Rodgers, while Gray and Griffin had $31,000 and $10,000, respectively. All the contenders will face off on one nonpartisan ballot in November in this heavily Democratic city, and a candidate needs to win a plurality of the vote in at least five of the nine City Council districts in order to avoid a runoff.
● IN-AG: On Wednesday, state Democratic officials announced that former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel had narrowly defeated state Sen. Karen Tallian at the weekend nominating convention. (In Indiana, both parties choose their candidates for several statewide offices, including attorney general, through conventions rather than primaries.)
It will be a few weeks before Weinzapfel will learn if his GOP opponent will be scandal-ridden Attorney General Curtis Hill, who faces former Rep. Todd Rokita and two other opponents for renomination. Republicans will conduct their convention by mail, and the results will not be announced until July 10. The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Hill’s law license for 30 days after determining he groped several women in 2018. However, the incumbent’s license was automatically reinstated on Wednesday, and he resumed his duties that day.
● Where Are They Now?: Here are some words we never thought we'd write: Danny Tarkanian has won an election. With all votes tallied from Nevada's June 9 GOP primary, Tarkanian leads incumbent Dave Nelson 50.07-49.93―a margin of 17 votes―for a seat on the Douglas County Commission. No other candidate will be listed on the November general election ballot in District 1, so Tarkanian is positioned to win this seat by default. (The two sweetest words in the English language).
Nelson, who led until the final vote tally came in on Wednesday, isn't giving up yet, though. The incumbent announced that he'd seek a recount, which he'll need to pay for himself. (The state only covers the cost when there's a tie.)
If the recount confirms Tarkanian's lead, it will end a long and celebrated (well, among Democrats) losing streak in Nevada politics. Tarkanian, whose parents are the legendary University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and longtime Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, first ran for office in 2004 when he lost the general election for the state Senate 54-46.
The younger Tarkanian (known as Little Tark to his not-friends), who lived in Las Vegas' Clark County until his move north to Douglas County last year, was hardly deterred, though. Tarkanian went on to lose the 2006 general for secretary of state; the 2010 primary for U.S. Senate; the 2012 general for the 4th Congressional District; the 2016 general for the 3rd Congressional District; and the 2018 general for the 3rd District (again).
Despite that awful record, though, Tarkanian was still a serious factor in Nevada politics. Little Tark had the connections to raise a serious amount of money, and he often would throw down some of his own cash as well. Tarkanian also came very close to taking the 3rd District in 2016, though he ended up losing the expensive race to now-Sen. Jacky Rosen 47-46 as Donald Trump was taking the seat 48-47.
Last year, after Tarkanian relocated north, there was speculation that he could challenge Rep. Mark Amodei in the GOP primary for the 2nd District. Tarkanian instead decided to focus his attention on a more local contest, though, and he joined a pro-development slate of candidates seeking seats on the 5-member Douglas County Commission. That strategy seems to have finally delivered Tarkanian his first win of his seven campaigns.
● Ireland: In an unprecedented move, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Ireland's two leading parties of the 20th century, reached an agreement to join forces in a coalition government, along with the support of the center-left Green Party, although Green Party members must approve their party leadership's coalition agreement with at least a two-thirds supermajority before it can be finalized.
This new alliance holds 85 of the 160 seats in the Dáil Éireann (the Irish parliament), and while somewhat unwieldy, it was likely the most stable option given the lack of a clear winner following February's elections. Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin will serve as taoiseach (prime minister) through December of 2022, at which point Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar, the current incumbent, will return to the office through the remainder of the Dáil's term.
Even though both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael share similar center-right philosophies, the two parties have been fierce rivals since their founding in the years after the Irish War of Independence ended in 1921. (Fine Gael was established by supporters of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that concluded the war; Fianna Fáil by opponents.)
The two competitors had occasionally voted to allow one another to form governments when parliamentary arithmetic required it, but they had never formally joined in coalition. The February elections finally changed the calculus, however, after the nationalist, left-wing Sinn Féin won the most votes. Fianna Fáil, though, won the most seats, while Fine Gael, which had led the previous government, came in a close third in both metrics.
With both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael viewing Sinn Féin as an unacceptable partner, and with most of parliament's smaller parties and independents more left-leaning, the two major center-right organizations had little choice but to work together. However, to reach a majority, they also had to bring in the Greens, whose best-ever performance in February netted them 12 seats, making them the fourth-largest party.
Sinn Fein, which turned in its best showing in its modern form, will now lead the opposition for the first time in its history. The party could have won the most seats had it run more candidates, but Ireland's electoral system can punish parties for running too many candidates unless they do very well, so Sinn Féin had played it safe. It's likely, though, that the party will be more aggressive in the next election, and it is well-positioned to take power for the first time ever in its current incarnation if it maintains its support over the next few years.