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.
Looking for our Election Changes section? You'll now find it toward the bottom of the Morning Digest.
● GA-14: Wealthy businesswoman Marjorie Greene, a defender of the notorious pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon who has her own litany of racist, Islamaphobic, and anti-Semitic rantings, decisively beat neurosurgeon John Cowan 57-43 in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff for Georgia's 14th Congressional District. This seat, which is located in the northwestern part of the state, backed Donald Trump 75-22, and Greene will have no trouble winning the general election to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Tom Graves.
National and state Republican leaders wasted no time welcoming Greene to the fold following her victory. Donald Trump tweeted that Greene was "strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!"
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose office said back in June that he found Greene's words "appalling," also made it clear that she'd be welcomed to the GOP caucus when she takes her seat in January and given committee assignments. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, who are running against each other in the November all-party primary for Senate, each congratulated Greene on her win as well.
Greene began running for office last year in a very different seat than the one she prevailed in this week. Greene, who was based in Alpharetta in Atlanta's affluent northwestern suburbs, entered the race to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in the 6th District. Greene self-funded $500,000 for that campaign, and she threatened to force former Rep. Karen Handel, who was the national GOP's choice to take on McBath, to spend valuable time and money in the primary.
It soon became clear, though, that Greene would be an awful GOP nominee in a competitive seat like the 6th District. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last summer that in early October of 2017, four days after a lone terrorist named Stephen Paddock murdered 58 people at a concert in the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, Greene put out a video where she wondered if the attack was part of a government plot to try to pass anti-gun laws.
Greene kept this up five months later when she shared a post on her Facebook page that accused the FBI of taking part in a cover-up and added, "Every American knows we have been lied to." Greene told the AJC in July of 2019 that she now accepted the official version of events and was satisfied that Paddock acted alone, and she insisted she just "had questions and demanded answers." However, Greene's old Facebook post still remained up by the time the paper's article was published on what is now her own campaign's fan page, though it was removed sometime over the following months.
Around that same time, the paper reported that Greene was quite the fan of QAnon. She had used her social media account to issue several tweets defending the conspiracy theory, and Greene even implored her followers to send her any questions about it so she could "walk you through the whole thing." And in a video that would surface later, Greene said that it offered "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out."
We'll never got to find out how much trouble the well-funded Greene could have given Handel because in December, Graves unexpectedly announced that he would retire from the 14th District. Greene soon started expressing interest in running there instead, saying that she'd been encouraged to make the switch by prominent members of the nihilist House Freedom Caucus, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. Greene announced a short time later that she would indeed run to succeed Graves even though her Alpharetta community was located about 20 miles from the nearest community in the 14th District, a rural and more working-class district.
Greene's district hopping, though, was soon overshadowed by her own words and associates. In May, the AJC reported that Greene had posed for a photo earlier that year with longtime white supremacist Chester Doles. Greene's campaign didn't show the slightest bit of contrition, and it instead dismissed the paper's questions as "silly and the same type of sleazy attacks the Fake News Media levels against President Trump." Doles, for his part, called Greene "part of the Q movement" and a "[g]ood friend to have."
Just before the first round of the primary in June, Greene ran a commercial where she held 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."
Voters didn't seem remotely bothered by any of this, though. Greene took first place in the nine-way primary with 40% of the vote, while Cowan was a distant second with 19%. Days later, Politico unearthed hours of self-narrated videos Greene posted to Facebook: In those videos, Greene compared Black Lives Matter activists to the Nazis who marched on Charlottesville in 2017; dubbed "white males" the "most mistreated group of people in the United States today"; called Holocaust survivor George Soros a "piece of crap," repeating the lie that Soros was a Nazi collaborator; and declared that "[t]here is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now."
In response to a request for comment from Politico, Greene's campaign manager did not dispute the authenticity of the videos but instead said, "Thank[s] for the reminder about Soros. We forgot to put him in our newest ad. We're fixing that now."
McCarthy's office soon put out a statement saying that he had "no tolerance" for Greene's rhetoric, but neither he nor NRCC chair Tom Emmer backed Cowan or took any real action to stop her. Indeed, as Politico would later report, there was never any serious outside spending against Greene or for Cowan over the following two months. Greene also maintained the support of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is a former Freedom Caucus leader.
Greene herself only doubled down on the strategy that had gotten her this far. She issued more racist and antisemitic tweets labeling Cowan "a "globalist Never Trumper who wants even more money for the Chinese-controlled WHO," and claimed that the same GOP establishment that had opposed Trump was trying to sink her. Greene also ran a commercial where she praised Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who faces murder charges for killing Rayshard Brooks.
Cowan, for his part, tried to position himself as an alternative to Greene with the slogan, "All of the conservative, none of the embarrassment." But, perhaps sensing that this wasn't an effective argument among Republican primary voters, Cowan focused his ads instead on allegations that Greene's construction company didn't take part in a federal program meant to screen out undocumented immigrants.
Cowan released a few polls showing a close race, but national Republican leaders seemed to sense where things were going. Just before Election Day, McCarthy's team said that he remained neutral and that he now had "a good and productive relationship with both" candidates.
Greene ultimately pulled off a convincing win against Cowan, and she didn't waste any time demonstrating that she wouldn't change now that that primary was over. On election night, Greene said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "She's a hypocrite. She's anti-American. And we're going to kick that bitch out of Congress." Republican leaders, including Trump, continued to congratulate Greene for her victory.
● Netroots Nation: Netroots Nation is going virtual this year, and so is our elections Q&A panel! If you'll be attending Netroots Nation this year, please join the Daily Kos Elections team on Thursday at 12 PM ET for our annual event: We dispense with the PowerPoints and proceed directly to questions from the audience about the races they're most interested in. A recording will also be made publicly available after the conference.
This panel will be moderated by Jeff Singer and feature Matt Booker, Carolyn Fiddler, and Stephen Wolf from Daily Kos along with Sister District co-founder and Director of Engagement & Partnerships Lala Wu. We hope you'll join us for our Q&A as we take stock of this historic election cycle!
● KS-Sen: SurveyUSA has released a poll crowdfunded by election enthusiasts on Twitter (the firm lists its client as "Elections Twitter"), and it finds Republican Roger Marshall leading Democrat Barbara Bollier just 46-44. The sample also shows Donald Trump ahead 48-41 in a state he took 56-36 four years ago; this would be by far the closest presidential contest in Kansas since 1992, when George H.W. Bush beat Bill Clinton 39-34.
A recent Public Policy Polling survey for Bollier's allies at EMILY's List found Marshall and Trump ahead 43-42 and 50-43, respectively, which is very similar to what SurveyUSA has. The last poll we saw before that was an early June poll from the Democratic firm Civiqs conducted on behalf of Daily Kos, which showed Marshall up 42-41 while Trump led by a stronger 52-40 spread.
● ME-Sen: The conservative group One Nation has launched a new TV ad praising Republican Sen. Susan Collins for "fighting to help children with pre-existing conditions." However, National Journal's Zach Cohen points out that the Collins bill cited in the ad, the Ending Diagnostic Odyssey Act, doesn't even mention "pre-existing conditions" or "insurance" and instead allows state Medicaid programs to cover genome sequencing to help children with undiagnosed conditions.
● SC-Sen: The gun safety group Giffords Courage, which supports Democrat Jaime Harrison, has publicized a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham up just 47-44. The release did not include presidential numbers.
● Polls: The Democratic firm Change Research has released a trio of new Senate polls for CNBC:
- AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D): 49, Martha McSally (R-inc): 43 (45-44 Biden) (July: 47-45 Kelly)
- MI-Sen: Gary Peters (D-inc): 48, John James (R): 45 (48-43 Biden) (July: 48-44 Peters)
- NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 48, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 43 (48-47 Trump) (July: 52-40 Cunningham)
While most pollsters have found Democratic Sen. Gary Peters well ahead in Michigan, Change Research has often been considerably more bearish about his prospects. However, no survey has shown Republican John James in the lead since early March, when the Republican firms 0ptimus and Firehouse Strategies had him up 41-40.
● IN-05: In her opening TV spot for the general election that runs at a full minute in length, Democrat Christina Hale talks about her humble origins and work improving the lives of children locally and at home.
● MA-01: The Justice Democrats, the most prominent progressive group supporting Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse's bid for Congress, has released a statement saying it was "disappointed by Alex Morse's poor judgment" and would "continue to gather more information and evaluate our involvement based on Alex's response this week." However, the organization insisted it would also "continue to forcefully raise awareness about Richard Neal's long record standing against working families," referring to the incumbent Morse is challenging in next month's primary.
Three local groups of campus Democrats accused Morse last week of "taking advantage of his position of power for romantic or sexual gain, specifically toward young students." Morse acknowledged having relationships with college students and said they had all been consensual, but when directly asked in a new interview whether he'd been involved with students at UMass Amherst, where he taught political science from 2014 to 2019, he refused to answer.
Instead, Morse said he believed that Neal's campaign was behind the public release of the College Democrats' allegations, which were first published by the UMass student newspaper, adding, "I think this is what happens when you go against power." Previously, Morse criticized the accusations against him as invoking "age-old anti-gay stereotypes."
Neal's allies, meanwhile, are continuing to attack Morse on the airwaves. A labor-backed super PAC called American Working Families is running a new ad criticizing Morse's record on education as mayor, backed by a $128,000 buy. So far, the group has spent $311,000 in total to thwart Morse.
● MA-04: Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey has unveiled a survey from Frederick Polls of the crowded Sept. 1 Democratic primary:
Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman: 19
Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss: 16
Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey: 11
Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell: 10
Former assistant state attorney general Dave Cavell: 7
City Year co-founder Alan Khazei: 6
Public health expert Natalia Linos: 4
Attorney Ben Sigel: 2
Businessman Chris Zannetos: 1
While this poll shows Leckey in third place, the memo argues that she's made large gains since late June, when an unreleased survey had her at just 3%.
● MA-08: Physician Robbie Goldstein has unveiled a poll from Lincoln Park Strategies that argues he can upset veteran Rep. Stephen Lynch in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary for this seat based in Boston's southern suburbs. The survey gives Lynch a 39-32 edge over Goldstein, who is challenging the incumbent from the left in a contest that hasn't attracted much outside attention yet.
● MN-07: On Wednesday, one day after former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach won the GOP primary, the conservative super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund released a poll from the Tarrance Group giving Fischbach a 52-42 lead over longtime Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. As usual, the CLF did not include any presidential results, even though there's little question that Donald Trump will once again carry a seat he took 62-31 four years ago. This is the first survey we've seen of the race for this rural western Minnesota district.
● MT-AL: Democrat Kathleen Williams begins her first general election TV commercial, "The Washington playbook says I shouldn't tell you I voted for Reagan when I'm running as a Democrat." She's later shown target shooting as she talks about how she's both a gun owner and a supporter of background checks. The commercial ends with Williams at a bar saying, "And I bet they think I shouldn't have a beer in my ad either."
● NC-11: Madison Cawthorn has looked like a sure bet to win the general election for this conservative seat in Appalachian North Carolina ever since he claimed the Republican nomination in a late June upset, but Democrats released a pair of surveys on Wednesday showing a potentially competitive race.
DCCC Analytics first unveiled an early August internal that found Cawthorn beating Democrat Moe Davis just 46-41. The sample also gives Donald Trump only a 48-46 edge in a district he took 57-40 in 2016. Later in the day, Davis' team publicized a month-old EMC Research survey that showed Cawthorn ahead by a small 42-40 margin, but this release did not include presidential numbers.
Davis, who won the Democratic nod in early March, ended June with a $268,000 to $164,000 cash-on-hand lead over Cawthorn.
● PA-10: The Democratic firm DFM Research once again is polling on behalf of the transportation workers union SMART as part of a survey on rail issues, and it also has horserace numbers from this Harrisburg-based seat. DFM shows Democrat Eugene DePasquale leading Republican Scott Perry 46-44, while Joe Biden is up 48-46 in a district that backed Donald Trump 52-43 in 2016; SMART does not appear to have taken sides in the congressional contest. The only poll we've seen here was a late June internal for DePasquale from GBAO that gave Perry a 50-47 edge, while Biden was ahead 48-47 here.
Both sides are preparing for an expensive contest here. DePasquale outraised Perry $648,000 to $467,000 during the second quarter, while Perry ended June with a small $991,000 to $985,000 cash-on-hand lead. Major Democratic groups have also reserved $2 million in ad time in the Harrisburg market, which covers the entire seat, while Perry's allies have booked $1.2 million.
● TX-23: Republican Tony Gonzales has released a survey from Public Opinion Strategies showing him trailing 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones by 41-40. Unlike a number of other recent GOP internal polls, this survey actually released presidential numbers showing Joe Biden up just 48-45 in a seat Clinton won by 50-46, a finding that appears at odds with Biden's significantly improved standing statewide in many other polls of the Lone Star State.
This is the first poll we've seen here in months and the first at all that comes after the July 14 primary runoff, which left Gonzales with a slim 45-vote lead over GOP primary rival Raul Reyes. However, Reyes is seeking a recount, which the GOP recently confirmed would begin on Tuesday this week.
● Polls: U.S. Term Limits has released another three House polls from RMG Group, though this time, none of them include presidential numbers:
- MI-06: Jon Hoadley (D): 40, Fred Upton (R-inc): 36
- NY-24: John Katko (R-inc): 40, Dana Balter (D): 37
- TX-10: Michael McCaul (R-inc): 46, Mike Siegel (D): 39
The group says that each of these Republican incumbents opposes their congressional term limits pledge and insists that the Democratic candidates would be doing far better if only they would sign on.
● Minnesota: A Minnesota state court has rejected a request by the NAACP that it order election officials to send absentee ballots to all voters, ruling that the right to vote does not come with "a corresponding constitutional right to receive an absentee ballot."
● New Hampshire: The American Federation of Teachers has filed a lawsuit in state court asking that New Hampshire election officials be required to count absentee ballots so long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received "within a reasonable period of time after Election Day." Currently, ballots must be received by 5 PM local time on Election Day to be valid, which is two hours before polls close in most of the state.
The plaintiffs are also asking that several other voting laws be eased, including various requirements for witnesses and documentation related to registering to vote by mail. In addition, they want the state to prepay return postage for absentee ballots.
● New Mexico: Ten New Mexico counties that cover a majority of the state, including its four largest, have informed Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver that they will send absentee ballot applications to all voters for the November general election, while five say they will not do so; the remaining 18 have yet to announce their plans. County clerks are now able to send ballot applications to their voters after the state's Democratic-run legislature passed a bill allowing them to do so in June.
● South Carolina: Two voters, who are represented by an attorney from the South Carolina Democratic Party, have filed a suit before the state Supreme Court asking that the justices order officials to make a broad swath of changes to their procedures for carrying out the November general election.
In particular, the plaintiffs want the state to allow voters to cast absentee ballots without an excuse; the ability to request absentee ballots online; the elimination of the requirement that ballots be witnessed; the establishment of an early voting period; and drop boxes and curbside voting options.
Primary Result Recaps
● GA-09: Gun store owner Andrew Clyde won the Republican primary runoff by defeating state Rep. Matt Gurtler 56-44. Clyde will have no trouble winning the general election to succeed Rep. Doug Collins, who is leaving to run for the Senate, in this 78-19 Trump seat in the northeastern part of the state.
Gurtler, who developed a hostile relationship with state party leaders during his two terms in the legislature, benefited from $1.3 million in outside spending from two groups, the well-known Club for Growth and the completely unknown Concerned American Voters, while Clyde had no major outside support. Clyde, though, had the backing of many establishment politicians who wanted to see Gurtler defeated. Clyde also emphasized his military career and his successful battle against the IRS after it seized close to $1 million from him in 2013.
● Fulton County, GA District Attorney: Former judge Fani Willis defeated 24-year incumbent Paul Howard in a 73-27 landslide in Tuesday's Democratic primary runoff. No Republicans are running in the general election in this very blue county, which is home to most of the city of Atlanta (the balance is in neighboring DeKalb County) and some of its suburbs. Willis would be the first woman to hold this office.
Willis, unlike many candidates challenging incumbent district attorneys this cycle, didn't campaign as a criminal justice reformer, and she even had the backing of the Atlanta Police Union. Instead, Willis focused on sexual harassment and workplace discrimination allegations against Howard and argued, "It's unfortunate that we aren't talking about public safety but instead the conduct of the county's chief law enforcement officer."
● MN-05: Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar defeated attorney Antone Melton-Meaux 57-39 to win renomination in this safely blue Minneapolis district. Omar was on the receiving end of millions of negative ads from Melton-Meaux and a PAC called Americans for Tomorrow's Future. However, she had the backing of several prominent Minnesota Democrats, including Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, who held this seat for six terms prior to Omar's victory in 2018.
● VT-Gov: Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman defeated former state Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe 51-40 in the Democratic primary to face Republican Gov. Phil Scott.
Scott himself won renomination 73-22 against attorney John Klar, a conservative who filed to run as an independent the day before the primary. Vermont requires independent candidates turn in their paperwork before the primary, and Klar said at the time that, while he hadn't decided on a general election campaign, he wanted to make sure he'd still have that option. Seven Days reports that independents have 10 days after the primary to withdraw from the general election ballot.
Scott, though, looks like the clear favorite no matter what Klar decides to do. While Vermont is solidly Democratic at the federal level, voters in the Green Mountain State have long backed moderate Republicans like Scott for governor. Scott won re-election 55-40 during the 2018 Democratic wave, and polls have given him strong approval ratings since then. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.
P.S. Vermont has an unusual law that requires the state legislature to pick a winner in gubernatorial races where no one earns a majority of the vote, which is exactly what happened after the 2002, 2010, and 2014 elections. Team Blue is assured to keep control of both chambers this fall, and while the Democratic-led legislature awarded Republican Jim Douglas the governorship after he won a 45-42 plurality in 2002, there's no guarantee the same thing would happen if Klar unexpectedly prevents Scott from taking a majority this year.
● Special Elections: Democrat Spencer Wetmore flipped South Carolina's House District 115 in Tuesday's special election by defeating Republican Josh Stokes by a wide 59-39 margin. Once Wetmore is seated, the GOP will enjoy a smaller, though still substantial, 78-45 majority. (One other GOP-held seat remains vacant.) Wetmore and Stokes will have a rematch in November for a full two-year term.
This suburban Charleston seat started the decade as safely red turf, and Mitt Romney carried it by a commanding 57-41 spread in 2012. The district only backed Donald Trump 48-45 four years later, though, and Republican state Rep. Peter McCoy prevailed just 51-49 in 2018 against the same opponent he'd beaten in a landslide back in 2012. McCoy resigned earlier this year to become interim U.S. attorney, which set off the special election that Wetmore won.
There's one other important thing to note about this contest. All of HD-115 is located in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, and this is exactly the sort of area where Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham is counting on a good performance.
There was far less drama in the all-GOP runoff for Georgia's 4th Senate District, where Billy Hickman beat Scott Bohlke 56-44. Once Hickman takes office, the GOP will again hold a 35-21 majority.