Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington held their primaries on Tuesday. You can find current results at the links for each state; we’ll have a comprehensive rundown in our next Digest.
● MO-01: In a major upset, nurse and activist Cori Bush defeated 10-term Rep. Lacy Clay in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. With 150,000 votes in, Bush led the incumbent 49-46. Bush will now be the overwhelming favorite in November in a St. Louis-based seat that backed Hillary Clinton 77-19.
The race featured two strikingly different candidates: Clay’s family has represented this district for over 50 years, while Bush only began her political career a few years ago. It started inauspiciously, with a 2016 Senate bid that went nowhere and ended with a punishing 70-13 loss in the Democratic primary to national party favorite Jason Kander (Kander went on to narrowly lose the general election).
Two years later, Bush sought to challenge Clay but raised little money. However, she earned a prominent endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, earlier that summer, had astonished the political world with her own victory against a longtime Democratic incumbent. While Bush didn't replicate AOC's success, Clay only won by a 57-37 margin, a fairly weak showing for a primary that suggested a significant number of voters were unhappy with the congressman.
Bush soon sought a rematch, and this time, the campaign was a far more competitive affair. She raised a credible amount of money and benefited from almost a quarter million in outside spending from two connected groups, the Justice Democrats and Fight Corporate Monopolies. Clay seemed to belatedly recognize he was in some trouble and began running attack ads against Bush in the final week of the race, but according to Politico, the challenger and her allies outspent him badly on the airwaves during the stretch run.
Bush argued during the campaign that Clay had not risen to meet the challenges of this moment in American history. Bush began making a name for herself through her involvement in the 2014 protests against police brutality in Ferguson, which is located in the 1st District, as well as the demonstrations that broke out in the region this spring after the death of George Floyd. Bush contrasted her record with Clay's, rhetorically asking, “When we were getting our butts kicked and I was maced in the face in Florissant a few weeks ago and people were getting beat on by police officers … did he show up the next day to say, ‘You can’t do this in my district, you can’t treat people this way?’ No, no.”
Clay portrayed himself as a traditional, workaday warrior for his constituents—a message he'd long relied on throughout his career—but he also went much further. In pushing back against Bush, who like him is Black, he claimed, “The easy, racist way to lay it out is, ‘Look at Clay—what has he done for his district? I fight for that district every single day.” Clay further denigrated the groups supporting Bush by claiming they were merely using her as a “prop,” insisting, “They use her to raise money to support their infrastructure.” Ultimately, these attacks could not save Clay from his surprise defeat.
Clay’s loss means that, for the first time in 52 years, this area won’t be represented by his clan. Clay’s father, Bill Clay, won a previous version of this seat back in 1968 and went on to become a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. The congressman retired in 2000, paving the way for his son, who decisively defeated St. Louis County Councilman Charlie Dooley 61-27 in the primary to succeed the elder Clay in the 1st District.
Clay faced no serious opposition for renomination until 2012, when a new Republican-drawn congressional map led fellow Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan to run against him after Carnahan's old 3rd District was dismantled. The new seat, though, contained far more of Clay’s constituents than Carnahan’s, which gave Clay a huge advantage from the start.
The new 1st District was also predominantly Black: Carnahan, who is white, argued that he could represent the area’s “minority majority” better than Clay could, a message that got him nowhere. Clay ended up winning by a decisive 63-34 and never faced another electoral threat—until Bush.
● KS-02: Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins badly lost his Republican primary on Tuesday to state Treasurer Jake LaTurner in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District, a development that came less than a month after Watkins was charged by local authorities with alleged voter fraud. With 78,000 votes counted when we put the Digest to bed, LaTurner led Watkins by a 49-34 margin. LaTurner will take on Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla, who had no serious Democratic primary opposition, in the November general election.
This seat, which includes Topeka and nearby rural areas, supported Donald Trump by a wide 56-37 margin, but while Team Red’s prospects have almost certainly improved with Watkins out of the picture, this contest may still be competitive. Last month, LaTurner released a Battleground Connect poll that showed him leading De La Isla just 42-41; LaTurner publicized those numbers to argue that he’d fare better in the fall than Watkins, who trailed the Democrat 50-37. De La Isla has also been a considerably stronger fundraiser than LaTurner, so she’ll have the resources to put up a serious fight in what’s still a tough district. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.
Watkins’ defeat ends a short political career where he constantly made news for all the wrong reasons. He first ran for office in 2018 in a crowded open seat primary, and he used his personal resources to outspend his opponents; Watkins also benefited from heavy air support from a super PAC financed by his father. However, while Watkins portrayed himself as an ardent Trump ally, local Democratic leaders said that he met with them the previous year about the possibility of running for Team Blue.
Watkins also faced questions about his weak ties to Kansas. He’d lived most of his adult life in Alaska and Massachusetts, and only moved to the Sunflower State shortly before he kicked off his congressional campaign.
Watkins won his primary 27-23, but he faced another tough race in November against Democrat Paul Davis, who had carried the seat during his unsuccessful 2014 bid for governor. This time it was Watkins who was badly outspent, though national Republicans poured in plenty of money to rescue him.
The Republican nominee faced even more scrutiny during the general election, and he did not come off well in the least bit. Watkins presented himself on the campaign trail as an adventurer who had built up a defense contracting company called VIAP, but several media reports exposed him as a serial liar. Among many other things, senior officials at VIAP said they didn't even remember Watkins. The candidate ended up admitting that, despite what he'd said many times about his business career, he'd never actually owned or expanded VIAP, but he went back to lying about the same topic weeks later like nothing ever happened.
About a week before Election Day, a woman also publicly accused Watkins of making "unwanted sexual advances" against her 12 years before. Watkins ended up defeating Davis in a very expensive contest, but only by a 48-47 margin.
While Watkins may have felt safe now that he was the incumbent, he soon had reason to think again. In the summer of 2019, the new congressman was dogged by intense speculation that he'd resign from office due to an unspecified (and still unrevealed) scandal. Soon thereafter LaTurner, who had been waging a very uphill Senate campaign, announced that he’d instead challenge Watkins for renomination. LaTurner didn't drop any obvious clues about what the rumors dogging the congressman were, though, and instead pointed to Watkins' narrow win the previous year as evidence that the seat needed a new nominee.
Things only got worse for Watkins in December of 2019 when the Topeka Capital-Journal first reported that he may have committed voter fraud by listing a UPS store in Topeka as his home address on his voter registration form and then proceeding to cast a ballot the previous month as though he lived there.
Watkins' team argued that the congressman had made an "inadvertent" error and insisted he had "no improper purpose" because the UPS store and his supposed residence are both in the same county and congressional district. However, the locations are in different city council districts, and the contest Watkins cast his ballot in was decided by just 13 votes. Local authorities began investigating Watkins for potential voter fraud soon after the Capital-Journal's story broke.
Watkins got more bad press for a different matter a few months later when Politico reported that the FEC was investigating his father, Steve Watkins Sr., for allegedly making so-called “straw” donations to his son’s 2018 campaign. The story also once again highlighted the congressman’s flimsy connections to his constituency by describing how he’d lived with five of his staffers in Kansas during that initial race, an environment that one source described as “frat-like.”
Watkins soon had more pressing concerns, though. In July, Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay charged him with three felonies over his 2019 vote: “interference with law enforcement, providing false information,” “voting without being qualified,” and “unlawful advance voting.” Awkwardly for Watkins, the news came just half an hour before he was set to debate LaTurner.
Watkins ran ads trying to argue that, like Donald Trump, he was the victim of a corrupt prosecutor, and that LaTurner was a career politician who has supported higher taxes. LaTurner struck back with commercials highlighting Watkin's scandal and weak 2018 win: In the end, it was LaTurner’s message that broke through and finished off the congressman’s short career.
● Minnesota: A state court judge has approved a settlement between voting rights advocates and Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon for the November general election that will waive Minnesota's requirement that mail voters have their ballots witnessed and will also require that officials count any ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within a week. In June, the same judge signed off on a similar agreement for the state's Aug. 11 primaries.
● New York: A federal judge has ordered New York election officials to count all absentee ballots missing a postmark but received by June 25—two days after the June 23 primary—concluding that the state's postmark requirement was "not justified" to ensure such ballots were cast on time. The state Board of Elections has said it will appeal the decision.
While thousands of ballots without postmarks were invalidated by officials, it's unlikely that their inclusion would change the results in any races. One of the two plaintiffs seeking public office, attorney Suraj Patel, currently trails Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary for the 12th Congressional District by 3,700 votes and has said he "accept[s] the result" though he says he has not conceded. According to the New York Times, Judge Analisa Torres' ruling would only affect about 1,000 ballots in the race.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who's represented the Brooklyn-based 50th District since 1973, conceded two weeks ago to challenger Emily Gallagher, Patel's co-plaintiff. However, Torres noted that while her ruling did not apply to ballots received without a postmark between June 26 and June 30 (the state's receipt deadline), she would consider possible remedies if "a candidate can show that a tally of [such] ballots could be outcome dispositive of a race."
● Polls: We have quite a few surveys of the upper chamber in today's Digest, so we've rounded up all the numbers below. Just past them you'll find our thoughts on a few of the most interesting polls.
- AL-Sen: Morning Consult: Tommy Tuberville (R): 52, Doug Jones (D-inc): 35 (Trump 58-36)
- KY-Sen: Morning Consult: Mitch McConnell (R-inc): 53, Amy McGrath (D): 36 (Trump 59-35)
- MI-Sen: Public Policy Polling (D) for Progress Michigan: Gary Peters (D-inc): 47, John James (R): 39 (49-43 Biden) (July: 49-42 Peters)
- SC-Sen: Morning Consult: Lindsey Graham (R-inc): 44, Jaime Harrison (D): 43 (Trump 49-44)
- TX-Sen: Morning Consult: John Cornyn (R-inc): 44, MJ Hegar (D): 38 (Biden 47-46)
- TX-Sen: Global Strategy Group (D) and Latino Decisions for DSCC: Cornyn (R-inc): 43, Hegar (D): 42
This is the first poll we've seen of Alabama since Tommy Tuberville won the Republican primary runoff on July 14.
The only other Kentucky survey that has been released in the last month was a mid-July poll from Garin-Hart-Yang for Amy McGrath that had her down just 45-41. That sample also showed Donald Trump ahead by a smaller 53-41 in a state he carried 63-33 four years ago.
Michigan has been polled considerably more often than any of these other states, and PPP's numbers are similar to what we've seen elsewhere. Our Daily Kos Elections polling average, which does not factor in this latest survey, shows Democratic incumbent Gary Peters ahead 50-37.
We recently saw two polls taken for Jaime Harrison in South Carolina that, like Morning Consult’s survey, also found Graham only narrowly ahead: Brilliant Corners had the incumbent up 43-41 as Trump led 50-43, while ALG Research found Graham and Trump leading 49-45 and 50-45, respectively. Trump carried the Palmetto State 55-41 four years ago.
Finally, we've seen one reliable survey of the Texas Senate race since MJ Hegar won her primary runoff on July 14, a Quinnipiac poll that showed Cornyn up 47-38. That release, though, also found Joe Biden ahead 45-44, which is the same margin that Morning Consult finds now. That could indicate that the undecideds in the Senate contest, contrary to what you'd usually find in a red state like Texas, lean toward Democrats, which could give Hegar a lift. (The poll for the DSCC did not include presidential numbers for the Lone Star State, which Trump carried 52-43 in 2016.)
● GA-Sen-B: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a newly formed super PAC called Georgia United Victory with connections to allies of Gov. Brian Kemp (its initials just happen to be G-U-V), has launched a two-week, $1.5 million ad campaign in support of appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The PAC’s opening spot goes after Republican Rep. Doug Collins, who is one of Loeffler's opponents in the November all-party primary, declaring he's backed "pork barrel projects." The group is chaired by former Kemp staffer Martha Zoeller, who lost the 2012 primary runoff to none other than Collins.
While Loeffler will welcome the air support, it's not a good sign that she even needs it. Loeffler pledged to spend $20 million of her own money to defend this seat after Kemp appointed her last year, and she’s already put $15 million toward fufilling that promise. That massive infusion of self-funding was supposed to allow the GOP to direct its resources towards helping fellow Georgia Sen. David Perdue and other Republicans nationwide. However, Georgia United Victory's investment is just the latest sign that, for all her wealth, Loeffler apparently isn’t able to fend for herself after all.
● IA-Sen: The progressive group End Citizens United has launched a new $1.3 million ad campaign against Republican Sen. Joni Ernst that argues that she's changed for the worse in Washington.
Democrat Theresa Greenfield is also running a commercial that pushes back on Republican attacks on her business background. A woman identified as small business owner Loretta Sieman says of Greenfield, "I've seen her grow her company, care for her workers and small businesses, and fight like heck to save them during the global financial crisis." Sieman continues, "Her company fell victim to it, too. Theresa even lost her own job during the crisis. So this negative smear campaign against Theresa Greenfield is flat-out false."
● VT-Gov: Fundraising reports are in for the month of July, and they show former state Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe spending the most heading into next week's Democratic primary to face Republican Gov. Phil Scott. While Holcomb only outraised Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman $65,000 to $60,000 during this timeframe, she deployed $115,000 to Zuckerman's $61,000. A third Democratic candidate, attorney Patrick Winburn, self-funded about $15,000 and spent $22,000.
● CA-50: Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar's campaign has shown The Hill an internal poll from Strategies 360 that finds him trailing Republican Darrell Issa by a fairly close 47-43 margin. However, The Hill's story did not mention any presidential numbers in this inland San Diego County seat, which Donald Trump took 55-40 four years ago. A March internal for Campa-Najjar from the same firm had Issa ahead 48-45.
● FL-03: Kat Cammack is running another chicken-themed TV spot ahead of the Aug. 18 Republican primary to succeed her old boss, retiring Rep. Ted Yoho. The candidate begins, "On our farm I'm surrounded by chickens, so D.C. will be no different," and just like in her first ad, there are chickens in ties.
● FL-19: St. Pete Polls has released a new survey for Florida Politics of the Aug. 18 Republican primary for this safely red seat. The numbers are below, with the results of the firm's early July poll in parentheses:
- State Rep. Byron Donalds: 22 (26)
- Physician William Figlesthaler: 21 (16)
- State House Majority Leader Dane Eagle: 20 (8)
- Businessman Casey Askar: 16 (30)
- Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson: 8 (5)
None of the other four candidates take more than 3%.
● GA-06: The NRCC is for some reason publicizing a new poll from North Star Opinion Research that not only shows freshman Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath leading Republican Karen Handel in Georgia's 6th District but also finds Handel losing support since April. This new survey has McBath up 48-46, while it was Handel who was ahead 49-47 in North Star's previous poll.
And in what seems to have fast become a tradition for Republicans, the NRCC also did not include presidential numbers in either of these two polls. If Team Red did ask respondents about that contest, though, we doubt they'd like the result.
This ancestrally red seat in Atlanta's affluent northern suburbs is in theory the sort of turf Republicans have to reclaim to have a shot at retaking the majority. However, the 6th District zoomed from 61-37 Romney to 48-47 Trump, and Democrat Stacey Abrams carried it 51.0-47.5 during her 2018 bid for governor at the same time McBath was busy unseating Handel 50.5-49.5. But well-educated suburban areas like this have only continued to grow more hostile to Trump and the GOP, something even the NRCC’s own data backs up.
And while McBath was the underdog during her last race, which she won in a major upset, she now has a massive financial edge over the former congresswoman. McBath outraised Handel $1.45 million to $522,000 during the second quarter of 2020 and ended June with a $3.8 million to $1.2 million cash-on-hand lead.
● IA-01: Republican Ashley Hinson uses most of her opening television ad to present herself as a concerned mother worried about the direction of the country, but she can't resist going full-on Trump mid-way through. “For years, I reported the news,” she begins. “Today, I can’t even let my kids watch it.” Who lets their little kids—and Hinson’s, shown in the ad, are quite young—watch the news? Anyhow, what is Hinson disturbed by? "Attacks on police, and socialists tearing down anyone and anything they disagree with."
● ME-02: Freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden's first TV spot stars his wife, Isobel Golden, who talks about how the negative commercials run by Washington Republicans against her husband two years ago "just made me laugh." She continues, "So before they try it again, the real Jared Golden grew up in rural Maine, served as a Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, he's one of the most independent members of Congress." She concludes, "In Washington, he works for you. But when he's home, he works for me." The camera then pans to the congressman doing the dishes and shrugging in agreement.
● OH-01: The DCCC has released a survey from Lake Research Partners that gives Democrat Kate Schroder a narrow 47-46 edge against Republican Rep. Steve Chabot. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 48-45 in a Cincinnati-area seat that Donald Trump took 51-45 four years ago.
This is the third survey we've seen here, and the other two have also come from the Democratic side. In mid-May, a poll from the DCCC's in-house data team had Chabot ahead 50-43 while Biden was up 50-46; the committee argued at the time that Schroder would gain ground once she became better known, something that may in fact have happened. Around a month ago, Schroder’s campaign followed up with a GQR poll that showed Chabot up just 48-46 with Biden posting a 50-45 lead.
● San Diego, CA Mayor: Fundraising reports are out covering the period from mid-February to the end of June in the all-Democratic face-off for San Diego mayor, and in a bit of a surprise, City Councilwoman Barbara Bry outraised Assemblyman Todd Gloria, the frontrunner in the race. Bry took in $531,000 from donors and self-funded an additional $150,000, while Gloria raised $289,000 during this time. Gloria, though, ended June with a $424,000 to $343,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Gloria took first place in the March nonpartisan primary with 41%, while Bry narrowly outpaced Republican City Councilman Scott Sherman 22.9-22.6 for the second spot in the November general election. Gloria has the backing of both the area's powerful labor organizations and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. Bry, though, is the more moderate of the two candidates, which could help her win over more conservative voters. The victor will succeed termed-out Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer.