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-02: Freshman Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's new commercial goes after Republican Scott Taylor over the ongoing investigation into his 2018 campaign's signature-gathering scandal. A woman named Bet Cake tells the audience that the last place she thought she'd see her husband's signature "was forged on election forms two months after his death." Cake continues, "Scott Taylor knew about these signature efforts. A judge called it 'out and out fraud.'" She concludes, "I call it hurtful, Mr. Taylor. And disqualifying."
Back in 2018, when Taylor was the incumbent, his staff was exposed forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown, who was later booted off the ballot by a judge. Taylor's campaign acknowledged that August that the congressman knew of his team's plans to aid Brown, but Taylor insisted he hadn't known anything illegal was happening. He even dismissed the entire matter as a "nothing burger" and defended his staffers' involvement in helping Brown with the least sincere of declarations: "That's democracy."
Democrats, though, ran ad after ad slamming Taylor's campaign for its illegal scheming. Luria ended up flipping this swingy Virginia Beach-based seat by unseating Taylor 51-49: Now that's democracy.
Taylor tried to strike a contrite note when he announced in January that he'd try to regain this seat, saying, "I was devastated to learn about wrongdoing on the team. But in the end, I'm responsible for it, and I think some voters held me accountable for it."
But if Taylor thought this would put the matter behind him, he was very wrong: In March, a former Taylor staffer pleaded guilty for her part in the scheme, and Special Prosecutor John Beamer added we were "likely to see more" indictments to come. A second former Taylor staffer was charged two weeks later, and she's set to go on trial in September for election fraud.
Five more months passed with little news, but Taylor himself helped put the scandal back in the headlines in August when he sent a cease-and-desist letter to Luria demanding that she stop making statements claiming that he is under investigation for ballot access fraud. When the local ABC affiliate 13News Now asked Beamer if Taylor wasn't under investigation, though, he responded, "No, that's not true. The entire campaign is under investigation." Beamer added that more indictments were also possible.
● Primary Night: Neal or No Neal: We don't have many primary nights left this cycle, but Tuesday's nomination contests in Massachusetts will give us some big races to watch. As always, we've put together our preview of the most important contests.
The most high-profile race will be the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, where recent polls give incumbent Ed Markey the lead over Rep. Joe Kennedy. We also have a closely watched contest in the 1st District in Western Massachusetts, where House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal faces a challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.
That's not all. We have a seven-way Democratic primary to succeed Kennedy in the 4th District, and two recent polls show an incredibly tight contest. Finally, Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch faces an intra-party challenge from physician Robbie Goldstein in the 8th District, though this contest hasn't attracted much outside spending. Check out our preview for more on each of these contests.
Our live coverage will begin at 8 PM ET Tuesday night at Daily Kos Elections when the polls close. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the cycle's remaining down-ballot primaries, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.
● MO-Gov: The Republican firm Trafalgar Group has released a survey showing GOP Gov. Mike Parson leading Democrat Nicole Galloway 51-36 as Donald Trump takes Missouri 52-41. As we recently noted, Trafalgar attempts to account for so-called "shy" Trump voters—those who, due to an alleged "social desirability bias," are reluctant to tell pollsters that they support Donald Trump—an approach that has produced decidedly mixed results in the past.
● MT-Gov: Democrat Mike Cooney's team has released a Global Strategy Group poll that shows him trailing Republican Greg Gianforte by a narrow 47-46 margin; the release did not include presidential numbers. This is the first survey we've seen from a reliable firm since mid-July, when a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had Gianforte up 47-44 as Donald Trump led by a similar 49-45 spread.
● UT-Gov: On Friday, former Gov. Jon Huntsman finally announced that he would not wage a write-in campaign against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who beat him in a close June Republican primary. Huntsman's decision came just before the Aug. 31 deadline for write-in candidates to declare, so this time, we can take his decision as final. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Safe Republican.
● CO-03: The DCCC said Monday that it was adding Diane Mitsch Bush to its Red to Blue program, an announcement that came the same day that Mitsch Bush earned an endorsement from EMILY's List.
● FL-13: St. Pete Polls, working on behalf of Florida Politics, has released the first survey we've seen from this St. Petersburg-based seat, and it shows Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist leading Republican Anna Paulina Luna 55-39. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 54-40, which is a big improvement from Hillary Clinton's 50-46 victory here four years ago.
● LA-05: Two Republicans running in the November all-party primary for this safely open seat in northeast Louisiana recently released their opening TV spots. Luke Letlow, who served as chief of staff to retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, touts his local roots and conservative roots.
State Rep. Lance Harris, meanwhile, declares that he only went into politics at 50 because "the call came to serve, and I answered it." Harris bemoans the state of the country as footage fills the screen of protestors, including a scene of demonstrators toppling a statue, and he pledges, "The only time I'll kneel is before God."
● MA-04: RABA Research takes a look at Tuesday's Democratic primary in a poll for the news site Jewish Insider, and it finds an incredibly close contest. Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss edges out former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell 23-22, while fellow Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman is further back at 15%. Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey takes 11%, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei is at 8%, and public health expert Natalia Linos and attorney Ben Sigel are at 7% and 1%, respectively.
We've only seen one other recent poll, and it also showed an unpredictable race. A mid-August survey from Data for Progress survey gave Auchincloss the lead with 14%, while Grossman and Mermell were tied for second with 13% each; Linos and Leckey each took 9%, with Khazei and Sigel at 7% and 3%.
● NY-03: Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi has long looked safe in his northern Long Island seat, and a new Douma Research poll for Republican foe George Santos doesn't do anything to change that impression. The survey shows Suozzi beating Santos 50-39, while Joe Biden leads 49-41 in a district Hillary Clinton took 52-46.
Santos released the poll to argue that he pulls ahead after respondents learn about him and are exposed to a barrage of anti-Suozzi statements. However, Santos has struggled to raise money so far, so it's unlikely he'd be able to get those messages out.
● NY-11: House Majority PAC's new commercial goes after Republican Nicole Malliotakis over a picture that was photoshopped to make it look as if she was "delivering COVID relief."
Back in April, Malliotakis' allies at the Brooklyn Conservative Party put up an Instagram post that showed her standing in front of a car trunk filled with supplies, with the caption saying she "[c]ontinues delivering masks, gloves and supplies to nursing homes, sanitation workers and first responders across NY-11."
However, the New York Daily News quickly reported that this wasn't a real picture of Malliotakis. New York State Conservative Party chairman Jerry Kassar took credit for and defended his image, arguing, "People in the district know that she's very hands on, from [Hurricane] Sandy to now she's got a reputation for being there, being on the ground."
The HMP commercial begins by taking Malliotakis to task for having "claimed credit for helping with COVID relief. Now we know her image was photoshopped – she wasn't even there!" The narrator then goes after Malliotakis for criticizing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom she ran against in 2017 and has been trying to connect to Democratic Rep. Max Rose, saying of Hizzoner, "Turns out, as a corporate lobbyist she helped finance his rise to power." The ad goes on to say Malliotakis "voted to cut $400 million dollars from hospitals during the pandemic."
● NY-24: We have dueling internal polls of the contest for this Syracuse-area seat.
Republican Rep. John Katko is out with a mid-August survey from Public Opinion Strategies that shows him defeating Democrat Dana Balter 51-40 as Joe Biden leads just 48-46 in a seat that backed Hillary Clinton 49-45. (Yes, this is the rare Republican internal this cycle to include presidential numbers.) Balter's team in turn has released a late August poll from GBAO that shows her ahead 48-46 as Biden carries the district 52-40. Katko beat Balter 53-47 here in 2018.
We've seen a few other surveys here this summer. In late June, right after Balter won the primary, Balter's allies at House Majority PAC released a Normington Petts survey that had her ahead 47-46, while the DCCC Targeting and Analytics Department's in-house poll publicized around the same time gave her a 48-45 edge; Biden led 56-40 and 54-36, respectively.
In mid-July, U.S. Term Limits dropped a RMG Group poll that showed Katko in the lead 40-37 but did not include presidential numbers; the group hasn't backed anyone, but it said that Katko opposed its congressional term limits pledge.
● OK-05: Winning For Women, an organization that aspires to be the Republican counterpart to EMILY's List, has launched a $226,000 TV and digital buy promoting Republican Stephanie Bice. The commercial praises her as a conservative job-creator who will "take the fight to Congress for Oklahoma oil and gas jobs and common-sense healthcare solutions."
● SC-01: Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham uses his new TV commercial to emphasize his opposition to offshore oil drilling, an issue that helped power him to an upset win in 2018. The ad declares that Cunningham "delivered" by passing a bill to ban the practice; the spot also shows a clip of Republican Gov. Henry McMaster thanking the Democrat "for supporting this wonderful effort."
● Ad Reservations: The Democratic group House Majority PAC has reserved an additional $11 million in TV time in 17 media markets across the nation. We've assembled this new data into a spreadsheet and added it to our reservations tracker.
HMP is the latest group to book time in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, which are home to Indiana's 5th District and Ohio's 1st District, respectively. HMP has also greatly expanded its reservation in St. Louis, which contains all of Missouri's 2nd District and a portion of Illinois' 13th District. All of these seats are held by Republicans.
About a week ago, we reported that the Congressional Leadership Fund, HMP's counterpart on the right, had launched a $2.5 million ad campaign across seven Democratic-held seats for August. This appears to be new money rather than from existing reservations, and we've added it to our tracker.
Finally, CLF also recently released more precise information from its Aug. 10 wave of reservations. The group says that the $3.2 million it booked for Dallas was intended for Texas' 24th District, an open GOP-held seat, and not against Democratic Rep. Colin Allred in the state's 32nd District. We've updated our tracker accordingly.
● Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: Former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón recently earned an endorsement from United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents teachers in the nation's second-largest public school district, the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete summary of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to elections and voting procedures as a result of the coronavirus.
● Georgia: A federal district court has sided with the Democratic plaintiffs and ruled that Georgia officials must count absentee mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received within three days afterward. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office announced that it would quickly appeal the ruling.
However, the court rejected several other requests by Democrats, including that the state prepay the postage on mail ballots, require timely notification of problems with absentee ballot applications, and allow third parties such as community groups to collect and submit ballots on behalf of voters. Democrats have not indicated if they will appeal that part of the ruling.
● Iowa: National Democrats have filed a lawsuit in state court challenging GOP Secretary of State Paul Pate's directive to disqualify absentee mail ballot request forms that officials in a handful of Democratic-leaning counties had sent to voters with pre-filled information. This lawsuit comes after county judges in Linn and Woodbury Counties sided with the Trump campaign in separate litigation to invalidate their pre-filled absentee requests, which included 64,000 that had already been submitted by voters, while a third Trump lawsuit over pre-filled request forms in Johnson County remains pending.
Republican lawmakers passed a law earlier this year to enable the mailing of absentee applications to all voters statewide, but they prohibited pre-filled forms following their passage of a separate law that requires county officials to contact voters for missing information even when they could complete an application on a voter's behalf using the state's database.
Since one piece of information required is a state-issued voter "PIN," something that virtually no voter is likely to know, these laws will require county officials to waste their limited time and resources contacting voters. Furthermore, since the GOP wants to throw out absentee requests that have already been submitted, if these two county court decisions stand, it could create additional voter confusion among voters whose request submissions get invalidated.
● Texas: Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to stop officials in Harris County, which is home to Houston and is Texas' largest county, from mailing applications for absentee mail ballots to all 2.4 million registered voters for November. Paxton's lawsuit claims the county lacks the authority to do so and notes that many voters aren't even eligible to vote by mail under state law, which requires an excuse for voters under age 65 (though litigation over that requirement is ongoing). However, local officials in parts of the state have said during the pandemic that they cannot legally determine whether voters claiming a "disability" excuse were being truthful or not.