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.
Massachusetts held its primaries on Tuesday, and we’ll have more coverage in the next edition of the Digest. Meanwhile, you can find the results here.
● MA-Sen: Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey prevailed in an expensive Democratic primary battle on Tuesday by winning renomination against Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who is a member of what is arguably America’s most prominent political family. With 1 million votes counted when we put the Digest to bed, Markey led 55-45; that margin may shift as more ballots come in, but Kennedy conceded defeat on Tuesday evening. Markey will have no trouble in the general election in this very blue state.
Kennedy, who is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, entered the race nearly a year ago looking like the favorite. Markey had fairly low name recognition, and he trailed the congressman in polls taken before and after Kennedy announced. No member of the Kennedy clan had been on the ballot in Massachusetts and failed to win the primary, and there was even speculation that the incumbent could drop out to avoid defeat.
Kennedy and Markey differed little on ideology, but Kennedy argued that he could bring change to a political system that Markey, who was first elected to the House in 1976, has been a member of since before Kennedy was born. But Markey, who made it clear early on that he’d defend his seat, ran a strong campaign where he worked hard to portray himself as the candidate who was challenging the status quo.
Despite Markey’s age (and his opponent's relative youth), he emerged as a big favorite of young activists. In key part, that's because the incumbent seized the mantle of 21st Century progressivism, best exemplified by his support from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who extolled Markey for championing Medicare For All and the Green New Deal.
Kennedy still looked like the frontrunner until this summer, and he enjoyed a big financial advantage as recently as late March. However, even some Kennedy supporters agreed that he struggled throughout the campaign to explain why voters should fire Markey.
Markey also went where few serious politicians in Massachusetts Democratic politics dared to go and sought to turn Kennedy’s lineage into a liability. In an Aug. 11 debate, Markey took aim at a super PAC that Kennedy's twin brother and other relatives have been raising money for.
The senator brought up speculation that Kennedy’s father and namesake, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, could fund the PAC with the $2.8 million in campaign funds he still has available almost 22 years since he left Congress. "Tell your father and tell your twin brother you don't want any money to be spent on negative ads," Markey said in a clip that generated plenty of attention and quickly made it into his digital advertising.
Markey also earned headlines with an online commercial that didn't mention Kennedy or his family directly, but concluded with the senator putting his own spin on the famous 1961 inaugural address delivered by the congressman's great uncle. "With all due respect," Markey said, "it's time to start asking what your country can do for you."
Kennedy and his allies responded by arguing that Markey was questioning his family’s “integrity, weaponizing their history.” Kennedy’s side ran commercials invoking the legacy of RFK, JFK, and Ted Kennedy and arguing that he would continue their fight for racial justice and healthcare for all.
Markey, meanwhile, aired ads featuring his two most prominent supporters, AOC and fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren. AOC memorably said in one spot, “When it comes to progressive leadership, it's not your age that counts. It's the age of your ideas.” That argument won out on Tuesday and helped Markey win a very tough renomination battle.
● AK-Sen: On behalf of an unidentified client, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling has released a survey that shows a 43-43 tie between Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and Al Gross, an independent who won the Democratic nod last month; the release did not include presidential numbers.
The numbers are an improvement for Gross over his 39-34 deficit in PPP's early July survey, which was conducted for election enthusiasts on Twitter. The only other poll we've seen here was also from early July, when Alaska Survey Research found Sullivan ahead by a stronger 53-40 margin.
● GA-Sen-B: Businessman Matt Lieberman uses his second spot to call for "common ground" in a divisive time, and the Democrat utilizes his father's reputation to make his case.
As scenes of violence fill the screen, Lieberman argues that "this is what happens when extremists" like the two main Republicans in the race, Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, are in charge. Lieberman declares it wasn't always like this, saying, "When my dad, Joe Lieberman, served in the Senate, finding common ground was considered a good thing." The ad shows a photo of the Connecticut for Lieberman senator along with Joe Biden and John McCain, before the younger Lieberman talks about his own work as an educator.
● NC-Sen: Roll Call reports that VoteVets has launched a new $2.7 million ad campaign in support of Democrat Cal Cunningham. A local Army veteran named Amy Rutkowske declares that Republican Sen. Thom Tillis "voted to strip health coverage from half a million vets, and against a pay raise for the military while voting for a pay raise for himself." Rutkowske then praises Cunningham's service in Iraq and says, "He's got courage and will put us first."
● AZ-01: The DCCC has launched its first TV commercial against Republican Tiffany Shedd, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran in a northern Arizona seat that both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump narrowly won. The narrator declares, "Arizona's seniors are most at risk from coronavirus. But instead of protecting them, Tiffany Shedd supported privatizing Social Security, which could cut benefits for more than one hundred and sixty thousand seniors in our community."
O'Halleran won re-election 54-46 last cycle, and it remains to be seen how competitive this contest will be. O'Halleran held a $1.4 million to $215,000 cash-on-hand lead over Shedd on July 15, though she may have picked up more donations after winning the Republican primary less than a month later. So far, the DCCC and its allies at House Majority PAC have reserved a total of $4.7 million in the Phoenix media market, which covers most of this seat as well as the GOP-held 6th District, while neither the NRCC or Congressional Leadership Fund have reported booking any money here yet.
● FL-16: In her first TV ad, Democrat Margaret Good talks about being a problem solver who "will work with anyone who is ready to get results regardless of party."
● IA-02: Like so many of her fellow Republicans, Mariannette Miller-Meeks is running a commercial that tries to convince the viewer that the blame for America's awful response to the coronavirus pandemic rests squarely on the shoulders of House Democrats. Miller-Meeks, though, goes even further and declares that Democrat Rita Hart, who currently does not hold elected office, also "did nothing to stop viruses from Asia." There's no mention what Miller-Meeks thinks Hart had it in her power to do.
● MT-AL: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Expedition Strategies that gives Democrat Kathleen Williams a 51-48 edge over Republican Matt Rosendale; the sample also finds Donald Trump ahead 48-44 in a state he carried 56-36 four years ago.
This is the first poll we've seen that shows Williams in the lead. In mid-July, Public Policy Polling's survey for election enthusiasts on Twitter showed a 44-44 tie, while a Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had Rosendale ahead 49-47 a few days later; PPP and Civiqs found Trump ahead 51-42 and 49-45, respectively. In mid-August, Rosendale's allies at the Club for Growth dropped a survey from WPA Intelligence that had him up 51-45, though they did not include presidential numbers in their release.
● TX-03: EMILY's List has endorsed Democrat Lulu Seikaly's campaign against Republican Rep. Van Taylor.
● TX-17: Republican Pete Sessions has looked like a sure bet to return to Congress ever since he won the July Republican primary for Texas' 17th District, a seat that's 80 miles away from the Dallas-area constituency he'd previously represented for decades, but Democrat Rick Kennedy is hoping his new poll will change that impression. Lincoln Park Strategies shows Sessions ahead just 45-42, while Donald Trump only leads 48-47 in a seat that he carried by a wide 56-39 margin in 2016.
This district, which includes Sessions' childhood home of Waco as well as the rival university community of College Station, backed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by a 54-45 spread in 2018, which was a notable shift to the left from Trump's showing. Still, this remains very tough turf for Democrats: Last cycle, Kennedy himself lost 57-41 to Republican Rep. Bill Flores, who is now retiring.
● TX-21: Democrat Wendy Davis uses her second TV spot to talk about her famous 13-hour filibuster to stop an anti-abortion bill in the state Senate in 2013. Davis is shown running as she says through a voiceover, "I led the fight to reduce Texas' rape kit backlog. Worked with both parties to pass a constitutional amendment that gives tax breaks to spouses of disabled veterans."
The ad then shows a quick shot of her legendary pink sneakers from seven years ago as Davis continues, "Stood for 13 hours straight to fight the shutdown of women's health centers." She concludes, "I approved this message because having the courage to put Texas over party doesn't mean you're not afraid. It means fighting so hard, you forget to be."
● VA-05: Republican Bob Good has launched a truly racist commercial against Democrat Cameron Webb, who is Black. The ad superimposes a photo of Webb's face onto footage of angry demonstrators, and later slows down footage of Webb leaving a home to make him look sinister as the narrator urges viewers to "look past the smooth presentation."
● WA-10: Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland has released a GQR survey of the all-Democratic general election that gives her a 43-22 lead over state Rep. Beth Doglio. This is the first poll we've seen here since the early August top-two primary, where Strickland led Doglio 20-15. The former mayor later picked up an endorsement from former state Rep. Kristine Reeves, who took third with 13%.
● Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: Republican Steve Bovo earned an endorsement on Tuesday from independent Xavier Suarez, who finished in fourth place in the Aug. 18 nonpartisan primary with 11%. Bovo narrowly led Democrat Daniella Levine Cava 29.3-28.8; Democrat Alex Penelas, who took third with 25%, has not yet picked sides in the November general election.
● Richmond, VA Mayor: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam endorsed Mayor Levar Stoney's re-election campaign on Tuesday. Stoney is a potential Democratic candidate to succeed Northam next year, but first he needs to defeat City Councilwoman Kim Gray and Alexsis Rodgers, a former state director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Three other candidates are also running, but they haven't attracted much attention.
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.
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.
● Arizona: Members of the Navajo Nation have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to require Arizona to count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received up to 10 days afterward for tribal members living on reservations. The plaintiffs cited the long-running lack of postal service accessibility and timely delivery on reservations compared to the more urban parts of the state.
● New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has signed several voting-related bills into law, including provisions that will implement full voting-by-mail for November, require local officials to set up drop boxes for returning mail ballots, and require officials to notify voters and give them a chance to fix problems with their mail ballots such as the voter's signature supposedly not matching the one on file. While Murphy had previously issued an executive order to mail ballots to all registered voters this November, the Trump campaign and GOP organizations are waging a lawsuit over it in federal court, thus Democrats having passed the same measure legislatively could render that litigation moot.
Additionally, one other newly signed law extends the deadline by when ballots that are postmarked by Election Day must be received by election officials, pushing it back from two days after Election Day to up to six days afterward. Ballots that are missing postmarks but are received by officials up to two days after the polls close will be presumed valid and counted, too.
● Oklahoma: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has issued an executive order extending voting provisions through November that had been in place for the primary that somewhat ease the requirements for voting absentee by mail. Stitt's order suspends a requirement that voters get their ballot signed by a notary, but it adds a requirement that voters include a photocopy of their ID, which may be especially burdensome for certain voters with limited transportation options amid social distancing. Stitt's order comes amid an ongoing Democratic lawsuit to suspend both the notary and photocopy ID requirements, which remains pending before a lower federal court.
● Virginia: Both chambers of Virginia's Democratic legislature have passed versions of bills to prepay the postage on absentee mail ballots, enable the use of drop boxes for returning them, and waive the witness requirement for casting a mail ballot. While a federal court recently approved an agreement to suspend the witness requirement due to the pandemic, passing this change legislatively could thwart the GOP's effort to continue fighting it in court. One chamber must pass the same version of the bills as the other before they go to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam for his expected signature.
There's always a major escalation in advertising from outside groups around Labor Day, and this cycle is no different. The DCCC and NRCC had each only aired commercials in a few House seats up until now, but that's very much changing this week.