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.
● State Legislatures: With the nation's primary elections finally concluding last week, we're pleased to announce that the 2020 edition of the Daily Kos Elections State Legislative Open Seat Tracker is now complete. Overall, Democrats are contesting more Republican-held seats at the legislative level than the reverse, and fewer of the party's incumbents have opted to retire, suggesting continued optimism about Team Blue's chances across the country.
This year, 5,876 seats are on the ballot across 86 legislative chambers in 44 states nationwide. We've counted 361 Republican and 298 Democratic incumbents who are calling it quits this fall, while an additional 113 Republicans and 82 Democrats are term-limited and will not be on their states' respective ballots this November.
Finally, a further 90 Republican and 60 Democratic incumbents were defeated in primary elections. A detailed seat-by-seat look at each open seat and their underlying partisan lean (as measured by 2016 and 2012 presidential election results, where available) is listed on the second tab of the chart.
As part of our tracking, we've also kept tabs on the number of seats held by each party that are being left uncontested in the November elections. We've tallied 1,047 seats held by Democrats with no Republican opposition, or roughly 38% of Democratic seats on the ballot this year. At the same time, 1,013 Republican-held seats, or 33% of the GOP's total, have no Democratic challengers.
Put another way, Democrats are fielding 2,035 candidates for seats held by Republicans, while the GOP has only put up 1,709 candidates for seats held by Democrats.
The gulf is much smaller than it was in 2018, when 2,662 Democrats ran for Republican seats nationwide versus just 1,331 Republicans who sought Democratic seats (albeit for a slightly different set of districts). Partly, though, that reflects Democrats' success two years ago: The party went into the midterms controlling less than 43% of legislative seats up that year but now holds 47% of all seats on the ballot in November.
This will be an important year for state legislative races, especially with redistricting right around the corner, and these open seats could end up playing a big role in races to control legislative chambers across the country. Check our Daily Kos Elections State Legislative Open Seat Tracker for a state-by-state look.
● GA-Sen-A: Republican Sen. David Perdue's newest commercial accuses Democrat Jon Ossoff of wanting to defund the police, and argues that he’s been spreading hate. The ad then shows Ossoff saying, "[Y]ou're not just going to get beaten. You're going to get beaten so bad, you can never run or show your face again in public."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, though, notes that the spot left off the first part of Ossoff's speech at a Democratic candidate forum in January. What he said at the time was, "It's not enough to beat Donald Trump. We need to send a message that if you indulge in this type of politics, you're not just going to get beaten. You're going to get beaten so bad, you can never run or show your face again in public." Ossoff has also opposed defunding the police.
● GA-Sen-B: Monmouth's newest poll of Georgia's special election for U.S. Senate finds a very tight race to advance to the all-but-certain January runoff, a result that's very similar to what several other firms have found in recent weeks.
Appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler takes first place in the all-party primary with 23%, while Republican Rep. Doug Collins has a narrow 22-21 edge over pastor Raphael Warnock, the favorite of national Democrats, for the crucial second place spot. Two other Democrats, businessman Matt Lieberman and former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, are at 11% and 4%, respectively, while Libertarian Brian Slowinski takes 3%. The sample also gives Donald Trump a 47-46 lead in the state.
While the poll finds that there's still a very real chance that Democrats could get shut out of the runoff, it does show Team Blue in a better position to avoid this nightmare scenario than when Monmouth surveyed Georgia in late July. That poll showed Loeffler at 26%, while Collins held a 20-14 lead over Lieberman for second with Warnock in fourth with just 9%. Warnock, though, began advertising weeks later, which may have helped him pull ahead of his intra-party rival.
However, if you were hoping that polls like this would entice Lieberman to exit the race and help his party avoid a lockout, think again. On Tuesday night, before this survey was released, Lieberman tweeted, "As to the concern that I could be a spoiler, the political math says otherwise."
Lieberman continued, "Georgia is purple. There are two equal-sized pools of voters. The top Democrat and the top Republican will be the top two who advance." That's not how the all-party primary works at all, though, because the two candidates with the most votes would advance to January regardless of party.
Lieberman went on to insist, "The only way I am a threat to him as if we are virtually tied, all four of us." (He didn't say who he means by "him," but we assume it's Warnock.) That's also wrong, though, because with Tarver, there's three Democrats competing with two Republicans. That means that Democratic voters are splitting their votes more ways, which gives Loeffler and Collins a better chance to secure the top-two spots.
Loeffler, though, is hoping to knock Collins out of contention by securing enough support from Georgia's fabled Hunnic warlord demographic on Nov. 3. On Wednesday, days after she confused politicos everywhere with a commercial that dubbed her "more conservative than Attila the Hun," the senator released a new spot titled "Attila Part II." It's not too different from the first ad, though the commercial managed to cast a guy to portray one of Attilla's soldiers who sounds almost exactly like Robert Downey Jr.
- AZ-Sen: Abt Associates for ABC and the Washington Post: Mark Kelly (D): 49, Martha McSally (R-inc): 48 (49-48 Trump)
- AZ-Sen: Change Research (D) for CNBC: Kelly (D): 51, McSally (R-inc): 43 (49-43 Biden) (early Sept.: 51-45 Kelly)
- GA-Sen-A: GBAO (D) for Raphael Warnock: Jon Ossoff (D): 49, David Perdue (R-inc): 48 (Biden 49-46)
- GA-Sen-A: Monmouth: Perdue (R-inc): 48, Ossoff (D): 42, Shane Hazel (L): 4 (47-46 Trump) (July: 49-43 Perdue)
- MI-Sen: Change Research (D) for CNBC: Gary Peters (D-inc): 50, John James (R): 44 (51-43 Biden) (early Sept.: 50-46 Peters)
- MI-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters: Peters (D-inc): 49, James (R): 43 (49-44 Biden)
- NC-Sen: Change Research (D) for CNBC: Cal Cunningham (D): 48, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 43 (48-46 Biden) (early Sept.: 51-44 Cunningham)
- NC-Sen: Ipsos for Reuters: Cunningham (D): 48, Tillis (R-inc): 44 (47-47 presidential tie)
AZ-Sen: The Abt Associates poll is one of the best results we've seen for Republican Sen. Martha McSally all year. The survey is even slightly better than the recent internal she released from Fabrizio Lee that had her trailing Democrat Mark Kelly "just" 48-46.
GA-Sen-A: Democrat Raphael Warnock, who is running in the special election for Georgia's other Senate seat, released a GBAO poll earlier this week focused on his own contest, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein tweeted on Wednesday that it also included a question about the regular Senate race that showed Democrat Jon Ossoff up 49-48.
The Monmouth poll finds Libertarian Shane Hazel earning a potentially crucial 4% of the vote, which could prevent either Republican Sen. David Perdue or Ossoff from taking the majority they'd need to win without a January runoff. The special election will almost certainly be going into a second round, but there's a real chance that both Senate seats could be on the ballot early next year.
● NC-Gov: Harper Polling (R) for Civitas Institute: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 46, Dan Forest (R): 39 (45-44 Trump) (Aug.: 49-39 Cooper)
● CA-53: On behalf of KGTV-TV and the San Diego Union-Tribune, SurveyUSA has released a poll of the all-Democratic general election that gives former State Department official Sara Jacobs a 38-24 lead over San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez; the sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 61-30 in a San Diego-based seat that Hillary Clinton took 65-30. The only other poll we've seen here was an early August RMG Research survey for US Term Limits that had Jacobs ahead 32-17.
● FL-26: The Congressional Leadership Fund's new commercial regurgitates an attack the GOP tried against freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell last cycle and ties her to "Ukrainian warlord Ihor Kolomoisky." The narrator declares, "The Powells took in over $700,000 from the Ukrainian warlord's firm, and Mucarsel-Powell's campaign received thousands more from Kolomoisky's associates."
As we wrote back in 2018, Mucarsel-Powell's husband, Robert Powell, previously worked just as the general counsel representing companies that Kolomoisky was an investor in, and Powell argued his work had nothing to do with particular shareholders like Kolomoisky.
Furthermore, federal law bans foreign nationals from contributing to candidates, which is what this ad, like a similar NRCC one from 2018, implies happened. Florida Politics reported two years ago the "thousands" in donations from supposed "Kolomoisky associates" was actually just a total of $2,500 from two Americans and $2,700 from none other than Robert Powell. Republicans are, once again, essentially implying Mucarsel-Powell is in the pocket of Big Her Husband.
● IN-05: Republican Victoria Spartz's new commercial argues that state lawmakers like Democrat Christina Hale "paved the way" for 5G cellphone towers to be built across central Indiana with no control from communities, which has been a big local issue. What the ad doesn't mention is that Hale hasn't served in the legislature, which has been dominated by Spartz's party for a decade, in almost four years. Spartz, though, was appointed to the state Senate in 2017, but if she's done anything to limit the construction of 5G towers, the spot doesn't note it.
The Washington Post's Dave Weigel also notes that the on-screen text of the spot identifies Hale, who previously served in the state House, as a "Chicago region Democrat." Hale's former House District 87, which is situated far closer to Indianapolis than to the Windy City, is also located almost entirely in the 5th Congressional District, so Spartz's incredibly broad definition of "Chicago region" would encompass a whole lot of voters for this contest.
● MI-11: The Congressional Leadership Fund launched its first attack ad against freshman Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens on Wednesday in a race that hasn't looked very competitive this cycle. The commercial attacks the incumbent for calling for Medicare For All in the past and ties her to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents the neighboring Detroit-based 13th District.
The ad also relies on a tactic that Republicans have used in other races this cycle and uses part of a clip of Biden declaring, "Medicare for All is absolutely preposterous." However, as the Washington Post's Dave Weigel recently pointed out, Biden wasn't actually trashing the idea of Medicare For All: Instead, Biden was talking about the cost estimate from one specific proposal from his then-primary rival, Bernie Sanders.
What's most notable, though, is that the CLF is running an ad against Stevens at all. While this suburban Detroit seat backed Donald Trump 50-45, the district moved hard to the left in 2018. Stevens, who won 52-45 in 2018, has also enjoyed a massive financial advantage over her Republican foe, Eric Esshaki.
National Democrats, for their part, aren't acting like this contest is competitive. Indeed, the Republican ad tracking firm Medium Buying reported earlier this week that the DCCC had scaled back its TV reservations in the Detroit media market, which is home to this district; and a source familiar with Democratic media buys confirmed to Daily Kos Elections that the committee had canceled its full reservation for the 11th District as well as part of its booking for another seat, the 8th District.
● MN-07: Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson's new commercial pushes back on Republican attempts to link him to one of the national GOP's favorite targets, fellow Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.
The narrator extols Peterson for having "led the fight for President Trump's trade bill and the farm bill," and reminds the audience that he was "the only Democrat to vote against impeaching Trump." She continues, "Calling Collin Peterson an ally of Ilhan Omar is laughable" and concludes that Republican Michelle Fischbach "isn't Minnesota nice, she's just plain nasty."
● NC-11: Democrat Moe Davis' opening general election ad touts his local roots and service as a colonel in the Air Force. The narrator says of Davis, "With John McCain, he opposed the Bush administration's use of torture, resigning as Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo in protest. And took the Obama administration to court on free speech grounds." Davis then appears and calls for leadership "that puts country over party."
● NH-01: Republican Matt Mowers' first general election commercial stars Gov. Chris Sununu, who will also be on the ballot this fall. Sununu tells the audience, "No income tax. Being smart about spending. That's the New Hampshire way, and it's why we lead the region." The governor continues, "Matt Mowers knows it, and that's why I'm voting for him."
● NV-03: The DCCC's new commercial focuses on the multiple times that Republican Dan Rodimer has been accused of assault. The narrator declares, "According to a witness, it was Rodimer who hit someone so hard he caused a brain bleed. It was Rodimer who was listed as 'armed or dangerous' in a police warrant." She continues, "And two people have called the police on Rodimer, for a domestic disturbance, and stealing."
● TX-07: While the NRCC's decision to cancel its entire ad reservation in the Houston media market was a bad omen for Republican Wesley Hunt's prospects against freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is still competing here. CLF is out with a new commercial that ties Fletcher to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
- IL-13: GBAO (D) for Betsy Dirksen Londrigan: Rodney Davis (R-inc): 48, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D): 47 (51-44 Biden)
- MI-03: ALG Research (D) for Hillary Scholten: Hillary Scholten (D): 44, Peter Meijer (R): 42
- MI-03: We Ask America (R): Meijer (R): 48, Scholten (D): 41 (47-47 presidential tie)
- NJ-02: ALG Research (D) for Amy Kennedy: Amy Kennedy (D): 49, Jeff Van Drew (R-inc): 44
IL-13: The only other poll we've seen of this contest was an early August survey for RMG Research for U.S. Term Limits that gave Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan a 43-41 edge over Republican Rep. Rodney Davis. This central Illinois seat backed Donald Trump 50-44 in 2016, but Davis fended off Londrigan just 50.4-49.6 two years later. This year, though, the pandemic could lead to lower turnout at colleges like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which are a big source for Democratic strength in this area.
MI-03: Both polls were released just after the DCCC reserved $570,000 for this open Grand Rapids-based seat, which supported Trump 52-42 four years ago. The only other recent survey we've seen was a GSG survey released by the Democratic group House Majority PAC last week that found Democrat Hillary Scholten and Republican Peter Meijer tied 41-41, while Joe Biden led 49-41.
NJ-02: On Tuesday, one day before Democrat Amy Kennedy dropped these new numbers, HMP also publicized a survey from Public Policy Polling that showed her ahead by the same 48-43 margin; the PPP numbers also found Biden up 50-46 in a South Jersey seat that Trump won 51-46 in 2016.