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.
Programing Note: We'll be taking off Friday and Monday for Labor Day weekend, so that means no Live Digest either of those days (it'll return on Tuesday). For those who read us on the web or via email, there will be no Morning Digest on Monday or Tuesday, but we'll be back on the web and in your inbox on Wednesday. Enjoy the holiday!
● Governor-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections is out with new data for Kansas, which was crunched for us by elections analyst Bill Coningsby, of the 2018 gubernatorial results by state Senate, state House, and congressional district.
While Donald Trump carried Kansas 57-36, Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Republican Kris Kobach 48-43 in the 2018 governor's race, with independent Greg Orman taking third with 6%. Kobach responded to that defeat by running for the U.S. Senate this year, but national Republicans spent heavily on a successful campaign to deny him the party's nomination.
Kelly, meanwhile, has had to deal with a hostile legislature where Republicans can override her vetoes with the support of two-thirds of the members of each chamber. State House Republicans took the same 85-40 majority in 2018 that they'd won in 2016, though their edge dropped to 84-41 after state Rep. Stephanie Clayton joined the Democrats a month after the election. In the state Senate, which is only up in presidential years, the GOP has a larger 29-11 advantage.
Conservatives haven't always been able to get their way because moderate Republicans have sided with Kelly on key issues, but a number of moderates went down in defeat in last month's primaries. This makes it all the more crucial for Democrats to take enough seats in at least one chamber this year to maintain Kelly's vetoes without GOP support, especially since redistricting will be on the next legislature's agenda.
We'll start with a look at the House, where Democrats need to net just one seat to deprive Republicans of their supermajority. Kelly carried 64 of the 125 districts―a bare majority, despite her clear statewide win―while Kobach took 61. (Our numbers show one of those seats, HD-98, going for Kobach by a single vote.) Kelly won all 34 seats that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus an additional 30 Trump districts.
There are two Republicans in Clinton/Kelly districts, while another 21 represent Trump/Kelly constituencies. (The aforementioned Stephanie Clayton prevailed in a Clinton/Kelly district during her final race as a Republican last cycle, and she's running unopposed as a Democrat this time.) Nine Democrats, meanwhile, hold Trump/Kelly districts, but Team Blue doesn't represent any turf that Kobach carried.
We'll turn next to the Senate, where Democrats have to net three seats to be able to sustain Kelly's vetoes without any Republican support. Kelly carried 21 of the 40 seats, taking all seven Clinton districts and 14 Trump constituencies. The one Republican in a Clinton/Kelly seat is Majority Leader Jim Denning, who is retiring; SD-08, which is based in Overland Park in the Kansas City area, went from 47-46 Clinton to 57-36 Kelly. Nine Republicans and six Democrats are in Trump/Kelly seats, while once again, no Democrats represent Trump/Kobach constituencies.
Finally, we have a look at the state's four congressional districts. The 3rd District in the Kansas City area moved from 47-46 Clinton to 56-37 Kelly, and last cycle, Democrat Sharice Davids unseated Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder 54-44 here. The 2nd District in the Topeka area, meanwhile, went from 56-37 Trump to 51-41 Kelly. Republican Steve Watkins narrowly beat Democrat Paul Davis 48-47 in an open seat race in 2018, only to lose renomination last month to state Treasurer Jake LaTurner; Democrats are fielding Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla.
Kobach took the other two seats, but he dramatically underperformed Trump. While Trump won the Wichita-based 4th District 60-33, Kobach squeaked by with a 45.4-44.7 win. And while Trump dominated 69-24 in the 1st District in western Kansas, Kobach took it only 51-37.
P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states. Additionally, you can find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.
● Primary Night: Taking New Hampshire for Granite: As you can probably tell by the deteriorating quality of our puns (to the extent that there was any quality to begin with), we're closing in on the end of the primary season. Both Rhode Island and that other New Hampshire primary conclude on Tuesday, and we've run down the major developments in the races to watch in our NH-Sen, NH-Gov, and NH-01 items.
Polls close in most of new Hampshire at 7 PM ET on Tuesday, and we'll begin our primary liveblog then at Daily Kos Elections; polls close in Rhode Island and the rest of New Hampshire an hour later. The last primary night of the cycle will take place on Sept. 15 in Delaware, which is appropriately nicknamed The First State. Louisiana will be hosting its all-party primary on Nov. 3, but it's safe to say that the eyes of the nation will be trained elsewhere that evening.
● AZ-Sen: Fox News has released a survey from its usual bipartisan team of pollsters, the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican group Shaw & Company, that shows Democrat Mark Kelly leading Republican Sen. Martha McSally by a wide 56-39 margin; the sample also favors Joe Biden 49-40. While almost every poll released this year has given Kelly an advantage, this Fox poll finds him running well ahead of what most other firms have found. In June, these pollsters had Kelly up 50-37.
● CO-Sen: Morning Consult’s new poll finds Democrat John Hickenlooper leading Republican Sen. Cory Gardner 48-39, while Joe Biden is ahead 51-41 here. In late July, this firm found Hickenlooper and Biden up 48-42 and 52-39, respectively.
We’ve only seen one survey taken in the month between those two Morning Consult polls. Last week, Hickenlooper’s allies at the safety group Giffords released numbers from Public Policy Polling that showed Hickenlooper beating Gardner 51-42; the release did not include presidential numbers.
● GA-Sen-B: Rep. Lucy McBath backed pastor Raphael Warnock this week, which gives him the endorsement of all of Georgia's Democratic members of Congress.
● MN-Sen: Republican Jason Lewis has released a survey from Harper Polling to argue that he has an opening in a Senate contest that has attracted little attention so far. The poll finds Democratic Sen. Tina Smith ahead 43-41, while Joe Biden leads 48-45; the memo says that this is a shift from the right from an unreleased May survey that had Smith and Biden up 46-35 and 50-42, respectively.
The only other poll we've seen from a reliable firm was a late July poll from Public Policy Polling for the senator's allies at the gun violence prevention group Giffords, and it had Smith and Biden ahead 48-39 and 52-42.
While there's been plenty of talk, especially over the last week, about how competitive Minnesota may be in the presidential contest, there's no indication yet that either party sees the Senate race as competitive. No major outside groups have run or reserved ads yet, and Smith held a huge $5.8 million to $995,000 cash-on-hand lead in late July.
● MS-Sen: Democrat Mike Espy uses his first TV ad to frame the rematch between himself and Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith as a choice between Mississippi's future and its ugly past.
Espy tells the audience, "I was among the first Black students to integrate my high school, so I know how much that Mississippi has changed." He goes on to say, "But with her talk of public hangings and glorified Confederate symbols, Cindy Hyde-Smith is hurting our ability to recruit new businesses and jobs. Because it gives the impression that we haven't changed."
Hyde-Smith was appointed to succeed Republican Thad Cochran in the spring of 2018, and she and Espy faced off months later in a special election for the final two years of Cochran's term. Hyde-Smith looked like she was on track for an easy win in this red state until progressive journalist Lamar White posted footage of the senator saying of a supporter, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."
Hyde-Smith didn't apologize for showing eagerness to witness a lynching, and Espy ran a commercial going after her over her comments, as well as her "joke" that it should be harder for liberal college students to vote. During that contest, a picture also surfaced from 2014 of Hyde-Smith wearing a Confederate military hat while visiting the Jefferson Davis homestead, with Hyde-Smith captioning that Facebook post, "Mississippi history at its best!" Hyde-Smith still won, but her 54-46 victory was the state's closest Senate race in 30 years.
● NC-Sen, NC-Gov: Both Monmouth and Fox News have new surveys from North Carolina’s U.S. Senate contest. Fox’s pollsters, Beacon Research and Shaw & Company, have Democrat Cal Cunningham leading Republican Sen. Thom Tillis 48-42, which is a shift from Cunningham’s 39-37 edge in June; the sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 50-46. Monmouth University’s inaugural Tar Heel State poll, by contrast, has Cunningham and Biden up just 46-45 and 47-45, respectively.
Monmouth also took a look at the gubernatorial contest and finds Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper leading Republican Dan Forest 51-40, which is similar to what other firms have seen.
● NH-Sen, NH-Gov: The University of New Hampshire has released surveys of Tuesday's statewide primaries, as well as the hypothetical general election matchups.
In the Republican Senate contest, wealthy attorney Corky Messner, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, leads retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc 52-31. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, though, beats Messner and Bolduc by similar spreads of 54-36 and 53-37, respectively; this release did not include presidential numbers. UNH had Shaheen well ahead of both Republicans in their June and July polls, and no other firm has released numbers since March.
Meanwhile in the Democratic primary for governor, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky holds a small 38-36 edge over state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu also has wide leads over both of his foes: The incumbent beats Volinsky 58-32, while he enjoys a 57-33 edge over Feltes. A June survey from the conservative firm We Ask America showed Sununu beating Feltes 59-20 (numbers were not released testing him against Volinsky), while UNH also had the governor far ahead in June and July.
● VA-Gov, VA-AG: Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Attorney General Mark Herring has told a number of fellow Democrats that he'll seek a third term next year rather than run for governor. Herring has not said anything publicly, but Del. Jay Jones, who kicked off a bid for attorney general in July, confirmed that the incumbent had told him about this decision. Jones, though, said that he would continue his campaign for the Democratic nomination even with Herring in the race.
Herring had announced all the way back in November of 2018 that he'd be a candidate to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. In February of the following year, though, Herring apologized for having worn blackface in college. The attorney general was asked the next month about his gubernatorial plans and responded, "That is the last thing I am thinking about." That was the last we'd heard from Herring about his 2021 intentions until this week.
Herring may have hoped that he'd be able to deter potential intra-party opponents by announcing a gubernatorial bid early, but that's not what happened. Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan each said that they would run to replace Northam earlier this year.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who remains in office a year-and-a-half after two women publicly accused him of sexual assault, has not officially launched a campaign for governor yet, but he said in December that he was "planning on running" for the top job. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe also filed paperwork for a potential bid last month, but his team said he would only decide after the presidential election.
● CA-25: Democrat Christy Smith’s campaign has publicized a survey from Global Strategy Group that shows her trailing Republican Rep. Mike Garcia by a tiny 46-45 margin in their rematch. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 50-43 in a northern Los Angeles County seat that favored Hillary Clinton by a similar 50-44 margin.
The only other poll we’ve seen here was a late July American Viewpoint survey for Garcia’s allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund that showed him up 48-41, though Team Red did not release presidential numbers. Garcia defeated Smith 55-45 in a May special election where Republicans voted in disproportionate numbers, but turnout should be far better for Democrats this fall.
● FL-16: Data Targeting, polling on behalf of Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan, finds him leading Democrat Margaret Good 51-35; Florida Politics, which reported on the survey, did not mention the presidential numbers for this Sarasota-based seat, which backed Donald Trump 54-43 four years ago. The last poll we saw was from January, when Data Targeting showed Buchanan up 53-33.
● ME-02: Republican Dale Crafts' opening general election ad features the candidate talking about how he was paralyzed after he was hit by a car, "But I never quit." Crafts goes on to talk about his record in business and as a state legislator, and the spot shows footage of him skeet shooting from his wheelchair. Crafts concludes, "I'll stand up for Maine families," before he winks at the camera.
● NH-01: The University of New Hampshire has also published a survey of Tuesday’s GOP primary for this swing seat, as well as hypothetical general election matchups between both Republicans and freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas. Former Trump aide Matt Mowers leads former state party vice chair Matt Mayberry 48-17, while Pappas has an identical 52-34 advantage against both of his prospective opponents; the release did not include presidential numbers.
Mowers looked like the frontrunner in Tuesday’s GOP primary even before he picked up Donald Trump’s endorsement back in June, and he’s continued to enjoy a large financial edge over Mayberry. Mowers outspent Mayberry $185,000 to $75,000 from July 1 to Aug. 19, which is the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period, and he went into the home stretch with a $375,000 to $20,000 cash-on-hand lead. Pappas, meanwhile, had $1.5 million on-hand in mid-August to defend himself.
● San Diego, CA Mayor: SurveyUSA, polling on behalf of the San Diego Union-Tribune and KGTV-TV, finds City Councilwoman Barbara Bry edging out Assemblyman Todd Gloria 37-34 in the all-Democratic general election.
That's a surprising result because Gloria, who has endorsements from the state's most prominent Democrats as well as from powerful local business and labor groups, has looked like the frontrunner from the beginning of the contest. Gloria also finished well in first place in the March nonprimary with 41%, while the more moderate Bry narrowly outpaced Republican City Councilman Scott Sherman 22.9-22.6 for the second spot in the November general election.
We've only seen two other polls since then, though, and they very much disagreed about the state of the race. A late June survey from the Republican firm GS Strategy Group for the conservative San Diego Lincoln Club, which has not endorsed anyone, found Gloria up only 34-31. But last month, Gloria's team released a Strategies 360 internal that had him up by a wider 41-26.
The fundraising battle, however, has looked quite competitive. While Gloria enjoyed a big financial advantage in the primary, Bry decisively outraised him from mid-February to the end of June. Gloria still held a cash-on-hand lead, though, and the Union-Tribune writes that he has more support from outside groups.
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.
● Mississippi: A state lower court has partially decided in favor of the ACLU-backed plaintiffs by ruling that voters with pre-existing conditions that make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 may vote by mail. Mississippi requires an excuse except for voters aged 65 and up, and the plaintiffs did not indicate yet what their next move would be to try to expand the scope of the ruling. Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit filed late last month over the excuse requirement and other restrictions remains pending before a lower court.
● South Carolina: South Carolina's Republican-controlled state Senate has unanimously passed a bill to let all voters vote by mail this November instead of requiring a specific excuse for voters under age 65, though GOP senators balked at a Democratic proposal to allow drop boxes and waive the witness signature requirement for mail voting, which is the subject of multiple ongoing lawsuits. The prospect of this legislation passing the GOP-run state House is less certain, with House Republicans not returning to session until Sept. 15.
● Texas: Officials in Bexar County, a Democratic-leaning county of 2 million people that is home to San Antonio, will mail absentee applications to all voters aged 65 and older, who are the only demographic group allowed to vote by mail without needing a specific excuse (though litigation to let everyone vote by mail is ongoing). The mailings will go out to roughly 150,000 voters.
This move comes on the heels of the state Supreme Court temporarily blocking populous Harris County from mailing applications to voters of all ages, and it's possible that state Republicans will similarly sue to stop this move by Bexar County officials, though older voters in Texas typically lean much more Republican than younger ones do.