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.
● NE-02: State Sen. Tony Vargas announced Tuesday that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of just nine House Republicans who represents a Biden district. Vargas, who is the son of immigrants from Peru, would also be the first Latino to represent the Cornhusker State in Congress, but he'll face a challenging task flipping the Omaha-based 2nd District even if his Republican legislative colleagues aren't able to gerrymander it.
Vargas' only notable intra-party foe so far is 2020 Senate candidate Alisha Shelton, who would also make history as Nebraska's first Black member of Congress, though others may still get in. Bacon, meanwhile, ran well ahead of the GOP ticket in 2020 when he won his third term 51-46 against a well-funded opponent even as his constituency was swinging from 48-46 Trump to 52-46 Biden.
It also remains to be seen whether this seat will remain competitive turf after Nebraska's 49-member unicameral legislature finishes with redistricting. The state Senate became officially nonpartisan following the passage of a 1934 referendum that also abolished the state House (progressive George Norris, a U.S. senator who famously showed little allegiance to any party, ardently argued that his state could avoid the "evils" of the bicameral system used by Congress and every other state legislature), but members' party affiliations are well known. Republicans have controlled the body for decades, and the 2020 elections ended with Team Red holding a 32-17 majority.
The unicameral's current rules, though, give senators an uncommonly strong filibuster, and because the GOP fell one seat short of the two-thirds majority it needs to cut off debate, Democrats have the power to block a gerrymander as long as the minority party remains united.
The GOP retains the ability to end the filibuster rule with a simple majority, but it's far from guaranteed that they'll take this dramatic step in September, when senators are scheduled to reconvene for a special session devoted to redistricting. That's because both Republicans, as well as Democrats, have made use of the filibuster, including during this spring's regular session, to delay or block bills favored by a majority of the chamber, so they may be reluctant to do away with this tool now.
The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is July 15. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available soon afterwards.
● NH-Sen: Maggie Hassan (D-inc): $3.25 million raised, $6.5 million cash-on-hand
● OH-Sen: Bernie Moreno (R): $2.25 million raised (no self-funding)
● SC-Sen: Tom Scott (R-inc): $9.6 million raised, $14.5 million cash-on-hand
● WI-Sen: Alex Lasry (D): $1 million raised (no self-funding), $1 million cash-on-hand
● CA-48: Michelle Steel (R-inc): $810,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand
● FL-10: Natalie Jackson (D): $51,000 raised (in five weeks)
● FL-20: Perry Thurston (D): $180,000 raised, additional $100,000 self-funded
● MT-02: Ryan Zinke (R): $181,000 raised, $154,000 cash-on-hand
● NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $966,000 raised, $10 million cash-on-hand
● NJ-11: Mikie Sherrill (D-inc): $780,000 raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
● NY-02: Andrew Garbarino (R-inc): $375,000 raised, $560,000 cash-on-hand
● NY-21: Elise Stefanik (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.1 million cash-on-hand
● NY-22: Claudia Tenney (R-inc): $415,000 raised, $770,000 cash-on-hand
● PA-01: Brian Fitzpatrick (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
● WY-AL: Liz Cheney (R-inc): $1.9 million raised, $2.85 million cash-on-hand
● CA-Gov: On Monday, a state judge rejected Democratic incumbent Gavin Newsom's attempt to have his party affiliation listed on the September recall ballot. The issue, as the Los Angeles Times explains, stems from an October 2019 state law that "requires officeholders to ask that their party preference be put on the ballot during a seven-day window for responding after a recall notice is filed—in this case, 16 months ago." Before this new bill was passed, an incumbent's party affiliation was not allowed on the recall ballot at all.
Back in February of 2020, when Newsom's opponents filed paperwork for what appeared to be a very longshot attempt to get a recall question on the ballot, the governor's attorney, Thomas Willis, did not include this request in his official response. Willis has since acknowledged he'd made a mistake, saying he was unaware of the new law at the time.
The many candidates running to replace Newsom, though, will have their party affiliations listed, and Team Red gained a new contender this week when conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder announced a bid. Elder, who would be the Golden State's first Black governor, hosts a syndicated program, and he's made regular appearances on Fox News.
● SC-Gov: The State writes that state Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, who has previously been mentioned as a possible Republican primary opponent for Gov. Henry McMaster, is "reportedly still mulling the idea." Massey still does not appear to have said anything publicly about his interest in taking on the incumbent next year.
● FL-13: The Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday that William Braddock filed paperwork ending his campaign for the GOP nod in mid-June, a development that came after Politico obtained a recording of him threatening to murder intra-party rival Anna Paulina Luna.
Braddock acknowledged this week that he had dropped out because Luna had obtained a restraining order against him, saying, "I can't work with certain people when they see things like that of me in the news," though he said he might eventually decide to return to the race. A hearing is set for mid-September to determine whether Luna's temporary stalking injunction against him should be permanent.
In seeking that restraining order, Luna also accused Braddock of conspiring with two other potential candidates, Matt Tito and Amanda Makki, both of whom have continued to deny any involvement.
● GA-06: Republican Jake Evans, a former state ethics committee chair who served on the body for five years until he resigned last month, kicked off a bid against Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath on Tuesday. Evans also has connections to several prominent Georgia Republicans through his father, Randy Evans, who was an advisor to former Gov. Nathan Deal and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich; the older Evans later was tapped by Donald Trump as ambassador to Luxembourg.
Jake Evans joins a field that includes Army veteran Harold Earls and former state Rep. Meagan Hanson, who just launched a campaign herself on Monday.
● IA-03: Republican state Sen. Zach Nunn announced Tuesday that he would challenge Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne in this Des Moines-area seat. Nunn, who served in the Middle East with the Air Force, won a promotion from the state House to the upper chamber in 2018 by prevailing 57-43 as Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds was carrying his state Senate district by a considerably smaller 50-47 spread.
Nunn is now the second notable Republican to enter the race, joining former state Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa. This district is highly competitive turf that saw Donald Trump edge out Joe Biden 49.2-49 last year while Axne narrowly won re-election 49-48.
● MT-02: Public health expert Cora Neumann, a Democrat who leads a nonprofit organization, launched a bid for Montana’s newly created House seat on Tuesday. Neumann previously ran for Senate in 2020, but she dropped out after former Gov. Steve Bullock launched his bid. Neumann joins state Rep. Laurie Bishop and attorney Monica Tranel in the primary.
● VA-07: Nonprofit director Taylor Keeney has filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible GOP bid against Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in this suburban Richmond seat. Keeney previously served as staffer for former Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The only notable Republican candidate who has officially launched a campaign here is Tina Ramirez, who ran for this seat in 2020 but was eliminated in the party convention. The Virginia Scope also mentions state Del. John McGuire, who lost that convention as well, and far-right state Sen. Amanda Chase, who unsuccessfully ran for governor this year, as potential candidates.
● WI-AG, WI-Sen: While there was some speculation last year that state Attorney General Josh Kaul could run for the Senate, the Democrat announced over the weekend that he would seek re-election as the top lawyer for this swing state.
Kaul's 49.4-48.8 victory over incumbent Brad Schimel in 2018 made him the Badger State's first Democratic attorney general since his late mother, Peg Lautenschlager, left office following her 2006 primary defeat, and Team Red very badly wants to take this office back. The GOP primary is currently a duel between Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney and Ryan Owens, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
● Albuquerque, NM Mayor: On Friday, Albuquerque Clerk Ethan Watson announced that he was denying Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales' application to receive public financing because of two ethics investigations concerning his campaign. Gonzales, a conservative who is challenging his fellow Democrat, Mayor Tim Keller, in the November nonpartisan contest, quickly said he would appeal the decision.
The city's public system entitles candidates to more than $660,000 in campaign funds if they raise $5 contributions from about 3,800 voters, which represents 1% of the electorate. Watson's office has certified that Keller cleared this threshold, and it did verify that Gonzales had exceeded this number as well. However, the clerk said Friday that a voter had provided a written statement claiming that the sheriff's team told him that he didn't need to actually provide that $5 donation, and that Gonzales' campaign would instead pay it. Watson said he "deemed the contribution … fraudulent and referred it to the City Attorney for investigation pursuant to our rules and regulations."
Watson also referred to a second ethics complaint submitted by Keller alleging that about 150 voter signatures for contributions to Gonzales' did not actually match those people's signatures. "The Office of the City Clerk has not reached this decision based on the mere fact that complaints were filed," said Watson, adding, "The decision instead is based on the conclusion that the evidence submitted to date prevents … certifying that you are entitled to receive [funding]."
Gonzales' campaign called these "innocent administrative mistakes made by volunteers" while also accusing Watson of trying to "silence the political opposition." Gonzales' team also labeled Watson "Keller's handpicked city clerk," though they didn't note that he'd been unanimously confirmed by the City Council.
● Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the September nonpartisan primary. Santiago, who like all the major candidates is a Democrat, earned just 5% of the vote in a recent Suffolk University poll and had struggled to raise money in recent months.
● St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: St. Petersburg's Aug. 24 nonpartisan primary is coming up fast, and Democratic City Council member Darden Rice enjoys a big financial edge going into the final weeks. A November runoff would take place in the very likely event that no one wins a majority of the vote.
The campaign and PAC of Rice, a Democrat who would be the city's first gay leader and the first woman to hold the post since the 1980s, had a total of about $370,000 to spend. Republican City Council member Robert Blackmon and former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, a Democrat, each had about $185,000 on-hand. Former Democratic state Rep. Wengay Newton, who like Welch would be St. Petersburg's first Black mayor, was barely afloat with just $7,000, which was far less than the $50,000 that restaurateur Pete Boland, a Republican who has attracted little attention, had to spend.
● Nassau County, NY District Attorney: A special election will take place in November to fill the job of top prosecutor for this populous Long Island county following Democrat Madeline Singas' confirmation last month for a seat on New York's highest judicial body, the Court of Appeals, but only one major party has selected its nominee so far.
The local Democratic Party chose state Sen. Todd Kaminsky in late June (there are no primaries for this race), and the legislator announced Monday that he's raised $425,000 during the previous two weeks and had about $2 million in his war chest. Republicans very much want to score a win in a suburban area where they used to utterly dominate, but Team Red hasn't chosen its candidate yet.