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-Gov, VA-LG, VA-AG: At long last, we finally have the first nonpartisan surveys of November's statewide elections in Virginia, courtesy of Roanoke College and Virginia Commonwealth University, and both find the Democratic ticket ahead. However, as we'll discuss, each school made decisions with its methodology that we need to address.
We'll start with Roanoke, which gives former Gov. Terry McAuliffe a 46-38 lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin in the race to reclaim his old job. McAuliffe's fellow Democrats enjoy similar leads down the ballot: Hala Ayala outpaces Winsome Sears 42-36 for lieutenant governor, while Attorney General Mark Herring beats Jason Miyares 45-37 in his bid for a third term.
The problem with this poll, though, is that it was in the field from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17—a full 15 days, and far longer than the typical three to five days. If a poll is conducted over too long a period of time, that can render the data suspect, since it increases the chance that voters' views may have shifted from the start of the field period to its end, especially if there's been a noteworthy intervening event. (There has indeed been major news during this timeframe, and while the situation in Afghanistan might not move voters in state-level races one whit, no one can say for sure.)
For that reason, we generally won't cover polls that are fielded for more than two weeks (and even that outer bound is much longer than we'd prefer). We're making an exception here, though, since this one is just on the bubble and there's been such a paucity of independent polling data for these races.
VCU, meanwhile, shows McAuliffe with a 40-37 lead for governor, which is considerably smaller than what Roanoke found. The other two Democrats run farther ahead: Ayala is up 39-31, while Herring prevails 41-30, though differences in name recognition could be a factor.
VCU's poll was in the field Aug. 4-15, a 12-day period that, while three days shorter than Roanoke's, is still considerably longer than ideal. The larger issue, though, is the large number of respondents who didn't choose a candidate two-and-a-half months ahead of Election Day.
The reason for this appears to be that VCU offered "Neither of these" as an option. In the race for governor, for example, while 9% of respondents say they're undecided, an additional 14% say they'd choose neither McAuliffe or Youngkin.
That's problematic because "none of the above" can mean many different things to voters. Some of them may indeed intend to vote for Liberation Party candidate Princess Blanding, an anti-police brutality activist who is the only third-party candidate for governor yet was not listed by the pollster. Others may simply be saying that they don't intend to vote in this race at all. Still more may wish that they had another choice besides McAuliffe or Youngkin, even someone who isn't actually on the ballot, yet could still wind up voting for one of the actual candidates when the time comes.
This is an easy problem to avoid, though. As FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley put it, "If someone is going to pick a third party, let them volunteer it." Roanoke, by contrast, included both Blanding and "Some other candidate" as options, which at least asks respondents to restrict their choices to people who are actual candidates: Altogether, 2% of Roanoke's sample said they'd opt for Blanding, while just 1% picked "Some other candidate."
Meanwhile, McAuliffe's newest ad directly attacks Youngkin for his wealth, which is unusual to see since Democrats have long been cowed by Republican accusations that they want to "punish success." McAuliffe doesn't hesitate to go there, though, with a narrator saying, "What makes Virginia's economy strong? Working families, not the super-wealthy."
The voiceover continues, "Glenn Youngkin made over $500 million as a Wall Street executive, and now he's running for governor to help them, not you." The spot concludes by hammering Youngkin for opposing a minimum wage hike, the COVID relief bill Congress passed in March, and Medicaid expansion. Last month, the Washington Post reported that Youngkin's net worth "is probably close to $400 million," while McAuliffe "reported assets of between $6.9 million and about $12.8 million" in filings with the state.
● AK-Gov: Former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara announced Friday that he would challenge Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy in next year's contest. Gara joins former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, in the top-four primary, and we haven't heard any other notable contenders express interest in running.
● CA-Gov: Harris Alert! Vice President Kamala Harris will hold a rally on Aug. 27 in the Bay Area in support of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of the Sept. 14 recall, though a more specific location has not yet been announced.
● MI-Gov: Michigan State Police Captain Mike Brown, who has command of the agency's Southwest District, announced Friday that he would join the Republican primary to face Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer. Brown previously served as a commissioner in Berrien County, which is located in the state's southwestern most corner along the Indiana border.
When the Detroit Free Press asked why Republicans need a law enforcement alternative to former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who is a far more high-profile contender, Brown responded, "Chief Craig is not in the race, let's be honest." Actually, it's Craig who hasn't really been honest: The former police chief announced last month that he was forming an exploratory committee— a vehicle not recognized under Michigan law—only to confirm hours later he was indeed running.
● NY-Gov: Former state Sen. Terry Gipson used a letter to Albany Times Union to tout Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who is up for re-election this fall, as a potential 2022 Democratic candidate for governor, and Latimer's team didn't rule out the idea when asked. "George is flattered that others have reached out to him given Westchester's successes on so many fronts but for now any future considerations are premature," said the county executive's campaign. "Right now, George is focused on continuing to lead Westchester through this pandemic, and this year's re-election contest."
● CA-21: The San Joaquin Valley Sun, a site run by GOP campaign operative Alex Tavlian, reports that Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas is "set to join" next year's race against Republican Rep. David Valadao, according to unnamed sources. While Salas himself hasn't commented, one prominent local Democrat, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, appears to think he will in fact run for Congress since she just announced a bid for his seat in the Assembly. (Salas is not term-limited in his current post.)
Democrats have long sought to recruit Salas to run against Valadao in California's 21st District, a majority-Latino area in the Central Valley that's dominated by agriculture. Salas, who's cultivated a reputation as a moderate in the legislature, already represents much of the 21st, though the lines will of course change during the upcoming redistricting process.
● ME-02: State Sen. Trey Stewart announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the Republican primary and endorsing former Rep. Bruce Poliquin. The next day, however, state Rep. Mike Perkins made it clear he'd be competing with the ex-congressman for the right to take on Democratic incumbent Jared Golden, who dealt Poliquin a 2018 defeat that he still refuses to recognize.
Perkins said back in April that he was forming an exploratory committee, and he filed with the FEC the next month. That was the last we'd heard from him until Friday, when he declared, "I will beat Bruce Poliquin. Mark my words." It remains to be seen, though, if Perkins can put up a serious fight, as he raised a mere $8,000 through the end of June.
● Boston, MA Mayor: Politico's Lisa Kashinsky reports that the Hospitality Workers Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee is spending $245,000 on a buy supporting Acting Mayor Kim Janey ahead of the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary, which makes this the first pro-Janey TV advertising of the contest.
The spot stars Richard Aliferis, the PAC's chair and a doorman at the historic Omni Parker House hotel, who tells the audience how Janey and her family had to leave her grandmother's old home "when the neighborhood got too expensive." Aliferis, wearing his uniform and speaking in a thick local accent, continues, "Kim never forgot. She'll protect working families that put down their roots in Boston."
The ad ends with an apparent homage to "Sweet Caroline," a staple at Boston Red Sox games. Aliferis concludes, "Mayor Kim Janey," before a chorus of people break in to chant, "So good! So good! So good!" We've seen a lot of ads over the years, but none have ended quite this way!
● Buffalo, NY Mayor: The Buffalo News reported Thursday that police records revealed nurse India Walton, the Democratic nominee in Buffalo's mayoral race this fall, was accused of threatening to kill a colleague at the hospital where they were both employed in 2014.
The paper reported last month that Walton had been arrested following a dispute with her co-worker but details from the arrest report were not previously known. Walton earned national attention in late June when she upset four-term Mayor Byron Brown in the primary; Brown is running a write-in campaign this November in an attempt to hang on to his job.
The News says that the 2014 police report describes a fellow nurse, whom the paper did not name, accusing Walton of having "continuously threatened to do bodily harm" over a three-month period. An officer also wrote, "Defendant has told complainant that she will break her legs, and has stated to complainant and co-workers, 'I'm gonna take you out. Outside hospital property." The paper adds that a judge ended up issuing an order of protection against Walton that required her to stay away from her co-worker for six months.
Walton told the paper in late June that her colleague had bullied her on social media, adding, "I told her that we are professionals and we're adults and if she wanted to have a conversation, we should do it in person and not via social media." Walton also said she'd taken "an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal" after the arrest which, as the Buffalo News explains, means that "legal records are generally sealed if the defendant stays out of trouble for a specified period of time set by the judge."
Walton spoke about her arrest last month, telling WIVB-TV, "When I politely told them I'd like to speak with them personally and handle the situation like adults, one claimed that they were threatened by me and feared for their life, despite the fact that I am 4-foot-11 and was going on disability for surgery."
In a separate interview with WGRZ-TV, she said, "You don't have to do anything to a person for them to get a restraining order." On Monday, Walton put out a statement reading, "I am a nurse, a mother, an accomplished nonprofit executive and a respected community organizer. The notion that I go around threatening people's lives is absurd."
The husband of Walton's old co-worker also spoke to the Buffalo News, providing his own account of what happened seven years ago. The paper writes, "The husband said Walton made the threats in a breakroom in front of other workers during their overnight shift. The workers, he said, were so concerned that they called his wife at home to alert her."
Reporters, however, were unable to find any witnesses who heard the alleged threat being made, though there may have been a reason for that: A spokesperson for Children's Hospital says, "I can confirm that we in fact did remind staff, managers and physicians at Children's Hospital about refraining from talking about or speculating about a former employee."