The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● Alternative Voting: Pluribus News writes that six cities and three counties will hold referendums next month to decide whether to adopt variations of instant-runoff voting (also known as ranked choice) in their local elections, including Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Voters in Seattle, though, will also need to decide if they want to put in place approval voting, a system that currently exists in just two other American municipalities.
We'll begin with what's essentially a three-way contest in Washington's largest city between these two alternate systems and the status quo. Under current rules, candidates for mayor, city attorney, and the City Council each compete in nonpartisan primaries, with the top-two contenders advancing to the general election. Approval voting, by contrast, allows voters to cast as many votes as there are candidates, with up to one vote per contender: The top two vote-getters would then advance to a general election, where voters would select just one choice.
Approval voting was first implemented after a successful ballot measure in Fargo, North Dakota in 2018, while voters put this system in place two years later in St. Louis, Missouri. A well-funded group called Seattle Approves collected enough signatures for a referendum to bring it to the Emerald City, but it got some unwelcome news in July when the City Council voted to also place an instant-runoff question on the ballot as a rival option. The approval voting option is known as Proposition 1A, while the ranked choice one is Proposition 1B.
As a result, Seattle will be presented with a two-tiered proposal. First, Question 1 is a yes or no question asking if either option will "be enacted into law." Question 2 then says, "Regardless of whether you voted yes or no above, if one of these measures is enacted, which one should it be?" Voters can then choose between Prop. 1A and Prop. 1B, but the results will only matter if a majority first selected yes for Question 1.
Three different organizations are campaigning for each side, but PubliCola reports that Seattle Approves has the most money by far after bringing in almost $500,000 through the end of September. The group has received more than $200,000 from the Center for Election Science, a pro-approval voting organization funded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. Another $135,000 came from cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, whose super PAC, Protect Our Future, shelled out a gigantic $24 million this year to get its favored House candidates through Democratic primaries.
Ranked Choice Voting for Seattle, by contrast, has taken in $52,000. That's still larger than the $45,000 haul for Seattle for Election Simplicity, which PubliCola describes as "the local business-backed group" that's urging a "no" vote on Question 1.
Meanwhile 170 miles to the south in Portland, the choice is just between the status quo and instant-runoff voting. Candidates for mayor and the city's legislative body, known as the Council of Commissioners, also compete in nonpartisan primaries, though unlike Seattle, candidates can win outright in the first round with a majority of the vote. If a majority supports Measure 26-228, though, these elections would be conducted through ranked choice voting.
However, this referendum would change Portland's government in two huge ways. Currently, the mayor and the four members of the Council of Commissioners each lead different city bureaus; the assignments are given out by the mayor, who almost always takes the police commissioner spot. But Measure 26-228, which was drafted by the local charter review commission, would end the Rose City's status as the last major city in America to still use this commission-based system in city government, which is a legacy of the Progressive Era.
Under the proposed reform, the mayor instead would supervise an appointed city manager who would run the bureaus, while the City Council would expand from four to 12 members elected under a variant of proportional representation called single transferable voting. Under this plan, each of the four districts would use a ranked choice process until there are just three victorious Council candidates left per district, effectively meaning it would take 25% support for a candidate to get elected to one of the three spots.
Portland would thus become the first major American city in many decades to adopt a form of proportional representation, which was once more commonly used in the mid-20th Century in dozens of cities including New York City but has since been repealed in all but the smaller municipality of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Proportional representation is very commonly used at all levels abroad, though, and the Portland proposal would resemble the variant used to elect Ireland's parliament.
A late September poll from DHM Research found a solid 63-21 majority in support of this referendum; the survey was conducted for the Portland Business Alliance, which unsuccessfully argued in court that the measure covered too many subjects. The group backing Measure 26-228 raised $410,000 through last week, while its opponents have taken in a mere $50,000.
Multnomah County, which is home to Portland, will also hold a separate referendum to implement ranked-choice voting for county offices. Additionally, Pluribus News says that instant-runoff ballot measures will also take place in the cities of Ojai, California; Fort Collins, Colorado; Evanston, Illinois; and Portland, Maine, as well as Washington's Clark and San Juan counties.
- NC-Sen: Cheri Beasley (D): $13.3 million raised
- TX-Gov: Greg Abbott (R-inc): $25 million raised (July 1-Sept. 29); Beto O’Rourke (D): $25.18 million raised (July 1-Sept. 29)
- CA-27: Christy Smith (D): $1.7 million raised
- CA-45: Michelle Steel (R-inc): $1.5 million raised
- NH-01: Chris Pappas (D-inc): $1.47 million raised
- NJ-07: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): $1.83 million raised, $2.78 million cash-on-hand
● GA-Sen: The Senate Majority PAC's Georgia Honor affiliate is running a new commercial focused on Christian Walker's abuse allegations against his father, Republican Herschel Walker. The narrator quotes the younger Walker saying the candidate "threatened to kill us, and had us move six times in six months running from [his] violence." Democrats so far have not run any TV ads based around the Daily Beast's stories detailing how Herschel Walker paid his then-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009.
Walker's allies at 34N22 PAC, meanwhile, are trying to change the subject with a $1.5 million ad campaign against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock that makes use of 2020 police body camera footage where the senator's ex-wife, Ouleye Ndoye, accused him of running over her foot with his car after an argument. "I just can't believe he would run me over," the audience sees Ndoye tearfully say, before she continues, "I've tried to keep the way that he acts under wraps for a long time and today he crossed the line." Ndoye goes on, "He's a great actor. He is phenomenal at putting on a really good show."
These allegations surfaced more than two years ago during Warnock's special election campaign. The police report said that first responders were "not able to locate any swelling, redness, or bruising or broken bones" on Ndoye's foot, and the candidate was not charged. Warnock also told police that he'd tried to drive "slowly" away from his wife's home that night and that he then heard her accusing him of running over her foot. Republicans highlighted the story late in the runoff campaign, but Warnock went on to unseat appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler soon afterwards.
● PA-Sen: CNN reports that Senate Majority PAC will begin a seven figure ad buy for two ads (here and here) attacking Republican Mehmet Oz over recently reported allegations that his medical research had involved extensive animal cruelty, with the spots separately contending that Oz had "subjected" dogs to "extreme suffering" and "days of unimaginable pain and suffering." The ads include footage of Oz in doctor's scrubs along with generic footage of animal testing.
As we recently explained, reporting in Jezebel had chronicled how Oz had served as the principal investigator in dozens of studies at Columbia University that had led to the deaths of hundreds of dogs, pigs, rabbits, and rodents. It noted that Columbia had paid the USDA a $2,000 fine as part of a 2004 settlement over violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which requires the use of pain medication, anesthesia, and euthanasia to avoid or minimize suffering in research animals such as the ones in Oz's studies.
A spokesperson for Oz denied the allegations, saying he "never abused any animals, and suggesting otherwise is ridiculous," arguing that the candidate was "not in the operating room when the operations were done, he wasn't present during the post-op treatments, no one alerted him of the problem until after the cases were finished and he does not condone the mistreatment of animals." However, the whistleblower referenced in Jezebel's reporting had already rejected such efforts to avoid culpability by saying, "When your name is on the experiment, and the way the experiment is designed inflicts such cruelty to these animals, by design, there's a problem."
AZ-Sen: OH Predictive Insights (R): Mark Kelly (D-inc): 46, Blake Masters (R): 33, Marc Victor (L): 15 (Sept.: 47-35 Kelly)
CO-Sen: Marist College: Michael Bennet (D-inc): 48, Joe O'Dea (R): 41
CO-Sen: OnMessage (R) for Senate Opportunity Fund (pro-O'Dea): Bennet (D-inc): 46, O'Dea (R): 45
OH-Sen: Cygnal (R) for American Greatness (pro-Vance): J.D. Vance (R): 46, Tim Ryan (D): 44
UT-Sen: Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret News and University of Utah: Mike Lee (R-inc): 42, Evan McMullin (I): 37 (Sept.: 37-34 Lee)
WA-Sen: Strategies 360 (D) for KOMO News: Patty Murray (D-inc): 52, Tiffany Smiley (R): 40
WA-Sen: OnMessage (R) for Senate Opportunity Fund (pro-Smiley): Murray (D-inc): 46, Smiley (R): 42
AZ-Sen: OH shows Victor rocketing from 6% all the way to 15% in a month even though he's almost certainly spent little in the ensuing time. This is his best result by far, though many pollsters have not included him in their surveys. The last reliable firm that appears to have asked about Victor was Suffolk University late last month, which showed him taking just 2% as Kelly led 49-42.
Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin notes that, if Victor did finish with 15%, he'd give the Libertarian Party one of its best results ever in any Senate contest where both major party nominees were also on the ballot. The high water mark is the 2016 contest in Alaska where GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski beat Joe Miller 44-29.
CO-Sen: Marist also found Bennet ahead 49-43 among respondents who "say they will definitely vote," which is similar to his performance among registered voters above. However, while Daily Kos Elections always reports data for likely voters when a pollster reports data for both registered and likely voters, we don't believe looking at just definite voters approximates the traditional definition of likely voters because it excludes people who say they're merely likely to vote.
OH-Sen: American Greatness, which commissioned this poll, denies the results of the 2020 elections.
UT-Sen: A mid-September Lee internal put his edge at 51-34, but that hasn't stopped his allies at the Club for Growth from continuing to spend here to stop McMullin.
● AZ-Gov: NBC reports that the RGA's Saving Arizona affiliate has booked an additional $1.8 million to aid Republican Kari Lake. The move comes weeks after the RGA canceled $6.5 million it had reserved to help her only to put that money toward a joint ad campaign from Lake and the Yuma County Republican Party.
The RGA's political director explained to Axios last month that this coordinated campaign can buy about $1 million worth of ads more than the group's independent effort because of the more favorable advertising rates available to candidates, but there's no word on why the RGA is once again opting to air its own ads.
Meanwhile, Everytown For Gun Safety is deploying $1.4 million on an ad campaign highlighting Lake's opposition to abortion rights and gun safety. "Kari Lake sided against law enforcement and opposed red flag laws that could stop mass shootings before they happen," says the narrator, who adds she "opposed laws giving family members or police a way to disarm people who pose a serious threat, putting communities and law enforcement in danger."
● SD-Gov: South Dakota State University released some startling poll numbers Tuesday when it found Republican Gov. Kristi Noem leading her Democratic rival, state House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, just 45-41 in this very red state. Pollster David Wiltse, though, cautioned that his own numbers were probably underestimating the governor. He argued, “There's more than twice as many undecided Republicans as there are Democrats, which tells us that we're probably going to see a healthier majority of those undecided voters break towards the Republicans.”
This is the very first survey we’ve seen for an office that has been in GOP hands since the 1978 elections, which is the longest running winning streak for either party in any governorship. Noem herself, however, only won 51-48 in 2018, which was the first time Democrats had so much as come within single digits here since 1986.
Noem, who is often talked about as a future presidential candidate, doesn’t seem worried, as she recently campaigned in Arizona for Kari Lake. Still, the incumbent drew some unwelcome headlines in August when the state ethics board found she may have “engaged in misconduct” by intervening after her daughter was rejected for a real estate appraiser license, though it won’t say the “appropriate action” it’s taken. Smith himself, however, only briefly mentioned the story at his one debate with Noem.
CO-Gov: Marist College: Jared Polis (D-inc): 54, Heidi Ganahl (R): 36
OH-Gov: Cygnal (R) for American Greatness: Mike DeWine (R-inc): 57, Nan Whaley (D): 35
RI-Gov: Suffolk University for the Boston Globe: Dan McKee (D-inc): 46, Ashley Kalus (R): 36
● CA-09: The San Francisco Chronicle's Sophia Bollag reports that a previously unreleased 2021 investigation for San Joaquin County acquitted Republican County Supervisor Tom Patti of bribery even as it concluded that he'd "threatened both staff members and community organization members" and "pressured" staff. Bollag writes, "None of the allegations involved violent threats, but rather ones related to job status and funding."
Bollag adds that a previous investigation also found that Patti had retaliated against a staffer who complained about him "repeatedly berating" her at meetings, while a third one "found evidence he discussed a confidential hiring process publicly." Patti denied wrongdoing to the paper and argued he was being targeted because "I'm a white Christian heterosexual male … I'm the Antichrist to the leftist agenda."
Patti is challenging Democratic Rep. Josh Harder for a seat in the Stockton area that would have gone for Biden 55-43 but where Democrats also struggle with turnout in midterm years. So far, though, no major outside groups have spent anything on either side.
● LA-03: Attorney Holden Hoggatt is airing a commercial that accuses his fellow Republican, Rep. Clay Higgins, of having put "a gun to his wife's head, threatening her if she divorced him, and refusing to pay child support for 17 years." The spot, where an actor parodies the "Crime Stoppers" videos that propelled Higgins to fame before he was elected, adds, "He was last seen impersonating a congressman while voting against fixing the roads you drive on and abandoning hurricane victims."
The earlier accusation is from 1991, when Higgins' first wife filed a protective order against him, while the second uses more recent allegations leveled by his second wife, Rosemary "Stormy" Rothkamm-Hambrice. In 2016, less than a week before the runoff, Rothkamm-Hambrice publicly accused Higgins of owing her more than $140,000 in child support, and she even released a recording where he said that he'd have the money to pay if he were elected.
Higgins' lawyer said afterwards, "If he were to win, it would give him the resources to resolve this matter," and that his client "is genuine in his desire to take care of this." Higgins won soon afterwards, but Rothkamm-Hambrice recently told The Times-Picayune, "No payment has been made."
● NC-01: National Republicans have yet to spend in the general election to support Republican Sandy Smith, who overcame serious opposition from the Congressional Leadership Fund in the May primary, but House Majority PAC is continuing to air ads highlighting the abuse allegations leveled against her. So far, the DCCC and HMP have deployed a total of $2.8 million to aid Democrat Don Davis in this 53-46 Biden seat.
● NY-19: NBC reports that the NRCC will spend another $1.3 million to attack Democrat Josh Riley in this open seat, though it's not clear yet if this is a new reservation or if the committee is just earmarking money it previously booked for the media markets covering this district.
● OR-04: Democrat Val Hoyle's latest ad attacks Republican Alek Skarlatos over his "dangerous and degrading comments about women," playing footage of a podcast interview where Skarlatos and the host joke and laugh about violently choking women to death during sex, furthermore accusing him of "repeatedly liking photos of girls as young as 15" who were wearing revealing clothing on Instagram. The ad cites an Oregon Capital Chronicle story from September that detailed both sets of damning revelations against Skarlatos, who turned 30 on Monday.
In response, Skarlatos has unveiled an ad where he talks to the camera and explains, "When I got out of the Army, I said some immature and hurtful things that I deeply regret. It's not the man I am today." He accuses Hoyle of "slinging mud" for trying to hold "a dumb mistake from years ago" against him, which he doesn't detail.
However, as the Capital Chronicle already noted, Skarlatos had liked numerous photos of underage girls dozens of times since 2020, when he previously ran for Congress, and even as recently as a few months ago, in response to which he had already refused to apologize by saying, "To imply that a 'follow' or a 'like' of social media influencers on Instagram with over 100,000 followers is inappropriate is absurd." Furthermore, the podcast interview where he joked about women dying violently during sex took place only four years ago, just months before he first ran for local office at age 25.
● OR-05: The Congressional Leadership Fund is once against trying to tar Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner by invoking her previous service a decade ago on the city council in Santa Clara, California, though this time, the PAC's latest ad uses more overt imagery to link her with a perennial GOP punching-bag: San Francisco.
The spot in question describes McLeod-Skinner as a "Bay Area politician," but even though Santa Clara sits in the heart of Silicon Valley an hour away from San Francisco, the ad features shots of SF's skyline and even superimposes the candidate in front of the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco has, of course, long been a conservative dog whistle for all sorts of imagined liberal debauchery, but it functions most especially as a code-word for "gay," and it bears noting that McLeod-Skinner would be the first LGBTQ person to represent Oregon in Congress.
To date, CLF has spent $3.4 million seeking to flip this seat while the DCCC has countered with $1.2 million of its own.
● RI-02: Suffolk University, polling on behalf of the Boston Globe, shows Republican Allan Fung beating Democrat Seth Magaziner 45-37 in a constituency that Joe Biden would have carried 56-42; William Gilbert, who is the Moderate Party's nominee, grabs another 5%.
Team Blue is hoping that, even if Fung is ahead now, the undecided voters are just too Democratic-leaning to make him the Ocean State's first GOP member of Congress since Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse ousted Sen. Lincoln Chafee in 2006. Indeed, Fung is only performing a few points better than Republican Ashley Kalus, who trails Democratic Gov. Dan McKee 42-41 in this constituency. However, Suffolk pollster David Paleologos notes that Gilbert's presence on the ballot means that Fung can still win even if he fails to take a majority of the vote.
Magaziner himself is borrowing a page from Whitehouse's playbook by reminding viewers that Fung's mere presence in Congress would help unpopular Republican leaders take control. His new commercial features senior citizens warning the audience, "Fung's first vote will make Kevin McCarthy speaker. He's the Republican leader who's determined to cut Social Security and Medicare." A newly established group called Bright Future RI is also spending at least $187,000 on an ad attacking Fung on abortion rights.
This seat, which is home to western Providence and the western portion of the state, has become an expensive battleground: As the latest edition of our House independent expenditures tracker shows, the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund so far has spent $1.4 million here compared to $470,000 from House Majority PAC. AdImpact also reported Tuesday that CLF has booked an additional $1.1 million for this race.
MI-10: Glengariff Group for the Detroit News and WDIV Local 4 News: John James (R): 44, Carl Marlinga (D): 36
OR-06: GBAO (D) for Andrea Salinas: Andrea Salinas (D): 45, Mike Erickson (R): 44 (Aug.: 48-45 Salinas)
MI-10: This survey shows James well ahead even as Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer posts a huge 54-31 lead among respondents. The last two polls we saw of this swingy suburban Detroit seat were in August: The GOP firm Mitchell Research, working for local tipsheet MIRS News, gave James a similar 47-38 advantage, while a Target Insyght internal for Marlinga gave the Democrat a 47-45 lead.
Secretaries of State
● WA-SoS: The Democratic firm Strategies360, working for KOMO News, shows appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs deadlocked 38-38 with independent Julie Anderson, who beat out several Republicans in the August top-two primary. Hobbs last year became the first Democrat to hold this post since the 1964 elections when Gov. Jay Inslee picked him to succeed Republican Kim Wyman, who resigned to join the Biden administration to oversee election security.
● Los Angeles, CA City Council: City Councilwoman Nury Martinez said Tuesday that she’d be taking a leave of absence, an announcement that came the day after she stepped down as council president over a leaked 2021 recording where she made bigoted comments against numerous groups. So far, though, Martinez has not acted on widespread calls for her resignation from office, including from the Biden White House. Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, who were also part of that infamous conversation with Martinez, also have yet to quit.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.