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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● GA-Sen: Both the NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund announced Tuesday that they would continue to support Herschel Walker a day after the Daily Beast reported that the anti-abortion Republican had paid for his then-girlfriend's abortion in 2009.
Donald Trump and other allies like the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America echoed Walker's denials, though they didn't mention his son Christian Walker's Monday tweet saying of the candidate, "You're not a 'family man' when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence."
Herschel Walker responded with a tweet that merely said, "I LOVE my son no matter what." That didn't at all appease the younger Walker, who had publicly backed the campaign until this week: The next morning, he put out a video saying, "Don't lie on the lives you've destroyed and act like you're some moral family man. Y'all should care about that, conservatives." An unnamed Walker ally responded by telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Christian Walker is "solely to blame if Herschel loses the race."
The Republicans Herschel Walker will be sharing a ballot with responded to this fallout by distancing themselves from him, though none of them would issue a denouncement. Gov. Brian Kemp, who has consistently run ahead of Walker in the polls, put out a statement that didn't mention the Senate nominee but instead said the governor "is laser-focused on sharing his record of results and vision for his second term with hardworking Georgians." Attorney General Chris Carr, meanwhile, refused to say if he was still backing Walker, and instead used the occasion to attack Stacey Abrams, Kemp's Democratic rival.
CNN also reports that Walker's campaign manager, Scott Paradise, admitted Tuesday afternoon that the Daily Beast story was, in the words of reporter Gabby Orr, a "setback," though he also compared what happened to Trump's "Access Hollywood" debacle six years ago by arguing, "Trump still made it to the White House." (He also doesn't appear to have mentioned Christian Walker's allegations.)
Paradise said that their fundraising had received a big boost, and the conservative Washington Examiner reported later in the day that Walker had hauled in a "record-breaking" $182,000 since the story broke. Inside Elections was quick to note that Walker's opponent, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, had brought in an average of $292,000 each day from July through September.
Other conservatives weren't so optimistic as Paradise, with conservative commentator Erick Erickson tweeting Monday that all of this was "probably a KO" for Walker's prospects against Warnock. He continued, "One notable thing here — it wasn't the Daily Beast story that has gotten GA-GOP types into despair mode. It's Herschel Walker's son's Twitter thread that served as the admission against interest for Walker and it's all down hill from there."
Other political observers, though, were far more hesitant about predicting that this would damage Walker much more than any other story has done so far. As the AJC writes, "He remains neck-and-neck with Warnock despite a string of damaging reports about his violent history, lies about his law enforcement experience, academic record and business background, and confusing statements on the campaign trail." Warnock himself responded to the Daily Beast story, which broke while he was at an event, by responding, "I'll let the pundits decide how they think it will impact the race."
- CO-Sen: Michael Bennet (D-inc): $5 million raised, $4.5 million cash-on-hand
- NH-Sen: Don Bolduc (R): $1 million raised
- PA-Sen: Mehmet Oz (R): $10.2 million raised, additional $7 million self-funded
- KY-Gov: Andy Beshear (D-inc): $1 million raised, $4.15 million cash-on-hand
- MA-Gov: Maura Healey (D): $470,000 raised (in September), $3.5 million cash-on-hand; Geoff Diehl (R): $191,000 raised (in September), $89,000 cash-on-hand
- CA-49: Mike Levin (D-inc): $1 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand; Brian Maryott (R): $1.1 million raised
- VA-07: Yesli Vega (R): $1.5 million raised
● AZ-Sen: Republican Blake Masters has finally launched his first general election ad despite wrapping up his party's nomination a full two months ago, and it's a $625,000 buy for a spot that focuses on inflation and immigration. Masters blasts Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly for voting against "hiring 18,000 new Border Patrol agents" and accuses him of instead voting for "87,000 new IRS agents."
Republicans around the country have repeated that IRS accusation in regard to the new Inflation Reduction Act, but it's a bogus claim that even the Trump-appointed IRS director has debunked. Indeed, many of the new IRS hires paid for by the new law will simply be replacing the roughly 50,000 of its current employees who could retire over the next five years, while thousands more will be in customer service and information technology, not enforcement agents like these GOP ads claim.
● NH-Sen: Nearly a month after winning his party's nomination, Republican Don Bolduc is finally launching his first general election ad with just five weeks until Election Day. Bolduc's campaign is paying for roughly half of a modest $268,000 ad buy jointly funded by the NRSC for a spot that praises his military record without dishing out any of the far-right red meat that helped him win the GOP primary.
● PA Sen: On Monday, Jezebel reported that Pennsylvania Republican Mehmet Oz was the principal investigator for medical research at Columbia University that entailed numerous studies and experiments involving what the publication called "extensive suffering inflicted on his team's canine test subjects." Jezebel reviewed 75 of Oz's studies that were published in academic journals and concluded that his research had led to the deaths of at least 329 dogs, 31 pigs, and 661 rabbits and rodents.
In the early 2000s, veterinarian Catherine Dell’Orto had blown the whistle by testifying that Oz's research had repeatedly violated the Animal Welfare Act, which requires the use of pain medication, anesthesia, and euthanasia to avoid or minimize suffering in research animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and primates.
Dell’Orto contended that one such study overseen by Oz involved killing a litter of puppies by injecting their hearts with expired drugs without sedation and leaving both the dead puppies and their surviving littermates in a garbage bag. She stated that, while Oz hadn't directly euthanized the dogs, "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."
In 2004, the USDA ordered Columbia to pay a $2,000 fine for violating the Animal Welfare Act as part of a settlement between the two organizations after Columbia conducted an internal investigation of Oz's research. Nevertheless, Columbia later that year still came to Oz's defense, claiming that he abided by "the highest standards of animal care."
A spokesperson for Oz has thus far denied the allegations in a statement to Newsweek (a formerly mainstream publication that has drifted far to the right in recent years), telling them that "only the idiots at Newsweek believe what they read at Jezebel."
● Senate: The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, which has been one of the major outside groups favoring Republicans over the past decade, will spend $1 million on media buys aiding GOP candidates in each of the Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin Senate contests.
FL-Sen: Clarity Campaign Labs (D) for Florida Watch and Progress Florida: Val Demings (D): 46, Marco Rubio (R-inc): 46 (Aug.: 46-45 Rubio)
FL-Sen: Mason-Dixon: Rubio (R-inc): 47, Demings (D): 41 (Feb.: 49-42 Rubio)
NC-Sen: SurveyUSA for WRAL: Ted Budd (R): 43, Cheri Beasley (D): 42, Shannon Bray (L): 2, Matthew Hoh (G): 1 (June: 44-40 Beasley)
NH-Sen: Data for Progress (D): Maggie Hassan (D-inc): 50, Don Bolduc (R): 43
PA-Sen: Suffolk University for USA Today: John Fetterman (D): 46, Mehmet Oz (R): 40 (June: 46-37 Fetterman)
FL-Sen: The Clarity poll finished Sept. 27, the day before Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, while Mason-Dixon was in the field Sept. 26-28.
● PA-Gov: Although he secured the GOP nomination all the way back in May, Republican Doug Mastriano is only just now airing his first general election ad after months of struggling with fundraising. Mastriano is putting $1 million behind a minute-long commercial that highlights his lengthy military career while steering clear of the far-right and partisan themes that have dominated his campaign thus far.
CA-Gov: UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times: Gavin Newsom (D-inc): 53, Brian Dahle (R): 32 (Aug.: 55-31 Newsom)
FL-Gov: Clarity Campaign Labs (D) for Florida Watch and Progress Florida: Ron DeSantis (R-inc): 47, Charlie Crist (D): 46 (Aug.: 48-45 DeSantis)
MI-Gov: Glengariff Group for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV: Gretchen Whitmer (D-inc): 50, Tudor Dixon (R): 32 (Sept.: 48-35 Whitmer)
NH-Gov: Data for Progress (D): Chris Sununu (R-inc): 52, Tom Sherman (D): 39
PA-Gov: Suffolk University for USA Today: Josh Shapiro (D): 48, Doug Mastriano (R): 37 (June: 44-40 Shapiro)
● CA-13: The DCCC's new commercial, which is airing in both English and Spanish, accuses Republican John Duarte of refusing to refund local farmers after he knowingly sold them "defective trees" while still self-funding his own campaign.
The Modesto Bee wrote in August that a judge ruled in favor of several growers earlier this year who accused Duarte's company, Duarte Nursery, of selling them pistachio trees without revealing that they had a genetic disorder. The paper says, "The ruling cites at least $8.8 million in losses claimed by the growers," though the court has yet to decide on how much Duarte Nursery should pay in damages.
● IA-03: Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne uses her new ad to push back on Republican attacks to declare that opponent Zach Nunn used a baby monitor for "spying on an opponent in student government," which the congresswoman argues demonstrates he's employed "[d]irty tricks, right from the start."
The commercial, which is the first we can recall attacking an opponent over something that happened while they were in student council, features a framed clipping of a 2002 story from the Des Moines Register with the headline, "Drake senior rebuked in bugging case." The article explained that Nunn was suspended from the student senate after admitting he'd planted a baby monitor in the office of the student body president because of what the paper characterized were suspicions that the president and others had "violated rules governing the length and deadlines for campaigns."
Nunn said at the time, "It's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life and I'm truly sorry," though even he may not have anticipated it would be used against him in a commercial 20 years later. The Polk County attorney also said that, while Nunn had broken the law, he wouldn't be prosecuted over it, arguing, "It's best that this is left at the college level." The story surfaced in 2014 when Nunn was running for a seat in the state House and again in 2018 when he was seeking a promotion to the state Senate, but he went on to decisively win both campaigns.
● ME-02: Republican Bruce Poliquin is airing a commercial attacking Democratic Rep. Jared Golden for receiving a $667 donation in 2020 from Julie Packard two years before her group, Seafood Watch, placed Maine lobster on its list of food to be avoided because the local fisheries pose "a risk to overfished or at-risk species." The commercial stars GOP state Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, though the spot doesn't note that he's an elected official. "Unless he leaves his party, there's no way Jared Golden can do anything to help Maine," charges Faulkingham.
Poliquin previously brought up Packard's donation to Golden at a debate, though this appears to be the first time he's run an ad on it. The congressman told Politico last month, "I'm not going to give the money back, this woman's organization is part of this network of nonprofits that are funding these lawsuits against our lobster fishermen." Golden, who has joined the rest of Maine's congressional delegation and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills in calling Seafood Watch's listing a "baseless smear," added, "I'll take every penny she gives me and I'll give every penny of it to our Maine lobster fisheries legal defense fund."
● NE-02: Rep. Don Bacon is the one House Republican running in a Biden district who has co-sponsored South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and House Majority PAC is running a commercial attacking him over that decision. The narrator adds, "Bacon's bill would even ban some forms of cancer and fertility treatments."
● NJ-03: Garden State Advance, which is funded by Republican Bob Healey's mother, last week launched a new $1 million buy against Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, which brings its total investment here to $2.6 million.
● NY-03, WI-03: While Democratic campaigns haven't run too many general election ads focused on the Jan. 6 attack, two nominees in two very different House races are attacking their opponents over it.
A spot for Robert Zimmerman, who is campaigning for New York's 3rd on Long Island, quotes Republican George Santos saying he "wrote a nice check" to help the accused rioters. Democrat Brad Pfaff, who is seeking southwestern Wisconsin's 3rd, features an Army veteran in his own commercial saying that Republican Derrick Van Orden "broke past the police barricades, and was part of a riot that injured over 100 cops, and some of them ended up dying."
Zimmerman and Santos are facing off in a constituency that would have favored Biden 54-45 in the first ever general election for Congress where both major party nominees are gay. Santos back in February was filmed by a Democratic activist at an event where he was asked what he was doing "to get the Jan. 6 patriots out," to which the candidate replied, "I've actually been working on funding a ton of them to get out." He continued that he "wrote a nice check for a law firm to see if we can help some of them out" before belatedly saying he didn't "want to publicize it."
Santos, who lost the 2020 campaign to outgoing Rep. Tom Suozzi, previously said that he himself was "at the Ellipse on Jan. 6" listening to the Trump speech that preceded the attack. He told Lara Trump in February of 2021, "That was the most amazing crowd and the president was at his full awesomeness that day." Newsday also notes that in subsequent speeches, Santos defended the rioters by arguing, "Imagine breaking into your own house and being charged with trespassing."
Van Orden, who also lost in 2020 to retiring Rep. Ron Kind, was also in D.C. on Jan. 6, for what he described as "meetings and to stand for the integrity of our electoral system as a citizen." The candidate, though, insisted, "When it became clear that a protest had become a mob, I left the area, as to remain there could be construed as tacitly approving this unlawful conduct," adding, "At no time did I enter the grounds, let alone the building."
The Daily Beast, however, last year posted pictures showing him "standing on a wall on the Capitol grounds that was inside a restricted area." The story added that, when the Daily Beast recreated the photo itself, it "confirmed that Van Orden would have had to cross police barricades to reach that area." The candidate later called the report "inaccurate," though he wouldn't say more. Van Orden and Pfaff are facing off in a constituency Trump would have taken 51-47.
CO-03: Keating Research (D) for Adam Frisch: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): 47, Adam Frisch (D): 45 (July: 49-42 Boebert)
NM-02: Global Strategy Group (D) for Gabe Vasquez: Gabe Vasquez (D): 45, Yvette Herrell (R-inc): 43 (July: 45-44 Vasquez)
NJ-07: GQR (D) for Tom Malinowski: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): 48, Tom Kean Jr. (R): 48
NY-22: Siena College for Spectrum News: Brandon Williams (R): 45, Francis Conole (D): 40
CO-03: We haven't seen any other numbers from this 53-45 Trump seat in western Colorado seat, but major outside groups have yet to engage here.
Attorneys General and Secretaries of State
● MI-AG, MI-SoS: The Glengariff Group's newest survey for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV shows Attorney General Dana Nessel fending off Republican Matt DePerno 43-30 as her fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, beats Republican Kristina Karamo 47-29. The firm's early September survey showed Nessel and Benson ahead 40-34 and 43-32, respectively.
● CA Ballot: UC Berkeley's new survey for the Los Angeles Times shows a 49-37 plurality in favor of Proposition 30, a ballot measure that has turned into an expensive fight between Lyft and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
As we've written before, the state Democratic Party, many environmental groups, and the rideshare giant are supporting Prop. 30, which would increase income taxes on those making about $2 million in order to fund "zero-emission vehicle purchases," charging stations, and "wildfire-related activities." Newsom, though, has starred in commercials urging voters to reject "one company's cynical scheme to grab a huge taxpayer-funded subsidy."
● Harris County, TX Judge: The conservative Texas Liberty PAC 2022 has released a survey from the GOP firm CWS Research that shows its ally, Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer, edging out Democratic incumbent Lina Hidalgo 48-44 in the race to lead America's third-largest county. A July YouGov poll for the University of Houston showed Hidalgo, who was elected county judge in a 2018 upset, up 46-44. (In Texas, county judges are executive rather than judicial posts).
CWS' sample gives Democrat Beto O'Rourke a tiny 48-46 edge over Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in Harris County, which Abbott lost 52-46 in his uncompetitive 2018 re-election bid; Joe Biden two years later carried the county, which is home to most of the city of Houston and many of its suburbs, 56-43, the best performance for a Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.