The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● TN-05: The latest bad news for Trump's endorsed candidate, former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, came Saturday when the Tennessee Republican Party's executive committee removed her, as well as music video producer Robby Starbuck and businessman Baxter Lee, from the August primary for not meeting the party's definition of a "bona fide" Republican. However, Tennessee Lookout's Holly McCall explains that this isn't necessarily the end for any of them, as they'll soon have the chance to appeal their ejections in this newly gerrymandered seat.
But just why did the state GOP throw them off the ballot in the first place? The GOP's bylaws say that, in order to be a bona fide party member, a candidate must have voted in at least three of the last four statewide primaries or been "actively involved" in state or county Republican activities; Democrats have a similar requirement, except candidates only need to have participated in three of the last five nomination contests.
There's a considerable amount of flexibility to this rule, though. Party leaders can vote to classify a candidate as bona fide if someone vouches for them, and they can also act if a contender appeals the initial rejection. The parties even have the choice not to pursue objections, as Democrats showed over the weekend after someone filed a challenge to gubernatorial candidate Jason Martin for voting in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. Martin defended himself by saying he'd cast that vote so he could oppose Trump, and the challenge was dropped after party leaders recommended he remain on the ballot.
Additionally, the parties can bar someone over ideological issues. In 2020, for instance, Democrats punished state Rep. John DeBerry for supporting too many Republican policies. DeBerry, who angrily responded that Democrats just wanted him "sitting there like a brainless idiot and letting them tell you what to do," tried to keep his seat by running as an independent, but he lost the general election to Democrat Torrey Harris.
Ortagus herself only moved to Tennessee last year from D.C., so she certainly hasn't voted in enough state primaries to count as bona fide. The GOP-dominated legislature also put a different obstacle in her way last month by passing a bill that would impose a requirement that House candidates reside in their districts for three years before becoming eligible to run, a move that observers widely saw as aimed at blocking her. The legislation, which Gov. Bill Lee hasn't acted on, is already being challenged in court by a well-financed group called Tennessee Conservative PAC.
Starbuck, on the other hand, relocated to the state three years ago, and while he says he meets the residency requirements of the legislature's new bill, he didn't survive the weekend's bona fide test either. It's not clear why Lee was rejected, though the right-wing Tennessee Star says he voted in the 2016 Democratic primary. McCall writes that state law gives state party executive committees until Thursday to formally notify candidates that they were rejected, and that these contenders will have another seven days to appeal.
- NH-Sen: Chuck Morse (R): $750,000 raised
- SC-Gov: Joe Cunningham (D): $404,000 raised, $536,000 cash-on-hand
- CA-21: Jim Costa (D-inc): $248,000 raised, $1.23 million cash-on-hand
- IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D): $200,000 raised
- MN-02: Angie Craig (D-inc): $1 million raised, $3.7 million cash-on-hand
- MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R): $1.1 million raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
- OR-05: Jamie McLeod Skinner (D): $305,000 raised
- TN-05: Morgan Ortagus (R): $600,000 raised (in six weeks), $550,000 cash-on-hand
- WY-AL: Liz Cheney (R-inc): $2.94 million raised, $6.8 million cash-on-hand
● FL Redistricting: State legislative leaders said Monday that they would allow their fellow Republican, Gov. Ron DeSantis, to draft a new congressional map rather than try again themselves, a move CNN interpreted as a "cave to DeSantis." Former GOP strategist Mac Stipanovich went further, saying, “What we’re witnessing is a mile marker on the road to one-man rule in Florida, at least for the time being.” The governor has spent the last few months putting forth maps to aggressively gerrymander the state, and he vetoed the boundaries the legislature sent to him last month.
● CO-Sen, CO-Gov: The Colorado Republican Party held its convention (known locally as the party assembly) Saturday, and the event dramatically winnowed the June primary field for both U.S. Senate and governor. State Rep. Ron Hanks, a vocal Big Lie proponent who won the party's Senate endorsement, will take on construction company owner Joe O'Dea for the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. The gubernatorial race will pit the convention winner, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, against University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, and the winner will face Democratic incumbent Jared Polis.
As we've written before, candidates in Colorado can reach the primary ballot by either taking the support of at least 30% of the assembly delegates or by collecting the requisite number of signatures ahead of last month's deadline. Candidates can opt to try both methods, but doing so still doesn't offer a guarantee: If a contender takes less than 10% of the vote at the convention, then their campaign is over no matter how many signatures they turned in.
Hanks, who was depending on the convention to advance, used his address to the assembly to once again proclaim his fealty to the Big Lie, saying, "I fully expected Donald Trump to win in 2020—and he did." Delegates responded by awarding Hanks 39% of the vote, which gets him the top spot on the primary ballot. Former talk radio host Deborah Flora was in second with 29%, which was just below what she had to hit in order to keep her campaign going: Four other Senate candidates also saw their campaigns come to an end including Air Force veteran Eli Bremer and real estate developer Gino Campana. O'Dea, though, previously collected enough signatures to make the ballot and was thus able to avoid the assembly.
Over in the race for governor, Lopez, the former mayor of the Denver suburb of Parker, won 34% of the delegates. Ganahl was just behind with 32%, though because she'd already turned in the requisite number of petitions, she just had to take at least 10% to keep her campaign going. It was the end of the road, however, for real estate broker Danielle Neuschwanger, who fell just short of the 30% she needed and didn't have signatures to fall back on. Neuschwanger responded to her elimination by claiming the count was fraudulent and vowing to challenge it, though the Colorado Sun says that "it's not clear how she could do that."
Ganahl is the one Republican left in statewide office, while Lopez didn't come anywhere close in his last two quests. He sought to challenge Bennet in 2016, but he ended his little-noticed campaign after his father died. Lopez had more luck in the 2018 race for governor when he took a surprisingly strong second place at the convention; several delegates acknowledged that they knew nothing about him when the day began, but that his speech won them over. He had a far more difficult task swaying primary voters, though, and he ended up earning a distant third place with just 13%.
● IA-Sen: A state judge ruled late Sunday that former Rep. Abby Finkenauer could not appear on the June Democratic primary ballot to take on Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley because she'd failed to meet Iowa's signature requirements, a decision that reverses a recent State Objection Panel ruling that allowed her to advance. Finkenauer, who is the frontrunner for Team Blue's nomination against retired Navy Vice Adm. Mike Franken, soon said she would appeal, while the state attorney general’s office also said it would challenge the verdict on behalf of the Panel.
The state requires Senate candidates to submit at least 3,500 valid signatures, with at least 100 petitions each coming from 19 different counties. (Iowa has 99 counties total.) Finkenauer turned in more than 5,000, and the Panel ruled in late March that the former congresswoman had just barely met the 19-county requirement because she'd gathered 100 valid signatures for Allamakee County and 101 in Cedar and Muscatine counties.
A pair of Republicans responded by filing a lawsuit: They argued that a total of three signatures from Allamakee and Cedar should not be counted because the petitioners had not provided the date as required, and the GOP-appointed judge agreed. The secretary of state's office says it needs a final resolution to this matter by April 15 so that it can send ballots to military and overseas voters in time to comply with federal law.
● MO-Sen: Rep. Vicky Hartzler has publicized an internal poll from OnMessage that gives her a narrow 23-22 edge over disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens in the Aug. 2 GOP primary to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, with state Attorney General Eric Schmitt in third with 16%. This is the first survey we've seen from a credible pollster giving Hartzler the edge, though previous polls have shown her in a close third place against Greitens and Schmitt.
Indeed, the attorney general's supporters at Protect Missouri Values in turn have released numbers from NMB Research giving their man a 25-23 edge over Greitens, with Hartzler close behind with 20%. Fellow Rep. Billy Long takes a distant fourth with 7%, while wealthy attorney Mark McCloskey and state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz are at just 3% and 2%, respectively. No one else will be joining or leaving the crowded race at this point, though, as April 8 was finally the filing deadline for Senate: You can find a list of contenders here. (We recently explained why the deadline was automatically extended from March 29.)
These twin polls come as Hartzler and Schmitt seek to position themselves as the strongest alternative to Greitens, whom Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies have long fretted could threaten Team Red's hold on this seat if he wins the nomination. Their worries took on a new urgency last month when Greitens' ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, accused him of physically abusing both her and their children in 2018.
However, as both polls indicate, anti-Eric Greitens forces have yet to consolidate behind anyone. Hartzler, for her part, sports an endorsement from Missouri's other GOP senator, Josh Hawley, while outside groups so far have spent $1.7 million to promote Schmitt. Gov. Mike Parson, meanwhile, is supporting Schatz, while Long is hoping that a recent supportive not-Tweet from Donald Trump will turn into an actual endorsement. Greitens has one big ally in his corner, as mega donor Richard Uihlein last year financed a super PAC to aid him.
On the Democratic side, the two main contenders are Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who is campaigning as a progressive, and philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine, an Anheuser-Busch heir who entered the race late last month.
● NC-Sen: Former Gov. Pat McCrory's latest commercial for next month's GOP primary features the candidate standing in front of a wheelbarrow filled with excrement as an image of Rep. Ted Budd flashes by, and … you know what, just watch it yourself if you absolutely must. And no, you're not imagining it: There are a lot of ads this cycle filled with dung. Politico, meanwhile, reports that Budd's allies at the Club for Growth's total spending for this primary will hit $15 million.
● NV-Sen: Army veteran Sam Brown's new ad goes negative on former Attorney General Adam Laxalt ahead of the June GOP primary, though not very aggressively. It opens with photos of Laxalt and Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto as Brown argues, "Political elites have all the money and Washington's agenda." The candidate goes on to portray himself as a conservative outsider who can "make real change."
● PA-Sen: Mehmet Oz received Trump's backing on Saturday, which makes him the second former TV personality to earn a Trump endorsement in as many weekends. Former hedge fund manager David McCormick, who is Oz's main opponent in the May 17 GOP primary, responded days later with yet another negative ad that opens with footage of Oz smooching his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before he's shown praising Hillary Clinton and Anthony Fauci.
Meanwhile, McCormick on Monday earned the backing of a politician from yesteryear, while Oz picked up the endorsement from someone who is about to go there. In McCormick's corner is former Sen. Rick Santorum, while retiring Rep. Fred Keller is supporting Oz.
● NE-Gov: NBC reports that Trump-endorsed self-funder Charles Herbster has outspent University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, who is termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts' choice, $3.9 million to $2.8 million so far on advertising ahead of the May 10 Republican primary, while state Sen. Brett Lindstrom had deployed $1.2 million.
Plenty of that spending, as you might guess, includes negative ads. An offering from Hebster argues that Pillen "illegally released feces, waste filled with pathogens, heavy metals, and bacteria into our water supply." The narrator, in a line you'd rarely expect to find in GOP ads in this day and age, then exclaims, "Pillen even polluted a protected wildlife refuge." A different Hebster spot is more of what you'd anticipate coming from Team Red, declaring, "Under Jim Pillen, our university became a sanctuary campus, giving scholarships to illegals."
A Ricketts-funded group called Conservative Nebraska, meanwhile, has been running spots portraying Hebster as a "Missouri millionaire." Meanwhile, a group known as Restore the Good Life has been airing ads attacking Lindstrom on taxes, though there's far less information about who is behind it. Last month the Nebraska Examiner reported that the organization was incorporated by a banker named Tanner Lockhorn, whom Ricketts appointed to the Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor, however, denied he had anything to do with this organization, saying, "I don't typically criticize Republican senators during the session as I always want to give them the chance to do the right thing."
● NY-Gov: Data for Progress (D): Kathy Hochul (D-inc): 51, Lee Zeldin (R): 36
● AK-AL: The GOP firm Remington Research, polling on behalf of the conservative website Must Read Alaska, is out with the first survey we've seen of the special June top-four primary, a race that's extremely difficult to poll in part because there are 48 different candidates on the ballot. Remington's approach to that challenge is to ask respondents about six choices, with an unnamed "Another candidate not listed" also included:
Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R): 31
2020 Democratic Senate nominee Al Gross (I): 26
Businessman Nick Begich (R): 21
Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant (D): 7
State Sen. Josh Revak (R): 3
Former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney (R): 2
Another candidate not listed: 4
The four candidates with the most votes will advance to the August instant runoff general election, which Remington did not poll. The story notes that the firm's parent company, Axiom Strategies, works with Begich’s campaign.
● CA-22 (special): The Associated Press has called a June 7 special general election between Republican Connie Conway and Democrat Lourin Hubbard, neither of whom are running for a full term in Congress anywhere this year. Conway took 35% in last week's all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Devin Nunes, while Hubbard, who is a California Department of Water Resources official, outpaced Republican Matt Stoll 19-16 for second.
● NC-04: State Sen. Valerie Foushee has received an endorsement from EMILY's List ahead of the May 17 Democratic primary for this open seat.
● NC-11: While freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn's failed district swap, pro-Putin declarations, and evidence-free "orgy" allegations have motivated several prominent North Carolina Republicans to try to beat him in next month's primary, the party's biggest name is still very much in his corner. Donald Trump used his Saturday rally in the state to praise the congressman, telling his acolytes, "[m]an, I love him." Cawthorn's own speech at that event featured him proclaiming, "We will investigate Anthony Fauci and send him to jail for lying to Congress."
● NE-01: Republican leaders unsurprisingly have nominated Mike Flood in the June 28 special election to succeed former GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, while Democrats chose fellow state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks. Flood faces only minor opposition in next month's primary for the full term now that the convicted Fortenberry has ended his re-election campaign and resigned, while Brooks is similarly situated.
● NY-01: Democrats Serve PAC, which backs Democrats "with public service backgrounds," has announced that it will spend $600,000 on digital ads and mail to support Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn in the June primary for this open seat. The group explained it was supporting her because her "background as a social worker, legislative aide, and legislator gives her a unique perspective and expertise on the frontlines of policy delivery."
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: UC Berkeley, polling on behalf of the Los Angeles Times, gives billionaire developer Rick Caruso the lead with 24% in the June nonpartisan primary, while Rep. Karen Bass outpaces City Councilman Kevin de León 23-6 for the second spot in the all-but-assured November runoff. Caruso, the paper wrote last week, has already spent about $7 million on TV ads, while none of his opponents have gone on the air yet.
● Washington, D.C. Mayor: AFSCME has endorsed Councilmember Robert White's June Democratic primary challenge to Mayor Muriel Bowser.