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● MN-Gov, MN-AG, MN-SoS: Minnesota Republicans convene Friday and Saturday for their biennial party convention, and while the GOP won't formally choose nominees for any offices, the gathering could dramatically winnow the fields for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state auditor—posts that are all currently held by Democrats.
That's because many contenders have pledged, in local parlance, to "abide" by the GOP's endorsement process, meaning they intend to drop out of the August primary if delegates award the party's backing to someone else. This is a long-running tradition for both parties in Minnesota, though candidates often do forge ahead to the primary even if they miss out on their party's endorsement and typically state their intention to do so ahead of time. Some, in fact, deliberately bypass the process of wooing convention-goers altogether and take their appeals to voters at large—a strategy that worked out very well for former Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in 2010.
At the same time, there's also no guarantee that anyone will actually win their party's endorsement in a given race, or that a losing candidate will actually stick with their promise to bail. However, Minnesota's filing deadline to appear on the primary ballot is May 31, so anyone who falls short this weekend will not have long to consider whether to soldier on. (And unlike in some other states, winning at a convention doesn't grant ballot access; all candidates must either gather signatures or pay a filing fee.)
First, the convention rules. Candidates need to win the support of at least 60% of the 2,200 delegates expected to attend in order to snag the endorsement in a process that usually requires multiple rounds of voting. Trailing candidates are gradually eliminated as they fail to reach thresholds set by the party for each round, but that doesn't mean there will be one person left standing at the very end.
Unhappy delegates were reminded of this the hard way just a few weeks ago at the local level. For congressional and legislative races, both parties also hold smaller conventions that operate similarly. At the GOP's gathering in the 1st Congressional District, voting stretched into 1 AM but remained inconclusive.
At that point, state Rep. Jeremy Munson led former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad 55-35 in the seventh and final round. The remaining 10% had left their ballots blank, marked themselves as undecided, or voted against issuing an endorsement at all. Those holdouts prevailed, as the convention adjourned after weary delegates, who had already been there for 15 hours, decided that neither Munson or Finstad would hit 60% and there was no point continuing.
Republicans could very well be in for another couple of late-night events because of a dispute on how exactly to count ballots. State party chair David Hann is pushing to use electronic voting, arguing that it's safe and fast. Some conspiracy-minded delegates, however, are pushing to use paper ballots instead, even though it could take hours to tabulate them across multiple rounds.
But the GOP endorsement is a precious prize worth staying up past bedtime to snag. That's because, in the last 30 years, only once has a candidate for statewide office lost the endorsement but won their primary, and the circumstances were extremely unusual: Arne Carlson was the incumbent governor in 1994, but delegates viewed him as too liberal and backed conservative former state Rep. Allen Quist instead. Carlson nevertheless handily won the primary and general election as well, but don't expect many Republicans to follow his lead: He's become a total apostate in GOP circles, having regularly endorsed Democrats like Barack Obama and Joe Biden over the years.
Part of the reason the endorsement matters so much is that, as we noted above, many candidates are committed to the process and will end their campaigns if someone else wins the requisite 60%. For those thinking about staying in despite losing out on an endorsement, there are other hurdles as well. As the Star Tribune notes, endorsees receive financial and staffing support from the state party, and many GOP voters may be leery of voting for a candidate who fails to earn the support of delegates—a fervent contingent of activists whose blessing amounts to a conservative stamp of approval.
The biggest race this year is the battle to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, and six Republicans are facing off at the convention in a vote currently set for Saturday: state Sen. Paul Gazelka; former state Sen. Scott Jensen; Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy; healthcare executive Kendall Qualls; dermatologist Neil Shah; and former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.
Jensen, who has made a name for himself by spreading lies about COVID and the 2020 election, began campaigning for the endorsement far earlier than his opponents, and he was rewarded in early February when he took first at the party's precinct-level caucuses. Many politicos saw that vote as an early preview of this week's convention, though it's no certainty that Jensen remains the frontrunner three-and-a-half months later.
All six have publicly pledged to abide by the endorsement, though the Star Tribune writes that some "have softened their comments on the topic as the convention approaches." However, Hann, the GOP chair, insists that they'll each stick to their promise, saying, "Every governor candidate has met me one-on-one and told me that same thing: They will abide by the endorsement." He'd very much like that to be the case, of course, because then his candidates can immediately start focusing on the general election, though he may not get his wish.
The contest to face Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, meanwhile, is another multi-way race, though one of the candidates is skipping the convention altogether. That contender is former state Rep. Dennis Smith, who argued, "It has become clear that the endorsing convention is a game for insiders." The field also includes 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow; former judge Tad Jude; and attorneys Jim Schultz and Lynne Torgerson.
Further down the ballot, attorney Kim Crockett and businesswoman Kelly Jahner-Byrne are squaring off for the endorsement to take on Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon, while the only notable Republican running to face Democratic state Auditor Julie Blaha is businessman Ryan Wilson.
P.S. The state Democratic Party, known as the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, holds its convention May 20-22, though none of the party's four statewide incumbents face any serious intra-party opposition. Minnesota Democrats also tend to prioritize the endorsement process less than their GOP counterparts: Walz, notably, won his 2018 primary over a DFL-endorsed opponent eight years after Dayton secured the nomination the same way.
● NC-Sen: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who faces no major opponent in Tuesday's Democratic primary, has released a poll from Global Strategy Group looking forward to the general election that finds her tied 45-45 with Rep. Ted Budd, who has consistently led in the polls for the Republican nomination. The survey also finds a very similar margin testing Beasley against former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who holds a slim 45-44 lead over Beasley should he pull off an upset over Budd on Tuesday.
● PA-Sen: Republicans are having an expected, albeit belated, freakout about the election denier Kathy Barnette's prospects in a general election, and even Donald Trump is taking action to stop her from winning Tuesday's primary.
"Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats," said Trump in a not-tweet. He continued with a line that begins with what could be interpreted as ironic self-awareness had it came from any other GOP politician, writing, "She has many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted, but if she is able to do so, she will have a wonderful future in the Republican Party — and I will be behind her all the way." Trump concluded with an obligatory call for GOP voters to instead support his choice, TV personality Mehmet Oz.
Oz's allies at the super PAC American Leadership Action, meanwhile, are running a last-minute ad against Barnette, whom they've ignored until now. After the narrator dubs her "Crazy Kathy Barnette," the commercial shows a clip of Barnette, who is Black, ostensibly explaining Black Lives Matter by saying, "The reason for so much unrest in the Black community is because of white racism." CNN's Andrew Kaczynski tweets that the group "took a clip of her saying 'in 1960 the Kerner Commission said the reason for so much unrest in the black community is because of white racism,' and cut it off to make it look [like] she was talking about today."
● NRSC: The NRSC has reserved $53 million for TV ads this fall across the seven Senate races it likely views as the top battlegrounds:
- Arizona: $8 million
- Georgia: $9.5 million
- Nevada: $3 million
- New Hampshire: $9 million
- North Carolina: $6.5 million
- Pennsylvania: $8 million
- Wisconsin: $9 million (the NRSC will also spend an additional $2.6 million for hybrid ads here jointly funded by GOP Sen. Ron Johnson's campaign)
The NRSC's foray makes it the last of the big four party-aligned campaign groups that compete in Senate races to reveal its fall ad reservations this year; we previously covered the ad purchases from the other three groups, which are the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC on the GOP side, plus the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC for Democrats.
The four groups' reservations confirm that Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are the GOP's top offensive targets this cycle, while the NRSC and DSCC were the only two of the group that included a fourth Democratic-held seat, New Hampshire, in their reservation list. For Republican-held seats that Democrats are targeting, all four party groups purchased time in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but notably neither of the two Democratic organizations reserved ad time in North Carolina while both GOP groups did. SLF was the lone group to reserve time in Alaska, but that move appears intended to stave off an intra-party challenge to GOP incumbent Lisa Murkowski.
Importantly, these ad reservation amounts are by no means final, since the campaign groups can and almost certainly will modify them as conditions on the ground change. However, they give us as good an indication as anything about which races the parties view as the most competitive and which races they may by omission view as longer shots.
● NM-Gov: SurveyUSA has conducted a poll for KOB-TV that finds Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham leading her potential GOP challengers by varying degrees:
47-43 vs. over former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti
47-37 vs. Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block
48-36 vs state Rep. Rebecca Dow
48-32 vs. anti-abortion activist Ethel Maharg
Ronchetti’s standing may be aided by higher name recognition from his 2020 run as the GOP nominee for Senate that year, though the poll doesn't include that info.
Polling has been very limited in this year's race, and the only other survey we have seen here was a Cygnal internal poll back in early January on behalf of another Republican, retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, which showed him trailing the governor by 40-39.
● OR-Gov: GOP consultant Bridget Barton has debuted an ad ahead of next Tuesday's primary that goes hard after former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan by saying that she supports "radical indoctrination" because she voted to “put tampons in elementary boys’ bathrooms.” (The bill in question, which ensures menstrual products will be available in all public school bathrooms, passed the House unanimously.) The ad makes Barton the latest in a long string of Republicans this cycle to use transphobic attacks to try to win a primary. Barton's spot also calls out Drazan for refusing to take a position on abortion earlier this month.
● PA-Gov: State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman on Thursday dropped out of the May 17 Republican primary for the second and final time and endorsed former Rep. Lou Barletta. Corman's departure comes as party leaders are increasingly worried that QAnon ally state Sen. Doug Mastriano will win the nomination only to lose to Democrat Josh Shapiro, though neither Corman nor Barletta said why they thought Mastriano would go down to defeat in November. Indeed, Barletta, who has cultivated his own ties to the far-right, acknowledged that he and Mastriano differed little on policy, though he insisted that he was the more electable choice.
However, while GOP leaders have loudly hoped that other candidates will follow Corman's lead and quit the race, the other two main contenders made it clear Thursday they weren't budging. Wealthy businessman Dave White brought up Barletta's 56-43 loss to Democratic Sen. Bob Casey four years ago, tweeting, "We nominated Lou in 2018. I even worked the polls for him. But he lost by 650,000 votes then and he'd lose to Josh Shapiro now."
Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain also used his chance to get digs in at Barletta, saying, "It's no surprise that career politician Jake Corman, who implemented the highest gas tax in America, has chosen to endorse fellow career politician Lou Barletta, who is also a steadfast supporter of higher gas taxes."
● AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich III has released his first TV ad ahead of the all-party special election primary on June 11, which features Begich criticizing Joe Biden and bemoaning how "so many politicians quit when we need them," the latter line being a thinly veiled attack on former Gov. Sarah Palin, who like Begich is also a Republican.
● CO-08, NE-02: The DCCC has added Colorado state Rep. Yadira Caraveo and Nebraska state Sen. Tony Vargas to its Red to Blue program, which is the DCCC's top-tier list of races where it plans to be heavily involved this cycle. Caraveo is the sole Democrat running for Colorado's new and open 8th District north of Denver, while Vargas just won the nomination to take on GOP Rep. Don Bacon in the Omaha-based 2nd District; both districts backed Biden by modest margins.
● FL-13: Democratic state Rep. Ben Diamond has ended his campaign for the 13th District, citing the gerrymander that Republicans recently enacted as making it prohibitively difficult to win by turning this Democratic-held open seat from one that Biden won by 51-47 into a district that Trump would have carried 53-46. Diamond indicated that he "fully intend[s]" to run again, should ongoing litigation block the map and lead to fairer districts once more for 2024, though that outcome is by no means guaranteed.
● FL-15: Republican Laurel Lee has resigned her position as secretary of state just as Florida Politics reports that she could kick off a campaign as soon as Friday for the new 15th District, an open seat in the northeastern Tampa area that Trump won by 51-48, though there's no direct word from Lee herself yet. Florida Politics notes that Lee's husband, former state Sen. Tom Lee, has been rumored to be looking at running but obviously won't if his wife runs instead. The site also relayed that state Sen. Kelli Stargel is reportedly considering joining the crowded GOP primary, which already includes several notable contenders.
● FL-27, FL-Gov: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins has reversed course and dropped out of the Democratic primary roughly a week after she launched her campaign. Higgins said she reached her decision after hearing from an unnamed source that state Sen. Annette Taddeo intended to switch from running for governor, where she has lagged in distant third in the polls and in fundraising for the Democratic nomination, to running for the House. Higgins indicated she would instead support Taddeo and remain on the county commission rather than resign her seat to run for Congress as would eventually be required under state law.
However, Taddeo's spokesperson rejected the notion that his boss was poised to switch races, though it won't be too long before we know for sure if there's any truth to the rumor, since Florida's filing deadline is just over a month away on June 17. For now, though, Higgins' departure leaves Miami Commissioner Ken Russell as the sole notable Democrat running to challenge GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar.
● IL-15: GOP Rep. Rodney Davis has unveiled what appears to be the first negative ad ahead of the June 28 member-on-member primary against fellow Rep. Mary Miller. Davis' spot features an Army veteran berating Miller for having "voted with the squad to defund our military," referencing Miller's vote last December against the National Defense Authorization Act for 2022, and he goes on to praise Davis for supporting the military and veterans.
● NC-01: A new poll of Tuesday's Democratic primary for North Carolina's open 1st District conducted by GQR for state Sen. Don Davis finds him leading former state Sen. Erica Smith 44-31, with 22% of voters undecided and 3% expressing support for another candidate (though none were named in the questionnaire).
Davis also continues to be the beneficiary of heavy outside spending by his allies: The United Democracy Project, a super PAC run by AIPAC, just poured in another $650,000 on advertising, bringing its total expenditures to $2.3 million. The Democratic Majority for Israel, meanwhile, has spent $467,000 on Davis' behalf. Smith, by contrast, has gotten $387,000 in aid from two groups, J Street and the Working Families Party. In addition, according to pre-primary FEC reports, Davis' campaign outspent Smith's during the month of April $251,000 to $52,000.
● NC-11: Sen. Thom Tillis' allies at Results for NC are, for the first time, running a commercial promoting state Sen. Chuck Edwards, though they also get in some requisite digs at freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn ahead of next week's GOP primary. Edwards is the only one of the seven challengers who has benefited from outside support and major endorsements, though he'll still have a tough task consolidating enough of the anti-Cawthorn vote to pull ahead on Tuesday. (A runoff would only take place if no one takes at least 30% of the vote.)
The PAC also is airing an all-negative commercial that labels the incumbent a "playboy politician."
● NY-23 (special): We know a few things about the as-yet-unscheduled special election in the works for New York's 23rd Congressional District thanks to Republican Rep. Tom Reed's resignation earlier this week: It'll take place under the old district lines, under which Donald Trump prevailed by a 55-43 margin, and, as per state law, party leaders, not primary voters, will pick nominees. What we don't know, however, is what the state's new congressional map will look like. As a result, would-be candidates can't know whether they'd have a plausible district to run in for a full term in the regular November elections, or if they'd end up running to serve just a few months in an "orphaned" district—which is what happened in California's vacant 22nd District.
We do have a few names of potential candidates, though, courtesy of the Buffalo News' Robert McCarthy. For Republicans, the list includes former state Sen. Cathy Young, who is reportedly considering a bid, as well as Steuben County GOP chair Joe Sempolinski and state Sen. George Borrello. All had weighed running for the version of the 23rd that was struck down by the state courts (along with the entire map) last month but chose to defer to Rep. Claudia Tenney, who'd planned to switch districts. Meanwhile, McCarthy says that Air Force veteran Max Della Pia is "expected" to be the Democrats' nominee.
● TX-15: With just over two weeks to go before the Democratic runoff in Texas' 15th Congressional District, Democratic Majority for Israel has now spent another $192,000 to boost Army veteran Ruben Ramirez over businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, on top of the $300,000 it had previously shelled out as of last week. Ramirez has portrayed himself as the more moderate option in the primary for this heavily Latino district in South Texas, which Republicans gerrymandered into a 51-48 Trump seat as compared to the 50-49 margin it gave Biden in its prior configuration.
● TX-28: Mainstream Democrats, a new super PAC founded by Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, is airing a deceptive new TV ad that tries to portray Rep. Henry Cuellar as a supporter of abortion rights when he's anything but. As a narrator declares, "[W]ith women's rights under attack from extremists, Democrat Henry Cuellar has made it clear that he opposes a ban on abortion," the spot cites a recent U.S. News article on the screen.
It's very much worth digging into that citation, which offers the full context for Cuellar's claims. In a statement he issued after the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Cuellar said, "As a lifelong Catholic, I have always been pro-life. As a Catholic, I do not support abortion, however, we cannot have an outright ban. There must be exceptions in the case of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother."
Cuellar has in fact long supported abortion bans. In 2017, he voted in favor of a Republican bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would have banned abortion nationwide after 20 weeks—which he also voted for in 2015. In 2012 and again in 2013, he voted for the same sort of ban as well, except this time he sought to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks solely in the District of Columbia—an abuse of Congress' power to regulate the city frequently deployed in the service of the GOP's pet projects.
And as a practical matter, Cuellar does support banning abortion altogether, even without any exceptions, because he was the lone House Democrat to vote against codifying Roe into law last year. By opposing such protections, Cuellar and his fellow travelers will ensure that many states, including his home state of Texas, are able to implement total bans on abortion the moment the Supreme Court issues its final ruling.
It's not yet clear how much Cuellar's allies are putting behind this ad, but Mainstream Democrats recently reported spending $178,000 on direct mail to help the congressman.
● TX-AG: Defend Liberty, a group that supports Attorney General Ken Paxton, has publicized a poll from CWS Research that shows him beating Land Commissioner George P. Bush 58-31 in the May 24 Republican runoff.
Bush, for his part, is running a commercial where he tries to turn the focus onto the many scandals dogging the incumbent. The land commissioner, who is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the nephew of George W. Bush, tells the audience, "I'm George P. Bush and I'm proud of my family's contributions to Texas and America. But this race isn't about my last name. It's about Ken Paxton's crimes."
● Special Elections: Democrats will be defending a potentially competitive state Senate seat in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, which is the same day as the statewide primary. Here's a rundown:
PA SD-05: This Northeast Philadelphia seat has been open since January, when Democrat John Sabatina resigned to take a judgeship. Democrats nominated Jimmy Dillon, a one-time high school and college basketball star who now works for the local school district, in April after his brother, Shawn Dillon, dropped out when he failed to file the necessary statement of financial interests. Republicans are fielding real estate agent Sam Oropeza, who is a one-time mixed martial arts fighter.
Joe Biden took this seat 54-45, though that was a drop from Hillary Clinton's 56-41 victory four years before. The GOP coalition (which includes independent John Yudichak) enjoys a 29-20 edge in the upper chamber, with only this seat vacant.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: City Councilman Joe Buscaino announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the June 7 nonpartisan primary and endorsing billionaire developer Rick Caruso.
● Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty has picked up an endorsement from Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents just over half the county, in the crowded August nonpartisan primary.
● San Francisco, CA District Attorney: Embold Research, polling on behalf of The San Francisco Standard, finds a 57-22 majority in favor of recalling District Attorney Chesa Boudin on June 7. Boudin responded, "The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, and we've seen time and time again that polls―even really rigorous polls―are way off the mark," which is the kind of sentiment politicians often express when even their own internal polls have them down.
Boudin's 2019 win represented a big victory for the criminal justice reform movement, but he proved to be vulnerable when detractors organized to throw him out well before his four-year-term was up. Part of his problem, recall expert Joshua Spivak told the San Francisco Chronicle, likely comes from how narrow his victory was two-and-a-half years ago. Boudin took just 36% of the vote in the first round of that instant-runoff race, and while he prevailed by a close 51-49 in the final round of tabulations, he took office with a significant number of voters already skeptical of his approach.
Boudin's opponents have blamed his policies for crime at home, and they've made use of videos showing mass shoplifting to make their case. Recall organizers have also attacked his managerial skills by flagging how a large number of the city's prosecutors have left since Boudin was inaugurated. The pro-recall forces have plenty of money to make their case, as they outraised Boudin's side $5 million to $2.46 million.
The district attorney and his allies have fought back by highlighting the city's still-low violent crime rates to argue his approach is working while also faulting the city's Police Department for making relatively few arrests for property crime. Boudin has also run commercials framing the recall vote as a Republican power grab financed by hedge fund manager William Oberndorf, whom the narrator blasts as a "major donor to Mitch McConnell."
If a majority of San Francisco voters vote yes next month on Proposition H, then Boudin will be removed from office and Mayor London Breed would appoint his successor to serve until a special election is held this November. However, voters will also be presented with Proposition C, which among other things would prevent Breed's pick from running in that contest. Breed herself has not yet publicly taken sides on Prop. H, but she's repeatedly clashed with Boudin.