The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● AZ-AG: Donald Trump's Big Lie slate in Arizona expanded on Thursday when he endorsed former prosecutor Abe Hamadeh in the six-way August primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking the GOP nod for U.S. Senate. The attorney general, governor, and secretary of state are the three offices involved in certifying election results in the Grand Canyon State, and as we'll discuss, Trump is also supporting candidates for those two other open seats who also deny that Joe Biden won in 2020.
Hamadeh, for his part, also told the Arizona Republic last month that he didn't believe Biden had carried the state. "No, the 2020 election was rotten, rigged, and corrupt," he insisted, continuing, "Never again will we sit by as the media, activist judges, and big tech openly work to rob a sitting president of an election." The candidate added, "As AG I will prosecute the election fraud of 2020 and secure the 2024 election so when Donald Trump runs and wins again in 2024, everyone will know it's legitimate." In a separate appearance with a local tea party group, Hamadeh argued, "I think we need to get tough on crime. Don't be picking on the little guy—but get tough on serious crime and not go after Kyle Rittenhouse."
While Trump has suffered some major losses in recent primaries, his support for Hamadeh could nonetheless give him a lift in a crowded contest that has lacked an obvious frontrunner. Hamadeh's intra-party foes are Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran; Rodney Glassman, a former Democrat who now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar; former prosecutor Lacy Cooper; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove. The winner will go up against former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes, who has no opposition in the Democratic primary.
Trump threw his backing behind Hamadeh months after he endorsed like-minded election deniers for governor and secretary of state, and the former prosecutor very much fits right in with the rest of the bunch.
Trump's candidate to replace termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey is Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist who has called for Arizona to take the legally impossible step of decertifying its 2020 results. And in the race to succeed Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is Team Blue's frontrunner for governor, Trump is all-in for state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Biden's victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Lake and Finchem, like Hamadeh, face several opponents in their respective primaries.
● No state regularly hosts as many hotly contested elections as Wisconsin, which is why we're talking to state Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler about all of this year's key races on this week's episode of The Downballot. He tells us about everything his organization does to ensure year-round investment in Democratic infrastructure; details the state of play in the battle to defeat Sen. Ron Johnson and re-elect Gov. Tony Evers; and previews a critical race for the state Supreme Court next year that could flip control from conservatives to progressives.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap several recent elections, including Sarah Palin's first-place finish in the special primary for Alaska's lone House seat, the defeat of a pro-impeachment Republican congressman in South Carolina, and a special election where the GOP picked up a Democratic-held House seat in heavily Latino south Texas.
Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.
● GA-Sen, GA-Gov: East Carolina University is out with the first general election polls of Georgia's marquee races since the primary three weeks ago, finding Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker tied 46-46 while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp leads Democrat Stacey Abrams 50-45.
The Senate numbers were released hours before the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger reported that Walker, who has been on the receiving end of a seemingly never-ending string of critical stories about his past, has a 10-year-old son he'd never publicly acknowledged. Walker's team confirmed the accuracy of the report about the candidate, who said in 2020, "I want to apologize to the African American community, because the fatherless home is a major, major problem."
Sollenberger writes that Walker, who was ordered to pay child support in 2014, "sends Christmas and birthday presents, [but] he otherwise has not played an active parental role in raising his second son." Sollenberger also says that this child has never spoken to Christian Walker, the candidate's 22-year-old son who has played an active role in the Senate race.
● NC-Sen: SurveyUSA, working on behalf of WRAL, gives Democrat Cheri Beasley a 44-40 edge over Republican Ted Budd in its first look at North Carolina's crucial Senate race. That's a bit different than what two other pollsters found in the days following last month's primaries: East Carolina University put Budd ahead 49-42, while the Republican posted a smaller 44-42 edge in a Cygnal survey for the conservative Civitas Institute and John Locke Foundation.
● PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Suffolk University's new poll for USA Today shows Democrat John Fetterman leading Republican Mehmet Oz 46-37 in race for U.S. Senate, while Democrat Josh Shapiro posts a smaller 44-40 advantage over QAnon ally Doug Mastriano in the contest for governor. This is the first look we've gotten at a Fetterman-Oz matchup since December of last year, as well as the very first public survey of the gubernatorial race.
● FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo endorsed Rep. Charlie Crist a week after she ended her own campaign for governor in favor of running for Congress. Taddeo was Crist's running mate when he last ran for governor in 2014 and lost narrowly to Republican Rick Scott.
● LA-Gov: Former U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington, a Republican who previously served as western Louisiana's U.S. attorney, tells LA Politics' Jeremy Alford that he's considering competing in next year's all-party primary for governor. Washington would be the first Black person elected statewide since Reconstruction. Two of those 19th century officeholders, Lt. Govs. Oscar Dunn and P. B. S. Pinchback, were the first African Americans to serve as acting governor of any state, though only Pinchback is usually credited as America's first Black governor.
● NV-Gov: The hard-right Club for Growth has published an early June internal from WPA Intelligence that shows Joe Lombardo, who won the GOP primary Tuesday, edging out Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak 48-47. That's quite a bit better for Lombardo than the 43-31 deficit the University of Nevada, Reno gave him last month, though as we wrote then, that huge gap was likely due to Sisolak's greater name recognition.
● NY-Gov: New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul two weeks ahead of the Democratic primary, a contest where Hochul has been the favorite all year.
● OR-Gov: Political consultant Bridget Barton, who took third place with 11% in last month's Republican primary, announced this week she would back independent Betsy Johnson rather than support GOP nominee Christine Drazan. Barton explained her decision by declaring that, while Johnson will "stand up to Democrats," Drazan "tends to run away from conflict." Barton also argued that Johnson has a better chance to prevent Democrat Tina Kotek, whom she called "a woman who is dangerous," from winning the governorship.
● TX-Gov: Quinnipiac's first Texas poll all year shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke just 48-43, a huge change from his 52-37 advantage in December. The school notes that this shift occurred following last month's school massacre in Uvalde, which is also reflected in the fact that respondents say they trust Abbott over O'Rourke on "gun policy" by a 47-43 margin—an even bigger drop from 60-33 lead on this topic in Quinnipiac's previous survey. These newest horserace numbers are also dramatically different than the 56-37 Abbott landslide that the Democratic firm Blueprint Polling recently found.
● FL-01: Former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo said Wednesday that he would challenge far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz, who reportedly remains under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses, in the August Republican primary, adding that he'd spend $1 million of his own money on the effort. Lombardo, who like many in this military-heavy area is a veteran, argued, "Washington is broken because of people like Matt Gaetz. If you want to change Washington, send a Marine. I'll get the job done."
Lombardo didn't hold back on explaining why he believes Republican voters in this safely red constituency should eject Gaetz. "The people of Northwest Florida need a Congressman who will put them first," the challenger said in a statement that continued, "Matt Gaetz is a professional politician who has dishonored his constituents with unnecessary drama, childish gimmicks, and is reportedly entangled in a federal investigation for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old girl to the Bahamas." He added, "Displaying the highest level of arrogance imaginable, he hired pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's attorneys and used the money from his hard-working America-first donors to pay the bill."
● FL-04: State Rep. Jason Fischer announced Tuesday that he was leaving the Republican primary for the 4th District and returning to the 2023 contest Duval County property appraiser, an office he'd been seeking before the new GOP gerrymander created an open seat in the Jacksonville area. Fischer quickly earned an endorsement for his resurrected campaign for appraiser from Gov. Ron DeSantis; Politico's Matt Dixon suggests that the governor had been instrumental in pressuring Fischer to get out of the House race in order to help another contender, state Sen. Aaron Bean. DeSantis, however, has not yet publicly taken sides in the race for the 4th.
● FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna has released an internal from Spry Strategies giving her a 36-16 edge over attorney Kevin Hayslett in the August GOP primary for this Democratic-held open seat.
● GA-10: We have less than a week to go before the Republican runoff for this safely red seat in northeastern Georgia and, even by 2022 standards, it's a truly nasty contest.
Businessman Mike Collins recently sent out mailers describing former state Rep. Vernon Jones, the Trump-backed former Democrat who would be the first Black Republican to represent Georgia in the House since Reconstruction, as a "RADICALLY ANTI-WHITE RACIST." Collins has also continued to attack Jones, who never represented any part of the 10th District in previous elective posts he's held, as an interloper and a phony. Jones, for his part, has run commercials depicting his rival, whose late father did previously represent the area, as a little boy whose only rationale for running is, "My daddy was in Congress."
Things escalated even further this week when Collins sent out a tweet that featured a picture of a rape whistle emblazoned with the web address for an anti-Jones site, an item that references an accusation of rape leveled against Jones in 2004 (he was never charged), alongside an image of a gun. "Although some use a rape whistle for protection against sexual assault, a 9mm is the more preferred form of protection," wrote Collins. Jones in response filed a report with police in Morgan County arguing that his rival was encouraging "violence against me." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, "Authorities say they will not investigate."
Collins outpaced Jones 26-22 in the first round of voting last month, and we've seen no polls since then.
● IL-03: Politico's Shia Kapos reports that VoteVets, which is supporting Chicago Alderman Gil Villegas in the June 28 Democratic primary, is spending $430,000 on a new ad that opens with the sound of gunfire before the narrator accuses state Rep. Delia Ramirez of wanting to "defund the Chicago Police Department immediately."
Kapos explains that this line of attack is based on a 2020 letter Ramirez signed accusing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot of using the force "to beat, arrest, and terrorize the demonstrators and journalists gathered in Grant Park tonight." That missive concluded, "We are ready to work to defund the Chicago Police Department immediately, and we call on our colleagues of conscience to join us." Ramirez this April said, "I'm not the 'Defund the police' candidate. I actually helped secure $200 million for violence prevention and pension benefits for police and firefighters."
● MO-04: The influential Missouri Farm Bureau has endorsed cattle farmer Kalena Bruce in the August Republican nomination contest, which the Missouri Times says makes this the first time the group has ever taken sides in a primary for an open House seat. The move comes a week after Gov. Mike Parson also threw his backing behind Bruce.
● WY-AL: The Club for Growth announced this week that it was backing attorney Harriet Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney in the August GOP primary and had launched a $300,000 ad campaign to support the challenger. The commercial reminds viewers that Donald Trump, whose relationship with the Club has soured in recent months, is supporting Hageman, and it features footage of Trump praising her as "a true champion for the people of this state."
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Maine:
ME-SD-07: Democratic state Rep. Nicole Grohoski held this Ellsworth-based seat for her party by defeating former GOP state Sen. Brian Langley 64-35 in a closely watched race, a margin that exceeded Joe Biden's 57-40 performance here. Democrats return to a 22-13 majority in the chamber ahead of Grohoski and Langley's rematch in November.
● SC-Gov: Former Rep. Joe Cunningham defeated state Sen. Mia McLeod 57-31 to win the Democratic nomination to take on Republican incumbent Henry McMaster. The governor will be the favorite in a state where Team Blue last won a statewide race in 2006.
● ME-02: Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin will get his rematch with Democratic incumbent Jared Golden, but Poliquin's 60-40 win in the Republican primary against Liz Caruso, an underfunded member of the Board of Selectman for the tiny community of Caratunk, was surprisingly underwhelming for such a well-known politician.
It's possible that a significant number of Republicans are just tired of Poliquin, who lost re-election to Golden in a tight 2018 contest whose outcome he still refuses to recognize, but Caruso also had some important connections. Most notably, she was the spokesperson for the high-profile 2021 ballot initiative that succeeded in blocking the Central Maine Power hydropower corridor project. Caruso also spent the evening before the primary on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show; Carlson, notes the Bangor Daily News, is a part-time Maine resident and a fellow corridor foe.
● NV-01: The Associated Press has called the Republican primary for Army veteran Mark Robertson, who defeated conservative activist David Brog 30-17. Robertson will now go up against Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in an eastern Las Vegas area where legislative Democrats—much to the frustration of the congresswoman—slashed Biden's margin from 61-36 to 53-45 in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer.
● NV-04: The AP has also called the GOP primary for Air Force veteran Sam Peters, who beat Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41 in this constituency in the northern Las Vegas area. Peters lost the 2020 GOP primary to former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, a fellow Big Lie enthusiast who is now the party's nominee for secretary of state, but he'll now get his chance to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a redrawn seat that would have supported Biden 53-45.
● SC-04: While sophomore Rep. William Timmons secured renomination in his safely red Greenville-area constituency, his 53-24 GOP primary victory over unheralded far-right foe Mark Burns left him surprisingly close to being forced into a runoff. (Burns took just 2% here when this seat, which barely changed following redistricting, was last open in 2018.) Timmons, unlike many other vulnerable Republican House members, had Trump's endorsement, and he doesn't appear to have taken any votes that would alienate a significant portion of the base.
However, the Greenville News notes that the congressman's opponents argued he was absent from his job. Timmons pushed back by citing his duties as a JAG officer in the South Carolina Air National Guard, but that explanation seems to have left a sizable minority of primary voters cold.
● NV-AG, NV-SoS: Two Big Lie promoters won their respective primaries for two crucial downballot offices in Nevada, attorney general and secretary of state. Attorney Sigal Chattah outpaced Tisha Black, who founded a cannabis industry trade group, 51-40 for the right to take on Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford, while in the race to succeed termed-out GOP Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant beat out developer Jesse Haw 38-20. Marchant will go up against former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar, who had no Democratic opposition.
Chattah has sued to undermine the state's pandemic response measures and has complained that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations. Team Blue very much wanted her as Ford's opponent, though, as a Democratic group ran radio ads slamming Black over her 2015 donation to now-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak while calling Chattah a "MAGA conservative." (Unlike similar efforts by Democrats elsewhere seeking to choose their opponents, these ads didn't merely "attack" Chattah in a backhanded way but openly called for her election.)
Marchant has been an even more full-throated Big Lie enthusiast, as the QAnon ally has insisted he would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 victory. Marchant also said on the campaign trail, "Your vote hasn't counted for decades. You haven't elected anybody," an amusing claim that makes you wonder how he himself was elected to the legislature.
During the race, he attracted notoriety by allying with conspiracist candidates in other states running to become chief election officials. Marchant was last on the ballot in 2020 when he was Team Red's nominee against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford last cycle in the 4th District, and he characteristically responded to his 51-46 defeat by baselessly claiming he was the "victim of election fraud" and unsuccessfully sued to overturn the results.
● Where Are They Now?: Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who unexpectedly decided not to seek re-election last year, has joined the Biden administration as a senior adviser and head of the White House Office of Public Engagement. The latter post was previously headed by Cedric Richmond, a former Louisiana congressman who left the White House in April.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.