The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Daniel Donner, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
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● FL-10: Former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud just one month ago, shocked the Florida political universe one day before Friday's candidate filing deadline when she announced that she would run to succeed Senate candidate Val Demings in the busy August primary for the safely blue 10th District in the Orlando area. The move was especially surprising because Brown's longtime Jacksonville base is located well to the north, though she noted that she represented part of Orlando during her 24 years in Congress.
That 1992 victory in what was then numbered the 3rd District made Brown, along with the late Carrie Meek and Alcee Hastings, the first African American to represent Florida in Congress since 1876. The court-drawn constituency she won snaked down from Jacksonville, where she'd previously served as a state legislator, about 140 miles south to Orlando, and it would keep its basic shape for her entire tenure. Brown originally supported the creation of this seat to ensure that Black voters could elect their preferred candidate, but she continued to defend the status quo over the coming decades even as Republican legislators used her district to make surrounding seats whiter and more conservative.
In 2010, Brown even joined South Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in a failed lawsuit seeking to stop the "Fair Districts" amendments, which aimed to prohibit map-makers from drawing seats to "favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party," from remaining on the ballot, and she continued her fight even after voters decisively approved them. However, her luck ran out in 2015 when state courts struck down the GOP's latest gerrymander for violating the new amendments and implemented a fairer map.
Brown's still-blue constituency, which was numbered the 5th District, changed radically. Instead of its north-south configuration, no wider than the interstate at certain points, it now spanned from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee. That shift also led to the creation of a revamped 10th District in Orlando that was enticing to Democrats.
That was not a welcome development for the incumbent, especially after a prominent politician from the Tallahassee area, former state Sen. Al Lawson, made it clear he'd also run for the 5th. Brown unsuccessfully sued to restore the old map, and in October of 2015, she declined to dismiss rumors that she was interested in the 10th even though it would have also meant a tough primary against Demings, a former Orlando police chief, but she never said anything afterwards about that switch.
Brown ultimately sought re-election in the revamped 5th, but she soon had worries much bigger than redistricting after she was accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars for her personal use from a fake charity that was supposed to be awarding scholarships to poor students. Brown was indicted a little more than a month before the primary and went on to lose to Lawson 48-39 amidst a poor performance outside of Jacksonville. The following year, the now-former congresswoman was convicted on 18 counts of fraud and tax evasion, and she began what was supposed to be a five-year prison sentence in 2018.
However, Brown's case was far from over. A federal appeals court last year ordered a new trial after ruling that a jury member had been improperly removed for saying the "Holy Spirit" had told him Brown wasn't guilty. That second trial never took place, though, as Brown accepted a deal last month in which she pled guilty to a single count of tax fraud and avoided further prison time. Still, she gave no indication she was thinking about a return to politics until Thursday's surprise announcement.
Brown entered that new race just days after one of her former colleagues, the bombastic Alan Grayson, launched his own comeback bid here. The field already included state Sen. Randolph Bracy; gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost; pastor Terence Gray; and civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson.
● AZ-Sen: Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon is airing a new spot against former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters that takes advantage of a Jewish Insider report about his Trump-backed opponent's long-ago views and 2005 blog posts, a move that came days after Masters' Club for Growth allies launched its own anti-Lamon commercial for the August GOP primary. Lamon's narrator informs the audience, "Newly revealed documents show that before running for Senate, Blake Masters supported abortion and convinced friends to become pro-choice."
Indeed, a now-former Masters friend named Collin Wedel told Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel, "Blake was the one who convinced me to be pro-choice," continuing, "I remember him arguing with me. I mean, it was Tucson, Arizona, in the '90s, so it was a very conservative evangelical community, and he was not that." Wedel, who said the two stopped communicating years ago over Masters' support for Trump, added, "If he had announced that he was running for Senate on some kind of weird libertarian, we-should-have-a-gold-standard platform, I think all of us would have said, 'Well, yeah, that was Blake.'"
Lamon goes on to dredge up his rival's 2005 LiveJournal writings, which Kassel says Masters penned when he was 19. The narrator says, "Blake Masters argued for total drug legalization, calling drug smugglers 'heroes.' Blake Masters even advocated for unrestricted immigration, and said open borders are the only choice."
● GA-Sen: On Thursday, two days after the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger reported that Republican Herschel Walker has a 10-year-old son he'd never publicly acknowledged, Sollenberger published another story revealing that the candidate has another heretofore unrevealed son and daughter. "I have four children. Three sons and a daughter," Walker said in a statement, "They're not 'undisclosed'—they're my kids. I support them all and love them all."
The candidate continued, "I've never denied my children, I confirmed this when I was appointed to the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, I just chose not to use them as props to win a political campaign. What parent would want their child involved in garbage, gutter politics like this?" Walker's 22-year-old son Christian Walker, who was the only child he'd ever mentioned prior to this week, has been an active surrogate in his campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
● OK-Sen-B: Physician Randy Grellner, who has loaned his campaign at least $1 million ahead of the June 28 Republican primary, is airing a commercial attacking former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon that focuses on a topic we don't think we've ever seen in a campaign ad before: Native American tribal sovereignty. A very fast-speaking narrator argues that Shannon's "casino boss" donors "directed" him to support Jimcy McGirt, who was convicted in state court of raping a child, "[i]n order to divide Oklahoma." She continues, "The decision destroys the rights of homeowners, farmers, and diverts their tax dollars to the casino bosses."
The decision in question is a 2020 Supreme Court case called McGirt v. Oklahoma, which overturned McGirt's conviction on the grounds that, because the incident occurred within the boundaries of the Muscogee Nation, only tribal or federal authorities could prosecute him. The decision continues to have far-reaching implications for justice in Native American nations, but, despite the hyperbolic claims of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives, the court didn't "gave away half of Oklahoma, literally." McGirt for his part, was sentenced to life in prison the following year in federal court.
Grellner also has another commercial in which he depicts Shannon and his many other rivals as inmates in a mental hospital to make his case that "[t]he definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Quit electing career politicians."
● FL-Gov: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has unveiled a Global Strategy Group internal showing her trailing Rep. Charlie Crist only 38-34 in the August Democratic primary to face Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis.
● MD-Gov: Campaign finance reports are now out covering the period of Jan. 13 to June 7, and Maryland Matters has a roundup of all the major candidates for the July 19 primary for governor. We'll start on the Democratic side:
- Author Wes Moore: $2 million raised, $2.1 million cash-on-hand
- former DNC chair Tom Perez: $1.5 million raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
- former U.S. Secretary of Education John King: $880,000 raised, $830,000 cash-on-hand
- Comptroller Peter Franchot: $620,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
- former Attorney General Doug Gansler: $290,000 raised, additional $800,000 self-funded, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
- Nonprofit head Jon Baron: $200,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
Franchot, as a statewide official, was forbidden from taking in money during the three months the legislature was in session, though running mate Monique Anderson-Walker was allowed to fundraise for their joint account.
On the Republican side, former Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who is termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan's pick, took in $940,000 and had $780,000 on-hand. Del. Dan Cox, who has Trump's endorsement, was far behind with $170,000 raised and another $20,000 self-funded, and he had only around $180,000 to spend. That was even smaller than the $330,000 that Robin Ficker, a self-funding perennial candidate who has mostly been self-funding his latest bid, had available.
● MI-Gov: EPIC-MRA, working on behalf of the Detroit Free Press, gives real estate agent Ryan Kelley a 17% plurality in the August GOP primary in a survey that began the day after he was arrested on misdemeanor charges related to his role in the Jan. 6 riot. Just behind are chiropractor Garrett Soldano and wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, who take 13% and 12%, respectively. Another 7% volunteered that they'll write in former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, 5% go for conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, and just 1% opt for pastor Ralph Rebandt. Altogether, 45% remain undecided in this chaotic contest.
Soldano is hoping to establish himself as the far-right's standard-bearer with an opening ad that depicts a future where pupils are informed over their school intercom, "All students are welcome to use gender reassignment services today in the gym. This is confidential—your parents will not be notified." The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, for its part, has thrown its support behind Dixon despite her underwhelming showing in this poll.
● MN-Gov: Newly released campaign finance reports show that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz took in $1.8 million during the first five months of the year and ended May with nearly $4.5 million to spend. Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, who is the only notable Republican left in the running, raised a far smaller $470,000 during this time and had just over $660,000 available. Jensen, though, only emerged as the GOP frontrunner weeks before the end of this fundraising period when he won his party's mid-May convention, so he may have the chance to expand his donor network now that he's almost certain to be Team Red's nominee.
● AK-AL: The Associated Press on Wednesday evening called three of the four spots in the Aug. 16 special election to fill the late Rep. Don Young's House seat after another 25,000 ballots were tabulated from Saturday's top-four primary, though it has not yet made a projection yet for the final slot. Two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, are taking 28% and 19%, respectively, with a total of 134,000 votes counted, while independent Al Gross is at 13%.
The battle for fourth has former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola holding a 9-6 edge over a third Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, a slight increase from Peltola's 7-5 edge on Saturday evening. The next counts are set for Friday, with another tabulation on June 21; certification is expected June 25.
● California: The Associated Press made calls for the all-important second slot in several California primaries on Wednesday evening, though some June 7 contests remain unresolved as the state continues to count ballots. Here's a look at where things now stand in the key races as of Thursday afternoon, though note that some of these margins could still shift in the coming days:
- CA-13: Republican agribusinessman John Duarte took first with 34%, while Assemblyman Adam Gray beat out a fellow Democrat, financial advisor Phil Arballo, 31-17 for the second spot in the Nov. 8 general election. Biden would have carried this newly-drawn mid-Central Valley constituency, which does not have an incumbent, 54-43.
- CA-15: Assemblyman Kevin Mullin finished in front with 42% while another Democrat, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, defeated Republican Gus Mattammal 24-17. The winner will succeed retiring Rep. Jackie Speier, who supports Mullin, in a dark-blue seat that includes most of San Mateo County as well as a portion of San Francisco to the north.
- CA-42: Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who had the backing of much of the state Democratic establishment, won the top slot 47%, while Republican John Briscoe edged out Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia 27-13. That's very welcome news for Robert Garcia, who would be the first gay Latino to represent California in Congress, as he'll have little to fear from Briscoe in this open 72-26 Biden seat; indeed, the mayor and his allies did what they could to make sure Brisco was his opponent instead of a fellow Democrat.
- CA-49: Democratic Rep. Mike Levin took 49% while San Juan Capistrano Councilman Brian Maryott beat another Republican, Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, 19-11 for second. Levin beat Maryott 53-47 in 2020 for this suburban San Diego seat that changed very little in redistricting and would have voted 55-43 for Biden; the congressman unsuccessfully worked to elevate a third Republican, Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez, who scored 10%.
And here's the state of play in the few remaining notable contests we’re following as of Thursday evening. In each, only the top spot has been called.
- CA-22: With 37,000 votes tallied, Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas is in first with 44% as Rep. David Valadao holds a 26-22 advantage over a fellow Republican, former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys. Democrats spent late in an effort to boost Mathys past Valadao to give themselves a better shot of taking back a Central Valley seat that Biden would have carried 55-42.
- CA-37: State Sen. Sydney Kamlager remains far in front with 44% after 72,000 ballots were counted, while two fellow Democrats, former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry and Culver City Vice Mayor Daniel Lee, are at 19% and 17%, respectively. The ultimate winner will succeed Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles and backs Kamlager here.
- CA-AG: Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta is well ahead with 55% with 5.9 million votes in, while former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman maintains a 19-17 edge over fellow Republican Eric Early. Bonta's allies took action during the campaign in an effort to ensure Early, a far-right Trumpy candidate, would be his opponent, though it appears that it’ll be Hochman instead. However, the contender Bonta very much didn't want to face, independent Anne Marie Schubert, fell far short of advancing after she grabbed just 8% of the vote.
● CO-08: The Colorado Sun reports that two Democratic groups, House Majority PAC and 314 Action, are each spending $46,000 on TV ads designed to make sure that Republicans nominate far-right Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine rather than state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer on June 28.
HMP's commercial tries to make Kirkmeyer unappealing to conservatives by decrying how she "refused to publicly support Trump" in 2016 and "even refused to support Trump's audit of the election" four years later. 314, meanwhile, tells the audience that Saine "supported Trump from day one, led the effort to audit the 2020 election in Colorado." The narrator also declares that the commissioner "supports outlawing abortion" and claims "Democrats are 'woke socialists.'"
Neither ad mentions either of the other two GOP contenders, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann and retired Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn. The winner will go up against state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who faces no Democratic opposition, in a newly-drawn seat in Denver's northern suburbs that would have gone for Biden 51-46.
● FL-07: Former Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards announced Wednesday that he was joining the busy Republican August primary for this newly gerrymandered open seat. Edwards said he was motivated to run after the Uvalde school massacre because he believed he could reduce gun violence without infringing on the Second Amendment, a position that rarely appeals to GOP voters. The commissioner, writes Florida Politics, was a "leading figure in Central Florida politics and the leading fiscal conservative" on the commission until he lost re-election in a 2016 upset.
● FL-15: Army veteran Jay Collins announced Wednesday that he was leaving the Republican primary for the 15th Congressional District and would instead challenge Democratic state Sen. Janet Cruz, a switch that GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly called for. The governor quickly rewarded Collins with an endorsement even though state Senate leaders already have a candidate in the race to take on Cruz, whose 14th District in the Senate would have voted for Biden by a 51-47 margin, per Dave's Redistricting App.
● FL-27: EMILY's List has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo's campaign against Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar.
● GA-10: Businessman Mike Collins earned the support of his most prominent would-be constituent, Gov. Brian Kemp, days ahead of his Republican primary runoff against former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a one-time Democrat who has a truly awful relationship with the governor. Indeed, Jones launched a primary bid against Kemp last year, claiming, "If it weren't for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States." Jones ultimately switched races under pressure from Trump, who wanted to give former Sen. David Perdue a better chance to beat the incumbent, and the GOP's master soon awarded the new congressional candidate an endorsement.
Jones, perhaps wary of offending his patron, has still refused to back Kemp's re-election bid despite the governor's landslide primary win against Perdue last month. Indeed, the former state representative insisted this very week, "I'm not going to blindly support a RINO." Collins had no such qualms, saying, "I'm a Republican and I support Republican candidates, and I'm behind Gov. Kemp 100%."
● MS-03: Congressional Leadership Fund, the well-funded super PAC run by allies of the House GOP leadership, is now airing ads to make sure Rep. Michael Guest comes out on top in his June 28 runoff after narrowly trailing Navy veteran Michael Cassidy in the first round. Neither CLF or any other groups spent anything ahead of last week's primary, which almost everyone mistakenly assumed would be an easy win for Guest, and this $350,000 ad buy appears to be the first notable independent expenditure of the entire contest.
The spot, which does not mention the incumbent, labels Cassidy a "fraud," with the narrator arguing that he "supported Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All socialist scheme, raising middle class taxes and making inflation skyrocket." The commercial also makes use of a now-deleted passage from the challenger's website as the voiceover declares Cassidy "even wanted taxpayers to give $20,000 to every newlywed couple."
● OK-02: The Club for Growth affiliate School Freedom Fund is spending at least $260,000 to promote former state Sen. Josh Brecheen, which makes this the largest independent expenditure by far in the crowded June 28 Republican primary for this dark red open seat. The commercial, which opens with dramatic footage of Brecheen on a horse, pledges he "won't just vote the party line, he'll hold the Trump conservative line."
● Washington D.C. Mayor: Councilmember Robert White has publicized an internal from Lake Research Partners that shows him trailing Mayor Muriel Bowser only 41-37 ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary, with fellow Councilmember Trayon White at 6%. (The two are not related.) A previously unreleased March survey gave Bowser a far stronger 47-24 edge as Trayon White was similarly situated with 5%; the only other poll we've seen was conducted for the Washington Post in February, and it showed Bowser beating Robert White 47-19. It only takes a plurality to win the Democratic nod, which is tantamount to election in the District of Columbia.
Should Bowser win another four-year term this year, she would be the district's first three-term executive since the late Marion Barry, whose political survival still bedevils many observers. Bowser, however, has a very different image than Barry, the so-called "Mayor for Life" who generated both passionate scorn and intense loyalty during his tumultuous time in office. The Washington Post writes that the incumbent "has become known to District residents as more of a low-key leader than a dynamic politician who engages easily and readily with constituents," adding that "while her personality may not generate wild enthusiasm from voters, it also doesn't create deep dislike."
Robert White, though, is arguing that change very much is needed. White, who holds an at-large seat on the Council, has been one of Bowser's most prominent left-wing critics, and he launched his bid last year arguing, "The systems of government are showing their age, and that means that we need the type of leader who's going to dig deep into government, hold it accountable and be ambitious." White has the backing of two influential unions, the Washington Teachers' Union and AFSCME, and he's raised a credible amount of money. Bowser, though, went into the final weeks with a huge cash edge, and she used her large war chest to launch a late TV ad labeling White someone "who can't be trusted."
Trayon White, for his part, made national news in 2018 with his antisemitic comments and disastrous trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. However, he's still proved popular at home in Ward 8, a heavily Black constituency that none other than Barry represented until his death in 2014. White only narrowly made the ballot this year after many of his signatures were rejected, and while he's earned no major endorsements, his presence could cost Robert White some vital anti-incumbent votes next week. James Butler, who took 10% against Bowser during her uneventful 2018 primary, is also running, but he's generated little attention.
● Suffolk County, MA District Attorney: Appointed incumbent Kevin Hayden has secured endorsements from both the influential Laborers' International Union of North America Local 223 and Rep. Stephen Lynch, who represents about 20% of the county, for the September Democratic primary. Hayden faces a challenge from the left from Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who just picked up the support of the Boston Teachers Union and previously earned endorsements from Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
● Los Angeles County, CA Sheriff: More votes have been tabulated in last week's officially nonpartisan contest for Los Angeles County sheriff, and incumbent Alex Villanueva is still taking just 32% in an ominous showing for the conservative Democrat's November prospects. (Observers went into the June 7 contest wondering if he'd win the majority he'd need to prevail outright, which very much didn't happen.) Former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna secured the second spot with 26%, well ahead of third-place finisher Eric Strong's 14%; Luna has since earned endorsements from Cecil Rhambo and Eli Vera, who notched a combined 12%.
● Connecticut, New York: Candidate filing closed in Connecticut closed last week, but we still don't have a complete candidate list and likely won't until next week. Local officials in each of the state's 169 towns and cities (many of which are tiny indeed) must review petitions and then forward filings on to the secretary of state's office, which will then publish a list of candidates. As soon as we have that in hand, we'll recap the final fields in each of the state's key races ahead of the Aug. 9 primary.
In New York, meanwhile, the filing deadline also passed for the state's second primary last week, but petition challenges are underway, so we typically won't see final candidate lists until those are all resolved (officials must finalize the ballot by the end of the month). That Aug. 23 primary will host races only for Congress and the state Senate, whose maps were ordered to be redrawn by the courts; primaries for all other offices will take place on June 28.