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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● OK-AG: Attorney Gentner Drummond won Tuesday's Republican primary for Oklahoma attorney general by defeating incumbent John O'Connor, whom Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed last year, by a narrow 51-49 margin in a campaign that saw the two candidates diverge sharply over Native American tribal rights.
Drummond said during his bid, "I'm not in favor of ripping [away] Native Americans' rights they have been granted by treaty," while O'Connor, who has called for disestablishing the six recognized Indian Nations in eastern Oklahoma, argued his foe was "speaking for" the tribes. The topic attracted further attention the day after Drummond's victory when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma state authorities have the power to prosecute non-Natives accused of committing crimes against Natives on tribal land.
Drummond also used his campaign to portray O'Connor as too loyal to the governor, saying, "Effectively, Gov. Stitt has his personal attorney, and the state of Oklahoma has none." Stitt himself ran into trouble earlier this month when he pulled a commercial—ostensibly for his own re-election campaign—after authorities began to investigate whether it broke the law by focusing too much on touting O'Connor. Critics charged that the spot violated state rules preventing one candidate from contributing more than $2,900 to another contender (the ad ran for $340,000) or from advertising for another candidate within 30 days of the primary; O'Connor denied he had any knowledge of the spot.
Ultimately, while Stitt won renomination easily, not enough primary voters were willing to back his appointed attorney general that same day. Democrats, however, aren't fielding a general election candidate, so Drummond only faces a Libertarian opponent in November.
● How could we not discuss the Supreme Court's evisceration of abortion rights on this week's episode of The Downballot? Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard talk about why Democratic leaders must articulate a clear plan for the election outcomes they need—specifically, a Senate majority that will reform the filibuster—and what they intend to do if voters deliver, as well as the importance of waiting for more data before we draw conclusions about what the Dobbs ruling means for November. We also dissect one early data point—a surprisingly close special election for a red House district in Nebraska—and recap several of Tuesday's key primaries.
We're also joined by Pennsylvania election law attorney Adam Bonin, a longtime Daily Kos contributor who knows the ins and outs of every race in the Keystone State. Adam recounts a recent shock victory for voting rights he helped bring about at the Supreme Court; explains why a trio of state Supreme Court races all the way back in 2015 paved the way for un-gerrymandered legislative maps in 2022; and updates us on Democrat John Fetterman's campaign to flip the state's open Senate seat.
Please subscribe 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: Quinnipiac University's newest poll finds Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock leading by a large 54-44 over Republican Herschel Walker, a major improvement for Warnock over the 49-48 Walker edge in Quinnipiac's January poll. Meanwhile in the governor's race, GOP incumbent Brian Kemp is tied 48-48 with Democrat Stacey Abrams, a more modest improvement from Kemp's 49-47 advantage in January.
These results are the best for Democrats of any poll all cycle in either the Senate or governor's race, and it's advisable to wait to see if other pollsters find a similar swing to the left and whether it continues in the coming weeks before reassessing the state of either race. Polling experts have also cautioned that recent polls could be presenting an overly optimistic picture for Democrats right now if the Supreme Court's June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a decision that came out while Quinnipiac was in the field from June 23-27, has fired up angry Democratic voters and made them unusually more likely than Republicans to respond to polls.
● WI-Sen: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that a new super PAC called Courageous Leaders PAC is deploying at least $450,000 on an opening ad campaign to promote Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, which makes this some of the first notable outside spending for the August Democratic primary. The narrator argues that, while Republican incumbent Ron Johnson is a millionaire who only cares about other rich and powerful people, Barnes is "a voice for hard-working, middle-class families" who will "make the big corporations and the rich pay their fair share and lower middle class taxes to make things more affordable for us."
● AZ-Gov: Former Rep. Matt Salmon endorsed Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson on Wednesday, an announcement that came less than 24 hours after Salmon dropped out of the August Republican primary. Salmon didn't mention Robson's one remaining major intra-party rival, Trump-backed former TV anchor Kari Lake, though he said last week he believed she'd lose a general election.
On the Democratic side, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is airing an ad highlighting the death threats she received in 2020, telling the audience, "As your secretary of state, I knew I'd face attacks. But when they came after my family, our state, our freedom, that's where I draw the line."
● FL-Gov: Rep. Charlie Crist has publicized an internal poll from GBAO that gives him a 55-34 lead over Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the August Democratic primary. A recent survey from St. Pete Polls for Florida Politics put Crist's advantage at 49-24, while Fried publicized an internal earlier this month that showed her trailing just 38-34.
● MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson finally said this week that he would not wage a write-in campaign to win the August GOP primary. Johnson, who spent $7 million of his own money before election authorities kept his name off the ballot over fraudulent voter petition signatures, told Fox 2's Tim Skubick that, while he "very much" wanted to try, he never could convince his wife to get on board or justify self-funding at least $15 million more. Johnson quickly got over that brief moment of pragmatism, though, as he later used that interview to express interest in running for president.
● MI-11, MI-13: The Detroit News reports that the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC has booked a total of $1.5 million in TV ads in the Detroit media market for the week of June 28 in order to air ads promoting Rep. Haley Stevens in the 11th District and her fellow Democrat, state Sen. Adam Hollier, in the August primary for the 13th, though there's no word how the reservation is being divided up. The pro-Stevens ad highlights her work in Barack Obama's auto rescue task force, while the commercial for Hollier praises his record on gun safety and abortion rights.
● NV-03: The Tarrance Group, working on behalf of Republican April Becker and the NRCC, finds Becker edging out Democratic incumbent Susie Lee 46-44 in a southern Las Vegas area seat that Biden would have carried 52-46. This internal, which sampled 400 likely voters, is the first poll we've seen of this contest. Lee, for her part, is one of several Democrats nationwide who recently launched an ad campaign focused on her opponent's opposition to abortion rights.
● OR-05: Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner's allies at 314 Action, who just endorsed her last week, are out with a Public Policy Polling survey that shows a tight race, with Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer ahead 42-41 in a seat that Joe Biden would have carried 53-44. The poll, which is the first we've seen of this matchup, was conducted June 1 to 2, which was just days after the Associated Press projected that McLeod-Skinner had defeated conservative Rep. Kurt Schrader in the May 17 primary. Schrader since then has angrily refused to endorse his party's nominee, saying in mid-June, "The red wave begins in Oregon―Oregon's 5th district."
● MD-AG: While Rep. Anthony Brown has looked like the favorite to win the Democratic primary for attorney general almost since he startled some observers by announcing his statewide bid to succeed retiring incumbent Brian Frosh in October, a new poll from Goucher College shows a tossup race with three weeks to go before the July 19 primary. The school, surveying for The Baltimore Banner and WYPR, finds former Judge Katie Curran O'Malley edging out Brown 30-29. The only other recent poll we've seen was from OpinionWorks in early June, and it had the congressman ahead 42-29. O'Malley would be the first woman to serve as attorney general, while Brown would be the first African American to win this post.
Both candidates have been campaigning as ardent progressives in this blue state, where the GOP hasn't won an attorney general election since 1918, but O'Malley was the first to go negative on TV last week. (The Washington Post says that no other Democratic statewide candidates, including the many contenders for governor, "had released an ad directly targeting a primary opponent this year.) Curran O'Malley uses her commercial to begin by discussing her "30 years of experience" as a prosecutor and judge, adding, "Now I'm running to be Maryland's first woman attorney general."
Curran O'Malley then declares, "My opponent, Anthony Brown, is a fine congressman, but he's never tried a criminal case in Maryland and he doesn't have the right experience for this job." Brown will have the resources to respond, as he held a $1.2 million to $840,000 cash-on-hand lead on June 7.
Curran O'Malley and Brown have both long been prominent figures in Old Line State politics. Curran O'Malley, who was a district court judge in Baltimore from 2001 until she stepped down last year, became first lady of Maryland after her husband, Martin O'Malley, was elected governor in 2006, and she held that post for the following eight years. (Curran O'Malley was prohibited from campaigning for him during this time or taking part in other partisan activities.)
Brown, for his part, was O'Malley's running mate in 2006, and their victory made him the first Black Democrat to serve as Maryland's lieutenant governor. (This item incorrectly stated that Brown was the first Black person to hold this post; Republican Michael Steele achieved that distinction four years before.) Brown sought the top job in 2014 when his boss was termed-out, but he lost the general election to Republican Larry Hogan in an upset. However, Brown recovered from that much derided campaign two years later by winning a House seat in the D.C. suburbs, and a primary triumph next month would make him one of the state's top politicos again.
● IL-14: The AP has called the Republican primary in Illinois' 14th District for Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder, who defeated perennial candidate James Marter 31-24, while conservative radio host Mike Koolidge finished third with 21%. (In the previous Digest, we incorrectly described Koolidge as the leader.) Gryder will face Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood in November.
● OK-02: Former state Sen. Josh Brecheen will join state Rep. Avery Frix in the Aug. 23 GOP runoff for Oklahoma's open 2nd Congressional District after the AP called the second spot for him on Wednesday. Frix narrowly edged out Brecheen 15-14 in the primary, with Muskogee Chief of Police Johnny Teehee taking 13%. The winner will be a lock in November in this safely red district.