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.
● AZ-01: Wealthy businessman Elijah Norton just sued Rep. David Schweikert, whom he's trying to unseat in the Aug. 2 Republican primary, over what the challenger called "homophobic" messaging that falsely implies Norton is gay. Norton, News12's Brahm Resnik writes, cited mailers and street signs that feature a 2018 photo of the candidate posing outside a club with a male friend named Leslie Hammon and the caption, "Elijah Norton isn't being straight with you."
Hammon also filed a defamation lawsuit against the congressman saying that he and Norton "are not and have never been in any romantic or sexual relationship." Hammon, who said that people recognized his face on the mailer even though it was pixelated out, told the media that as a result of Schweikert's actions, "My mental health has taken a pretty rapid decline. I had to take a leave from work for a couple weeks."
This is not the first time Schweikert has engaged in such tactics. Norton's campaign highlighted a similar ploy Schweikert used in his 2012 primary against fellow Rep. Ben Quayle, an effort that included a mailer saying Quayle "goes both ways." Quayle condemned the message for falsely suggesting he was bisexual, but the uproar didn't stop Schweikert from winning their contest by a narrow 51-49 margin. Two years later, Schweikert sent out an email for his re-election campaign with the subject line, "Politics Is Not For 'Pansies'! Attend The Garden Party!"
Norton's former company, CarGuard Administration, also recently filed a lawsuit against Schweikert and one of his consultants, but for a very different reason. The vehicle-warranty firm, which Norton still has a major ownership stake in, charged that the pair "have repeatedly and falsely characterized CarGuard as a 'scam' that engages in 'illegal robocalls.'" CarGuard's CEO also put out a statement that labeled Schweikert, who accepted a House reprimand in 2020 for violating 11 different congressional rules and campaign finance laws, "a two-time certified corrupt politician" and "a disgrace and embarrassment to the people of Arizona."
● This week, The Downballot talks with Jason Bresler, who was political director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2018 wave that saw the party retake the House. Bresler explains how exactly the DCCC helps candidates, from start to finish; the key moments of 2018 that convinced him the House would flip; and the advice he'd give to Democrats heading into a difficult election cycle. Fascinating fact: The D-Trip will often work with multiple candidates in the same district to aid their campaign launches.
Co-host David Nir dissects the shocking resignation of New York's top judge and what Democrats must do to ensure this conservative high court moves in a more progressive direction. He also checks in on Michigan, where activists just submitted a record number of signatures to get an amendment on the ballot that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. David Beard, meanwhile, previews some key Maryland primaries and updates us on the fallout of Boris Johnson's departure as prime minister of the U.K.
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.
- AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D-inc): $13.6 million raised, $25 million cash-on-hand
- CO-Sen: Joe O'Dea (R): $1 million raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $840,000 cash-on-hand
- GA-Sen: Raphael Warnock (D-inc): $17.2 million raised, $22.2 million cash-on-hand; Herschel Walker (R): $6.2 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
- FL-15: Kelli Stargel (R): $254,000 raised
- FL-27: Ken Russell (D): $513,000 raised, $475,000 cash-on-hand
- IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $1 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
- IN-01: Jennifer-Ruth Green (R): $650,000 raised
- MI-10: John James (R): $1 million raised, $2.4 million cash-on-hand
- NY-10: Mondaire Jones (D-inc): $524,000 raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand; Bill de Blasio (D): $510,000 raised, $361,000 cash-on-hand
● MO-Sen: Missouri First Action PAC, a group largely funded by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, has launched an $820,000 ad campaign defending disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens ahead of the Aug. 2 GOP primary, with its opening spot dismissing unnamed "smears" against him. The commercial's star, who is a Missourian identified as Jamie Munce, argues that Greitens is being attacked because he'll "work for us and see President Trump's America first agenda through" and "will stand up to the woke liberals and the RINO D.C. elites who've betrayed us and betrayed President Trump."
● MI-Gov, MI-AG, MI-SoS: The Glengariff Group's new general election poll for WDIV and the Detroit News shows Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leading all five of the candidates listed on the Aug. 2 Republican primary ballot:
- 50-41 vs. real estate agent Ryan Kelley
- 51-40 vs. conservative radio host Tudor Dixon
- 52-40 vs. businessman Kevin Rinke
- 52-38 vs. chiropractor Garrett Soldano
- 52-37 vs. pastor Ralph Rebandt
The poll did not quiz respondents about former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who is trying to win the GOP nomination through a write-in campaign. This is also the first look at the general election we've seen in over a month.
Glengariff additionally found Democratic incumbents with smaller advantages in the other two fall statewide contests: Attorney General Dana Nessel outpaces Matt DePerno 44-38, while Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson leads Kristina Karamo 46-39.
● NM-Gov: The DGA-backed A Stronger New Mexico recently launched a $75,000 ad campaign attacking Mark Ronchetti over his opposition to abortion rights, and the Republican has responded with his own commercial trying to frame Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham as the one who's too "extreme." Ronchetti's spot makes him one of the rare Republicans to focus on abortion in a commercial at a time when Democratic campaigns have been intensely focused on the topic.
Ronchetti tells the audience, "The governor supports abortion up to birth," while he's "personally pro-life, but I believe we can all come together on a policy that reflects our shared values." The on-screen text identifies his position as "Limit abortion to First 15 weeks," while the candidate himself declares, "We can end late-term abortion while protecting access to contraception and health care."
● TX-Gov: YouGov's newest survey for the University of Houston shows Republican incumbent Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 49-44. The pollster pegged Abbott's lead at 45-39 and 49-41 in other recent polls for the University of Texas and CBS, respectively.
● HI-02: Civil Beat reports that the crypto-aligned PAC Web3 Forward is deploying at least $100,000 on ads to support state Rep. Patrick Branco, which makes this the first outside spending of the Aug. 13 Democratic primary.
● MI-11: The Detroit News writes that the progressive pro-Israel group J Street has launched a $700,000 TV campaign to aid Rep. Andy Levin in next month's Democratic primary, a move that comes after the hawkish AIPAC has spent $1.6 million to support fellow incumbent Haley Stevens. J Street's spot excoriates Stevens for "taking hundreds of thousands of dollars" from AIPAC, which the narrator identifies as "a group that's supporting 109 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election." The commercial only mentions Levin briefly, saying, "Republican billionaires gave the group millions to defeat Democrats like Andy Levin."
● MI-13: VoteVets, which backs state Sen. Adam Hollier in the busy Aug. 2 Democratic primary, is spending at least $750,000 on an ad campaign accusing self-funding state Rep. Shri Thanedar of having "voted with every single Republican to make it easier to get a gun, to conceal a gun, and to go easier on gun crime convicts." The spot does not mention Hollier, who served in the Army; Hollier also has benefited from $1.9 million in support from AIPAC, while no outside major groups have spent here.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.