Another 6%, meanwhile, goes to former Rep. Matt Salmon, whose name remains on the Aug. 23 ballot even though he dropped out of the race last week and endorsed Robson. When respondents were asked how they'd vote "if Matt Salmon was not in the race," Lake's margin of victory shrinks to 40-35. The other two candidates, businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen and Some Dude Scott Neely, barely register in either scenario.
This is the first poll we've seen conducted since Salmon quit the race, though the former congressman now has released a survey conducted just prior to his exit that shows an even tighter contest between Lake and Robson. Moore Information Group in fact gave Robson a tiny 38-37 edge when they were the only two contenders named, though another 11% opted for "Neither."
OHPI also quizzed respondents about a story that has been dogging Lake by asking, "Recently, Republican candidate for Governor, Kari Lake, publicly stated 'Schools kicked out God and welcomed the Drag Queens.' In response, a Drag Queen said they performed at Lake's house with Lake's under-age daughter present. Are you aware of this?" The firm found that 48% of primary voters have heard about this story, which has not yet found its way into any TV ads, while 46% have not.
Lake, like countless anti-LGBTQ candidates across the nation, has targeted drag performances as "grooming" and "child abuse." In response, a prominent Phoenix drag queen named Richard Stevens posted on social media that he and the candidate had been friends for 20 years and that "I've performed for Kari's birthday, I've performed in her home (with children present,) and I've performed for her at some of the seediest bars in Phoenix." He continued, "She's come to my parties and has been asked to leave because door people thought she was too intoxicated to remain on premises."
Stevens also shared several photos of Lake posing with him while he was in drag, including one picture where Lake herself was costumed as Elvis; the Washington Post further noted that the candidate's own Instagram feed showed Lake at one of his shows. Lake's campaign responded by acknowledging that she did attend a party about eight years ago where her now-former friend Stevens was dressed as a woman. However, she put out a statement arguing that "the performer was there as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator" and that the event "wasn't a drag show." It is not clear what distinction between the two Lake might have been drawing.
When Lake herself appeared on Fox News in late June, she did not get the friendly treatment she may have been expecting. "I'm actually appalled that Fox News would take a defamatory story like that, and we are pursuing legal action against this drag queen," Lake told host Bret Baier after he asked her about the story. "I'm appalled that you would bring that up when you have not talked about our stolen election."
Baier continued by questioning Lake about her photos with Stevens, to which she responded, "Somebody who goes to a drag show with female impersonators is one thing. We don't want our tax money going into drag shows at school." Afterwards, Lake tweeted out a clip of the interview while trying to bring the focus back on the Big Lie, writing, "The Corrupt Media REFUSES to talk about the biggest story of our lifetime: a STOLEN election. Instead they try to divert our attention to meaningless stories… I will never let them."
● On this week's episode of The Downballot, we're joined by Ruby Powell-Dennis, founder of the Elect Black Women PAC. Powell-Dennis tells us about her inspiration for creating the group, the work it does to help elect its endorsed candidates at all levels of the ballot, and the particular challenges faced by Black women running for office—including whether to even run in the first place.
David Nir also homes in on races where abortion is on the ballot this year, quite literally: Kansas and Michigan are just two states where voters will decide whether their state constitutions should recognize a right to an abortion. David Beard, meanwhile, discusses the good and bad of election forecasting models and recaps one of the craziest days in U.K. political history—whose fallout is still reverberating.
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: In his first TV ad of the general election, Herschel Walker acknowledges the existence of several more previously undisclosed family members: "Georgia is my family," says the former NFL star, who confirmed last month that he had three secret children. "The United States is my family. So I'm going to fight and take care of them." The spot is airing for a reported $1.6 million as part of a joint buy with the NRSC over the next two weeks.
● Senate: Change Research, surveying four states on behalf of the Democratic group Future Majority, gives each Democratic senator the lead:
- AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 47, Jim Lamon (R): 41; Mark Kelly (D-inc): 48, Blake Masters (R): 39
- GA-Sen: Raphael Warnock (D-inc): 48, Herschel Walker (D): 44
- NH-Sen: Maggie Hassan (D-inc): 49, Don Bolduc (R): 40
- NV-Sen: Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): 46, Adam Laxalt (R): 43
Arizona and New Hampshire hold their primaries on Aug. 2 and Sept. 13, respectively, so it will be a while before either Kelly or Hassan knows who they'll be facing in the general election.
● HI-Gov: MRG Research, polling on behalf of Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now, gives Lt. Gov. Josh Green a hefty 48-16 lead over Kai Kahele in the Aug. 13 Democratic primary, with businesswoman Vicky Cayetano taking 15%. This is the first survey we've seen since former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell exited the race in May just before Kahele jumped in, but older polls also found Green with a huge advantage in the contest to succeed his fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. David Ige.
● KY-Gov: Quarterly fundraising numbers are in for the Republicans competing to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in 2023:
- Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles: $574,000 raised (in two months), $558,000 cash-on-hand
- Attorney General Daniel Cameron: $301,000 raised (in one month), $286,000 cash-on-hand
- State Rep. Savannah Maddox: $110,000 raised (in one month), $108,000 cash-on-hand
- State Auditor Mike Harmon: $14,000 raised, $18,000 cash-on-hand
Beshear himself outpaced all his rivals combined by raising $1.1 million and ending June with $3.2 million to spend.
● MD-Gov: Two rival candidates have each released late June internals that show a tight July 19 Democratic primary, though they disagree on who is ahead.
Garin-Hart-Yang, surveying for author Wes Moore, has state Comptroller Peter Franchot edging him out just 21-20, with former DNC chair Tom Perez at 16% as former U.S. Secretary of Education John King lags in fourth with just 5%. Back in May, GHY pegged Franchot's lead at 19-13 as former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker took 11%. Baker suspended his campaign in June but remains on the ballot, and Maryland Matters notes that this new survey did not include his name as an option.
King's team, though, has publicized their own numbers from 20-20 Insight that give Perez a 22-18 advantage over Moore, with King at 17%. Franchot, who has held the advantage in every other poll that's been released this year, is in fourth with 15%, as former Attorney General Doug Gansler takes only 4%; this survey also does not appear to have tested Baker. The firm's May numbers had Franchot at 17% as King and Moore each took 16%, but no other pollster has shown King escaping single digits.
● TX-Gov: YouGov's new survey for the University of Texas shows Republican incumbent Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 45-39, which is a similar margin to the governor's 49-41 edge in a different YouGov poll for CBS.
● WI-Gov: Businessman Kevin Nicholson announced Tuesday evening that he was dropping out of the Aug. 9 Republican primary, with the former College Democrats of America president arguing, "It has become clear to me and my team the only path forward for our campaign is attacking the other candidates in the race on the airwaves and running a very negative campaign." That may not have turned things around for Nicholson either, though, as a mid-June Marquette University poll showed him badly trailing the two frontrunners, wealthy businessman Tim Michels and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
● FL-01: Air Force veteran Bryan Jones announced this week that he was dropping out of the Aug. 23 Republican primary and endorsing former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo's bid to deny renomination to incumbent Matt Gaetz. Lombardo, who has pledged to self-fund $1 million, is also airing another commercial highlighting the ongoing federal investigation into the congressman. "He got himself entangled into a child sex trafficking investigation," Lombardo says of Gaetz, "and he was the only vote against an anti-sex slavery bill that Trump signed into law."
Gaetz is going negative himself with a spot Punchbowl writes "sounds like it was taped in a basement," though he doesn't actually bother to mention anyone by name. Instead, Gaetz tells the audience, "One of my Republican primary opponents says he supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. That's insane, I never will."
● MD-04: Jewish Insider's Gabby Deutch has obtained a month-old Change Research poll apparently commissioned by former Rep. Donna Edwards' allies at the League of Conservation Voters, and it shows former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey leading her 33-28 in the July 19 Democratic primary. The only other survey we've seen was a May Edwards internal from Lake Research Partners that put her ahead 31-18; Deutch notes that both polls were done before AIPAC spent $2.5 million against the former congresswoman.
● MI-13: EMILY's List has endorsed attorney Portia Roberson in the busy Aug. 2 Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who also threw her support behind Roberson earlier this year.
● NY-10: New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera has picked up the support of 1199 SEIU, which is one of the most powerful labor organizations in city politics, for the packed Aug. 23 Democratic primary. As Politico notes, the healthcare workers union proved vital in helping one of Rivera's current rivals, Bill de Blasio, win the 2013 primary for mayor.
● VT-AL: State Sen. Becca Balint obtained one of the highest-profile endorsements available in Vermont politics when Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Wednesday that he was supporting her in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary.
● KS Ballot: Pro-choice activists looking to defeat the proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow the GOP-dominated legislature to ban abortion in Kansas are using two very different messaging strategies in two very different media markets ahead of the Aug. 2 vote.
Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin shares a commercial airing in the Wichita market, which is home to 42% of the state's residents and supported Trump 65-33 in 2020, that does not mention abortion at all. Instead, the narrator frames the ballot measure as "a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions," a statement followed by images reminding viewers of pandemic face mask requirements and the cancellation of in-person religious services.
The "no" campaign is adopting a more direct strategy in the Kansas City media market, though, where Biden won 53-45 in the portion covering Kansas. (The balance is in Missouri.) This spot features a mother telling the audience that she needed an abortion in order to remain alive for her husband and three-year-old son, and that the ballot measure "could ban any abortion with no exceptions, even in cases like mine." The Kansas City market includes another 32% of the state.
● OR Ballot: On Tuesday, Oregon officials certified that a proposed constitutional amendment supported by Democratic-aligned labor groups to curb Republican quorum-busting tactics would appear on this November's ballot. Oregon requires two-thirds of lawmakers be present in order to conduct any legislative business, making it one of just five states that require a supermajority for a quorum instead of a simple majority. In 2019 and 2020, the Republican minority had begun frequently walking out of legislative sessions in order to deny Democrats the quorum needed to pass a variety of legislation on climate change, gun safety, and other topics.
Rather than just lowering the quorum requirement to a simple majority, this initiative would prevent any lawmaker from running again in the next election if they had 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session, though disqualified lawmakers would be eligible to run again after sitting out the single term for which they were barred from running. Supporters are likely betting that this proposal would be more popular and easier for voters to understand than trying to outright change the quorum threshold, though there's no guarantee that it would fully prevent future quorum busting efforts.