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.
● Primary Night: Blue Hawaii: The Aloha State holds its primaries on Saturday (Louisiana is the only other place that regularly hosts statewide contests on this day of the week, though municipal and special elections sometimes happen on Saturdays in other states as well), and there are a few big contests to watch. Polls close at 7 PM local time, which is a 1 AM Sunday EST.
The most prominent race on the ballot in this 64-34 Biden state is the Democratic primary for governor to succeed termed-out incumbent David Ige, but it doesn't look very competitive. Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a physician who had a large media presence throughout the worst months of the pandemic, has been the frontrunner from the beginning. Green has continued to enjoy a huge fundraising lead over the rest of the field, and he's also earned endorsements from several prominent unions.
Green faces two notable intra-party rivals. One is self-funding businesswoman Vicky Cayetano, who served as first lady when her husband, Ben Cayetano, was governor two decades ago. The other is freshman Rep. Kai Kahele, who entered the race in May with the intention of obtaining public financing; however, state officials soon said he couldn't qualify for matching funds because he failed to file an affidavit committing to following the program's spending limits, and he had little cash to fall back on. The last poll we saw was a mid-July Mason-Dixon survey that showed Green crushing Cayetano 55-19, with Kahele at 16%.
The Republican primary has attracted considerably less attention, and there's no indication yet that the national party will make a serious effort to flip the governor's office. The most prominent candidate is former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who was the 2010 and 2014 Republican nominee for governor of Hawaii (he lost the latter race to Ige 49-37). Aiona, though, only entered the race just before filing closed in early June and raised little in the first weeks of his third gubernatorial run. The field also includes former contractor Gary Cordery; Ultimate Fighting Championship champion B.J. Penn; and Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi.
Things are far more expensive in the Democratic contest to replace Kahele in the safely blue 2nd District, which includes northern Oahu and all of the state's other islands. A late June MRG Research survey showed former state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who lost the tight 2018 nomination contest for lieutenant governor to Green, beating state Rep. Patrick Branco 31-6. However, that poll was taken before outside groups dropped $1.2 million to promote Blanco or attack Tokuda, which is about how much went into the ultra-close 2014 special primary between Sen. Brian Schatz and then-Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
Two of the state representative's main allies are VoteVets and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which are aligned behind the state representative for different reasons: Blanco is a former U.S. Foreign Service diplomat who served in Colombia and Pakistan, and he would also be the state's first Latino member of Congress. The other organizations in his corner are the crypto-aligned Web3 Forward and Mainstream Democrats PAC, a new group with the stated purpose of thwarting "far-left organizations" it fears want to take over the Democratic Party. Tokuda has received only about $180,000 in help from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, though she's maintained a large fundraising edge.
Finally in the 1st District, which includes most of Honolulu, Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Ed Case faces a challenge from the left from attorney Sergio Alcubilla. Alcubilla has the backing of a few big unions, but he's raised little himself and hasn't benefited from any serious outside spending. The June poll from MRG Research had Case dispatching Alcubilla 65-8, though we also don’t have any fresh numbers for this contest. Biden would have won 64-34 here, which is identical to both his showing in the 2nd and his statewide performance.
P.S. As for why Hawaii votes on Saturdays, Civil Beat wrote in 2019, “The reason for Saturday primaries and general election holidays appears to be because it made available public school facilities, where most precincts have historically been held.” The site’s editorial board used that item to call for moving primaries to Tuesday, but Election Day very much remains a weekend affair three years later.
● UT-Sen: Put Utah First, a group funded by Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, has dropped $480,000 on a TV buy to support independent Evan McMullin's bid against Republican incumbent Mike Lee, though we do not yet have a copy. This appears to be the first major outside spending on either side since well before the late June primary.
● AK-AL: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's allies at Protect Freedom PAC have launched what Inside Elections says is a $235,000 TV buy for Sarah Palin, which makes it the only outside group to take to the airwaves ahead of Tuesday's instant runoff special election. The commercial, though, is quite generic, which is something very few people have said about anything associated with Palin: The narrator touts her as "the only candidate endorsed by Donald Trump and conservative Rand Paul" and pledges she'll "stand firm to lower inflation, unlock America's energy potential, and safeguard our values."
Palin's many supporters and detractors, though, may need to wait a while to learn if she's completed her comeback campaign. Alaska Public Radio writes that mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted if they're received through Aug. 31: Election officials will then use the ranked-choice process to reallocate the third-place finisher's votes to the two remaining candidates. Palin is going up against her fellow Republican, businessman Nick Begich III, and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola for the final months of the late GOP Rep. Don Young's term.
Tuesday is also the date of Alaska's regularly-scheduled top-four primary, though it would be a huge shock if each member of this trio didn't make it to the November general election for a full term. The fourth spot is more uncertain, though another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, fell just short of advancing during the special May primary.
● FL-13: 2020 Republican nominee Anna Paulina Luna has earned the support of 19th District Rep. Byron Donalds, whose constituency lies a few seats to the south, ahead of the Aug. 23 primary.
● FL-15: The GOP primary for this new constituency in Tampa's northeastern suburbs has gotten nasty, with a super PAC called Conservative Warriors PAC launching what Politico reports is a $270,000 TV buy attacking Laurel Lee's performance as secretary of state during the 2020 election. The PAC is entirely funded by a group associated with state Sen. Kelli Stargel, whom the commercial also praises.
The narrator lays into Lee for not doing a "forensic audit of the 2020 election even after reports that felons and sexual predators voted." Politico, though, notes that her boss, Gov. Ron DeSantis, also didn't believe any statewide audit was needed after Donald Trump won the state, something that goes unmentioned in this commercial.
Conservative Warriors PAC has deployed $720,000 here total, though it's not quite the largest outside spender. That honor goes to Lee's allies at Conservative Action Fund, which has deployed $790,000; this PAC has received $1 million from a PAC allied with her husband, former state Sen. Tom Lee. The GOP field also includes state Rep. Jackie Toledo, Navy veteran Demetrius Grimes, and retired Navy Capt. Mac McGovern.
● IN-02: State Rep. Curt Nisly on Wednesday night became the first Republican to announce a bid to succeed the late Rep. Jackie Walorski, a declaration that came one day before the congresswoman's funeral. Local Republican precinct committeemen will hold a pair of caucuses on Aug. 20 to pick their nominees for the Nov. 8 special election and for the full two-year term. Nisly, though, will be a former state representative soon even if party leaders pick someone else because he lost his May primary to colleague Craig Snow in a 73-27 landslide.
Howey Politics also mentions several other Republicans who could run here, though none of them appear to have said anything publicly. The most prominent name belongs to former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who earned the 2010 GOP nod for the neighboring 3rd District through a similar process after incumbent Mark Souder resigned over an affair with a staffer. Stutzman, who made a name for himself as a tea party favorite, left to run for the Senate in 2016, but he lost the primary to fellow Rep. Todd Young 67-33.
Publisher Brian Howey also name-drops the former congressman's wife, former state Rep. Christy Stutzman, as another possibility. Stutzman was elected to the legislature in 2018 but announced she was resigning shortly after the 2020 election to focus on managing a local tourist attraction the couple purchased called Amish Acres. (She used her departure to torch GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb's pandemic safety measures.) Stutzman's 49th House district is located entirely in the old 3rd Congressional District, though the family's business, which has been renamed The Barns, is in both incarnations of the 2nd.
Howey also mentions former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo as a potential candidate, though her latest campaign went poorly. Milo originally looked like the favorite to take on 1st District Rep. Frank Mrvan, but she lost the May GOP primary to Air Force veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green 47-22. Also on Howey's list are state Reps. Jake Teshka and Timothy Wesco.
● NE-02: Democrat Tony Vargas's allies at 314 Action are out with an internal from Impact Research that shows Republican incumbent Don Bacon ahead by a tiny 47-46 margin. A late June poll for Vargas from GBAO gave the Democrat a 48-47 advantage, while earlier surveys from 314 found things similarly close. The one poll showing Bacon well ahead was a May survey for U.S. Term Limits from RMG Research that put the congressman, who has signed the group's pledge, up 52-37.
● WY-AL: The University of Wyoming finds attorney Harriet Hageman dispatching Rep. Liz Cheney 57-28 ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary, which is even larger than the 52-30 Hageman lead Mason-Dixon found a month ago.
● Polls: Numerous polls for U.S. Term Limits have surfaced from RMG Research looking at different House districts: Some of these numbers are quite dusty (the aforementioned survey of NE-02 is from May), but we've collected each poll that was in the field on July 20 or afterwards.
In each poll, with one exception, respondents were quizzed after the initial horserace question what they’d do if they knew the Republican candidate "signed the U.S. Term Limits Pledge and supports term limits" while the Democrat opposes term limits, so the group very much seems to be rooting for the GOP overall. The one divergence is in California’s 22nd District where respondents were told that Democrat Rudy Salas is pro-term limits while Republican Rep. David Valadao opposes them.
CA-09: Josh Harder (D-inc): 38, Tom Patti (R): 38
CA-13: Adam Gray (D): 37, John Duarte (R): 37
CA-22: Rudy Salas (D): 39, David Valadao (R-inc): 34
CO-07: Brittany Pettersen (D): 44, Erik Aadland (R): 41
CT-05: Jahana Hayes (D-inc): 45, George Logan (R): 37
IA-03: Zach Nunn (R): 49, Cindy Axne (D-inc): 41
IL-08: Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-inc): 45, Chris Dargis (R): 39
IL-13: Nikki Budzinski (D): 39, Regan Deering (R): 36
KS-03: Amanda Adkins (R): 46, Sharice Davids (D-inc): 45
MI-08: Dan Kildee (D-inc): 43, Paul Junge (R): 40
MN-02: Angie Craig (D-inc): 47, Tyler Kistner (R): 46
NJ-03: Andy Kim (D-inc): 44, Bob Healey (R): 38
NJ-07: Tom Kean Jr. (R): 46, Tom Malinkowski (D-inc): 38
NV-03: April Becker (R): 44, Susie Lee (D-inc): 41
TX-34: Vicente Gonzalez (D-inc): 47, Mayra Flores (R-inc): 43
Respondents for most of these polls were given “Some other candidate” as an option even though there isn’t always a third contender in some of these races. In California’s 22nd, for example, Salas and Valadao have the race to themselves, but “Some other candidate” still notched 13%.
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Rep. Chuy Garcia didn't rule out challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot in next year's election, but he doesn't sound very interested in joining what's already a crowded race against his fellow Democrat. "I'm not shutting the door completely," the congressman said Wednesday before adding, "but I've gotta tell you, I've never been as challenged or rewarded as I have been over the past three and a half years as a member of the United States Congress." Garcia lost the 2015 mayoral contest to incumbent Rahm Emanuel three years before he was elected to the House.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Rep. Karen Bass has earned the backing of Sen. Alex Padilla and fellow Rep. Tony Cárdenas, and the congresswoman is hoping they'll help her appeal to Latino voters in the November general election. Bass outpaced billionaire developer Rick Caruso citywide 43-36 in June, but the Los Angeles Times says that it was Caruso who scored a 34-27 win in precincts that were at least 80% Latino.
● San Francisco, CA District Attorney: Former police commissioner John Hamasaki has announced that he'll challenge appointed District Attorney Brooke Jenkins in this fall's instant-runoff special election. Hamasaki expressed his disappointment with Mayor London Breed for picking Jenkins after incumbent Chesa Boudin was recalled, saying, "A lot of us in the criminal justice system had hopes that the mayor would make a responsible and even moderate choice, and I think a lot of folks would have stood down … What we've seen instead is a mayor's office basically running the district attorney's office."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Megan Cassidy writes that Hamasaki "was regarded as the watchdog group's most outspoken — and often controversial — member, known for his incendiary commentary on law enforcement and locking horns with Police Chief Bill Scott and city supervisors." Hamasaki stepped down in April, though Cassidy adds that it was unclear "if he would have been able to secure enough votes from the Board of Supervisors to be reappointed after sparring with several board members." The field also includes attorney Joe Alioto Veronese.
● Where Are They Now?: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was one of the most powerful Republicans in Arizona just six years ago, has lost his fourth race in a row after narrowly failing to win the Aug. 2 mayor's race for the Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills (pop. 24,000). The 90-year-old challenger trailed incumbent Ginny Dickey after the first batch of votes were counted a week ago, but it wasn't clear until all the ballots were tabulated Wednesday that he'd indeed lost 51-49.
However, Arpaio characteristically refused to concede and said he was considering a legal challenge. The city, which is home to one of the largest water fountains in the world, holds mayoral elections every two years, so Arpaio can keep running for office every even-numbered year instead of finally just calling it a career.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.