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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● RI-Gov: Fleming & Associates is out with a look at the infrequently-polled Sept. 13 Democratic primary for Roger Williams University and WPRI, and it shows Gov. Dan McKee holding a narrow 28-25 advantage over Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes and former Secretary of State Matt Brown are further back with 14% and 8%, respectively, while a hefty 21% of respondents remain undecided.
Fleming showed McKee holding off Gorbea by a similar 25-23 margin back in May as Brown grabbed 7%, though Foulkes has more than doubled her 6% share since then. However, we've seen just two polls during the intervening time. A Suffolk University survey in late June gave Gorbea a 24-20 advantage over the incumbent, who was elevated from lieutenant to governor last year when Gina Raimondo resigned to become U.S. secretary of commerce, with Foulkes at 16%. The secretary of state went on to release a late July internal from Lake Research Partners that put her ahead of McKee 27-22, while Foulkes was similarly situated at 14%.
While all of these surveys agree that the contest is tight, though, no one has aired any negative TV ads yet. Gorbea went up with a new commercial just before this newest poll was publicized that emphasizes her support for abortion rights but does not mention any of her rivals. Brown, meanwhile, is spending what WPRI's Ted Nesi reports is a $50,000 opening buy that touts both him and state Sen. Cynthia Mendes, who is running for lieutenant governor, as a progressive team. (Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries and general elections, but Brown and Mendes are campaigning as an informal ticket.)
McKee, meanwhile, goes into the final days of the race with a larger war chest than any of his opponents. We've summarized the newest fundraising reports, which cover the period from July 1 to Aug. 15, below:
- Foulkes: $270,000 raised, additional $240,000 self-funded, $1 million spent, $180,000 cash-on-hand
- McKee: $130,000 raised, $730,000 spent, $630,000 cash-on-hand
- Gorbea: $100,000 raised, $530,000 spent, $360,000 cash-on-hand
- Brown: $100,000 raised, $80,000 spent, $80,000 cash-on-hand
While Foulkes doesn't currently have much left, Nesi writes that "last week her campaign indicated plans to spend an additional $1.2 million by the day of the primary," so she may plan to put much more of her money into her campaign. McKee will also be getting some outside help soon from a group called Forward Rhode Island that has received $500,000 in contributions from his allies at the Laborers union. The spots aren't available yet, but Nesi says the first one is a "positive commercial touting McKee's record in office."
The eventual nominee will go up against businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who faces no serious opposition in her Republican primary. Kalus, who has been self-funding almost all of her campaign's budget, brought in just $10,000 from donors over the last month-and-a-half but spent another $860,000 and had $250,000 left over.
P.S. If McKee lost next month, he would be only the second Rhode Island governor to ever fall in a primary. The first was Bruce Sundlun, a fellow Democrat who lost his 1994 primary in a landslide against state Sen. Myrth York after a tenure dominated by the state's economic struggles. Republican Lincoln Almond went on to defeat York that fall; Ocean State Democrats wouldn't regain the governor's office until 2013, when independent Lincoln Chafee switched his party affiliation. Chafee himself decided not to run again the next year rather than go through a tough primary against Raimondo.
McKee is also trying to avoid joining the small group of six state governors who have lost their party's nomination during the 21st century. Two of them, both Republicans, were also running for the first time since they ascended from the lieutenant governor's office: Utah's Olene Walker failed to advance out of her party's 2004 convention, while Kansas' Jeff Colyer lost by 343 votes in his 2018 race against Trump-endorsed foe Kris Kobach.
● On this week's episode of The Downballot podcast, Daily Kos is joining forces with Julia Louis-Dreyfus to endorse a slate of seven candidates running for state supreme court in three key states: Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio. Just like us, Julia has long supported candidates running at all levels of the ballot, and this year, after the U.S. Supreme Court's demolition of Roe, races for state supreme courts across the country deserve more attention than ever.
In a twist, Julia turns the tables on The Downballot team and takes over the hosting duties from the Davids to quiz Nir and Beard about these contests. Topics include how bizarre it is that we elect judges in the first place (almost no other country does!), what kinds of issues these courts are likely to decide in the coming years (abortion and gerrymandering, for starters), and most importantly, how ordinary folks can make a difference.
Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can find a transcript of this week's episode right here.
● PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Pittsburgh Works Together, a group that describes itself as a "cooperative venture of business and labor," has publicized a poll from the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies that gives Democrats huge leads in both of the commonwealth's major statewide contests: John Fetterman outpaces Republican Mehmet Oz 51-33 in the Senate race, while Josh Shapiro enjoys a 50-35 edge over Doug Mastriano for governor. A late July survey for Fox News from a bipartisan team of pollsters showed Fetterman and Shapiro ahead 47-36 and 50-40, respectively.
● WI-Sen, WI-Gov: Marquette University Law School has released its first survey of the Badger State since Wisconsin held its primaries earlier this month, and it finds Democrat Mandela Barnes holding a 51-44 lead over Republican incumbent Ron Johnson. Those numbers mark an improvement for Barnes from Marquette's previous poll in June, which gave him just a 46-44 edge.
In the hotly contested governor's race, Democratic incumbent Tony Evers posts a smaller 45-43 lead over Republican Tim Michels, while independent Joan Beglinger earns 7%. The firm's June survey gave Evers a larger 48-41 advantage, but that poll didn't include Beglinger.
Unlike practically every other top battleground state this cycle, Wisconsin has seen hardly any general election polls released this year from reputable firms, with only Marquette laying its cards out on the table despite other outfits periodically conducting primary polls while the Democratic nomination for Senate and Republican nod for governor were still up in the air. Consequently, it's difficult to tell how close to the mark the school's latest results may be, and you should never rely upon a single poll to inform your view of a race.
● KS-Gov, KS-Sen: The Republican firm Battleground Connect has conducted a survey for John Brown Freedom Fund, which supports Republican Derek Schmidt in the governor's race, that gives their man a 48-45 edge over Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly; another 2% goes to state Sen. Dennis Pyle, a former Republican who is campaigning as an independent. This poll, which is the first we've seen here in nearly four months, also shows GOP Sen. Jerry Moran beating Democrat Mark Holland 58-37 in a contest that has attracted little attention.
● OH-Gov: The RGA has launched a new TV ad going after Democrat Nan Whaley's record on tax increases and crime as the former mayor of Dayton. The ad is backed by $570,000, which is on top of the $2.25 million that the RGA invested here to help Republican Gov. Mike DeWine win his primary earlier this spring. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the RGA has received $1.4 million in contributions from "donors who either received a state appointment from DeWine or have received state contracts," which may explain why it's getting involved in a race that most observers see as heavily favoring the incumbent.
● FL-13: St. Pete Polls, surveying on behalf of Florida Politics, shows 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna with only a 37-34 lead over attorney Kevin Hayslett ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary; another 14% goes to Amanda Makki, who lost the nomination to Luna two years ago. The Trump-endorsed Luna has long looked like the favorite to advance to the general election for this newly-gerrymandered St. Petersburg seat, but the primary has gotten expensive and nasty over the last few weeks.
Stand for Florida, a PAC that was set up in February, has spent over $2 million on ads promoting Hayslett or going after Luna, while her allies at the Club for Growth have deployed a similar amount to take down Hayslett. Luna's side has emphasized her support from Trump and focused on Hayslett's 2016 social media posts criticizing the MAGA leader. Hayslett in turn has used an old clip of Luna saying, "I always agreed with President Obama's immigration policies" and favoring a "pathway to citizenship."
● FL-27, VA-07: U.S. Term Limits has released two more House polls from RMG Research:
FL-27: María Elvira Salazar (R-inc): 44, Ken Russell (D): 37
VA-07: Abigail Spanberger (D-inc): 46, Yesli Vega (R): 41
The group says that each challenger "signed the U.S. Term Limits Pledge and supports term limits" while the incumbent feels the opposite way. The Florida poll did not mention state Sen. Annette Taddeo, whom the DCCC is supporting in next week's primary.
● NY-12: Democracy Protection PAC, a group that was formed in May, is spending at least $230,000 on a TV ad for next week's Democratic primary attacking Rep. Carolyn Maloney's past skepticism about vaccines. "She's promoted debunked studies linking autism to vaccines," says the narrator, adding, "And she's even tried to use $80 million of stimulus money for anti-vaccine research." The spot, which represents the largest outside expenditure of the race by far, does not mention either of Maloney's main intra-party foes, fellow incumbent Jerry Nadler or attorney Suraj Patel.
This topic has been used against Maloney before, though this appears to be the first time anyone's aired a TV commercial about it. In their primary battle two years ago, Patel put out a web video that makes many of the same charges that this ad makes now.
The HuffPost that year took a look at Maloney's history, including how she cosponsored a 2007 bill that would ban using mercury-based chemicals in vaccines even though there were already numerous studies showing there was no link between vaccines and autism. The next year, Maloney spoke at a "Green Our Vaccines" rally headlined by anti-vaxxer celebrities Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, whom she commended for "all they have done to protect our nation's children."
Maloney in 2009 additionally co-authored a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services asking it to use some of the $300 million in stimulus funding intended for buying and distributing vaccines for a study comparing autism rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. As recently as 2015, she cosponsored a bill to require the National Institutes of Health to conduct this research and "determine whether exposure to vaccines or vaccine components is associated with autism spectrum disorders, chronic conditions, or other neurological conditions."
In 2020, Maloney's team pushed back on Patel's criticism by insisting, "The Congresswoman's record as a fierce advocate for science-based policy, for universal health care and vaccinations, and for oversight of the Trump administration's many abuses, more than speaks for itself." The incumbent ended up holding Patel off that year, but only 43-39.
That campaign, though, hardly put the issue to rest. Earlier this month, Maloney appeared on a podcast hosted by the Gotham Gazette's Ben Max, who asked her about her past statements suggesting a link to vaccines and autism. "I regret any statement I ever made asking a question about vaccines," she replied, continuing, "There were two bills that I co-sponsored that studied them. I regret asking to study vaccines."
Maloney also took issue with Nadler's team for labeling her "a leading anti-vaccine voice in Congress." She argued, "At the time there were some questions … Now it has been proven that there is no problem, and to ask a question 20 years ago―I follow the science."
● RI-02: WPRI reports that the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund has reserved $350,000 in TV time to help Treasurer Seth Magaziner in next month's Democratic primary.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.